OCTOBER 5, 2022 PERSONNEL NUMBERS? TIME TRAVEL?
I've experienced confusion lately about NFL football.
I'm starting to hear of offenses employing 11 personnel. Of course, I reply; that's what the rulebook specifies. There should be eleven players on offense: five interior linemen, five eligible receivers, and one quarterback.
But then I hear about 10 personnel. We need to have another guy run out there, right?
And then I hear about 12, 13, 21, and 22 personnel! Those would be blatantly illegal, right? Too many men on the field?
No, it's been explained to me that the numbers should be understood as a pair of digits, shorthand for how many Running Backs and how many Tight Ends are in the formation. Any of the five remaining eligible receivers not accounted for are wideouts.
Some defensive coaches use flip boards to signal what personnel the opposition has in the huddle how many RBs and TEs so that their defenders can deploy appropriately.
Okay, I guess I get it. My old junior high school used 31 personnel in a T formation.
Now here's another problem. My living room has three televisions that can show me a Pittsburgh Steelers football game. But I prefer to listen to the familiar voices of the local radio announcing team. Can I bring one of the TVs into synchronization with the radio?
A tackle is made at the goal line, though I'm not aware of it yet. CBS sends the video to New York and then back to Pittsburgh. KDKA-TV encodes it digitally and transmits it to my antenna, which feeds TV set #1 in high definition. By the time my TV decodes the antenna's picture and shows it to me, the time is 13 seconds after the actual event (I'm guessing).
After another 12 seconds, cable television finally comes through, and TV set #2 shows me cable's SD (standard-definition) version of KDKA's picture. After another eight seconds, TV set #3 does the same for the HD version.
I'd like to synchronize the audio with one of my three versions of the video. However, my only time machine is the DVR in the cable box, and all it can do is further delay one of the cable versions (in orange). That would only make the mismatch worse.
I'm trying to learn to close my eyes while listening to the radio description, then open my eyes to watch cable's HD version 20 seconds later as if it's a replay of what actually happened almost a minute before. Or I can watch the antenna version, then listen to the radio replay just before the antenna shows me the next snap. Or I can give up and simply listen to the CBS announcers. It doesn't really matter. Either way, the Steelers usually lose.
OCTOBER 3, 2022 GOOD NEWS FROM NORTHERN OHIO
I attended a webinar this afternoon presented by three fellow alumni of Oberlin College & Conservatory:
They discussed the importance placed on African-American music as a beacon for freedom by two historic voices for emancipation: Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass (be watching PBS tomorrow night and the following Tuesday).
month Oberlin welcomed the largest incoming class in the school's
history, with 894 students enrolled! (At one time or another
there were 532 members of my own Class of 1969; 441 of us received diplomas.)
The applicant pool exceeded 10,000 also the largest ever.
The Class of 2026 boasts an exceptional weighted-average GPA of 4.0. The students represent 53 different countries and 42 states. Two-thirds come from public high schools, 29% identify as students of color, 13% plan to participate on Oberlin's athletic teams, and 8% are the first in their family to attend a four-year college.
We don't call these new students freshmen anymore, because 58% are freshwomen. The gender-neutral term is first-year students. Most have enrolled in the College of Arts & Sciences (88%), while the remainder are entering the Conservatory. There are 41 students in Oberlin's innovative Double Degree program, which could require a fifth year; for example, someone working towards both a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Music might be majoring in both environmental studies and violin.
Manuel Carballo, dean of admissions and financial aid, spoke to the new Obies. When we select a class, we look for students who will shine in and out of the classroom, who will challenge and support each other, and who, because of their unique experiences and backgrounds, will learn from each other and enrich our community, providing us the diversity of thought that is so special about the liberal arts experience. We know you are up to the task.
As my 31st season telecasting Major League Baseball draws to a close, last night for the first time I finally worked a no-hit game! The Pittsburgh Pirates were held without a hit by Homer Bailey of the Cincinnati Reds. This doesnt happen often; the last time the Pirates were victims of a no-hitter was in 1971, with Bob Gibson on the mound.
However, it isnt unusual recently for the Pirates to be held without a run. Theyve been shut out 14 times this year. The local team is now 76-81, last nights loss having clinched their 20th consecutive season of losing at least as many games as they won. That extends the record of futility the Pirates already held: in the history of the four major North American professional sports, 20 years is the longest streak ever without a winning season.
When you passively watch a no-hitter unfold on TV, in the late innings every out is a moment of high drama. Surprisingly, that wasnt my experience in the TV truck. We were too busy to think about it. We started to build a panel listing the Reds no-hitters (the most recent was a perfect game by Tom Browning against the 1988 Dodgers), had to deal with a technical problem, finished the panel, prepared the other graphics wed need after the last out, watched the final couple of fly balls, and the game was over.
Rachel Carson grew up in a farmhouse near Springdale, Pennsylvania, just five miles from where Im living now. Fifty years ago this week, she published Silent Spring, a book that that helped start the environmental movement by exposing the detrimental effects of pesticides like DDT.
As a teenager in Ohio, I had read glowing articles in Readers Digest and elsewhere reporting the wonderful benefits of pesticides. These chemicals were wiping out insect-borne diseases in Africa and increasing crop yields on farms everywhere. They were building a better world as part of the Green Revolution.
I resented the accusation that DDT was somehow evil. It seemed to me that Rachel Carson and her friends wanted to ignore the advances of science. She wanted to turn back the clock to a preindustrial age, when disease and starvation were rampant.
Since then, of course, Ive moved on to a more nuanced view of such matters. New inventions and discoveries have both advantages and disadvantages, and we have to weigh the good against the bad.
SEPTEMBER 26, 2022 WHAT'S ON MY MENU?
SEPTEMBER 22, 2022 STAGECRAFT
When Russian President Vladimir Putin talks with foreigners or even his own officials in the Kremlin, as in the February meeting below, he likes to keep them far away.
Putin wouldn't touch German Chancellor Olaf Scholz with a 10-foot pole. Instead, he isolated him at the far end of a 20-foot table. Was this for health reasons? From New York, Olga Khvostunova didn't think so; she surmised it's a power play to make his rivals uncomfortable.
SEPTEMBER 21, 2022 PACE OF BASEBALL
To keep basketball games moving, the NBA has a 24-second shot clock.
To keep football games moving, the NFL has a 40-second play clock.
But four years ago, I documented a baseball game that generated a play on the field (a hit, an out, or an error) only once every 244 seconds. That was twice as long as in the thrilling Bill Mazeroski classic.
Two years ago, according to Sports Illustrated, the sixth game of the 2020 World Series lasted 3:28. Strikeouts ended 42% of all plate appearances, and there were only 32 balls put into play one every 6½ minutes. Over the final half-hour, that action slowed to half speed, with two balls in play during 26 minutes.
Just last Sunday, the Pittsburgh Pirates required 3:29 to lose to the Mets, striking out 20 times. Twelve of those thrilling K's were contributed by the DH and the outfielders, who went a combined 0 for 14.
Major League Baseball knows it has a problem with its spectators getting bored. It would be nice if football-accustomed fans could see a fielder chasing a fair ball every 40 seconds, but that can't be legislated without getting rid of balls and strikes.
SEPTEMBER 19, 2022 DID I EVER TELL YOU THIS ONE?
When my retired neighbor visits his elderly mother, he often hears her relate the same old stories. However, most of us are loath to repeat ourselves, even once, lest others think us senile.
For example, I was watching a clip of Johnny Carson from his 22nd year as host of the Tonight show. He started to describe his first encounter with Red Skelton, but he prefaced it with a semi-apology: I may have told this on this show before, but....
Really, Johnny? Do you suppose that everyone watching remembers everything you've said since 1962?
I also listen to Omnibus, which has been producing two podcast episodes a week since 2017. Each is more than an hour long, and their 500th episode is due this Thursday. Occasionally Ken Jennings will say, I don't know whether we've mentioned this before on the podcast, but....
Really, Ken? Are you afraid of repeating something you may have said hundreds of hours previously?
Let us not fear to revisit our greatest hits.
SEPTEMBER 16, 2022 THIS SONG WOULD BE PERFECT!
The year was 1988, and I was traveling with the KDKA-TV broadcast crew for Pittsburgh Pirates games. Most of our telecasts were on the road.
Also that year, a supergroup calling themselves the Traveling Wilburys debuted. One of the more obscure cuts on their album was called Margarita.
I considered making a suggestion to our producer before our scheduled telecast from New York's Shea Stadium. With appropriate footage, the first four vocal lines of this tune (beginning about 70 seconds in) could open the show ... if there had recently been a brawl in the late innings of a home game back in Pittsburgh. Bob Dylan would sing:
Unfortunately that particular set of circumstances never arose.
A couple of decades later, Champollion began working on deciphering the symbols. He already knew ancient Greek, and he eventually recognized the hieroglypic cartouche for the royal name Ramesses.
Champollion went on to crack the rest of the code and compose an Egyptian grammar. The ability to read the ancient civilization's language led to a new scholarly discipline, Egyptology.
An anonymous blog poster asserts that science came into this world to save us from the original sin of believing in gods.
However, inspired by the fourth Gospel (in the left column below), I'd like to point out (in the right column) that scientific laws existed even before there were scientists to discover them.
SEPTEMBER 8, 2022 IN A HAZE
Mike White, who covers scholastic and local sports for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, last week wrote over 3,000 words about an old problem with modern challenges. Here's a condensation in under 700 words, with Mike's text excerpted in green.
Hazing incidents are being investigated at three high schools in Pennsylvania. Another team, Middletown High near Hershey, canceled its season because of sexual hazing incidents.
Mike talked with Donnie Militzer, the first-year high school football coach at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Coraopolis, PA.
"When I first started this year," said Militzer, "one of the first things I did was talk to the kids about things like hazing. I tried to explain the responsibility they have to the whole school community. Think about those schools where games were canceled because of hazing. That affects the cheerleaders, the band, the community. It would be crazy not to talk about this.
"One of the first questions a kid asked was, 'Coach, what is hazing?'"
Yes, what is it? Of the 3,000 words Mike wrote, 50 were "hazing. But he never really answered the kid's question. What are we talking about?
The word's origins do lie in getting wet. In 1840, Richard H. Dana described in Two Years before the Mast how a ship's captain would assert his authority by forcing his crew to do pointless work in bad weather. All hands were called to come up and see it rain, and kept on deck hour after hour in a drenching rain ... picking old rope to pieces. ...This is what is called hazing a crew, and working their old iron up.
Hazing nowadays generally refers to an initiation ritual forced on newcomers by older members of the group. The perpetrators are demonstrating their dominance by humiliating, degrading, abusing, or even endangering the newbies. This has been going on for centuries, as attested by Leipzig University's 1495 Statute Forbidding Any One to Annoy or Unduly Injure the Freshmen. Even further back, John the Baptist symbolically washed away converts' old lives by pretending to drown them.
Mike probably was hesitant to encourage the practice by suggesting how to do it, but later on he did mention some examples over the years: shaving the heads of freshmen, making them carry the equipment in after practice, taping them to a pole in the locker room. Then during preseason practices last month,
According to Middletown's superintendent Chelton Hunter, players used their cellphones to video "a group restraining two of their teammates and using a muscle therapy gun and another piece of athletic equipment" to poke their buttocks.
Then more video surfaced of another incident. Hunter canceled the season.
Can't the coaching staff prevent this? Mike White himself coaches junior high basketball, and he knows he can't be everywhere at all times for example, in the shower room.
There is no part of me that believes I should sit in the locker room while players get dressed. That's creepy. All it takes is for one of those players or their parents to go to the school administrators and say, "Coach watches me when I undress and I don't like it."
It all comes down to the fact that when adults aren't watching, adolescents enjoy horseplay and playing pranks. And those sometimes get out of hand.
These hazing incidents also show what trouble cell phones cause in high schools. Many coaches, teenagers and administrators have told me over the past few years that cell phones are the biggest problem in schools these days. Kids just don't get it sometimes. Some think nothing of putting out harmful videos on social media.
Scott Seltzer, the new executive director of the WPIAL, said, "Studies have shown young male brains aren't fully developed until maybe 25 or 26 years old. They can't foresee consequences. You sometimes ask a kid why they did something and they don't know why."
"As my wife's mother used to always say, you can't put an old head on a young kid," said Mapletown coach George Messich.
So, Mike, is the situation getting worse? Or better?
But as evidenced by the cases in Pennsylvania recently, it's disheartening to say hazing will still rear its ugly head again here and there. Because of the kids.
LABOR DAY, NOT MILITARY DAY
Is our nation obsessed with getting our way by force? Jim Wright, a retired US Navy Chief Warrant Officer, has written about our mindset under his nom de tweet of Stonekettle. A few excerpts:
Ive visited every state except Alaska. Ive also visited five Canadian provinces, the United Kingdom, South Korea, and Japan.
Ive worked on televised sports events in 47 of those 57 places (all except Arkansas, Idaho, Montana, New Brunswick, New Mexico, North and South Dakota, Nova Scotia, Vermont, and Wyoming, where I was merely a tourist).
A dozen years ago, a typical September would find me in an airport as many as five days a week, flying to various cities for baseball and football telecasts on Fox Sports Net and Fox Family Network and FX.
Around the turn of the century, however, all those Fox national cablecasting contracts went to other networks, and I was free to work closer to home.
Ive been very fortunate. Ive become the crewers first choice when they need a local Duet operator for several professional teams: the Pittsburgh Pirates, Penguins, Steelers (preseason only), and Power (arena football). And when there are separate telecasts for the home team and the visitors, I get to work on the home telecast with familiar faces. Im also the crewers first choice for high school football games and for college games at Pitt, Duquesne, Robert Morris, Saint Francis of Pennsylvania, and California of Pennsylvania.
I also occasionally get calls for events outside the Pittsburgh area, but with enough work here at home, I generally turn those down unless theyre within driving distance. For practical purposes that means between Cleveland and Harrisburg, although for past assignments Ive driven as far as Chicago in one direction and Long Island in the other.
last time I was on an airplane was five years ago today! And
as I have attained the age of 65½, its possible I might
never have to visit an airport again.