Tuesday, November 30, 2010

She's a Trooper

My partner is playing hurt. Nance' Burgin showed up for work this morning in spite of a bad cold. She said she hated to call in sick at 2:00 in the morning. She says she doesn't fee too bad, but you can tell that she's not in full voice. Voice is pretty important for a morning weather person. Her job includes about a dozen forecasts and several more brief appearances. Nance' is a delightful girl and a good meteorologist who knows her job. I didn't know that she's so tough until I saw her battle through her cold this morning to do the job. I'm impressed.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Abilene Says Goodbye to the Sims Era

On Saturday, Abilene football had its own trail of tears. It stretched from Arlington to Abilene along Interstate 20.

Cooper and Abilene fans traveled the two-and-half hour long trek on along trail. On most Saturday nights, I-20 would be virtually empty from the Metroplex to West Texas. On November 27, there were red lights as far as the eyes could see. Some vehicles sported red shoe polish that said “Go Coogs”; others sported Abilene High stickers. Inside those cars were fans sad to say goodbye to another season.

With my wife asleep during most of the drive, I had the radio off and time to reflect. I looked back on two great seasons – and I reflected on the end of an era: the Sims era.

Herschel and Ronnell Sims helped put Abilene back on the national map. Sure, they couldn’t and didn’t do it alone. But let’s be honest: they were key instruments that brought West Texas football and Abilene to a place it hadn’t been in half a century.

Because of their skills, football in Abilene experienced a state championship, two games on ESPN networks, a new relationship with Nike, and a one-hour feature on MTV. Let’s not forget we’re talking about a high school football team. That’s pretty darn impressive.

Over the last two years, we’ve watched Ronnell Sims find ways to win in games the Warbirds should’ve lost. We’re watched Herschel Sims run for 200 yards plus in games where the opposing defense knew he’d be running – yet couldn’t stop him. We’ve watched the guys get battered by the opposition and continue playing when most people would’ve sat on the sidelines.

The Sims cousins are winners. And Abilene will miss them.

I look forward to rooting for them over the next four years as they move on to the next stage of their careers. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for the both of them. No matter where each ends up, I’ll be cheering for them. I know I’m not alone.

In closing, I say simply say thanks. I thank you for giving of yourselves. I thank you for helping take Big Country football to the next level. I thank you for being good citizens and inspiring others who will come after you.

Abilene won’t be the same without you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Goodbye, Stephanie

As I've had to do several times during my 22 months here at KRBC, I have the unenviable task of saying goodbye to one of my best friends once again. As you all now know, KRBC co-anchor Stephanie Harris' last day is Wednesday. As big a loss as this is on air, it's a bigger loss to me personally.

Perhaps it's only appropriate that Stephanie's last day on air is the day before Thanksgiving. It helps remind me to be eternally grateful for the time we had together here in Abilene. When I became the Executive Producer for KRBC, I felt a little lost and confused. Stephanie helped me figure things out, and we developed a great working relationship, and friendship. The same goes for her husband, the inimitable Robert Mooring. I was not happy when I learned they'd be moving off to Malibu. But it didn't take me long to realize how happy they'll be together, and what a great life they have ahead of them.

I've been trying not to count down the days, but I knew the last day was coming, and have tried to prepare myself for it. It hasn't worked. But I know that when the sun rises on Thanksgiving morning, when Stephanie moves on and the rest of us stay behind, I'll still have all the memories we have together (And speaking of memories of Stephanie, I'd tune in Wednesday night at 10 if I were you... expect some surprises!). Not to mention, you leave behind a great successor waiting in the wings (Who is it?!? Stay tuned!)

As I was reminded earlier this week, we don't say "goodbye" in the news business; it's "see you later". So, Stephanie, until we see each other again, enjoy life on the beautiful California coast. We love you, we'll miss you, and we'll never forget all the good times we had together.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Coach Spradlin Takes the Cooper High Road

Sometimes in life, we have to make hard decisions.

We’ve all had to do it…

For a parent, it might be disciplining a child knowing you’re going to have to watch them cry. For a boss, it might be letting a good person go because they’re underperforming in the workplace. For another person, it might be ending a relationship knowing it’s going to break the heart of someone you care about. For a coach, it might be letting three talented players go because they don’t meet your team’s expectations.

They all sting a little – but you make the hard decision because it’s the right thing to do.

I want to applaud Cooper High School Head Coach Mike Spradlin and his staff for making a tough decision on Friday night by removing three players from the team indefinitely. It would’ve been easy for the coaches to turn a blind eye to what was happening. That would’ve been the easy thing to do. Instead, they made a decision that could potentially cost them their opportunity at a state title.

I also applaud Spradlin and AISD Superintendent Heath Burns for their transparency. It would’ve been easy to try and cover this up or deny it; I’ve seen other districts do it. Instead, they were forthcoming about the situation without compromising the privacy of their students.

Who were the players and what did they do? At the end of the day, it’s really not that important. We all made mistakes in our teenage years. Sure, some of our mistakes were worse than others. But at the end of the day, these guys are just kids. Yes, they play on a popular football team in a town where high school football is everything. But as kids, they deserve privacy…and they deserve second chances.

Win or lose this Saturday, we should all take pride in the fact that Cooper High and Mike Spradlin chose the high road. In a day and age where teams look past players’ poor attitudes and actions, Cooper refused to do that.

As a head coach, Mike Spradlin is naturally in a position to for people to look up to him. On this occasion, Spradlin showed us what being a role model is all about.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Funny Movie

My wife and I went to see a silly new date movie over the weekend. Morning Glory is one of those romantic comedies that are usually very forgettable. This one was a little different for me. First, Harrison Ford is in it. Second, it was set is a morning TV news broadcast. It was pure, escapist fiction...but there were several scenes that made me laugh out loud, and I was the only one the theater laughing. The alarm going off in the middle of the night was all too recognizable. The anchor waking up just in time to pretend to be alertly reading the teleprompter script and the youthful exuberance about the importance of the job were certainly close to reality. The deadline of the clock and the concern about the stories in the stack are real. Both led to some funny and recognizable scenes. The problems with individual egos were exaggerated, but certainly part of the business. It was set in New York, and the concerns about tenths of a rating point and the concerns about the most minute of details remind me of why we stay here in Abilene. My wife enjoyed it for different reasons. She was probably laughing more at me than at the screen.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day + 22 Years

Here we go with another election day. We are planning extensive coverage of all of the important races and issues on the ballot. Election days are big deals in TV news. There is a lot of real-life drama waiting for the results and hearing from the winners and losers. The people we choose in these elections have authority to levy property taxes and then decide how local, state and federal government organizations should spend that money for the services they provide. It takes a lot of work, and it's a big job to get the information, make sure it's right and then pass it on. It's one of the reasons why many reporters decide on this business.
Election coverage is at best tiring and trying. At worst, it's exhausting and frustrating.
I remember election day, 1988 vividly. I started early...before six that morning for our regular Daybreak cut-ins back when KTAB was in the old building. I was finished with my morning shift and the preliminary election work about 3:00 in the afternoon. I was going to go home to rest and see my family before coming back up about 6:45 for the election coverage that evening. It was a presidential election. That year, it was between George Bush, the 41st President and Democrat Michael Dukakis. There were also a lot of important elections in Texas and across the Big Country.
My friend and co-worker Ned Austin came running out with a camera as I was getting in the car. He said there was a call on the scanner of a B-One Bomber with an in-flight emergency and he was going to see if he could get video of it. In-flight emergencies are not uncommon. It's usually a minor problem and they land just fine. But not this time. We saw the big, beautiful plane flying over with an obvious problem. A bright red flame trailed along under the wing at least twice the length of the big plane. Ned got the video that later proved to be important for the accident investigators.
The plane was still a relatively new weapons system, and some of the problems had not been fixed. This one had a problem with the fuel line...and the escaping jet fuel was burning.
The crew fought to keep control of the big plane and bring it back in. The pilot decided that wasn't possible...so he and the other officers aimed it to a remote area just Northwest of the city...away from all of the homes and businesses. The pilot ordered the co-pilot and the offensive and defensive systems officers to bail-out. Then he pointed the nose down and pulled his escape hatch. All four men got out safely. The big beautiful bomber crashed into the vacant field. It was destroyed, but there were no injuries and no other significant loss of property. His heroism prevented a possible bigger disaster.
The crash made a challenging day for news reporters a day that really makes us realize why we ever wanted to do TV news. When the day was over and we had given our reports of the crash and the election results, we felt like we had finished a marathon. Exhausted, elated, delighted and proud of the way we covered the news and especially thankful for the brave men who kept that big fuel-laden plane away from people and homes.
I hope the election is the biggest story of this day.