On Saturday, my wife and daughter Jeanie and I went to a picnic. My wife works as a referee in juvenile court and they had their first ever picnic on the grounds of the Lake County Juvenile Correctional Center. If any of the three or four of you live around here, then you know what I’m talking about. It’s on 93rdin Crown Point. Behind the building there is a basketball court and a huge field. Judge Tom Stefaniak filled that field with:
- dozens of motorcycles
- hot rod cars
- picnic tables
- a contraption that allows goldfish races
- a photo booth where you could put on a costume and take a picture
- an artist booth where you could paint the side of a vinyl album and take it home with you
- several other booths and games. There was even a release of butterflies in the juvenile center garden every hour/
I ran into Jack Callahan, the former boxer. He trains several of the kids at his facility in Hammond. Jack was on his way to taking two of the fighters to bouts in Carey, Illinois. One of them won a couple of titles. We took a picture together, but I can’t show it to you. They take your phone on the way in to the picnic.
It was a rather festive occasion for it being a juvenile correction center. Around 350 people were scheduled to attend. Every one of them had to be on the list beforehand and had to have been vetted by Homeland Security. I would have played basketball with some of the youth who are incarcerated there, but my wrist still hurts like hell. One of the kids is 6-4 or so and has some fantastic moves to the basket. I’m sure there’s a story there I’d like to tell but it. I’m guessing that it would be sad.
Today, Sunday, was the celebration for my niece Maddy’s 18thbirthday. We had a big party at my sister Jennifer’s house. All of the Dedelows and Foreits got together and made a big hullabaloo out of it.
There aren’t many differences between the Dedelow and the Foreit families. We’re both Polish and WASP. We both talk loudly, eat a ton and drink even more. There’s a decent amount of athleticism in both families.
And we live on top of each other.
It’s difficult to comprehend the cluster in which we all live. Standing on my sister’s front lawn, you can look across the street at my brother Brian’s house. He lives there with his wife Michelle Malatinka and kids Katie, Meghan and little loser Al. My sister and her husband, Mark Foreit, have Maddy, Annie and little loser Jack.
Around the corner, Mike Foreit lives. He has Vaughn, Logan and Jay Axel. Around another corner, my dad lives with his wife, Kallie.
The patriarch of the Foreit household, Dr. Claude Foreit, and his wife, Barb, live around another corner. A couple blocks away, Alexis and I live. In between, there’s other Foreits and Dedelows, including Dr. Dave Foreit. He and Emily have Ben, Josh, Sam and Kate.
All of these people descended on Jenny and Mark’s house today for John’s Pizza and a chocolate sheet cake. Maddy handled the attention gracefully. Jack and Al and several other young miscreants did not. They ran around the house tackling and wrestling each other. In the backyard, Claude Jr., the doctor, and several other people had brought their dogs, mostly pit bulls. With kids running and dogs barking, it was difficult for family members to hear the insults I hurled at them.
I had an interesting philosophical conversation with Chris Foreit, who lives in Chicago, and Dave and Emily and my wife. It has always confounded me why, since we live so close to each other and see each other day, we have to hug.
It happened today. When somebody entered, they had to hug almost everyone at the party. And that was dozens of people. It takes a good half hour to do this.
When it’s time to leave, a similar thing happens. Your spouse comes up to you and whispers into your ear – “Honey, it’s time to get going.” And then there’s this 30 to 45-minute ritual of hugging and saying goodbye.
I accept these rituals, but I don’t agree with them. I feel as if there’s no real reason to do this. When we part from each other, I really don’t feel as if we’re leaving each other at all. There is a closeness that somehow gets cut short by a formal hug and goodbye. Wherever I go, I take these people with me. Hugs provide a demarcation that I am uncomfortable with. I am with you now and I will be with you again. Why the hell do we even need to say goodbye?
There are advantages to living in this hillbilly cluster and there are disadvantages. The advantage is copious love. The disadvantage is copious hugging.
You have to remember that I am half Dutch and German. These people don’t go around a room hugging each other. A simple handshake suffices. A simple wave at the end of a party is enough. There is something to be said for being a little stiff and aloof. If nothing else, it’s efficient.
The third biggest happening of the weekend?
Starting a TV network. As the three or four of you know, I have wanted to build a local TV network for 33 years, since I first suggested it to Julian Colby in 1985. On Friday, the beginning of a dream started.
We have been working our asses off for weeks to launch the network as WJOBNetwork.com. Instead of streaming video to social media sites, we decided to go it on our own. We cut a deal with the IHSAA to stream the games to their network also. And we sold a ton of TV ads on the broadcasts.
This has taken a lot of work to get to the point where we could launch this network with two high school football games. I won’t even begin to list everyone, or the many sponsors. Suffice it to say that it takes a village.
For the Highland at Morton game, the broadcast team was:
Producer – Ben Cowart
Camera – Nick Hedrick
Camera – Ben Wood
Announcer – Sam Michel
Color – Peter Krukowski
In the studio, it was:
At the Gavit at Calumet game, it was:
Producer – Jimmy Mullaney
Camera – Ben Tomera
Camera – Stephen Bouck
Announcer – Ryan Walsh
Color – Ken Croner
I didn’t necessarily have a designated position. It was my job to anticipate where there might be a problem and try to intercept it before it happened. This is what you do after making thousands of mistakes in broadcasting. You learn to accept the possibility of failure and intercept it so it doesn’t really become a failure.
We almost failed on the whole night. At 6:44, which was 16 minutes to kickoffs, neither of the sites could broadcast. Sam Michel at Morton called me:
“What the hell’s going on, Sam? Where’s your pregame show?” I said.
“We don’t have audio,” Sam said.
“What do you mean ‘we don’t have audio.’”
“That mixer you gave us, there’s something wrong with it. We sound like we’re talking through a tunnel ten miles away.”
“What about the backup mixer?”
“We’re putting it in now. It has a bad power cord, though.”
“I’ll bring you batteries just in case it doesn’t work.”
Let’s back up a little. At 4:30 in the afternoon, I was laying on the couch running all of the details that add up to radio and TV broadcasts through my head. I do this thing where I don’t actively think about possible problems. It’s more that I take a deep breath and I just lackadaisically let thoughts pass across my mental viewing screen. I picture the guys in the broadcast booth. I picture the guys with the cameras on top of the booth. I picture the guys in the studio. If I just picture all of them, possible pitfalls come to the surface.
And there were two pitfalls that kept coming back to me – sound at Morton, video at Calumet. So before I left for work, I put some batteries in my car… and I asked my daughter for her computer. It’s an Apple.
“Why do you need my computer, dad?”
“I just got a feeling that we may need a backup laptop to stream the games tonight.”
“But why my computer?”
“This new streaming software we’re using only runs on Apple. We have two Apples that we’re using tonight, but I want to have a third just in case.”
My daughter created a “Guest” on her top-of-the-line MacBook Pro and gave me her laptop. “Don’t let anybody go through my stuff.”
I stopped by Aurelio’s and picked up a couple pizzas for the crew and drove to the studios. I hung out as Harlow finished up his afternoon show. The studio sports guys started arriving. I talked with them for a while and ate pizza. I texted back and forth with the crews at the two sites.
Now remember this – streaming video is really only two years old. That’s when Facebook Live entered the market and upended everything. This was a big deal for us to stream to our own website and to the website of the IHSAA. We had two cameras, replay, graphics – the whole nine yards. Even though I was sitting there chatting with the studio hosts, I was dealing with an inner anxiety dominated by XLR cords and RTMP addresses.
At 6:15, I got the call from Jimmy Mullaney at Calumet.
“We can’t broadcast. The Apple laptop isn’t strong enough to handle all the cameras and the graphics. It keeps crashing.”
“You’re kidding me.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Here’s what I’ll do. I’ll download Production Truck on my daughter’s laptop and run it out to you. Meet me at the gate.”
You know how there’s signs all over the road – don’t text and drive. I really do believe that it’s more dangerous to be riding your bike around a texter than a drunk driver. On average, at least. It depends on how deep the person is into the text, or how many drinks she’s had.
But what about downloading software while you drive?
I grabbed the laptop and ran, literally, to my car in the parking lot of the Purdue Commercializatioin and Manufacturing Excellence Center, where our WJOB studios are located. I connected my phone as wifi and started downloading Production Truck on my daughter’s laptop. I drove south on Indianapolis and east on Ridge Road. Jimmy Mullaney was standing at the main gate of the new Calumet New Tech High School football field. It’s amazing, by the way, the best football facilities in northwest Indiana. It’s even better than Crown Point.
“It just finished downloading,” I said to Jimmy as I handed him the laptop. It was 6:43, 17 minutes to kickoff.
“I got all the commercials on my email. I’ll try to download them before kickoff.” Jimmy grabbed the laptop and sprinted, as best he can, toward the bleachers and the press box.
That’s when I got the call from Sam.
“Here’s what you do,” I said. “Take the duct tape and fasten the power cord to the mixer. I’ll be there with battery backup in half an hour. I gotta go to Best Buy first.”
I forgot this part of the story. My daughter’s laptop is a newer Apple. It doesn’t have a port for Ethernet. You have to buy an external adapter. What that meant was that we were going to have to try to broadcast the Calumet game on public wifi, which almost never works.
So I had to drive from Gary to Best Buy in Highland, buy the adapter, and drive back before kickoff.
I drove as fast as I could to Best Buy. I got there at 6:53. The clerk in the Apple section was helping someone else. He wouldn’t meet eyes with me. Finally, I said, “Sorry to interrupt, but this is a bit of an emergency. Can you tell me where the thunderbolt to Ethernet adapters are?”
The guy complied. He showed me the adapters – it was the last one. I ran to the register and paid. 6:55. In the car, I turned on the radio.
“Welcome, everyone, to Maury Zlotnik field on the campus of Morton High School. I’m Sam Michel along with Peter Krukowski here for the opening night of the 2018 high school football season. We are live on AM 1230 WJOB and 104.7 FM and you can also watch tonight’s action at WJOBNetwork.com and on the IHSAA network at IHSAA.org…. “
The duct tape worked. I listened to the national anthem and the introduction of players at the Morton site while I drove Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride to Calumet. I parked in front of the gate.
“Hey, you can’t park there,” the security guard said. I got out of the car anyways and walked toward her.
“Oh, JED. I listen to your show all the time in the morning. You guys are broadcasting here tonight, right?”
“Only if I get this cord up to that booth in the next two minutes.”
“Go. I’ll watch your car.”
I sprinted up the bleachers, handed the cord to Jimmy, and the ball went into the air for kickoff. Good thing the game was running several minutes late.
“Welcome everybody to Calumet New Tech High School. I’m Ryan Walsh and he’s Ken Croner and you’re listening or watching the opening night of high school football action for 2018….”
I turned on my heels and drove to Morton, where I handed the batteries to the team. Then I went into my car and watched the games on my phone.
One problem. The games were playing on the radio good enough. And they were playing in video clearly on WJOBNetwork.com. But they weren’t showing up on the IHSAA network. So I contacted the IHSAA. They had to get developers involved, but eventually the games showed up there, too. By halftime, I was sitting on the couch next to my wife. We watched some CNN. Trump and John Brennan were going at it.
After an hour of this, I went into the bedroom and watched the end of the two games on my phone. I wasn’t pleased or proud or excited or sad. Just relieved.
Calumet 22, Gavit 20.
Morton 16, Highland 6.