Sunday, July 1, 2012

Making Something out of Nothing

  At work on Wednesday I didn’t have any meetings or phone calls so I could just sit at my desk and program. The cubicles in my workplace are arranged so we can ‘collaborate’. I can turn around and see the other 3 people in my cubicle block. This would be great except that while I hardly ever collaborate I can hear everyone else around me collaborate. I get easily distracted, so I normally put earplugs on and listen to my amazing iPod. Sometimes I’ll listen to the Des Moines sports radio station KXNO using the iHeart Radio application, but most of the time I’ll listen to music from the Rhapsody music service I subscribe to. I listen to a lot of different music but this past week I’ve been listening to one of my favorites (along with Johnny Cash), John Lennon. There are some things I hear from his music that I violently disagree with (‘Imagine there’s no heaven’…’God is a concept by which we measure our pain’), but I find so much more in his music that captures a lot of the way I see the world (‘Everybody’s talking but no one says a word’, ‘There’s room at the top they’re telling you still, but first you must learn to smile while you kill’) that I never get tired of listening. It may not be timeless music but it’s my times music.

  On this Wednesday afternoon I didn’t listen to music or sports radio because the Yankees were playing a rare day game (against the Cleveland Indians). Thanks to my radio package, I can listen to any baseball game on the internet so I could listen to the Yankee broadcast in WCBS in New York. The big news before the game was Yankee ace pitcher C.C. Sabathia going on the disabled list with a strained groin. After taking a 2-1 lead into the 5th inning of the game starting pitcher Andy Pettitie got hit by a line drive oand left the game which was determined later to be a broken leg. That allowed Yankee broadcasters John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman free leave to discuss how the Yankees would patch up their starting pitching during the dull spots that occur in even the tensest baseball games. The Yankees managed to squeak out a 5-4 win with the Indians having the bases loaded before finally making the last out. It was a great game to listen to not the least because of the outcome.

  Once the Yankee game was over at 3pm, I saw that the Mets were beating the Cubs by a score of 16 to 1 in the 7th inning. I decided to listen in on the Cubs broadcast because broadcasters will talk about anything to avoid talking about the game when their team is losing 16 to 1. The Cubs, who are on their 104th season without a world championship and 68th year without even a world series appearance are spending this season battling the San Diego Padres for the worst record in baseball with 28 wins against 49 losses in their first year under the stewardship of Theo Epstien, the former Boston Red Sox boy genius who was hired away to run the Cubs this past winter. I picked up the game in the top of the 7th inning and play by play man Pat Hughes was talking with Jane Lynch, one of the stars of the TV show ‘Glee’ (which I have never watched, thank you). Lynch was going to sing ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ during the 7th inning stretch and talked about how thrilled she was and how nervous she was about getting the words right since other celebrities have been skewered for not knowing the words to the song (like Ozzy Osbourne did here). Every so often, Hughes would mention if a Met player got a hit or made an out while Lynch was talking and then the inning was over. Lynch sang the song expertly and after some commercials, we were off to the bottom of the 7th. Hughes and his color analyst Keith Moreland talked a bit about how the rest of the game was still really important for the Cub players to ‘get in a good groove’ for future games and show management that they ‘belonged in the big leagues’. Then Hughes discussed Jane Lynch’s theatrical resume, noting she hosted the Emmy’s last year and was in the Three Stooges and also mentioned that she was an animal lover but failing to mention she is in a same sex marriage (I only bring this up because I bet they would have mentioned her husband if she had one).

  Since a Cub had actually reached base, the inning was still going on when Hughes was done with Jane Lynch’s resume, so he switched to telling us about ‘This date in Baseball History’ until the inning was over. Did you know that on June 27th, 1977 Willie McCovey became the first player to hit 2 home runs in an inning twice? Or that on the same day in 1982 the Atlanta Braves tied a major league record with 7 double plays in a 2-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds? Finally, the inning was over and we went to the 8th with the Mets still leading 16-1.

  In the top of the 8th, Hughes played selections from the late Ron Santo's CD in his series of Baseball’s Geatest Announcers. He played the Santo telling the story of how he couldn’t find his toupee and he wouldn’t leave the hotel room for the game without it until one of the broadcast gofers found it stuck to the bottom of his breakfast tray. By the time that story was over the Mets had 2 runners on and it looked like another big inning, so Hughes switched to baseball trivia and had one of the gofers ask him and Moreland questions. The first one was to see if they could name all 6 Boston Red Sox players who won the rookie of the year. Fred Lynn was identified, but then the Mets hit a double play and ended the inning after getting another run and we went to the bottom of the 8th with the score 17-1. Hughes and Moreland spend the rest of the game guessing all the Red Sox rookies of the year (missing the immortal Don Schwall’s 1961 award), but they were obviously milking the question. Every time they guessed a player that didn’t win the award, they’d spend a batter or so talking about how good they thought the player was and trying to figure out who won the award instead that year. Finally the game was over and the Cubs announcers proceeded with the day’s lowlights and were off the air in 15 minutes.

  Pat Hughes is one of the best baseball broadcasters around and Wednesday’s game was a great example why. There are only 60 major league radio broadcasting jobs around and almost every one of them is filled by a top professional who can make a tense 5-4 game sound exciting, but only the best of the best can fill in 90 minutes and can keep their listeners entertained during a 17-1 pasting as well as Pat Hughes did.

  Inspired by Pat Hughes, I had my own moment of making something out of nothing on Friday as I was heading to work. As I turned off the interstate onto the street where I work, I got stuck behind a driver education car that was going 5 miles an hour, putting their left turn signal on at every opportunity, and slowing to a stop before deciding to continue to the next street or driveway where a left turn could be made. I was only 4 blocks from work and it was taking forever, but I was listing to Travis & Tim on 1460 – KXNO (Des Moines sports radio) and they were having their Friday penalty box segment that allows the users to air their gripes by placing people in the ‘penalty box’. I called the show and ranted about the driver’s education car and put it in the penalty box as well as giving the make, model and license plate of the car. The hosts were giggling when I gave the license plate and told me I had to practice more assertive driving, so I honked my horn and they erupted in laughter (You can listen to it here at the 40 minute mark). I ended up winning a $20 gift certificate to a place called the ‘Chicken Coop’ for having the best penalty box call. I didn’t like getting stuck behind the only driver education car I’ve ever seen at 8am in Des Moines, but I’m happy to have turned the incident into $20 of chicken and I’ll toast student drivers everywhere when I’m eating the free meal they helped me get.