Wednesday, July 26, 2006

French Lick

For the first time since heading to Kuwait a year-and-a-half ago, I'm digging out my passport today. I'll be departing for a 2-week European trek tomorrow morning kicking off in Paris, and meeting fellow contributor Ross McLochness along the way. However, I would be remiss in leaving before pimping the new must-have CD of the summer, Limestone Throne/Kid Fight by Standard Recording artists Big Big Car (or BIGBIGCar, depending on your spelling preference.) It was released yesterday, currently available at Best Buy and the Standard web site (for the low low price of $9. More outlets to come in the future.

Pat Healy and Don Schottsberg will be holding down the fort on the blog, and I'm sure will deliver nothing but quality material.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Voice of Harold

Big news at the leader today with Harold Reynolds getting canned. The company line is still simply stating that he was let go for "violations of company policy." Details are still coming in, and the full truth probably will not come out for some time. What we do know is that his firing was not related to any on-camera spats with John Kruk (this has been a common theory in the wake of the news breaking, but we're told that has nothing to do with it.) Several of our most reliable sources allege that sexual harassment is the cause of his demise. Nobody can say this for sure, and we cannot state that we're 100% sure but this is the overwhelming opinion, and usually where there's smoke there's fire. Where Harold will surface next is anyone's guess (though our money is on him being the newest member of The Best Damn Way to Throw Away Money on Fox Sports.)

If harassement allegations are the real reason behind the firing, we can't help but wonder how many offenses it took for HR to finally get the boot. Allegations of him being overly friendly with the ladies have been around since we worked at the Leader, but they usually seemed to be harmless - one of those running jokes that you didn't put much stock into. He was one of the more likeable analysts working at ESPN, and the fact that Harold had such a fun personality surprises us that he would commit a fire-able offense, but it seems apparent that he must have taken things too far.

A look into ESPN on air talent from days past reveals a few who had "issues" around the ladies. Jason Jackson, former NBA 2night host was suspended several times before he was finally fired after leaving a paper trail. (J-Jax's move of asking a PA over e-mail if she's ready for "the chocolate thunder" is apparently frowned upon.) Mike Tirico was suspended a few times as well for behavior that bordered on psychotic, but seemingly conquered his skirt-chasing demons and has been a model citizen for the past several years. A former coordinating producer of Baseball Tonight was given several suspensions as well before it became obvious that he was a chronic harasser (not to mention all around a-hole) and he was finally shown the door for good 2 years ago, after harassing multiple women. It's important to note that the above firings were carried out due to "violations of company policy," so ESPN never publicly outed the specific reasons for those firings. Nor will they probably ever specifically out the reason for HR's firing.

ESPN has always been reluctant to put the hammer down and get rid of the higher-ups as well as on-air talent. This is not always a bad thing - everyone makes a mistake once in a while and the appearance of a reformed Tirico represents that people certainly can change for the better. A larger part is that by building up a case of repeated offenses, ESPN/Disney help save themselves from a messy civil case by parties claiming they were fired unjustly. What's particularly bothersome though is that all the cases mentioned above involved female production assistants - the low folks on the totem pole who are constantly fighting for the jobs while being careful not to rock the boat.

Then again, PAs do get free pizza on Saturday nights, so I suppose that's worth an ass grab now and then.

Blame It On The Love of Rock and Roll

As it now seems this story has been told from one point of view, I believe Jerry McClure's recap could very easily be "Misunderstood." (Side note - I guess I have to use Bon Jovi songs references to make the same impact good ole' JMC did).

Now there's a bit of a back story that was lost in the previous recap. To begin with a friend of mine called me months ago to say his girlfriend was getting tickets for the Wednesday, July 19th Bon Jovi concert at Giants Stadium, and he wanted me to go. He asked how many would I like and by the time I got a head count, she had already made the order for their group. Now plenty of tickets were available on-line at the time, but I made a call to a work contact of mine to "Hook Me Up" with two tickets for the July 19th show. I even made sure to emphasize that if he couldn't get that date, to let me know because I could get them on my own. So a week before the show I get a call saying not only did he get the 2 tickets I asked for, but 2 extra just because I've been good to him and his company over the past year. Of course when I hear that I decide that Jerry is a must to ask because to his credit he gets lots of tickets and always hooks me up (on the right date too - lets just nip that joke in the bud before it gets thrown back).

When Wednesday rolls around "I Get A Rush" because everyone is psyched for the show and I’m happy that everyone gets to see Bon Jovi in New Jersey - the greatest state in the country. When we get to the parking lot we tailgate and I do proceed to go one for one with my girlfriend which eventually does skew off a bit with the finally tally being her 5 to my 7 - still a pretty good ratio.

As we walk in, getting ready for Bon Jovi to "Let It Rock" the revelation comes out that the tickets were for the night before. Now a few things here 1) yes, I had them for a week but how often does someone check the date on tickets? Granted 90% of the time it because you buy them by the date - but in this case I specifically asked for a certain day as the whole basis of the request. Yes my oversight, but still an honest mistake. 2) I might not have the social schedule of Lindsay Lohan, but I still have better shit to do even on a Wednesday night then coral a bunch of friends and take them to a concert on the wrong night and 3) I immediately felt bad about the situation and took every step I could to rectify it. I basically told the concert I'm not "Letting You Go"

So after several attempts to get in - two things did happen. 1) I did get aggravated at the lady at the ticket window. Why you ask would I call her the "c-word?" (side note: I didn't say this to her face - I said it to my friends) Well one very nice gentleman in a white shirt pointed out that someone at the will-call could at their discretion exchange the 4 tickets I had for 4 tickets that were not picked up. We would have to wait until the box office was about to close, but we could still catch half the concert. When I went up to the window the gentlemen there said he would do it as long as the guy in the white shirt confirmed we had the conversation. Meanwhile this lady (who previously wouldn't even talk to me when I got the window and accused me of trying to pull one over on her) runs down the line to take the tickets from the guy and tells him to not help me. It wasn't her business and she clearly didn't see the "Right Side of Wrong." 2) My "fighting" with my girlfriend was a quick outburst (all be it an unfair one as well) expressing in a louder tone that I didn't want to give up yet. After probably 2 minutes of this exchange we both moved on to the icy/silent period, then into the apology stage, and then thankfully the making a joke of it stage. This happens with couples all the time, but since Jerry's currently "Without Love," he wouldn't know.

In the end, we had a lovely meal at Chili's which I actually paid for to make amends to everyone. Notice he didn't mention that. Guess you could say it was "Blood Money." Bottom Line; Jerry's felt the need to "Bang the Drum" about how this night was like a glass of "Bitter Wine," when really "I Believe" that "Hard Times Come Easy," and while I was looking for a "Miracle" I have "No Regrets" for trying to make amends. In the end all you can really do is "Raise Your Hands" and say we'll catch Bon Jovi next time they "Come Back" and have "One Wild Night." "The End"

One Wild Night

A very special post today from guest columnist Jerrey McClure...

So imagine my excitement when my buddy Pat Healey calls and tells me he has an extra ticket to see Bon Jovi on Wednesday at Giants Stadium. Now this is no other concert. For those who have seen Bon Jovi in concert, they rock a hundred times harder in their home state than anywhere else. And lets just say these aren't the easiest tickets to get, despite the fact that they play two nights in a 80,000 seat stadium. Who Says You Can't Go Home!

So I make the 2-hour trek to New York to meet Pat at his work, and then we meet up with his lovely girlfriend and head over to Giants Stadium on the bus. Pat has some old high school/college friends in the parking lot getting Wild In The Streets so meet up, drink a ton of silver bullets and tell old stories of Pat to pass the time. I've known Pat for about 4-5 years now, but one thing I never knew about him is how he likes to go drink-for-drink with his girlfriend. He can't get a beer without getting her one, so he feels better about himself by the fact that they drink the same amount of beers. Now Pat's girlfriend was Born To Be His Baby and will end up with a few full beers in front of her by the end of the night because she can't keep up with him, but in his mind they had the same amount to drink. (sidebar: great story about Pat vomiting on his girlfriend at a wedding, but that's for a different day. This guy definitely Gives Love a Bad Name).

So its 7:45pm and Bon Jovi comes on at 8pm, so we start heading into to the show. Tickets in Sec 110, row 13, 2 sections from the stage, its going to be a great time. Pat's girlfriend has never been to Giants Stadium or to see Bon Jovi, so she was probably the most excited out of any of us. Pat and his boys are all from Jersey so they were excited, and I'm an events guy, you name the game or concert, and I'll Be There For You.

We walk up to the gate and I'm first in line. I give my ticket to the guy and start to walk through the turnstile as he scans it. He says "Hold on. This is the wrong date." A few beers in me, I say "Wrong gate? We're all just trying to get in the stadium." He says, "No, these tickets were for last night." At this point I look at Pat and his face is completely white like he just saw a ghost. The ticket guy points out that the tickets were for TUESDAY JULY 18, not WEDNESDAY JULY 19. Pat had asked for tickets from work for the Wednesday show. When he got them, he only checked to make sure they said Bon Jovi and checked to see what section they were in. Didn't even bother to look at the date. Now this can go a few ways, you can blame the guy who got Pat the tickets for not getting him the right day when Pat specifically asked for Wednesday. At this point that guy is Wanted Dead or Alive. You can blame us for not looking at the tickets when he gave them to us, but that was an hour before the show, so the only person you can really blame is Pat. He got the tickets a week before the concert and was staring at them and didn't even notice they were for the wrong date!!!

So we try to think about what to do. The ticket guy says to go to the box office and maybe they can exchange the tickets for tickets for that nights show. My big thing is that with this whole new scanning system, they know what tickets were scanned the night before and which ones were not. So you would think they would understand our situation and help us out...WRONG! If this were 1995, the ticket guy would have ripped the ticket stub off without looking at the date and we would have been home free. That's why technology sucks, but I digress.

Instead of being a Runaway, Pat proceeds to hit up every gate on the way to the box office to see if they will let us in, but still nothing. I guess they only have the magical ticket scanners at the gate we went to and Pat thinks we can just walk in to the show with no questions asked. He even tries to bribe the guy at the handicapped entrance with a 20 to let us in (which was probably our best chance at getting into the concert), but no luck. At this point we're both Livin' On a Prayer while trying to Keep The Faith. So he goes to the box office and a really large lady starts yelling at him for trying to exchange tickets. Pat proceeds to call the lady the "c-word" and tries to give her a lesson on the "nice way to do things." He then makes his buddy go back to the window to see if the guy who gave him the tickets at work actually left tickets for the correct night. And as his girlfriend said "Ummmm, no!"

Pat is still fuming and still white as a ghost, ready to go down in a Blaze of Glory. So at this point (after we've walked around Giants Stadium twice), Pat's girlfriend, myself and his buddy are ready to call it a night, but Pat insists he will get us into the concert. Pat starts yelling at his girlfriend telling her she gives up to easily and she needs to be more positive. They were definitely In and Out of Love on this night. So his buddy walks back 2 miles to the car to get a warm 30-pack of silver bullets, while the 3 of us walk around trying to find tickets. You know the people you always see walking out of the concert when everyone else is walking in, and someone always yells "Hey man, the concert is this way." Well we were those people. The band has taken the stage and the second song is a great rendition of "Born to Be My Baby," one of three songs I wanted to hear (Runaway and Livin On a Prayer were the others). We decide that since the concert is about 6 songs deep now we won't pay more than about $25 for a ticket. The one scalper we do find wants face value but we "politely" turn him down. I hear "Runaway" playing inside the stadium so my night is 2/3 complete. At this point, we've all had enough and hear there is a great Chili's down the street. We all decide to call it a night, beat the traffic, and head to dinner.

I never did get to hear Livin On A Prayer, but the nachos at Chili's were delicious! And as we left the hostess said, "Have A Nice Day."

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

This is all I have to offer

In your life there are many tips to be learned that give you an inside track on living comfortably. These are those minute things that either older generations do or things that just haven't gotten around to you yet. If I had some of these tips starting from the age of 15 on, it definitely would have made my life easier. Not that its hard but this is why we invent gutter cleaners and fluffy pillows. Everyone wants tips and tricks that can either lead to greater entertainment or make things better.

- Collar stays - When wearing a dress shirt these little jammies will keep your collar down and make it look firm. This way if you work with a bunch of jerk-offs you will avoid them saying "hey watch out, your collar is going to fly away".

- Mirrored sunglasses - This is for all you pigs out there that don't want to get caught eyeballing the talent on the streets/trains/busses.

- Go to a Triple Crown Race - This will revolutionize your outlook on outdoor sporting events. As discussed earlier on this site, it is one event that you must attend in your life time. Enough said because this isn't one of those Maxium's 'Guys Guide to Good Times and If You Don't Your Not Cool' or something like that.

- AAA - This comes in handy about once a year and it costs about $50. Do you really want to change a tire or fix your johnson rod at 1:45am on Route 5 in South Wichita? Me neither, that and you get all cool deals on travel stuff. Ok the travel stuff is garbage.

- Baby Powder - A morning scoop of this on your apple bag and butt cheeks will make a world of difference. Swamp ass is something that we can all avoid and it just puts people in a bad mood.

- Vig - If you are lucky enough to win an office pool, you are requited to give a kick back to the guy that is running it. Time and time again people win and don't throw the guy a bone that had to collect and organize everything. A service has been provided. Pay the man!

- Police respect - If you run with a crew that tend to get a bit wild or if you have a tendency to accelerate when your in a school safety zone, more often than not you will have unscheduled meetings with law enforcement representatives. During these encounters, it is best to reply to the officer as "sir". The better your diction and eloquence the better your chances are you being let go. Only because the officer begins to think "how could this upstanding citizen be accused of starting a 3am fight in Mobil over a Hotpocket?". The only down side to this is if you are hammered and struggling to deliver the word "epitome" then you just come off like Mike Tyson in a post fight interview.

- Movie schedule - You never want to attend a movie on the first night or on a Friday. The best time to go is during the early part of week some time after the movie has premiered. Long ticket lines aside, your also avoiding high school kids playing tag in the aisles during the climax and also you don't want to be biffed in the head by the guy behind you wearing the Chewbaka costume.

- Mit to a game - If you are over the age of 12 and you are headed to a baseball game, do not bring your glove. Most likely each team has a full roster and I don't think they will need you as a spot starter. Your old enough, what are you going to do with a foul ball? If it comes to you great but why bother lunging across 7 seats ripping your groin and pushing a quadriplegic out of the way to get a Kevin Seitzer foul pop? Does your workplace hold show and tell?

- Roth IRA - This is more long-term than anything. If you are beyond the age of 18 you should open a Roth IRA for the benefit of your retirement. Who knows where social security is going, 401(k) plans are great but you can't only rely on that to float you untill you make it to the pearly gates. This financial vehicle available through almost every financial institution will give you that extra boost because you are not able to take distributions until you are 59.5 years old, unless it is for the purchase of your first home and various other hardship withdrawals. The holdings are not subject to the ever costly capital gains tax and you can contribute up to $4,000 as of 2006 and increasing in subsuquent years. Sure on your 90th birthday you'll end up having to be fed apple sauce to you but hey why not make them feed it to you with a diamond spoon.

- Shined shoes - The most important thing when dealing with clients or women are usually money. Both of them like it when you have plenty of it because they feel more comfortable with you if you have it for obvious reasons. One indicator of a man's wealth are his shoes. I believe the thinking behind that is, "they are the furthest thing from his mind and look how he takes care of them, how is he going to treat me?". So shine your shoes. You can do it yourself but for $3 you can turn dogshit into diamonds with a quality shoe shine.

Friday, July 14, 2006

But I Ain't Never Coming Back

When I read the Pitchfork article detailing Rivers Cuomo’s recent comments on the impending permanent hiatus for Weezer I was at first resigned and then ultimately relieved. I’m not going to be one of those naysayers wishing good riddance to bad rubbish, nor am I going to slice “My Name is Jonas” into my arm with a razor blade. After reading that article and the one it grew from, I was pretty certain it was another instance of the camel dancing.

My mind filled up with all sorts of ideas to write about
  • My own Weezer timeline spanning that first listen to the blue album while doing my Math Analysis in 1994 all the way to putting “Jamie” on a CD I made as a gift this spring
  • The lasting impact of Matt Sharp
  • The post-Weezer generation of bands
  • The abysmal majority of Make Believe
  • Disc 23 – All Weezer all weekend

It’s quite enough to devote years and years of blogging to, which I no doubt will. This abundance of material comes directly from an abundance of moments. Weezer transcended listening moments to an extent that I’m certain some sociology major just figured out the topic for his thesis. From the advent of the Blue Album, Weezer successfully captured the vim that took their songs beyond 90’s white noise into a well-respected realm of music that instantly ties itself to images and memories. My life – until yesterday – was full of those moments. I can tell you exactly where I was when I first purchased/heard Pinkerton, The Green Album, and Maladroit. I can rattle off the 11 songs I heard them play on August 12, 1995. I can even tell you the myriad of nuggets we fans held on to between 1997 and 2001 when a Pixies tribute album took on unprecedented importance.

Even knowing this, I can't tear an idea out of my mind.

"The camel dances and having danced moves on."

As I type, countless multitudes are fighting back tears behind horn-rimmed glasses while clicking away on their Macs emoting how Weezer made if ok for them to be a dork, how “Across the Sea” brought their summer camp lover home to roost, and how “Only in Dreams” truly is just an allegory for sex (which I don’t wholly buy). This is all well and good, but I’m going to call bullshit on anyone bemoaning this demise. This was doubtlessly the logical end that sixteen-plus years of fandom would point toward, and I for one am quite at peace with it.

The next evolution of Weezer was quite frightening to ponder and most likely would have ended up with fans hating them just to prove how much they loved them, an old-fashioned I’m-more-angry-than-you-off. The camel moved on. Kiddos, there’s certain points in anyone’s existence when one has to recognize everything that has happened is no longer happening. As a man more wiser than I once said, "It is finished." Move on.

While the prospect of a Weezer-less world is a bit more fathomable today than in years past, I sill have a twinge of remorse. Yet beyond this initial reaction, I’m quite happy to have their body of work firmly rooted so that future criticism can lift up the genius of their early work. But Weezer's time has come, so do like I’ll do when I get home and time travel to September 24, 1996. I'm in NW 276 in Wiley Hall and English 103 homework is miles from my mind because I just heard the greatest rock scream opening “Tired of Sex.” Sweet Mother of God, I’ve still got nine tracks to go.

Legends from the Leader: Steve Bartman

So here's the deal. 2 members of the Bad Idea Blue Jeans staff used to work for the Worldwide Leader in Sports. Eventually we left the Mecca of Bristol, Connecticut for other opportunities, but that doesn't mean we're above using the "I worked for ESPN" card at social gatherings. People always have questions about what happens behind the scenes with the anchors, and frankly, we have lots of stories. Starting today, we're ready to start spilling. Hopefully we'll be updating with more stories from Bristol on a semi-regular basis. Fun little anecdotes about certain anchors being massive tools, the perils of being cramped with reporters in a tiny trailer during live events, and guest analysts who made their mark (either by buying the entire newsroom dinner, or being completely incapable of coherent thought on camera. Also it's worth noting that since we're not looking to embarrass the hard working producers, directors, and everyone behind the scenes, that we will be substituting the name of any behind the scenes player with random NBA role players from the last couple decades. Enjoy!

Our first entry concerns the clip below, in which Dan Patrick was set for an exclusive interview with headphones aficionado Steve Bartman. Unfortunately things did not go exactly as planned.

That morning started like many before it. There is a 10am meeting to go over any news that happened late the night before, and set up the show for the day. This consists of the news editor rattling off what news is expected to happen that day and what games are happening that night that might be worth previewing that day. Also, since it's ESPN, this is the meeting where on a daily basis, somebody suggests some stupid feature involving the Yankees or Red Sox. Anyway, the meeting came and went like it had many days before. With the 6pm SportsCenter, there's always a feeling that something big could break during the day - a coach getting fired, a big trade; something that makes you bust your ass behind the scenes to get the story told well on a quick turnaround. This day was no different.

At 1pm the graphics and font crew arrived. These are the people who not only write and research the scores and facts that appear on screen, but also design all graphics, including that nifty fullscreen mugshot of the interview subject that appeared during SportsCenter. After a quick meeting going through an initial rundown of the show we went about our business of making Golf Leader boards, some ID fonts for athletes and speakers in the features we run, and just general full screens which are the elements used out of features to enhance the message with statistical backup. Around 2pm a call comes into the fonting room (mind you this phone is like the Batphone - whenever it rings its for more work). On the other end, an excited producer we'll call Mark Eaton says that we have an exclusive with Steve Bartman. He'll be calling in live at 6pm to answer questions.

Obviously the place is now buzzing. It should be noted that at this point the Bartman call was being kept under wraps - only the 6pm SC crew knew about it. Of course like any good secret, it got out. People started coming up to the font room to see if the rumors were true. One by one however the same question came up - how the hell did he know the number for ESPN? I mean here at the WorldWide Leader you have thousands of people who wanted to work for ESPN their whole lives and who upon graduating college searched high and low for contact info to get into ESPN (its kind of like Fort Knox - you can drive to see it, there's an address and a general telephone number - but you can't actually talk to anyone or get in unless you work there or know someone who does) and here some guy was able to get directly through to the assignment desk no less?

Now after the fact, it's easy to ask why this whole charade wasn't checked out better before putting the caller on live TV. But a few things need to be understood. First off, no more than a handful of people actually talked to the caller in the pre-screening process. Secondly, this is a pretty anonymous subject we're dealing with. Any information we knew about Steve Bartman came from news reports or publications, so every answer of his checked out. ESPN has contacts all over the world to triple-check sources for athletes, but there wasn't any source to ask about this guy that nobody had ever heard of a few days prior. Even his story about why he wasn't calling from a Chicago area code made sense at the time. His number was traced to a hotel in Pittsburgh and he said he was afraid to be in Chicago. Again, with the circumstances of the event, it seemed to make sense. The producers were justifiably skeptical, but after a few hours of trying to check things out using the few resources that were available, the powers that be were satisfied. All the pieces were in order for the exclusive interview.

As the segment was about to start there was a nervous energy. No exaggeration, every big wig at ESPN was watching this - and for Mark Eaton this was his moment. In a way, I think he pushed this through even with the shallow background check because it was one of those moments that can make a career. All throughout the day he was hearing higher ups and Dan Patrick himself question the authenticity of the call, I think in the back of his head Mark Eaton thought his 6th sense on being right about this would not only produce some great TV but an acknowledgement from his peers for having a great feel for television.

Of course as you saw from the clip - it didn't quite go over as big Mark would have liked. The McCurdy (for those who have never seen one - it's an internal communication system with a baseboard and an adjustable headset microphone that enables everyone to communicate with each other during the show. You can always tell who's new on the job when they make the obligatory "Welcome to McDonald's, can I take your order" joke) was eerily quiet during the first few questions. Usually you can hear the producer and director, but on this day everyone was just listening to the conversation - probably a first in studio television history. The fake caller was actually smart by answering the first few questions in a calm and believable manner - with each passing question you could feel the tension lifted. Of course just when everyone was beginning to relax - "Do you like Howard Stern's butt cheese?"

The control room exploded. The yelling and cursing was just sailor-esque. Mark Eaton at this point is so pissed he's cursing at everyone - from tape machine operators to prompters - obviously just directing his anger at himself towards everyone else. The director, Randy Wittman, was so flustered that he cut to a frozen piece of video tape in a panic before just going to black and being bailed out by a Tom Emanski commercial. The producer - Danny Ferry - was actually cool about it. Eaton and he had worked together for a long time, so he took the road of "He's probably being harder on himself right now then I could ever be on him." While he no doubt had some words later on, at the time he took the high road and tried to get the show back on track. Dan Patrick of course had to weigh in during the break on how foolish he felt. It should be noted that while Dan Patrick was cool under pressure and is generally a nice guy, he does have an air of "cooler than the room" to him. In his opinion this incident was not a reflection of ESPN as a whole, but rather a knock on his journalistic integrity. Meanwhile he was doing a story on jock itch 2 weeks later but that's neither here nor there.

For the rest of the show Mark Eaton didn't say a word. Since this call was at the beginning, being the exclusive and all, there were still 50 minutes left of television. Ferry pretty much took over and guided everyone through a pretty clean, if not already marred show. As a fonter, your performance is measured by how many mistakes you make during the show. Usually there are 1 or 2 minor spelling or statistical errors you hear about it after the show. If there is a big one, you definitely hear about it after the show (and repeatedly after that as well.) In that particular show I had 2 more errors and when I went down to the post show meeting Mark Eaton couldn't even bring himself to give me crap for it - he just said nice job and keep an extra eye out on Top 10 fonts.

Amazingly, nobody was fired for the debacle, although I'm sure that Mark Eaton was in the doghouse with the bigwigs for a while afterward. The buzz around campus was palpable the rest of the day. Immediately after the show, the bigwigs launched a full-scale mission to destroy all copies of the show tape. I remember being in the screening department (a large room filled with monitors where we watch and record every game, show, and news feed that comes in to ESPN) and watching PA's frantically rewind and replay the tape before it was confiscated by one of the powers that be. It was one of those days where as a lower-echelon employee, we all found it to be hilarious, but had to look over our shoulder and make sure no higher-ups were around when we laughed it off. There was a lot of walking on egg shells around coordinating producers for the rest of the day. It also changed the way ESPN screens phone calls, and you'll probably never see a live telephone interview anymore unless it's with one of ESPN's own reporters. To this day, the whole mess is a very touchy subjects, and is the elephant in the newsroom that is never spoken about in any official setting.

More stories to come shortly in our continuing "Legends from the Leader" AKA "You're with me, Bristol" series. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The secret word is AWESOME

I was 8 years old when I first saw Pee Wee's Big Adventure. My brothers and I watched it ad nauseum at my cousins' house where we hung out every day over the summer, enjoying the benefits of cable, which did not yet exist in my own home. This turned out to be a tradition that would be lived over time and time again through the years. While remembering what to do with remainders in long division never fully ingrained itself to my pre-teen brain, the quotes from that movie etched a spot within my temporal lobes where they remain verbatim to this day.

Paul Reubens turned the box office success of Pee Wee's Big Adventure into a CBS Saturday morning show the following year. I remember it well, as it clearly stuck out from the plethora of cartoons that marked the network programming of the day, and was one of the few shows to this day that prominently featured giant underpants. My mom, like most parents of the time, looked at Pee Wee Herman the way that adults would look at Tom Green in the late 1990's, or the way I look at people today who repeatedly watch "Deal or No Deal." That is, one just assumes that the subject in question is on drugs. I would imagine that many parents at that time shared my mom's suspicions, As it turned out, Pee Wee's Playhouse turned out to be the most creative educational programming I would ever watch.

Like most kids in America, the only educational TV that had made an impact on me up until 1986 was Sesame Street. But the Playhouse was an entirely different animal. In Sesame Street, the kids took a back seat to the adults in terms of on-screen representation. I knew all of the adult's names, but the kids were faceless interchangeable parts, only there to laugh at the puppets and ask questions so that the adults felt important. In the Playhouse, Pee Wee and his kid friends (a crew which included a pre-coked up Natasha Lyonne) were equals. There were no blatant labels like "adult" and "child"; just a group of friends creating their own fun without judgment or authority over each other. The "secret word" unified everyone, and it instantly caught on and was re-created within classrooms throughout the country as a subversive yet ultimately harmless way for kids to keep authority figures in check.

On Sesame Street, Oscar the Grouch was an asshole to everyone, and in return the 'responsible' adults on the show called him names and forced him to live a trash can, rather than ever offer him a place to stay. In the Playhouse, Randy the evil puppet is not just humored by Pee Wee, but more often than not is there to teach a lesson, such as when Randy convinced Pee Wee to make prank phone calls - a bad idea that resulted in dangerous repercussions (probably because Pee Wee couldn't be bothered to think of a new joke from the one Randy just told!) Randy is a dick with bad ideas, and kids learned about consequences from his actions. What did I ever learn from Oscar the Grouch? I learned that homeless people are angry pricks, and they'll only bring you down. That's about it.
Pee Wee loves fruit salad so much, he decides to marry it.

For all the dizzying colors, loud noises and special effects, the show knew when to lay it on thick and when subtlety was key. Lessons against prejudices were never made verbal, but 3 of Pee Wee's favorite visitors were black. I was never jealous of the futuristic toys that Pee Wee had, because his absolute favorite toy was just a giant ball of foil - something I could make in my very own kitchen! I'm sure that copycat collections of this valuable possession sprung up all over the country during this time frame, much to the delight of the good folks at Reynolds Wrap. As for the more 'in your face' lessons, I'm quite confident that my lifelong hatred/fear of door-to-door salesmen was formed from teachings like this one. What's with the giant heads on those guys?

Boundaries did not exist within a Playhouse where clocks, globes, and chairs had fully developed personalities. There was absolutely nothing that Pee Wee couldn't do in the house, and by association, kids watching believed the same was true for them. Sesame Street set itself to educate children. Pee Wee did the same, but with the added bonus of constantly encouraging creativity. In watching the episodes from their triumphant return on the Cartoon Network, the message still holds up, as do the double entendres that harmlessly went over my head as a child. And yet the writing neither talks down to the audience of 8-year-olds, nor talks below the audience of 28-year-olds. That lesson of "anything is possible" was never carried out as well as it was within the confines of the Playhouse. It's a lesson that I still apply to my job and life today. Granted, I get weird looks when I scream and jump anytime somebody says the secret word, but it's only a matter of time before that catches on again.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Seperated at Birth: Mook Edition

The only way to tell these two apart is to look and see what's in their left hands. One has a 16-pound bowling ball, the other some Old No. 7 and a Jager bomb.

The PBA's Patrick Allen

Your Chicago Bears' Kyle Orton

Friday, July 07, 2006

Pitch and catch

Manchester United fans can rest easy. It seems pretty obvious that there's no bad blood between Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo.