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Free Samples of a Sleep-Deprived Brain

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

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Piecing Together My Voice…And Other Stuff

with inwoodOver the past week, I’ve been dealing with some of the crud Ginny and the kids have had — although not to the same extent. At least, I didn’t think so until Friday night.

One of our broadcast stalwarts, Tim Miller, had come down with the flu (as has most of Emporia by this point), so I was asked to broadcast Friday’s Emporia High basketball doubleheader. We had plans for me to go to the Globetrotters game at White Auditorium, but with another world tour stop in Kansas coming this week, we made arrangements and I agreed.

My voice was somewhat scratchy going in. It was completely gone going out.

I’ve found out beforehand that I’m not one of those sportscasters that can dial down my call depending on my voice condition. And winter is typically a bad time for my voice anyways, but I figured I’d load up on cough drops and water and be OK.

Uh, no.

The girls game was, honestly, noncompetitive for the most point, so I didn’t really feel the need to put added stress on my call. On top of that, my partner, Steve Inwood, sensed things weren’t going well in the vocal department, so he extended a lot of his analysis into some play-by-play, which helped me as well.

And my voice was still hanging by a thread by the time the boys game started.

In my mind, I needed a second noncompetitive game. Honestly, I needed a change in mindset.

I’ve always approached sports play-by-play with two mental metrics:

  1. Am I accurately calling what’s happening in front of me?
  2. Am I capturing the rhythm, ebb and flow of the contest?

I’ve always prided myself as somebody who can do both reasonably well — because I believe both are critical components of a sports broadcast. You can call the action well, but you lose listeners if you can’t give people a sense of how a specific play fits into the overall flow of the action. On the flip side, you can capture the highlights of a given game — great catchphrases, raising your voice and the like — but if people can’t trust you’re actually telling them what’s happening on the court or the field, well, you’ve lost credibility and you won’t have much of a broadcast career. Unless you’re a conspiracy theorist…but that’s for another post.

Anyways, E-High promptly falls behind by almost double digits, and based on the first few minutes it looks like this will be a yawner. Before the first quarter, however, the Spartans get some things figured out, and just before halftime they take a brief lead, trailing by a point at the half. By this time, the decision to gear down my call has been thoroughly overridden by that two-pronged approach I’ve had in my head for a couple decades at least. I have a sense what’s coming in the second half — a game that comes down to the final four minutes — but I don’t expect eight lead changes in the third quarter followed by a brief burst at the end of the third quarter to give E-High a 4-point lead, followed by another pair of quick buckets to push the lead to eight early in the fourth period.

When you’re calling a run for the home team, especially in a tight game, the energy level goes up and the voice raises to match. In my case, it went from a reasonable facsimile of a voice to a series of nearly incomprehensible squawks as I’m trying to both capture the play and the emotion in the gym.

When the run reverses, the voice comes down but the intensity does not. And that’s what happened. Highland Park scored eight unanswered points in 90 seconds, including two deep three-pointers, to suck all the air out of the gym. They then added six of the next eight points, by my recollection, to take a four-point lead midway through the quarter.

And then the Spartans responded, although they missed a critical pair of free throws with about 2:20 left and another pair with under a minute to go. Upshot: Highland Park leads by four with 20 seconds left, Emporia High hits a pair of free throws and the visitors throw the ball out of bounds.

So you say there’s a chance…

If anybody could tell what I was saying by that point without a translator, congratulations. And with the remaining shreds of my voice, I try to fill in everybody about the last five seconds: missed shot, offensive rebound, forced shot offline, offensive rebound, buzzer. Ball game.

Good guys lose game. Broadcaster’s voice a lost cause a loooong time ago.

Postgame from my microphone is a mixture of a whisper and a croak, and to be honest I should have just let Steve take over — possibly for the entire back half of the doubleheader. As I write this Sunday, the voice is finally starting to come back, although its nowhere close to full strength.

And as I write this, I’ve noticed several things about what it’s like when you don’t have your voice — or, in my case, a critical component of my job:

  1. If your voice is scratchy and squawky when it normally isn’t, your kids will laugh at you. Repeatedly.
  2. I’ve found it’s harder to avoid singing than talking. And the kids have made it so I can’t avoid talking. Such is life.
  3. Whispering at kids to get their attention only goes so far. And in our house, it’s not very far.
  4. There are a host of remedies for a blown-up voice. Many involve tea…and/or ginger…and/or whiskey. Haven’t tried the whiskey-related remedies yet.
  5. Timing is everything. I’m grateful I’ve had the weekend to rest the voice, relatively speaking. Having to turn around and try newscasts the following morning would have been a broadcast disaster in the making.
  6. I’m eternally grateful Sean Thornton saved over the postgame interviews and not the full games from Friday. Although it would be interesting to go back and listen to those at some point waaaaaaaay down the road.

I’m not sure how well the voice will do Monday — or how long it will last before it starts shredding again. And with this being a mild, breezy week fraught with high fire danger, it could be at least the rest of the week before I sound like I normally do. Anyways, thanks for listening in general. And thanks for staying with the broadcast Friday night. Hopefully, we’ll all be back to normal for Substate this week.

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On the course for BBC


My GBLP is declining.

GBLP? What’s THAT?

Well, every year KVOE has our Brewers and Broadcasters Classic at the Emporia, Kan., Country Club. It’s a scramble-format tourney that uses a modified (maybe extra modified would be a better descriptor) Stableford scoring system.

It’s a two-day deal. It’s very popular, usually filling up a week or two before the tourney begins. And for us at the station, it’s all hands on deck.

ALL hands on deck.

We usually take a six-hour shift. For those of us who have a six-day week, we pick our day off. Which for means Sunday morning.

For the first few years, my job was to see which drives on a par-3 were closest to the pin. Closest got a prize. I’ve also spotted for closest approach shot for a separate prize.

The last several years, I’ve been on Hold No.5, spotting for balls leaving the fairway and heading into either “the deep spinach” or the row of trees currently behind me.


(Why spinach? Why not, oh, cabbage or Brussels sprouts or alfalfa? I digress. Actually, no, I don’t. We officially had to dig for a ball in the mushrooms today. The mushrooms!)


And here’s where GBLP comes into play.

It’s not an official statistic. At least, I don’t think it is for golf course workers. But GBLP is short, in my mind, for Golf Ball Location Percentage. And, as I said, mine is slipping fast.

Honestly, I have no idea why I’m on this assignment. My eyesight has never been good (some would say even with the thick or highly-adjusted lenses I’m currently using). Back when I used to live near a public 9-hole course in Omaha, my brother and I would return balls to golfers (and sell others left behind later). One of our unspoken contests, at least as I took it, was to see which one of us could find stray golf balls faster.  He won repeatedly. 

So, as you can see, I may not be cut out for this task.

As I write this, it’s 9:15 am. I’ve been spotting now for 90 minutes and I’m on my sixth (seventh?) group of the front nine. I have had my fourth close call (not quite a near-miss) from incoming missile attacks. And up until this sixsome approached, my GBLP went from 67 percent to 16 percent. I saw four of the six balls land with my first group and just one with my last group.

It seems like this happens every year. It’s normally a high sky, which doesn’t help, and today has minimal cloud cover. 

As mentioned before, I haven’t had the dump-out-of-the-Gator scramble to avoid incoming attacks yet. But it’s coming. 

Honestly, all of us volunteer spotters should eschew the orange vests and be outfitted with these T-shirts, courtesy of The Far Side:


And next year I’ll tell you about the GTVTR.

The Golf Tournament Volunteer Target Rate.  Which just went up…

To be or not to be: Dramatic news writing is the question

News writing is a lot harder than it looks.

Part of that is just the nature of news. We have to get a lot of information out, and for broadcast — radio and TV — we typically don’t have a lot of regurgitation time (insert your own visual here). I’m fortunate in my current position because upper levels of management have given my department the leeway to give a 15-minute news hole for our featured newscasts. This means our staffers have the unmentioned go-ahead to flesh out stories with all the necessary details so our listeners and Web site readers get more details than other broadcast media outlets can provide. It’s not to the level of print journalism — again, the time factor rears its ugly head, especially with the number of stories we’re generating — but it’s one of the things I really like about small-town journalism in general and our station policy in particular.

But part of that is also a desire to, well, spice up the news. And, in some cases, that’s being kind.

I remember a TV news anchor in Omaha from the late 1980s who relayed all information — all information — in the most dramatic terms possible. Car crash? Disastrous, even if it was a fender-bender. Fire? Always destructive — which technically was true, but obviously there are different levels of destruction from such incidents.

It didn’t take long for said anchor to depart the TV station for greener pastures and more mundane news writing (and news delivering) to return to that station’s airwaves.

The problems with dramatic news writing, especially for basic and breaking news, are severalfold. First, it’s distracting to the listener and to the Web site reader. Second, it’s numbing to the audience, especially when people eventually figure out the adjectives and the actions don’t match.

Problems don’t stop there on the broadcast side because a dramatically-written story automatically causes an anchor to change his delivery emphasis — and in some cases to leave what’s actually important underemphasized.

News stories written with a lot of flowery language may generate more online clicks for a certain period of time. However, once readers realize there’s much ado about very little, they will find other news sources that focus on the truth, regardless of how boring the details may be. And your news operation will suffer a damaged reputation as a result.

As far as I’m concerned, a news department’s focus should be in the following order.

  1. Truth in all aspects
  2. Engage with details
  3. Entertain if dictated by content

As you can see, embellishment of details is nowhere on this list. However, go back to the paragraph about online traffic. Once grandiose language is allowed and online traffic seems to increase, a news reporter can be easily tempted to either write things out of context, blow things out of proportion or write things that simply can’t happen just so more people come on board the Web site. Many have taken to the temptation…to the detriment of the profession.

After having seen dramatic language — both elsewhere and, unfortunately, in my department — and after hearing from people over the course of time, it’s my experience that the story content drives readership and listenership far more than how dramatically it’s presented.

Basic is boring when it comes to news writing, especially for hard news. There’s no doubt about that. But given the choice between dramatic and dry, basic is also best.

Royals Keep Steamrolling to a Title (First Takes and Second Helpings: Oct. 29, 2015)

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Various and sundry thoughts while mulling the end of a vacation week…

  1. The Kansas City Royals are primed to win the World Series. That’s something I didn’t expect at the start of the regular season, and it’s certainly something I didn’t expect after the Royals dug themselves a massive hole in the American League Division Series Game 4 against Houston. One thing that has highlighted this season is an ability to get big at-bats at big times, and that trend has been in full evidence against the New York Mets in the first two World Series games. The Mets rotation is designed to miss bats. The Royals hitters are now designed not to miss pitches, especially those in the strike zone. Mets pitchers are losing this battle in a big way. The other thing in the Royals’ favor has been underrated starting pitching. Edinson Volquez was every bit the equal of Matt Harvey in Game 1, and Johnny Cueto (and I can’t believe I’m typing this) simply outpitched Jacob deGrom in Game 2.It just has to be the nails.

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    After the All-Star break, while Ginny and Bella were getting their nails painted, my foster son asked whether I’d get my nails done. I said I’d get mine painted blue if the Royals got back to the World Series. Lo and behold, they did. And I had to remind the ladies of the home about this. Typically, I’m the one having to field the reminder on just about everything. Anyways, Bella was pretty giddy about getting to paint Daddy’s nails. As far as the on-field results, so far, so good. Just waiting to see what happens when I chip a nail.

  2. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything. Therefore, this will be the only mention of Joe Buck’s broadcasting, um, style, excellence, high-priced waste of air space in this blog post. I gladly utilized the six to eight seconds of delay between KVOE’s feed of the ESPN Radio coverage and the Fox TV picture for Game 2. It hurts the brain somewhat with that approach, but it sure eases the mind when you know you have an unbiased broadcast at the national level.joe

    I just love how, according to Mr. Buck, Harvey was the perfect pitcher for the Mets to start the World Series…and then how deGrom was the perfect guy to get a win for the Mets in Game 2 after they lost in crushing fashion in Game 1. Well, obviously they weren’t because the Mets are down 2-0 for the aforementioned reasons. There weren’t any perfect Royals starters to be part of the World Series, the way it appears. Funny how that works out. And it’s funny how the backhanded compliments — “and those Royals, nobody knows how they do it” — just enhance the fact that they, not the other team are doing it in emphatic fashion.

  3. Man, does Emporia State football have a big one coming up. And not against Northwest Missouri on Nov. 7. Archrival Washburn comes calling — on Halloween Day, mind you.10895870235_452fc42ba9_b

    If you wanted an example of inconsistency, the Ichabods would be about as good an example as you could get this season. Defeat Pittsburg State, ranked in the top 15 at the time, lose to bottom-dweller Lindenwood. Defeat Missouri Western, a longtime powerhouse in the conference before quarterback injuries hamstrung the offense over the past four weeks, lose to Central Oklahoma, a team finding its way after being the pleasant surprise in the MIAA last year. A ton is at stake for the Hornets, who at 7-1 can still get into the playoffs with two losses — and just about everybody expects ESU to lose at Northwest Missouri. Losing to Washburn and to NWMSU, though, and it’s just about curtains for any postseason hopes.

    It’s your archrival. Weird things happen against your archrival, especially in games where you should win — as Emporia State should on Saturday. It’s Halloween Day, the day of weird things. Hopefully the Hornets take all the strangeness out of the game early on, take care of business and move to 8-1 before a national broadcast in Maryville.

  4. Mike Riley isn’t in trouble, but the Huskers are. Let me rephrase that: Mike Riley isn’t in trouble yet. There’s a big difference, but regardless, there’s no way NU should lose to Northwestern at home. It shouldn’t have lost to BYU, Wisconsin or Illinois, either. And there’s no business losing the way they have this season, whether through bad defensive positioning or shoddy play-calling or bad communication or, apparently against Northwestern, just a poor effort. For a team allegedly hungry to prove it can win two straight, it sure sounded full of itself until it was way too late.Oct 24, 2015; Lincoln, NE, USA; The Northwestern Wildcats sign their fight song after a win against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium. Northwestern defeated Nebraska 30-28. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

    What does this mean? Well, on the field it means this team had better cinch up the fundamentals and at least play solid football. Win or lose. That’s now the best we can expect as fans for this season. Which isn’t nearly enough for this program or its fans. We have come to expect more because we have seen it’s possible. And we were told solid football would be the basic common denominator of this program. So far, it hasn’t been.

    Going into Riley Stardate 2.0, it should mean a purge of all the players who are demonstrating any unwillingness to buy into what Riley and his coaching staff are selling. If you’re not on board, find some place where you’re comfortable. It’s as simple as that.

    Off the field, it means this can’t continue or else Riley’s seat will get extremely hot extremely quickly. So will the seat under his coaches, especially defensive coordinator Mark Banker. And so will the seat underneath Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst. The Riley regime didn’t have the talent of other Big Ten teams to start, so struggles were anticipated. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong’s skill set didn’t fit what Riley and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf had in mind, and at times they have melded the separate approaches into something quite nice. Injuries haven’t helped. But the sheer sloppiness of things…it’s unacceptable. In all phases of football. And that should have been communicated to the coaching staff from somebody — Eichorst, football god Tom Osborne, an outgoing chancellor, anybody — well before now. Even after the mess of the Bo Pelini era, NU football has taken a significant step backward in the first year of the Mike Riley regime. It’s a step backward I didn’t expect. And it’s a step backward that I hope doesn’t mean leads to backing into the mud of mediocrity. If the program isn’t already there.

  5. You can make a buffet out of anything. Ginny made the point abundantly clear this morning when I asked her what’s for supper tonight and she said, “We’re gonna have a leftover buffet.” Now that’s craziness. An all-you-can-eat buffet? Awesome. A pie buffet? Heavenly. But a leftover buffet?Now that you mention it, that pot roast from Tuesday night does sound pretty tasty.

Until the next plate of mental goulash…

Stand Up (And Give Me Some Actual Information)

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I swear (by the moon and the stars and the sky)…

When I was my daughter’s age, I was already well into a habit of watching Omaha’s nightly newscasts — both at 5 and 10 pm. I know. Color me weird. Most of you already have.

I don’t get much of a chance to watch TV newscasts anymore, largely because the screen is programmed now to feed me a steady diet of Disney and Nickelodeon. The equivalent of baby food for an adult brain (watch the train go down the tunnel…mmmm yummy). Gag me.

If there is any leftover time, that is now typically reserved for the Royals broadcast (I’m still trying to figure out how to get MASN to show up on my Dish package…not that I’d have an extra hour to watch…).

Anyways, my schedule gave me two chances to watch – and pay attention to — network news for the first time in a long time last week.

I’m not impressed.

The main reason is the reporting. It’s in your face, especially with the reporter stand-ups. It’s breathless. It’s reaction-based and reporter-centered, not topic-centric. And the reports I saw had almost nothing of substance about the actual subject matter.

Look. I’ve been in this business now for 20 years. Even with the luxury of a newscast that can approach 20 minutes rather than 90 seconds, as was the case in Lincoln, I have to leave a lot of important information out of my respective stories. I have to pick and choose what I’ll highlight, de-emphasize or omit. Sometimes the story matter makes that choice for me and sometimes it’s a very difficult decision.

The first local broadcaster I remember relying on delivery rather than substance was John Mooney, a reporter-anchor at KETV. I forget whether his tenure was in the late 1980s or early 1990s. All I know is his approach didn’t last long — maybe two years at the most before he disappeared. At the time, I figured his style, something akin to Dan Rather on stimulants,  would never return. Turns out Mooney was about 20 years ahead of his time.

Call me stuck in the past. Call me crotchety. Heck — call me wrong on this. But I think the stand-ups, intended or not, now largely both excite and inflame viewers and detract from what the reporter is supposed to be letting you know about. You could also make a point today’s TV reporting style allows for biases to come out as fact in a much less subtle way than was allowed even a decade ago. I wouldn’t argue that after what I saw last week.

Put it to you this way: something is wrong when ESPN reporters put together their on-scene reports with more gravitas than their network news counterparts. If you don’t believe me, watch a network newscast and concentrate on the reporter stand-ups. Then watch an ESPN SportsCenter with the same emphasis. It’s not. Even. Close.

I know I’ve been breathless at times during my reporting. Some of that is I have never been able to slow my delivery down past a certain point without sounding in my head that I’m talking through molasses (and some of that deals with trying to bounce from on-air responsibilities to writing as much as I can for upcoming newscasts — or I’m trying to get as much information from my brain to your ears in as short a time period as possible before you either lose interest or get distracted…or my train of thought derails). Some of that is, well, I’m fat and out of shape.

When I started in broadcasting, one of the things my dad told me was to basically deliver the news straight. Use inflection so each story doesn’t sound the same but keep the emotion to a minimum because it it doesn’t add to the story. I’ve tweaked that approach to purposefully add some emotion in some of my human interest stories (and I’ve tried to eliminate as much as I can from the political stories that just drive me nuts), but Dad’s basic philosophy still drives me. It’s not exactly Dragnet — “just the facts” — but it’s close: concentrate on what happened and how this will affect anybody tuned in — and then let listeners make any specific decision for themselves that they need to make. Today’s journalistic direction essentially phases out my approach.

The one thing I hope is my delivery speed and inflection style doesn’t reduce the seriousness of what I’m reporting or lead people to a decision. This is one area where I’d really rather not be considered part of the new wave of journalism. They say things happen in cycles, and I’m hoping the pendulum swings back to a more moderate, more reasoned approach at some point down the road.

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First Takes and Second Helpings: April 2015

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As you can see, this post will cover a gamut of topics…some serious, some not.

The serious first: Baltimore blew up the past two days after the death and subsequent funeral of Freddie Gray.

This tears me up because Baltimore has been a city I’ve wanted to explore more since I was a child. We didn’t travel much to Baltimore during our two years living in Bel Air, Md., about 35 miles northeast of downtown Baltimore, and when we did we never made it to an Orioles game (something that still eats at me). But what I saw as a five-year-old I liked. I have no idea whether the Baltimore of 2015 mirrors the Baltimore of 1975. All I know is people are destroying anything they can get their hands on.

I understand the anguish and anger over alleged police issues, but there’s no excuse for what we’re seeing. It’s humanity at its worst. It’s now happening with less provocation. I’m not sure which of those last two sentences is scarier.

To the silly: Weird work-related things.

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News is not always hard-core, and I’m grateful we’re not always talking about riots or shootings or fatal accidents or fires or budget shortfalls. Thankfully, we started our Feel Good Friday segment a few years ago to balance out all the nasty or the mundane we report on daily. And sometimes, that balance is totally unintentional or unexpected. Couple cases in point:

Earlier this month, I’m searching through district court documents to see what court cases of note are coming up. I didn’t see anything pertaining to my newscasts, but I did see this:

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That’s right. Officially, the state of Kansas is in trial proceedings against a car (a luxury car, mind you, although the status of rich Corinthian leather is to be debated). Not sure if this is a regular occurrence. Also not sure how John Stewart hasn’t picked up on this yet.

Yesterday, I’m typing up a story on court proceedings stemming from a combination battery and shooting incident early in April. Instead of typing “aggravated battery,” I punch up “aggravated batter.” Talk of deep-fried food crimes and misdemeanors follows. Insert your own joke here.

Now to the sad:

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Broadcasters outside the state of Nebraska may not have known Adrian Fiala, and that’s a shame.

Fiala passed away recently after a lengthy respiratory illness. He was a legend in Nebraska sports as a football and baseball player, and he then made his mark as a color commentator for several Big Red sports.

He was well-respected, even revered, for several reasons. Being a player, he brought a locker-room perspective to his broadcasts, and he did so realizing most of his audience weren’t former players so he educated without being pushy or overbearing. He was thoroughly prepared for his assignments and studied game trends. And, what I found most important, he was himself behind the mike.

I first met Adrian Fiala as a rather fresh part-timer assigned to run the board for SportsNightly, the Pinnacle Sports Network’s signature weekday talk show. He gave me a warm smile and a firm (very firm) handshake. Just that made me feel like I was part of the team — no small amount of welcome and assurance for somebody struggling to prove I belonged with some very polished broadcasters. On top of that, though, Fiala never — and I mean never — big-timed anybody on his broadcasts, either on or off mike.

This is a business filled with massive egos and a tendency for those egos to get loose, trampling anybody and everybody either lower on the totem pole or outside the field, treating those individuals as if they are less important or not important at all because they don’t have a four- or five-hour air shift to spew opinions couched as facts.

Adrian Fiala was a rare individual in this field. I’d like to be part of his broadcast crew at that next level.

And finishing up with the superlative.

Alex Gordon, Play of the Year candidate. Do I need to say anything else?

Disre2pect

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One hundred to nothing is pretty lopsided, no matter the context.

It’s thoroughly disappointing the 2014 All Star Game had that disparity in mentioning two of its shining lights, one dimming at the end of a career, one extinguished far too early because of tobacco.

In case you hadn’t heard, and in case you hadn’t guessed, the Fox crew wasted no opportunity highlighting the virtues and exploits of Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. Before, during and after the game. I have an abundance of anti-Yankee venom coursing through me, but I’ll admit he has earned more accolades than just about every other player for his body if work during a largely scintillating career.

Having said that…

Tony Gwynn wasn’t mentioned.

Gwynn wasn’t voted as an All Star once in his career. Once in nearly 20 years. That should have at least gained passing mention, especially after Gwynn’s unfortunate death a few weeks ago.

There were other ways Gwynn’s contributions to the game could have been mentioned. His appearance with Ted Williams. His sense of humor. His bar wizardry, especially at a game where Yasiel Puig struck out three times (how often did Gwynn strike out twice in a game, let alone thrice?).

And his battle with cancer that ultimately killed him.

He was an All Star, for crying out loud. If you can give George Steinbrenner a moment of silence after he died, the very least Major League Baseball could have done was painting No. 19 on the ground at Target Field. And a moment of silence. Or a short video presentation. Just something. Anything.

Failing to mention Gwynn by MLB and Fox is nothing short of an epic fail by both businesses.

Now that I’m into my 19th year in media, either radio or print, I thoroughly understand there are things at every event I cover that I should have added. In most cases, though, I’m either flying solo or have just one other person nearby to fill in any gaps. Fox and MLB had waaaaaaaaay more staffers involved in their productions for such an oversight.

I would say I understand the gaffe, based on my experience in this field, but I don’t.

It’s not just that I think Jeter got too much run on the broadcast. It’s that somebody who meant as much to the game during his time didn’t get any.

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Game preview: Emporia State vs. Northeastern (Okla.) State

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ESU vs. Northeastern State
Game time: 1 pm, Welch Stadium
Coverage: Noon, Mix 104.9 FM and KVOE.com

Following its record-setting 54-38 shootout win over Central Oklahoma last weekend, Emporia State has entered the AFCA rankings for the first time at No. 24. Northeastern State, however, wasn’t close to the national ratings when Saturday began and fell further away from the rankings after a 48-3 loss to Washburn.

Based on trends and available personnel, this should be an easy win for the Black and Gold. Should be.

Keys to a win:

Running game. Hornet running game found some holes in the second half against Central Oklahoma, helping to blunt Central’s comeback efforts. Riverhawks were counting on running back Joel Rockmore to carry the offensive load, but he’s done for weeks after injuring his knee against Missouri Southern. Advantage: Hornets

Defense (clap clap) defense (clap clap). Last two games haven’t been stellar for ESU, but Central Oklahoma has the athletes to gash even the better defenses in the MIAA. Despite giving up nearly 50 points last weekend, NSU’s defense was a bright spot for the team after forcing five interceptions. Advantage: Hornets.

Tempo. Northeastern State has eight starters out for the year. If the Hornets can maintain an uptempo pace for most of the game, the second half could get real ugly for the visitors from Tahlequah. Advantage: Hornets.

Final score: ESU 55, Northeastern State 24

Game Preview: ESU vs Nebraska-Kearney

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Emporia State vs. Nebraska-Kearney
Game time: 6 pm, Welch Stadium
Coverage: 5 pm, Mix 104.9 and KVOE.com

Last week, Emporia State dominated Fort Hays State, while Nebraska-Kearney was on the wrong end of things against Washburn.

The Lopers’ seven turnovers makes it difficult to really determine just how good Nebraska-Kearney is after UNK suffered through a terrible 2012, going through a half-dozen quarterbacks, shrinking the playbook  and thoroughly plucking the bloom off what was supposed to be a dominating year in a new conference.

ESU, meanwhile, turned up the offensive octane as last week’s game progressed, amassing nearly 600 yards of total offense and throwing a stifling run defense at Fort Hays.

How do you handicap an early-season game where the two participants had such different outcomes the week before? And you haven’t even factored in the thorough beating ESU gave Kearney last year.

As usual, it comes down to several things. In this case, I’m looking at quarterback play, line play and turnovers. I’ve also found an intangible — motivation — which may well play into the final result.

QB. ESU sophomore Brent Wilson didn’t seem fazed at all in his first college start, passing for 301 yards, rushing for over 70 more and accounting for five touchdowns. Bronson Marsh, the Nebraska transfer, didn’t fare nearly as well, throwing for 163 yards and three interceptions. Marsh may be more comfortable in the pocket this week — if ESU lets him be. Advantage: Hornets.

Line play: ESU’s lines are bigger than they have been in some time, and it showed. The Hornets dominated their Fort Hays State counterparts last week. Lopers did gash Washburn for nearly 190 rushing yards, however. Advantage: Hornets.

Turnovers: If Nebraska-Kearney turns the ball over seven times, this could get really ugly. ESU was relatively mistake-free last week, and I think the Hornets can do a better job of turning mistakes into points than UNK can. Advantage: Hornets.

Motivation: UNK thought it could flatten ESU last year just by attending the game, and guess how well that happened. So the Lopers are, well, highly motivated to do unto others as they had done unto them. ESU wants to carry the momentum from last year — and last week — forward. The question is which motivational tool is stronger, and pure, unadulterated revenge is hard to beat. Advantage: Lopers.

Final score: ESU 27, UNK 20

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