Looking Back on XXXVIII: Icing for Elway’s Cake

Editor’s Note: With the Super Bowl approaching on February 2, 2014 we here at Triple B dug into the archives to find some observations on the 10th Anniversary of our coverage of Super Bowl XXXVIII played in Houston, TX on February 1, 2004. Today we take a look back at the Hall of Fame announcement that made Broncos quarterback turned executive John Elway a hall of famer.

While there have been many memorable experiences for me this week while covering the events leading up to Super Bowl XXXVIII they all pale in comparison to Saturday’s activities.

After finding a free place to park downtown, in and of itself a victory, I trekked three miles to the George R. Brown Convention Center.

After catching my breath it was time to head to a press conference announcing the latest class of inductees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame which includes Barry Sanders and John Elway; both elected during their first year of eligibility.

Ten years ago I had the opportunity to cover the Super Bowl. With the game approaching once again it is time to take a look back. Photo R. Anderson

Ten years ago I had the opportunity to cover the Super Bowl. With the game approaching once again it is time to take a look back.
Photo R. Anderson

Elway and Sanders are two players who truly exemplify people who can be admired both on and off of the football field.

Although Elway became one of my favorite players to watch, I did not always have such a high opinion of him.

When Elway was first drafted out of Stanford by the Baltimore Colts in 1983 he declared that he would rather play baseball for the New York Yankees than become a member of the Colts in Baltimore.

Instead of ending up with the Colts or the Yankees, Elway became a Denver Bronco and the rest became history leading up to two consecutive Super Bowl Victories before his retirement in 1998.

As it turned out the whole Baltimore Colts organization soon moved into a domed stadium in Indianapolis so Elway would not have played in Baltimore anyway if he had stayed with the Colts.

I have often wondered if playing in a domed stadium as opposed to Mile High Stadium would have changed the way Elway played the game.

I guess that is one of those mysteries that will never be solved.

While Elway slighted my Colts, who in turn slighted Baltimore, I soon discovered that I could not help but root for him to do well.

Even after a trio of Super Bowl appearances where the Broncos would lose big to the NFC powerhouses Elway still kept his composure and kept plugging along.

That patience would pay off late in his career.

While many of the quarterbacks drafted with Elway during the quarterback rich 1983 draft had long since retired, old #7 was still going strong up in Denver.

In fact some might go so far as to say that some of Elway’s best years for late in his career.

In true Hollywood fashion Elway ended up with the last laugh as he guided the Broncos to two straight Super Bowl titles in 1997 and 1998.

After being crowned Super Bowl MVP in 1998 Elway decided to hang up his golden arm and concentrate on his business interests which include ownership of an Arena Football League team in Denver.

Saturday the final accolade for a great quarterback came one step closer to reality while providing the perfect close to a perfect week.

So As my week of covering Houston’s turn at the Super Bowl buffet comes to an end I am sure I will be left with memories that will last a lifetime.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it is time to go to the Super Bowl but first I need to set my VCR to make sure I don’t miss any of the commercials.

Epilogue: Since this column was first written in 2004 a funny turn of events transpired to make this year’s Super Bowl even more memorable.

John Elway, went on to a management role with the Denver Broncos and two years ago brought in a man named Peyton Manning to be his quarterback. Like Elway, Manning was drafted by the Colts. Unlike Elway, Manning played for the Colts for many years before joining the Broncos and leading them to an AFC Championship which had not been done since Elway’s last season in 1998. While it is unlikely that Peyton Manning will retire like Elway did if the Broncos win Sunday it is clear that the team has returned to the top of the AFC once more.

Copyright 2004 R. Anderson, Reposted 2014

Fan Fest Shows View is Back

This past Saturday the Houston Astros hosted their annual Fan Fest.

Fan Fest is a time when fans can go to Minute Maid Park and take in the sights and sounds before the team heads off to Florida for the start of Spring Training.

There are games for the kids and opportunities to take batting practice or run around the bases like a Major League Baseball player.

It is also a time when fans can purchase player autographs, past promotional items and other things with the proceeds all going to the team’s charity.

Fans line up to take batting practice at Minute Maid Park during the Annual Astros Fan Fest. Photo R. Anderson

Fans line up to take batting practice at Minute Maid Park during the Annual Astros Fan Fest.
Photo R. Anderson

I have attended around five or six Fan Fests through the years but this was the first one that I had attended since the new ownership took over the team.

While I am sure there are still growing pains to address I was really not too impressed with what I saw.

Instead of letting fans move throughout the whole ballpark with activities spaced out this year featured a more compressed Fan Fest.

This meant that there was less elbow room than in past years and made for a bit of a claustrophobic situation.

I am sure that there were many nice activities but with so many people in such a small space it was hard to tell.

In the future I would recommend spreading the activities out a bit more to avoid the packed sardine feel.

Of course with no heat in the Ballpark and a colder than normal Houston day perhaps they packed everyone in on purpose in hopes that the close quarters would help warm the fans through shared body heat.

Milo Hamilton, former broadcaster for the Houston Astros, was one of many legends that were availible to sign autographs during the Fan Fest. Photo R. Anderson

Milo Hamilton, former broadcaster for the Houston Astros, was one of many legends that were availible to sign autographs during the Fan Fest.
Photo R. Anderson

Another disappointment came in the annual garage sale of past promotional items.

In previous years I have been able to get many team hats, shirts, and bobbleheads at the garage sale while doing my part to help charity.

The selection this year was very slim and led to a far reduced haul than previous years and also a smaller charitable donation.

Of course the team did not really give that much out last year in terms of promotional items so that would help explain the lack of items at the garage sale.

The promotion schedule released for the upcoming season looks equally thin meaning that there will be little of value at next year’s garage sale as well.

Of course, with the roster in a constant state of flux and players going up and down to the Triple-A club like they were on an elevator it stands to reason that the team would not want to invest in bobbleheads for players that were likely to be traded by the time their bobblehead day arrived.

Of course not everything about Fan Fest was disappointing.

While there were limited items at the garage sale and too many people confined to a small space there was a glimmer of hope in the outfield.

Photo R. Anderson

After blocking the view of the outfield train and the Houston skyline with ugly Minor League baseball style billboards last year it appears that the team is restoring the view since the billboards were gone during Fan Fest.
Photo R. Anderson

After blocking the view of the outfield train and the Houston skyline with ugly Minor League baseball style billboards last year it appears that the team is restoring the view since the billboards were gone.

I never understood why they were there in the first place since the view of the downtown skyline was one of the unique perks of Minute Maid Park.

With the signs removed fans can now once again look out into the sunset when the on field action is too unbearable to watch.

Off course with the construction of apartments outside the Ballpark underway it will remain to be seen how long the view lasts.

It very well could be that the signs were removed to give the people buying the apartments a better view inside the Ballpark.

I am sure those units will fetch quite a nice price.

Of course I will take a view of a high rise apartment building outside the Ballpark over Minor League billboards any day.

Of course the completion of Fan Fest means that the Baseball season is that much closer to becoming a reality.

With one more football game to go this season baseball cannot arrive soon enough.

It is definitely beginning to look a lot like baseball and I could not be any happier about that.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to make some plans to catch some games.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Looking Back on XXXVIII: Snickers Doesn’t Satisfy

Editor’s Note: With the Super Bowl approaching on February 2, 2014 we here at Triple B dug into the archives to find some observations on the 10th Anniversary of our coverage of Super Bowl XXXVIII played in Houston, TX on February 1, 2004. Today we take a look back at how one future Hall of Fame quarterback spent his Super week a decade ago.

In a surprise appearance at Super Bowl media land Wednesday Brett Farve accepted the first annual award for the NFL’s Hungriest Player.

The appearance was a surprise both in that it was not in the media handbook of events, and in the soul-bearing glimpse into the mindset of the recipient.

Ten years ago I had the opportunity to cover the Super Bowl. With the game approaching once again it is time to take a look back. Photo R. Anderson

Ten years ago I had the opportunity to cover the Super Bowl. With the game approaching once again it is time to take a look back.
Photo R. Anderson

While many of the awards this week have been little more than a grip and grin opportunity for companies to plug their products and for athletes to recite the company line about how happy they are to win and/or to be nominated, the Favre press conference offered a look at a truly broken man who seemed to want to be anywhere but on the stage receiving an award from a candy bar maker four days before the Super Bowl.

A casually dressed Favre slowly made his way onto the stage pausing just briefly to accept a football as an award from his candy benefactors before heading to the microphone to tackle questions from reporters.

While Favre tried to be a trooper and grin for the cameras even going so far as to say that he eats a lot of snickers, the mood in the room was soon darkened as questions began to circle around Favre’s performance during the games following his award winning effort and his thoughts about the two teams vying for the big trophy named after the famous coach of his Packers.

When asked who he liked to win the game on Sunday, Favre quipped back by asking “who’s playing?”

While it seemed like a joke at first it was soon clear to all of the reporters in the room that it really did not matter to Favre which teams were in the game since one of the teams was not his Green Bat Packers.

Further going against the company line of the NFL being one big happy family Favre said that he was not going to watch this or any other Super Bowl.

Brett Favre, shown here during an event for Snickers during Super Bowl XXXVIII made some people snicker when it was leaked that the St. Louis Rams were interested in the twice retired quarterback. For the record, Favre said no. Photo R. Anderson

Brett Favre, shown here during an event for Snickers during Super Bowl XXXVIII made some people snicker when it was leaked that the St. Louis Rams were interested in the twice retired quarterback. For the record, Favre said no.
Photo R. Anderson

Favre’s statement produced an angry glare from the NFL PR person standing nearby.

Noticing the glance Favre responded by saying, “I am sure there will be a lot of people watching the game in my place. I will hear who won the game on Monday.”

While Favre’s attitude towards watching the game seemed to go against everything I had seen in previous press conferences during the week it was refreshing to see a player genuinely upset when he comes so close to the ultimate game only to fall short.

While his season ended sooner than he had hoped there was at least one good thing to come out of it according to Favre.

“I was able to watch my oldest daughter play basketball when we got back to Mississippi,” Favre said. “That was the first game I have been able to see all year. Players get upset when the season ends early, but kids don’t care. In some ways it is good to have something else to do.”

Favre’s mood seemed to brighten a bit when he was asked to describe player introductions at the Super Bowl.

“I don’t know how to describe it,” Favre said. “It is something that every kid has dreamt about and when you are there it is just a wonderful feeling.”

A feeling that is probably a little more wonderful if you happen to be snacking on a satisfying candy bar that is packed with peanuts.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am craving a Snickers bar for some reason.

Copyright 2004 R. Anderson, Reposted 2014

Editor’s Note: Next up in the archives we look at how hall of famer John Elway spent his Super Bowl week a decade ago.

Looking Back on XXXVIII: Montana, Marino and Manning

Editor’s Note: With the Super Bowl approaching on February 2, 2014 we here at Triple B dug into the archives to find some observations on the 10th Anniversary of our coverage of Super Bowl XXXVIII played in Houston, TX on February 1, 2004. Today we take a look back at how two current and one future Hall of Fame quarterback spent their Super week a decade ago.

The more NFL I experience this week the more I discover that the Super Bowl is about much more than just the game on Sunday.

There are parties and concerts for the fans and many NFL players past and present are in town participating in a slew of activities.

Ten years ago I had the opportunity to cover the Super Bowl. With the game approaching once again it is time to take a look back. Photo R. Anderson

Ten years ago I had the opportunity to cover the Super Bowl. With the game approaching once again it is time to take a look back.
Photo R. Anderson

There are players visiting sick children in local hospitals, players building homes for Habitat for Humanity and players and their moms shedding light on the plight of hunger in America.

While many of the activities of the week geared towards the media and the fans seem like a good companion to the game, other activities have left me scratching my head in disbelief.

One such event occurred Tuesday during a super cook off event featuring gridiron legends Joe Montana and Dan Marino.

The legendary quarterbacks were teamed with chefs from a major food company to see who could make the best dishes from a cooking pamphlet that conveniently enough is available wherever finer foods are sold.

The first question that crossed my mind when I heard about the event was, “what do these quarterbacks know about food?”

During all of my years of watching Montana and Marino on the field never once did I wonder whether they would be able to whip up a quick meal.

In fact, even though Marino owns a chain of restaurants I always hoped that someone else was in the kitchen preparing the food.

In the end though owning the restaurants may have helped Dolphin Dan as he was crowned champ of the cook-off.

I know the players probably received a nice chunk of money to participate in the event, and there are worse things that I have seen future hall of famers peddle.

Even though there are numerous reality television shows that seek to capitalize on once hot stars that are starting to cool you never think that you will actually come face to face with a former great that is trying to hold on to that last thread of celebrity.

If there is a lesson to be learned from seeing Montana and Marino peddle snack foods it is this, gridiron fame, like all fame is fleeting and even the great giants of the game are sometimes knocked down a few notches after their playing days are done.

Perhaps it is good for fans to see the players in a more humbling light instead of continuing to see them as the exalted giants that they appear to be on the field while they are dissecting defenses and orchestrating two-minute drills.

Peyton Manning spent Super Bowl XXXVIII on a panel with Joe Theismann, Michal Vick, and Daunte Culpepper. This year, as quarterback of the Denver Broncos he will have a much better seat. Photo R. Anderson

Peyton Manning spent Super Bowl XXXVIII on a panel with Joe Theismann, Michal Vick, and Daunte Culpepper. This year, as quarterback of the Denver Broncos he will have a much better seat for the Super Bowl.
Photo R. Anderson

After all, in the game of life the ability to orchestrate a winning meal combination is probably a more worthy skill to possess.

Hopefully today’s press conference with former Washington Redskins greats John Riggins and Joe Theismann presenting the Air and Ground awards with Peyton Manning will leave a better taste in my mouth.

If it does not, at least I can go to my local supermarket and look for the display with Marino and Montana smiling back at me and whip together a little dish to take my mind off of it.

Now if you will excuse me, I am off to see Mike Ditka present an award that is sponsored by an erectile dysfunction medication manufacturer.

Copyright 2004 R. Anderson, Reposted 2014

Editor’s Note: Next up in the archives we look at how future hall of famer Brett Favre spent his Super Bowl week a decade ago.

 

Postgame Interview Heard Round the World

The Seattle Seahawks defeated the San Francisco 49ers yesterday to earn a trip to the Super Bowl to face the Denver Broncos.

While the game featured strong plays on both sides of the ball it was ultimately decided by an interception in the end zone that was aided by a tipped ball.

As one can imagine tipping a ball that leads to an interception that in turn leads one’s team to the Super Bowl is a pretty big deal.

Mere seconds after the game ended Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks, the man who tipped the ball that led to the interception, which sealed the victory for his team, was asked by the sideline reporter to describe how he felt.

What followed was a player filled with excitement telling the reporter how he felt about the play as well as taking a few shots at the wide receiver for the 49ers.

Almost as soon as the words were out of Sherman’s mouth the social media citizen journalists were up in arms with a rapid opinion about whether Sherman’s words were over the top or just right.

Such is the world of immediate response that we now find ourselves in.

It reminds me of the movie Judge Dredd where Sylvester Stallone was part of a breed of law enforcement that served out instant justice when a crime was committed which included execution of the offender in some cases.

After all in the world of Judge Dredd who needed a trial by jury when instant street justice could be served at a huge savings to the tax payers.

Thank goodness that we do not live in a police state where that sort of thing occurs but in a way the instant response through social media can be just as bad.

Television reporters are trained to find the key players for a post-game interview as soon as possible.

They ask a leading question and usually get a canned cliché answer and then throw it back up to the booth. Lather, rinse, repeat such is the nature of televised sports in the 21st Century.

So when the sideline reporter stuck the microphone in Sherman’s face I am sure she was expecting a quick little quote along the lines of, “we have a good ball club, we played hard, and we are looking forward to facing the Broncos in the Super Bowl.”

Nine times out of ten it happens just like that. But it is that one time when someone goes off the script and speaks true emotion that makes for good television.

Did Richard Sherman go a little over the top in his response? Probably.

Should he be turned into the villain in social media that he became? Of course not.

For years I have felt that there should be a cooling off period following a game before players and coaches are interviewed.

In all of my sideline interviews this was the approach that I took.

Granted, as a newspaper reporter I had the luxury of not needing a quick sound bite for the broadcast but I respected that the players and coaches needed some time to cool off.

More times than not the coaches would talk to their players briefly and then come over to me for the post-game interview.

This gave the coaches and players time to collect their thoughts and usually made for better post-game quotes as well then the typical cliché answers that coaches are known for.

Of course there were still times that I got the canned quotes as well but for the most part my approach worked.

I have little doubt that had Richard Sherman had the chance to cool off a little before being interviewed his response would have been less about “me” and more about “we.”

In fact his quotes did get more along those lines the further removed from the play he became.

Heat of the moment responses are not limited to the world of football though.

In NASCAR drivers are often interviewed seconds after a wreck before they have had time to digest what happened and in many cases they are still in shock from the effects of getting bounced around at 200 mph.

Most of the time the drivers give the company response but there are also times when emotion gets the best of them.

Drivers have even been fined for their remarks when they were deemed to have gone too far.

This is another reason why a cooling off period would be beneficial.

Give the driver time to collect their thoughts before shoving a microphone in their face for the sound bite.

Unfortunately I don’t think a cooling off period will ever be implemented.

Athletes will continue to give impassioned quotes now and then that go against the norm but they are said in the heat of the moment and should be considered as such.

The next time you hear an impassioned post-game quote like Richard Sherman’s try to think how you would feel if someone was interviewing you seconds after everything you had worked your whole life towards was one step closer to reality. With that perspective odds are you might cut them a little slack if they go a little overboard.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a sudden urge to watch some old Sylvester Stallone movies.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Looking Back on XXXVIII: Have Pass Will Travel

Editor’s Note: With the Super Bowl approaching on February 2, 2014 we here at Triple B dug into the archives to find some observations on the 10th Anniversary of our coverage of Super Bowl XXXVIII played in Houston, TX on February 1, 2004. In this article we covered the joy of obtaining the all-access pass.

I came one step closer to viewing my first Super Bowl in person yesterday when I braved the traffic surrounding the NFL Experience to pick up some media credentials for the upcoming game at Reliant Stadium.

While I assumed that my trek to the George R. Brown Convention Center would be rather uneventful, I soon learned just how wrong I was.

Ten years ago I had the opportunity to cover the Super Bowl. With the game approaching once again it is time to take a look back. Photo R. Anderson

Ten years ago I had the opportunity to cover the Super Bowl. With the game approaching once again it is time to take a look back.
Photo R. Anderson

As I circled the convention center looking for some indication of where I was supposed to go I was reminded of why I dislike driving downtown.

I know a lot of people enjoy the urban setting; however, one way streets and pedestrians jumping out in front of cars at will are really not my idea of a good time.

After stopping and asking three police officers if they knew where I needed to go I finally found one who had the answer.

Of course, I was on the complete opposite side of where I needed to go but at least now I had some direction.

After a few wrong turns and some nasty stares from pedestrians I finally found where I needed to park.

As I exited my car I thought, “If traffic is this snarled a week before the Super Bowl just how bad will it be come game day when the world comes to watch the Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots play?”

Once out of the car my next challenge was finding the right door to enter at the convention center.

That proved to be an easy task and I found myself three escalator rides away from the credential station.

Ten years ago this week Houston was decked out for the Super Bowl. Photo R. Anderson

Ten years ago this week Houston was decked out for the Super Bowl.
Photo R. Anderson

Now, as a trained professional journalist I know that getting credentials is just part of the job description and is really nothing out of the ordinary.

I have a collection of credentials from every major sporting event that I have covered during my writing career and I never really got super excited about getting any of these passes.

Still, as the escalator took me closer and closer to the credential station on the third floor I found myself getting more and more excited as it hit me that I was about to receive an all-access pass to the Super Bowl which is something that most every sportswriter dreams of getting.

Once at the credential station I received my pass and a Super Bowl media survival kit complete with all of the baubles you would expect to get for covering the biggest sports spectacle on the planet.

One of the perks of covering the Super Bowl is the super swag. Photo R. Anderson

One of the perks of covering the Super Bowl is the super swag.
Photo R. Anderson

I looked at my NFL super gear and allowed myself the opportunity to do a little happy dance (albeit a professional stoic sportswriter happy dance) and made my way towards the escalator and back out to the maze which is downtown Houston.

Once outside, I quickly collected myself and again acted like the impartial sportswriter that I was trained to be.

Sure, getting a pass to the Super Bowl is cool but there is still a job to do.

Besides, I will have plenty of time to admire the pass after the game when I add it to me credential collection. I hope the other credentials do not get credential envy.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to look at a Houston map to find out if there is a secret way to navigate downtown before making my return trip.

Copyright 2004 R. Anderson, Reposted 2014

Editor’s Note: Next up in the archives we take a look at how two current and one future Hall of Fame quarterback spent their Super week .

 

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Yesterday I decided to give my Jeep a spa day.

Of course in hindsight the words “spa day” and “Jeep” should probably not be used together so let me rephrase that to say that I decided to wash off all of the dirt and grime that had accumulated through my rugged trail rated daily commute and other Jeep owner antics.

My Jeep had needed to be washed for a few weeks but time and weather seemed to continually conspire against me while the dirt and pollen continued to accumulate on the metallic black finish.

Each day I would walk out to the car and say to myself how badly I needed to wash it but the sun would continue to set without any change in the outward appearance of the car.

With time on my side and a favorable rain free weather forecast I decided that yesterday would be the day that I finally put soap and water on the problem to reclaim the shine and cast out the grime.

As it was around 60 degrees yesterday I decided to forego the hand washing of the Jeep and run it through an automated car wash instead during my lunch break.

While nothing can really replace the hand wash detail this particular car wash did a good job and made my Jeep nice and shiny again.

The shine lasted until my commute home when my Jeep became the target of a flock of migrating birds who decided that it looked too clean and needed some bird customization.

It is a very helpless feeling being stuck at a light and hearing the impacts of bird bombs hitting various parts of the car.

A few hours after being washed my windshie4ld turned into a blank canvas for some migrating birds proving that nothing stays clean forever. Photo R. Anderson

A few hours after being washed, my windshield turned into a blank canvas for some migrating birds proving that nothing stays clean forever.
Photo R. Anderson

Had I been able to escape the bird assault by driving onto the sidewalk there is a very real possibility that I would have attempted that.

To add insult to injury there were two direct hits on my windshield directly in my line of sight.

It was like the birds wanted me to see their handiwork up close and personal while I was captive in traffic and helpless to do anything about it.

I know that my car was not going to stay clean forever but I had hoped to at least have a day or two to enjoy the spoils of the $8 Touch Free Super Wash with rainbow colored foam.

As I was sitting there watching my car get dirty once more I was reminded of a Robert Frost poem that I had to memorize in senior English class in high school.

I would love to sit here and say that I still remembered the poem over 20 years later but I could only remember a line here and there. Sorry Mrs. Phillips.

But thanks to the wonderful world of the internet the full poem can be listed below for all to enjoy.

Nothing Gold Can Stay
By Robert Frost
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay.

While the “gold” may be temporary that is not to say that it is not still worth pursuing.

I am not referring to the actual gold that is chronicled on about every show on the Discovery Channel.

Hours before the bird bombardment my Jeep enjoyed its time under the rainbow colored suds. Photo R. Anderson

Hours before the bird bombardment my Jeep enjoyed its time under the rainbow colored suds.
Photo R. Anderson

 

Every one of us has are own gold that we enjoy.

For some it is the simple joys of watching a sunset over the water.

For others their gold is a perfectly manicured lawn where every blade of grass is the same height and nary a weed can be seen.

There are even others for whom their gold is spending hours every Saturday detailing their cars with a toothbrush until they can see their own reflection in it.

Whatever one’s gold is it is important to cherish it while it is there and know that it is a temporary thing.

Of course the comfort of family and friends can be golden and can also be a good sounding board when perhaps one’s Jeep is dive bombed by a flock of seagulls and one feels the need to vent about it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go wash my car again.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Longing for a Simpler Kind of News with less Filler

This past weekend I saw Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, which oddly enough is the sequel to Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.

In both movies Will Ferrell helms a cast of characters in a television newsroom where various hijinks ensue.

While the jokes in the movie are easy to see, what may be missed by the casual viewer are the kernels of truth that show the steady decline from the evening news being a source of information to it becoming merely a source of entertainment and low calorie news.

To be fair the golden age of journalism had already come and gone by the time I started Journalism school.

That is not to say that there are not still many fine journalists working today but merely to point out that the days of all journalists being held in high regard and only reporting well vetted factual stories has passed.

Television news should always be taken with a grain of salt with fewer journalists trying to do more with less. Photo R. Anderson

Television news should always be taken with a grain of salt with fewer journalists trying to do more with less.
Photo R. Anderson

With the advent of the 24-hour news cycle journalists had transitioned from people reporting the news to in many cases being larger than life and part of the news themselves.

Of course one need only read the story of Icarus to know what happens when one flies too close to the sun.

This past year several high profile journalists from national news outlets were suspended when it was learned that some of their stories were not as factual as they were led to believe.

One of the higher profile incidents of this involved a reporter for 60 Minutes which in many ways started the television news magazine format.

It would be easy to blame the increase in journalists taking shortcuts on the internet and the 24-hour news channels.

One could argue that with more pressure to be the first with a story shortcuts are often taken but the fact remains there are no shortcuts to good reporting.

A news story is only as good as the facts that are contained within it and the writer who brings so facts to light in a way that the reader or viewer can understand and act upon.

While it is true that pictures and infographics can enhance a story they are not substitutes for the facts.

When USA Today was first published there were those in the media at the time that thought that a national newspaper filled with shorter stories and more charts and graphs than the rest of the papers on the market would be a flash in the pan and fizzle out.

Instead USA Today , once deemed the “McPaper” is still going strong some three decades later and many of the features that were scoffed at by the traditional media at the time and even called “McNuggets” are now being used by nearly every news outlet in the world.

I happen to like USA Today and used many of the layout styles that they pioneered back when I did newspaper layout.

There was a crispness to their modular design of self-contained squares and rectangles that made designing pages easier and helped control the eye flow of the reader.

Of course the world of television news followed the visual trend and soon graphics and scrolling ribbons appeared to give the viewers more “information” than they had ever had before.

Unfortunately the quality of the information suffered and technology allowed for more to be done with fewer people.

Of course fewer people meant that shortcuts had to be taken on story generation as there was still the same amount of space to fill regardless of the size of the staff.

Another change was sponsored content where advertisers would place a story with a positive spin on their business in the paper or television program that they had spent their advertising dollars on.

This further blurred the lines of news since reporters were often faced with the choice of reporting news about a company that basically was paying their salaries.

During my time working as a reporter at a small weekly paper right after college I was asked several times to go do a human interest story on a business that also happened to be an advertiser.

Each time this occurred I would get on my soapbox and say that as a trained journalist I was appalled at the idea of people paying for a story.

Of course, I always lost the argument and would go do the fluff piece on the advertiser. Each time I did that though I felt my opinion of the news business tarnish a little more.

Journalists have the responsibility to look out for the public interest and not cave into share holder demands or big business.

This issue is addressed in Anchorman 2 and is something that people should be cautious of as more and more industries merge and competition is erased.

A company that makes jet engines should not be in the business of owning the stations that report on the stock prices of those engines or the safety of said product.

Sooner or later something will happen with the parent company’s products in this scenario and journalists will be placed in the cross hairs having to choose between their integrity in reporting the story or perhaps keeping their job and feeding their family.

This is the world that the fictional Ron Burgundy rallied against but it is also a world that is all too real today.

The days of cigarette smoking newsman such as Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite telling you what you need to know with an authoritative voice and a glint in their eye is over. Today the line between what is news and what is filler is forever blurred.

So be critical of the news that you read and consider the source of the information before taking everything as you see it.

We truly live in an information age where the world is at our fingertips. That can be a good thing but it also carries with it a great responsibility for members of the media to be stewards of that power.

Sadly more times than not that power is not harnessed in the way that it should be.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some biographies of old school journalists to read.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Whose Hall is it Anyway?

The other day it was announced that three players had been selected as 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame inductees and one other player missed induction by the narrowest of margins.

The inducted players are Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas.

And if the trio felt like partying like it is 1999 one could not really blame them since it was the first time since 1999 that three players appearing on their first ballot were voted in for induction by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BWAA).

Long time Atlanta Braves teammates Greg Maddux, and Tom Glavine were named to the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame class along with Frank Thomas. Photo R. Anderson

Long time Atlanta Braves teammates Greg Maddux, and Tom Glavine were named to the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame class along with Frank Thomas.
Photo R. Anderson

Maddox received 97.2% of the votes, followed by Glavine with 91.9% and Thomas with 83.7%.

Craig Biggio, who spent his entire two decade career with the Houston Astros, fell just short of the 75% threshold required for induction. Biggio, in his second year of eligibility, garnered 74.8% of the votes to fall two votes shy of Cooperstown.

And while Biggio fell painfully close to admission and will likely get elected next year, others were not so lucky.

Once again players who were deemed tainted by the steroid era in baseball were left on the outside looking in.

In fact several of the roughly 500 men and women who comprise the voting members of the BWAA have gone so far as to say that they will not vote for any players who spent their careers in the steroid era regardless of whether or not they ever failed a drug test.

By all accounts through their careers Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were locks for first ballot induction to the Hall of Fame.

Both men had lengthy careers and put up the type of numbers that made a statistician blush and opposing players and fans curse.

Unfortunately late in their careers both Bonds and Clemens were caught up in the net of suspicion regarding performance enhancing drugs and were brought in front of a congressional subcommittee to face charges that they lied about their use of PEDs.

Despite both men being acquitted and with Hall of Fame caliber numbers they still are not in the Hall of Fame despite calls from more than 75 percent of fans to let them in.

Barry Bonds, shown in plastic figurine form, was once again passed over for the Hall of Fame along with several other platers were were believed to have used banned substances. Although known of the players were shown to be dirty some voting memebers of the BWAA refuse to vote for anyone who played during the so called steroid era regardless of what was or was not proven against them. Photo R. Anderson

Barry Bonds, shown in plastic figurine form, was once again passed over for the Hall of Fame along with several other players were were believed to have used banned substances. Although known of the players were shown to be dirty some voting members of the BWAA refuse to vote for anyone who played during the so called steroid era regardless of what was or was not proven against them.
Photo R. Anderson

And therein in lies the rub and the disconnect related to Hall of Fame voting.

The Hall of Fame is decided by around 500 people who have been BWAA members for at least 10 years.

There is no requirement that they ever played the game but merely that they have covered the game as members of the media who have paid their club dues for 10 years.

Another wrinkle in the BWAA rules is that only 10 people can be included on any given ballot despite there being more than 10 eligible players each year.

At least one BWAA writer determined that the process of leaving the public out of the process was flawed so he crowd sourced his vote to a website that conducted a poll to determine who should be included on the ballot.

As can be expected the BWAA did not take too kindly to the news that one of its votes had been given to someone who had not paid the 10-years of membership fees.

Once the member revealed himself the BWAA acted swiftly and banned this particular member from ever casting a Hall of Fame vote again and also suspended him for a year. One can only hope that he was refunded his membership dues as well for the year that he will not be allowed to be a member.

This crowd sourcing of a Hall of Fame vote garnered reaction on both sides with some people agreeing with the BWAA postion that it was cheapening the Hall of Fame to let not tenured people decide who was worthy while others have felt that it was about time for a fresh look at what constitutes a hall of famer.

I have mentioned before how I do not like the ballot stuffing that occurs during the All-Star voting which allows a single fan to submit as many ballots as they can get their hands on so I am not necessarily thinking that a fan internet vote for the Hall of Fame can be a good thing.

I am also not suggesting that the Hall of Fame turn into a sort of American Idol situation where fans can call in their votes for their favorite players.

But, I am also not sure that allowing 500 members of the media who have different philosophies on what constitutes a tainted player should be the only people guarding the gate and determining who is in and who is out.

In all likelihood I will never be a member of the BWAA with enough tenure to ever cast a Hall of Fame ballot.

But if I were able to ever cast a ballot I would be sure to do my homework on the players and consider their numbers as a whole and not in a vacuum. I would also not use my vote as some sort of political platform.

For example if steroids were as widespread as Jose Canseco and others would have us believe than the playing field was level in a certain way in that the numbers put up by players during that era were against other “enhanced” players so they should count.

And by all means with players such as Bonds, Clemens and others who never failed a drug test one cannot ban them from the Hall of Fame because they might have been dirty.

I might have run a red light today on my way to work today, or I might not have. Should I get randomly pulled over by a police officer and given a ticket just because at some point when no one was looking I may have run a red light? Of course not.

That would be overstepping the authority of the police and in many cases it is why cities with red light cameras are removing them.

So players need to be judged on their on-field performance and if their numbers support admission they need to be admitted.

Yes, there was a time when the game of baseball was riddled with steroids but it was not the only time in the history of the game where players sought to get an edge.

Are we supposed to go through all the way back to Babe Ruth and others to determine if their numbers were enhanced through supplements? No we are not.

I am glad that drug testing is part of the sport and I do hope that the use of steroids can be contained. However, players always have and always will look for an off the field edge to help their on the field performance.

And unless a player drops their pants at home plate and injects steroids in front of 35,000 witnesses we need to give them the benefit of the doubt and give those players with a Hall of Fame career their proper enshrinement in bronze if they have never failed a drug test.

So the BWAA member who gave away his vote to the people certainly exposed a flawed system but it is certainly not a system that can be easily fixed. Until it is there will be deserving players who are only able to get into the Hall of Fame with a paid admission.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about baseball has me craving a hot dog.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Fire and Ice (Cream) Perfect on a Cold Winter’s Day or Night

Over the past couple of days the temperature in this part of Texas has transitioned from “oh my word it is hot and humid” to “oh my word it is cold and humid.”

For the most part those are the only seasons that we have in this part of Texas. The hot and humid season tops out with temperatures in the 100’s and 100 percent humidity and the cold and humid season features temperatures that occasionally dip below freezing and tempt us with a day or two of snow every third year or so.

I actually won a writing award a few years back for a column that featured my attempts to fry an egg on the sidewalk during the hot and humid portion of the year which is basically March to November.

During our latest bout of winter the temperatures bottomed out in the 20’s so we were spared the single digit and less than zero temperatures that were ravaging our neighbors to the north and turning airports into nightmares for stranded travelers.

When the mercury drops a roaring fire can be just the thing to warm one to the core. This particular fire pit is inside a Dairy Queen which brings the heat and the cold. Photo R. Anderson

When the mercury drops a roaring fire can be just the thing to warm one to the core. This particular fire pit is inside a Dairy Queen which brings the heat and the cold.
Photo R. Anderson

So all things considered I can certainly not complain about the cold weather brought on by the Polar Vortex and whatever Greek god name the Weather Channel decided to give it.

In fact, I actually enjoy a bit of cold weather from time to time.

Just like any good citrus farmer will tell you that a single freeze will make the oranges sweeter, I too seem to have my mood brightened with a little blast of artic freeze now and then.

Of course multiple freezes that can wipe out a whole citrus crop can also get a bit much for me as well so I prefer one or two freezes at most to sweeten my internal citrus clock without wiping out the crop.

This is why I prefer living in Southern states where winter visits but does not get a room at the extended stay hotel.

Of course with winter so short lived here there really are not too many options to fully embrace the cold so I have to make due where I can.

The other day with temperatures in the low 40’s I was driving around town with the windows down and the radio cranked up enjoying the feel of the cold air on my face.

I am sure I got a few looks from people bundled up in their cars with their heaters cranked to “fry” but I figured I would enjoy the cold weather while I could.

This is also part of the reason why I never turn on my heater at home. I enjoy feeling a nice chill in the air and although I have never had it cold enough to see my breath inside the lack of heater use really gives my cats a luxurious winter coat.

Another fun tradition during the cold season for me is fire and ice cream.

For many years the Dairy Queen down the road from me has been a popular winter destination in addition to being a fun spot to cool off during the summer.

While some might think one would be crazy to enjoy ice cream the temperature of the outdoors, the dairy concoctions are joined by a fire pit in the center of the restaurant that makes the winter ice cream experience all the more enjoyable.

Eating ice cream by a roaring fire can make it melt a little faster than normal but it is so worth it in the end. Photo R. Anderson

Eating ice cream by a roaring fire can make it melt a little faster than normal but it is so worth it in the end.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course when I first saw the fire pit installed in the restaurant a few years back I thought that it was a crazy idea.

Since then I have spent many a lunch and dinner break next to the fire with my ice cream in hand and now consider it crazy not to have a fire pit inside a Dairy Queen.

I am of course not alone in my love of the fire pit and have found that it is the early bird that gets one of the primo seats by the fire.

For the most part I have been successful in securing a seat next to the flame but there have been several occasions where I have found myself on the outside looking in as the lucky few sat by the fire getting warmer by the second.

In a sort of musical chairs situation I have even started at one seat and moved closer to the fire as others would leave.

After all, as Jeff Probst would say, “Fire represents life,” or in this case warmth and ice cream.

Of course eating ice cream by the fire is tame compared to some extreme winter traditions that took place this week.

One such example of a somewhat crazy tradition was the annual polar bear swim in Scotland.

Last time I checked Scotland was cold in the winter.

Of course this did not seem to deter a few hundred Scottish citizens from taking an icy plunge in a river armed with only a bathing suit to keep them warm.

There were other variations of the polar plunge which included people wearing costumes for the swim but unless the costume was a Bering Sea survival suit as seen on the Deadliest Catch, the odds are the participants got a little cold when their mostly exposed flesh hit the water.

So with that perspective in mind suddenly eating ice cream by a roaring fire does not seem so crazy.

Of course were I in my bathing suit or dressed up like Spider Man while eating the ice cream that would be an entirely different story.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to enjoy some ice cream by the fire before the weather transitions back to the “oh my word it is hot and humid” setting.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson