Sep 21

Let us talk about sports shows

Let us talk about sports shows. Here are two of them. First, this is your standard issue updates-from-the-desk, reports-from-the-field highlight show, Hoosier Sports Nite.

And this is The Toss Up, your standard issue sports talk show. Four people sitting and talking at great depth, and with some degree of fandom, about the upcoming Major League Baseball playoffs.

Now, The Toss Up dates to 2016, when I got here. It has, more or less, always been shot as a show in-sequence. They do little pitches to another person for a sidebar, or a package, and they will sometimes shoot those out of order, but, generally it just makes sense to shoot it in that straightforward way. It has always felt natural and done in realtime, over the course of the four regular hosts it has had in those six years.

The first show above, Hoosier Sports Nite, is 11 years (or so) old. It has always, at least in my experience, had elements produced out of sequence. This means that if the anchor “pitches” to a reporter in another part of the studio, it’s an editing trick. The reporter part was done earlier, or later, and they just put it together in post-production. There’s nothing wrong with this. It happens in the industry all the time on programs that aren’t live. (Sometimes, for example, the person doing the pitching is live and the person catching the pitch is on tape.) There are different ways and reasons for doing that. They’re all legitimate. From our perspective, it usually has a lot to do with practical reasons like time, or our experience and so on. (We’re all still learning in this shop, of course.)

So imagine my pride when, last night, they produced Toss Up as they normally do — timing segments and getting in and out in a logical way and leaving me only two or three constructive criticism points to make — and then they did Hoosier Sports Nite straight through, a show produced truly live-to-tape. They did two bits over to correct small errors, also not unusual, but it’s all there as one live show.

I stopped by their post-production meeting to tell them so. To thank them and congratulate them for their work. It’s no small thing, doing a live show, and they’ve been building to this for a while.

When they rolled out the first episode of The Toss Up, the talk show, this semester, I noticed they’d changed the last of the original bits of the show. I remember all the components well, as it was the first show* I helped IUSTV bring to life. Every year something would change on this particular show. The logo improved. They added lower thirds or sharper segments. The last thing to go was the music. And that got updated this year. The guy that really brought this show to life, Jacques, he’d be pleased with the program today. He specifically wanted to start this show and give it to the people that came after him and let them run with it. And they have! The music was really his thing. He’d probably like that his music stuck around the longest from the original show. But now, aside from the name of the show and one line at the very end, they’ve organically grown the premise of his project, just as he’d hoped.

When I was watching them shoot Sports Nite last night, and talking about it and congratulating them after that, I was thinking of the through line of that show. Jacques was the first sports director I knew here. He graduated and then came Ben. Ben produced and improved those shows, graduated, and is now a producer at ESPN. When he moved to Bristol there came Auston. He produced and improved those shows, graduated, and went into the local sports writing business. The next year Michael was the sports director. He ran the shows, had his senior year in the studio cut short by Covid closing campus, but they grew a ton nevertheless, and he’s now doing sports at his hometown TV station in Iowa. So Drew and Jackson moved into the sports director roles after Michael. Drew graduated and is doing news in Fort Wayne now. Another Michael came along to help Jackson out and he just graduated and is on the market. Jackson will soon be graduating. Each of those guys have always told me what they liked about what the previous sports director did, and what they wanted to do differently. And as I stood there, beaming with a little pride, I could see all of that distinctly running through the night’s work. Those sports directors, and all the women and men working on those shows, were a part of making that particular episode a special little effort.

The thing is, all of this hard work is foundational. And, sometimes, you necessarily have to wait to see the development. It just keep building, though. From here it’ll grow through a room full of talented young folks learning from today’s upperclassmen, because those sports directors I mentioned have always aspired to raise the bar. It’s all cumulative. If all those now-graduated people had a mysterious little chill, or felt the hairs stand up on the necks, last night, I suspect they’ll get a more profound sensation when we have our next big moment. The thing is, it won’t be long now.

*Since I’ve been their adviser — and helper and cheerleader and all the other things — we have created seven new shows from the very air. Five of them are still running.

Aug 21

Downstream from here

It rained this afternoon. Less than 20 minutes of the wet stuff fell from the sky. Something between a trace and a measurable amount. Just long enough to make me stay at the office a few minutes more, you understand. I rode out this randomly appearing rain cloud with purpose, doing a computer networking test that I learned earlier in the day on an extra classroom.

By the time that chore was done the rain was gone. And the little creek that runs alongside the building looked like this.

There’s something about the limestone that’s all around the place that slows drainage. If the water can’t go into the soil it just rolls to wherever the terrain wants it to and, here, that means Spanker’s Branch and down into the underground system just after that last shot. In an appropriate number of hours or days I’ll be using this same water to clean up after dinner.

It’s comforting, really, knowing there is a cycle to this, and we have integrated a system into it.

Saying a thing like that, about the dishes, is just one short step from trying to assign a story to that particular bit of water. The happy bubbles, and all of that. At which point you’re simply anthrophomorizing dihydrogen monoxide.

“What’s this ‘you’ stuff, pal?”

You’re right. You’re right. Not one among you has ever wondered about the hopes and dreams of the water you use while doing the dishes. That is the most ambitious part of the water that comes into our house. How else to explain how it gets on the countertops, the cabinets, my shirt, under the dish drainer and everything else?

I got some under the drainer this evening. No idea how that happened.

We’re hitting the books again before the weekend begins. We’re looking at a few of the interesting bits from one of my grandfather’s magazines, the January 1954 edition of Popular Science. We started this particular magazine a few weeks ago now, and you can see the first ads if you click that previous link. Click the image below and you can enjoy the next nine photos and bring yourself great worth and merriment.

But if Popular Science doesn’t interest you, you can see the rest of the things I’ve digitized from my grandfather’s collection. There are textbooks, a school notebook and a few Reader’s Digests, so far. It’s a lot of fun.

Just like your weekend. Unless you’re getting rained on. Watch out for Ida.

I’m taking next week off here, but we’ll be back for more fun of this sort the following week. See you on Labor Day!

Aug 21

Listen to some music, read some books

Just a week ago yesterday I mentioned Nanci Griffith here. She figured into one of my first blog posts. Back then I said “God Bless Nanci Griffith.” I’ve been listening to her for a long time, about a quarter of a century. This evening it was announced that she’d passed away.

God bless Nanci Griffith; he blessed us with her.

The Flyer, looking back, has a certain mid-century weariness that is overcome by the un-replaceable mid-century optimism she put into so much of her work. It was a wonderful entrance to her folkabilly style.

“These Days in an Open Book” sticks with you.

And there are parts of “Grafton Street” that can haunt you. Indeed, I can hear every important note perfectly well in my mind, even now.

She produced 19 records over the course of her career, which spanned most of my life until her health turned a few years ago. It’s an impressive body of work from a gifted storyteller. The nature of the entertainment industry, of course, is such that an artist’s work never leaves us, thankfully. What a gift it is to have all of this to return to.

I’m not ready to listen to them again just now — one day soon, I hope — but you should definitely try them out.

The planned event for the day was the return to the books section. We made it back there in just a shade under two years. That’s a perfectly average turnaround time, if you ask me. Perfectly average if you are Voyager 1 and you are in between Jupiter and Saturn.

This section of the site is a casual study of some of my grandfather’s books. I didn’t have the good fortune to meet him, but I know him from family stories and some of his things that I’ve inherited. Like a giant box of periodicals I rescued. So, today, we’re beginning a look at an issue of “Popular Science,” January 1954. Click the image to see the first five ads I’ve selected.

At this rate, it’ll take a while, and that’s the point. If Popular Science isn’t your speed, you can see the rest of the things I’ve digitized from my grandfather’s collection. There are textbooks, a school notebook and a few Reader’s Digests, so far. It’s a lot of fun.

And fun is what you’re supposed to have over a weekend. I hope that’s what you have in store for you. Come back and tell me about it on Monday, won’t you?

Aug 21

Faster than Olympians

I’d like to tell you about a great adventure on the day, but the truth of it is that there was the office, and then there was enjoying the evening in the backyard, and then enjoying the Olympics into the night.

Two weeks of Olympics following three weeks of Tour de France, mean a lot of televised sports. And the Vuelta a España starts next week. And then you’re into football season. Honestly, being in a safety-first, approach to going to as few places as possible has done wonders for my sports viewing this year.

I’m getting bored with it.

I did update my 404 page today. I noticed, to my great chagrin, that there was a broken link in my missing page. That’s mortifying. Better that I found it myself, rather than someone pointing it out. The error had been there for an embarrassingly long time. I can only assume that means that people don’t run across the 404 page that often.

But isn’t that exciting? I tested links! I moved tables! I saved and refreshed and changed some language!

That is a full on Thursday!

I wanted to share this amazing track event we discovered this evening. It is, in fact, from a few nights ago. Perhaps we missed it, or maybe NBC, burdened by time zone problems covering the Olympics half a world away, couldn’t figure out where to show what’s being called “the greatest race ever” many hours later. I wanted to share it, but NBC has limited where their programming can be shared, and where their pre-rolls can run. It’s a business model, I guess.

Here’s a video you can see on my humble little site. I did the math, we’re going faster than the world record hurdlers. We had better gearing, and fewer hurdles.

It was to be a 90-minute ride. Before we’d gotten through the second neighborhood on the route The Yankee had a problem with her aerobars. She got that resolved, and it allowed her to go faster. So, before we’d gotten through the third neighborhood on the route she dropped me.

Just as I caught back up to her, some 15 miles later, we called it just a bit early, right about the time I shot that video. Sometimes, catching back on feels like the greatest race ever.

Aug 21

Blog birthday – the joy of expression and the possibility of “if”

On this day, 18 years ago, I started writing this blog. I was inspired by Salam Abdulmunem and Raywat Deonandan. Back then, Abdulmunem, writing under the pseudonym Salam Pax, was telling us about the war going on in his backyard, in Baghdad. Today he doesn’t seem to be blogging, but Abdulmunem is working for UNICEF. He’s also turned those early days of his writing into a book or two. Deonandan was and is an epidemiologist and professor at the University of Ottawa. He’s a talented writer.

It all stemmed from those two specifically, but also many of the other blogs I was reading, and the question of “What would it be like, if?” A few of those blogs, happily, are still active. But just a few. I stay up-to-date. Most moved on with their lives, of course. Some made an announcement, told of a better writing assignment or what have you. Others just … stopped. And I always wonder about those. And about this place. What happens, if?

Mostly, though, as it pertains to this blog, I wonder what I will write about each day. I wonder how I could do more here. How I can simultaneously use more regular features, but avoid them because they are repetitive. I wonder, how I could make it more interesting, find more intriguing things to talk about, fascinating places to visit and so on. I often wonder where I can find more time in the day in which to do it. There’s a lot that goes into the service of an active personal blog.* (We aren’t mentioning here things I’ve written for pleasure or professionally in other places and formats.)

On that first day, 18 years ago, I quoted a verse from Proverbs, one about humility. Nothing is more humbling than writing, I figured. Sometimes that is correct; often that’s wrong. But I did not have all of this wisdom then, see, that I have today.

I wrote two notes about Little Rock, one of them was a story I would have surely covered if I still worked there. (I was a year removed.) The other was about the terrific numbers my old station had in their latest ratings book. (They were the top station back then. They’re second today, according to the spring numbers.) I also had an observation about my family and the great Nanci Griffith, who I happened to be listening to that night. I listened to a lot of her music. Still do.

And that was 18 years ago, hosted on Blogspot, powered by Blogger. There were a few thousand posts there. I moved everything to this site in 2004 — my URL celebrates 17 years Friday. The blogging shifted to WordPress in April of 2010. Some 3,700-plus posts and counting since then. The site has welcomed 4.19 million users and the front page of the blog has had just over one million. When you count the many different pages it’s a bit more than that, but I don’t have a streamlined way to see that data.

And so we’ll start another year, right here. Let’s see what happens, if.

*I didn’t intend for this week to be grounded in random anniversaries, but themes have a way of writing themselves sometimes. Tomorrow, back to the normal stuff, I promise.