It's a curious balance to reach in doing a talk-show and announcing games and doing newscasts.
You gotta somehow keep it fresh and exciting and you gotta come to work each morning with a certain energy. If you're tired or hungover or you had an argument with your wife that's still unresolved or you have a cold and don't take medicine or if you are in any way uncentered... all of these things the listener can tell. There is no hiding once the on-air light goes on.
Which brings me to the topic of show preparation. It's 4:22 on a Thursday morning and I'm slipping into this anxiety that I often get at this time of the morning. "Oh my god, what should I do to prepare for the show?"
There's this little voice in my head that tells me to do the right thing, read all the papers, watch the news, write out a schedule and breaks and PSAs. Read up on all the guests coming on this morning. Arrive to the studio early. Check what bumper music to use...
But instead I write this blog to you. I eat a bowl of cereal and check the baseball box scores. I might even ride my bike, which takes a lot longer to get to work, rather get to the studio right away and start preparing.
In other words, I really don't prepare well. Let's see, in the past two days Ryan has given me the following to interview:
Verlie Suggs, United flight attendant and radio co-host extraordinaire
Sue Polak, Benefit for Sorrell Hawkins, an active 12-year-old recently made bedridden
Vanessa Allen, CEO of the Northwest Indiana Urban League
Eddie Melton, NIPSCO
Author so-and-so, who wrote a book on how to pay for college
Jean Ishmon, Northwest Indiana Reinvestment Alliance
Dan Coats, US Senator
Munster councilman Dave Nellans
Munster Park board member Joe Ostojic
Jeff Jendraes, whose nine-year-old daughter has a brain disease and has little motor function
Carol Bridgeman, friend of the Jendraes family
Al Hamnik, sportswriter for The Times newspaper
And I prepared for none of these people, not even Coats. After a while you get better at picking up cues from the interviewee about what's important and what's not (and who has a sense of humor and who does not) and you can bounce your way through any interview. Some would say that's actually the best way to do interviews. Just ask the questions as if you don't know much about the topic or person. That way, you'll ask the questions in a way that the listener who doesn't know much about the topic or person would want them asked.
Anyways, this could all be seen as a huge rationalization to be lazy and not prepare. True. But then again I read a zillion articles a week and watch a ton of news. I even watch some comedians to see how they make people laugh. I'm not so naturally funny so I just copy the body movements and facial expressions (this is radio, dumbass) of people who are funny and just use those.
Who's on today's show?
I have no freakin idea.
I saw an interview with Steve Stone one time on how it would have been easy to make fun of the late Harry Caray, who said and did some outrageous things in the Cubs announcers' booth. But Stone made a pledge early on that no matter what Harry said or did that he would not make Harry look stupid.
That has stuck with me and I use it in dealing with callers. Invariably listeners will come up to me and ask - how do you not just go off on such-and-such caller? or how do you have so much patience with that idiot so-and-so?
I simply build on Stone's message - never make Harry look stupid, whoever Harry might be.
This morning I got into it not with Harry Caray but with WJOB callers Granola Bob, Walt, Mad Mac and even Gloria. Ostensibly they're upset about the commuter train that's set to cost half a billion dollars that may or may not be coming to Indiana. They believe in some sort of conspiracy amongst the local media to keep out that freight trains might also travel down the tracks.
And that led to a discussion about the media in general and, forgive me for letting it go in this direction, if I'm a journalist or not. In typical fashion, I let them take their shots - even Gloria - and then circled around to the difference between a journalist in 1975 and today. In 1975, Rich James went out to a news event and then came back to the Post-Tribune headquarters on Broadway in Gary and wrote a story that went into the print paper. That would be the end of his duty.
Now look at what a journalist like Hamnik does, say, for a Friday night football game. He tweets at least 20 times during the game, takes pictures and posts them to the website and maybe to Facebook, writes a story about the game, collects the stats, and then records some video after the game of the coach saying why his team won. It's a whole different ballgame.
I don't know where this is leading. I sense that it's a debate that nobody actually wins or is even really sure what it's about but that in the end gives everyone involved a little insight. That's all you can ask for anyways, I suppose.
And a little humor, too. The best one today came caller Pat, who was irritated by Mad Mac's rant.
"He's like a nose hair that needs to be plucked."
So it's 10:30pm and I just returned from the new studios. Our streaming computer picked up a virus and we may lose the machine and the 900 gigs of recordings that were stored there. Looking for the OS disk as we speak, but who keeps those anyhows? Just another tech issue. Just another tech issue.
Monday morning, 448am.
So I'll be damned. The Bears pulled it out last night at San Francisco at the new Levi's Stadium. Watched most of the game but as local radio guy I couldn't stay up any longer so I listened to the third quarter in bed before falling asleep. WBBM radio 780 with Jeff Joniak (sp) as the announcer. Truth be told - I'd rather listen to Joniak announce a game than watch it on television. No kidding. That's probably part of being local radio guy. And then partly it's that Joniak is that good. Tells the story, brings it to life. Natural high energy.
Anyways, it is a Monday morning and I've only half read the papers over the weekend and that means I'll have to carry the show with my amazing wit and candor. That's another way of saying that I'll have to bullsh#+ my way through three and a half hours of local radio. I did announce football on Friday night and did stop by the studios yesterday evening just to make sure they're still there and to fiddle with a few wires. But as for formal preparation, not a chance. My prep is going to a game, reading some of the papers, dinking around the internet, listening to my wife's opinions, dreaming hard dreams that I can barely tell are not reality at all. That makes it a little confusing sometimes in that you can't tell if you dreamt it or it happened but after three hours does it really matter anyhows?
It's thundering out so no way am I riding the bike to the studios today. I've done way too many radio shows with wet socks.
High school - Andrean 24, Munster 20. College - Notre Dame 30, Purdue 14. NFL - Domestic abusers 1, Women 0.
On Friday night, I did my local radio guy imitation and walked the sidelines of Father Eckert Stadium announcing a football game in a sideways rain and unseasonable 49 degrees. It's Sunday morning and my feet are still cold.
On Saturday, Alexis and I were supposed to drive to Indy for the "Shamrock Series," which is a euphemism for Domers to thump their chests after again thumping the Boilers.
At noon yesterday, Alexis said, "Are you gonna be a jerk on the ride home if Purdue loses... just like all the other times."
"Then why don't we stay home, go to 5:30 mass and watch the game in a bar. At least the drive home will be shorter."
What a great idea. And in typical fashion, Purdue broke Purdue fans' hearts by hanging tough til halftime then falling apart in the 2nd half. On the short drive home from the bar, I sang out loud every verse of Neil Young's "Helpless." There's press passes at Lucas Field that went unused and am I glad for that.
Today, we're watching Sunday morning news shows and every one of them has something about Ray Rice and domestic violence. Talking heads are calling for the head of Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL. Political strategists plot what the domestic abuse issue will mean to the upcoming mid-term elections. Business types wonder out loud if profits of the tax-exempt NFL will suffer.
But about the women? The ones who get punched in the face, dragged across the floor of an elevator, stalked when they pick up the kids from school? What will happen to them?
Probably not much. It's in our culture to quietly look the other way when we learn of a woman getting hit. It just is. Perhaps, though, we have an opportunity here to open up the discussion. And one direction I'd love to see the conversation go is this - How do we keep men from hitting women?
There's a ton of discussion of what to do after women "get the snot beaten out of them." That's not my words. That's how Lisa Wein of Haven House puts it. She's been the executive director of the home for victims of abuse and their children for two decades. She's seen it all, and we talk about it in the monthly Haven House radio show that I host. The effects on the children, how women usually go back, how once in a while the guy even kills the woman. It's horrifying and sad stuff.
But we do talk about it. And once in a while I ask - how can we get to the dude before he hits his wife, girlfriend, etc? How come we never talk about that portion of this issue?
Invariably, this question is met with blank stares from the women on the show and no callers.
Now comes Janay and Ray Rice, and at least a few people dare address prevention. NBC, which broadcast the Ravens game on Thursday, did an editorial about how it's time for men "to accept responsibility" for their actions. No kidding. Ray Rice, McDonald and the others - their despicable actions give us the opportunity to talk about something we never do.
How do we stop at least one man from hitting a woman?