Archive for February, 2009

Remembering Myron: One Year Later
February 27, 2009

It hit me when I heard Michelle Wright, who sits right across from me, say it. There was a discussion of our coverage plans for Friday and she mentioned Friday would be the one year anniversary of Myron Cope’s passing. Friday will be “Myron Cope” day, all day, here on Channel 4 Action News and on WTAE-TV.

Has it really been one year?

I remember that morning, hearing rumors that he was not long for this Earth. Then, we got the official word. Kelly Frey and myself went on the air shortly after 9am to tell viewers that Myron had died. It was one of the most difficult things I have ever done … as a reporter and as a person.

We sat there and shared our memories of Myron. I remember first meeting this small man with the strange voice. He was a bundle of energy who seemed to be going into ten different directions at one time. As I got to know him from working in the WTAE sports department, I learned this man was more than just shtick, he was substance. He knew football and he knew the team he covered.

honor-myron 

He taught me about the power of what we say as journalists as well as how to have  a good time in the pubs of Ireland. I was asked to co-host the roast celebrating his 30 years of broadcasting, approaching it with a mix of fear and excitement.

I saw him in his home, allowed to spend time interviewing him in his inner sanctum surrounded by magazine covers and newspaper copy with his image. I spent more time interviewing him as he struggled with physical pain and trauma.

Then, I was one of the first to say “goodbye” to Myron on the air. It was incredible to see the outpouring of emotion for his man whose story could only happen in Pittsburgh. From the words of former players and colleagues to a city-wide silent waiving of the Terrible Towel.

It seemed like it was only yesterday we lost Myron. It was really a full year. Enough time to grieve and remember, but not nearly enough time has passed to forget what he meant to all of us.

Tomorrow should be a day of remembrance, but also a day of celebration. Myron would not want us crying for him. He would want us enjoying ourselves and remembering what made him so special and what he brought to our lives.

Myron, this is for you:   

YOI! …. DOUBLE YOI!

Advertisements

Mama Drama
February 26, 2009

I don’t read supermarket tabloids or watch soap operas. However, the last couple of days I feel like I have been chained up at the check out counter, forced to watch afternoon soaps.

I’m talking about “Octo-mon”, Nadya Suleman. In case you just got back into the county from a month-long trip, she is the mother of six children who had embryos implanted and gave birth to octuplets. Now, she has 14 kids. I wouldn’t openly criticize her for that choice …. assuming she could afford to take care of 14 kids.

Ah, there is the rub.

She is also supporting her “team” on California government assistance which includes food stamps. Sure, there are plenty of moral and ethical questions surrounding a plot to plan to have so many children but it might not be the most egregious thing she is doing. Her biggest crime may very well be becoming a “celebrity”.

Her appearance should be a clue this is more about box office than babies. She looks like a funhouse version of Angelina Joile. Then, there are sudden slew of  “exclusive” interviwews showing Nadya and her mother arguing about her decision to have so many children. Forgive me if  I see dollars signs when I watch these two having a “heartfelt” mother-daughter discussion.

nadyasuleman

Nadya “Octomom” Suleman: Sounds like a superhero’s name, but there is little heroic in the story surrounding this woman. ( AP photo )

Now, the latest bizarre twist has Suleman being offered a movie contract – by a pornographic movie distributor. Not just thousands to star in one film, but a deal to do a series of films. The strange thing: she came to prominence by having eight kids … through implanted eggs!

This whole “Octomom”thing is a train wreck. It’s become the modern day version of the wreck on the road. We all know about driving along the parkway and when we see a wreck, we cannot help but turn and look. Same here. Its the modern-day, multi-media freak show … that just gets freakier.

I would take this whole thing as simply Jerry Springer-style entertainment, if there weren’t kids involved. I mean what mother is doing media interviews when she has eight new born kids? These are children who are doing well but are still in the fragile state of  life. So where is mom? She’s arguing with her mother on national television about possibly having more kids!

I guess its just kind of sad that this is going on … and mere babies are being exploited in the process. If a woman wants to have 14 kids, its not my place to challenge her. However, when those kids become part of media circus fueled by the mother and her family ( her willing accomplices ), it just makes me sick.

Walking Cautiously Into the Future
February 25, 2009

I’m sitting in the newsroom watching President Barack Obama’s address to the joint session of Congress about the economy. We are told this is not the State of the Union because, according to the Constitution, he cannot deliver such a speech this early in his administration.

However, this feels like the State of the Union. From the ceremonial entrances to the decision to keep one member of the cabinet away from the Capitol in the event the unthinkable takes place. Of course, they decided on the most controversial member of the cabinet to handle this duty to stay away: Attorney Eric “Americans are cowards when it comes to race” Holder.

All we need is Obama to say “The state of our Union is strong” and this would be the State of the Union.

However, as I watch this, I can’t help but be worried. For the first time in my working lifetime, I do not know what the future holds. Each day, I see the stock market tanking. I see people I know being laid off. I see all the institutions that were believed were solid start to crumble and fall.

obama-address

Photo courtesy: AP/ABC News

You don’t even have to look at your 401K to know things are bad, although if you do take a peak you will feel like its 1997 all over again. That’s the last time the dow was this low.

I know when I started working way back in 1992, there were economic troubles but I don’t think I ever really worried it wouldn’t get better. I always assumed whatever economic woes this nation had would disappear because this is “America”. Now, I do not know.

I guess my sense of pessimism is fueled by the fact that this is a crisis of our own doing. It’s not cyclical, it’s because we were greedy as a nation and took short term gains over long term investment. Now, we are feeling the effects of years of neglect and ignorance when it comes to all things financial. We are seeing what happens when a country is driven by consumption rather than production.

So is Obama’s radical spending plan the answer? I  don’t know although even I realize that you cannot spend $787 billion to rescue the economy and then expect to be able to cut the federal deficit in half in four years. President Obama may be preaching the politics of hope … but that scenario is a bit too hopeful.

Worst of all, I fear this empire going down in flames while the two parties in the country argue and fight over what is the right course of action. Whether its spending spree by the Democrats or the Republican tax cut craze. While they fiddle, our futures may go up in smoke.

So here I am, about 20 years after I first skipped into the future full of hope. Now I step cautiously into a future as dark and unknown as it has been in my lifetime.

One last thing. Could the folks in Congress please stop with the stand up applause all throughout the address. They have been doing it for years … and its anoying. Actually get something done in DC and then you can cheer to your hearts content.

Tragedy in Lawrence County
February 24, 2009

For those who think we are not moved sometime by the news we present, let me point you towards the community of Wampum, Lawrence County.

It was difficult for all of us to report the story of the pregnant mother who was shot, execution-style, in her bed. It was horrifying to imagine something so cold and horrible. It left us with questions too numerous to remember. Why would someone do this? Why would they do it with a mother being so close to bringing another life into the world? The speculation swirled. Was it the father, a family member, a burglar or a random stranger?

Then came the shocking twist to the tale. The arrest by police of  11-year-old Jordan Brown, the son of the boyfriend of Kenzie Houk. Police say he shot Houk with the gun hidden in a blue blanket so she would not see it.

Since the murder, Brewer has been in jail – an adult jail – and now we are hearing tales of family heartbreak. Of a situation so horrifying and so confusing that words cannot describe what these families must be feeling.

I know we are supposed to be unbiased in reporting, but does not include our feelings. Your heart goes out to the young mother killed senselessly … and to the young boy who is accussed of killing someone he allegedly saw as his rival of his father’s affection.

This case brings out so many questions and controversies. Should children even have access to guns – for sport or otherwise? Should children be treated as adults for such heinous crimes? What do you tell the children: not just the ones in the home but also in the community?

The hardest part of all this is that I can see this tragedy becoming circus-like. I turned on Fox News and saw their “panel” discussing the case. I’m sure Court TV will be breaking down the legal proceedings from her. It’s only a matter of time before Geraldo Rivera shows up in Lawrence County ( I wish I were kidding but I’m afraid history tells me otherwise ).

Its a tragedy on so many levels and no matter whether you feel the 11-year-old is guilty or just confused, I’m sure you will realize what I have. This is a tragedy, pure and simple. Difficult to hear about. Just as difficult to report.

Back From Blogging Break … and a Vacation!
February 22, 2009

It never ceases t0 fail. Every time I leave town on vacation, something big happens in the world of sports.

fort-myers-0031

Sharon tees off at River Hall Golf Club in Fort Myers. We ran into quite a few western Pennsylvanians who now call this area home and live on the course.

So I took a few days off last week and headed south for some sun and fun in Fort Myers. While I am gone, the Pens fire head coach Mike Therrien and name Dan Blysma as their new boss. Then again while I was gone, we also got a new boss here at WTAE. You might have read Alex Bongiorno from South Carolina will be our new news director next month, replacing Bob Longo who had been here the last nine years before moving onto his new post in Orlando.

As for me, I took a blogging break and did what I normally do on vacation: play golf. My wife and myself made what has become an annual pilgrimage to Fort Myers for three rounds of golf, but also to spend time with our “family”. That family is the LaPlantes. Bill LaPlante is my friend and my agent ( yes, I actually do have an agent but it’s not like in Hollywood where he’s calling me with multi-million dollars offers or anything like that.

fort-myers-more-001

Sharon tees off on the 6th hole at Magnolia Landing. A par 4 surrounded by water

Bill and I first met back in 1992. At the time, I was just in my second year at my first job in Hartford and he was still building his client base. We would meet at his office inside his home in the small town of Burlington, Connecticut. Not far from my hometown of Simsbury. Bill has helped me become a better broadcaster because he is a former network TV producer who has shown me some of the best and worst of what he has seen in his years  of TV.

fort-myers-001

My agent Bill LaPlante and myself outside the Super Bowl in Tampa.

Over the years, Bill and I have become very good friends … and have gotten to know each others families. His wife, Thea and my wife, Sharon, have become close and we have watched as their children ( Lauren and Guy ) have grown from elementary school students to adulthood … making their father a grandfather. Each year, we try to spend a few weeks with the LaPlantes. Whether its golfing, boating or just hanging out, they have been like family to me.

Back to the links now. Sharon and I played a couple of courses and tried to knock off the rust from a winter of not playing.We didn’t play too bad. Then again, we were just happy to be out in the sun and be able to wear shorts. For me, it was a welcome respite because I did not really get a chance to enjoy any outdoor activity at the Super Bowl. In fact, the only time I had four hours to sit outside was game night.

 fort-myers-more-002

Sticking the flag in at the 18th green following the final hole of our vacation at Magnolia Landing Golf Club in North Fort Myers

Just wanted to apologize for the long blogging break but I’m back … and ready to start writing. Thanks for checking in!

Climb with Me
February 13, 2009

I will be on blogging break for a few days as I try to rest and recover from a busy winter and spent some quality time with Sharon. However, I wanted to leave you with this:  An invitation and an opportunity to do something fun, extraordinary, rewarding and educational.

It’s called Climb Pittsbugh III.  Its an event put on by the American Lung Association. It’s designed to expose people to what life would be like if you smoked and then tried to exercise. If you are wondering what it must be like to exert yourself physically while smoking, look no further than this event. The challenge is to climb all 44 flights of the Gulf Tower downtown. Sounds easy for most well-trained and physically fit people, but as I learned about 10 flights into this challenge, it can be exhausting.

Its about education, but its also a great physical challenge and one that some take weeks to prepare for. We have teams from various businesses that take part. Many of us from channel 4 participate including Ashley DiParlo, Michelle Wright and our interim news director, Roberta Petterson. Last year, just to make it a little more difficult, I put on the equipment and scaled the 44 flights with members of the Pittsburgh Fire Department. Let me say this, if you doubt that firefighters earn their keep, trying climbing up all those flights with 50 pounds of equipment on your back.

andrew-and-joe

My best friend, Joe Seaman, anmd myself after making it to the top at Climb Pittsburgh II

I don’t normally ask you to do something for me, but I would love to see as many as you as possible on the morning of Saturday, March 28th. You can run in honor of someone who has stopped smoking, or climb in memory of someone who has lost the battle to lung cancer. You can spend a morning getting the ultimate workout … or spend time working out with a friend. Whatever your reason, please come. This event has grown year after year and we want to keep it going. There’s a mission here … and you can help advance that mission.

Here’s a link to the Climb Pittsburgh III website … as well as a video to show you what it’s all about. Hope to see you March 28th.

Just Another Billion Dollars
February 12, 2009

 

1,000,000,000,000.00

I just wanted you to see what one trillion dollars actually looks like.

We talk so much about billions of dollars with the bank bailout plan, the financial stability plan and just about every plan imaginable to save our failing economy and the people who are suffering because of  it. Now, the talk has turned to a bailout plan that at point could have cost taxpayers one trillion dollars. Fortunately, congress came to its senses and approved an economic stimulus deal that is much less.

Only 700 billion dollars plus.

Let me try and put the stratospheric numbers in perspective.

One of our producers, Kevin Kalia, told me what a trillion dollars really is.

If you spent one million dollars a day since the day that Jesus Christ was born, you would still need another 730 years before you finally burn through that one trillion dollars.

The bottom line is that one trillion dollars is a lot of money. The current bailout deal – at over 700 billion dollars – is a lot of money. How much money is that? According to one website, if you stack ones on top of one another it would 39,000 miles tall. Enough to wrap around the equator six times.

cold-cash

That’s a lot of money. Money we are told is needed to restart the economy. Money that we won’t be paying back anytime soon given our current deficit situation … and the interest that is certain to mount from this kind of spending.

 

 

I just wanted to make sure you knew what one trillion dollars looks like. 12 zeros. I just wanted to make sure you know what we are talking about here when we talk about the bailout plan and when lawmakers and our President start tossing around billions of dollars, you know what the money really looks like.

It’s a lot of money. Too much for those willing to pass a bill to spend that kind of cash to be wrong. Let’s just hope those that lead our government are right because I don’t know about you, but I just don’t have another billion to spare  if this thing does not work.

Live By the Blog, Die by the Blog
February 11, 2009

President Obama talks about this new era in governing: an era of transparency. I want to do my part to add to this great openess and honesty in our world. So in the interest of truthfulness, I must tell you that I do take criticism personally.

I guess I bring this up because I have this habit of reading other blogs, especially those which discuss the Pittsburgh media. Call it being nosy or just being curious, I often like to read what others are saying about the business in which I work. While I realize that there are some that think local TV news is on par with selling used cars ( and that is not my comparison, I actually read it ), it is still the most widely used outlet when it comes to the masses getting their information.

Still, not everyone is going to be a fan … and some are really no fan of your work. Case in point, I was reading one of the TV websites on which TV people, mostly insiders, complain and critique everything from the level of coverage to the length of Katie Couric’s hair. One group of entries talked about Sally Wigging filling in on sports one night this week. The entries were very positive – and I thought that was great. Sally has always been someone who knows sports in this town and had demonstrated that on the air.

Then, one of the comments decided to get negative … at my expense .. saying while Sally did a fine job with sports “Stockey … had no business being a news anchor”. There was no elaboration.

I”m not going to pretend that I wasn’t affected by that comment. It’s difficult when you pour your heart and soul into something and someone tears your down. I’m sure I am not the first TV person to be criticized or ripped by an anonymous person, but I might be the first to tell you that it does bother me.

Then I started thinking about what I do in this space every day. I often criticize and take aim at people – from a distance. I have been critical about everyone from our mayor to ordinary people who I felt did extraordinarily dumb things. This is the nature of blogging. We are supposed to cast a light on what’s different, what we don’t agree with and what want to see changed. If all I did was talk about how great the world was, why would you take the time to read it?

In that light, I guess I need to learn to take criticism ( unwarranted or otherwise ) for what it is. Remember, success

WTAE Winterfest … In Pictures
February 10, 2009

could not be at WTAE Winterfest at Seven Springs because I was under the weather ( probably the Super Bowl hangover ). However, with the help of Winterfest organizaer Nancy Gormley, I thought I would do the next best thing: Show you pictures of all the action from the Celebrity Olympics …. and there were some great moments. Here’s just a few. Enjoy.
winterfest-3
Kelly Frey pulling for her team in the tug-o-war..  

winterfest-2

The talented and well dressed women of Channel 4: Shannon Perrine, Amber Nicotra, Erin Kienzle and Marcie Cipriani. Always in style for the snow.

winterfest-1The official Winterfest team photo!

winterfest-7

Michelle Wright’s new co-anchor?

winterfest-61

The morning crew up way past their bedtime.

And don’t forget, WTAE Winterfest rolls on this weekend!

A Special Day .. that happens every year!
February 9, 2009

One thing I find in my job is that you are asked to do many charitable events. Of course, the goal is to do such a good job that the organization wants to have you back the following year. Sunday, I was able to emcee an event – for the 13th consecutive year. The difference here is that while I am honored to be asked back, I want the group to have me back each year because it has become as much fun for me as I thinks its been for them.

Enough keeping you in the dark.

sports-lunch-21

Sheriff Steele, Dr Sam Siegel and Daniel Sepulveda posing with one of the guests of honor at Beth Shalom’s annual sports lunch.

Beth Shalom Synagogue is located in Squirrel Hill and each year, since the 50’s and 60’s, they have held an annual sports banquet. Its roots were in the simple idea of having their congregation be able to spend an afternoon getting to know the local sports stars of the day – and, of course, to get autographs. Over the years, it has developed into much more.

 

sports-lunch-6

I am waiting at the table while Sheriff Steele challenges a member of the Pittsburgh passion womens team to an arm wrestling match. Dr. Sam Siegel – waiting in the wings.

Now, the number of congregation members in attendance is dwarfed by the number of special needs children and adults in the crowd.  People like those serviced by the Allegheny Valley School come to Beth Shalom for the day. They feast on hot dogs and hamburgers and get to meet a nrew generation of sports heroes.

This year, we had atheles from Carlow University and University of Pittsburgh. We had members of the Pittsburgh Passion Womens professional football team … and from the world champion Steelers, Daniel Sepulveda. But what makes this more than a meet-and-greet is the presence of local professional wrestlers.

sports-lunch-4

Sheriff Steele ( in his hometown Browns gear ) arm wrestling with Daniel Sepulveda. You can guess who is going to win here.

“Dr Sam Siegel” and “Sheriff Steele” are just stage names for two gentlemen who have given their hearts and souls for more than a decade to put a smile on the face of those in attendance. They tease the Steeler player in attendance each year, challenge the other athletes to arm wrestling candidates and get those in the crowd fired up with a mix of bravado and humor. And what is my job? Just to keep this insanity moving. However, the heroes in all this are the folks at Beth Shalom.

They decided to turn what was just a congregational event into a chance to give something back to their community — and they have. This event, held each year on a Sunday in March, drew 400 people to the temple. Its a chance to bring  joy and a sense of belonging to those with special needs who might not otherwise have this chance.

Its amazing when I think I spent each of the last 13 years on a day in February being part of this event. However, when I really think about it, its not amazing at all. It’s why I got into this field in the first place … to make someones life a little bit better and more enjoyable. Little did I realize I would make my life a little bit better as well.

The White House Dress Mess
February 6, 2009

If you ever wonder why nothing gets done in Washington – even in this new era of  “hope” and “change” that President Barack Obama proclaims, just take a look at the latest bit of craziness from our nation’s capital.

Andrew Card was the chief of staff under President Bush … and he is clearly not happy with the Obama administaton. What is his beef? The stimulus package? The junket the Democratic leadership took to Virginia tonight in order to “clear their heads”? No. Nothing so trivial.

Mr. Card is angry at the Obama administration over — get this — their choice of Oval Office dress. Here is what he said to the syndicated program Inside Edition:

“The Oval Office symbolizes…the Constitution, the hopes and dreams, and I’m going to say democracy. And when you have a dress code in the Supreme Court and a dress code on the floor of the Senate, floor of the House, I think it’s appropriate to have an expectation that there will be a dress code that respects the office of the President.”

In his opinion, Obama should wear a suit coat in the Oval Office. Card is taking his cue from the Bush White House where it was standard operation procedure to wear a suit coat in the Oval Office or you would be chastised by the President himself. So what’s the Obama White House dress code? The President rarely wears his jacket and neither do his staffers. Just shirt and tie and suit pants.

US RUMSFELD

Am I the only one who wonders what Andrew Card’s been smoking?

Obama takes off his jacket to work in his office. I’m sorry, but so do many people in this country including myself. Taking off your jacket is not “dressing down” and, in no way, disrespects the office of the Presidency. Look, history shows many more disrespectful dress choices such as Bill Clinton in jogging gear ( including those inappropriate short shorts ) and Jimmy Carter wearing a cardigan to address the nation from the Oval Office. Don’t even get me started on the Nehru jackets Ford wore.

The point is, at at time where we need to find some common ground in this country, Republicans and Democrats can’t even agree on what to wear in the Oval Office. Any chance Mr. Card could lend a hand and come up with some constructive ways to fight this recession rather than serving as a poor man’s Mr. Blackwell? This is why I have very little faith in our leaders on either side of the table to solve this mess. They can’t even solve their dress issues.

Super Bowl Photos
February 4, 2009

Everyone please forgive me. I am absolutely fried.

After covering the Inauguration, the Super Bowl and the Championship Parade, I am in desperate need of sleep. No great words of wisdom to pass on today. Just a brief mention that I came within two points of predicting the final score of Super Bowl XL III ( I said Steelers, 28-24 ) and the pictures from after the game.

Enjoy.

super-bowl-004Sally and myself in front of the trophy presentation stand.

super-bowl-0021Photographer Dan Pratt and punter Mike Berger picking up confetti after the game to save as momento.

super-bowl-0011

The view from section 303, row DD, seat 27 at Raymond James Stadium.

super-bowl-003

Guy Junker, Sally and myself in the aftermath of Super Bowl XLIII.

sb-trophy1

Steeler president Art Rooney II allows me to hold the VInce Lombardi Trophy … and it’s very light.

A Super Ending
February 2, 2009

It’s what makes a week of hard work, long hours and hotel food worth while. Sunday’s Super Bowl game was unbelievable. From the stirring rendition of the national anthem by Jennifer Hudson … to the sea of swirling Terrible Towels … to the fantastic finish, it was the perfect way to cap a championship season.

However, already the hyper-hype machine known as ESPN is already calling it the greatest Super Bowl ever … as is the Post-Gazette. Santonio Holmes’ sideline snare got the cable network’s call as the greatest Super Bowl play ever, supplanting the Eli Manning scramble and David Tyree helmet grab last season against the Patriots in Phoenix.

Before we start spitting out superlatives, let’s step and let history decide. For now, in my opinion, it was simply the mst memorable ending to a Steeler game we have since the “Immaculate Reception”. I’m sure Franco Harris would be the first to agree with that statement.

It was also a night to be proud to be from Pittsburgh. As I spent the week in Tampa, I met Steeler fans from far and wide. Some grew up in Pittsburgh and moved away. Others had never seen set foot on Pennsylvania soil. All had a love and passion for Pittsburgh’s football team. America’s team. This is a franchise that has touched so many in our football-loving nation … and it makes me proud to be from the city consider the epicenter of “Steeler Nation”.

Some may forget, I covered Steelers football for 10 years as a sports anchor at WTAE, so I got to know many of the players, coaches and staff on an intimate level. That’s why seeing them hoist the Vince Lombardi trophy is a special thrill. I know what it means to them.

On the flip side, I feel for people I have gotten to known on the other sideline. Ken Whisenhunt is one of the nicest, most genuine people on the planet. Steve Breaston was a high school phenom. Larry Fitzgerald is the most talented athlete to ever come out of the University of Pittsburgh. I have gotten to know them all in the past and believe they deserve a better fate than the ultimate disappointment: losing the Super Bowl. As one player told me, you would rather not be there than lose on the game’s biggest stage.

I am heading home now … and hope to be awake enough to be back on the air at 5pm.

As for the greatest Super Bowl ever? Let’s allow history and time to determine that. For now, let’s just call Super Bowl XLIII exactly what it was.

Super.

Editor’s note: Once I get back, I’ll upload some photos from the field at the conclusion of the game.