The weeping willow at the cemetery
waves way too wildly for my
Hi, hi, hi, it says when there’s a
Whoa, look at me. I can do
somersaults, it says in
And it acts way too cool when the
wind is still. Yo, dude, I am strong
and you are not.
That’s because when you’re sitting
there looking at your mom’s
you don’t want to be bothered
at all. You don’t want to be
or prodded or waved at or
bragged at. You just want to
looking at an oak or a maple
and not a sassy
Hooray for summer. Hooray for memories of walking around West Beach with your shirt off. Cutoff jeans, boogie boards, sandcastles and MILF bikinis. It’s set to get above 20 degrees today. Let’s go to the beach.
I don’t know about the three or four of you, but if any of you live around here, you’ve been laying in bed and your legs can’t get warm. At least not at first. You get up and put on a heavy pair of sweat pants.
You lay there for a while and realize – hey, my thighs are warm now, but my feet aren’t. So you get up and reach in the top drawer for the really heavy pair of socks that you normally reserve for hiking.
You put them on and you lay back down. Then you realize that your head’s cold. Of course it is. You don’t have much hair left on it. It’s way thinner that it was when you roamed West Beach with your guitar, singing Neil Young songs for phone numbers.
You go to the closet and exchange your sweater for a hoodie. You lay back down and pull the hood over your head. You tighten the string. Every part of your body is covered with cotton except for your nose and lips. It’s a scary sight. And you’re still cold.
That’s how it’s been for weeks. But today, yes today, it gets up to 28 degrees. I know for damn sure that one of us will be driving down Kennedy Avenue and we’ll looking over at some jamoke pulling Christmas lights off his front gutters wearing only a Chicago Bears hoodie. There might even be a couple of teenagers walking down the sidewalk in simple windbreakers. We have adjusted to the freeze. Anything above 20 feels like your feet will finally warm up tonight.
It’s a Sunday morning, so I get to roll over and say a few thousand words to the three or four of you. It’s an intimate moment, really. There you are reading my stuff on your phone or in your study on your desktop or maybe even at the kitchen table on your laptop. We are communicating. I’m telling you about My Life of Radio. You are, for lack of anything better to do, following along. Thank you.
Yesterday, I turned in my Saturday afternoon jeans and teeshirt, put on a button down and a sweater, and drove 45 miles to announce the Purdue Northwest men’s basketball game. This is gonna sound like I’m a radio snob, but for the most part I’ve abandoned announcing high school games. I’ve dedicated to becoming the voice of Purdue Northwest Men’s basketball.
And, to tell you the truth, I’m not sure why. Part of it is that is that the whole PNW sports program jumped from division III/NAIA level to division II this year. We all knew that we were gonna get our butts kicked in all of the 22 sports, men’s and women’s. And this has happened. Right now, after yesterday, the men’s basketball tema is 1-14.
Yes, that’s right. The Purdue Northwest men’s team made history yesterday by beating Northwood University. It’s our first victory as a division II team and our first win in the notoriously tough GLIAC conference. I drove home amongst walls of snow happy as a clam.
Andrew Garcia, a senior at Depaul University, announced the game with me. Andrew took a train down from the city, got picked up in East Chicago by women’s announcer Sam Michel, and then the two drove the hour to Westville for the women’s game. The PNW women got slaughtered. It’s a tough year for coach Megyesi’s Pride.
I showed up about 2pm for the men’s game. I had planned to come out to Westville around noon and work out at the Dworkin Center. I’m guessing that at best one of the three or four of you has been to the Dworkin Center for a basketball game. And that’s too bad. It’s one of the coolest buildings in all of the northwestern part of the state of Indiana.
It’s a lot of glass on the outside. You walk into a huge atrium. As a matter of fact, the whole building, even the big gymnasium, is a huge atrium. The second floor is an open-air workout facility that stretches for nearly a city block. And there’s a .1 mile track that crisscrosses right through the atrium. The celing is glass. In the gym, there’s cushioned seats. It really is a gem.
I would have gotten there way earlier, but there was a white-out blizzard going in the Michigan City-LaPorte area in the morning. So I waited until it cleared and then drove out. There’s snow three-feet deep laying around and in the parking lots there’s walls 15 feet high courtesy of zealous plow truck drivers. In the end, we finally won a division II basketball game and I’m happy as a clam about that.
We broadcast the games on Facebook Live video only. Ben Cowart runs the broadcast. He’s originally an EC guy and he knows video. Ben is one of a dozen young people who either work for me or are associated with the stations who could work anywhere in America and hold their own.
My high school football coach and general athletic legend John Friend was there. I sat on a cushioned seat with a high back and talked with Coach Friend for a while. I can’t believe that he drove out to Westville with all that snow around.
“I can get around just fine, Jimmy. Don’t you worry about me,” he told me. I expressed just a little bit of worry for my high school football coach. He’s 80 years old and the Lake Michigan snow belt doesn’t care if you’ve been a leader of young men for 60 years. It’ll still knock you of the road into a ditch and not give two shits about it.
I made the mistake of telling coach Friend that after all of these years I’m going to finally be teaching at Purdue Northwest.
“Oh yeah, what are you teaching and when is your class?”
“Mondays and Wednesdays at 11am.”
“Good,” he said. “I’ll come in and sit and watch sometimes.”
Really. As if it’s not enough pressure to have to come up with a syllabus and lectures and quizzes and projects. And then to lecture to 11 eager future broadcasters. Now I have the pressure of my high school football coach and general athletics legend sitting in the back. Don’t get me wrong, coach Friend is not a judger. He won’t sit there with a scowl when I start to mess up. He’ll just sit there. And he’s coach Friend. Some of the three or four of you will understand why that is intimidation enough.
On the way home, I gave Andrew Garcia a ride back to the train in East Chicago. We were driving down 94 fine enough, talking and listening to the Indiana-Minnesota men’s basketball game on WJOB. Then all of the sudden the station went to dead air. So instead of going directly to the train station, Andrew and I stopped at the WJOB studios at Purdue and jiggled with the controls.
It wasn’t us. We got on the phone with sports director Ryan Walsh, but all of our stuff was functioning properly. We were off the air only for a couple of minutes total. And, still, we don’t know exactly why. My theory in radio is that when it gets this cold for this long, stuff just doesn’t work sometimes. You don’t get these kind of dead air problems at big stations in large cities. They have back up after back up.
We, in local radio, do not. We’re lucky enough to get one satellite dish behind the station that works, and one satellite receiver per network, and one switcher and one mixing board and one Barix streaming outputter. There is little redundancy. Our backup when it just gets so cold that stuff won’t work is to call Learfiled and hook up to them on a phone line. That’s a hassle. After a couple minutes of jiggling the controls, Don Fisher and the Indiana Hoosiers came back to the airwaves of WJOB, which is a good thing. The Hoosiers, if you can believe it, beat the Golden Gophers in Minneapolis. That’s a near miracle after getting blown out on Thursday night on WJOB by the Wisconsin Badgers.
You see. A year ago at this time I would have been talking about high school basketball. I would have been telling you about the Gavit-Morton game that we Facebook Lived on Friday night. I would have been speculating about what’s gonna happen at the East Chicago sectional. That’s where I have for the last decade or so gone and announced all seven games from there.
But things are different now. I get the feeling, and this is where my own arrogance comes in, that it will be better for PNW if I announce the men’s basketball games myself. Then I can talk about it on the morning show and write about it in this blog and just generally remind people in the Calumet Region that we have division II basketball in Hammond and Westville.
Here’s the thing about yesterday’s game. Northwood University has 1600 students. That’s the size of Munster High School. Purdue Northwest, with both the Westville and Hammond campuses, has about 13,000 students. Northwood is in Midlands, Michigan. Purdue Northwest is in Hammond and Westville in one of the biggest hotbeds of basketball anywhere in America. And we’re right next to Chicago, which produces a lot of good basketball players. I believe that PNW Pride men’s basketball will someday be a division II powerhouse. It’s just a matter of time. The problem right now is that not a lot of people in the Calumet Region even know about this. And if they do they don’t care. That will change. I have to be a part of that change.
There’s a couple of other reasons that I don’t do high school games any more. Their names are John Goss and Mike Waisnora. These men refereed high school games since I played at Munster and since I first announced games in the mid-80s at WJOB. They have been a part of the scene forever. In the past few years, you knew it was a big high school game when Goss and Waisnora were on the court reffing and Al Hamnik and I were at the press table… Al writing for the Times and me announcing for WJOB.
That’s all changed. Goss, rest his basketball-loving soul, died. Waisnora, perhaps because of this, picked up his whistle and moved to the west coast of Florida. He does games there. Al Hamnik has retired from The Times. He covers the Bulls, Cubs, White Sox and Bears for the Times now on a part-time basis.
Also, they moved the IHSAA moved the big sectional out of East Chicago, which is one of the top five largest high school gyms in America. It sits in the shadows of a chemical factory and a steel mill. On the way to the games I would stop at El Taco Real and eat enchiladas in the corner while reading the Times sports section. It was a ritual. There would be thousands of fans at East Chicago in the stands when I walked in and took my seat at the microphone. Sometimes it would be so crowded I couldn’t get up to take a piss at halftime. I have announced some great games at the John A. Barato Center in East Chicago.
Now, they moved the sectional to one of the new gymnasiums at Lake Central or East Chicago. I can’t remember which. But it doesn’t matter. I’m not sure if I’ll even do that sectional. No Goss, no Waisnora, no Al. No John A. Barato Center. No El Taco Real. I won’t go as far as to say I’m out of this sectional because, in the end, the three or four of you know that I’m addicted to:
Sorry, but it’s true. Talk to you later.