Monday, October 15, 2007



There was a 100 foot ceiling and ¼ mile visibility leaving DC. In about 30 seconds we climbed over the overcast to remarkably blue skies. The West Virginia Mountain tops were breaking over the cloud tops and once it cleared up a bit, the fog laced valleys were punctuated by shafts of rain that created incredible rainbows. But the real magic was once we landed. In Evansville Indiana with Chuck Dickemann who heads up our baseball operation, to visit a guy who has tens of thousands of tapes of full play by play Baseball and Football games. The guy is remarkable. His basement is a warehouse with literally thousands of tapes. Meticulously organized. This is the guy that Sandy Koufax will call if he wants a tape of one of his no hitters…or Fox News will call for baseball audio. It was Baseball nirvana. And it’s in a guy’s basement in Southern Indiana. He’s been collecting for about 50 years and has an immaculately cataloged collection that ranges from genuine complete broadcasts from the 30’s with Babe Ruth to the latest playoff games. All the great announcers. The ultimate in theater of the mind. Really captures the romance of baseball as nothing else can. As the world changes, the magic of calling a ball game remains the same. I remember the transistor under the covers. Bob Elson and Don Wells calling a Chicago White Sox night Game…every ad was for “Friendly Bob Adams” with Household Finance. They took you right there…an indescribable magic that combined tension, joy and a sense of security and warmth that said “all is OK with life”…especially since we have Hoyt Wilhelm warming up in the bullpen.

Most Local TV News is pretty average...or worse. Opie and Anthony watch it before going on the air…for inspiration. When a comedic morning show uses Local TV news for material, you know something is up. Watched a few different local newscasts this week. Maybe this stuff works…I tend to think it’s vulnerable as (at least in media saturated, ethnically diverse and relatively sophisticated areas like the Northeast Metropolis) it’s just kind of “there” on a slow path to irrelevancy. I'm not in that business so I don't know...but I can assume there is the same addiction to cliché as in radio. One way to look at it is that all the stations' presentations are all SO similar they cancel each other out. Haven’t seen anyone breaking the mold. There's a fascinating site that is an incredibly rich vault of data--most of it indicating a NEED for old media especially to do some mold breaking ...Some casual observations from my local TV news watching:

*All the newscasters look the same.

*Mature looking anchor with Female sidekick…jocky Sports guy…eccentric weather person….or “meteorologist” (we used to have ‘meteorologists’ on stations I consulted…of course they knew nothing about meteors or weather, but what the hell….

*All the slogans are the same. Eyewitness, Action, Leader, etc…

*There sure are a lot of fires and shootings

*All the “intro music” is the same

*The “format” of the newscasts is all the same.

*All their websites look the same. Color content, look and layout

*The banter is annoying and cloying and soooooo fake.

*The wording is Journalism 101---which becomes more dated by the day.

*All the sets look the same.

*Everyone is too damn happy

*Everyone is too damn clean cut and “TV” looking. A parody of itself.

*News people try SO hard to be “loose” that they come off uptight.

*The jokey back and forth ISN’T funny…it’s goofy.

*They tell you about a weather emergency then make you wait 20 minutes

*The weather emergency really is no big deal after all.

*There is NO point of view. Strictly vanilla.

*There’s this standard timbre and style that everyone has.

*You can just smell the focus groups.

*Everything is colored blue. Must "test" well.

*It’s so “formatted” it’s surreal.

*There’s an arms race with snappy hi-tech weather graphics.

*The big blur. No defining lines between important stories and junk stories. Junk is fine, but I’d think it should be separated. How can anyone have any cred when they report on Paris France AND Paris Hilton.

*It’s all cliché hell.

…in the “average” department, it’s actually WORSE than local radio….and ‘average’ sucks.

Fake News. A big trend. Been happening for years. I’m noticing more and more people who like fake news better than real news. Major newspapers should print lampoons of themselves…probably would be very successful limited editions. Fake news has entertainment value. Like The Onion. It’s actually more intellectual than real news in many ways in that it makes you THINK.

News Aggregators---Fark, Drudge, Breibart----Every Newspaper should study these guys. I'm sure there's this "that's not real news" thing. Well the reality is---Joe public doesn't care. They are providing the TARGETED, scannable and relevant information. Oddly enough, much of it COMES from newspapers and traditional print. They've just learned to format and "select" it better. Newspapers seem locked in 1938...the milkman and paper boy era. I think the concept of a newspaper is timeless---it just needs to compete on 21st century terms. Like discussed a few blogs ago: Getting in sync! It's not about lowering's about....getting in sync.

Been overwhelmed with “help me get Hannah Montana ticket” requests. It’s a clever TV show in a Disney kinda way. Easy to see why it’s so successful. Let’s hope Miley keeps her personal act together. The thing I like about the show is that it doesn’t pretend to be anything its not. Pure kid fun. A.D.D.TV. Harmless and giggly. TV Land showed the original Leave it to Beaver pilot. Interesting as June, the Beve and Lumpy’s Dad were the only cast members who made the cut to the regular production, though Lumpy’s dad played a TV Station executive. Kind of creepy to see a guy other than Hugh Beaumont kissing June…and Dad also smoked a lot on the show. Wally was kind of a jerk too. I think they sensitized him with Tony Dow and then went the pure jerk route with Eddie Haskell. Good move.

Cubs swept in playoffs. No shock. Being from the SOUTH side of Chicago, I am not unhappy about their loss. Of course my White Sox had a pathetic year, but that’s OK. They’ll be back in ’08. As a Sox fan--The problem with “The Cubbies” is that whole Yuppie thing. Even that nickname “The Cubbies”—so lame. Leave the bank job early, nurse a few Corona lights and then boo the “Cubbies” when they lose... They White Sox on the other hand are a real working mans team…industrial…bad ass. Hard core fans that are born Sox fans. The team has character…always has-from the Black Sox of 1919 through Bill Veeck to Ozzie Guillen. Plus they have a Jewish owner, a Black GM, a Hispanic manager and a Polish catcher. Now THAT’S what Chicago is all about. Sox are AC/DC. The Cubbies are Kenny G.

Plus Wrigley field is highly over rated…it smells bad, serves crummy food and is a magnet for baseball fan wannabees. I am impressed that Wrigley is still called Wrigley instead of Microsoft Field. Of course US Cellular is STILL Comiskey Park…The old Comiskey Park was a classic. I got to go in the clubhouse once as a guest of Dennis De Young and Tony La Russa. Former associate Jon Sinton and music mogul Danny Goldberg came with. It smelled like 70 year old cigars. In the training room where coaches “study prior games” The Andy Griffith show was playing loudly to the chuckles of several players and coaches. Jim Leyland was chain smoking and Tom Seaver (then a White Sock) was sleeping. The ceiling was leaking. THIS is the White Sox Club house? I then realized that maybe a new stadium was a good idea.

The Ventures are being nominated into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. About time. I can’t think of a single group that influenced a generation of GREAT guitar players more than these guys. Learning Walk Don’t Run was a rite of passage. If you were a REALLY good guitar student, you’d learn the original Walk Don’t Run as done by Johnny Smith which was quite a bit different. In any case, the Ventures popularized an accessible approach and sound to the electric guitar. The EARLY Ventures were the best…before they started doing covers of hit songs. Unfortunately the Rock Hall remains a bit of a joke. Tremendous potential, but they just can’t get it right. And of course they are incredibly biased toward a certain sound. Yes for example will probably never make it in there as they were the scorn of most rock journalists who seem to command the decisions. Most artists revere the early Yes because of their originality and musicianship….but the hall isn’t about that. Their highly skewed "hip rock critic" bias is undermining the potential of the Hall as a tourist attraction, money maker and beacon of relevance. A shame. They don't get it. WAY too elitist for something as Middle America as Rock n Roll....

Dermot Hussey who runs the Joint, our Reggae Channel turned 70. Had a little party for him. I thought he was 50-something. Low key guy and the real deal…hails from Kingston. He’s seen a lot…he gets it. He’ll probably be around another 70.

Judging artist popularity in regards to programming songs sure has changed. Way back, a station would call record stores and ask what was selling. That was one of my duties back in Miami. I remember finding out the stores that our competition called and giving them dozens of clean Albums we’d gotten for giveaways as an incentive to report the WRONG information to the competition. It worked. They’d have some song at # 7 that sold ZERO copies. Today you’d call that “industrial sabotage”…back then it was called ‘kicking your competitors ass’. We’d also do things like call the weekend jock on their hotline pretending to be the “National PD”—we’d tell him to change the rotation immediately…add three album cuts an hour, etc….We’d screw up the station till Monday when the real Program Director would discover the problem. We used to bug the PD's office and rifle through their trash. Never really got any significant competitive advantage out of it, but it sure pissed them off when we'd do a "Beatles weekend" exactly a week before they did.

Nowadays, you can’t really call record stores for data. A bit more complicated – funny how most radio stations don’t use the tools available and still look exclusively at trade papers or rely on promotion people to see what the other guy is doing. It’s called the blind leading the blind …A vicious circle…and kind of silly when there is so much info out there…if you look for it...It's OK the be on the curve instead of right behind it musically. Might make a few mistakes, but the benefits of being ON the musical curve long term far outweigh the negatives. It's about using ALL the resources to make musical decisions rather than relying on the old fashioned low hanging fruit. sure to check out Marty Stuart's amazing "American Odyssey" show on XM. It really is an outstanding production and celebration of American music.


At 1:28 PM, Anonymous Gary said...


I hope you weren't just visiting an old friend in Indiana. I am sure many baseball fans -- myself included -- would love to hear pre-1970 classic games from announcers and ballparks long gone. Speaking of which, you're right about old Comiskey -- what a jewel that place was!

At 12:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lee I've heard of you on Opie and Anthony and figured you were pretty cool. I just heard today about this blog and figured I'd check it out. I like it and will check it daily. Good Job!

Carl from Jersey.

At 4:57 PM, Blogger Johnnykick said...

You wrote "Bob Elson and Don Wells calling a Chicago White Sox night Game…every ad was for“Friendly Bob Adams” with Household Finance."

Just this week I discovered why Chicago White Sox games were broadcast on a small radio station in Greenville, SC in the 50's & 60's, WRMB 1490AM. Some had thought it had to do with Shoeless Joe Jackson's popularity. However, I intervied an 85 year old DJ who use to work for the station. He said, a friend of the owner of WMRB was the owner of a Household Finance office located in Greenville. The corporate office of Household Finance was located in Chicago and Household Finance bought advertising on the White Sox network. The friend sold WMRB radio on the idea of getting the Sox games on WMRB in order to get Household Finance commercials aired in Greenville. He introduced the WMRB owner to the Chicago "big shots" and they began broadcasting on 1490AM somtime in the 50's.

Thanks for the post. It helped confirm a piece of the puzzle.


Post a Comment

<< Home