In my late teens, I would stop by her house on Michigan Street where it turns to Carroll Avenue in Hammond. Across the street is East Chicago.
“Hi. What you do here?”
Grandma never really took to the language all that much. It was a heavy Polish accent. She sat in a metal rocking chair and watched trucks roll by on the way to the mill.
“Got anything to eat?”
Of course she had something to eat. For some reason, there was a never-ending pot of saur kraut and sausage on the stove. It made her basement, where the kitchen was, smell like an ethnic restaurant. On Christmas, dozens of relatives would jam into her lower level. Quite the fire hazard.
Anyways, I lifted my legs on to the end-table with Jeanie’s crocheted blanket draped over them. One problem – I wasn’t wearing any socks. My big toes both protruded through the holes in the crochet. Oops.
Alexis rolled over from watching the Olympics and gasped.
“You know, I would love you more if I never had to see your toes,” she said.
It’s true. I have runner’s toe. I can’t get rid of it. It’s embarrassing when I go to the beach, hot yoga, swimming, or walking through my own home when the girls have friends over. You can’t cover your feet all of the time.
Billy Baker doesn’t help the situation. He likes to tell people on the air and off that I have toes that should be cut off and incinerated. Sorry, Billy. I have run thousands of miles in my life and played in an ungodly number of basketball games. My cousin’s a foot doctor. He just throws up his hands.
“Man, I really don’t know what the hell happened to your toes,” he said after a couple tries with different medicines.
“Have you tried peeing on your feet in the shower?”
“Or how about Vicks VapoRub?”
I thanked my cousin for his time. He didn’t even charge me for the office visit. We both knew when I walked out that I was doomed to a life of walking around with nasty big toe nails. About 3 percent of the population gets “runner’s toe.” L:ess than one percent can’t get rid of it. Sorry.
…. It’s a time of transition and experiment for me in radio, as the three or four of you know. It’s one of the premises of this blog. I want to record as it happens the transition from radio to whatever is next.
Yesterday is a good day from which to extract info.
I did the radio show in the morning, as usual. It was a little different from other shows in that I didn’t get out of the studio at 7:45am like I do on most Fridays. That’s because the guy who normally hosts McDermott’s show – attorney Kevin Smith – couldn’t make it. So I stayed and hosted the mayor’s show.
I started as the host of the mayor’s show maybe 10 years ago. It was a little rocky before that in that the mayor and I didn’t get along at all. He basically boycotted WJOB and anything to do with me, like my newspaper, for a number of years. I don’t remember what happened to change that situation, but it did change.
For many years, we did the show as:
- a radio show only
- being paid for by the city of Hammond.
Both of these situations have changed. On average, between 1,000 and 2,000 people regularly view the mayor’s show on Facebook Live. The number inflates when the mayor says something outrageous, like he did last week.
“I’m gonna kick Dave Dowling’s big butt when he comes to Hammond,” the mayor said last week. He qualified it that he wasn’t physically gonna kick Dowling’s ass, but only politically. Dowling is running for sheriff against McDermott’s chosen candidate Oscar Martinez. Don’t ask me about local politics. I don’t get it. It’s dangerous to me. I use it for entertainment purposes only.
So it’s not a radio show only any more. The mayor is quite conscious of this. He doesn’t dress up or anything. But he doesn’t show up in a hoodie that has ketchup stains on the front and is all wrinkled. He might even shave and comb his hair. None of these things happened when we did the Friday morning radio-only show together.
Nobody really cares about what I’m gonna say next – not even the three or four of you, I can tell – but Facebook can allow the Russians to buy adds but if I forget to say that a radio program is paid for by a candidate, I could go to jail.
That really is the law. It’s not necessarily prosecuted to that extent, but it is held over the heads of local radio operators like myself from time to time. I lived it, and when I get far enough away from the incident that it doesn’t hurt as much, I’ll tell you about it.
Anyways, in the old days when the mayor came in looking as if Marissa had thrown him out, sometimes callers would shoot a political question at the mayor.
“This show is paid for by the city of Hammond,” I would interject. “We will take your question in the five minutes after this show before the next show.”
It got to be ludicrous. There would be some big political thing happening here in Hammond, Lake County or in Indianapolis, and because it was a political topic, we didn’t talk about it during the mayor’s show. You can’t really expect the citizens of Hammond to pay for the mayor to talk politics, perhaps advancing his own candidates.
Since Hammond mayor Tom McDermott is the most outspoken elected person ever – outside of president Donald Trump – it became quite difficult to muzzle the mayor when a political question came in. We would wind up answering everything political after the paid portion of the show was over. There was usually about four or five minutes before the next show came in. Sometimes the discussion spilled over and it pushed back our whole schedule for the rest of the morning.
Eventually, the mayor offered to have his campaign pay for the show. That way, when the talk gravitated to races for office or Republicans vs. Democrats, he didn’t have to wait for a four-minute window after the show.
This whole situation works better. But, in the end, it still irks the hell out of me that Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook don’t have to deal with any of these restrictions. Russians can buy ads on Facebook, but if we talk about anything political during a city-paid show, watch out. This is just another illustration of how regulation by our federal government throttles radio and assists social media, knowingly or unknowingly.
Maybe that’s the phrase I gotta concentrate on – “knowingly or unknowingly.” Now that I think about it, here I am bitching like a little kid slamming the high chair tray for more peas, and very few elected officials know what I’m talking about.
“What do you mean – ‘Russians can by ads on Facebook but that you face prison time if you forget to say that a show is paid for by a politician?’ That doesn’t make any sense.”
No. It doesn’t make any sense. The three or four of you who read my blog on a regular basis may have some idea what I’m talking about (if you don’t gloss over the parts about regulation to go to the next section about my big toes). But the general population and elected officials and the homeless guy under the bridge on Indianapolis Boulevard don’t give a rat’s ass about what I’m talking about. Don’t get me started.
… Yesterday was a good example of the transition of radio to video and beyond. Last night, on the radio we ran the Ohio State at Indiana basketball game from Bloomington. The game went into double overtime, with Ohio State winning on a wild three at the end. It was actually the second time in ten days that I had to watch Ohio State beat an Indiana team right at the buzzer. As the three or four of you know, Alexis and I went to the Ohio State at Purdue game last week and watched a Ohio State guy get a putback right before the buzzer to beat Purdue. It was a horrible ride home down I-65.
Last night, I started watching the game at Baker’s house. Mary Kay is away, so we watched the game, cussed at the television, and talked about the Little Calumet River. Baker is the head of the commission that spends millions a year trying to keep that tub of water from flooding into homes. He’s been able to do it so far, but it’s just a matter of time before all of that water in south county floods homes around here, if you ask me.
Anyways, after the first overtime, I went home. On the way home, I got to listen to Don Fischer, the best basketball announcer in America, call the Indiana game on my radio station. This is a point of pride, by the way. We carry Indiana games with Fischer and Purdue games with Larry Klisby, and they are two of the top five basketball announcers in America. There is a certain Midwestern peace in listening to Fischer or Klisby while cleaning out the garage or driving to Wisconsin. I can’t explain it. You have to be
- a huge basketball fan
- from Indiana
- a huge fan of radio
to understand what I’m talking about. Sometimes I clean the garage just so that I can listen to the game.
While the Indiana game was being broadcasted on the radio on AM 1230 WJOB and 104.7 FM, we were broadcasting a big high school basketball game. Whereas for 90 years or so, a big basketball game would have been broadcast on the radio, last night we broadcasted on Facebook Live. (We had some look-ins on the radio, but for the most part Ohio State at Indiana ruled the day on AM and FM. It was just too big of a game.)
Our total viewership for the Andrean at Noll high school game – 3.7 thousand views as of 8:08 am the day after.
This represents a shift in media and basketball. IU ran on the radio. High school ran on Facebook. And it worked. I actually went to the LaPorte at Munster game before going to Baker’s. It was senior night for my niece Katie, who received flowers for cheering for all of these years. While at the Munster game, I was able to watch the Noll at Andrean game on my phone. So were a couple other people. One guy was sitting in his car watching it. In years past, he would be sitting in his car listening to a high school game on WJOB. Now, he watches it on Facebook Live.
That’s one example of the transition from radio to something beyond radio. There was another. You know how I told the three or four of you about how I cut a deal with the IHSAA to broadcast a bunch of sectional games in video? This wasn’t easy to get done, and it certainly won’t be easy to pull off, but at least I’m getting advertisers to listen to me now.
This is really the first time that I’m going to advertisers with a video-first proposal. In the past, I would mention to them that if they buy advertising on radio, they will also get their spot to appear on video on Facebook Live and perhaps Twitter and YouTube. I usually don’t mention Twitter and YouTube because we haven’t built that large of an audience yet on those two platforms. Twitter some. YouTube almost none.
In years past, when I called people to support high school basketball on the radio, they would give me the Heisman. This means that they would try to avoid me.
Now, when I call people, they will listen to me pitch high school basketball on video. It really is a marked turnaround.
Of course, we’re starting to sell just a couple of days before high school sectionals, so don’t go expecting that most elusive of concepts – profits. It is at least refreshing to know that I have something that advertisers want, and that is Facebook Live video. Like it or not, traditionalists, that’s the way the world is going and the way that I will take the spirit of WJOB. You don’t want that spirit to die, do you? Good. Then it’s gotta change with the times. Go figure.
That’s enough for today. Bye.