Archive for November, 2009

Why I’m “Giving Thanks”
November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving is that one time during the year that no matter what we believe, what we share, what sets us apart or what brings us together we can equally take part in the tradition. Sure it about turkey and family, stuffing and watching a really bad Detroit team take the field each year. However, it’s also about taking a pause from our busy lives and remembering what is truly important.

I know you have your list, but I thought I would share mine. It’s not long but I think captures what “giving thanks” means:

I am glad I get to go home and see Mom and Dad, and know they are still with me and healthy and happy. I am grateful for my “younger” brother whose 6-foot-5. He’s completely different from me, but we would do anything for one another. In fact, I’m thankful to all the folks that comprise my family whetherr they are the two-legged humna kind or the four-legged canine variety. I am also thankful that I have more than a job. I have a career. It’s a career that allowed me to experience so many things both good and bad.

It pleases me to know I have many good friends, the kind of people who would do whatever they could if you were in a time of need. They are friends that span the spectrum of your life: some from high school, others from college and many from the world I live in today. I know my life would not be the same without them.

On that same note, I’m thankful I work with such wonderful people at WTAE. This has been more than a workplace for almost 15 years. It has become home for me and my co-workers often become my de-facto family since my parents are back in Chicago.

I am also giving thanks to all the charitable organizations which have asked me to become involved as either a volunteer or spokesperson. It means much that they believe in me and maybe that’s why I believe in what they are doing to make this world a better place.

I am thankful that I live in western Pennsylvania. I discovered this wonderful place by accident and found it to be everything a community should be. It’s citizens care about preserving its past, maintaining a quality of life in the present and look towards building a prosperous future.

Finally, I am thankful I will be able to join my parents at the Thanksgiving dinner table for the first time in 15 years. Such is life when you work in broadcast news. It’s a rare blessing and I intend to enjoy the moment because you just never know if it will happen again.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.

Advertisements

“Texter” Nation
November 20, 2009

I’m old. There is no two ways around it. I have finally come to the conclusion that I have hit a certain period of life where what’s new has passed me by. Yes, I still play video games and have a severe addiction to my “crackberry”.

However, clearly, the world has passed me by when it comes to cell phones. The other day I tried to get a hold of a few people via the phone. Not only did no one pick up, some of those people actually sent me a text asking “what’s up?”.

Are you serious?

It got me to wondering if anyone uses their phone for – well you know – making phone calls or are we just a nation of people who refuse to pick up the phone and would rather take our mini-typewriters and text our friends. I went to the source of all things trendy and hip: Facebook Nation.

All I asked was “does anyone answer their cell phone anymore or have we just become “texter nation”? The answer? Forget Steeler Nation, the largest population on the planet are those who would rather text then talk … and their ranks are growing!

The question drew 40 comments and even more discussion among my regular group of friends. Some people looked at me as if  I had two heads, wondering why I would ever choose a phone over texting. There were others who agree with me that something gets lost in the texting translation, that is impersonal and never really accurate.

I know it’s always easier to text a response than to pick up the phone and talk with someone. I understand that conversations often take work and were not always in the mood to talk with another person. However, we are already a nation of people who seem to be challenged by the art of conversation. There are young people who actually believe “IMHO” and “LOL” are real words.

Worst of all, there are people who find themselves in what they call “textual” relationships. Prior to today, I had never heard the term but these are actual relationships fueled by text messages between the two parties. As one Facebook friend tells me, it is not a real relationship. It’s devoid of emotion and intimacy that usually makes up any relationship between any two persons.

I’m not opposed to texting. I do it and its very convenient, but let;

Fans Behaving Very Badly
November 18, 2009

Sports.

For those of you who don’t know, and the many that do, I was a sports anchor at this station for the first ten years of my stay at WTAE. I covered the Steelers, Pirates and Penguins … and so much more. While I witnessed many great games and outstanding athletic efforts, I also saw extremely passionate fans. Pittsburgh maybe known for having a great football and hockey team, but its made its mark across the country with the most rabid rooters in all of sports.

Rarely does that passion boil over … and turn violent or dangerous. At least not here. Yes, we see the occasional fight in the stands and the rare drunken brawl in the parking lot. However, we have never seen what transpired in my hometown after the Steelers played the Chicago Bears.

My Channel 4 Action News at 6 co-anchor, Michelle Wright, did a fantastic report about a Pittsburgher who went to the Bears-Steelers game. His black and gold lost, but that didn’t stop him from exercising his constitutional right to talk up his team in a bar near Soldier Field after the game. From what we have been told, it was a case of trash talk between opposing fans. However, a drink offered to Zack Heddinger turned out to be less of a peace-offering … than was a near fatal experience.

If you read and watch Michelle’s story, you will see that he was poisoned, nearly died and suffered blindness and brain damage from the dangerous drink. Zack is now faced with experimental treatments, an uncertain future and the knowledge that someone nearly killed him over his football allegiances.

This is what has always pained me about sports. While it’s a release for many, some see it as an opportunity to be belligerent and violent. They feel the frustrations of the week can be released on Sunday … and there is no limit and no rules. That is what has always bothered me about the game I love … and some of the people who follow it.

Steeler fan Zack Heddinger – now blinded and brain damaged – because of a football fan behaving very badly.

I grew up as a Chicago Bears fan. It was the team of my childhood and running back Walter Payton was my boyhood idol. I remember the 1985 Super Bowl “Shuffle” champion Bears with the same fondness many of you remember the Steelers of the 1970’s. I still follow the Bears, but having covered the Steelers for a decade, I became a fan of the team and more so, the players in black and gold themselves.

I also know my hometown and I’m embarrassed and horrified to hear someone in the city that I call home would do such a thing. I can assure you that the guilty persons are in the minority: not just in Chicago but in this country.

The point is that we all should look at the games we watch as just that – games. I cannot tell out how often I have seen fans scream, yell and curse when they watch the Steelers. Folks, while the Steelers love you as fans I can tell you from experience that no matter the outcome, they keep things in perspective. All fans should, too.

I hope Zack will recover fully and that this nightmare will be just that. I also hope they catch the guilty party and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. Most of all, I hope we all look at this as an example of how not to support our teams.

It’s a game everybody. Please remember that.

Out of the Mouth of Children
November 14, 2009

We like to think that with age comes experience and wisdom. Often times, that is true. However, today, I was reminded there is no greater courage and ability than that which comes from a child. Two examples – on opposite sides of the spectrum – making a similar point.

Monnika “Nikki” Gay was killed in front of her St. Clair Village home, in front of her niece and nephews. Police have accused Charles Cabiness of the killing, in broad daylight, of the Wilkinsburg woman. The back story here is that Cabiness’ brother was suspected of killing Gay because she was about to testify against Cabiness’ brother, who was accused of shooting and killing Gay’s brother.

If that all sounds confusing, image being the 12-year-old girl who lost his sister. Well, this little girl was also a witness to the killing of Gay, so at the request of the assistant district attorney, she testified to what she saw — and against Cabiness at today’s preliminary hearing. She was sobbing, probably terrified but show a courage beyond her years. She did what no one had done so far in the case — identified the accused shooter.

Her bravery and her choice to do the right thing was recognized by the assistant D.A.:

 “You know people are sick and tired of this nonsense in their neighborhood and when it takes a 12-year-old child to come forward and carry the ball, you’ve got to give that kid a pat on the back.”

And a little child shall lead them.

My second example, in one day, of a child showing their elders the way took place at a charity dinner. Variety – The children’s Charity – has held a gala for the last 82 years but it likely hasn’t seen anything like the young lady who performed at the William Penn Hotel tonight.

I met Jackie Evancho and her mother before the performance. Apparently,s she had just released her first CD a week ago. I thought to myself she was talented enough to cut a CD, but I wasn’t expecting to blown away or anything with her singing. I even asked her before she started singing how good she was. She said she was “ok”.

preludetoadreamcover

Then, this 9-year-old girl in a flowing champagne dress and beautiful blonde hair picked up the microphone and began to sing. Suddenly, she transformed from a 9-year-old kid to a young person with a voice well beyond her years. The crowd of 300 or so sat stunned and mesmerized. We were in both awe and disbelief as Jackie showed a range singers twice her age rarely do.

She not only sang out loud, she sang to each one of us. You forget very quickly that she was 9-years-old as you listened to her belt out classics like “Ave Maria”. She got not one, but two standing ovations.

I know for years in sports I would see young athletes and know instantly they were destined for bigger things. Today, I witnessed two young girls headed for greatness. One, because of her show of bravery and the other because of her show of talent. They may live in different worlds, but they show us all what children can do … if given a chance.

New Masthead!
November 13, 2009

I’ve got plenty to blog about tonight, but just don’t have much time. It’s been a busy night. What I am excited about is the picture above. My brand new masthead. It was taken a couple of weeks ago by Johanna, an assistant in our promotions department and amateur photographer.

Just nice to have a new look when you visit my blog. I’ll have thoughts for the weekend on Friday night. Take care.

Double Standard on Soccer Field
November 12, 2009

There are very few things that get me out of my chair and cause me to take notice. Maybe it’s because I have – at last – become cynical as I approach middle age ( I hope ). Maybe it’s because there are very few things that are shocking to the eye anymore.

I did see the injuries that woman from Connecticut suffered when attacked by a chimpanzee. She spoke with Oprah and I could not help but be overwhelmed by the degree to which the animal bludgeoned her. Just as shocking was her reaction which was not emotional or angry, but rather resigned to what had happened and trying to make the best out of a truly horrible situation.

The other video – and the subject of this blog – that grabbed me by the throat was that of New Mexico women’s soccer player Elizabeth Lambert. For those of you who don’t know, or haven’t seen it yet, Lambert unleashed her on-field frustrations on what seemed to be the entire Brigham Young football team. She punched one girl, kicked another girl with the ball smack dab in the face and then yanked one player to the ground using her ponytail.

Oh, by the way, you cannot use your hands in soccer.

I would have written it off as poor sportsmanship and a young woman who needs to lay off the caffeine until I read an article in the New York Times. Somehow, this display of rage became the source of a national debate and conversation about women, violence and sport. Some people are horrified by her actions, others believe she is being singled out and that all athletes “do it”.

Then, there is the third view – and that is the most troubling. The feeling that this should be viewed different because the player involved is a woman. Some on-line gabbers found her actions “sexy”, while others believe it to be – at the least – “unlady-like”.

lambert

Elizabeth Lambert: University of New Mexico Soccer player and called by some the “dirtiest player in women’s soccer”. Should there be a distinction?

Why should the gender of the perpetrator matter? Let’s be honest, part of the sizzle in this story is that all these deeds were done by a woman and that’s something that society just doesn’t expect from females. We see women, for better or worse, as kindler and gentler than their male counterparts. The truth is that women, be it in sport or society, are now equal players on many fronts and will react in a similar manner as their male counterparts if thrown into similar situations.

Gone are the days where women playing professional baseball wore skirts and had to go to “charm” school. They are athletes who work and sweat just as much as men. We have a professional women’s football team in this city and I don’t see them being any less physical because they are women.

Let’s once and for all forget about this story being about a woman behaving badly. In this case, it was an individual going off the deep end. Male or female, she was wrong … and should be punished … just like any athlete who breaks the rules.

Elizabeth Lambert was suspended indefinitely.

 

 

Waiting for the Execution
November 11, 2009

It was a little odd in the newsroom tonight.

As many of us were working on stories and pieces for the 11pm newscast, we had an eye and an ear on the major cable networks. They were on “death watch” tonight, awaiting word on the execution John Allen Muhammad. For those who don’t remember, he was the “mastermind” behind the D.C. sniper shootings which terrorized the Capital Beltway region around Washington in 2002 in which 10 people were killed over a three-week stretch.

When word came down, Muhammad was pronounced dead at 9:11. The spokesperson for the correctional facility said Muhammad did not show any emotion, had no final words and walked into the room underhis own power and accepted his fate: death by lethal injection. There would be no 11th hour call from the governor of Virginia.

I must admit hearing the rather cold, scientific description of his manner of death was chilling in itself. The execution was carried out in a manner that sounded more like he was getting his driver’s license than being executed for multiple crimes.

execution

John Allan Muhammad: Executed Tuesday night at 9:11pm

No matter how you feel about capital punishment, there is still of feeling of uneasiness when the government – that’s you and me in theory – kill a person. Some say its society taking and eye for an eye. For others, its society stooping to the level of the guilty party.

I remember the first execution I heard about. It was the national case of the death of Gary Gilmore by the Utah firing squad. It became national news because, in essence, Gilmore asked his sentenced be fulfilled. It was difficult at that age for me to think of someone being executed by the state.

However, it is also hard for many to worry about the guilty party when he or she has killed so many. Unlike the convicted killer, those killed didn’t have a choice in the matter.  While, in theory, an execution is to answer for the victims often we forget about those who have died so needlessly as we wonder about the “humanity” of executing the convicted killer.

Then, there is the whole issue of what the death penalty really accomplishes. Is it a deterrent? Hardly, since very few on death row will tell you that they thought about the possibility of ending up there when they committed their crime. Also, given our legal system and the endless amount of appeals, it seems the guilty are likely to die on death row than in the death chamber.

There are so many questions and so many issues that swirl around one’s head tonight. The only thing we do know for sure is that the convicted killer has joined his victims … and neither needed to be there.

Welcome to Post #600
November 10, 2009

 

 

That’s right. 600 posts to this blog. Not bad for someone who wondered the first day he was asked to do this what he was going to say. After 600, I still wonder what I’m going to write about … but since you keep reading, and the world keeps producing stuff to write about it, I will keep writing.

What is the best way to show how crazy Steeler Nation is about its team? Is it merchandise sales. maybe just female merchandise sales? Maybe its ticket sales or TV ratings. Perhaps its the number of Steeler fans who don’t live in Pittsburgh who show up at visiting stadiums to cheer on the black and gold.

Forgot about it.

For me, there is no greater testament to this team’s hold – check that, vulcan-like grip – on the city and its fans then what I see every day sitting the anchor desk at 5pm. Watch the video from various stories that have nothing to do with football … and see what everyone is wearing. Steeler gear.

copsteelers

Donnie Henderson, Fallowfield Twp supervisor, not hiding his black & gold allegiance. Even during a serious interview

Whether it’s the police or the suspects they have arrested, each seems to bleed black and gold and wear not only on their sleeve, but their entire body. You will see eyewitnesses to crimes and accidents sporting a Steeler t-shirt. You will see suspects handcuffed and being ushered into the squad car with a Steeler ballcap on. Men, women and children, it doesn’t matter, they all support the black and gold.

Now while I’m sure the organization is pleased to see their fan base wearing the colors ( cha-ching ), they can’t be pleased when a suspect in a crime is going to the pokey in Pittsburgh colors. Then again, that’s what Steeler nation is: Steeler fans coming in all shapes, sizes and in this case, all sides of the law.

Somehow, I just don’t see our counterparts in Boston seeing a parade of Patriot team colors on the nightly news.

Final Words for your Weekend
November 7, 2009

I was just thinking ….

…. what does it say about the NFL that Hines Ward was voted by his colleagues as the dirtiest player in the league. He’s a receiver! What it says to me is the NFL has become more of a two-hand  touch league that a tackle football league.

…. that Ben Roethlisberger is right. These are not the Steelers of the 1970’s. This year’s team passes the ball much better than it runs and throws better than the teams of the 1970’s and if anyone is offended by that comment, they need to join us in the 21st century. I enjoyed the Steelers of the 1970’s as much as anyone, but football is a different game today and three yards and a cloud of dust doesn’t cut it anymore.

…. why do people take tragedies like the one at Fort Hood and turn it into a vehicle for advancing their own agendas. Heard some guy on Fox News saying the liberal media was more concerned about the shooter than the victim and its time to end the “PC” military. Can we not blame an entire race, creed or group of people for the insanity of one person. Based on that logic, the D.C. sniper’s actions were a reflection on the entire African-American community.

….. we just finished another election season and so much for an engaged electorate. Voting turnout was lower nationally was lower in 2009 than it was in 2007. This after the election of 2008 in which record numbers turned out to cast their ballot … and take part in “the most important election of our time”. I guess it was because we’re back to apathy as usual.

… are you as psyched as I am about the warm weather this weekend? I’m actually going to break out the golf clubs and try to shoot less than 100.

… met and interviewed Katie Lee, better known to the world as Katie Lee Joel. She is the former wife of singer Billy Joel. Now, at age 27, she is reinventing herself as a culinary celebrity. She has written her second cookbook and hopes someday to reach the heights fo Rachel Ray.  She will be doing a cooking show and book signing at Good Taste Pittsburgh in Monroeville Saturday. Found out she and Ben Roethlisberger went to Miami of Ohio together, but didn’t know each other in college.

… I haven’t had a steak in ages. Wondering where I should go to get one. That’s my mission for the weekend. You enjoy the nice weather.

Hoping for a Miracle
November 5, 2009

Did you see Wendy Bell’s story about the Grady family … and the heartbreaking disease that will take the lives of their two small children? Batten’s disease has a 0% survival rate and it systematically destroys the body of  a young child to the point that they will die likely before middle school age. The parents have the impossible task of trying to give these children a normal life as their days dwindle to a precious few.

The Gradys say they believe in miracles … hopefully two miracles that will spare their sons … but they also know scientific reality. They know this disease is insidious and literally breaks down their childrens’ wills along with their little bodies. It’s an impossible situation and one no parent should ever have to experience. That’s why the story of this family is one courage amid impossible odds … and a faith that perhaps this story need not end unhappily.  

grady

5 year old Drew Grady battling Batten’s disease. Soon, his younger brother Trent will also fall victim to this disease for which there is no cure.

We have gotten all sorts of letters and e-mails from viewers who want to help. That is the positive side of this horrifying tale. The people of western Pennsylvania offering to help. I have many times spoken to groups around the region and, at every stop, I repeat the same message. While we are not the richest area nor the most populated, no area of the country has a larger heart and gives to those in need like your neighbors here. It’s a trait built into the people here: to help their neighbors with no questions asked.

I hope you will go to our website and look at Wendy’s story … and click the link if you want to donate to the Gradys as they try to make the best out of an impossible situation. If  there is a lesson for all of us in the Grady’s story it is this: our problems may overwhelm us, depress us and even cause us to moan and complain. However, in the end, we have our health, our family and a future.  We are blessed and no that if we do experience a nightmare, we can always wake up.

The Gradys cannot.

 

 

 

Looking for the Easy Way Out
November 4, 2009

Tonight at 11pm we have a story about the latest weight loss fad: a cream that can cause you to lose weight by tricking your body into thinking its pregnant, meaning the body will start to consume its internal fat … causing you to eat less.

And yes, it supposedly works for both men and women though I’m not sure as a man I want to know what it feels like to be pregnant. Anyway, one woman says she lost 30 pounds in six weeks. While her results ar real, there are concerns in the medical community about people essentially starving themselves.

weightloss

The real problem here is the world of weight loss. I think everyday, in infomercials and on the news, we see stories about weight loss plans that promise the pounds will fall right off … and all you have to do is take a pill, rub on some cream or eat a certain diet and you too can achieve the dream of physical fitness that has escaped you all your life … without exercise.

That would be nice, in theory, but let’s be honest with ourselves. Weight loss is hard work and, depending on your metabolism, darn near impossible for some people. While I’m no doctor, I have one and he has always told me the secret to staying in shape and shedding pounds is really no secret. You exercise, get your rest and eat smart. That’s it.

However, in a world where want instant gratification, and we want it now, there is an insatiable appetite for quick results without the work. That is why you see magazines and TV shows boasting of people losing amazing amounts of  weight in a short period of time with little or no work.

It’s been my experience that there is no free lunch or easy way to do what needs to be done. Hard work is required for everything and that include shedding pounds I have dropped a few in the last year and I can tell you it’s because I ran a lot of miles and laid off a lot of bad food.  Would I have preferred it be easy? Yes, but nothing worth having is ever easy. Weight loss included.

 

 

Lost In Translation
November 3, 2009

I text … because I have to.

Now I know that I’ve said many times that I’m a “tech” lover and that I love trying new gadgets and gizmos. On my nightstand are my blackberry and my netbook that way if I have to contact one of my 1500 Facebook “friends”, I can do it in seconds.

All that being said, the tech revolution does have its downside. While we can communicate with anyone at anytime, our point doesn’t always come across. I mean how many times have you gotten a text from a friend, spouse or significant other and tried to decipher what they man. Think I’m joking. Just recently, I sent someone  a text telling them it was their “decision”. Their response? I was ambivalent in my feelings on the matter.

Where do you get “ambivalence” from a yes or no question?

That’s what’s wrong with texting. It’s not what you write, but how people interpret what you are saying. I think its kind of hard to interpret anything when you are limited to one-hundred plus characters ( Twitter ) and we use this funky shorthand. I mean is everything really LOL?

While texting is convenient, it’s also turned us into a nation ( yours truly included ) of people who would rather text than talk. Think I’m kidding. How often do you end up texting your friends and engaging in a type fest when you could pick up the phone, dial the ten digits and discuss. In my opinion, the art of conversation – how about the art of just talking to people – becomes lost in the world of texting.

All I ask is that people stop interpreting the texts of others like you are analyzing the  Zapruder film ( you history buffs know and those of a certain age know what I am talking about). If you are unclear about the text coming into you, just call.