Archive for January, 2009

Media Day Madness At The Super Bowl
January 30, 2009

img_1176Media Day. If I use the word “circus” one more time to describe this cattle call, I will slap myself. It really isn’t as bad as we in the business like to paint it. And it is fascinating to see how many of us interview each other. ( I think I just blogged about that two days ago?) This is Chris Berman, the veteran ESPN anchor, a graduate of Brown University (Ivy League) whom we watched interview former Steeler, now Cardinal, Sean Morey, also a Brown alum. I didn’t get to use our interview with Sean, but he is going to the Pro Bowl for special teams and I  asked him if he had any idea his career would last this long. He said, frankly, no. He is such a great guy, and people in Pittsburgh loved his heart–you have to be happy for him even if you’re pulling for the Steelers. 

img_1177And this is another guy whom Pittsburghers will wish well, while rooting against his team-Steve Breaston. The injury to Anquan Boldin this season, gave this Woodland Hills graduate his chance to step up, and he did. Another connection of Steve’s is to LaMarr Woodley, who was (and still is) his best friend at University of Michigan. Go Wolverines (I am an alum, and a bit obnoxious about it, I admit)! Both guys were generously cooperative about my interview regarding their friendship, and how hard-hitting it may become on Game Day. Steve said he expected LaMarr would be chasing him around. It is the positive aspect of competition–go at it with all you have got, and shake hands afterwards. I could do that in golf, but I am not sure I would be so forgiving if someone slams me to the ground. img_1181Another well-known Western Pennsylvanian who will be dividing some loyalties. Coach Russ Grimm is the best, a frequent visitor to our Winterfest at Seven Springs. I talked to him about what makes our region so rich in football tradition, and it is unquestionably its solid work ethic. As everyone knows, Russ was one of the candidates for the Steelers head job when Coach Cowher retired. Both he and  Tomlin are great coaches, but the Rooney’s choice of Tomlin has turned out to be  brilliant, and seems to be the right fit for the Steelers. img_1185As has this choice. Ben Roethlisberger. I was talking to The Professor–ESPN’s John Clayton –yesterday, and he was rattling off the amazing stats that Ben has amassed in just five years in the league. “Rarified” atmosphere, I believe John called the position in which Ben finds himself. He has been handling the media with poise and maturity, and we saw him and Hines Monday afternoon, as we set up for our special at the Steelers hotel. He didn’t have to acknowledge us (for fear we might come over and bug him) , but he called out hello to me, which was nice. I said hi, and then started to walk by, and Hines called me over. I was so nervous about talking to them outside a “media availability,” and Hines asked me when I had arrived. I said,” Am I supposed to talk to you? I am media?”. He  laughed and looked at me as if I were crazy. I know it this all sounds silly, but these guys get attacked if they stick their head out the door, and their accessibility is very tightly regulated. That is why Media Day is such a frenzy. Oh, one last thing. I was soaking wet, because I soooo stupidly wore my backpack. But it served as a great battering ram getting through the  throng.

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And talk about a throng. The biggest Steeler star, other than Ben, is Troy. I admit, it is such a kick, when Dan Pratt, my photographer, and I walked over to his booth, he gave us a little wave before I asked a question. One idiot reporter kept hounding him about his hair, and I wanted to take our mike pole and whack the guy. 

And these familiar faces were part of that throng. DVE’s Jim and Randy. Randy interviewed me with an iPhone.  Never seen that before (although I know have one, and I am obsessed with it. They are broadcasting from here on Radio Row, and ESPN 1250’s and WTAE’s Guy Junker did a great piece on them.

 

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Media Dominates The Super Bowl
January 28, 2009

dsc00600It is stating the obvious–and when don’t most of us do that- to say the Super Bowl is a football game. But another cliche is that it is a spectacle. And who makes it so? The media, of course. So much so, that if you are not interviewing players, you are interviewing other members of the media. It’s incestuous. Another cliche!  But I love interviewing some of these guys of whom I am, admittedly, a fan. These two men are on the top of the list. It is probably my fourth interview with Mike and Mike (Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic), the morning duo for ESPN, including the Super Bowl in Detroit. They have also done remotes from Pittsburgh on a number of occasions–Steeler Monday Nights and the U.S. Open, for example. They have been together for 10 years, but I met Mike Golic when his first morning partner was Tony Bruno. Tony is an old friend, who actually discovered me when I was first starting out, when he heard my voice in a small town radio report. Because of that, I got my first job as a radio reporter. So, when Tony and Mike came to Pittsburgh for a remote, Tony actually put me on the air. 

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How things change. Tony left ESPN, moved on to Fox Sports Radio, then Sporting News Radio ( I think he is now with an L.A. radio station),  and Mike and Mike have become wildly popular , not just on radio, but simulcasting on ESPN2.  They come off like an old married couple, arguing, poking fun at each other…But their real gift is putting sports in a cultural context–always reminding us the role it plays, or should play, in American life. And this week, it’s place is fascinating, overblown, ridiculous, and touching. That is why we in the media love it.  I am running one day behind, so I will post all the photos from media day either tonight, or tomorrow morning.

Tampa Team Soaking Up The Bowl
January 27, 2009

img_1156Arriving in Tampa. Beautiful airport, beautiful weather–a welcome sight after a week of anticipation. We have a great crew, some of whom drove ther 13 hours down here, bringing our equipment and vehicles.   Dan Henninger, a veteran of one Super Bowl, and all of our Black and Gold Primetimes for the last 12 years is our fearless leader.

img_11591Andrew Stockey was had only been with WTAE for a year or so when he was with me in Phoenix for Super Bowl XXX. And this trip, we also have Guy Junker, doing double duty for us and ESPN Radio 1250, Marci Cipriani (who used to work here ). Our intrepid photographers include Dan Pratt. T.J. Haut, Andy Cunningham, Cary Toaso, and our engineer, Greg Kornides. Pratt, Henninger, Stockey, and Kornides were all in Detroit, and the memories of that frigid, gridlocked city are not pleasant—although, the end certainly was. We are all very lucky to be here, but it is hard long work, and sleep is something you do when you get home. img_11631Just love this photo. a GREAT BIG BEN and a little Andrew. Just kidding. After we got our luggage, and rental cars, Andrew and I drove to the Tampa Convention Center, which is NFL Media Center, to get our credentials. This massive poster is in what they call radio row. It had a great coffee shop, a Madden game center –I took some photos of Andrew playing someone for a few minutes–check out Andrew’s blog to see them (he is so much more diligent than I am in posting-haha), and then we actually played pool as we waited for the rest of the bunch.

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About the only play we will be doing for the next nine days. More tonight, on chatting with Mike and Mike Monday morning, and hanging at the Steeler’s hotel.

Hoping for Antarctic Good Luck Against the Ravens
January 18, 2009

Okay. I said I was going to have more Antarctic photo and information, in a week. That was a month ago. My excuse–the Holidays, and a little thing called the playoffs.  I am sitting in the Steelers press box cafeteria, watching one of the most incredible receivers in the NFL- Larry Fitzgerald -put the Arizona Cardinals up by 11 points. Not that a 37 year old Kurt Warner didn’t contribute with an arm that is still amazing, especially at this point in the season!

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But I digress, which is what I always do.  I am using this picture, with me holding the Towel with Elise Larsen, whom I wrote about in the previous Antarctic blog a month ago. She was the Oceanites researcher on board the National Geographic Explorer with us, doing research for the non-profit education and scientific organization, Oceanites. Lindblad and National Geographic have been working with Oceanites in measuring the impact of forces like climate change and tourism on the Antarctic Peninsula.  By the way, this photo is of an Adelie penguin, a species I mentioned before, and Jaqi Conomikes, my traveling buddy, took it. Her photography is so outstanding, I am just going to do a blog in a couple of days ( no empty promises this time) with some of her great stuff. _n3p7555

Anyway, during the holidays, Elise and her fiance, Jerry (who is from Pittsburgh) came into town and I joined them and their parents, Ron and Lida Larsen, and Jerry and Pat Hungerman, for dinner. Read the preceding blog for more on that connection, but suffice it to say, the Steelers were a big topic of conversation. It was before the San Diego playoff game, and Jerry, her fiance, was going.  Elise was preparing for a return to Antarctica, on another Lindblad voyage, for more Oceanites research. Only, this time, she is also going to the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, where she will also see King penguins, one of the largest species of penguins.

_n3p6515This is one of Jaqi’s photos of the King penguin we saw on our first landing of  our  trip.  We went nuts, because he was all by his lonesome with a bunch of gentoos.  Kings are not supposed to be on the Peninsula.  I turned to our expedition leader, Matt Drennan, and asked, “What the heck is he doing here?” One naturalist with us had sighted a King penguin last year, and speculated it was the same one. The amazing thing is to get from South Georgia Island (which is considered sub-Antarctic), he would have had to swim 850 miles. 

Now, back to the Steelers. The reason I put in another Towel photo, is Elise is actually here, at Heinz Field. She came with her fiance, and this is only her second Steeler game(an AFC Championship one at that. I told her how lucky she is). The first was the regular season San Diego game, and it was just before her first trip to Antarctica. The Steelers won. She reasons that, since she is leaving for The White Continent again, in just two days, that it is a good omen for this AFC Championship. I heartily agree. Hence, the post. The players may say they are not superstitious, but I believe in good luck omens, and for me, having her here, in the stadium again, is definitely one.

sally-wiggins2And this is another one. The other Oceanites researcher, John Carlson (he took this photo of me), had assured me, a couple of weeks ago, that the Steelers were going all the way. I was a bit worried, but he had faith–and he is from Montana!!! And one more–on the ship, our first night, the Steelers beat the Pats–in Foxboro!!! Soundly!! When did that happen last?! 

Of course, the Steelers are winning because they are the best team in the NFL, with a smart, young coach, who has them peaking at just the right time. Not to mention a stellar defense, an offensive line that is coming together around a quarterback who is in his third AFC Championship game in five years. 

But writing about connections, and omens was the only way I could somehow write about Antarctica again, as I had promised, while I am waiting for the game to begin. GO STEELERS!!!!!!!!!!!