Free Samples of a Sleep-Deprived Brain

…or what happens when family meets work meets severe weather meets baseball…


June 2013

The Campaign Trail: Some of My Favorite Ads


I’m not sure why this didn’t come to my brain during the Super Bowl ad crush, but recently I’ve been thinking of my favorite TV advertisements or ad campaigns.

Originally, I wasn’t about to rank these…but after careful consideration, these are my favorites. Some of these are well-known across the country. Others may be of regional interest.

And my apologies. The YouTube embed feature simply isn’t working for some strange reason.

10. Keystone and Keystone Light: Bitter Beer Face (late 1980s)

In many cases, beer ads are silly or sexy. If you don’t remember the Keystone ads (or are too young to remember them), they exuded silliness.

They also exuded effectiveness in my case. If I remember correctly, and that’s a bit debatable partially because of Keystone, the ad campaign came out my (first) freshman year of college. I don’t remember whether I suffered from Bitter Beer Face as a result of the cheap concoction.

9. Budweiser: The Lizards (1990s)

This started with frogs going “Bud…wise…errrrrr” and developed into the jealous lizards — and one well-placed, if totally unintelligible, ferret.

8. Budweiser: Spuds Mackenzie (mid-1980s)

For a couple years, Spuds Mackenzie was the face of Bud. I still have no idea how the dog got so much run, but I’m sure profits spiked as a result.

7. Dodge Ram: God Created A Farmer (2013 Super Bowl)

To me, this is one of the most powerful uses of still photos and voice I have ever seen. The use of Paul Harvey’s voice lent an eerie yet apropros gravity to the 2-minute ad.

6. Wendy’s: Fashion Show (mid-1980s)

Wendy’s was struggling at the time, well behind McDonald’s and Burger King, but it came up with some good ads. This was one of them. Is next…

5. Godfather’s Pizza: The Studney Twins (late 1980s)

Somebody wrote this ad was mildly racist. I’m not sure if I see this. What I do remember is Godfather’s came up with some weird, funny stuff in the ’80s. I loved the Studney Twins (and the Charles on Economics ads featuring Ben Stein, which I’ve had trouble finding). My parents did not.

4. E-Trade Baby (2009-2013)

One good reason to watch the Super Bowl the last few years was, well, the Super Bowl itself. Another was the E-Trade commercials featuring the talking baby. Best of the best, though, was the one talking about the “milkaholic Lindsay.”

3. AT&T: It’s Not Complicated (2012-current)

Pick any one of these ads and they are super funny. On one side, you have the kids being kids….but they are juxtaposed against this super-serious guy who apparently has lost all his childhood joy. The one issue I had is I was so engrossed with that interplay that I didn’t pay attention to who the ad was for.

2. Nike: Gotta Be The Shoes (late 1980s, 1990s)

Nike has been responsible for awesome commercial campaign after awesome commercial campaign. The pairing of Michael Jordan and Spike Lee was a total classic.

1. Nike: Bo Knows (1990s)

Bo knew football and baseball. He may not have been all that comfortable dealing with the media or ad reps behind the scenes, but he definitely knew how to pitch products. Between this and the Bo Diddley ads…absolutely priceless. And my favorite.

List off your favorites.


Going Home in my Mind


Over the past few years, the championship best-of-three series to determine college baseball’s champion has put the Mark Knopfler tune “Going Home” into my head. Reason being: CWS Week is where all the memories of home flood in.

If you have decided to make your home away from your birthplace, there are certain things that take you home, whether you are ready or not. It could be a smell. It could be a taste. It could be a visual.

In my case, the CWS brings all those to bear. The CWS brings home, in no particular order:


*Zesto’s. Mmmmmm. Zesto’s. ‘Nuff said.

*Speaking of food, there’s also Runza…Valentino’s…Big Fred’s…ummmm, Jim’s Rib Haven…Spaghetti Works. King’s. Don and Millie’s. Just to name a few.

*Carting down a hibachi before 7 a.m. to commence tailgating. For a 2 p.m. first pitch. Burgers, brats, beer for me and for you. Whoever you are, wherever you are from. Sharing is part of the CWS experience.

*Laughing at the people who had to park across Interstate 80 because they didn’t plan properly (i.e., get there beyond early). Until I fell into that poor planning boat.

*Beach balls. Lots and lots of beach balls. And lots and lots of boos for security. They must not have had much to do, the way they attacked the beach balls that escaped the outfield seats.

*Going from the CWS one night and welcoming the Omaha Royals back to town the next…with about 2,500 people in the stands at Rosenblatt.

*Pictures of the Henry Doorly Zoo Desert Dome in the background. Which leads me to my favorite College World Series memory (which, in turn, has nothing to do with the two championship games I have witnessed). In 1993, a good friend of mine and I watched Wichita State and Arizona State put up a relative yawner until the later innings. The Shockers led for most of the contest. ASU’s Sean Tyler, who as I recall was barely batting .180, was up in the seventh inning with a chance to tie the game only to strike out badly (it was about as bad as you can look on a swinging strikeout). He came up in the ninth with the Sun Devils down three and almost automatically down in an 0-2 hole. I kidded my friend about what he would do if Tyler homered. Tyler worked the count to 2-2 and then lasered a pitch somewhere through the late June haze to we-still-don’t-know-where to tie the game. Tyler refused to come out towards us in the left field bleachers until his soft toss partner overshot him on purpose, giving us a chance to give him the “we’re not worthy” body gesture. I got one of the biggest bruises to my left shoulder I have ever received. And we never finalized that bet. Bleep.


Then there are the experiences with no tie to the CWS that come roaring in from right field, apparently just like the wind at TD Ameritrade:

*Watching lightning from thunderstorms rock the TV towers near 72nd and Ames.

*Video games after softball at Godfather’s Pizza. Granted, the video game of choice for us was Arch Rivals. Man. I just dated myself.

*Pickup baseball games, if you can call them that, at Fontenelle Park. The one-on-one backyard battles with my brother, most of which I lost.

*Rosenblatt Stadium. Memories are softening, meaning the actual experience probably wasn’t as ideal as I remember, but it was a great place to watch a game. Pete and I worked in the stadium press box for most of three summers, selling tickets for the Omaha Royals’ Merchant Night production. That experience also gave me my first press box view for practicing my baseball play-by-play. It was also a pretty cool concert venue for acts like the Beach Boys and Huey Lewis to play after games were done. I knew the stadium had to go, but it still was painful to see the stadium in disarray before it was torn down.

*The Old Market and the revitalized downtown area. I know the Old Market renovations were ongoing when I was a kid, but the rest of downtown…where was that when I was growing up? And along those lines, what triggered Omaha going from 350,000 people with nothing to do to…someplace pretty fricking cool?

*The big slide at the Gene Leahy Mall. Take your kids there, once the renovations are all done.

*Meals with my parents. And just spending Sundays at home with nothing to do but talk with my parents, watch sports or a movie, talk some more or even take a nap.

As Mississippi State and UCLA begin their best-of-three set tonight, I’ll be watching for those sights of home. I’ll be “Going Home” in my mind until next year. And at some point, my daughter can experience the wonder that is the College World Series.

Here’s to Overtime

stanley cup 2013 2

Well, it’s official now.

The 2013 Stanley Cup finals are a classic in the making. The 2013 NBA Finals are a classic just waiting for a Game 7 exclamation point.

First to hockey (simply because I’m more of a hockey fan). If Game 1’s triple-overtime heart-stopper or Game 2’s OT affair didn’t set the stage for you, then all you had to do was watch 15 minutes of Game 4. What a back-and-forth, high-flying, can’t-breathe-until-the-end roller-coaster as Chicago topped Boston 6-5 in oooovertime.

stanley cup 2013

Sometimes the experts are right. A lot of people said the Blackhawks and Bruins were evenly matched teams, and they were looking forward to this series because of that. Turns out it’s becoming hard to find a more evenly matched series than the one we are witnessing now.

And honestly, you could say the same thing about the NBA Finals culminating with the winner-take-all Game 7. Granted, some of the games haven’t been as closely contested as those in the NHL playoffs final round, but the Game 6 ebb-and-flow…certainly fits the bill of the ESPN Instant Classic.

nba finals 2013 2

Everybody’s familiar with the storylines going into the Finals. The question now is which team (and which stars) have more in the tank. Most money here would be on the Heat, and that makes sense. Miami game off a grueling seven-game conference finals against Indiana and is no stranger to going deep into the playoffs, but San Antonio collectively has doing this lengthy playoff run for much longer. Most everybody wonders whether Game 6 was the Spurs’ last wad to shoot, but the game should also pinpoint the Spurs came back repeatedly to gain, then lose, then gain, then lose control.

NBA: Finals-Miami Heat at San Antonio Spurs

For the Stanley Cup, who knows? Why try to predict how that will turn out?

As these series end, the one thing I hope doesn’t happen is blowouts. Both series have been so entertaining that it would be a shame to see them end in boat races.

Actually, some more overtime would be nice. Scratch that. Overtimes would be fitting. These two series are too even to end with a pedestrian regulation-time contest.

You don’t see season-ending series like this all that often. Here’s to overtime to end them.

LSU Exits…Stage Left, Even

lsu baseball3

So LSU has been eliminated from the 2013 College World Series.

Casual fans from across the country will yawn and go about their business. Locals know LSU’s exit means the tourney won’t be as spicy as it could have been.

For the most part, Omaha does a pretty good job of being impartial when it comes to welcoming and rooting for the incoming teams each year. Even Texas, Nebraska’s still-hated and once-upper-echelon Big 12 rival, gets a favorable reception each time they arrive.

But LSU is different. And don’t ask me to explain why.

When I was in my late teens and early 20s, my friends and I frequented the CWS — and especially the weekend games. Gates would open at 12:30 p.m. We’d be down at Rosenblatt Stadium before 8 a.m. The reason was strictly to tailgate with future friends. It didn’t matter who was involved — Texas, Georgia, Arizona State, Wichita State, Creighton, Nebraska, Miami, USC. LSU, whenever they were there, was the main draw. The tailgate food was outstanding, the people friendly, the atmosphere as laid back as you can imagine from such a rabid fan base.

I marveled back then, and I marvel today. Honestly, the LSU fandom is virtually the same in its willingness to reach out to the casual Omaha visitor and the longstanding Omaha resident alike, and there’s almost no difference in the quality of the food or the passion they once brought to South Omaha and now to TD Ameritrade.

Personally, I think Omaha is drawn to the unique Southern charm brought north by LSU faithful, although it could easily be the easy Louisiana party style…a little Bourbon Street on 13th Street.

Maybe it’s just all the cool French names.

Whatever the reason, some of the CWS buzz in Omaha is less loud with LSU headed home.

A Bad Start


Every so often, you have a start to your morning that just leaves you shaking your head.

Sometimes it’s a sick child. Sometimes you step in something your pet left behind. Sometimes it’s the alarm is not scheduled properly.

Thankfully, I didn’t have any of that today. Unthankfully (I just made up a word), I think my situation was just as bad.

I’m laying in bed, my brain struggling to process that I’ve hit the snooze button for possibly the fourth or fifth time, when my wife asks whether I plan to get up any time soon. Being the clock read 1:30 a.m. and I had extra on my work plate, I told her I’d be up soon.

Somehow, I wind up staring at the clock until it read 2:30 a.m.

Yeah, I know. Weird thought patterns tend to make sense on short sleep.

Anyways, I get dressed, take the dog out and check the time on my alarm. 2:45 a.m. I’m not sure what possessed me to look at Ginny’s clock, but I did.

4:45 a.m. The later time was immediately confirmed by my cell phone.

Insert cuss word combination of your choice here.

Thankfully, I didn’t have my work day thrown totally out of whack, even though I was hoping for much greater progress (as in, getting done faster than I am). However, I’m still having trouble figuring out just how that happened when the clocks were identical when we went to bed at 10:30 p.m.

Dads on TV: More Dumb-Dumb-Dumb Than “Hey-Hey-Hey”


I have been frustrated with the portrayal of TV fathers for some time. So leave it to Bill Cosby, the holder of the lead role in a family comedy I had once despised, to voice the same concerns I’ve been grumbling about for years.

And leave it to me to think of this the day after Father’s Day. Oh well.

Cosby was Heathcliff Huxtable on The Cosby Show, the mainly light-hearted (and in many ways a bit unbelievable) show that led ratings for years when I was a teenager and young adult. Whether it was my youth, watching the interactions my friends had with their fathers or the rapid development of a warped sense of reality, I grew from enjoying the Cosby Show to disparaging it. None of my friends had the nuclear family the show displayed, none of them certainly had the high-dollar family portrayed on the show and none of them enjoyed the mostly playful sibling relationships that were a show hallmark.

Besides, as I grew older, the humor was far too tame for my blood. Turn off Cosby Show. Turn on “Married…With Children.”

al bundy

As my life goals turned from not wanting any sort of family in high school to wanting children to actually having a family, my perceptions on TV fatherhood changed royally. And this is where Cosby comes in.

For years, Cosby has been harping on parents, especially dads, to take their responsibilities seriously. In a recent interview with ABC News, he said his show was designed to give an example of life with a father who cared and was effectively active in his children’s young lives.

“I based the series on two important things: Number one … I hated those series where the children were brighter than the parents, and those parents had to play dumb,” Cosby said. “Number two was that I wanted to ‘take the house back.”

If you watch TV today, dads are either inherently stupid or they are smartasses…if they are even in the picture. From Modern Family to Last Man Standing…

tim allen   modern fam

…to shows my daughter watches like Disney Channel’s “Dog With A Blog”…

dog with blog

…dads are nothing more than stage-prop stooges. And don’t get me started on Nickelodeon’s “Fairly Oddparents.”


At least these dads are featured, right? Look at shows like Nickelodeon’s “iCarly” or Disney’s “Jessie,” where the dads are/were mentioned maybe once or twice a season — and possibly show up every other season or so. And once they do, guess what: stooge central.

Kids need to be entertained as much as adults do. Maybe more so. I get that. And men, especially fathers, provide an easy target. Put us in our element (work, usually) and we can make things hum along like nobody’s business. Take us out of that setting and plop us at home, and…hoo boy. Just ask my wife how well we do.

But prodding and making fun and keeping the kid tickled “at the expense of parenting, at the expense of keeping children out of harm’s way to get these laughs, to make these parents look stupid, to make kids look like they are ultra-bright but still lost, then we have a problem,” according to Cosby.

“[We] parents make it difficult,” he said, “because we want to be well-liked. And I’m not saying that parenting, you shouldn’t want to be well-liked, but you also have to have some kind of judgment.”

Hey Hey Hey to that.

There are the idiot dads out there. I’ve been one…well, I guess I am one every day. There are also those of us dads who care deeply about our responsibilities to our children and do our damndest to fulfill them with a relative minimum of stupidity (this is where I would put my father). It’s too bad Hollywood thinks it best to give our children the complete opposite viewpoint, that dads are nothing more than progeny-befriending buffoons designed only to get laughs and ridicule.

I don’t watch The Cosby Show reruns when they are on. But I have a whole new respect for what Cosby was trying to convey during his show.

Hall of Famers


For the past several years, I have had the honor of interviewing the induction class for the National Teachers Hall of Fame on 14 KVOE.

As a broadcaster, there are some programs you yawn over. Others, you sometimes wonder who scheduled your guests and why. And there are a few where you just wish the microphone would swallow you whole so it would all be over. That is definitely not the case when the NTHF inductees come to studio.

To me, the program has always been an inspiring one to either listen to or moderate, and it’s because of the passion, thoughtfulness, drive and insight the teachers possess individually and as a group.  And today’s program, featuring Deb Cornelison (Ada, Okla.), Rebecca Gault (representing one of my former hometowns, Bel Air, Md.), Darryl Johnson (Smithville, Mo.), Martha McLeod (Rockport, Texas) and Beth Vernon (Blue Springs, Mo.) was no exception.

Honestly, I’m not sure what inspires me the most, and there is a lot to choose from. Listening to the inductees talking about the surprises of their announcements a few weeks is amazing in its own right because they are truly shocked by the honor, but that only sets the stage. There are the reasons they get into the field. There are the things they do in class to nurture their students. There are the expectations they demand of themselves, their students and their communities. There is the understanding of the awesome responsibility their job entails and the willingness to meet that challenge every day.

I come from a family tree that has both traditional and nontraditional teachers, so that’s part of the reason I enjoy doing the program and learning from the teachers. My grandmother taught elementary school, while my mother has been involved in teaching quiltmaking for decades and my wife is itching to get back into teaching dance.

There are only a couple K-12 teachers in my life — Howard Faber and Robbie Rotschafer, who I had back-to-back in fifth and sixth grades — who I connected with as a child. Every time I host this annual program, however, I know I could have connected with each of the educators, learned from them, grown as a result of them.

Education takes a lot of hits these days for a lot of reasons. Part of it is because of teachers who, for whatever reason, don’t see their responsibilities the way these teachers do. Part of it is our lawmakers keep changing the rules on how to teach and how to gauge success. And a lot of it is because we as a society demand teachers be our children’s parents (not just teach them about school subject matter) and then give our educators no support whatsoever when it comes to disciplinary matters or performance expectations.

These teachers that come to Emporia, Kan., each and every mid-June are the best of the best, even if they don’t say it. But they also represent the teachers who care deeply about their students, work night and day to ensure their success and will never be nominated for their work.

Do yourself a favor. Click here to listen to the inductees. Let yourself be inspired by these individuals. Allow yourself to realize good things happen in education every day, but the teachers and staffers who guide our children alongside us can’t do it alone. Learn more about goals and objectives and current work of the National Teachers Hall of Fame. It’s inconceivable so few people know about this particular hall of honor when others of less importance are so well-known…but that’s the subject of another column.

Pick their brains. Work with them. Listen to what they are seeing and saying about your youngsters. Teachers see incidents and trends in classrooms we may not see for weeks or months or even longer if our children keep their guards up at home.

And thank the teachers of your children. It’s the least we can do for what they do.

Forced Out

gene stephenson

It was interesting to hear about the departures of Ohio State president Gordon Gee and Wichita State baseball coach Gene Stephenson yesterday.

Gee, perhaps displaying a smoothness he often showed as an administrator and fundraiser but possessed less and less as a public speaker, announced his “retirement” effective July 1. As you know, he targeted Catholics, Notre Dame and the SEC in recent off-the-cuff remarks that made other university leaders extremely uncomfortable and, honestly, shed a rather bad light on the university and its so-called “remediation plan” because of other vocal gaffes from the bowtied, suspendered leader.


Gee was an able president, and his problem may simply have been that he, well, put greater emphasis on the three groups in question. In all honesty, it sounds like the comments were made in jest, but he had to know there would be blowback just from one of the groups. He just had to know. To go through the triple play of Catholics, Notre Dame and the SEC was daring the hook to find his neck onstage and yank him behind the curtains. And that’s exactly what happened.

When I write “Time to Chop Some Names” about the Washington Redskins’ ongoing name flap, one of the key tenets was the cultural sensitivities have, right or wrong, changed the past 15 years. Statements allowable then aren’t now. I’m not sure whether it’s a good or bad thing in many cases, but it is different and people have to adjust.

The situation is thoroughly different in south central Kansas, where Wichita State has effectively fired the man who built a baseball program from scratch basically because it wasn’t meeting the expectations he set. Gene Stephenson was given the chance to resign or be fired after 36 years at the helm, and he didn’t choose resignation.

Stephenson’s ouster is a jarring statement on the current state of athletics. True, the Shockers weren’t close to their glory days of the late 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s. Wichita State made an NCAA regional for the first time in four years, but the grumblings of glory days gone by and not returning any time soon apparently were too much for the athletic department.

In a way, it seems WSU is turning its back on the only person to bring success to the university in a baseball setting. Well, it is. Let’s be frank about it. However, it doesn’t matter if you’re a legend or a hot, can’t-miss prospect. You have to produce. And if you’re a Gene Stephenson, it gets that much harder every year to produce at the level you need to keep your job. Especially when you’re nearing four decades at the same position.

Much like cultural perceptions on what’s allowed and what’s not, performance expectations change over time. It’s up to us to adjust.

Dirty Kanza Forever


Organizers of the Dirty Kanza were concerned about growing pains this year.

On the surface, the concern was valid. After all, organizers wanted to expand the field from about 440 last year to 1,000 this year. For a town of 25,000, that’s a huge jump, and it isn’t limited to just the number of riders coming in. You also have to consider each rider was responsible for his/her/their pickup crews in case of trouble, the family and friends who want to make the trip, where you’re going to put everybody and — no small concern — how you’re going to entertain everybody.


Well, there weren’t a lot of growing pains. In fact, by all accounts, things went about as smoothly as possible.

601dk kt52

I’m not speaking from a rider’s perspective, and I’m not sure I ever will. Checking some of the photos from KVOE staffers Scott Hayes and Kyle Thompson (including the shot above), that’s a feat I’ll always admire but I doubt I’ll put myself out there to try. The way it sounds, the race had pretty much everything, and the gravel claimed a lot of victims. One guy blew a flat tire within a block of the starting line. Riders had to hoist their bikes up past shoulder level to cross one river. Riders crashed. They didn’t burn, but one suffered early symptoms of hypothermia, thanks to cooler than normal conditions and a breezy north wind.

However, watching everybody at Saturday’s finish line party was impressive. The block party grew from one block to three and could feasibly have added a fourth.  Riders were warmly welcomed to the finish line well after dark, although there are always several who straggle in well after the block party ends. There were a ton of activities for the young, young at heart and young of liver and/or kidneys. Follow that up with a breakfast and Olympic-style awards ceremony, and Emporia gave the Dirty Kanza riders (and area residents) an event to savor.


Click here and here to see exactly what the DK is all about. And come to Emporia next year. You could be rubbing shoulders with over 1,000 of the world’s best gravel grinders.

601dk kt22

The plan is to have 2,000 riders at some point this decade. Looks like that should be no problem to handle. Just make sure you book your hotel room early.

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Free Samples of a Sleep-Deprived Brain

...or what happens when family meets work meets severe weather meets baseball...