Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Newspaper Demise

No, this is not another post ripping on the Erie-Times... although, from what I've seen lately, the Times, like most other print newspapers is probably hurting. I think I read something a month ago about some layoff/early retirement packages being offered to a certain percentage of the staff. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I came across an article on the more general state of the newspaper industry, which detailed how much newspaper advertisting, in particular, classified advertising, was down, and how this was putting print papers across the country in jeopardy. The article did say, however, that smaller town papers were doing better than large metropolitan dailies.

Having worked for a few small town papers back in the day, I have always maintained an interest in the "community newspaper." Even back in the early '90s, we realized our main competition was national/international news outlets - and this was before the Internet. So, at the time, we countered by covering as much local as possible. After all, when I worked in Greenville, PA, papers were about the only source of local news, as the closest TV station was across the stateline in Youngstown... So, you can imagine my shock, when I happened to be passing through Greenville on Saturday, picked up a copy of the Record-Argus, and found the whole thing filled with AP articles. I mean the whole thing. Did they fire the editorial staff because it was too expensive? Were they all just on XMas vacation? I couldn't even find a name on the masthead to contact.

I have no idea what the purpose is of a rag filled with AP copy - maybe just a wrapper for some local advertising - but I was truly dismayed by this development. A piece of my past had suddenly disappeared. Unless I find out that issue was an anamoly, I can never again dream about going back to the simpler days of covering high school wrestling matches, or sitting in the sun enjoying a spring afternoon track meet, taking in the local gossip, and preparing my evening copy in my head....

I wonder if the people of Greenville feel the same way. Do they feel they've lost a piece of their identity? Yes, I'll admit (gulp) that the Sharon Herald did a pretty good job of covering Greenville even when I was there and maybe there was only room for one paper in Mercer County. But still, the Record-Argus is gone? Say it ain't so. My clips, two years of my life, headed for oblivion.

Anyway, we made it to the wrestling tournament we were taking my son to. I saw some people from my past newspaper work there, but didn't have the heart to approach any of them. We then had a wonderful lunch down the road in Sharon at the original (and best) Quaker Steak & Lube, and drove back to Erie. I must admit, however, that I feel like a small piece of me is missing...


Sunday, December 28, 2008

WSEE Thanks

As a lifelong Bills fan, I just want to thank the kind folks at WSEE for not showing today's game vs. the Patriots. I just listened to about 10 minutes on the radio-a drive that ended in a missed field goal, and was thankful I was heading into Starbucks to do some work.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Hot NFL Action

What a day for football yesterday. I'll admit, when I heard the radio pundits (actually Red, Jim LeCorchick, and Mike Ruzzi broadcasting from the casino) talking about what a great day of NFL action it was going to be, I was questioning their credibility. After all, the Tennessee/Pittsburgh and Carolina/Giants games were only really playing for home field advantage and not for playoff spots, as all four teams had clinched. And the Bills, well...

But, what do you know, the Tennessee-'burghers game sucked me in and I went from there.

Although I generally root for the Stillers cuz I like their style of play, I was glad to see the Titans win yesterday, just because they have a running game. The four teams I mentioned have pretty much clinched the top four seeds in their conferences, and they all play good defense. But only three of them, the Stillers being the exception, have strong running games. This is unusual for a 'Burgher squad, but it's the unfortunate reality of this season. Big Ben had no more miracles to pull out of his ass and the 'Stillers went down. I'd say this bodes poorly for their chances in the playoffs.

The Giants, on the other hand, what a show last night. They rang up more than 300 yards rushing and totally steamrolled the Panthers in the second half after being down 21-10. It was a clinic in how you play late season football: wear the other boys out and then slam it down their throats. Good stuff. The Giants might have this late season football thing down. Madden kept saying how the Giants' coaches said they were going to get back to the run, no matter what the other team's defense did- even if they were keying on it and tempting the Giants to pass. Well, they did, and it certainly worked. Curious thing is that the Giants O-coordinator is Kevin Gilbride, who was always noted as a passing guru - and spent some time with Bledsoe in Buffalo. He was the guy Buddy Ryan once took a swing at when Ryan was coahing the Oilers defense way back when. Ryan accused Gibride of running a "chuck-'n-duck" offense that was putting too much pressure on Ryan's D. Now, Gibride's orchestrating a power running game? I guess it's never too late to learn.

As for the Bills, they won a wonderful game against the Broncos, who like the Bills started fast and have been an extreme disappointment since. Go Bills! Edwards looked marvelous yesterday, shades of the early season, after a rough start. If we can beat New England at home next week, and knock the Pats out of the playoffs, I think I'll be happy with the season.

Anyways, I went into yesterday with low expectations because I didn't think there was too much to play for in many of the top games. But, the NFL showed me that it's made up of true professionals that really know how to put on a show and take pride in their work.

January should be fun as usual.


Friday, December 12, 2008

High Class Scams

Does anyone cover a high-class scam as well as Vanity Fair? This (or is it next) month's issue features Tina Fey on the cover - more droll Hollywood stuff - but buried on page 100 is this wonderful story of how this German immigrant cut a swath through the country posing as a high-class blueblood. His final scam, which he rode for several years and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars (plus he got a daughter of it) was posing as Clark Rockefeller, a relation to one of America's weathiest and most well-known families. Unforutnately for him, he is now in jail, but man, he really pulled it off for awhile. Vanity Fair should win some sort of award for its journalism on these types of stories. It really gets the dirt on the guy, but at the same time manages to glamorize him somewhat and lay fault on the people that willingly fell for his ruse... Plus, the last line (in the rather lengthy story) is really a zinger.



Friday, December 05, 2008

What makes a great athlete?

This is an interesting article by some guy who thinks about these things from time to time. It questions whether Michael Phelps, who won seven swimming gold medals in the Olympics, is even close to being "the world's greatest athlete," as many have billed him. The article makes interesting points like:
a. Penn State's starting safety actually beat Phelps in races several times when they were young, but quit swimming to pursue football, because, well, football is football and swimming is, well, unless you're in the Olympics...
b. Lance Armstrong admits he sucks at football
c. Most swimmers admit to being like fish out of water in other sports
d. Aside from the gymnastics, swimming is like the only sport in which you have an opportunity to win eight medals...

None of this is to deny that Phelps is a great swimmer, but it gets down to the definition of athlete. Should a truly great athlete be able to accel in multiple sports or just be super great at one? I'm predisposed to the multiple-sport view, which is what I think helped Jim Thorpe gain such fame as the "world's greatest athlete" in the first half of the century-even though he had a pretty mediocre career as a major league baseball player.

Just some chowder to swish around in your head.


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Trainspotting-Dark Humor

I was looking for a good dark comedy to read over the recent holiday, and I came across a Yahoo! thread on this topic. After some investigation, part of which involved checking what was in stock at our library, I settled on Irving Welsh's Trainspotting. I had heard this is a good movie, and it was actually recommended by a friend of mine whose wife hails from Scotland, but I have never seen it. The book is a hoot, although it's written in phonetic Scottish dialogue, so it's like reading something written in another language. In some ways this adds to the enjoyment, as it really makes you feel like you're reading about something from a different land.

It takes place in the 1980s (I think that' s the timeframe) in Scotland. Coincidentally, this was also the time I was coming of age in Erie. And even though the lads in the book reside across the Atlantic, it seems they had a lot of the same goals my friends and I did. I mean, we weren't shootin' smack, but sex, drugs, drinking, partying, (not necessarily in that order) is what we were all about for a few years there. It's always good to find kindred spirits.

Here's a link to marvelous short (Trainspotting- Sunday Breakfast) from the book. It certainly reminded me (with some literary exaggeration) of something that might have happened to me back in the day.