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ArchiveFEBRUARY 2020


FEB. 27, 2015   THE NEW ORANGE

The Cleveland Browns are being ridiculed again.  This week, people have been joking about their announcement of a brand new logo (left) that’s only slightly different from their old one (right).

Notice the changes?  The font is stronger, which is a definite improvement.  Also, the helmet is a stronger color.  It used to be orange.  Now it’s red-orange, according to the Crayola terminology of my childhood box of 64 crayons.  Or according to the red-green-blue terminology of my computer monitor, it used to be 244-101-35 and now it’s 255-61-0.  That 255 is as high as the red component can get.

Another detail:  Because the team’s name is not the Red-Oranges but the Browns, they’ve painted the face mask brown.  As though anyone will notice.

I’m ancient enough to remember the days of black and white, when Cleveland’s games were televised across Ohio.  The Browns had a “brownie” mascot, and in the late 1950s their telecasts began with a few seconds of a cartoon featuring this good-natured little elf with the pointed floppy sacks on his feet.  Presumably the film played on a projector back at the originating station while an announcer proclaimed something like “The Cleveland Browns are on the air!”  There may have been a mention of a sponsor such as a Cleveland-brewed Carling beer.  “Hey, Mabel!  Black Label!  And now let’s kick off the action!”

The cute little animated brownie teed up his football, backed up a few steps, clenched his fists, stuck out his elbows, and came running towards us.  Like Lou Groza, he kicked the football directly toward us, not soccer-style but a straight-ahead kick.  The ball filled the screen, and at that moment the telecast cut to live video from the stadium.  Ah, the good old days.

To return to 2015, the Browns have made another logo update.  The old Dawg (right) appeared annoyed and determined, but the new version (left) is mean and vicious and snarling and red-orange and possibly rabid.

This illustrates a disturbing tendency to make sports logos as evil as possible.

While the long-established St. Louis baseball team's logo is a robust but peaceful vegetarian cardinal (lower right) with a bill adapted for eating seeds, the University of Louisville’s redder redbird (left) somehow has been given a raptor’s sharp beak and an angry Dawg’s snarling teeth.  (What birds have teeth?)  Even its toes are twisted in rage.  We seem to need our sporting symbols to display a killer instinct of unbridled aggressiveness.

That brings me to a recent quote from Stephen Hawking.

“The human failing I would most like to correct is aggression.  It may have had survival advantage in caveman days, to get more food, territory or partner with whom to reproduce.  But now it threatens to destroy us all.  A major nuclear war would be the end of civilization, and maybe the end of the human race.

“The quality I would most like to magnify is empathy.  It brings us together in a peaceful, loving state.”

Come on, people, now.
Empathize with the brownie.
Everybody get together!
Try to love one another
Right now.



At the end of the opera Pagliacci, the clown turns to the audience and proclaims: “La commedia è finita!”  And the curtain falls on a tragic scene.

In 2002, I mused about the two masks of drama.  Are we supposed to laugh at other comic characters who likewise eventually come to unfortunate ends?

See this month's 100 Moons article. 


FEB. 22, 2010 flashback   SHRINK AND WRAP

A couple of months ago, I was in Marion, Ohio, and bought a copy of the local daily newspaper.  The Marion Star still exists, but barely:  just ten small 11” by 22” pages, weighing only one ounce.  There were only five stories with local bylines, four of them by the same reporter.  There was just one local news photograph.  There was also an interesting correction.

The caption should have read:  Geavonni Troiano, 12, killed
his first deer, a seven-point buck, while hunting with
his step-father, Steve Ross . . .

When I see a correction notice, I try to imagine the incorrect original version.  Was the middle line missing?  I hope not.

A century ago, the Star was much greater.  Its publisher, Warren Harding, was on his way to becoming President of the United States. 

Then when I worked in Marion in the 1970s, the Star was a key resource for my work in the competing medium of cable TV.  In those days, futurists looked forward to the “paperless office.”  It appears that “paperless” is slowly becoming reality.

Today marks the end of my subscription to the paper version of Broadcasting & Cable.  From now on, its content will come to me courtesy of the Internet, not the postman.

I first read this weekly in 1966.  I found it in the offices of my college radio station, where we also subscribed to Billboard (covering the music business).  Both were oversized news magazines almost 11” by 14” in size.

Broadcasting, as it was called then, reported the business of radio and television, an industry that it grandly termed the Fifth Estate.  (In France, the three “Estates-General” were the clergy, the nobility, and the commoners.  In England’s Parliament, pointing to the press gallery, Edmund Burke said the newspapers should be considered the fourth Estate.  In America, Broadcasting said if that’s true, then 20th-century electronic media also should be granted Estatehood.)

In addition to the magazine, WOBC received the Broadcasting Yearbook — an annual the size of a phone book, two inches thick, five sections.  Here were listed all the AM, FM, and TV stations in the United States, with addresses, call signs, frequencies, sign-on dates, network affiliations, names of principal officers, and more.

The entry for our humble ten-watt station read, in part, “10 W.”  Next came our address, “Wilder Hall, Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio.”  Naturally, therefore, we got mail addressed to the non-existent “10 West Wilder Hall.”

A digest of FCC rules was part of the Yearbook.  In that era of student protest, some of my colleagues wanted WOBC to air editorials.  I found the reason why we couldn’t:  a prohibition against editorializing by noncommercial educational stations, in Section 399 of the Communications Act.

After leaving Oberlin for the real world in 1969, I felt disconnected from broadcasting, so I subscribed to Broadcasting.  (Occasionally I’d also order a Yearbook and browse through the data.)  Many of the articles weren’t really aimed at people like me.  They were more for the executive suite, with their talks of mergers and acquisitions and syndication rules and advertising buys.  But it was still interesting.

In recent years, however, the content of the printed magazine has dwindled.  Most weeks it’s now only 8½” by 11” and contains only 24 flimsy pages.  And virtually all of the content is available online, for free — in fact, more content than in the print version, where a box regularly lists other headlines and urges “Read these stories and more at www.broadcastingcable.com”.

How much would another year of the printed magazine cost me?  The annual subscription fee has now reached $214.99.

Bye-bye, Broadcasting & Cable.  After more than 40 years, it’s time to pull the plug and not renew my subscription.  I'm going paperless.


FEB. 19, 2020    MINI ROMNEYS

Here's a Romney booster, Heather Partridge.  (Nowadays she's Heather Partridge Oppenheimer, Oberlin College '71.)  We were once in the same foreign-language class.  In this picture, however, she was playing a role at Oberlin's 1968 Mock Republican National Convention, supporting Romney for President.  George Romney, that is — Mitt's father.

We TV folks used to call this a “minicam” because it was portable, though bulky.  It had to be carried on the operator's shoulder.

Recently I saw the photo below of Senator Mitt.  Apparently news video is now shot on smartphones!


The University of Pittsburgh men's basketball team has played six road games so far in 2020, and Craig Meyer of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has followed their fortunes.  He couldn't help noticing that the young Panthers start out cold every time.

The most glaring example came on January 25 at Syracuse.  To be fair, most visiting teams do have trouble finding the range in the huge Carrier Dome.  Pitt was no exception, shooting only 23% in the first half and falling behind by 11 points.  In the second half, their talent began to show as they made 54% of their shots and outscored the Orange by 3 points, but that wasn't enough to make up the difference.


I've graphed the field goal percentages for the last five road games, all losses.  Each blue column represents the first half (average 31%); each gold column, the second half (average 46%).  The numbers at the bottom are the point differentials.

One senses a trend.



FEB. 13, 2020    TRAVEL TIP

Pittsburgh comedian Bill Crawford had a gig in South Carolina this past weekend.  However, as he told us later on WDVE radio, severe weather disrupted flight operations.  He was stuck for many many many hours at the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, talking to American Airlines agents.

He could have rented a car and driven to his final destination, but because other travelers were in the same situation, no more cars were available.

I had a similar problem about 35 years ago at the Detroit airport.  Scheduled to connect via a late-afternoon commuter flight to South Bend, Indiana, 160 miles away, I discovered that the day's last flight to South Bend had been canceled due to fog.  And, of course, there were no rental cars available.  I was expected at dawn at Notre Dame's basketball arena.  I wouldn't be able to get there!

I went to a phone booth (remember them?) to call the office and give them the bad news, but then I had a bright idea.  Not all car rental offices are at the airport, especially in a big city.

Opening the Yellow Pages (remember them?) and looking up AUTOMOBILE RENTING, I phoned a nearby location.  Yes, they had cars.

I took a taxi there.  A few vehicles were parked outside a gas station.  I signed for one and soon was on my way west on I-94.

Last weekend, Bill should have called me for a suggestion.


FEB. 9, 2020    MEET JENNY

Letters that I filed away years ago include my correspondence with this sweet young lady.  In the final weeks before I graduated from college, a mutual acquaintance urged us to have a “fling.”  We didn't, but we kept in touch for years afterward.

I've edited highlights of those letters into a four-chapter retrospective, beginning this month with Jennifer: Introduction.



The Super Bowl is over.  Are you ready for some more football?

Vince McMahon's 2001 “XFL” has been reborn to play in February, March, and April.  The first four games among the eight teams will take place this weekend.

I'm reminded of a similar venture that also played in the spring, the United States Football League.  It managed to operate for three seasons (1983-85).

But then it folded due to financial difficulties and the greed of one of the team owners, Donald Trump (“I have the best Generals”).  The story of his ill-fated lawsuit against the NFL is here.

RFK Stadium
April 4, 1984

I worked on the TV crew for two USFL games in 1984, televising them back to the teams' home cities:  the Oklahoma Outlaws at the Washington Federals, and the Pittsburgh Maulers at the Jacksonville Bulls.

Only one of the teams (the Federals) had existed in 1983, and only one of the cities (Jacksonville) would still have a team in 1985.  There would be no league in 1986.

Yes, the USFL lived for only three seasons.  It was short-lived.

Gator Bowl Stadium
June 22, 1984

It lived but was short-lived.  I always thought those two words ought to rhyme, but they didn't until recently.

Although the i in the first word is short, the i in the second word was traditionally pronounced long, so that “short-lived” rhymed with “derived.”  I speculate it was originally “short-life'd.”

Let us consider the works of William S. Gilbert.  According to his stage directions at the climax of Gilbert and Sullivan's 1879 operetta The Pirates of Penzance, “a struggle ensues between Pirates and Police.  Eventually the Police are overcome and fall prostrate, the Pirates standing over them with drawn swords.”  Refusing to yield, the Police Sergeant sings:

To gain a brief advantage, you've contrived,
But your proud triumph will not be long-lived!

I recall this couplet to remind myself of the correct long-i pronunciation, at least according to the standards of 141 years ago.

However, nowadays the short i is more common, so that “short-lived” rhymes with — well, with nothing, really, except “lived” and “outlived” and the adjective for a criminal's stabbing victim, “shivved.”  So there.


FEB. 2, 2010 flashback   CANDYGRAM

I had finally learned to tolerate the land shark, and now it has disappeared.  The stadium where the Super Bowl will be played Sunday has been renamed yet again.

I’m reminded of last Sunday.  On The Simpsons, Homer and Bart were treated to a private concert by Coldplay, held in Springfield’s “Naming Rights Available Arena.”

Since the venue for Super Bowl XLIV opened in 1987, it has been known as Joe Robbie Stadium, Pro Player Park, Pro Player Stadium, Dolphins Stadium, Dolphin Stadium, and Land Shark Stadium.  Now, for the next five years, it will be Sun Life Stadium.

Seven names in the 28 years between 1987 and 2015?  A new name every four years, on average?  We don’t always change Presidents that often.  

“It's nothing more than an example of the greed of the American private owner,” according to Richard Davies, a sports historian at the University of Nevada, Reno, speaking to the Associated Press.  “It reflects the greatly intensified commercialization of American sports.”

At least “Sun Life Stadium” sounds appropriate for sunny, lively South Florida — that is, until you learn that Sun Life Financial is a Canadian company.  There’s not much sun (or life?) in Toronto this time of year.

Even in Miami, there hasn’t been as much sun as usual this week.

A big square lid to protect the fans from the rain was part of a stadium renovation proposal announced four weeks ago.  The Dolphins hope the improvements will help attract future Super Bowls to  Joe Robbie  Pro Player  Dolphin  Land Shark  Sun Life Stadium.

But where will the money come from?  No one knows.  Maybe Wham-O Frisbees can sponsor the roof.

2019 UPDATE:  When the canopy was completed, Sun Life's deal had expired into the sunset, and for 6½ months the building bore yet another new name:  New Miami Stadium.

Then in August of 2016 the Dolphins did, in fact, resell the naming rights — not to Wham-O but to Hard Rock Cafe Inc., which paid $250 million to display its logo on the stadium for the next 18 years, including Super Bowl LIV.

"Land Shark Stadium" is just a distant memory, having survived only eight months in 2009.