Category Archives: Beyond

The Lost Art of the Postcard

In this age of instant messaging, e-mail, twitter and other ways to communicate at the speed of light it may come as a shock to some of the younger Triple B readers that there was once a time when correspondence was not handled as quickly.

Before the days of Facebook, it was not possible to post a status while on vacation to all of your friends to let them know that you were “Having a great time exploring the world’s largest ball of twine.”

Instead, when you were at that ball of twine, and you wanted to let your friends know how much fun it was, you had to buy a postcard and actually place it in something called a mailbox.  Your friends would than receive the postcard, and your thoughts on the ball of twine in a few days.

One of the postcards my pen pal from the plane sent me.

One of the postcards my pen pal from the plane sent me.

Yes, I know mailboxes still exist and based on what comes in mine they tend to be a conduit for junk mail and bills alone.

As such I now only check my mail a couple times a month since there really isn’t anything worth reading that would require me to check it any more frequently.

Still, I find myself feeling a bit of nostalgia for the written word and the simple act of receiving a post card through the mail.

Part of this nostalgia was the result of looking through my postcard collection the other day to help remember the name of somewhere that I went on vacation many years ago.

I ended up finding that postcard and my memory was jogged.  Looking through the box other memories were jogged as well.

Many of the postcards in my collection were sent to other family members before I was born and were just passed down to me but several are actually addressed to me as well. One particular series of cards was the result of a chance encounter.

When I was in the second or third grade my mom and I were on a flight from Washington D.C. to Orlando. There was an older gentleman in the row with us (of course when I was that age everyone was older so my memory of how old he really was may be warped).

As it was a relatively long flight we ended up making conversation with him and he mentioned that he did a lot of traveling as part of his work with the Army.

I do not recall the whole scenario of how it occurred but addresses were exchanged and he mentioned that he would write me.

The postcards did not always include a message but this is typical of the type of message when they did.

The postcards did not always include a message but this is typical of the type of message when they did.

Now, in this more jaded world that we find ourselves in now the chances of a stranger getting the address of a young child under the guise of sending correspondence would probably be less likely to occur.

I for one have become way more suspicious of people’s intentions the older I get.  While it is certainly good to be skeptical and careful of surroundings and those that enter them, I sometimes wish that I could see the world through younger me’s eyes where the world was a far less scary place and the only thing I needed to worry about was which pair of pajamas to wear.

A few weeks after returning home I got my first postcard from the man on the plane.  The postcards continued for several years and always included a short note about the destination included on the front.

The cards stopped one day which could have been the result of many factors including the forwarding address feature no longer working or perhaps the man behind them was no longer able to send the cards for whatever reason.

While I do not remember his name, I do remember the simple act of sharing postcards with a wide eyed child and the affect that had and continues to have.  I have no way of knowing if that man on the plane is even still with us.

If he is, I hope that he is well and is still able to take those wonderful trips that sparked my imagination.

But those postcards, as well as the others I received from friends and family,  helped me see parts of the world that were harder to see in the pre internet days and certainly helped nurture my love of traveling.

I often think about other chance encounters and people who come into our lives for a brief moment and the affect that they have on us.  Had my mom and I been seated in any other row on that airplane I would not have received the postcards.

Some 30 years later I still fondly recall the postcards from my pen pal. Tweets and e-mails will not hold up as well through the decades I imagine.

Some 30 years later I still fondly recall the postcards from my pen pal. Tweets and e-mails will not hold up as well through the decades I imagine.

When I was in Journalism School I had a professor that assigned us a project to go to the food court at the mall and people watch.  The point behind the assignment was to observe the various interactions of people and imagine various scenarios as to what brought them there. To this day I still enjoy people watching.

The next week the same professor assigned us to go back to the same food court and find a stranger to interview. The point of the exercise being that everyone of us has  a story to tell.  The trick is to know the right questions to ask to get the ball rolling.

While the memory of the man on the plane will probably not make me any less cautious than I am since the world today is so much different than it was all those decades ago it is still a nice memory and shows that we all do have stories and the key is to just be open to hear them.

Of course a healthy filter and the ability to know when people are being sincere versus when they are blowing smoke never hurts.

Now if you’ll excuse me I think I am going to find a food court and see if my interview skills are still as sharp as they once were.

Copyright 2013 R Anderson

Music Sets the Mood; Both Good and Bad

I am a big fan of most types of music.

I am not really sure if there was a eureka moment that made me such a lover of music or if it was a more gradual exposure and realization.  Whatever the reason behind it, the music bug has certainly stuck.

I worked as a music critic for several years and there was nothing quite as fun as getting that big package of CD’s from the record company each week.  Some of the music was good and some was definitely not. But those packages from the record label definitely exposed me to music that I might not otherwise have discovered.

I am also a firm believer that music needs to fit the environment to be the most effective. Otherwise, the music can be a distraction and take away from the experience.

When I am listening to my iPod I have certain playlists for certain moods. There is the fast working out list, and the unwinding at the end of a long day list, etc.

Like Walkmans before them, iPods allow people to take their music with them wherever they go to set the perfect mood. Photo R. Anderson

Like Walkmans before them, iPods allow people to take their music with them wherever they go to set the perfect mood.
Photo R. Anderson

I love going to hear the symphony, although I don’t get to do it nearly as much as I would like.  And of course I also enjoy going to sporting events. Each of those areas have their own type of music that people expect when they go there.

When I am at the symphony I want to hear the brass and the strings. When I go to the game I want to hear the organ playing “charge.”  Try to picture the reverse and it just doesn’t fit.

The same goes for one’s experience in a restaurant.

While I don’t think that every Italian restaurant needs to play a constant loop of Frank Sinatra songs as many seem to do, I agree that there is certain music that helps fit an Italian atmosphere.

The same can be said for Mexican restaurants. There is a certain Mexican restaurant that I frequent at least once a week that plays authentic Mexican music. As an added bonus at Christmas time they even play Mexican Christmas carols.

Does the fact that they play Mexican music alone make their food taste better than a restaurant that plays easy listening? No, of course not. But by paying attention to the little details like choice of music it makes me think that they are paying more attention to details in the kitchen as well.

Speaking of easy listening, one of my biggest pet peeves are restaurants that phone it in by playing the easy listening radio station instead of a CD or other playlist or satellite music service.

By simply turning on the radio and allowing commercials for their competitors to be potentially played in their own establishment it shows a lack of attention that causes me to wonder about what other corners they may be cutting.

To be fair not every restaurant that plays the radio is guaranteed to have bad food but they are taking away a part of the diner’s experience.

There is a local Pho restaurant that I enjoy going to that plays the easy listening station instead of more traditional instrumental music, like one would find at many other restaurants of the same type.  Every time I am there and here the soft rock classics it distracts me from what I feel I should be hearing while eating that type of food.

Musical faux pas in restaurants are not limited to the piped in music variety either.

I have recently rediscovered my love of live, local music. Fortunately for me, there is no shortage of venues nearby that provide that.

Over the past few years teams such as the Tampa Bay Rays have added post game concerts to the fan experience. Photo R Anderson

Over the past few years teams such as the Tampa Bay Rays have added post game concerts to the fan experience.
Photo R Anderson

Name a genre of music and chances are there is a barbecue joint, coffee house or other establishment nearby that has a band performing that type of music.

As a cautionary tale though, just because a restaurant has a stage it doesn’t mean that the music being played there will compliment the meal.

Case in point, while eating a delicious Greek salad and gyro plate last weekend at a Mediterranean restaurant I was serenaded by a one man band playing various James Taylor and John Denver tunes.

The man did a very good job on the songs and I was quite scared by how many of them I recognized.  But, the east meets west food versus music combination hit some sour notes and left me far from being on a rocky mountain high or being in the mood to shout Opa!.

So, perhaps this stance makes me a music snob and one could argue that music is music no matter where it is played and food is food.  Hard to say, what I do know is the affect music can have on me and the more the environment and the music compliment each other the happier I am.

Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go call my parents and let them know where they can hear some John Denver tunes while eating some Gyro.

Copyright 2013 R Anderson

The Taco Versus Burrito Principle

Not too long ago, I decided I needed a quest to mark my place in history. A lofty goal I know but I have always been one that dreams big.

So with my goal of finding a quest in mind, I sat down in a thinking position with pen and paper in hand, along with a cup of hot Earl Grey tea close by to try to come up with what my mark on society could be.

Just like Jean Luc Picard I do some of my best thinking when the Earl is involved. Photo R. Anderson

Just like Jean Luc Picard I do some of my best thinking when the Earl is involved.
Photo R. Anderson

As I thought about quests, two people naturally came to mind; Bono and Oprah.

While Bono’s quests are genuinely aimed at helping all mankind they really seem to be time-consuming and tend to happen in far away lands so I figured I would aim a little more domestically at seeking my first quest and try to look at what Oprah would do.

Sadly, the more I thought about quests, the more I realized that Oprah seems to have a monopoly on look at me type endeavors.

From giving people cars, to building schools in South Africa and hosting Legend’s Balls on her front lawn the woman really likes her quests. If one ever doubts her commitment to being known as a giver, one need only travel to the local newsstand where the media queen gives her readers a glimpse into her wonderful life each month on the cover of her magazine.

Realizing my meditation on finding the perfect quest was going to require more than sipping tea in the thinking position, I ventured forth to the local Taco Bell to get the kind of nourishment only really cheap faux Mexican food can provide.

Now, I have been known to eat my fair share of Taco Bell however I really don’t like their namesake food item. My dislike of the Taco Bell taco most likely stems from binge eating boxes of tacos back in college.

Another factor in losing my love of the taco centers around the day I learned just what exactly they put in the tacos. But that is another story for another day. While I dislike the tacos, I absolutely love the bean burritos. So I normally get a bean burrito with whatever else I order.

So while I was waiting to order, I realized that the bean burrito and the soft taco were the same price on the menu. With this realization in mind, I told the order taker that I would like to substitute a burrito for my soft taco in the combo meal.

From the look I received you would have thought I had uttered the most absurd statement she had ever heard. After gathering her thoughts for a moment she told me, “Sir, you cannot substitute a burrito for a taco.”

Not willing to give up so easily on my perfectly thought out reasoning I retorted, “but they are both the same price on the menu, it should be very easy to make the switch.”

You can learn a lot from reading a sauce packet but you cannot swap a burrito out for a taco. Photo R. Anderson

You can learn a lot from reading a sauce packet but you cannot swap a burrito out for a taco.
Photo R. Anderson

At this point, the manager came up to see what the fuss was about and I offered her my very carefully reasoned out logical thesis on burrito versus taco combo economics.

I could see that my reasoning was not getting through so I thought about what Oprah would do and raised my voice while repeating the same reasoning I had just stated using my indoor voice.

My use of the “Oprah voice” did not seem to sway the manager any more than my indoor voice did. While this was going on I could hear people talking in line behind me and along with the “hurry up you’re holding up the line” were a mixed in a few, “wow, that kind of makes sense I had never thought of that before.”

So I left the line having planted the seed of civil burrito disobedience in a few brave souls behind me.

So while I went in looking for lunch I left armed with a quest. I vowed that day to do all that I could to ensure the freedom of choice between soft taco and bean burrito.

Racing sauce packets used to be a staple of Houston Astros games.  Photo R Anderson

Racing sauce packets used to be a staple of Houston Astros games.
Photo R Anderson

I know the burrito movement will be slow and there will be some casualties along the way but I am committed to seeing it through to the end, or at least to the point where I get tired of eating bean burritos.

So, let Bono have his quest to end hunger and global poverty and Oprah have her quest to basically brand everything with her likeness and show the world how important we all should think she is.

At long last I have a quest. Granted it is not as far reaching as giving away cars, building schools, or hosting balls but everyone has to start somewhere. Who knows, maybe one of Oprah’s first quests was food related.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to do some more field research on my quest, I just hope Oprah doesn’t beat me to it and start her own chain of Oprah Bell.

Copyright 2013 R Anderson

A Decade Later, it is Still a Sad Day in the Neighborhood

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the death of Fred McFeely Rogers, or Mr. Rogers, as he was known in the neighborhood.

Known mostly for his sweaters during his life, Mr. Rogers has found his way onto many a t-shirt in death. Photo R Anderson

Known mostly for his sweaters during his life, Mr. Rogers has found his way onto many a t-shirt in death.
Photo R Anderson

From 1966 to 2000 generations of families tuned in each day to watch Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood to learn about life, make believe and things in between with Mr. Rogers as their guide.

I was one of those children. From as early as I can recall, and for many years after, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was as much a part of my daily routine as brushing my teeth.

I would no doubt fail miserably to list everything I learned from the show if I tried. The show in no small way helped shape who I would become.  There are millions of other adults who can say the same thing I am sure.

So what made the neighborhood and Mr. Rogers so memorable? It could probably be summed up in the manner of the man himself. Never one to talk down to the viewers or belittle their issues each show seemed to be a reflection of how we wished all people would interact and handle their issues and disagreements.

From talking tigers to purple pandas, the Land of Make Believe seemed to offer a little of something for everyone. But most of all it encouraged people to use their imaginations and plant ideas in the gardens of their minds. Sadly I think that is a trait that is in short supply nowadays.

In the neighborhood there were always new neighbors to visit and learn new things from.  And one never new what speedy delivery item was going to arrive. As a reporter I often used the philosophy that everyone had a story to tell if you just asked the right questions.  Mr. Rogers knew the questions to ask. He was able to bring that experience across in an easy conversational manner that never seemed forced, even though in many ways by the very nature of television it was.

During three decades of work on television, Mr. Rogers became an icon of children’s entertainment and education. He was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame and  was ranked No. 35 among TV Guide’s Fifty Greatest TV Stars of All Time.

His work was not limited to the small screen however as he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, a Peabody Award,  and over 40 honorary degrees. The Smithsonian Institution, in Washington D.C., has one of his trademark sweaters on display as a “Treasure of American History”.

One of several books the Fred Rogers wrote to help people of all ages through difficult times.

One of several books that Fred Rogers wrote to help people of all ages through difficult times.

Long after I had outgrown the typical target age of the show, I still would find myself tuning into Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood now and then.  During particularly stressful times in college it was soothing in an indescribable way to tune in and seem a familiar face when everything else seemed so foreign.

Of course it would never be discussed among my friends since somehow I felt that they would laugh about me watching it but deep down I know they were watching it, too.

While few can argue the impact that Mr. Rogers had during his life, generations of people who never saw the show are still benefiting from the wisdom of Mr. Rogers in ways that they may not even be aware of.

It is well known, for the most part, that when funding for Public Broadcasting was in jeopardy Mr. Rogers testified before the Senate in 1969 and was able to convince skeptical lawmakers about the benefits of PBS. As anyone who has watched the testimony can attest, the hardened senators were won over by the argument made in favor of providing quality television for children.

A lesser known example of Mr. Rogers testifying, that generations are still benefiting from, involves the act of recording television shows. While it makes me feel old to even say this,  there was in fact a time when home recording devices such as VCRs, DVRs, etc. were not commonplace.

The issue of whether people should be allowed to record items from television for their own viewing later, or time shifting as it was called, was a huge issue in the early 80’s. It was such a big issue that it even made it up to the United States Supreme Court in 1984 in the case of Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc.

In a 5-4 ruling the Supreme Court determined that the making of individual copies of complete television shows for purposes of time shifting did not constitute copyright infringement and was considered fair use.

Mr. Rogers’ earlier testimony in District Court was credited in the majority opinion as a notable piece of evidence.  One could argue that without the favorable ruling by the Court in 1984, helped in large part by Mr. Rogers, there would be no video on demand or full episodes of shows available online whenever we chose to watch them. Think about that little nugget the next time you settle in to watch all of those saved episodes of Swamp People or  NCIS on your DVR.

With such an important piece of testimony it is fair to take a moment to share some of the words of Mr. Rogers that the court felt were so moving.

Very frankly, I am opposed to people being programmed by others. My whole approach in broadcasting has always been “You are an important person just the way you are. You can make healthy decisions.” Maybe I’m going on too long, but I just feel that anything that allows a person to be more active in the control of his or her life, in a healthy way, is important.” Fred Rogers

So on this anniversary of the passing of Mr. Rogers, let us take a little time out of our busy lives to remember that we are special just the way we are and that it is a good feeling to know we’re alive. It also doesn’t hurt to travel to the land of make believe now and then. Just watch out for purple pandas and be sure to keep your hands and feet inside the trolley at all times.

Now if you’ll excuse me I think it is time to change into my after work sweater and give the fish some food .

Copyright 2013 R Anderson

I Like Cheese and Other Post Super Bowl Observations

Well, another Super Bowl has come and gone with the Baltimore Ravens defeating the San Fransisco 49ers  by a score of 34 to 31 yesterday.  While the game was exciting and included a nearly 40-minute power outage and a preemptive clock zapping safety it is nothing compared to the excitement that occurred as part of the massive amounts of TV-tray-gating that went on during the game.   Worldwide the Super Bowl has become a time to gather and to eat lots and lots of snacks, many of which only taste good during the viewing of the Super Bowl.  I am not sure if a scientific study has yet concluded that but it certainly appears to be the case in my experience.

I have always been the type to enjoy a big tray of meats and cheese during the big game but I must admit I went even further beyond my over the top standards this year.  When you are getting your party trays at Sam’s Club and they mention that the tray serves 8-10 people and you have no where near that many people at your party, you know you are going overboard.  When you have three of those trays, plus assorted chips, dips, King Cake, and little smokies; that takes things to a whole other level. That level is almost to the point of getting a knock on the door from a film crew from the A&E Network to either discuss food hoarding or to stage an intervention.  Thankfully no one from A&E stopped by during the game but if they did there would have been plenty of food to share.

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Part of the Super Spread as part of the Super Bowl festivities.
Photo R. Anderson

Part of the reason for going over the top this year was in honor of the Baltimore Ravens and the over the top manner in which they made the Super Bowl.  Against crazy odds the Ravens made the Super Bowl in bold fashion by defeating two of the game’s best quarterbacks on their own home turf.  While most teams would see a road to the Super Bowl that went through both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady a challenge, the Ravens seemed to laugh in the face of those odds.  In the end the Ravens defeated both Manning’s Denver Broncos and Brady’s New England Patriots to earn their way into the second Super Bowl in team history. Even a momentum zapping power outage in the Superdome did not seem to dampen the Ravens’ spirits for long.  I have heard it said that the Ravens were a team of destiny this year and that the Super Bowl win merely makes that point clear. While I am not sure about the whole team of destiny label, I do know that the Ravens were a team that played with heart and seemed prepared to handle all of the obstacles that were put in front of them.

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A closer look at some of the salty cheese and meat snacks that were part of the Super Bowl feast.
Photo R. Anderson

One reason for the Ravens’ resilience is Ray Lewis, the defensive leader and heart and soul of the team.   Lewis had announced that he would be retiring at the end of the year after spending 17 seasons with the Ravens.   Much like John Elway and Jerome Bettis before him, Ray Lewis was able to end his career with one last Super Bowl title before heading off into the sunset. Lewis already won a Super Bowl title in 2000 but with the win last night he became the record holder for the most seasons between Super Bowl victories.

Regarding that power outage that seemed to momentarily take the wind out of the Ravens and give the 49ers a chance to catch their breath there are bound to be conspiracy theorists who want to believe that the power outage was in direct response to the NFL commissioner suspending the Saints’ coach and assorted players during the season for the “Bountygate” scandal.   For weeks leading up to the game there was wide speculation regarding how the commissioner would be welcomed in New Orleans and cutting power to half of the stadium while billions of people were glued to their television sets very well would be a way to stick it to him.  But, I really find it hard to believe that such a feat would be accomplished since really all that would show would be an aging facility that has power issues. In no way would it really be indicative of sending a message to the commissioner.  Now if the lights had spelled out some sort of cyrptic pro Saints message when they came back up then maybe I could get behind the conspiracy theory.  Short of that smoking gun though I, and most rationale people, will chalk it up to just one of those random things that can happen during the game.

Once the lights returned the 49ers did stage one of those comebacks that they have been known for and erased much of the Ravens’ lead. Still, when push came to shove the Raven defense did what Ravens’ defenses have done for years and that is clamp down in the red zone and dare the other team to try to score.  While the on field action remained competitive, as is the case with the Super Bowl each year, there were commercials aplenty to watch when the action on the field was paused. Some of the commercials tugged at the heart strings (hello horse ad) and some made people laugh (beware the roving gangs of senior citizens at night).  There did not seem to be as many memorable commercials as in year’s past but those that were memorable certainly raised the bar.

There were many other stories of overcoming obstacles last night for both teams but their battles weren’t limited to the space between the lines.  I fought my own battles with the Super feast and trying to not eat more than my weight in salty snacks.  I accomplished that goal for the most part but I do not believe there is a trophy that gets hoisted for that.  Now if you’ll excuse me I think I hear the cheese tray calling me from my fridge.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

A Super Game

Chances are, unless you live in an area that has absolutely no access to newspapers, television, radio or the internet (at which case you would most likely not be reading this) you know that this Sunday, February 3, 2013, marks a special occasion for sports fans across the globe.  This Sunday will mark the 47th, or for you Latin speakers and tiny Roman pizza mascots out there the  XLVII, edition of the big showdown pitting the best of the American Football Conference against the best of the National Football Conference in a little game called the Super Bowl.  This year the Super Bowl is in New Orleans and will pit the Baltimore Ravens, coached by John Harbaugh, against the San Fransisco 49ers, coached by Jim Harbaugh, in the battle for the coveted Vince Lombardi Trophy.  From its humble beginnings in 1967 to the juggernaut it has become today, the Super Bowl is one of, if not the, most watched sporting events of the calendar year and captures the interest of both hardcore and casual fan alike.

While I am primarily a baseball fan, I do enjoy football as well and have watched every Super Bowl for as long as I can remember.  While most of those games were viewed in one form or another from a couch and involved eating lots of little smokies, cheese and other assorted snacks, there was one game that occurred nine years ago today where I was fortunate enough to go from being a Super Bowl fan to a Super Bowl reporter. In 2004 I was given the opportunity to go behind the curtain as it were to see what makes the big game tick.  I was the sports editor for a small daily newspaper in the suburbs of Houston at the time and just for fun I decided to apply for media credentials when I heard that the Super Bowl would be in town that year.  Much to my surprise a few weeks after applying I was awarded full access credentials for the game and all of the surrounding festivities.  Thus begin a week I will not soon forget.

While I had always guessed that covering the big game would be special I had no idea how special of a time it would be.  For starters the game on Sunday is merely the culmination and finale of a week of festivities that features players and coaches from the past and present mingling with reporters in a variety of situations.  Covering Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston included several I can’t believe I just did that moments including interviewing Bret Farve and seeing several of the players from the Washington Redskins that I grew up watching as a youngster.  Even if that were all the Super Week excitement, it would have been plenty but there was much more to behold.  Each day included question and answer sessions as well as a media work room stocked full of all of the essentials that the working reporter needed to file their stories; from media guides to free Power Ade and more.  I had covered many sporting events up until that point but this was the grand daddy of them all and the NFL definitely knew how to treat reporters on its biggest stage.  If you were a reporter and could think of it, chances are it was somewhere within arms length in the building.

Photo R. Anderson

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum home of the first AFC vs. NFC Championship game in 1967. In later years the game would come to be known as the Super Bowl.
Photo R. Anderson

I doubt very much that those players in the first AFC vs. NFC Championship game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum back in 1967 had any idea how big the game would become.   In addition to the game on the field billions upon billions of dollars are spent each year in advertising during the game and the ever increasing hours of pregame coverage leading up to it.  I minored in advertising in college and am probably one of the few people who actually enjoys commercial breaks almost as much as the normal show I am watching.  So, the Super Bowl, where advertisers put their best foot forward to one up each other and try to introduce that one advertisement that will be the talk of the water cooler on Monday, provides an extra thrill for the most seasoned as well as the most novice of advertising consumers.

Speaking of extra thrills, the NFL does not leave the reporters out when it comes to ensuring that their game day experience is ideal.  In addition to a free game day breakfast, food is provided throughout the day for reporters working the game.  What’s that you say, you are a reporter who has been at the stadium several hours before kickoff and you are afraid that the rigid plastic stadium seat will lead to health problems including numbness in the posterior region if you sit on it any longer;  don’t worry the NFL has that covered as well with a reporter game day survival kit or “goodie bag.” I can only speak for the game I covered but I am sure there are similar goodie bags each year.  My goodie bag at the game included an attache case, a mini radio, a seat cushion, a note pad, a hat, and a pin that was a model of Reliant Stadium complete with retractable roof.  And of course, each of these items was emblazoned with the logo for the game lest anyone get confused about where they came from.  Having worked in both public relations and sports information I know that the goodie bags are a way for the NFL to try to ensure that the reporters are happy and in turn write more positive things about them.  The reporters know this and the NFL knows that the reporters know this.  The good reporters are not swayed by the goodie bags and free baubles that the NFL provides them but don’t get me wrong free baubles are always nice.  Plus, after awhile that seat cushion really comes in handy for even the most seasoned of reporter rumps that are used to sitting in bleachers and stadium seats for hours at a time.

A selection of some of the "freebies" ended out to reporters covering the Super Bowl. Photo R. Anderson

A selection of some of the “freebies” handed out to reporters covering the Super Bowl.
Photo R. Anderson

So it is Super Bowl time again and reporters have descended upon New Orleans a week early to try and get every angle they can about the players as well as the fans.  This year the pregame coverage will no doubt focus on the fact that there are brothers coaching against each other for the first time in the big game. Other story lines will include the retirement of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and the fact that the Saints failed in their bid to be the first team to play in the Super Bowl in their home stadium.  Sure, there will be other stories as well as the network tries to squeeze six hours or more of interesting stories on the air ahead of the game but those will probably be the big ones.  After all, the longer the pregame, the more ads, and in turn the more money the network makes.  This is big business after all.

So on Sunday when you curl up on the couch, or other viewing venue, to catch the big game think of the reporters who have labored tirelessly all week to cover it. And also think that at that very moment many of them are sitting high up in the rafters of the Superdome on a comfy seat cushion listening to the coverage on a little radio and jotting things down in a notepad that the NFL gave them.  Covering Super Bowls is certainly good work if you can get it and for one magical week back in 2004 I lived the dream of every sports reporter.  A year after my Super Bowl experience I almost hit the daily double of big ticket sports reporting but I missed my chance to cover the Major League Baseball All-Star game due to a reduction in the work force at the newspaper I was working at.  I would have loved to cover the All Star Game and compare how Major League Baseball and the NFL differ in handling their showcase events but I really have no regrets and can’t complain about missing that opportunity.  Who knows, maybe I will yet get to cover an All-Star Game.  But, for one whole week I was a Super Bowl reporter and I have the press badge and various freebies to prove it. Even nine years later I still consider that pretty cool.  Now if you’ll excuse me I think I will dust off that Super Bowl XXXVIII seat cushion for old times sake since all of this typing and sitting really has my lower back a little sore.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Danicky, Danicky, Danicky

It was recently announced that NASCAR Sprint Cup rookie drivers Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. were a couple.  While workplace romances have been going on for as long as there have been workplaces this particular high octane power couple marks somewhat of new territory for both sports writers and sports fans.  And, if the early media coverage of the power couple is any indication this is either the greatest thing to happen to racing since cars were first made to go fast, or it is the beginning of the end of racing as we know it like some sort of Danicky Apocalypse where the only thing left standing will be a few campers in the infield that were protected from the onslaught by a well-timed trip to the porta-potty.  I can see it now the reporters will gather in the media center and comment about how the Mayan calendar end of world talk was nothing compared to the coming terror that is Danicky.

(Editor’s Note: At the time of this writing I have not heard what the power couple’s nickname is, since if history has taught us anything it is that every power couple has to have a cute little nickname combining their names a la Branjelina, Benifer, etc. etc.  So with the field wide open on naming rights for the Danica/Ricky romance I maintain and have hence forth noted that they will be known as Danicky.  Remember kids, you heard it here first.)

Danica Patrick at TMS

Danica Patrick at Texas Motor Speedway in 2011.
Photo by R. Anderson

So let us examine both sides of the media coin since we all know there can be no middle ground in this 24-hour news cycle world where if it bleeds it leads and sex sells.  The sportswriters and gossip columnists will have a field day with tracking the comings and goings of this historic coupling among racing rivals.  Aside from the built in star power that comes with “the Brand” known as Danica Patrick there is the realization that this is the first time that two athletes that compete against each other regularly are openly dating.

To be fair NASCAR is the only major sport at the moment that has drivers of both sexes competing so the odds were stacked more in its favor to be the first sport to have this occur, but, it is equally plausible that there may come a day when two openly gay ballplayers enter into an equally high profile relationship.  But since that has not yet happened let us turn our sights back onto the track and Danicky.

Ricky Stenhouse at TMS

Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. climbing into his car before the 2011 Nationwide race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Photo by R. Anderson

While Danica Patrick is by far the more recognizable member of Danicky, the “icky” part is no slouch in racing circles having won consecutive Nationwide Titles prior to making the jump to the Sprint Cup.  So Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. has the racing trophies to back up his street cred.  Of course Danica has her one Indy Racing League win and lots and lots of Super Bowl commercials and other interests away from the track so she still has the more famous body of work.  So how exactly did Danicky come to be? Early indications of the newly minted power couple show that they were friends for years before making the leap to coupledom.  They also didn’t let a little thing like Danica still be married get in the way of announcing the happy news.  Remember boys and girls this is not your granddaddy’s NASCAR.  The Danicky pairing follows a slightly less covered event of a certain car owner marrying one of his drivers a few years back.  And there are many other examples of love at the track where people have been hooking up in the garage area and the pits for years. The previous pairings just normally involved a driver marrying his publicist or one of the women who hold the trophy and smile in victory lane.

So aside from the obvious issues of whether the romantic link off the track will lead to on track cooperation let us first in good faith get all of the potential jokes out of the system.  Danica herself stated in an Associated Press story when she confirmed the rumor that had been rampant for months that she was enjoying all of the jokes about bump drafting. While bump drafting is all fine and good let us not forget the other age old adage in NASCAR that “rubbin is racing.”  And of course one needs to remember to pull those belts tight prior to dropping the green flag.  There is also the little issue of who will stand at which car during the National Anthem since it is customary for the drivers and their significant others to stand together and give a little good luck kiss before climbing into their cars.  And will it be a shared motor home or separate motor home on racing weekends?  Maybe the sportswriters were right and this is the Danicky Apocalypse with so little time to answer all of these questions before the start of the Daytona 500. But alas. I digress.

When all the facts are weighed I tend to be in the camp that the racing will still be the same on the track as it would be with two teammates helping each other out.  Both sides of the Danicky coin are too competitive to have it any other way. Plus, there is that whole issue of keeping sponsors happy and so forth.  So, while two drivers dating is something the sport has not seen at this level before it is surely not the beginning of the end of the sport.  It does create the interesting question of who will do the driving when they aren’t on the track though.  Something tells me it will involve a lot of games of Ro-Sham-Bo.   I can see it now Danicky needs to go somewhere and they approach the car and one of them says, “Well, I guess we’ll have to Ro-Sam-Bo for it” and then the winner takes a victory lap while doing doughnuts and burn outs down the driveway before they head to the store.  And that boys and girls is how it’s done in this strange new world.   Now if you will excuse me I need to go see a man about a trademarking Danicky, otherwise all of these shirts and hats will surely go to waste.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson