Saturday, August 25, 2007

Trial separation

It was a conversation I had been avoiding. But on Friday, I summoned my courage and went through with it.

I notified an affected party of my recent decision to continue a trial separation.
Though this separation will impact our relationship, the news was taken with class and dignity. Others in that position might not have done so.

Folks who have seen me the past few weeks have noticed something different about me. And they were right. Things have changed. And thus the awkward conversation on Friday.

It was Friday when I stepped into the shop of my barber, Fred, to break the news to him.

I had taken the short haircut he provides and taken it down further. As in all the way down. As in, I shaved my head on the final day of July.

I don't know if I'll keep it that way. Thus, this trial separation: Between my hair and me, and between Fred and me. Even if I let it grow back in (in the spots not permanently vacated), it will be several weeks before I would require a haircut.

Until then, the separation continues.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Baseball weekend

Baseball dominated much of my weekend, including a symposium presentation on Saturday and the meeting of the Iowa chapter of the Society of American Baseball Research on Sunday in Cascade.

In both cases, the center of attention was Red Faber, the late Hall of Fame spitball pitcher and subject of my biography.

My Saturday program was part of "Farm Team: Iowa's Contributions to Baseball," a symposium at the Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch.

On Sunday, members of the Iowa chapter of SABR, as well as some out-of-state visitors, checked out the newly renovated Faber exhibit at the Tri-County Historical Society museum in Cascade. In the month since the grand re-opening, a beautiful mural of Faber has been added.

I'm pleased to say that the visitors -- they can be picky about their baseball -- came away most impressed with the exhibit in Cascade.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Breakfast of Champions

My day got off to an early start Wednesday when I attended a continental breakfast meeting celebrating Dubuque winning All-America City status from the National Civic League. The selection was made in June.

A highlight of the program was viewing the documentary produced by Gary Olsen and Jim Barefoot. The half-hour video followed Dubuque's Team members as they planned and prepared for their 10 minutes before the judging panel in Anaheim, California.

It's an impressive production, with loads of behind the scenes scenes capturing the flavor of the effort -- the practice, the excitement of the event (we meet folks from other cities as well) and the energy of the final presentation and announcement of winners.

During the Q&A with judges, the Dubuque team was questioned about its reference to "Midwestern Charm." Why is Dubuque successful. Leave it to someone who is not a Dubuque native to nail the question. Mercy Medical Center president Rusty Knight, who grew up in California, told the judges, simply, that in Dubuque people don't care who gets the credit for success.

If you have some time to spare, check out the full production. Or, get a flavor for it through the trailer.

Either way, get set to be impressed.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Happy birthday, Ray

A belated observance: Sunday marked Ray Schalk's birthday. The late White Sox catcher would have been 115 years old.

Raymond "Cracker" Schalk was born Aug. 12, 1892, in the downstate Illinois community of Harvel (not to be confused, as some people do, with the Chicago suburb of Harvey). He died in 1970.

After recently receiving positive feedback on my intention to write a full biography on Schalk, I need to get cracking on "Cracker." Otherwise, it will be 115 years before the book is completed.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Overtime vacation

On most Cooper summer vacations, especially when it involved camping (and kids), we tended to come home early.

This vacation (sans children, grandchild or the pop-up camper), not only did we not come home early (non-refundable airline tickets have a way of assuring that), but we came home late. We wound up spending two unscheduled nights in Baltimore after thunderstorms in the East and Upper Midwest Thursday afternoon caused cancellation of our flight. The earliest we could get a flight home was 6 a.m. Saturday -- a full 36 hours later.

Oh well, it's only money. And time.

Actually, despite that, it was a great vacation.

Among the highlights was visiting the Babe Ruth birthplace museum in Baltimore. Though Ruth went on to star for the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, he made his professional debut with the Baltimore Orioles (then the name of a minor league team). Locals are proud of his Baltimore ties. This statue is outside Orioles Park at Camden Yards.

I'll post more about vacation (not every last detail -- I promise!) over the next couple of days.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

NFL expects journalists to serve as billboards

You don't need me to tell you that we are exposed to lots of commercial messages each day.

Of course, there are the traditional advertisements: Radio ads. Newspaper ads. Matchbook covers. Billboards.
Then, there are more subtle commercial messages. "Product placement" in TV shows and movies. Logos on apparel. Notes at the bottom of e-mails. Strategically placed electronic signs behind home plate (which, in many cases, show up only on TV) at Major League Baseball stadiums.

All told, how many of those messages are we subjected to? Daily estimates vary greatly, from 247 (Consumer Reports) to 3,000 (many sources) and even more. Whatever the number, know that it is going up.
Places heretofore off-limits for advertising are now fair game. More billboards dot the landscape. More newspapers are placing advertisements on their front pages, and others, including the TH, are considering them. The starting lineups of a ballgame are "sponsored." Even at the shrine of baseball, Chicago's Wrigley Field, advertising logos now appear on the service doors in the otherwise pristine ivy-covered walls.

Now, if the National Football League has its way, there will be unwilling conveyors of advertising messages.
Previously, the league has pressured sideline photographers, who regularly wind up appearing in the TV picture on sideline and end-zone plays, to cover equipment logos -- if the logo is not for an NFL marketing partner.

Now the NFL intends to enact a rule requiring sideline photographers -- they are employees of newspapers, local TV stations and wire services -- to wear league-provided vests. These red vests, not coincidentally, will display the advertising logos for Canon and Reebok -- corporations that have paid for the privilege of being the "official" something-or-other of the NFL.

So, as you watch a football game on TV, and the wide receiver crashes into a pack of photographers, the photogs you see scattering will be unwilling advertising vehicles for the NFL and its sponsors.
These journalists use equipment displaying logos, and occasionally wear clothing with logos or the name of their news organization. However, unlike the pending NFL edict, they are not required to do so.

Two leading newspaper associations, the American Society of Newspaper Editors and Associated Press Managing Editors, have filed objections with Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL.
"It is anathema to us that our employees should be put in the position of becoming walking billboards or be viewed as troublemakers for refusing to wear advertising materials just to do their jobs," stated Gilbert Bailon, president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. "It is our hope that the NFL will simply credential our representatives and let them go about their work."

Wrote Karen Magnuson, president of the Associated Press Managing Editors Association, "We realize that some kind of clearly visible method must be in place to easily identify members of the media who are credentialed to cover the games. But we don't understand the need to require our employees to help advertise products for the league's sponsors."

I agree with that, but I also don't expect the NFL to budge. If journalists don't want to wear the logo vests, I anticipate Goodell saying, "You don't have to request credentials to cover NFL games."

How times have changed.

In the early 1920s, when the National Football League was in its infancy and many people looked down on professionalism, sportswriters from the daily papers didn't cover league games.
Imagine this: After the Chicago Bears played home games (at Wrigley Field, in those days) player-coach-owner George Halas personally delivered game reports to the newsrooms of the Chicago papers. It was the only way he could get a mention in the next morning's edition.

In those struggling days, given the chance, Halas probably would have adorned his players' uniforms with Chicago Tribune logos if the Tribune would only agree to send a scribe to the game.

How will this turn out? Just tune into an NFL game soon. And see whether the photographers are wearing logo-adorned red vests.