Saturday, September 26, 2009

Nurse the Hate: College Football Saturday

It's a rainy Saturday in NE Ohio, and that can mean only one thing; non stop college football. With my Direct TV package, I get approximately 147 college football games going off simultaneously. It can be overwhelming, so I tend to focus on just a few of the games. Which games? Games that have the pagaentry I look for in an exciting intercollegiate athletic event. Games that display the true spirit of competition. Games like Fresno State vs Cincinnati where Cincinnati is 7-1 straight up, but only 1-7 ATS when favored by 8 points or more. Perhaps I might also watch LSU at MIssissippi State where LSU is 10-2 ATS in their past 12 vs Mississippi St. That SEC football sure is entertaining!

If the rain lets up, I might just take a drive to Kent this evening to soak up the atmosphere when Kent State, who is 1-6 straight up at home in their past 7 vs Miami, play host to the Redskins. (Oh yeah, they aren't the Redskins anymore as that isn't PC. What are they now? The Red Wave or some such shit? I wonder where that old Indian costume is now...)

If the weather doesn't hold up, I will probably stay home and enjoy the ABC broadcast of Penn State vs Iowa. It's great to see Joe Paterno still running the show in Happy Valley, especially when Iowa comes in 6-1 straight up in their past 7 vs Penn State. It should add to the drama knowing that Penn State is 1-4 against the spread in their past 5 at home to Iowa.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Nurse the Hate: Hate Radio

Having worked in radio for 15+ years, sometimes people ask me "Why does the radio suck?". It seems almost everyone has a memory of commercial radio being an important part of their life. A time when your favorite station was like the cooler older brother you never had. Introducing you to new bands, and new music courtesy of a DJ that was more like a voice from the heavens than a real live human being. Your favorite station was relevant and helped defined who you were. "That guy? He listens to the Top 40 station. He's a pussy. I listen to MMS." said Parma guy in his Buzzard t-shirt. (or Frog t-shirt, or QFM t- shirt, etc. etc.)

Now when you turn on the radio it's the same bland BS no matter what city you are in. The classic rock station goes from "Aqualung" to "Wish You Were Here" to "Sweet Home Alabama". Boise, Birmingham, or Boston...It doesn't matter. It all sounds exactly the same. The "modern rock" station goes from Red Hot Chili Peppers to Staind to Green Day. Ka-Boom! 99X coming at you! (By the way, why are radio stations always "coming at you"?)

So...what went wrong?

Step One: The Telecommunication Deregulation Bill passes making it possible for single owners to own multiple stations in one market. Starting about 1993 giant corporations scrambled to buy up as many stations in a city as possible. Now instead of 18 stations trying to be #1 in the market, single owners tried to make sure their light rock station didn't tread on the audience of their adult contemporary station. Taking chances means exposing yourself to risk. Risk is highly condoned. Everyone answers to accountants and corporate wonks. Taking chances on anything is a career death wish. Blend in and get paid. Why do you think every station does the same thing at the same time in every city?

Step Two: All music must be tested before going on air. You ever wonder why you hear the Rolling Stones "Brown Sugar" 50 million times, but never "Under Assistant West Coast Promotions Man"? It's because there is a spreadsheet that says "Brown Sugar" is preferred by a 3-1 margin. So when you get that phone call playing music snippets and they ask you, "Do you like this song? Really like this song? Really really really like this song?" those results wind up on a sheet justifying a safe approach. However, what they don't ask is "Do you want to hear Brown Sugar at the expense of NEVER hearing any other Stones song?". Mixing music is an art, and art cannot show up as empirical data on a spreadsheet. But then again, if you ran a station, do you really want to risk losing your $125,000 a year job just to play "Star Star"? Nah... "Brown Sugar coming at you!"

Step Three: All music must be paid for in advance. Even at the lowliest modern rock station, every song has been paid for. What do I mean? Let's say that that a company like Sony wants to get their hot new band The Widgets on the radio. Sony then either places an advertising buy across multiple stations for another one of their bands, thus paying for the addition of The Widgets song on the playlist in a back door manner. Or maybe they provide a trip for four to Hawaii to see The Widgets for the radio station to giveaway during a key ratings period. It's the same as when DJs used to get envelopes full of cash in the 1950s, but it has been sanitized now. Now it's "non traditional revenue", not a payoff. "But certainly, if something is really good, it will get on the air, right?" Well.... Here's a true story. I was in the office of the music director at 107.9 The End and he called me into his office to play me this new Supersuckers single called "Born with a Tail". He loved it. Told me it was "great". He still didn't play it on the radio. "I can't do that. Corporate would kill me." In 1974 that would have been a hit song. Because Sub Pop didn't (or couldn't afford to) pay up, only the cool kids knew it was great.

Step Four: The only thing that matters is how the stock price goes of the parent company. In the 15 years I worked in radio I never heard a single person from corporate even ask how the programming was being received. Nobody gave a shit. The only thing anyone cared about is if sales was going to hit their number for the quarter. It all rolls downhill, and leadership at the top gets paid when they hit their bonuses for stock performance. How do you get stock performance? Hit your numbers baby! Profits down? Make people do multiple jobs and slash payroll! Cut that kid in promotions that's getting paid $22,000 a year. Apply that money to the net profit total so everyone on the food chain hits their bonus NOW. Will the station suffer tomorrow? Fuck that, who cares? Let's get paid today. When I was at Clear Channel in the late 90s they clipped about ten people, six of which had been there for 10+ years in low paying jobs with their noses to the grindstone. They felt loyalty to the station, and a sense of pride in what they had helped build. Big mistake. The memo came out with the usual tone. "Colleagues, Due to hard economic times we must make certain budget cuts to remain viable. In today's competitive market, we must remain able to adapt to the ever changing market conditions. Blah blah blah... In a totally unrelated matter, the board is all receiving $10 million dollar bonuses." No shit. If those creeps at the top had taken just $9.5 million each, all those people would have still had their jobs.

You know why the radio sucks? It's because no one at the top of the company cares about creating anything. They want to take out as much gold as possible before the whole thing collapses on itself. They are all banking on all the audience not being smart enough to completely turn their backs on the medium. When satellite radio appeared, did they attempt to make their product better so more people would listen? Of course not. How could they? There isn't anyone there that knows how to do that. Instead they attempted to sue satellite out of business on the grounds it was a monopoly. When that failed, they just went back to "80s weekends", "Ticket Tuesdays", and inane morning shows where the only thing dumber than the callers are the hosts.

Random Notes: I love Cincinnati this weekend with the points over the Steelers. I think the Bengals have circled this game since training camp, and Pittsburgh is not at their best right now... Matt Hasselback has a busted rib, and will not play this week against a Bears team that got a good win last week. Everybody in Vegas is running to the window to bet Chicago -2 in what appears to be a "gimme" this week. As usual, the public will be left holding the bag. Take Seattle +2 at home for no good reason.... I like (but don't love) Buffalo +6 at home vs New Orleans. That's too many points in a game that seems like a field goal decision... Illinois has been 6-2 ATS in their last 8 vs Ohio State. Should you take the Illini +14? I would... The real action this weekend is when the Indians, losers of 11 straight, host the equally hapless Orioles. Is there a way to bet against both teams? I am going to keep hammering the Indians regardless of who they are playing. Those guys are approaching the games with a blase Spring Training vibe. They packed it in about 40 days ago and it shows... I listened to the Hold Steady's "Boys and Girls in America" yesterday and once again marveled at how good that record is. Smart lyrics, great hooks, and big loud guitars give you everything you need in a rock record.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Nurse the Hate: Hate the NFL Week 2

I would like to offer my usual disclaimer before you decide to use this information. I don't know what the hell I am talking about when I offer up sage advice on the NFL. Then again, no one does, so this info is as good as anything else out there. Betting on the NFL is a fool's errand. It is not for the weak of heart, and is sure to end in complete financial disaster by even stepping into the shallow waters of "a little action". Then again, if you don't have any action going, it's pretty hard to watch a Chiefs game.

Starting with the Browns game... It is hard to convey to an outsider just how bad the Browns have been and will continue to be in the foreseeable future. While the local press keeps their focus on the alleged "quarterback controversy", no one is paying attention to the fact that there are maybe three of four people on the team that can tackle anyone. Adrian Peterson ran through the Browns defense like they weren't even of the same species. The defensive backfield looked like little kids trying to make a play. This week the Browns travel to Denver where they face a pretty crappy Broncos team. The Broncos kinda suck, but the question is do they suck bad enough to lose to the even suckier Browns? The Broncos will attack the Browns with an injured Kyle Orton at QB, a pissed off Brandon Marshall, and that hot shot rookie RB from Georgia. Not exactly the 78 Steelers, but let's keep focused on who they have to beat. The Broncos are at home, and Mile High is a motherfucker of a place to try and get a win. Broncos -3.

Donovan McNabb is "questionable" this week with a cracked rib. If I had a broken rib, I would be "questionable" to get up and go to the bathroom. I would be focused on laying in my own filth and crying, not throwing a 40 yard pass. I find it hard to believe that McNabb will be running around and getting hit by 300 lb gorillas with that broken rib. That leaves Kolb the starter to try and score enough points to stay with the Saints. That's not going to be easy. New Orleans dropped 6 TDs on the Lions last week without even breaking a sweat. Sure, it was the Lions, but 6 TDs in the NFL is 6 TDs. I think the Saints are legit this year, and they catch the Eagles at the right time to get a win in Philly. Take New Orleans +1.

Everybody and his brother are on Tennessee this week over Houston. As we have seen time and time again, it is always a good idea to bet against the public. The same people that think Tennessee will cover that spread are excited about things like American Idol coming back, Transformers 2, Hinder, and stuffed crust pizza from Pizza Hut. (BTW... Why did Jim Bruer do that Pizza Hut "jackpot" ad? I sure hope he got a shitload of money, cause he looks like a fucking tool.) Take Houston +6.5 for no particular reason.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Nurse the Hate: Hate El Toro

When I was in college I developed a short lived taste for El Toro tequila. My roommates and I would buy a fifth before going out and use it to "pre game". (We liked the little plastic sombrero on the lid). It really seemed like a good idea to knock that back and then go out to the bars. The problem, which should have seemed obvious, was that we would be so shitfaced when we went out that we were those guys you try to avoid when you go out to a public place. The ones that have a crooked grin for no good reason. The kind of guys that start up bulldozers just to see what will happen. The kind of guys that are going to shovel gyros down their throats from the street cart vendor at 2:30 am. Real train wrecks.

Tequila is a cruel mistress. There are lots of things that seem like a good idea during a tequila binge that just don't hold up in the light of day. (See the bulldozer incident above...) Additionally, tequila makes you think you have it all together when you are, in fact, a staggering shell of the human being you were just hours earlier. It was on just such a night that I ran into this girl that was a lab partner of mine in some horrible class. She was really cute, and looked like a Midwestern version of Liv Tyler. We got along pretty well, but I wouldn't call us "chummy" or anything. She sort of grunted at me, and once in awhile I got her to smile at some of my running sarcastic commentary during the class. However, when I ran into her on this night it was like I ran into some dog face I had served with in Nam. "Hey!!!!! (hugging her) What's up!!!! Let me get you a drink!!!!' If I had been her, I would have gotten away from me as soon as possible and maybe filed a 24 hour restraining order.

Yeah, I must have been pretty suave on this particular night. I definitely recall buying her and her kind of annoying roommate some shots of El Toro after whisking them both to an unfashionable bar nearby. I think I figured the relative solitude and bleak atmosphere of The Brass Rail would help my chances. Plus, since that bar was usually only visited by older Townies, my chances of losing the ladies attention to other wolves my own age was probably pretty low. Maybe it was the shots clouding their judgement. Maybe I was keeping it together. Maybe it was my cool acid wash jeans. Who knows? For whatever reason, the three of us soon walked to their nearby apartment at closing time. I couldn't believe it. My little scheme was coming together...

We spent a little while looking through their record collection and drinking 16 oz cans of Stroh's beer. This I vividly recall, because in the back of my head flashed a horrible memory of getting the shits in High School the last time I had a Stroh's. "Must not get shits tonight. Must play it cool." We put on X "Big Black Sun" and talked nonsense for awhile as I tried to put a plan together in my swimming head. Soon, the roommate went to bed, and it was just my cute little lab partner and I. Yes!

This is when things start to get really cloudy for me. I definitely remember making out with her on her bed in her room. I also remember wrestling with her bra like it was a live octopus before finally getting it off her. I also remember her breath tasting like beer and cigarettes. It was when I focused on that cigarette breath thing that my stomach started to flip flop around. I didn't feel so good...

There is no shame in barfing after a college drinking binge. It's almost a right of passage. Who amongst us has not been there? We can laugh about it now. There is no shame in it. It's fine. Part of growing up... There is great shame in barfing on top of your cute lab partner's head when she is giving you oral sex on her bed. Needless to say, that ruined the mood. I stumbled down her hallway looking for the bathroom and grabbed a towel to try and clean up the barf on her bed, head, and arms. She just sort of stayed in place in frozen animation in the same position as when I had left her, like if she didn't move the horror of the moment would be somehow lessened. She looked like one of those frozen figures at Pompeii. Wow, was this bad... I tried to mop up the yellow-brown liquid the best I could, and quickly made my exit. I think I said something along the lines of "Ummm...I'm really sorry. I think we, ah, got most of it. I should probably leave..."

I don't drink El Toro anymore.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Nurse the Hate: Hate the NFL Week One

I don't want to take away what clearly is the only good thing going on in this fella's life, but it might be time for him to tone it down a bit. Maybe diversify his enthusiasm into other things. Things like going to the gym. And things like a new haircut.

Week one of the NFL is when dreams die hard. Sunday around 5pm I was downtown in Cleveland watching shellshocked Browns fans wander away from the carnage of yet another home opening loss. It was nice to sit at an outdoor cafe sipping a cool drink watching people in Ghosts of Quarterbacks Past jerseys limp past. (Couch, Garcia, Frye, and Quinn being the most popular.) I felt like a much more highly evolved life form as I mentally counted my windfall betting against the home team yet again.

Once again I would like to stress how much more enjoyable it is to have no emotional investment in local sports. Watching the Browns with a cold calculating eye and wagering on their inevitable downfall is much more fun than putting a rubber dog mask and bleeding out in the Muny Lot after every loss.