It’s Sunday morning. Yesterday, I was at my sister’s house by 8am.
“What are you doing here?” she asked as I walked in her front door.
“I’m here to pick up your son. We’re going to breakfast.”
“No you’re not. He’s still sleeping.”
The plan had been to pick up my nephew, Jack, go to breakfast at Round the Clock in Highland, then go to the Munster Little League fields. I was scheduled to throw out the first pitch to mark the beginning of the season, and Jack had to be there as his All-star team from last year was getting a banner for winning District.
Jack forgot all about it. I wound up going home and having a bowl of Cheerios.
By 9:30, I was standing on the mound where I pitched 45 years ago. The president of the league read off a bunch of nice stuff about WJOB into a microphone. The fans, including my sister and my nephew, clapped. I threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Now there’s an art to throwing out the first pitch. First, aim high. You may be used to playing catch on a flat surface. But a pitching mound is not flat. What happens is you step to throw and you wind up stepping down. Your balance is off. You fall forward and throw the ball into the dirt.
I’ve done this several times in throwing out first pitches. You can either cheat and stand at the front of the mound, where it’s flat. Or you can aim above the catcher’s head because no matter how hard you try, your trajectory is going to be down. So compensate.
The other thing about throwing a first pitch is – warm up for crissake. I got their early enough to play catch with a couple of the kids. Also, don’t go out there barehanded. Wear a glove on your non-throwing hand. You are used to throwing a baseball with a mitt on one hand and a ball in your other. Go with what works.
I did all of this to prepare for throwing out the first pitch. There were a number of parents there that I knew, and I didn’t want to have to hear about it on the morning show. Several dads were cajoling me to mess up.
I warmed up, wore a mitt, stood on the mound, and aimed high. The only thing I forgot to do was take off my winter coat. Yes, it is still butt cold around here. It is the coldest April on record for 137 years. Every day you wake up and you pray that:
Many days this month, as boys are trying to play baseball and girls try to play softball, it has done none of the three above. I cleaned off my car more this month than in January. It’s a complete travesty that you have a whole half of a continent jonesing to go outside… and it’s nothing but winter weather every day. It sucks.
After throwing out the first pitch, I hightailed it home. My wife was busy. We had a wedding last night, which I’ll get to later, and she had to do a whole bunch of stuff with her hair and her new shoes. It was even more of an occasion since my wife was “officiating” the wedding. I’m not sure exactly what that means, but it has something to do with her standing there and giving the couple their vows. It’s one of the perks of becoming a judicial officer I suppose.
Since the wife was busy, I studied for my Marketing 620 final which is coming up on Friday. It’s a take home test. I don’t know how to study for a take home test, so I’m just studying everything. I’m studying Customer Lifetime Value, new product introduction, break even points. SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunities and threats) analysis, and more.
I’m not just studying all of this stuff because I want a decent grade on the test, which I do. I am studying this because I have been a bad businessman for about 14 years. I don’t know what my margin is on a radio spot, and I don’t know my retention rate. I have not segmented my clients, nor have I come up with a strategy to target them with different positioning. I have been, in a word, a business fool. There’s nothing I can do about what has happened in the past. But I sure as hell can try to make a different future out of it. I hope the three or four of you understand this. No one else does.
“Why are you going for your MBA at your age?” This is a question that comes from many of the people I would consider my friends. Many are retiring or thinking about retiring.
“It’s just something that I’ve always wanted to do. That’s all.”
But it is, as the three or four of you know, much more than that. After trading at the Chicago Board of Trade for the better part of 18 years, I left in a hurry. Alexis and I bought a couple of radio stations and a newspaper. It has been a lot of work. We have both given thousands of hours to the radio stations and, now, streaming video. Since Alexis took a job on the bench, it is me who gives to the station.
But it is not a directed giving, if that makes any sense. I just go down to the station and talk on the radio for a few hours, and then what?
The rest of the day is helter skelter. I have to:
I do the things that owners of small businesses across the country have do, which is just make it to the next day. You do it by hustling your ass off. There’s not a lot of strategy to working as hard as you can so that you can live another day to talk on the radio.
I’d like to change that. I’d like to move forward with the semblance of a plan. I’d like to market to local businesses in an organized fashion with a cohesive message. We really are the local leaders in live streaming video. Do something about that instead of just continuing to provide the product with little or no monetary return. It’s poor management. I am poor management, and that is something I am setting out to change.
You gotta recognize the problem before you can find a solution. I am the problem and the solution.
After studying for an hour, I had to skidaddle over to Dowling Park in Hammond at the corner of the 80-94 expressway and Kennedy Avenue. That’s where the Purdue Northwest women’s softball team plays their home games. It’s a beautiful facility, with:
There’s a lot more that makes the women’s softball facility at Dowling Park beautiful. Someone painted the artificial turf beautiful, and the walls around the park are that traditional ballpark red. There’s a brand new concession stand and, across a little walkway, there’s a brand new college baseball field complete with all of the same things that the softball field has. All of this has been built to accommodate Purdue Northwest teams – oh, and there’s also a brand new artificial turf soccer field.
Soccer, baseball, softball – they all have brand new, top of the line facilities. A guy said to me yesterday –
“If you were a recruit and you went to visit Valparaiso University and then you came here to Purdue Northwest, you ‘d choose PNW. No questions asked.”
As much as I must laud the city of Hammond and Purdue for getting together to make all of this happen, I must also point out that there is one glaring misstep. They didn’t build press boxes.
There’s great stands for the fans to sit in. The concession stand has some of the best coffee in Hammond. There’s great parking. There’s even spots to tailgate, which the parents of the Tiffin University players did for several hours. I joined them for a while. They gave me a piece of chicken, some nachos and a big slap on the back for announcing two whole games in the cold.
In essence, the lack of a press box meant that color analyst Mike Bridgmann and I sat at a folding table next to the PNW dugout and announced softball for five hours – in 44-degree weather with a stiff wind blowing off Lake Michigan. It is truly an honor to be able to announce these women’s softball games. They women try their hearts out on both sides every game, and almost no one complains to the umps or tries to intimidate the other players. It’s really what baseball used to be and probably should be again.
I am sold on announcing college softball. What I cannot get used to is my feet going numb almost every time I do it. I wore:
I was ready for a Bears game in December. Still, I froze my ass off. By the time I got home, my feet were ice and I was coughing up phlegm. If you want more details, too bad. Just suffice it to say that I froze my ass off for five hours announcing college softball.
It was worth every minute of it. PNW is getting pretty good at the Division II level. First-year coach Niki Stansell knows what she’s doing. My only fear is that she knows what she’s doing too well and a Division 1 program is gonna see this and take her away. Oh well. Can’t fear what you can’t control.
PNW lost the first one 2-1 in a tight game. PNW beat Tiffing by the mercy rule in the second game. One of the cool things is that there’s so many local girls on the PNW team. A Munster girl, a couple Lake Central girls, and a Crown Point girl, Lexi Madrigal. She’s a freshman. On the other side, the two Buck girls play for Tiffin. They’re also from Crown Point. Several times one of the two Buck girls, Ally or Amanda, stood in the batter’s box and in the catcher’s box was Lexi Madrigal. That’s a lot of Crown Point in one little area.
After the games, I rushed home and put on a sportcoat and drove to the Patrician Hall on US 30 in Schererville. I didn’t get to see it, but my wife officiated over the marriage of the Alexanders. My wife grew up with Amanda’s mom, Irma, in East Chicago. I met a ton of people who listen to the show, which is always nice. You feel better about yourself when people tell you how great you are. Alexis and I danced to a few songs and took pictures in the photo booth. I’d show them to you but you’ve seen enough pictures of the two of us.
By 11pm, we made it home. I was snoring and Alexis was sleeping daintily and quietly by midnight. It was another great day of radio – Little League, marketing, college softball, a wedding and snoring. Can’t beat that.
6pm Monday: Students in my Sports Broadcasting class arrive at the WJOB studios on the campus of the Purdue Northwest Commercialization Center.
One problem. Two of the students – Jen and Jay – can’t make it. That leaves Josh Salazar to do his sports talk show alone for an hour. I text the four students who are scheduled for 7pm – “Hey, Josh is on his own. If you can do it, come in a little early and sit with him.”
Since Josh is a brand new sports broadcaster, WJOB’s Jimmy Mullaney, himself a recent PNW broadcasting alum, and I sit with Josh. We start talking about NBA playoffs. I have watched no NBA playoffs. But I have a computer in front of me so I can BS my way through it. We talk about the cold. It is so freaking cold around here all the time. God must hate baseball. And softball. And lacrosse and soccer.
Jimmy Mullaney and I sit with Josh and do some sportstalk for 15 minutes. Then, all four students I had texted to come in early arrive. This is a good thing. It shows that they are eager. Jimmy and I vacate the studio and students take over for the next hour and a half.
Leonard Powell, Brittany Smith and Auttumn Martinez produce the shows. They are learning how to stream video to Facebook Live using Wirecast software. They’re learning camera angles, graphics, lighting, bit rates and so forth. Some of it they already know.
Josh, Edward Clark, Robert Aguirre, Sonny Santana and Jesse Smith provide the on air talent. I go into my office in an adjoining room.
“Only get me if there’s a real problem.”
This is not only my teaching method for class. It is my operating method. I find that if young broadcasters know that there’s an easily-accessible safety net, they’ll use it. In the real world, there is no safety net. Figure it out yourself.
The students produce the broadcast, play spots, adjust their own lighting and take six or seven phone calls from people driving around. One of my buddies - Rich - calls in and harasses the students. This sounds cruel, but I welcome the intrusion. Jesse Smith is hosting. He allows Rich to mess with him a little, and then he hangs up on Rich. I didn’t necessarily teach that, but it was the right thing to do.
“Caller, are you driving? If so, you better pull over.”
Rich had asked if the Bears should bring back Tom Thibodeau as their coach again. Ha ha.
Monday, 8:15pm - The students leave and I stay at the studio until 10:30 helping a guy. It’s a blessing and a curse to be able to edit. People learn this and they ask you to help with resumes, cover letters, short stories, term papers and menus. I’m not kidding. I got a guy who asks me to edit his menu.
Tuesday, 5:30am – JED in America. There is a lot going on in America. I get the feeling that something really big is gonna happen, good or bad. So for the first half of my morning show, I’m doing a segment called “JED in America.” I start "JED in the Region" at 6am.
I’m starting to get interested in what happens at the macro level in the world. For a long time, I concentrated solely on what happened between South Holland and Valparaiso, between Michigan City and Crete. Trump changed all that. I watch the news channels every night. There’s major plot twists, character flaws, drama, comedy. I get the feeling that many of my listeners don’t want to hear what’s going on at the national level because they feel as if they have no control.
Surplus powerlessness. Maybe if I discuss national happenings in a calm way – versus the frantic way that national news outlets do it – the news won’t be so frightening for people driving around the southern tip of Lake Michigan.
6am Tuesday – Verlie Suggs comes in. She makes fun of my hair.
“Let me tell you something about white people’s hair,” I tell her. “As you get older, it gets spongy on top. There’s nothing you can do. It just sticks up."
“Use some gel,” Verlie says, echoing my 11-year-old nephew, Jack.
“Your hair is horrible,” Verlie says during a break. I can almost hear 60-year-old Verlie and 11-year-old Jack singing this admonition in unison.
6:30am – A dozen fifth and sixth graders from St. Mary School in Crown Point come into the studio. They do their own in-school news program on WSMW (St. Mary’s Wildcats.) Their principal, Tom Ruiz, is a big supporter of the station. One student asks how I get my hair ready in the morning.
“Well, I take a piece of bread and I toast it. And then I slop a bunch of butter on it and then comb my hair with buttered toast.” I thought I was styling with this comment, cute, the funny one in the room.
I passed the microphone around to each student. I asked their name and a question and then made a funny comment. I thought I was the funny one in the room. Then a girl in the back room took the microphone. She told me her name and that she likes to play volleyball. The microphone was ready to be passed to the next student, when the girl asked:
“Do you mind if I ask you a question?”
“Sure. Go ahead.”
“What do you do with the toast after you comb your hair?”
As I said, I thought I was the funny one in the room. It just goes to show that no matter how rich or famous or funny you think you are, there’s always someone richer or more famous or funnier than you.
7:25am – Pete Marzano walks into the studio. He’s 88 years old. Pete and I worked at WJOB in the mid 1980s. I haven’t seen him since. His granddaughter emailed me last week to tell me about all of the good things that her grandpa Pete had to say about working at WJOB.
“If you ever want to have him on the air, I’d love to bring him to the studio,” Sarah, the granddaughter wrote.
“How does next week sound?”
If you’re wondering what it would look like to be healthy and strong and still really funny at 88, watch the video from today of Pete Marzano. He left his sales job at the age of 40 to go to radio school in downtown Chicago. At 42, he got a job at WJOB and stayed here for 16 years. Pete started at 6am and ended at 2pm. He produced, hosted, mixed and played records.
To Pete, you see, it really didn’t matter how much he got paid or what owner Julian Colby asked him to do. It was radio and that’s all that mattered. I have a little bit of Pete Marzano in me. It doesn’t go away.
Pete, his wife and granddaughter finished up the show with me. Pete’s wife – can’t remember name – said they met in college.
“I was really more interested in Pete’s friend, Chris. When Pete asked me to the prom, I asked him – ‘does Chris have a date?’”
That was cute. I forever thank Pete Marzano for being kind to me when I worked here 34 years ago. He showed me how to operate the equipment, how to correctly play a vinyl album, and how to love radio.
8:15am – The show is over. I slink back to my hidden desk and check my email.
“Leroy Marsh has announced his retirement as head football coach at Munster High School after 38 years and assistant coach for seven years.”
Coach Marsh will be available to answer any questions today in the MHS conference room (10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.).
This requires some explaining. First of all, I had a ton of things scheduled this morning. That didn’t matter. This was big news for the Region and me personally.
Coach... you have been an inspiration to me and many others. I'll be there... Jim Dedelow
9am - I take my sports crew out for breakfast – Ryan Walsh, Sam Michel and Jimmy Mullaney. We announce PNW division II baseball and softball games. There are a bunch of games coming up. We had to set the schedule. I will be announcing a softball doubleheader on Saturday.
We also discuss the future of our streaming video. Sam asks the question that I was going to get to anyways:
“Are we just always going to stream our video to Facebook. I mean, aren’t we just kind of giving it away?”
Yes, we are streaming to Facebook, and yes, we are giving it away. I am going to a conference in New York City in May called Streaming Media East. I am going ostensibly to figure out if we should continue to give our stream to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube… or perhaps we should stream it to our own website. Or even our own channel somewhere.
“If you really think about it,” Ryan said, “we’re streaming live video for most of the day already. Why don’t we just do a channel?”
They have a point. One of the things Facebook does not allow, as far as I can tell, is third party ads. That means we can’t really play television ads. We can play the radio ad and flash up a graphic on the screen, but that’s not the same. The three or four of you who read this blog know this. And so do I.
10:30 – Jimmy Mullaney and I cram into a small conference room with several other members of the media. There’s Chris Ramirez and Nathan Laird of Region Sports, a guy from The Times, Dave Miller from Regional Radio Sports, and Mike Hutton of the Post-Tribune. We are all either taping or streaming the press conference. Leroy Marsh, his wife Jamie and son Chris sit at the head of the table.
No one really says anything. We’re all just sitting there. And then I realize why. They’re waiting for me to take the lead somehow. Principal Mike Wells and interim athletic director Ira Zimmer are there. I ask them:
“Are you going to make an announcement?”
They shrug their shoulders. And I realize, they too are waiting for me to make a move. The problem is that I don’t want to make a move. Leroy Marsh was the defensive coordinator when I played football at Munster High. John Friend was the head coach. They are two pretty big pillars in my life. I really don’t want to start talking and have my voice crack on Facebook Live video. That’s too much emotion to show for a Midwestern red-blooded male.
I take a deep breath and start.
“Hello everybody, my name’s Jim Dedelow of AM 1230 WJOB and 104.7 FM. I’m here with several members of the media. We have all been called quickly to Munster High School for a big announcement.”
And then I read the announcement, or at least most of it. It’s about Leroy’s accomplishments. Sectional and regional championships, coach of the year, how many of his players went on to Division I and II scholarships.
“So, coach, how are you feeling right now?”
Leroy tells his story, how he had been ruminating on the decision for a while.
“In the last 18 months, I lost my mother and my father and my sister, and that has something to do with my decision. I love coaching football. It’s just time to move on.”
It sounds like Leroy just came up with the idea to retire this morning. It’s as if he was drinking his coffee and he looked at Jamie – “You know what, Jamie, I think I’ll go to school today and retire.”
I asked Jamie a question. She started to tear up, but she made it through without a clear cry. But it wasn’t so easy for Chris, their son. I know Chris and I knew it was gonna be a tough moment.
“I have been breaking down film with my dad on Saturday nights since I was eight years old. It’s tough.”
I put the microphone in front of other media members, most notably Ramirez from RSN and Dave Miller from RRSN. The Post guy and the Times guy didn’t ask questions on camera. If you get a chance, watch the video. You will see a man explain his decision and reflect on his life as a high school football coach. You will see his wife struggle with the decision and the son also. Leroy Marsh is what a football coach should be. There aren’t any more of him around, at least none that I can think of.
“What is the only football program in the state of Indiana that has had only two coaches?”
We are a trivia question. The answer is – or was - “Munster High School.”
11:40am – I arrive 40 minutes late for a meeting at the B. Coleman hangar at the Gary Airport. It is, surprisingly, a sunny day. I look out the window at a plane taking off. A few minutes later, it lands from the other direction. This goes on for the whole meeting. Afterwards, I ask John Grizanich, the president of B. Coleman, what the plane is doing.
“It might be training, the guy needs so many takeoffs and landings. Or there might be a maintenance issue and they’re testing out some equipment.” It’s a beautiful day. I love airplanes. It’s hard to concentrate on the meeting.
Why am I at this meeting?
The answer, like almost everything in my life, has to do with radio. In 2008, there was a huge flood around here. I stayed on the air for six days straight because we didn’t, at the time, have a way to deal with a large-scale emergency. This NIISSA organization that I and many others have devoted untold hours to is trying to build a Multi-Agency Coordination Center at the Gary Airport. It’ll be several million to get it done. We’ll get it done, but it hasn’t been without pain and suffering.
We are having a big fundraiser on May 5that the Airport. It’s a Derby party. Munster police chief Steve Scheckel and I disagree on how many tickets we should sell.
“I want to cut it off at 500,” chief Scheckel says. “People want to sit at a table.”
“Chief, the airplane hangar is as big as – an airplane hangar. We could fit 2000 people in there no problem.”
“500. That’s all we’re selling.”
He’s the chief and head of NIISSA. I am not the chief and I am not head of NIISSA. I’m just the local radio guy who loves to look out the window at airplanes taking off and landing. It’s graceful, beautiful and, if you can believe it, sunny.
2pm – I arrive back at the WJOB studios on the campus of the Purdue Commercialization Center. Station manager Debbie Wargo, producer Tony Panek and I try to think of a way to get people to understand and, ultimately buy advertising on, streaming live video. We come up with the idea to do some instructional videos.
“But we need a tag line – got any ideas?” I ask.
We try several. “Strongest stream in the Region,” Tony suggests. I suggest:
“When you’re finally ready for streaming live video, we’re here for you.”
We’ll see. That’s all I can say. We’ll see.
6pm – I stop by a meet and greet for John Salzeider. He is a candidate for North Township Advisory Board. I don’t normally go to these political things, but this one doesn’t cost a donation and many of my buddies will be there. I talk to Dave Gladish and his girlfriend, Kelly. Wayne Micka and his girlfriend, Lisa Belinsky. There’s Rick Baltenzberger and several others. Every last person I talk to, at one point or another, mentions how freaking cold it is out and has been for a long time.
“You get tired of it. You just get tired of it,” Micka says.
7:30pm – I drive to the WJOB studio, listening to my own radio stations. Isha Haley is doing her first show. She is a survivor of domestic sexual abuse. She is telling a story about how she wanted out of her marriage so she committed adultery… but wound up without a place to live. Homeless. It’s a compelling story. Isha has game.
Tony Panek and I listen as Isha, her first time alone of the radio, talks nonstop for an hour. That’s pretty impressive the first time around. We close up after the show and go home.
8:45pm Tuesday – I start writing this blog about My Radio Life to the three or four of you. It’s 49 minutes later. I’m done. So are you. Good night
A lot can be explained by my early affinity for Kurt Vonnegut, the writer from Indianapolis.
The first thing that can be explained is my tendency to resort to eighth grade humor and to poke fun at things that a lot of people think are serious. Like nuclear war and herpes. Kurt Vonnegut taught me that. I read “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater” a dozen times in high school. It wasn’t until recently that I learned that it wasn’t high literature at all.
Hello to the three or four of you. All of the time I type, it’s about me. I say that I want to tell you what it’s like to live a life of local radio. That’s the parameter. So by definition it’s about me because I live that life of local radio.
But what about you? I want to reach through the keyboard and thousands of wires and ask you a question –