Monday, September 25, 2006

We're number .. TWO?!?!?

I guess we just have to accept the fact that our country, the mighty USA, is no longer number one in terms of sports in this world.

In anything.

Golf? We got skunked at the Ryder Cup for the third straight time and it wasn't close (by the way, how about all the words about Phil Mickelson choking in these competitions???)

? No American male has won a major since Lord knows when???? We can't get past Russia in the Davis Cup (which the U.S. hasn't sniffed in over a decade) and the women's equivalent - the Federation Cup - ain't sitting here.

Basketball? Why aren't we world champions for either men or women? We invted the darn sport. But, alas, we aren't.

Of course there's always baseball, the American pastime, right? Uh, sorry, Japan is WORLD CHAMPIONS. We never made it to the finals.

Soccer? Uh, no. Team volleyball? Uh, nope (we don't count beach volleyball).

We don't have a driver on the world Formula 1 driving circuit; too many of our athletes in sports like track and cycling seem to be all doped up.

We need to remake all those foam fingers to read, "We're Number Two!" apparently.

Because the facts sadly dictate that.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Goodnight, Miss Ann!

I have many memories of the late Texas Gov. Ann Richards, who died last night (Sept. 13) after a short battle with cancer, from how she produced a standing-room only audience at a Texas Press Association summer convention speech to the long line of people following her from station to station during the 1990 Democratic convcention in Fort Worth as if she were the Pied Piper of Lacy Lakeview.
HOWEVER, the special memory came in 1994. "Miss Ann" came to Lancaster, Texas (where I was working for the local paper) two days after the April tornadoes that devastated the community. She held a press conference among the literal ruins of the Historic Town Square, flanked by dozens of politicos, to announce that any help on a state, local, county and federal level would be offered to help rebuild infrastructure and people's lives.
She then did two things: she actually walked into some of the neighborhoods and spoke to the people among the ruins. One family in particular, the Gross family, she met with. Their son was a young boy - Phillip Gross - who was blind and he told Miss Ann about losing the most valuable thing he owned - a voice recognition computer to help him with his studies. She was so moved that she promised to return and bring Phillip a replacement.
And a few months later, Ann Richards made good on her promise. In person.
She then decided to have lunch at the reopened Amaya's restaurant,where most of the TV crews had rummaged through that tornado Tuesday night. She hnd her three aides sat in the front, by the window looking out onto the crumbled town square, and enjoy a Mexican platter.
People didn't bother them for autographs or pictures. She was allowed to be one of the normal customers and just ... have lunch.
Afterwards, I asked the owner, Pablo Esparza, if the governor was a good tipper.
"Good enough!" he said.
For years, the menu included the Governor's Special - the platter was renamed for that afternoon.
Compared to what is parading around in Texas politics, she was the genuine article - the real deal. And her kind won't appear any time soon.
God rest her soul.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Remembering 9/11/2001

I was about to head to work as editor of the Plano (Tex.) Star Courier when the phone rang and my sister-in-law called to tell us to click on the television. Immediately upon seeing what was unfolding, I rushed to work and entered the office (which also housed the Channel 4 Collin County bureau) in time to view the second tower collapsed.
With a half dozen monitors in view, and everyone in the newspaper memorized in the same manner that one watches a fatal car crash unfold, I absorbed the magnitude of the event for a few moments. Unfortunately, it also meant split-second decisions to be made and local angles to be pursued – all coming from my desk.
I was no different than people in other jobs, which had to continue despite the tragedy 2,000 miles away. The police and fire personnel had to continue to protect the public, meals still had to be served, repairs to roads and homes had to be made … and the news had to be reported and subsequently published.
I gathered my five-person news staff, implored them to focus on the task at hand (which was reporting the news to the best of their ability) … without the distraction. Once the day was done, there would be time for reflection. Sadly, in the daily newspaper business, the next morning is a new day and a new cycle.
A flurry of phone calls followed to secure photos, contact Muslim sources in Plano for quotes and statements, answer readers questions (most of which were steeped in hysteria), edit the copy that was emerging and attend countless production and administration meetings to finalize deadlines on what would obviously be a special issue of the paper – one that people might want to retain for years to come.
At the end of one of the longest days in recent memory, our efforts resulted in perhaps the best issue of that publication in its history. In my stint, it was the single issue of which I could note with personal pride.
Since newsgathering is what it is, 9/11 only shifted who we examine more thoroughly, but not the process itself. The media seems quicker to draw unfounded conclusions based on improper comparisons to that day. But news is news and it gets published (on the print side) the same.
Personally, I see far more animosity toward people based on skin color, surnames and other phobias that are baseless. It makes me uncomfortable to know your character gets judges down the list after your nationality, religion and looks. We might be a “safer” country, but we are NOT a better nation for how we’ve reacted.