Press Box Faux Pas

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The press box is a serious place with rules and etiquett. I wish I’d understood that before I became a reporter.

I was a sports reporter for about fifteen years. During that time, there were certain job skills I was required to master. One was press box etiquette.

Unlike other occupations where one might seek guidance courtesy of a handbook or instructive power point, I had no way of knowing what was expected in that journalistic inner sanctum. So, sometimes, I made mistakes. Some that earned me the ridicule of my brethren.

One such moment took place when I was diligently watching the Arizona Cardinals lose another game. This was back when the Cardinals were one of the worst teams in the NFL – kind of like now. I was the team’s beat reporter for what was then KTSP-TV in Phoenix, which meant I traveled with the squad, attended games, and filed reports that ran on the evening news. I would watch from high above the field, documenting plays, determining story angles, identifying players I’d like to interview in the locker room following the game, and figuring out what I’d like to ask them, all of which would be pre-packaged for a live shot.

As you might expect, I got to know the players pretty well. Let me say here that, under the circumstances, I do not believe my behavior in the press box was horribly ill-mannered, still the other reporters were appalled when, on one rare, spectacular Cardinals play, I leapt in the air and cheered.

I was greeted by silence. I squinted at the row of reporters who stared at me with disdain. Apparently, cheering in the press box was a serious faux pas. But how was a I to know? No one handed out a list of do’s and don’ts upon entering the press box. And I was just delighted the Cards managed to sneak in something for their very short highlight reel.

The tension was thick. The other reporters turned away as if I had a contagious disease. I slumped into my chair, chastened.

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It was during a Rochester Americans hockey game that I got into a bind in the press box,

On another occasion, I watched the Rochester Americans – a minor league affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres – host an AHL game. There was a timeout on the ice. The referee skated up to the scoring table, performed a nifty hockey stop, and got into a conversation with the guys keeping the books. Then, he picked up the phone.

We reporters were startled when the phone rang in the press box. One of the guys grabbed the receiver, listened for a moment, and then looked at me and furrowed his brow. He scrunched up his face like he needed a serious dose of antacids. Then he held the phone toward me and said, “It’s for you.”

Slowly, I put down my pen and rose from my seat. I took the receiver.

“Hey!” The referee said. “Where do you want to have dinner tonight?”

“Um…” I glanced at the other reporters who were waiting, wondering.

The referee laughed.

“I … don’t … know.” I squirmed, all eyes on me.

Let me pause here and explain that, yes, I was dating the referee. (Never could resist a guy in stripes.) I stared at the ice and he looked up at the press box, gracing me with a rakish grin. Players were waiting. Reporters were staring. I was sweating. What could I say that would sound professional?

“Yes! That would be fine.” I hung up quickly and returned to my seat, acting as if there was nothing strange about a referee calling a reporter in the press box in the middle of a game. I stared at my notes and considered explaining that I had been an amateur hockey official, so we were discussing a rule clarification, but that was just silly. So I focused on the ice, where the ref dropped the puck and the game action resumed.

The other reporters seemed to be waiting for an explanation, but I avoided eye contact and hoped they would be distracted, since what could I say? I knew that dating the ref might be considered out of bounds. I gripped my pen and concentrated as the puck bounce around the ice.

Despite the apparent need for decorum in the press box – don’t interrupt the guys broadcasting the game, pick up after yourself, keep the volume down, cuz we’re working here – there’s one place in that hallowed hall that’s generally a free for all. I’m sure you can guess.

It’s the buffet. No one bats an eye when reporters stuff their pockets with extra cookies or candy bars, or they eat the last sandwhich, even if they’ve already had two. It’s just a perk, the scribes will say. No manners required. That’s one rule that was obvious right from the start.

I wish the others had been that clear.

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

The things we save

I have moved around a lot over the course of my life. I’ve lived in eight states and another country. I’ve resided in 13 different homes. Through all of those moves – and the purging of personal goods that inherently comes along with such transitions – certain items remain.

Geode

My best friends gave me this lovely geode when I was 16 and I have cherished it ever since.

There’s the glass mug that says LHS – Livingston High School – Senior Prom, June 1, 1973. And my Yamaha 12-string guitar which I lugged from place to place without ever playing for 35 years. And the geode with an array of blue-gray crystals that my best friends gave me for my sixteenth birthday. And the rest of my rock collection that has grown to about 400 specimens, some that I’ve had since I was in elementary school.

I think of these things now because I recently had to go through my father’s possessions. He died in June a week shy of his 96th birthday after a long and interesting life.

I faced boxes piled atop one another, taped and carefully labeled. I picked up one that had an ominous message. Do Not Open!

“Sorry, Dad,” I said as I cut through the tape. Inside I found a thick wade of money, bills from the post-World War II Philippines and Japan. Numerous coins spilled out: Indian Head pennies dating back to the turn of the 20th century that mingled with a single New York City Transit Authority subway token and a few 1960’s-era Kennedy half dollars. In an Altoid tin, my dad had another collection of coins. These apparently from some of the countries he’d visited over the years: France, England, Germany, Ireland, Canada.

Dad and a sailor

My dad – on the right – had a box of pictures from when he was a sailor during World War II.

Inside another box were small black-and-white photographs of my father and his shipmates on board their destroyer escort – the U.S.S. Alvert Moore – during the war, as well a a photo of my mother dating back to 1939. Mom – who is the epitome of strait-laced propriety even today at 94 – appears in a pair of white short-shorts and a halter top. When I presented the photo to her, trying to suppress a laugh, she insisted the woman in the photo was not her. Even when I pointed out her name scrawled across the top, she dismissed the picture as an obvious fashion faux pax committed by someone else.

Mom in short shorts 2

Though my mother swears the woman in the short shorts isn’t her, clearly it is.

There were also six pairs of rosary beads and some saints’ cards. Not too surprising for a life-long Catholic. And a thick but tiny book titled Useful Information for Business Men Mechanics and Engineers, with gilt-edged pages devoted to Weights of Flat-Rolled Steel, Heat Colors, and Unit Compression Stress for Main Members. (Don’t ask me. Dad was an engineer. Oddly, he was rather useless at fixing things, still he managed to design and build complicated industrial machines.)

A small cardboard tube caught my attention. Inside were three pages of rolled-up orange paper dated August 8, 1969: a letter I wrote from Girl Scout Camp. “I’ve been scubaing in the jungle,” I said of one of my earliest scuba dives in Saranac Lake, New York. “It’s got millions of water vines and plants all over the place.” The post script read as follows. “Shelly passed into blue cap,” I explained of my friend who had struggled with swimming early on. “Boy, is she happy!”

Another box held a fistful of sobriety coins courtesy of Alcoholics Anonymous. Dad earned over 35 of those awards, an achievement of which he was immensely proud. There was also a theater program from my high school production of South Pacific where I played a Navy nurse and a complicated slide rule in a black leather case with markings indicating my dad had owned it since he was in college at Penn State.

While going through the boxes – several of which were confounding since they were empty – I noticed some trends. My dad apparently collected pocket knives – there were maybe a dozen – and fingernail clippers and dental floss. I placed them in piles wondering what possessed him to keep purchasing these items. I wish I could ask. Perhaps his predilection caused my own. I too love pocket knives and have acquired more containers of dental floss then I’ll ever use. (I’ve put many dentist’s children through college.)

Troy, Brandon and Ry Dad's funeral

My youngest son, Troy – on the left, with Ryan and our oldest son Brandon – wore my  father’s clothes to the interment ceremony. My dad would have liked that.

While clearing out my dad’s clothes, I couldn’t help but think of Jon Hamm’s character in the TV series Mad Men. Despite being raised in a family of mostly coal miners, my dad was a clothes horse who wore his Brooks Brothers suits, buffed wingtips, and rakish fedoras with pride as he ventured into New York City to work in the 1960s. I brought some of his clothes home and, as it turned out, they fit my youngest son perfectly, which has me doing double takes sometimes. My dad would have been delighted.

As I sorted through my dad’s belongings, I saved some things and discarded others. Clothing and shoes went to Goodwill. The watercolor of his ship at sea went to my brother, who will eventually pass it on to the great grand children, along with my dad’s service medals.

When I was finished, I wondered why my dad saved the items he packed in those boxes. I will never know. Still, I’m glad I had the opportunity to study the things that were important to him. It gave me the chance to hold onto him a little bit longer.

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.