Archive for December, 2008

Happy New Year!!!
December 31, 2008

I’m taking a blogging break for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

I usually take this time to reflect on the year that was. The highs and the lows. The good times and the bad. Those who are still here and those who have left my life. I feel fortunate that I am here to celebrate another New Year’s Eve.

I want to wish all of you the best as we prepare for the final year of this decade. Hard to believe Y2K was 9 years ago. Remember the scare we all got about Y2K? It seems like yesterday and so long ago.

Many of us have reason not to be so celebratory. Some  have lost thousands in the stock market and on the value of their homes. Others have lost their jobs. However, we do have life and we do have family and we do have each other. We have hope and we have a future. Most of all, we have faith that tomorrow can be a better day.

Despite the direction our economy is going, please enjoy tonight. Celebrate a new year and a chance to wipe the slate clean as well as a chance to start anew.

And please, do it safely and responsibly. Do not drink and drive. If you do drink, let someone who’s not drive you home … or better yet, call a cab!

Happy New Year!

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A Wish For the New Year
December 30, 2008

As we get ready to jump into a New Year, we often wipe the slate clean:. We forget about the past and look forward to a brighter and better future.

Sometimes it’s not as easy as taking an eraser and wiping away what has been. I was reminded of that while reading today’s Wall Street Journal.

The paper published a recent study of crime statistics indicating that the number of murders among African-American teens has risen 39% over the course of this decade ( we’re talking about those under the age of 19 here ). If that wasn’t disturbing enough, consider the rise in overall homicides was 7.4%.

The study blames cut in law-enforcement programs and the reduction of activities geared towards African-American youths. They also say that young black men are more likely to come from homes with single parents and a lack of supervision.

It’s obvious why these numbers hit home with me, but it goes beyond the fact we are seeing African-American youth being killed at an alarming rate. Whether it’s due to so-called “black on black” crime or they are killed by someone of another race, seeing promising and talented young people die should scare us all. We lose a valuable resource and perhaps a productive member of our society for no reason at all.

When a young person dies of any race, we lose a future mother or father, a future doctor or lawyer … and maybe even a future President of the United States. Sure, money is tight and we cannot afford all the programs that are needed to give these children a chance, but that does not mean we cannot volunteer and try to make the world a better, safer place for our younger people.

Someone asked me once during a speaking engagement what was the single most important issue facing us and a nation and a region. Back then, I said it was the killing of our youngest people … and just days before the New Year, I feel exactly the same way. Be they black or white, they are our future. 

If  there is a resolution we should all have for the new year, it’s to make sure that we somehow stop our youngest people from dying.

A National Treasure Right Here at Home
December 28, 2008

When you live here in western Pennsylvania, it’s easy to forget what we have in this area. Every day you have the opportunity to visit sights and locations that are world-renowned, just miles away from where we live. At the same time, because they are so close, it’s easy to say to one’s self I will get there someday.

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No, it’s not Brad and Angelina. Just Sharon and I at Fallingwater

For me, someday was this weekend. During the Christmas weekend, Sharon and myself decided to get away for the weekend and spend it in the rural setting of Farmington in Fayette County. The region is known for being home to the luxurious Nemacolin Woodlands, but it’s also known for an historic piece of architecture: Fallingwater.

For those of you not into the whole world of architecture ( and that includes me ), Fallingwater in the masterpiece of Frank Lloyd Wright. It was supposed to be a getaway for the Kaufmann family ( owners of Kaufmann’s Department Stores ) during the time of the Great Depression. What he built was done on time … and way over-budget … but it has become celebrated world-wide.

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It’s a house with a theme: hallways shaped in a such a way that they force you into new directions. It uses window and steel to create natural light and never disturbs the natural surrounding into which the house is built. Its green living at its finest at a time decades before the green movement began in this country.

What amazed me more than the house were the people that were there to see it. As Sharon and I approached the welcoming center through the parking lot, we were hard pressed to find a Pennsylvania license plate. There were cars from New York, Georgia Florida and California … and all these people were not staying at the nearby Nemacolin resort. They were from everywhere, there to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s signature piece for themselves.

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The tour guide told us the rich and famous have also come over the years to see Fallingwater – including Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Not that we could feel that Hollywood glow as we walked from room to room, but we did feel an immense source of pride. After all, this national treasure was in our backyard. Upon leaving, and at the urging of our guide, we decided to join the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. The organization is entrusted with keeping the natural treasures in shape and from being destroyed. As residents here, we feel a duty to help in that effort.

If you haven’t I hope you will take the time to visit Fallingwater. It’s well worth it.

A Holiday Thank You … to All!
December 24, 2008

Thanksgiving is the time we are told to count our blessings as say “thanks” to all the people who have touched our lives. For me, personally, Christmas has always seemed a more appropriate time because of the spirit of giving and what better time for me to “give” thanks.

Also, I am not much for holiday cards. It’s not because I am lazy, but frankly I could take a week off from work and not send out all the cards I feel I should. So with this being said, I thought I would use the power of blogging and the spirit of the season to say “thank you” to everyone who made this year so special.

I am grateful to have arrived at the end of the year pretty much the way I began 2008: with my wife, my dog, both my parents and in-laws. I have my health, a new home and a faith that the world will be a better place tomorrow that it is today. I have a job … and got a promotion … and am able to live a version of the American dream.

That’s not to say this year has been without its challenges. Marriage is always filled with ups and downs and not every day at work was a perfect day. My dog “Boobaloo” had major surgery, but is doing OK. I am getting older and just can’t run that 4.6 40-yard dash anymore. Still, I survived all these challenges and am the better person for it.

I do want to thank all those people who impacted my life this year. From my managers to my co-workers who helped me turn my job into one of  the greatest joys of my life. I want to thank my friends who would do anything for me with no questions asked. I want to say thanks to all those who I have worked with or dealt with in the course of doing my job for making the duty of telling the world what’s happening just a little bit easier.

A big thank you to all those new people who touched my life this year. From the people I met while working on stories to those I met while working with local charities and even those who came into my life for a single day. Every encounter made me a better journalist … and a better person.

Finally, I want to thank you during this holiday season. Those of you who read my blog ( between 750-1000 every day ). You have shown me just how intimate this medium can be and you have allowed me to learn more about myself than I could possibly know by encouraging me to discuss the issues and things that impact my life on a daily basis … and perhaps impact yours as well.

Please have a safe and happy holiday season … and I will be back blogging on Monday. Seasons’ Greetings to one and all.

Is It Just a Towel?
December 23, 2008

” … as far as my players are concerned, it’s just a towel”.

Those were the words from Tennessee head coach Jeff Fisher 24 hours after the much-discussed Terrible Towel trampling by Titan players following the beating they laid upon the Steelers at Heinz Field.

Unless you have been away from a TV, or stuck at the airport unable to get to a monitor, you have probably heard of the post-game celebration Titan stars Keith Bullock, LenDale White and Javon Kearse orchestrated using the Steelers symbol. They stomped on it and blew their nose with it.

The display got more attention than the game itself in which the Steelers proved human after all, following an incredible run through the league’s most difficult schedule. They turned it over 4 times and blew whatever early momentum they might have had.

However, the game has now become secondary to the towel trashing which elicited the expect response from “Steeler Nation”. Everything from “desecration” to the one person on our broadcast who compared it to “stomping on baby Jesus”. These, of course, are the responses we can actually print. Believe me, there were worse things said.

Now I will admit it was not a class move by Tennessee. Winning with grace is just as important as winning itself. That’s a lesson we are taught in little league and the 20-something age players on the Tennessee team have forgotten those lessons. Even worse, they have stoked a fire in the Steelers players. Not just they way they beat up on the Black and Gold, but the way they celebrated in such a crass manner.

That being said, Fisher does have a point … and it’s probably one worth remembering. It was “just a towel”. Not even a real terrible towel, just a yellow cloth with the words “Terrible Towel” written crudely on one side. The real Terrible Towel is easy to spot. A creation of the late Myron Cope, in his words, it was designed not only to give the Steelers great strength but cause great problems for the Steelers enemy. He donated the proceeds to charity.

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Tennessee’s Javon Kearse blowing nose with Terrible Towel. He couldn’t find a hanky on the sidelines? ( Courtesy Tribune Review )

But even as Myron created the towel, he knew what it would be seen as outside of Pittsburgh: a symbol. A symbol just like the bulldog at the University of Georgia, or the Phillie Phanatic or whatever mascot you choose. It’s maybe not be alive, but it serves as the symbol of the team much like the mascots I described …. and what happens to mascots? They are tease, taunted and occasionally kidnapped before the game … only to be safely returned with no physical harm done.

The towel is both a symbol and a target … and I’m sure Myron would have it no other way. It’s what rallies Steeler nation to stand up … and rallies the opponents to rise up against the Black and Gold.

Just a towel? Yes, it is just a towel. However, it’s a towel that means more to us here in Pittsburgh. It’s not the baby Jesus ( not even close ), but it’s something we hold dear and something to rally around. That’s why Myron created it and that’s why moments like what we saw Sunday are important.

Besides, the last guy to do a number on the towel played for the Bengals. Shined his shoes with it during the regular season in 2005. We know how that turned out. Maybe history will repeat itself in a month from now in Tennessee.

 

He donated the

All Aboard “The Polar Express”
December 19, 2008

My elementary school days are long since past, but somehow I have spent almost as much time in school now as I did then. I often have the chance to read to children all across the region.

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Punching tickets for students to board The Polar Express

My most recent school visit took place Thursday at Menallen Elementary school in Uniontown. Sharon Volek asked me to come and read to her first grade children as they count down towards Christmas. The book? “The Polar Express”.

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Reading and holding up pictures from The Polar Express

Upon arriving, I was greeted by about 50 first-graders and they were all wearing their pajamas. Even the teachers were in bed clothes. The reason was the characters in The Polar Express were all in pajamas.

I played the role of conductor and punched each student’s ticket to the train. Aboard this imaginary train, I put on my Santa’s cap and read the story as well as showed the kids the pictures.

Afterwards, I was amazed the number of children that came up to hug me. It’s so amazing to see young children so affectionate and kind to someone they only know from TV.

Leaving the school a short time later, I could not help but have that good feeling. Every time I have a chance to read to children I get that feeling. A feeling that in some way I have helped encourage them to read.

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Mrs. Volek ( upper right ) and the 1st grade teachers from Menallen

Thanks to Mrs. Volek and all the first grade teachers at Menallen … as well as all the children. Sweet dreams and Happy Holidays!

Gizmo Found!
December 18, 2008

It certainly sounded like a radio stunt when I first heard it, but was as serious as can be. WDVE radio host Jim Krenn and his wife Hedy reported their dog Gizmo missing. Run off by a bunch of bloodhounds as the family walker to him into a local park.

Listening on the radio this morning, one might wonder if the missing dog was a promotional gimmick, except Jimmy was not there with Randy Baumann and the gang. he and his lovely wife spent the entire night into the morning looking for Gizmo.

You might be wondering why this story deserves media attention at all. After all, isn’t about a lost dog and a owner’s frantic search. It’s not the first time it’s ever happened and it certainly won’t be the last. The answer isn’t so much about the dog being missing and the celebrity who owns it as how his disappearance inspired others and showed us the best side of our city.

Jim and Hedy adopted Gizmo years ago from Animal Friends. It was that adoption that really got the Krenns deeply involved in the agency. So much so that Jim now front the campaign spots on the air and Gizmo has become the canine face for the organization. You can see those spots running now.

Jim and Hedy have four dogs and they all have their individual personalities, but none is quite the character Gizmo is … and Jim has talked about his prized pooch on the air many times before. I have even spent some time in Gizmo’s company as he took part in one of our Test It Tuesday stories.

When he went lost, Jim and Hedy hit the local parks in search of him. They looked for hours on their own. Jim even skipped work – the DVE Morning Show  – to look for Gizmo. However, their mood and their luck changed when Jim’s on-air partner, Randy Baumann, announced to listeners he would not be on the air because of the frantic search.

That’s when it began. The phone calls from listeners offering to help. The people who knew Jim only as a voice on the radio both calling in their support and showing up to aid in the search. At one point, five search crews were on the lookout for Gizmo. 

Finally, Wednesday night, Gizmo was found. He was stuck in a thorn bush. He was unharmed and a bit hungry, but no worse for his ordeal. The Krenns were so happy to find him … and happier still to see how many people came to their aid.

I spoke to Jim late Wednesday night. He says Gizmo is doing well and he and Hedy are so happy to have him back. He also thanked everyone for their kindness and selflessness in helping to find Gizmo. As Jim said, “growing up in Pittsburgh you know people have your back but when it’s you … its overwhelming”.

It is overwhelming and it’s what makes this town so unique. Could I see strangers coming to my aid in such numbers in New York, Boston or Chicago? No way. Only here. That’s what makes this town so special. It’s the people who, in times of trouble, come together to help others.

That being said, I’m going to watch “Boobaloo” extra close next time I walk him.

An Oasis in the East End
December 17, 2008

My school loyalties are pretty simple:

I graduated from Simsbury ( CT ) High School.

I got my bachelor’s degree from Ohio University.

My work and relationships over the years makes Pitt the school I cheer for.

But when it comes to the school I support, it’s Chatham University.

On my bio, you might have noticed I am a trustee at Chatham University. Most of you might be scratching your head as to where this place is. Truth be told, Chatham is in the middle of  Oakland and Shady Side, deep in the woods and away from the world. My little oasis in the heart of the east end.

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The Athletic and Fitness Center (AFC ) on the Chatham Campus. Inside an olympic-size swim pool, basketball arena, climbing wall and fitness center. Best of all, it looks like any campus building

I was asked to join four years ago by president Esther Barazzone, a woman of great energy and great passion. Prior to being asked, I had been involved in hosting the school’s National Girls and Women in Sports Day as well as done one of their earliest stories on the Chatham Hockey team – the first women’s team in the region.

Chatham is the state’s oldest women’s undergraduate school, but it recent years has become co-ed on the graduate and continuing education level. It’s enrollment has reached an all-time high at 2000 students and it recently became a university, changing its name to reflect the new designation. The school has also obtained a farm in Cranberry to advance its efforts to promote a green lifestyle.

But what makes being affiliated with the school so special for me is the campus. It’s as if you suddenly go from western Pennsylvania to a small New England school. Buildings that date back to the turn of the century, a campus green surrounded by dorms. Administration buildings that look more like Victorian homes and a state-of-the-art athletic center that blends into the campus design.

Most of all, it’s peaceful, quiet and serene. It really is a hidden-away haven in the heart of the east end. I go there to work out, to walk around, to watch the Chatham Cougar basketball team and for trustee meetings.

If you ever get a chance, please drive down Fifth Avenue and take a turn into the Chatham campus. I promise you will not be disappointed. In fact, I guarantee you will be amazed …. as I have.

A Purchase Well Overdue
December 14, 2008

Sometimes in life, you don’t get it right on the first try or even the second attempt. Also, sometimes, you don’t get it right over the course of eight years, but I’m proud to say I got it right this weekend.

When I proposed to Sharon nine years ago, I asked her what she wanted in her engagement ring. Let’s face it, I knew little about rings and I wanted to get her what she wanted. She said to me all she wanted was a unique ring, different from all the others.

We went ring shopping at Goldstock’s and found that ring she had been seeking. It wasn’t the biggest, the flashiest or the most expensive, but it was unique and she tells me she loves it to this day. That same day, I bought my wedding ring for the ceremony. I figured it was no big deal and I would just get something I liked and I was comfortable with.

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Sharon and myself ring shopping on Saturday.

Fast forward to this week. Sharon and I have experienced the highs and lows of marriage – as well as one very bubbly bischon poodle. I have misplaced my ring more than once. She shared with me something that I didn’t know for all these years. She was sad that she had not bought my wedding ring.

In Sharon’s mind, the ring represents something that one partner gives to another. In essence, she felt by not being allowed to buy my wedding ring, she had never physically given part of herself to me. I guess that made sense so we went ring shopping Saturday morning.

We stopped over a Frost & Co. in the Clark building ( I had a gift certificate for a discount and figured if she was going to spend money on me, I was going to make sure she spent the least amount possible ). I was expecting just a simple band of gold and figured that would suffice. Sharon wanted something a bit more. You might say she was looking for something “unique” like hers.

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I never thought I would be the recipient of a ring shopping trip

The result was a band that will be yellow gold when the order is filled, but with a band around it filled in with three or four little diamonds. Nothing elaborate, but definitely different. She asked me if I liked it and I told her as long as she was happy, I was happy.

The other cool thing? I found out my fingers were the perfect width. I was able to slip on just about all the wedding bands and they were all perfect fits. Our sales person even joked that many I should become a hand model. Flashing back to the “Seinfeld” episode where George Costanza becomes a hand model ( if you can remember that ), I thought I should keep my day job.

My Excellent Adventure
December 11, 2008

I’m not in the habit of getting awards. I have very few in my house and most of those are the rare journalism awards that I have won. I prefer to hand out awards as an emcee. Tonight, though, the shoe was on the other foot.

The New Pittsburgh Courier, one of the very first African-American newspapers, honored what they call their 50 Men of Excellence.  Earlier this year, they had a similiar ceremony for the 50 women they honored. The honor and the evening, held at PNC Park, recognizes the achievements of 50 African-American professionals. Not just what they achieved in their careers, but also what they have done for the community.

There were the well-known like former Steeler turned bakery owner Franco Harris and former Steeler turned judge Dwayne Woodruff. Police chief Nate Harper and Alex Harper, President of CCAC. There was George Miles, the CEO of WQED and the Reverend Harold Lewis of Calvary Episcopal Church.

excellenceWhat do they all have in common? According to Rod Doss, the editor of the Courier and tonight’s host, this is what makes these men “excellent”:

There is no instruction manual for excellence; it is an intrinsic quality of character; or perhaps even instinct. Those who possess it share its benefits with the larger community; their excellence examples empower those around them to reach higher and strive harder.

Simply put, these men are people who lead by example and by deed and there fore empower a whole group of younger achievers to strive to be the best. That’s pretty heady stuff. You can see why I was a bit overwhelmed to be included in this group. I hardly think what I do on a daily basis measures up to the meaning of  “excellence”.

Then again, maybe “excellence” is no more than doing your job to the best of your ability … and by example inspiring others. If that is the meaning, then I am honored to accept the award … though I would rather think of  myself as a man of  “better than average”, rather than “excellent”.

My Goal: Avoiding the Tailor
December 10, 2008

There comes  a moment when you realize that’s  it’s time to get yourself back into some semblance of shape. That moment hit me one morning before Thanksgiving.

I was dressing for work when the pants to the suit I was about to wear didn’t fit. They were too tight. Mmmm, that was strange so I tried another suit and the same thing happened with that pair of pants. Then another suit and another suit. I finally got to a suit that I could actually fit into the pants and I sat there and said to myself  “What the hell is going on?”.

The truth was that I was not taking care of myself.

I looked at my routine and could see there was almost no physical activity. I sit at my desk to write scripts and I sit on the anchor desk for two hours every day. Hardly a routine to promote physical fitness. Then, I would get home late and eat too much food and go to sleep. I didn’t dare weigh myself. All I needed to know was coming from the pants in my closet. There were suit pants I could not wear and dress slacks I could not wear.

I must admit, it made me more both angry and sad. Even worse, I am at an age where you just can’t down a whole pizza and work it off the next morning. At age 40, it’s harder to keep the weight off. In some respects, you have to work twice as hard to achieve the weight goals you did just 10 years ago.

However, as I stared at my closet and wondered what happened to “thin Andrew”,  I made a promise to myself. I knew I had to let out some of those pants, but only a very few. I wanted to work myself into shape so that I could put the rest of those slacks on without any tailoring.

My resolve to turn the corner started the week of Thanksgiving. I ran in the “Turkey Trot” in Greensburg, a hilly 5K run. I finished, but my time was 26 minutes. Hardly the best time I had ever turned in. The day after a very light Thanksgiving day meal, I went to the gym to run and life for 90 minutes. I have kept that streak going ever since. I get to the gym at least five days a week, either before work or between broadcasts. I try to push myself a little bit further everytime.

I also eat sensibly. Less food and more normal hours and I’m trying to keep the alcoholic consumption to just the weekends. As for the results, it’ s not happening overnight but I feel better and can see the weight loss in my face. However, I want to see it in my waist.

Call it my New Year’s resolution … well ahead of the New Year.

Good luck to all of you who are trying to do the same: Avoid the tailor and fit into your clothes.

I’ve Got A Feeling …
December 8, 2008

… Pittsburgh’s going to the Super Bowl.

Please, join in if you know this song.

OK, this is hardly a new refrain from Steeler nation, but tonight I have finally become convinced that the football team which calls our city home has what it takes to get reach pro football’s ultimate game – the Super Bowl.

It took me 13 weeks of games but after the Steelers rallied to dispatch of the Dallas Cowboys, I believe for the first time that they are going to be in Tampa in February playing the NFC;’s in Super Bowl XLIII ( that’s 43 for those challenged by Roman Numerals ).

What makes me so convinced that this will be that “Super Season”? Let me reach deep into my closet and pull out my sportscaster’s hat ( yes, i kept it after leaving sports and moving to news ). After covering the Steelers for 10 years, which means every game and every training camp, there are things you notice about a team.

They have simply the most dominating, game-changing defense this franchise has seen sine 1976 which many still believe is the best defense in NFL history. Pittsburgh can literally impose it’s will on the opposing offense. They are in line to become only the third team in the history of the league to finish as the top defense against the run, the pass and allow the fewest points. Sadly, the two units that did this before them failed to make the Super Bowl.

But wait, there is more. Pittsburgh has the fortune in being in the weakest AFC in decades. Tennessee is far from a dominant top-seed, despite being 12-1 and frankly, there are sizable flaws on every team in the conference.

In short, I have never felt more confident about a Steeler team that I have seen and rarely do make sports predictions ( especially since I don’t do sports anymore ). In fact, the last time I was so bold was two years ago when I went out on a limb and thought the Steelers should hire Mike Tomlin as their head coach. Wait, that worked out OK.

As for winning the Super Bowl? I’m not going to be that bold. One correct prediction every two years out of me is about all I can handle. Let’s see them get to the big game first and then, maybe, we’ll talk.

The Economy’s Biggest Casualty
December 5, 2008

Every day, we receive some new bit of economic news that leaves us depressed and frustrated. Food prices, stocks falling and layoffs all add to our daily misery. However, I think perhaps the worst bit of economic bad news crossed my desk today when I picked up the Wall Street Journal. It was enough to make me wonder if we have dug ourselves a hole from which we can never escape.

 

The issue at hand: College Education.

 

The story entitled “College May Become Unaffordable for Most in the U.S.” painted a grim picture for those hoping to acquire what come to be known as a necessity in today’s

World: a college education.

 

Among the facts that should make every parent fearful: College costs have increased 439% over the last 25 years while the median family income grew by just 147%. Student borrowing has more than doubled the last decade. These numbers don’t seem to be stopping their uphill climb or creating an even greater divide.

 

The point of the article, and my point as well, is that college is quickly becoming unaffordable for the average American family. I know went to school 20 years ago, but I paid a little more than $10K a year out of state. Now the cost to attend my alma mater has nearly doubled.

 

And let’s not even get into the cost of going to one of the higher level schools like an Ivy League institution. It now costs less to by a pretty-nice BMW than to attend the likes of Harvard, Yale and Stanford. Even worse, if you do borrow the money and somehow make it through college, unless you end up making six figures right out of college. That’s assuming companies are still paying six figures in this economy.

 

The rising cost of a college education is not news to anyone who pays attention to what’s going on … or to any parent who has a child in college. What is news is that they cost is rising so fast that many of our most talented young people are being priced out of the market … and when you start to phase out our future leaders because of finances, then the whole economy will suffer … for years to come.

 

 

Rendell’s Open Mic Mistake
December 4, 2008

You would think that when a microphone is nearby, those in the public eye would be weary. You would assume that those who’s every step in caught on camera would be careful with what they say … even if they assume the mic is not “hot”.

Governor Ed Rendell was no so cautious.

As you have read by now, he is getting some heat for a comment he made near an open mic about the Homeland Secutiry Director-designate Janet Napolitano. President-elect Barack Obama’s choice to head the Homeland Security office grew up in western Pennsylvania.

Rendell, commenting to a fellow lawmaker, said the following:

Janet’s perfect for that job. Because for that job, you have to have no life. Janet has no family. Perfect. She can devote, literally, 19, 20 hours a day to it.”

Given Governor Rendell’s history of colorful, if not controversial comments his statement about the Governor of Arizona turned cabinet member can certainly be seen as sexist.

But are they?

Rendell’s spokesperson, Chuck Ardo, tried to clarify the remark by saying “Rendell meant no disrespect to Napolitano and would have made the same comment if the candidate was a man.”

Let’s get real. The issue never would have come to the forefront in Napolitano was a man because family issues have never been, and will never be, a deterrent to a man from taking a job – cabinet level or otherwise. It is always assumed that the man has a woman in his life to take care of his family responsibilities ( look after the kids ). So this talk that a man and a women would face the same scrutiny is complete bunk.

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Homeland Secretary Director-designate Janet Napolitano

At the same time, Rendell does state the obvious. It’s a job that is demanding and to protect this nation 24/7, which the Homeland Security office does, requires a tireless worker who does make their job priority number one. It helps if you have someone who can take care of the kids. Better yet, if you have no family there are no distractions.

Napolitano has no husband and no family.

So what’s the verdict? Rendell was not wrong in sizing up the office Napolitano will hold, but there was no need for him to point out she has no husband, no family and therefore no life. Even worse, his spokesperson trying to spin the statement by saying the Governor would say the same thing about a man. That is the true insult. In this case, the cover-up is worse than the actual statement.

Bottom line: The Governor needs to not only think before he speaks, but watch where he speaks. You never know if the mic is hot!

How Far Can “Talent” Take You?
December 3, 2008

It’s been said that talent can take you very far in this life. It can lead to riches, fame and immortality. However, it can also save you from trouble, punishment and perhaps even death. Talent is the makeup that covers the blemishes – personal and professional.

I bring up talent because a very talented football player finds himself on the verge of being sent to jail … and perhaps seeing the end to a promising career. Plaxico Burress is no stranger to Steeler fans. The tall, lanky receiver arrived here in 2000 full of promise and possibilities. Sure, he took his share of lumps but he also became a top target for Ben Roethlsiberger and now, Eli Manning. He even caught the winning pass in last year’s Super Bowl.

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Plaxico Burress: A talented athlete but that may not be enough to get him out of this lastest mess.

But in the last few years, Burress has gotten himself involved a series of off-field incidents in New York which caused him to miss practice time. Plaxico’s problems have now snowballed with the incident in New York in which he accidentally shot himself in the leg with a concealed loaded gun. If guilty, he could be in prison for the next three years.

This is not a sports blog. This is a blog about people with talent, like Plaxico, who do dumb things ( and carrying a gun illegally into a bar is a dumb thing ) and put themselves in compromising positions. Whether it’s former NFL quarterback Michael Vick and dogfighting or former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and prostituion, it seems we continue to witness these tales of people with talent wasting it by doing idiotic things.

Perhaps they hope thier talent and ability will allow them a free pass as it has many times in the past. After all, we do live in a society which for years has overlooked the academic performance of many athletes as long as they performed on the field. The same is true of those in the world of business. Remember the mortgage banking mess? None of the decision makers were held accountable as long as the value of homes continued to rise and people could still make the minimum payments.

But talent can only take you so far. At some point, people look beyond what you can do and begin to look at who you are. If you are a person who failings begin to eclipse your achievements, then you are in trouble no matter how talented you are.

I hope Plaxico’s predicament is a lesson to all those with talent … a gift that is not given to all and should not be wasted. I think the immortal words of author Stan Lee in “Spiderman”:

“With great power comes great responsibility”.