7:34am on the Sunday after Christmas. It has been one of the warmest Christmases on record, meaning that if you look outside right now there's no snow, only a depressing grayness to the stick figures of trees. I like it much better when it's colder and snowier. You wouldn't think so from a guy who grew up dreaming of going to California to escape the cold then actually did it.
I suppose there's been a lot of turnarounds in my 53 years. I grew up hating the winter. Now I want snow and cold. I grew up hating the Calumet Region. Now I champion our cause four hours each weekday morning. I grew up wary of wealth... and now I'm, what?
Wary of wealth. I'm wary of what it does to you inside. Greed. Money. Power. Fame. More. Give me more. And I'm wary of what too much wealth in too few hands does also. But that's another story. That becomes a political statement and the three or four of you don't want to hear political statements from me. I know that.
As a ute, I would sit in church and every once in a while listen to the priest. The meek shall inherit the earth. The lowlifes selling stuff inside the temple. The rich, the greedy, those who take - they'll get theirs in the end from God.
And then I'd listen to my mom about money - "see how people are." And "what goes on behind closed doors." My mom had this theory that there was this mysterious room somewhere in which people sold their souls so they could have a bunch of money. "Don't be one of them, Jimmy. Just don't be."
For a long time, however, I ignored Father Weiss's admonitions not to lose yourself in greed. And I forgot all about my mom's directions to somehow steer clear of the dealings in the back room. Instead, I traded not in the temple of God, but in the temple of greed. The Chicago Board of Trade. Eighteen years of immersing myself in the back room. Losing my soul to the pursuit of wealth. Greed at its most poignant, powerful, visible zenith.
I would like to tell you that it's nice to have my soul back, that once you immerse yourself in local radio that you get some extra credit points from God and your dead mother for redeeming yourself. Redemption is a big theme in my life these days. But in the end I wonder if it's not just a big rationalization for making a lot less money than I used to. When I can't afford something, I rationalize. "At least you're doing the right thing these days, JED. Not having money for the finer things in life is the price you pay."
I suppose. I suppose that there's a lotta local radio people out there who rationalize the same thing. After you raise 18 grand in 90 minutes for the local domestic abuse shelter, it's a little odd to walk in to the office and pick up the mail... hoping that a sizable client has paid so you can make payroll. There's the older model car you drive and the shoes you wear long past their expiration date. There's the economy vacations and no appetizers and don't even think about a new set of golf clubs.
When I go golfing with real golfers, which happens about twice a year, they almost universally laugh at my clubs. "It's not a priority," I tell them. I am me. I am local radio. I do not need new golf clubs or a new car or even new Florsheims. I need a microphone and a purpose. That's all. And that's what I think about on the Sunday after Christmas and there hasn't been snow all winter. True that it snowed for a couple of hours in November, but I was in New York visiting my daughter and sister and the nieces and nephews. By the time I got back, the snow had melted into muck.
I do not plan on doing the show between the holidays. Verlie Suggs, Tom Dabertin, Dave Kusiak, Andy Qunell are all taking a turn in the captain's chair. I thank them for doing this. I need to work on a ton of things to make the radio station better and to improve the investment. There's a couple big opportunities right now and it's probably better if I concentrate on those right now instead of indulging myself with talk about what to do with Christmas leftovers and how do you politely ask guests to finally leave after eight hours. That can be fun on-air stuff. But it would be kinda fun to hit the bullseye with a couple of these business opportunities and then talk about fun stuff on the air.
Last night, we carried Indiana vs. Duke in the Pinstripe Bowl in New York City. The game went in to overtime and in the drive over to my dad's house I was able to listen to it on WJOB. Don Fischer is the IU play-by-play announcer. He is the best football and basketball announcer in America. You know how communications professors tell you to simply talk in a conversational manner when you're doing a show or announcing a game? Don Fischer defines that. I could, literally, listen to him read the Bloomington phone book, at least for a while.
I announced two boy's high school games right before Christmas. On Monday, I announced Lake Central's 43-40 win over Munster. And then on Tuesday, Merrillville, ranked second in the state, took down a tough EC Central team in overtime 84-81. It was fun to do both games, although next year I won't do two games right before Christmas. Had too much other shit to get done before the holiday and it sent me into a mad scramble.
But in the end, I find myself announcing a game more and more like Don Fischer. I used to call out every pass, every substitution, every dribble almost. Now I kinda breeze over the game and just pick out the highlights. Like Don, I try to just tell what's going on in my own way. It probably takes announcing a good 500 games to get to the point where you just talk and it flows out naturally. That's kinda odd. It takes a ton of hard work and experience before you can get to the point where it gets a little easier.
For the first 500 games, you're kinda forcing it, and the listener knows that.
Five hundred games. Five hundred games. Five hundred games. Five hundred games.
I have heard the whistle blow five hundred times
Not a shirt on my back, not a penny to my name.
Lord, I can't go on announcing this a-way.
This a-way. This a-way. This a-way. This a-way.
Lord, I can't go on announcing this a-way.
If you miss the game I'm on, you will know that I am one
Who has heard the whistle blow five hundred times
I suppose that if the three or four of you are all under 50 then you won't have any idea what I'm referring to with these lyrics. You would need at least some familiarity with Peter, Paul and Mary, and you might have even had to sit through bad versions of this at Catholic mass in the 70s. I have this song in vinyl somewhere. Someday I'll play it for you. For now, it's Sunday morning after Christmas and all I can thing about is radio. Radio is my life, my American, radio life.