Jan 19, 2011 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Normal, for me, is no one else’s normal. Which is as it should be for the human race, for normalcy, while always looked for by those in various amounts of adversity, can be quite dull.
With that as a starting point, my last month of Saturday mornings was anything but normal. One was Christmas, one was New Year’s Day, and the next two of them featured laundry runs, story writing and other myriad chores.
What they didn’t include, though, was driving through the snow and muck to a climate-controlled studio, putting on headphones and talking to Central New York about the high-school sports scene. And that slowly was driving me mad.
Well it’s all good now, for at 9 a.m. this Saturday the “Onondaga Community College Inside High School Sports Show” roars back to life on ESPN Radio – 97.7 and 100.1 on the FM dial, 1200 and 1440 on the AM dial.
Mike Bristol’s creation, a novelty at the time in launched in 2000, is now the area’s longest-running locally produced sports radio program. As with many other good things, my involvement in Bristol’s noble enterprise never was planned – but now it’s an essential and enjoyable part of my crowded weekly routine.
Way back when, it was terrifying stuff. Unaccustomed to going on the air in any broadcast medium (save for a cup of coffee at WAER in my Syracuse University days), I would fret for days before making that Saturday phone call into WHEN for my allotted segment.
When that worked out, and the decision was made to bring me into the studio as Bristol’s co-host, the cycle repeated itself – initial apprehension, followed by gradual assimilation and, ultimately, a real comfort level of doing the program.
Anyone that is a regular listener of the program cannot begin to comprehend the real, sweaty and stressful work involved putting together. Bristol deserves most of the credit, of course, because he founded it, owns it, lines up a long list of wonderful sponsors and markets the brand, which is a full-time task by itself.
Freed from that burden, I tend to the smaller task of lining up the content – topics, guests, award-winners and other miscellaneous items. That quest lasts the full week, though, for the trick is to have different people spotlighted in each show and not repeat things. That takes research and patience – and a bit of groveling, perhaps.
When it works, it’s an absolute delight, topics flowing from one to another, good-natured banter from hosts and guests alike, and a smooth-sounding program as long as the technical aspects (half of which I don’t understand) are under control. A good producer always helps, and we’ve had a few.
Such was the case when we did our last show Dec. 18. A holiday break was forthcoming, but just three days later WHEN dropped its sports-based format, and suddenly we were orphaned, a status that would take a long, cold, maddening month to resolve.
Looking back, the move was inevitable. No matter how much we prepared, some technical gremlin in the studio would throw us off balance, and no real moves were made to fix it in the weeks leading up to the format switch. It turns out we needed a place that appreciates our presence, and doesn’t treat us like a nuisance.
So it is with ESPN Radio. Yes, I’ve spent a lot of time in this space blathering about the excesses of the self-proclaimed “Worldwide Leader”, but you’ve got to agree that the ESPN brand is golden, the biggest in American sports. So any connection to it, however small, is crucial to our long-term survival.
Not only that, but the station’s owners, Galaxy Communications, also broadcast the Syracuse University football and basketball games on both its FM and AM stations. This means we’re in the same family as the most important events in Central New York sports, which has to help.
It’s funny how a life and career can evolve. Once, I was quite one-dimensional, writing and covering events but doing little else. Now, broadcasting, and all the little bells, whistles, delights and headaches that go with it, are ingrained in my conscience – and might end up as my final calling if I’m not too careful.
It’s no stretch to say that, had Mike Bristol not made that inquiry a decade ago and pulled me into the small orbit that is the “Inside High School Sports” show, I may have drifted away from this place. Doing this has further entrenched me in Central New York, which brings a lot of snow – but also a fair amount of joy, too.
And I’ve climbed back to that Saturday routine -waking up early (like every other day), brushing of teeth, shaving, shower, breakfast, and then driving to a studio to join Mike Bristol. Now that feels just right.