530am - Happy Anniversary
It's 5:33 on Saturday morning and if there's anything that the three or four of you may be able to come up with as an answer to the question about My American, Radio Life it is this - Pace.
Yes, pace. There is none. Or, perhaps more accurately, it's organized chaos all the time. That's the pace and the rhythm and the metronome and the mantra. Go full throttle all the time and at the end of the day if you're a local radio person then maybe you can keep your station running 24 hours a day every day and if you're real lucky then it might even sound good enough for people to buy ads enough so you can keep doing it.
That's how fast things move all the time. Today it's high school basketball Regionals. This is a big day for us but it's really just another big day in a series of big days. Actually, every day when the transmitter hums and radios all around the Calumet Region turn us on is a big day. Big day radio every day.
This morning I'm set to pick up 12-year-old nephew Al at 8am and we'll drive the hour to Michigan City and set up our radio stuff to do a noon game between East Chicago Central and Crown Point. These are both local teams. Most of the time at the Michigan City Regional one local team plays at 10am and then the next plays at noon. I usually announce both games and Al's come with me a few times since he was eight years old.
One time, when Al was nine, I was talking on the phone as we walked in to the media entrance at this massive high school gym. I wasn't really paying attention, but I had given all of the equipment to Al to carry in as we walked across the parking lot. Al carried, I talked... probably to a crew at another Region site. Today we'll be at three Regional sites across northern Indiana. Sometimes we're at four.
Anyways, Al and I get to the door and standing there laughing is Russ Radtke. Yes, that Russ Radtke. He points to Al struggling with a huge suitcase, a tripod, a backpack and, like always, his scorebook in his hands.
"Look," Radtke says. "What are you trying to do to the kid?"
And then I turn and look, and I had not realized that I was carrying nothing and poor Al was carrying everything. Radtke just laughed, knowing that he'd done the same thing to Tyler, Bo and Shane many times as football coach at Griffith. Radtke was there to ref, I believe. I was there to announce. Nine-year-old Al was there to carry the equipment and keep score and give me stats at halftime. The natural order of things.
Al and I are set to go to Michigan City to set up by, say, 9:30am and then hang around for our noon game. Why so early? Because I'm a little paranoid. We had a phone line installed by AT&T but we haven't been out to test it. The AD there, Craig, said that AT&T was there and the phone line is in... but I've been doing this long enough to know that it's probably a 90% chance that it's all gonna work. And another five percent chance that we'll have to argue with a radio station from Elkhart over the line. And another five percent chance that I'll have to call the station with my cellphone and announce the game that way.
In other words, it's a lot better to get there way early, set your stuff up, and then relax. Besides, that gives me more time to hang around with Al, one of the three coolest people in the world.
As if the three or four of you didn't know who the three coolest people in the world are. 1. Alex Kovacs, 14, of Northport, Long Island. 1. Al Dedelow, 12, of Munster, Indiana. 1. Jack Foreit, 9, of Munster, Indiana. My nephews.
.... 12 years of bliss. That's what comes to mind in a sarcastic tone when I think of what went on during my morning show yesterday.
Let me set it up first, though. Around 6:15am yesterday, a guy by the name of Bob Robinson called.
"I just want to thank you for telling people all about my granddaughter Kylah and my daughter Kolie and what they're going through..." And you could tell that old Bob was getting a little emotional. His granddaughter Kylah is undergoing a stem cell transplant as the three or four of you and I speak. Kylah's mired in a heap of medical challenge, but you'd never know it from her behavior when she came in to the studio a couple weeks ago to promote a fundraiser for Kylah's parents. You know and I know how much it can cost, financially and emotionally, when your kid's sick. Grandpa Bob became effusive about how people showed up to Wicker Park.
"Their pockets were open," Bob said. We ended the phone call with Bob promising to keep us updated on Kylah's progress down at Riley Children's Hospital in Indianapolis. As it stands, Kylah has received a ton of chemo and yesterday they re-introduced her first stem cell. One thing Bob did say that has kinda stuck with me, and has probably stuck with the three or four of you if you heard it....
"You know, people complain about their 9 to 5 jobs and all the hassles involved with that. It kind of puts it all in perspective when a little girl, your granddaughter gets sick like that..."
I could have let Bob cry. Sometimes that's good for radio. But I don't think that it was good for Bob, so I changed gears and just made him promise to keep us updated. You hope. I'll pray. I'll hope. You pray.
.... Also yesterday on the show - speaking of pace - Alexis came in and sat down and we started chatting on the air like always. And then I said - "Wait, what's today?"
"It's March 10th, right?"
"Is that right, Tony, the 10th?"
"Nope. It's the 11th."
And then Alexis and I both remembered. "It's our anniversary."
Not that kind of anniversary. We were married on August 31st of 1992 or something like that. And we've been been married ever since. Twenty two good years. Two bad ones.
Nope. Twelve years ago yesterday we walked in to WJOB after we had just bought it through the bankruptcy court. We reminisced on the air about walking in the first day and all of the toilets had overflowed and we had to rip out the carpet and bring in fans. We talked about the 2008 flood and being on the air for six days straight... and we talked about "Indictment Friday" because this is, after all, the most corrupt county in America. And I talked about how cool it is to announce high school basketball games.
It was decent radio, I suppose, for the three or four of you. But what is curious here is the question to the answer - "How could you not know it was your 12th anniversary of owning WJOB?"
The three or four of you know why the question to the answer that was given at the beginning of this rather rambling blog entry had to be asked - Pace.
Organized chaos. Work, work, work to the next moment of radio. You don't have time to reflect on milestones or anniversaries or accomplishments or even, sometimes, what's good radio and what's not. MASH meatball surgery and every once in a while you're on the air, you realize - "Holy crap, we've been doing this for 12 years. Imagine that."
7:45am - Big George
Stop by to pick up the equipment at the WJOB studios on the campus of the Purdue Calumet Commercialization and Advanced Manufacturing Center. Big George does the ever-popular "Your Car Guy" show on WJOB Saturday mornings. George gets here around 7am for the 8am show. He'll start a little early because we have to leave him at about 9:45 to send it out to Ryan Walsh and Dan Repay at North Judson for the Bishop Noll-Michigan City Marquette game. That's class 2A.
Brian Jennings and Kirk "the Minnow" Smith are at Kankakee Valley for the class 3A matchup between Griffith and Northwestern.
I'll be out at Michigan City with Dave Kusiak for the the class 4A doozie between Crown Point and EC Central. Doesn't get any better than this.
9:56am - Frenchie
The three of four of you who follow this blog regularly already know that it's difficult to come up with any sort of dismay when it comes to local radio. You hear it on the air, the goofy callers and the goofy guests. We really are one of the quirkiest radio stations around. I believe that.
Along with the quirkiness exists an ongoing story of bumbles and triumphs. This morning, as expected, we've already had to change plans a couple of times.
1. I got this text at 7:47am from my sister-in-law Michelle -
Hey JED, Allan was up last night not feeling good... Don't pick him up this morning. If he goes, Brian (my brother) will bring him out personally. Keep you updated... Thanks.
You have no idea how disappointing this is. Not only will I have to keep score while announcing if Al doesn't come out to Michigan City... he and I will have missed out on some pretty quality uncle-nephew time and watching some pretty good basketball together. Today is the kind of day you talk about in 20 years.
2. I also got this text from Brian Jennings at 9:18am concerning our phone line at Kankakee Valley, where we're broadcasting the Griffith-Northwestern game from.
The phone jack has been messed with. There's glue in it and the system shorted out. The cell phones out here don't match with our cell cords. We are still trying another option. Basically the jack was bad. They hooked up the wires and didn't check the jack.
Oh well. You'd think that at this point, sitting here on the free wifi at Dunkin Donuts eating an egg sandwich, I'd start getting a little panicked, but not really. Remember this, the three or four of you - All radio is good, just some is better than others.
There is one thing you can count on, though. Frenchie was waiting for me when I got to Michigan City. Who is Frenchie? If the three or four of you have been around the basketball scene in da Region for the past few decades, then you wouldn't have to ask that question. Frenchie used to hang around and coach around the basketball scene in Gary and East Chicago. A few years ago he followed Coach Boyd out to Michigan City and he's been here ever since.
"JED, I try to call in to your show and can't get through. It just rings and rings."
"Sorry, Frenchie. It's not like the old days. People actually listen now so the lines get full. Let's set up a time for Monday."
I just got this text from Jennings -
We are OK just gotta use cell.
You see, just gotta have some patience once in a while. My phone's blowing up on other stuff, too. My cousin, Scott Francoeur, runs a big AAU or big youth basketball program out of South Bend, and he's at the South Bend Riley vs. Warsaw game a couple blocks away at Mich City. Scott is a connoisseur of critiquing refs.
Man, these referees need to loosen it up or they're going to foul out all the stars.
All set up at Mich City, eating an egg sandwich in Dunkin Donuts waiting for my turn on the air. Life is good.
12:10pm - Overtime
So the South Bend Riley vs. Warsaw game went into overtime, with the #4 ranked Warsaw Tigers pulling it out in double overtime. That fits pretty good with out schedule, as the Griffith vs. Northwestern game, which is scheduled to run alongside the game from Michigan City, is already in the 2nd quarter.
You see, all radio is good, just some is better than others. In our first game from North Judson, Bishop Noll pulled it out against Michigan City Marquette. That gives us at least one game for sure tonight, besides the EC-Crown Point winner.
A zillion people are stopping by the broadcast booth, which if the three or four of you have ever been to Michigan City you would know is in the corner of the upper deck. Not idea for calling a game, and not ideal if you know half the people from EC and Crown Point filing past. A lot want to say 'Hi" but one good "el ojo" and they keep on walking. My neighbor, Pete Korellis, is here with his wife, Susie. It was Korellis who once said to me - "you know, you're a pretty nice guy most of the time... until you put on your game face to announce a high school basketball game."
Even my dad just stopped by with old man Bob Paulson - "Sorry pops, kinda busy."
Speaking of love for high school basketball... it's from my uncle Danny and my dad and a zillion other relatives who passed it down. My dad, in the 1950s, would get dropped off solo at the Hammond Civic Center and watch all eight games of the first round... and then get picked up after ten at night.
"Who would you hang out with, dad?"
"Oh, I'd find other kids to hang with. There were a lot of us in those days."
So to complete the cycle of life as it relates to high school basketball, I'm looking at my cousin Cindy's kids running around underneath the perch here. They're talking to a couple of kids their own age, 10 or 11 or so, from Warsaw... wherever the hell that is.
Up next - East Chicago Central vs. Crown Point. Class 4A Regional action from Michigan City. Listen at wjob1230.com or at jed.tv.
11:18am Saturday night
Wanna make God laugh - tell him your plans.
I was supposed to do a 16-hour day of Regionals from Michigan City and blog the whole thing for the three or four of you, but that didn't happen. Crown Point beat the crap out of East Chicago Central 67-52 on 19 points and 14 rebounds from Sasha Stepanovic and 19 points from Andrew Kenneally. CP dominated from the start. Crown Point's Clint Swan coached a masterpiece. EC coach Pete Trgovich Sr. spent much of the game pissed off at the refs, culminating in a 2nd half technical that just about sealed the deal for Crown Point.
I'm not sure how this is gonna sound, but remember that I've been watching, playing in, and announcing Indiana high school basketball games for half a century now. Put the chess pieces on the table.
East Chicago is one of the most industrial cities in America. The high school is surrounded by a shipping canal, chemical factories, steel fabricators and a huge rail yard. There's a poverty, gangs, violence and poverty. The school is almost entirely minority, and the basketball team is all black.
Crown Point is in the center of Lake County, Indiana. It used to be a farming community but now there's starter castles in sprawling subdivisions and there's two huge domes for youth sports. The whole team and most of the school is white.
None of this should really matter in determining the outcome of a highly-anticipated Regionals matchup between East Chicago and Crown Point. I mean, once ten players line up for a jump ball in front of several thousand people and half a dozen radio stations... murder and piano lessons and blast furnaces and minivans don't matter.
At least they shouldn't. But I've just seen too much... as a kid tagging along with my dad and uncles, as a player, and as an announcer. And forgive me this. When I saw that the refs were from W. Lafayette, Panetto, and North Webster - the rural heartland of Indiana - my first thought was that Crown Point's gonna win. The three or four of you can do what you want with that inkling.
.... Kusiak and I announced the EC-CP game from Michigan City, bouncing to coverage of the Griffith-Northwestern game from Kankakee Valley, 75 miles away. It was according to those who told me afterwards a decent listen. We jam spots in the pre-game and halftime... but during play we go nearly commercial free. Jennings will say. "And now we're gonna go back out to Michigan City for East Chicago-Crown Point. Take it away, Jimmy."
"Welcome back to Michigan City. He's Dave Kusiak and I'm Jim Dedelow, and it's been all Crown Point for the first three quarters of this one...."
You get the idea. In the end, Crown Point beat East Chicago but lost to Warsaw in the evening game. Bishop Noll won in the morning but lost in the evening. Griffith won both and moves on to the semi-state next weekend. There's another local team - Gary 21st Century - and there's a good chance they won both also. It's a brand new school in the smallest class so they're not garnering much attention right now. I vow to change that this week.
As far as radio programming goes... as soon as Kusiak and I finished from Michigan City, WJOB switched to the Big Ten tournament from Indianapolis. We caught the end of Purdue beating Michigan and then the whole of Michigan State downing Maryland. I'm thinking of driving the three hours to Indy in a few hours to watch the final game of the Big Ten tourney with Wayne Micka... but there's a catch.
As a part of the basketball scene in Indiana - and as the Chicago-are affiliate for Purdue and IU - WJOB gets two press passes for the whole tournament. The problem is that it has to be the same two people for the whole tournament. In other words, you can't have Bill and Jane go on Wednesday and then Jack and Jill on Thursday. Once Bill and Jane get their passes on Wednesday, they're the only ones who can eat in the press room and wander all throughout Bankers Life Fieldhouse and take pictures under the basket.
For WJOB, sports director Ryan Walsh and the oldest sports intern in Indiana, Micka, have been going all week. So if I tried to use Ryan Walsh's press pass tomorrow, there's a good chance some pedant from the Big Ten office will flag me on the way in and deny my entrance. Now I wouldn't worry so much if it were a Purdue or IU thing in that I could talk my way through. But the Big Ten is big time, and there's a decent chance I'd wind up buying a ticket and sitting with the plebes. That would mean some pretty piss-poor photos from the 52nd row.
.... A few notes on the day:
1. Interruptions. As the three or four of you know, if you've been to Michigan City, the broadcast booths are in the corners right next to the cheering sections. Hundreds of people walk by throughout the day, and since it was two Region teams, Kusiak and I knew a lot of them. This can cause comical encounters as people walk up to us and start talking while we're announcing. You hear us - "Stepanovic dribbles across the time line, bounce passes it to Tomich on the left wing..." and in the background you can hear a woman asking - "Hey Dave, you and Lisa going to B-dubs after?" This kind of thing happened at least a dozen times during the broadcast. By the end, I would just raise my hand and shoo people away. If you were one of those people I was rude to, please accept my apology.
2. Since three other local radio stations were broadcasting the Crown Point game in the evening, we decided to go with double bounce coverage between the Bishop Noll game from North Judson and the Griffith game from Kankakee Valley. That meant that I picked my stuff up and drove home from Michigan City. Alexis was waiting at the door - "where we going to eat and watch the end of the Michigan State game?"
How my wife of 24 years could have a soft spot for Spartie, I have no idea. Wait, maybe I do have an idea but I don't want to think about it. "I just really, really like coach Izzo." If the three or four of you can tell me what to do when your wife has a basketball crush on the coach from Michigan State, let me know.
3. We wound up eating shrimp and perch at the bar at Bridge's Scoreboard Lounge in Griffith. A lotta listeners we already knew and some we didn't were there. Dave Elmer, the #1 basketball fan in the Region, was there along with another Dave who is a member of Local 41 Laborers. "I like when you say you used to be a laborer, JED. It means something." A couple from Munster - the deLunas - stopped by. She listens to the morning show all the time and makes him listen albeit reluctantly. That's okay. As a matter of fact, that's how it goes in a lot of marriages. One person gets hooked and the other has to go along for the ride. Two for the price of one. We all watched Michigan State beat Maryland right at the end. My wife stopped talking and looked a little starstruck when Izzo got interviewed after the game. So it goes on an unseasonably warm March day in Indiana, where basketball is king and you have to forgive your wife a basketball crush on a guy from Iron City, Michigan.