Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Around the country in 14 days

Back from a whirlwind two weeks of calling Mariners baseball that took me to five cities, four time zones, two leagues, and eight different start times. But no cyclones!

Just an earthquake.

Fortunately, it was only a 1.7, occurring a mere five minutes after I arrived in Seattle.

But the sun was actually shining so as long as the Space Needle didn’t go down, folks in the Emerald City didn’t give a shit.

When the weather is nice there is no more beautiful spot in the world than the Pacific Northwest!

This sojourn took me first to Seattle then a road trip to New York, Boston, Cleveland, and Denver. But it could have been worse. It could have been New York, Boston, Tokyo, and Denver.

Had dinner the first night with one of my broadcast partners, Dave “Wanna buy a hat?” Sims. (Dave now has a very fine hat company and won’t be satisfied until every man in America either looks like Sinatra or Super Fly.) He took me to Japonessa downtown. If God were a sushi chef, this is what He’d serve. One bite of the tropical roll and you’ll be Meg Ryan in WHEN HARRY MET SALLY. I bought three hats.

Safeco Field is an awesome ballpark. From the upper deck you can see Mt. Rainier. Unless the roof is closed, in which case you can see the catwalks. The Mariners took two-out-of-three from the Detroit Tigers. I felt a little rusty the first game, but by the second when I sang “Happy Trails To You” on the air I started getting my groove back.

President Obama made his announcement supporting Gay marriage. He arrived in Seattle just two days later. Unfortunately, we missed him, having flown to the east coast. It’s too bad. We could have had him on the broadcast, and think how much more impact his proclamation would have had if he made it on our “Between the Baselines” pre-game segment with Shannon Drayer. His handlers obviously aren’t thinking.

The day after his announcement, this was the actual headline in the Seattle Times:


No foolin’! The reference was to Representative Norm Dicks but still!

Flew to New York on the team charter. I am now sooo spoiled. You could use any bathroom in any cabin! Seriously!

Weather in New York was equally as glorious. No one was wearing their Carole King schlump coats. Stayed at the New York Hilton. It has 2000 rooms but in Manhattan that’s considered “boutique.”

This was right in the middle of “Upfronts” season, when the major television networks decide on their Fall schedules. So the streets were littered with failed TV pilots. What are “Upfronts” exactly? In a play I wrote I describe them thusly:

The networks announce their new Fall schedules then the advertisers buy commercial time "up front". Spending billions on nothing more than blind faith. It's like if you put an Off-track betting window in a mental institution.

Met up with my wife and daughter. I’d like to think they flew across the country to see me but the truth is they were there to see NEWSIES. I just happened to bump into them at the Papaya King.

Took the D train out to Yankee Stadium. Snapped a photo of a rat on the platform the size of a Mini Cooper. Still, it costs $35 to park at Yankee Stadium so as long as the rat doesn’t gnaw on my face I’m taking the subway.

The new Yankee Stadium might not be the cathedral the old one was, but someday at Notre Dame they’re going to realize they can’t install the luxury pews they want and will do the same thing. And the new ballpark is state-of-the-art. They did it right! Great sight lines, wider concourses, giant murals of Yankee greats (although where’s Mickey Rivers?), and yet they preserved that familiar upper deck frieze and fans who will spit on players who lie unconscious after crashing into the wall.

On Saturday they celebrated Yogi Berra’s 87th birthday. He was there at home plate, sitting on a golf cart. The Yankees presented him a cake and waived the $35 parking fee.

Sign on FDR Drive for Manhattan Mini-Storage: “NYC: Tolerant of your beliefs. Judgmental of your shoes.”

At the game on Sunday most of the ballplayers used pink bats and some wore pink cleats. Oh, I hope it was for Mother’s Day.

Had lunch in the pressroom with old buddy, Keith Olbermann. It’d been awhile since we’d seen each other. I was doing practice play-by-play from the stands of Dodger Stadium and he had a television career.

We took one-of-three from the dreaded Yankees, but considering their payroll, let that be a lesson to ‘em!

Part two tomorrow.  For more travelogues I invite you to check out my book, WHERE THE HELL AM I?  TRIPS I HAVE SURVIVED.   Kindle version is only $2.99.   That's a laugh every three cents.


Steve said...

Friday question:

What are your thoughts on sitcom supporting characters who are, 95% of the time or so, more caricatures than true characters? When I see a character who is so patently stupid or selfish or whatever, it feels cheap to me and takes me away from fully investing in the show or its main characters, but even the classic shows often seem to have these -- such as Ted Knight from Mary Tyler Moore, or Frank Burns from MASH. Or guys like Lowell from Wings. On bad shows, it's even more grating, of course. See ALL the supporting characters on Two Broke Girls. Or, better yet, don't.

These simplistic characters are a joke delivery system, but unless the show already has an absurdist style in general (e.g., Community, or Scrubs), it seems somehow less earned than when a three-dimensional character snaps off great comedic lines. I know there's the occasional episode to give the actor a chance to show some depth (look, Ted Baxter has feelings!), but that's the rare exception. On MASH, Charles may have been a less hilarious character than Frank, but he was always more real and three-dimensional, and so I enjoyed watching him more, or at least felt his appearances didn't take me "out" of the episode as much as Frank's shenanigans did. But those shenanigans can be comedy gold, so I see the appeal.

Cheers had Coach, but he had so much warmth, and some explanation for his, um, cognitive impairments, that it never bothered me, and even Cliff was somehow rounded enough to be more interesting to me, so I don't see Cheers as having had this, other than with occasional guest stars like Carla's first husband Nick -- who DID take me out of the show when he would come on because he was so over the top.

So, to sum up my too-long question: What are your thoughts about this kind of thing? Do you worry about or try to avoid side characters who are mostly one-dimensional, or do you see them as important tools in building your comedy ensemble?

Emmett Flatus said...

The Seattle Times headline writer who came up with that one probably has a standing job offer from the New York Post.

Chris said...

Friday Question: I think Episodes is incredibly funny, any chance you can tell us how true it is, if you've seen the show?

Michael Rafferty said...

Friday question...On MASH, first season, Gary Burghoff played Radar pretty much the same as he did in the movie version. But,over time, Radar was softened and became more gentle and naive. Was this a decision of Burghoff or was this a creative decision of Larry Gelbart et al.?

Barry Traylor said...

The Papaya King worth the trip to NYC all by itself!

Bill Gorton said...

Friday Question:
Who created the Fraiser character for Cheers?

Did that writer get any creator credit for the show "Fraiser?"

Cap'n Bob said...

Steve: Generally speaking, the smaller the part, the bigger the performance. (I'm talking acting, of course.)

JER said...

Norm Dicks has long been a bonanza for headline writers--my favorite was one regarding an election debate with his Republican rival Jim Beaver. You can guess, right? Try your hand at it, there are just so many options.

OK, spoiler, the actual headline? "Fur flies as Dicks meets Beaver."

Johnny Walker said...

I'm currently working my way through Cheers (on Season 3). A couple of names I keep seeing are Sam Simon and Ken Estin. Obviously I know Sam Simon, but I'd never heard of Ken Estin. Apparently the two were a writing team, going back to Taxi, and they Produced certain seasons of Cheers.

Yet, despite Simon co-creating The Simpsons, Ken Estin has never written an episode for that show (and I'm sure it would help his career if he did).

I guess this is a bit gossipy, but it seems like the pair had a falling out. Anyone know?