Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Down Stormy Down!!!

For those of who were listening to the Ice Storm/Plattsburgh game on WCAT, you heard a new wrinkle that we have in the broadcasts. With the purchase of wireless equipment by the good old boss, I had the chance to roam the sidelines during the game, and will be able to for the rest of the season. This gives us the ability to provide insight into what plays are being called, the mood on the sidelines, injury updates, and interviews with fans and the like. What it also does is to make me the target of one big mascot who likes to have fun at a crazed Sports Director's/Sideline Reporter's expense.

I have just this to say to Stormy the Ice Storm's mascot--Revenge is mine dude. You may think you are a cool guy with your prancing around in your furry suit, but you are toast. For those who were at the game, and listening, this crazed thing decided to try and throw me off my game. Drenching me with water? Hey, all it did was cool me off on a hot night. Chasing me and catching me while I was trying to talk? Man, I have a knee that will be part titanium next year, (Surgeons are welcome to apply for the job.) so catching me is as hard as winning the 40 against a fleet of turtles. Beating me upside the head with a hot dog, that hurt a bit, but I have a hard head so it didn't really effect me. The body slamming and pinning me to the turf? Stormy, you outweigh me by a ton, so you even think that was a challenge? My nieces can pin me with one arm, so no real challenge there. (By the way, they are four and two, so that says something about your competition there bear boy.)

Not only did you do all of that, but then you had to one up me by showing me up after I dared to be hoisted as part of a cheerleader stunt. Remember, you have padding around that suit and I don't. If you fall, you bounce. If I fall, I shatter and my wife kills me because we will be shelling out dead presidents in medical bills. Remember, you are not so tough and I have a devious mind so, THBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBT.

You have no idea of the practical jokes I pulled in college there furball. I pulled jokes that had guys crying in their beers. (Ben Gay is a wonderful tool to use.) Just remember, it may not be this week, it may not be the next, but listen to me now and hear me later girly bear, you are mine. I will win, I do not lose, and you will be going back to your den crying for Momma Bear. You have to do better than what you did on Saturday if you are going to beat the master. BRING IT HAIRBALL!!!!!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Hester Tries to Change the ABA

Okay, okay, I just can’t seem to take it anymore. I have been quiet about the American Basketball Association for some time now, but the things the league has been doing of late have made me laugh. Of course, I am easily amused, but that is another story in itself.

First, the good of what has been going on. I have been talking with ABA VP of Operations Brad Hester about the state of the league, and to his credit, he has been very honest about the shortcomings of the ABA. As opposed to its CEO, Brad wants to do something about the problems that have plagued this league for the last seven years.

To review, the ABA has seen over 70 teams fold since its rebirth back in 2000-2001. Franchises are supposedly awarded when the $10,000 “market reservation” fee clears the bank, which is the league’s only source of income, but several teams have joined on installment plans or without paying at all. Because of this, the league has no motivation to keep teams in the league. If one folds, another comes in and the ABA has another ten grand in its pocket. There have been countless problems with players not being paid, franchises moving in mid-season, teams being added in mid-season, and findings that owners have criminal records after their franchise was on the books. Owners fold teams without notifying fans, and some teams have had up to four arenas in one season. Combined with the fact the ABA is facing numerous lawsuits claiming fraud and misrepresentation, and SEC filings state the league is 17 million dollars in debt but has only $450,000 in assets, this is a league that is in trouble.

Brad Hester is the VP of Operations for the league and also the stepson of CEO Joe Newman. He was brought into the league last season after running a Store Manager for Lowe’s in Anderson, Indiana for five and a half years. Hester comes from a sports background having played and lettered in three sports in his high school career. In college, Brad played football for two seasons.

When Brad first came into the position with the ABA, he was facing a league in total chaos. Teams were folding left and right, stats and standings were never updated on the league’s website, and the schedule had to be changed and modified seemingly every other minute. There were, and still are PR problems as well as CEO Newman is known for tearing apart fans and media who question him on the league’s issues, and has a horrible reputation with the press. Brad sees these problems and is working to bring revenue into the league and improve its image.

Last year the league only played 63% of its schedule, a number that has been consistent over the years with teams folding and moving in mid-season. This is an issue Brad has had to deal with since he came to the ABA last year. It can’t be any less than a Herculean task to maintain a schedule, ensure games are played, and maintain the league with teams being in constant flux. To combat the issues with teams missing games, Hester is requiring teams to post a three thousand dollar performance bond. The bond will pay for expenses if a team fails to make a game, therefore reducing the financial burden on the team expecting to play and attract fans in their home arena. If a team does not miss a game, the money from the bond is returned to the team with interest. Take the bond requirement, and the fact that if a team misses a game, they will be fined. If they miss a second game, they will be removed from the ABA. This is a far cry from what has been expected from teams in years past.

Another issue fans and scouts have had is the fact that virtually none of the teams in the ABA keep individual and/or team stats. As a result, scouts have a difficult time figuring out which ABA teams to look at for their domestic or international squads. To combat this issue, Hester is requiring all teams to purchase and use the Joc Trac scoring system. This is a scoring system used by many college teams and can track the most minute of stats. Joc Trac also has the ability to transmit game stats straight into the ABA website, which will allow fans to see what is going on with their favorite teams, and allow scouts to have a better idea of who is doing what. This is something that has not been done in years past.

Other things that Brad would like to see in place, but have not happened yet include each team having a functioning website. As we are in the 21st century, fans will look to the web for updates on how teams are doing, news on the team, stats, etc. In the last couple of seasons, there have been very few teams with websites, therefore reducing the amount of exposure they receive from the media, and in turn fans. It is difficult for a team to attract fans to the arenas if no one knows they are around. Some of the websites that are running have obviously not been proofread. Take for example the Georgia Gwizzlies. When I looked at the Gwizzlies site a couple of weeks ago, there were 32 grammatical and spelling errors. Other sites either don’t exist, or are running but with numerous broken links. This is a problem Hester acknowledges and knows that for PR sake has to change. The date teams were required to have this done was July 1st, but the majority of teams have failed to meet this deadline.

What all of this comes down to is if CEO Joe Newman fully backs Hester on these radical changes. In years past, Newman has not been strict on teams who do not meet their obligations to the league. Rules tend to be able to be bent depending on who the owner is, and the statement “The team has been removed from the league for failure to meet its obligations” is simply a line. Multiple sources have told me that only one of the 70 teams to fold in the last six years have been suspended by the ABA. The rest of the teams have simply gone out of business without a trace, only to be replaced by another team either during the same season, or the following.

Newman and the league are facing numerous PR issues due to the actions of CEO Newman. Newman is not PR savvy as he has even called me a “disgrace to my profession” and in an e-mail following an article on the Mississippi Miracles said that I “must have failed your (Being mine) journalism ethics classed in college. Many e-mails have been posted on various websites by fans in which Newman calls fans names, degrades them, and attempts to humiliate them. Combined with the fact that Newman does not put any real news about the league on the ABA website, by his own doing, he is helping to ruin the reputation of the organization.

Newman has said that he wants the league to have 100 teams and for it to be the largest professional sports league in the country. If Newman continues to expand the league by simply taking a check, or a promise, and not conducting any sort of due diligence on prospective owners, he will not come close to that number. Like I said earlier, Newman takes the check and that is about it. According to multiple current and former owners, bank records are not checked, background checks are not done, nor is it even checked to see if a team has a venue in which to play. If the first check clears, you are in; it appears that plain and simple.

The latest in the ABA’s line of problems are the lawsuits that have been filed by the Jaloza group seeking control of the ABA. It has been found by a jury that the ABA and CEO Newman were in violation of an agreement in which he (Newman) avoided repaying a debt to the group. Contained within the agreement was a stipulation where Newman would make the Jaloza group partners in the ABA. In turn, Newman then moved the ABA into another shell company, avoiding having to fulfill his obligations to Jaloza. The decision could end up costing the ABA its license, and force ABA teams to cease and desist using the ABA.

The ABA has tremendous potential with the low cost of tickets, and the accessibility fans have to the players and coaches. The Vermont Frost Heaves proved that this season as they turned out fans in droves to the Barre Auditorium and to their second home in Burlington. This potential can only be reached by all of the teams if in my opinion CEO Newman listens to those who surround him. He has to relinquish some of the power he has and has to trust those with ideas that will improve the league. No longer can Mr. Newman have a set of rules and not enforce them. If he does not enforce the regulations Mr. Hester has suggested, this is a league that will not be around in the next two seasons. All of the bad press, what press there is, will increase, and the fans will no longer continue to support a league that says they will do one thing and then does another.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Where Are the Monsters Fans?

Has anyone noticed that the Vermont Lake Monsters are off to their best start in years? How about that Bill Rhinehart is leading the league in RBI and their middle infield has been solid, and their hitting has been timely? Too bad others haven't seemed to notice this.

In checking attendance figures, and being at a couple of games this season, the numbers are down despite the fact the Lake Monsters are playing as well as they are. Average attendance right now is 2,556 fans per game. Historically, I am not exactly certain as to if that is much lower than in previous years, but there just don't seem to be as many fans at games as there were this time last season.

I have a couple of theories on this. First of all, fans just don�t seem to believe that this team is for real. We have suffered through many long summers where the Monsters/Expos have been terrible, and their strong start is just a dream. Where they think it is a dream, they go back to sleep and back into the former reality of Vermont not being a good ball club.

My second theory is that fans have become so jaded that they think the strong start will be followed by a 14 game losing streak in which C.J. and the staff go back to the days of sleeping in the dugout until the losing streak is snapped. They must think that if the Monsters are doing well and they support the team, then they start losing that being at the games actually jinxed our beloved Lake Monsters.

I would like to say that I think the fans are scared of Champ, and that fans fear one of these days he is going to eat some poor child for lunch, but this is not the case. I spoke with Champ the other day and he told me there is no way possible he would ever eat a child. There just isn't enough meat on their bones, and munching on opposing players and umpires is more appetizing and pleasing to the palate.

People!! Listen up!! This is a good team the Nationals organization has put together. Now that Major League Baseball is no longer in control of the team, there is more of an emphasis on winning, and not just on player development. Look at the fact there are first and second round draft picks on this club. Look at the fact that Darnell Coles, an 18 year Major Leaguer with a World Series ring is running the team. How about Boomer Whiting who stole 73 bases this season with Louisville. 73 bases is just unreal!! He is worth the price of admission right there.

Get out there and support this team as they are good. Fill the stands, cheer these guys on, and enjoy some of the best baseball this area has seen in years. See you at the game tonight.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Hot Dog Eating Record Set....Yuck

Well, there was some good sports that happened over the Fourth of July. The Sox won, the Yankees lost, the Mountaineers pulled one out, and a new speed eating record was set. Yes folks, for some reason, we now call speed eating a "sport".

On the fourth, in the annual Fourth of July hot dog eating slopfest at Coney Island, Joey Chestnut broke a world record by chomping down 66 hot dogs in 12 minutes. Yes, you read that correctly; some glutton ate more hot dogs in 12 minutes than I do in five years. My question is, why in the world do we glorify how much someone can eat?

Have you all seen people walking in the streets these days? I swear, the average person I see has enough fat and goo on them to make a whale feel jealous. These are people who don't know the meaning of exercise, and their idea of a diet is to cut down to three trips to Burger King a day. I actually heard someone say, "Well, I am drinking a Diet Coke, so the pizza I am eating for lunch today balances things out." Are you serious??

One of the major health problems in the US today is obesity. People are exercising less and eating more in one day than most people eat in a week. Obesity leads to heart disease, diabetes, back problems, and countless other medical issues. To many, exercise is going from the couch to the fridge for another gallon of ice cream. Now I will admit, I don't get to the gym much due to my excuse for a knee, but, before I do a game, I walk the field at least once, and when I do Mountaineers games, I shag flies and catch for Manager Russo when he is hitting fungos. Is it enough? No, it isn't, but I do what my body is capable of on a certain day. I also do push ups and situps to compensate for the fact I can't do much because of my knee.

Am I tooting my own horn here? No, but I am pointing out that exercise and a decent diet is possible. To my original point, we are glorifying excessive eating as a "sport" when obesity is a major problem, and is bordering on a health epidemic. I can just see some 450 pound guy walking down the street, talking about Joey Chestnut and his 66 hot dog feat. "Hey Martha, now there is a sport I can do. I will train hard. I will eat and eat and eat until I can eat no more. I want to be just like him and I shore will be famous!!" "You do that Harry, and I will make sure I take on another job to pay the medical bills when your heart explodes so bad that George Bush thinks Vermont was the victim of a terrorist attack."

People! Stop eating! Coney Island and everyone else, stop promoting over-eating!! We have a problem on our hands that is draining the health care system of resources and is adding to our already skyrocketing insurance premiums. We are not sending a good message here. We are promoting gluttony and bad health.

Off to eat my apple for breakfast now.......

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Never Annoy the Broadcaster While He is on the Air

In the past year or so in the who knows how many games I have done, I have encountered some strange things. I have seen 200 foot hockey goals, helmets being knocked off, and even a 6-3-4-2-6-5-2-6-7 double play. (Yes, I actually looked that up in my scorebook before writing this.) Never before though had I experienced what I did on Friday night down in Montpelier.

Now, to preface this just a bit, I was doing color for the Mountaineers/Keene game for our sister station ESPN 1240 WSKI in Montpelier. Kyle Doreau, the play-by-play guy, tends to refer to the "plate" as "the dish". At first I thought it was strange, but as time went on, I grew to enjoy the creativity and hearing something different. Well, there was a fan who doesn't really care for Kyle's choice of words. In between the second and third innings, a fan with a radio hiked up from his seat about two rows behind the plate, and actually yelled at Kyle, "It's the plate, not the dish you moron!!!" Kyle's jaw dropped, and I started laughing hysterically, almost to the point that I couldn't go back on air without somehow composing myself. This was like lighting a match to gasoline. We started having too much fun with that guy's comments.

Out of the break, I made a comment that Curt Smith really needed to be more patient at THE DISH. Also, that the home plate umpire was calling way too many pitches that were off THE DISH. The whole thing then spiraled from there. All of a sudden, the ball was a sphere, the mound was the hill, the base was the bag, and when someone broke a bat, that turned into, "Well, it looks like Cather shattered his piece of lumber and he now needs a new stick." In around the fourth inning, we dubbed the game "Synonym night at the ballpark."

It got worse. The wall was the fence, Manager Russo was "Skipper Russo", and we went on and on. It got so bad that the fan who yelled at Kyle shut off his radio and watched the game in peace. Other fans though were roaring at our diatribe, and after the game a few came up to me and offered other suggestions for terms we could use. The bullpen should be the "warmup area", a bat boy is now a "Small child who carries bats", (Thanks to Jason in Montpelier for that one.) and I got a couple of other ones e-mailed to me, but of course now I can't find them.

Lesson to fans. Don't yell at us for what we say on the air unless we get our facts wrong. I was REALLY tempted to yell at the guy to come into the booth, do our job, and then let us rail on him, but thankfully the brain stopped the mouth before any damage could be done. I think the guy would have pulled a Wally Backman on us and destroyed the booth.....Yes, if you give us ammunition, we will use it.

This public service announcement is brought to you by sportscasters everywhere.