January 31, 2007
HOUSTON — In 1965, this city inaugurated the Astrodome as the world's first domed stadium. Promoters billed the structure as the Eighth Wonder of the World.
Initially, the roof was made of clear plastic and the playing surface was real grass. But eventually, the host Houston Astros painted over the plastic panes to reduce the glare. That killed the grass, of course, and led to a Monsanto invention: an artificial grass covering called Chemgrass.
The artificial surface at the Astrodome became so famous that it became dubbed AstroTurf and Monsanto even officially renamed its product. Forty years later, the sports world has better synthetic surfaces available and no stadium uses AstroTurf anymore.1
Anyway, the Astrodome is still standing — just like the Great Pyramid of Giza. But it looks nearly as old, especially standing next to the state-of-the-art Reliant Stadium. Seeing it in person for the first time (although only from the outside), I was disappointed.
1My 5th grade year-end project was on artificial turf. I surveyed about 15 college coaches on which surface they preferred. At the time, the current artificial turf boutique consisted of only a few choices, and Tartan Turf and AstroTurf were the industry leaders. For more on this report, see my mom's family publications cabinet.
January 30, 2007
HOUSTON — The Menil Collection wouldn't let me take pictures of anything inside its vast gallery. So I can't share images of Don Flavin's neon light installation. Or the Rothko Chapel, which is filled with black paintings that Mark Rothko completed just before dying.
However, I can mention this: While leaving the museum and heading back into the pretty Montrose neighborhood, I realized for the first time that trees in Houston lose their leaves for the winter.
(Besides the 5 million people who live in the metro area.)
January 29, 2007
HOUSTON — It has come to my attention that Exxon used to be known as the Humble Oil & Refining Co.
I have no further comment.
January 28, 2007
HOUSTON — The Republican Party has lost control of the House and the Senate, but it can take solace in my itinerary today:
Depart: Ronald Reagan National Airport
Arrive: George Bush Intercontinental Airport
In fact, I am typing this post about a mile away from George Bush Park.
(I did drive today on the Lloyd Benson Highway. But I know airports. Airports are friends of mine. And you, senator, are no airport.)
January 26, 2007
Bonnie Bernstein resigned from her job at CBS with three years still remaining on her contract. She told me, over e-mail, that her decision was due in part to the network's "minimalist philosophy toward sideline reporting."
She added that she resurfaced at ABC/ESPN because the Disney-owned networks are giving her a "much more expansive" role.
Bernstein took the high road when asked about Lisa Guerrero's career path from NFL cheerleader to Monday Night Football sideline reporter, saying that a strong journalistic background "certainly isn't the only way to get to the top."
Below is our full conversation:
What day do you arrive into town for a weekend game?
For Saturday college games, we usually get to the game site on Thursdays. For Sunday NFL games, we get in Friday and visit with the home team's players and coaches, then set up a meeting room at the visiting team hotel for Saturday afternoon when they arrive.
When do you find out which games you'll be doing the following week?
Advance notice on games varies. But we'll usually get a heads up a week or two ahead of time.
You were reportedly upset at CBS because you were "frustrated over the network's philosophical approach to the sideline reporter's role." How have things changed for you at ABC/ESPN?
Making the decision to leave CBS was one of the toughest things I've ever had to do, because my bosses and colleagues there were some of the most wonderful people on our business. As much as they encouraged me to say, though, I've always been the type of person who needs to grow and constantly set higher goals for myself, and with the network having a somewhat "minimalist" philosophy toward sideline reporting, I was at a bit of a standstill.
Does ABC/ESPN have a better approach?
My college football producer at ABC is a huge advocate of sideline reporters and values our contributions, so my role with the telecast is much more expansive than my position at CBS! Additionally, I have had some terrific hosting opportunities over at ESPN and I'm hoping my role in that regard with continue to expand.
You are a Magna Cum Laude graduate of the University of Maryland and a member of the Board of Directors for that school's journalism program. How do you feel about the route taken by other sideline reporters Erin Andrews (University of Florida dance team) or Lisa Guerrero (Los Angeles Rams cheerleader, actress on Aaron Spelling's "Sunset Beach")?
Unfortunately, I'm not really familiar with their backgrounds, so it's hard for me to comment on the paths they have taken. All I can speak to is the decisions I have made along the way. Since I realized my desire to be a sports journalist at a very early age (3rd grade or so), I designed a route I thought would give me the best shot at reaching my desired destination: I competed in several sports (soccer, track & field, gymnastics), spent a good chunk of time as a kid watching game broadcasts, wrote sports articles for my high school paper, worked for the University of Maryland's radio and TV stations and did several internships in college I felt would help me prepare me for a career in journalism.
I was very, very fortunate it all worked out. But I realize my way certainly isn't the only way to get to the top, and that each individual has his or her own philosophy on finding success.
What is your advice to journalism students who want to become a sideline reporter?
Be willing to move anywhere in the country to take your first job. Never take an opportunity for granted. Always try to be the most prepared and thorough person on gameday!
(Click here for a follow-up interview with Bonnie Bernstein in which she talks about her eclectic hat collection and what she thought of the Bobbi Bernstein character on Aaron Sorkin's Sports Night.)
January 25, 2007
January 24, 2007
January 22, 2007
While running an errand earlier today, I ran into an anti-abortion rally protesting Roe v. Wade on the 34th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision.
There was something odd about seeing social conservatives1 take to the streets carrying protest signs and using 1960s-era boilerplate chants. I guess there's really only one way to chant, so if it means borrowing from anti-war hippies and adjusting a few words, then fine.
"Hey-hey, ho-ho, Roe v. Wade has got to go!"
"What do we want? Life! When do we want it? Now!"
1I have a hard time using the term "conservative" in this sense, since the definition of that word (favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change) would seem to oppose the idea of reversing settled law. A true conservative ought to oppose change and not favor a so-called radical judiciary.
January 21, 2007
My 10th-grade Spanish teacher was Nancy Risser (Señora Risser to me).
Among her skills was the ability to smell watermelon gum three classrooms away. She hated watermelons, you see. Students caught chewing watermelon-flavored gum had to go down the hall to another room to dispose of it.1
Frequently, she told us stories about "mi esposo Fred."
For the last 50 years, Fred has been a state senator. This month, he became the longest-serving state legislator in the nation. Congratulations, "mi esposo Fred"!
1This situation seemed to come up an awful lot, despite the fact that watermelon is not a particularly common flavor for gum.
January 19, 2007
A few years ago, the NFL moved the Superbowl into February to coincide with TV ratings "sweeps" that take place in February, May, July and November.
As long as they've gone that far, though, they ought to put the game on the Sunday before Presidents Day for those who would like to party hard and sleep in the next day.
January 18, 2007
Lost in the news about Michael Vick's bizarre Aquafina incident at the Miami Airport was this tid-bit:
He flew AirTran.
I wonder if he is an AirTran A-Plus Elite-Level Status member like me.
I first heard the song "How To Save A Life" by The Fray as the background music to a high-tension scene of Scrubs on April 25, 2006. I've seen that episode a few times, so for me the song is tied to the moment on Scrubs when Dr. Cox blames himself for the death of his transplant patients.
I didn't hear the song again until September, when it popped up on Adam's iPod on a road-trip. It was part of the Grey's Anatomy1 soundtrack, and indeed the song had aired on the ABC show a full month before being on Scrubs. When the song came on in Adam's car, I said (out loud, unfortunately) how excited I was to hear it.
Oh, how embarrassed I am to tell that story.
I don't even really listen to the radio that much these days. Yet for the last month I've heard that song an average of 75,000 times per day. For example, 107.3 WRQX-FM — the one station that my bedroom clock radio is able to tune in — does not seem ashamed to play it three times per hour. Three times per hour!
I'm currently in damage-control mode on this song, which means trying desperately not to listen to it for awhile so that I can wait to re-evaluate whether I actually like it.
1For reasons that are funny only to me, I call this program Greg's Anthony.
January 16, 2007
I spent the evening of April 15, 1987, watching a baseball game with my dad.
Unfortunately, my bedtime fell as the game entered the later innings. When my mom poked her head into the TV room to make sure I was headed to bed, Brewers pitcher Juan Nieves was on his way to throwing a no-hitter against the Baltimore Orioles.
Not wanting to jinx Nieves by mentioning the ongoing no-hitter (as is one of baseball's silly customs), I struggled to properly explain to my mom why I thought it was important that I stay up to see the last couple innings.
With two outs in the 9th inning, Robin Yount preserved the no-hitter by making a dramatic diving catch of a line drive hit by Orioles slugger Eddie Murray.
I was immediately whisked away to bed, thus it wasn't until almost 20 years later (when Fox Sports Net rebroadcast the game last night1) that I saw the blinking bulletin shown on the screen a few moments after the game ended, which read:
1Aha, a reason why I'm writing about this now.
2 Indeed 1987 remains one of the most magical baseball seasons of my life — perhaps the subject of another post.
January 15, 2007
Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
I choose to honor Dr. King by quibbling over punctuation.
We have Presidents' Day. And we have Veterans' Day. Yet it remains Martin Luther King Day (or MLK Day, for short), without an apostrophe.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all holidays should have consistent punctuation.
Presidents' Day/MLK's Day or Presidents Day/MLK Day!
January 14, 2007
But those aren't exactly high-level purchases.
Last week I saw something much more impressive: a vending machine in Concourse A of Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport that sells $349 iPods and iPod accessories.
Evidently the machine is doing quite well — it sells about $55,000 in iPod goods per month, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In fact, the woman in this picture purchased an iPod before boarding her plane.
January 12, 2007
On Dec. 16, SNL aired a funny-but-juvenile skit called "Dick In A Box" staring Justin Timberlake and SNL cast member Andy Samberg.
The problem, of course, is that no one watches SNL anymore.
But thanks to YouTube, the skit has been viewed over 11 million times.
A young woman from Philadelphia who calls herself "Bunny" has tried to one-up the Justin Timberlake performance with her own box-related ditty titled "My Box In A Box."
Bunny told me that Timberlake feels threatened by her version. She also said Donovan McNabb should remain the Eagles starting quarterback, no matter how well Jeff Garcia does. And she came up with a great idea for the USC Song Girls — they should make a video called "My Cans In A Can." Below is my full interview with Bunny:
Thanks for taking my questions, Bunny. If that is your real name. Which it isn't. Say, is your name Melissa Lamb?
That's my twin sister's name.
Justin Timberlake said he's not sure how he feels about your song. Do you think he feels threatened that people like your version better?
JT is very, very threatened. His sketch was OK but it was funnier the first time (when Mr. Show did it with 3 + 1 - 1) and the third time when I did it ;)
Do you think it was appropriate for Britney to show the world her box?
It must be nice to have your song played on the radio. And on YouTube. And on iPods. And cell phones. But how does that make you any money?
It's so cool people are listening to it! I heard today people are making ringtones out of it. And apparently they are playing it at college parties. But I'm making NO money on this thing. Thought I might make $ on Revver — but nobody really watched it there. And there's a tip jar on my site but it's been kind of empty lately. My Box is on eBay now.
What are you going to do with the money you make on this project?
Uh ... not really rolling in cash right now from this. But it's been fun. If I do make money, I'm going to shoot a new video! Of course!
What do you think you'll be doing in five years?
Yikes, I don't think that far in to the future. Trying to not get "boxed" in by a five-year plan.
What was your favorite box to open this past holiday season?
Well the Eagles win was fun.
If the Eagles beat the Saints on Saturday, do you think Jeff Garcia should become the permanent starter and not just a guy keeping Donovan McNabb's seat warm?
McNabb's our starter. The guy was on his way to league MVP when he got hurt. But it'd be great to hang onto Garcia next year.
Should the USC Song Girls put their butts in a box?
Hmmm, their cans in a can? Something tells me that might be a YouTube hit as well.
January 11, 2007
Last year I wrote that I'd like to see David Beckham, 31, finish his playing career in the United States before he's washed up. Today came word that Beckham will play stateside for the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Not that he had much choice. He isn't a starter for Real Madrid anymore, so his options are to return to a second-tier team in England or become a superstar in the United States.
January 10, 2007
The name, of course, reminds me Joe Lieberman's proud declaration that his presidential campaign had "Joementum" by finishing third in the race for third place in the 2004 New Hampshire primary (thus fifth place overall).
Interestingly, the topic of the unusual name is not listed as one of bank's most frequently asked questions. In any case, it's pretty simple: In 1908, the Fifth National Bank and the Third National Bank merged and became the Fifth Third Bank.
SARASOTA, Fla. — Folks who fail to yield to pedestrians while driving to Lido Key face a fine of $112.50.
I can totally see how they came up with that number.
I mean, a fine of merely $112 would be an insult to injured pedestrians worldwide. But setting the penalty at $113 would be an outrageous sign that the city is in the pocket of trial lawyers.
Tony Kornheiser reportedly earns $1.8 million for being a Monday Night Football announcer and $900,000 for co-hosting PTI. (I don't know what the Washington Post pays him for his "columnettes.")
Unfortunately, Kornheiser will return to the Monday Night Football role next year.
In December, Mike Wilbon signed a five-year extension with ESPN that gives the TV network priority over any conflicts with Wilbon's role at the Washington Post. Thus, we'll probably see fewer columns and more "columnettes" from him too.
In addition to PTI, Wilbon has become a full-time studio analyst for ABC's NBA coverage, including the NBA Finals.
January 09, 2007
This SJB-penned review of the film Volver mentions the play "La Casa De Bernarda Alba," which I haven't thought about since reading it for my high school Spanish class. (For a two-week span, that Federico García Lorca play was the central focus of my life — trying desperately to do well on the test for that book, I read the English version and watched the movie to make sure I understood the plot correctly.)
Anyway, I enjoyed Volver. But the film poses an important question about the Spanish people: Do they really kiss that loudly?
Years ago, I spent a month in a small village about an hour-and-a-half from Madrid. I quickly picked up the custom of greeting people with kisses to each cheek. However, I don't remember the kisses being quite as a loud as the smacks in Pedro Almodóvar's Spain.
January 08, 2007
SARASOTA, Fla. — I dislike the non-stop "crawl" that has been at the bottom of every news channel for the last five years. One of the reasons is that I can't stand the use of all-caps, which I find hard to read.
Last night, I found out there is hope for the future.
While watching the film Children of Men, I learned that the news crawl in the year 2027 does not contain all-caps.
My excitement at this discovery muted the discomfort at watching a movie portraying a world dissolving into anarchy and utter destruction.
January 06, 2007
SARASOTA, Fla. — It took us almost 12 hours to get here yesterday (flying, not driving), due mostly to an unexpected side-trip to Columbia, S.C., after our flight was diverted due to what Delta Airlines called an Act of God.
After finally landing in Florida, Catherine took us to the Utamaro Sushi Bar for dinner and then the 10:10 p.m. showing of "Casino Royale."
May we all have Catherine's energy when we're 88 years old. Heck, I'd settle for having her energy right now.
January 05, 2007
National Airport has improved the TV situation at Gate 15.
Not that the CNN Airport Channel really requires viewing on a fancy-pants flatscreen.
Anyway, it would have been nice to have had these screens for that Thanksgiving football game.
January 04, 2007
I didn't watch the Fiesta Bowl this year, which turned out to be one of the most exciting college football finishes of all time.
But this entry isn't about last-second heroics. Or the hook-and-ladder on 4th-and-18. Or Boise State's second successful use of the "Statue Left" play this season.
Instead, it's about how — after scoring the winning two-point-conversion in overtime — Boise State RB Ian Johnson ran through the endzone and proposed to his girlfriend, cheerleader Chrissy Popadics.
Popadics, who was wearing underwear at the time, might have found it more romantic to have heard the news from Johnson himself rather than Fox sideline reporter Chris Myers. (Go to the 1:06 mark in the video below.)
Perhaps this is why Fox uses Myers as a sideline reporter and not a war correspondent.
January 03, 2007
It seems that folks in Wisconsin use the term "grundy" (short for "undy-grundy") interchangeably with the slang "wedgie."
I haven't been able to learn where the term "grundy" comes from, although it's not hard to link playground bullies with the zombie supervillian Solomon Grundy of the Batman and Green Lantern series. Wikipedia tells us that the name Soloman Grundy came from the 1800s nursery rhyme of the same name, which itself came from the English culinary dish Salmagundi.
Since that's mostly useless background, let's just agree to call it a Rose Bowl.
Meanwhile, is anyone really surprised that Wisconsinites have a weird term for wedgie? These are the same people who call ATMs "time machines."1
1Actually, they are saying "TYME," an early banking network that stands for "take your money everywhere." TYME Corp. became the Pulse Network in 2004, but the damage was done — everyone who lived in Wisconsin the 1980s and 1990s still calls them Tyme Machines, leaving them as ripe for ridicule as elderly folks who refer to freezers as "ice boxes."
January 02, 2007
I've always thought USC cheerleaders were pretty classy (to the extent that such a classification is possible in the cheerleading world). They wear long-sleeved white turtlenecks, rather than the skimpy tops donned by most cheerleading teams.
But yesterday I discovered that a USC Song Girl named Megan Ramer doesn't wear underwear.
Britney Spears, are you responsible for this?
January 01, 2007
Today, the New York Times reported that Madison, Wis., is considering a plan to reduce the number of bars located downtown.
It seems the city's new crop of downtown residents don't like the all-too-regular incidents at bar time in which drunken idiots clog the streets and mark the territory with litter and bodily fluids.
Are people who move to downtown Madison actually surprised to find that students in a college town like to drink?
Maybe instead of shutting down bars, the city could demand that they help finance the obvious police burden of keeping the streets safe and clean.