Irsay can you see? Peyton Place and the Colts.

I cheer for the Indianapolis Colts. My reason is simple, and I guess – overall – pretty foolish. I like Peyton Manning.

As a kid, our house was more American Bandstand than NFL grandstand. I’m not sure I remember ever seeing a professional football game while growing up. Baseball, sure. College football – you bet.

For whatever reason, the NFL never connected for me. Maybe it was because we had no local team. There was Kansas City (watched the Royals in MLB). There were the Cardinals in St. Louis (Oops. Baseball again). The Cowboys were south of the Red River in Dallas.

If I had to save my life by naming the conference that any National Football League team played in, I’d be dead as an out-of-bounds kickoff. The closest I got to watching a game on television was Brian’s Song, a sappy and sad movie based on the failing health and death of an NFL standout. It was probably the first – and maybe only – chickflick that was intended for an all-male audience.

I cheer for the Indianapolis Colts because of Peyton Manning, who has appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman enough times that I feel like he is extended family. He really seems like a nice guy. I liked his dad, Archie, who somehow made it into my circle of awareness when he quarterbacked the New Orleans Ain’ts. They probably came to my attention when fans wore brown bags over their heads to hide their identities. The gimmick became big enough that even grandmothers of that era knew who quarterbacked the Saints. Manning was good.

The rest of the team?

Well, it was so long ago that it was considered impolite, bordering on vulgar, to say ‘sucked.’ I heard my cousin Steve tell his brother Tim to “suck eggs” and I thought a lightning bolt would flash and send him straight on to hell. Steve might have said the New Orleans Saints sucked back then, and he would have been dead-on correct.

The Colts, as I understand it, were pretty much that way, too. They used to be the Baltimore Colts, but packed up in the dark of night one weekend and moved away. Peyton, with his arm and David Letterman, put them back on the map.

Now, the team’s owner wants to get rid of Peyton, who did not play in a single game last season, and the team almost went winless. The falloff from winners to losers was dramatic enough that even a non-NFL fan could see that Manning was a key component to the success of the organization. Oh, but not the ownership. Jim Irsay – the guy who signs the team checks – fired the general manager, the coach, and probably the waterboy. He wants to fire Peyton, too.

Mr. Manning, though, has a big contract, something probably related to his winning the Superbowl for fans of Indianapolis.

And also for the the owner, Big Jim.

I’ve cheered for the Vikings (OU’s Peterson). I looked up the Rams scores (Sam Bradford of the Sooners) until they disappeared into the cheap-seat toilets. When Barry Switzer coached the Dallas Cowboys, I clapped and stomped my feet with the best of them. (Tony Casillas of Tulsa was on the roster for a time, which merited some fan-support.) Now, I’m not sure who even coaches Jerry’s kids. I rooted for Houston when my daughter and her family lived there. Thankfully, they moved back to Tulsa. Houston’s loss. Our gain. Except we don’t have an NFL franchise.

When the Superbowl rolled around this year and it was down to the Giants and the Patriots, it might as well have been the Flyers and the Canucks. I care for hockey even less than New England and New York. But, ya gotta pick a team to cheer for, so – with a Manning under center, I got a win with Eli.

It’s bad when I pull for Kansas City just because Cousins Steve and Tim live in Missouri.

The Chiefs will be all I have left if Peyton hangs up his horseshoe helmet – unless we can convince the NFL to add OU as an expansion team.

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The Old Guard and the New Media.

Having spent the majority of my adult life in the news media, it is increasingly difficult to admire the current product, both written and electronic versions.

While many newspapers have adopted new styles to accommodate their new (and dwindling) audience, broadcasters have only changed their technology. Edward R. Murrow and David Brinkley would have no trouble understanding the presentation of today’s news – in my estimation – although their evaluation of the content would likely be in line with my own. TV news delivery is an antiquated product that is well-calcified from its largely-unchanged 1950’s inception.

Old school thinking.

I try to imagine what journalistic pride can be taken by KJRH (Channel 2, Tulsa – found on Cox channel 9) in featuring a presumably-serious news item promoted to answer questions as to whether the Sham-Wow is e everything that the commercials claim. Sham-Wow is one of those late night advertisements, with the product being a paper-towelish chamois, of sorts.

There are slow news days, to be sure. But KJRH seems to fall back regularly on these – exposés – of dustmops and table polishes.

Writing in a Tulsa Today web column, old school journalist Mike McCarville unloads on former Governor David Hall, who is hawking a recently-published book. McCarville wrote for the Tulsa Tribune in the 60s and covered Hall as a candidate for governor against incumbent Dewey Bartlett.

He writes that Hall’s work regarding the scandal and his later conviction and prison sentence is the product of delusional thinking – that Hall must believe himself the victim of a political attack.

In his article, McCarville displays a bit of his own delusional thinking:

I was visited by old friend Mike Hammer, reporter for The Daily Oklahoman-Oklahoma City Times. We had a pleasant, personal (I thought) conversation about politics and the campaign. It didn’t occur to me we were on the record and Hammer never displayed a notebook. The next day, Hammer wrote about the governor’s race in a Page One story and quoted me as discussing how we’d handle voters “out in the sticks.”

Hammer and McCarville were a little before my time as a reporter, although we may have had articles published in the same time frame as part of overlapping careers. While I recall both names, I don’t believe I met either Hammer or McCarville during the period I wrote for the Oklahoman-Times.

The delusion comes in when a news media veteran talks to another reporter, and later claims surprise when the conversation is discovered in print. If any subject of a news article should know better, it should be a reporter.

Certainly, claims of naiveté and corresponding accusations of delusional thinking by McCarville fall in different realms of importance in the overall scheme of politics and the news media. McCarville admits there is a possibility that his “sticks” quote could have cost Bartlett enough rural votes to lose the election – which Bartlett did.

It is a little disingenuous for McCarville to label the former governor as “devious” in actions that marked his political career, and painting David Hall as “deluded” in recalling it these many years later – while excusing his own quoted comments as “personal” and not intended for publication. McCarville’s own recollection of events is drawn from a similar passage of time as Hall’s memories.

I recall being quoted in print by Steve Patterson, former Chief-of-Staff for Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln. Patterson was then a newspaper writer at a much-earlier stage of his career. The radio station at which I worked had been vandalized. I knew Patterson personally, and answered his questions frankly when he called regarding the damage.

When I read the word “chunked” as a colloquial verb attributed to me in describing the vandal’s method of sending a brick through a plate glass window, I was embarrassed. That which was so easily spoken in an unguarded conversation seemed clumsy and inarticulate in print.

I could not deny having said it, though, and I knew when I spoke to Patterson that he was a reporter – despite the casual tone of our conversation.

The reminder served me well in recalling that – with all due respect to my friend and colleague Steve Patterson – reporters write in the same way that snakes bite. It isn’t personal.

It is just what they do.

And what about politicians and the books that they write, even so many years removed?

There are voters that would place a political book in the same category as snakebites: an inevitable assault on the unsuspecting with a similarly painful result.

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Could Angelina be one of the 12 Monkeys?

If you could travel back in time, and ran into yourself as a kid, would it influence your life to come? What if you witnessed – as a kid – the death of someone, and that person turned out to be you as an adult? Would it affect you differently?

There are some of us that just looooove that conundrum.

We can’t travel through time, but we can certainly imagine the possibilities. We imagine it to the point that there are rules, put in place most likely by fiction writers who need rules – that govern what can and can’t be done in that imposition of time.

Don’t touch that! You’ll upset the time-space continuum! Don’t step off the path (a plot device in one story I read, but regrettably, don’t recall the title), or the dinosaur-era visitation will wrinkle the thread of all future events.

Cause the death of your grandfather back then – ooops! You don’t exist anymore! That was the subject of one of my earliest writings, and as I was still at a tender age, didn’t realize that what I was describing – so exciting and fresh to me – was actually clichéd and trite. My teacher gave me a break on it (or maybe she wasn’t all that well-read in science fiction either).

I have several favorite favorite films that evolved from the written word, but perhaps none that I enjoyed so much as 12 Monkeys, which I thought was actually titled The Army of the 12 Monkeys. Ironically, 12 Monkeys is based not on a book, but a French short film entitled La jetée by Chris Marker. It’s a post-apocalyptic film as presented by Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame (although it is so many years removed that perhaps no one recalls that British television show, but me).

12 Monkeys starred Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt, and Christopher Plummer – among many others – and as I’m a fan of all four of the previously named, that may have contributed to my initial enjoyment. The fact is, I’ve liked Bruce Willis since the TV show Moonlighting. Brad Pitt? Well, who can honestly say they don’t like him, or at least one of his performances. He won a Golden Globe for 12 Monkeys, and should have won after his Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, in my estimation. (You say IMHO, I say IME.) He’s in top form, here.

My buddy Rick and I used to talk time-travel premises, as he is as fond of the stories as I am. They are thinking films and books, and the best of them produce a great story to accompany the particular wrinkle of time they intend to exploit.

If there was a single ticket, for one trip – a seat on the time travel bus: Where would you go?

Myself?

I recall discussing with my high school buddies the possibility of heading back with the knowledge of several Beatles’ songs – enough to plant the idea or actually obtain the copyright. There’s some money!

Or, perhaps – armed with knowledge of what is to come – I could race out at the exact moment the shot would have been fired and prevent the Kennedy Assassination. Ooooooh, there is some fame!

Maybe, just maybe – turn the knob to Biblical Times and witness first hand all those events, while recording them on the cell phone (Hey! It’s all imaginary! Who says you can take that iPhone back in time?) to play back during Sunday School. There is some history!

Brad Pitt grew up in Springfield, MO, not all that far from here. Maybe I’d just land myself in his circle of buddies and hang on tight until he landed his fame and fortune. I could be the first Pitt BFF. Look out, Clooney!

Grab Brad! We’re the Three Amigos!

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What the Dickens? Happy 200th Birthday!

Raise your glass in a toast to honor the creator of Uriah Heep, David Copperfield, Little Dombey, Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim, Bill Sikes, and Fagin – the headmaster of young pickpockets. It is the 200th Anniversary for Charles Dickens!

If he were still living, we would call it his birthday, bake a two-layer chocolate, and gather ‘round for a song and many ‘best wishes.’ Given the number of his fans, the cake portions would be small and we would all be reducing to uttering the famous line of his trembling character, Oliver Twist, in the workhouse soup line: “Please, sir, I want some more…”

In his day, Charles Dickens was nothing less than what we would consider a rock star, except prose was his music. He had his own literary groupies and autograph-seekers. People bought tickets to hear him read passages from his novels. Dickens wrote his books in his native England, and many were serialized in newspapers like US soap operas.

At a time when news and merchandise from England had to travel on a slow boat across the Atlantic, people gathered at the dock to greet the incoming ship carrying the latest British goods. In the serialized novel Dombey and Son, the ‘son’ was a sickly young boy who was to inherit the family business. In a cliffhanger chapter ending, Little Dombey was gravely ill and whispering to his older sister those tender words often heard from dying heroes. When those aboard the boat arrived in New York with the news and the next edition of the English papers, passengers at the railings truthfully answered shouted questions from the dock regarding young Dombey’s fate.

He had died.

Expectations of the sentimental Dickens treatment and a miraculous recovery were dashed. The reporting of Little Dombey’s death was met with genuine tears from American followers of the story.

Despite plot devices that often featured impossible coincidences and over-the-top sentimentality, Dickens was ahead of his time as a writer and political reformer. His own experiences as a child laborer provided material for not only Oliver Twist, but the semi-autobiographical character David Copperfield, Dickens’ admitted favorite of all his characters. He upbraided outdated education systems and attacked public sanitation, prisons, poverty, and orphanages.

He was an early promoter of political correctness and – whether it has gone to extremes nearly two hundred years hence – Dickens stopped production of Oliver Twist to clean up his own language. The wife of the man who purchased Dickens’ home in 1860 wrote to the author regarding his depiction of the character of a miserly Jewish pickpocket, and Dickens took her point. The character Fagin is called “the Jew” 257 times in the first 38 chapters, but barely at all in the next 179 references to him, reflecting the point at which the setting of the printing type for the novel had progressed.

Charles Dickens remains the bane of many ninth grade English students, who are required to complete the reading of A Tale of Two Cities. While I remain a steadfast fan of the works of Mr. Dickens, I disagree with present-day teachers who require reading his works at such a young age.

It is a different era, even from the time when I was forced to read it. Today, students are obsessed with videogames and cell phones and speak a language tempered by idioms of hip-hop artists. Dickens’ work, steeped in the vernacular and social mores of the time, can make no connection with present-day youth, who lack even the patience to write complete words, OMG!

I had hopes of becoming an artist, and spent my Two Cities semester reproducing in my spiral notebook the 19th century illustrations that accompanied the original text. I completed copies of most of the drawings with enough accuracy that I developed a reputation among my classmates.

I only wish I had spent the semester emulating the writing of Charles Dickens instead of whiling away my time with pencil-sketched copies of George Cruikshank’s illustrations.

Cruikshank was good at what he did, but he was no Dickens.

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