Sunday, January 17, 2010

Recent Facebook Posts

These are bon mots to which I have subjected those foolish enough to be my online friends. Why should you be spared?
John has reduced the mountain of laundry to a mole hill. Granted it's a luxury condo tower sized mole hill that could accommodate a heckuva lotta moles but it's a mole hill nonetheless.

Tracy, I'm sorry about the rumor-mongering. I didn't think anyone would take me seriously when I told them that all those Will and Grace re-runs had finally caused a violent gastrointestinal reaction.

John played golf today. He did not make any pars or birdies but he did hit a roof, a gutter and an air conditioner. Ugh.

Jim, I'm an ass. You know that. The difference back then was that I was an ass with more hair who thought he was funny.

John is tired of sympathizing with people up north. Wants to empathize instead. That's when they're cold and I feel sorry for them as I walk outside in shirtsleeves. This is not just Florida cold. It's actual cold cold.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

USF Hires Holtz

I interviewed Skip Holtz when he was at the University of Connecticut and I worked at WFSB-TV in Hartford in the mid-1990s.

UConn started 5-0 in 1995 and I went to the campus in Storrs to do a story. He had the same kind of wit his famous father, Lou, has but without the lisp. That weekend, Holtz' team lost. I went out the next week and interviewed him again. UConn lost again.

At practice the following week, I thought I was joking when I told the school's PR guy for sports (the official title is Sports Information Director) that maybe I had cursed the team. But there was no humor in his voice when he told me that if the team lost again, "don't come back."

Then again, that could have simply been his usual demeanor. The lack of warmth I felt in New England was not limited to the weather.

Speaking of chill...

One thing the University of South Florida gets in Skip Holtz that it never had in Jim Leavitt is someone who understands that being a head football coach at a major college program involves a lot more than coaching football.

Leavitt never grasped the public relations aspects of the job. He antagonized the local media — at least the TV stations — from the outset with a big-time attitude even as the team operated out of trailers and had yet to play a game.

USF invited local media to cover the first fall practice of the team's inaugural season in 1997. I worked at WFLA-TV at the time. Apparently no one in the sports information department informed Leavitt. After the stretching and warmup drills, Leavitt came over to the assembled cameras and asked if we had gotten everything — his way of dismissing us.

True enough, most major college practices are closed to the media. However at the time USF was not a major college program and we had been told that we would be able to shoot practice.

An unfortunate PR guy had to feel our wrath. "We might have to endure this in Tallahassee or Gainesville," I told him. "But not here. If this is how it's going to be, we won't come out."

And we didn't. We gave cursory coverage of games and showed up for the free lunch, I mean, weekly news conference, but we never gave the program the kind of attention we would have had we been welcomed.

And that's all on Leavitt. Even after USF had joined the Big East and made a run up the national rankings, his team was rarely fodder for local sports talk radio the way Florida, Florida State and Miami were.

Nobody cared. People did not develop the kind of passions about USF that they did about the other major programs. Part of that is a function of time and tradition. But much more of that is Jim Leavitt's alienation of people who could have helped him build interest in the program.

It may be fitting that USF football became a top talk-about story for the first time when the story was Leavitt's firing.

Now Leavitt is left with trying to extract a severance check from USF. He claims he did nothing to deserve his dismissal. The grabbing and slapping of walk-on running back Joel Miller never happened, he maintains, even in the face of the University's investigation which revealed otherwise and Miller's own admission that he originally denied the mistreatment to protect his coach.

I have heard suggestions that Leavitt needs to come clean about what happened. It's too late. Leavitt has cast his die. God-Kings do not bow to anyone. There is nothing to apologize for, he says through his lawyer.

It was this kind of coverup as much as the crime that cost Leavitt his job. Had he acknowledged his mistake soon after it happened, it might never have become public, let alone topple him from his throne.

Instead he stonewalled. The man who is reported to have proclaimed himself "the most powerful man in the building" failed to see that there were other buildings and that the most powerful man in the building that counted was not even a man. It was Judy Genshaft, USF's president.

Leavitt has already lost one job. His continued insistence of innocence will cost him a chance to redeem himself elsewhere. But I don't see him changing course now. And I can't see him getting another head coaching job at a major college program. Not now. Maybe not ever.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

I Haven't Disappeared

It just seems that way because I've had little to report.

A story for WEDU is in editing right now. It's about a men's choral group called the Venice Gondoliers. That's Venice as in Venice, Florida, south of Sarasota as opposed to the one in Italy.

One of the thrusts of the story is the benefit to the members' mental health. Many of the guys are in their 80s and are still all there upstairs.

It helps them in two ways. One is that having to memorize music and lyrics for dozens of songs works their brains out. Secondly, it gives them someplace to go, something to do and something to look forward to.

I hadn't planned that to be one of the angles I took. Its something they mentioned during interviews and I was lucky enough to notice it.

The other major effort right now is in trying to figure out how to market my new video biography service. I completed the demo story for about a friend of mine's parents. He was thrilled with the results. At least that's how I'm reading the following quote he wrote on a Christmas card he sent me:

"We can't begin to thank you enough for what you have given our family. Your work is remarkable!"

Here is one of the chapters from the story (used with permission):

So I have the equipment and I have the examples that prove that I know what to do with it. Now it's a matter of getting the word out. I'm going to have to spend money on advertising. The biggest challenge may be convincing people to have something produced that won’t have its greatest value until after its subjects have passed away.

A life story video is not made for its subject(s). It is for the people who come after them, some of whom they have not met and maybe never will. In fact, most people who contact us are interested in producing a personal documentary about their parents or grandparents.

Even then some people struggle to grasp the importance of preserving their loved ones’ life stories. That is understandable. In this instant gratification world it is hard to think about something that will mean the most to you 20, 30 or 50 years later.

Yet if people will spend thousands of dollars on a casket that gets buried with them and is never seen again, there is a compelling argument for making a similar investment in something that people will treasure because it can bring their loved one’s faces, voices and stories back to them whenever they want to see them — forever.

A life story video also serves as a key part of a family history. With a video biography, stories of one generation are passed down to descendants in its own words.

Daily lives are hectic and it can be hard to see past the end of the week let alone look years into the future. For those who have the forward thinking to do so, they’ll see that one of the greatest gifts you can leave future generations of your family is the story of your life, told with your voice.

Of course, my professional interviewing, script writing and editing will make it easy for them. My business' site has new examples of my work if you're curious to check it out.

It also has a Facebook fan page, which I hope will help spread the good word. If you have a Facebook page and are so inclined, please become a fan.