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September 30, 2007 - October 6, 2007 Archives

September 30, 2007


I said I wouldn't watch the Phillies again until they play meaningful games in October.

Okay, I lied. I watched today.

They may have the worst pitching of any team to make the playoffs, the worst pitching of any team to win 89 games. They got off to an awful start after making it clear that they wouldn't let that happen again, not this year. They spent most of the season just lagging behind the Mets and, sometimes, the Braves. The manager makes head-scratchingly awful decisions, they had a lot of guys get hurt, they had to take their only reliable healthy veteran starter and make him the closer when nobody else could close, they spent most of the season having to rely on Jose Mesa, Antonio Alfonseca, Clay Condrey, Geoff Geary, and other oh-no-not-hims. And they had to live up to, or live down, the star shortstop's brash assertion that they were "the team to beat."

Yet, the regular season's over and they're the National League Eastern Division champs. Go figure.

So, now, I'm watching. With all of the pain and heartbreak of the last few seasons and the disappointment of the first two-thirds of this one, they are, right now, a lot of fun to observe: the electricity of the crowd at Citizens Bank Park came right through the TV screen today, from the reaction to the Mets score to the Howard homer, the Rollins triple, and even the Iguchi sac fly. If they win the division series, it's a bonus. If they somehow get to the World Series, it'll be shocking. Right now, it's fun to be a Phillies fan, for once.

And it takes my mind off the Eagles.


October 1, 2007


Some friends of mine have been moved by their station from afternoons to mornings. The move came suddenly, so there was no time to adjust.

As someone who's worked in morning radio before, and who starts ridiculously early even today, I know how problematic adjusting to a morning show can be. Some people can do it with no problem. I wasn't one of those people. I never got used to working that early and having to commute 45 minutes to Pasadena at 3:30 in the morning. It didn't help that I also had to continue with my other duties at the station until about 3 or 4 pm, then slog home in traffic all the way down the 110 freeway. That, frankly, sucked, and it felt like I was slicing years off my life.

Nowadays, I still get up well before dawn, before 4, even, and I work late (it's 7:00 pm as I write this). But there's no commute, and most of the job involves sitting in front of the computer monitor typing and taking phone calls. That partially offsets the mind-numbing nature of the job.

But doing mornings involves tricks and habits. Another friend, Frank Murphy, who did mornings both as a host and as producer for people like Kevin and Bean, Don and Mike, and Mark and Brian, used to say that the trick was to sleep in 90 minute multiples: three hours' sleep was better than four, 90 minutes better than two hours. The theory is that 90 minutes is your sleep cycle. I could never master that, because when I know I need to sleep a certain amount, I have a hell of a time actually falling asleep. I might as well stay awake.

Other guys have a routine, like stopping at the same 7-Eleven or Circle K for coffee, the paper, and a Ring Ding at the same time every day. Everybody consumes massive infusions of caffeine (my breakfast beverage of choice back in the day: Mountain Dew). And you end up feeling screwed out of a normal life the rest of the day (sorry, kids, can't watch TV in the evening, gotta get to sleep. DVRs were invented for morning radio hosts) unless you can do the midday nap thing, which I cannot do.

And it's fairly important to do show prep for the following day after your show, as much as possible. You sleep better at night knowing that when you wake up, much of the show's ready for you; a quick check of the show prep sites (coughALLACCESS.COMcough) and the papers and the cable news networks and you're all set. Skip the post-show prep sessions and you have way too much work to do at 4 am.

So even though I wake up now at roughly the same time as morning radio hosts, I don't think I could do that anymore. It would take a LOT of money to change my mind. A LOT of money. What? You have a lot of money to offer?

We'll talk.


October 2, 2007


It's weird -- I haven't taken on any new projects lately, but it seems like work is expanding to more completely fill every day. It's 7:25, and other than breaks for running (punctuated by e-mail checks) and a Target run, I've been working since 3:45 or so. My hands ache, my head hurts, and I don't have time to even think of being creative for this site tonight.

I don't quite understand how this happened. It's the same job I've had for, what, eight years? How is it taking more and more of my time? I have no idea. All I know is that a) I stll have stuff to do, b) my brain, it is melted, and c) somehow, tomorrow at noon, I gotta figure out how to fit the Phillies game into this already packed schedule. So excuse me while I try to wrap things up and then fit sleep into the schedule. If the cat lets me sleep, that is.


October 3, 2007


Well, that wasn't very good at all, now, was it?

This one is on the heads of four guys:

Rollins, SS 0-3, 1 walk
Victorino, RF 0-4
Utley, 2B 0-4
Howard, 1B 0-4

And there's your game. Hamels had one shaky inning but shut the Rox down after that. Gordon gave up the Tulowitzki bomb but that's 4 runs, and that shouldn't beat the Phillies at CBP.

You don't want to lost the first game a) at home, b) with your ace on the mound, c) against a team with a lot less rest than you got, d) in a short series. Not fatal, but they're wandering up Broad Street in a daze at the moment, not where you want to be. You don't want to come this far just to look this bad.

Good news: Adam Eaton isn't pitching tomorrow, or perhaps ever again for the Phillies (and isn't on the roster for the post-season- yay!). Bad news: Kyle "Six Innings And A Puff Of Smoke" Kendrick's going, and that'll work only if Rollins, Victorino, Utley, and Howard get their bats out of their asses and start hitting. Start praying... now.


October 4, 2007


This week's All Access newsletter does the autopsy on the still steaming corpses of two more FM talk stations:

A couple more FM talkers bit the dust this week, and I fear that too many people in this business are doing the Happy Dance over the corpses. In the wake of the latest casualties came e-mails from people wanting to know which FM talkers would be the next to die, and I sensed a little too much pleasure on the part of the writers, who looked forward to the day when music would return to those frequencies and all would be right with the world again. There are a lot of radio people who are more comfortable with the Best Variety Of Today's Hits And Yesterday's Favorites than with any brand of talk, even though the future of those jukeboxes seems set: voice tracking, nothing local, all the same from town to town. (Oooh! A new "Fresh"! How exciting! I wonder if they'll play "Suddenly I See" or "You're Beautiful"? Because you can't find THOSE songs anywhere else) That, and the performance of the Philadelphia Phillies (motto: "We've Got Jose Mesa and You Can't Stop Us From Using Him"), got me into a particularly dark mood when I started writing this thing.

Why do some FM talk stations succeed while others fail? The latest casualties are reminders of a few points I want to reiterate about FM talk, because, unlike the Happy Dancers, I don't think it's a good thing when talk and personality-driven radio get thrown aside for another 12-in-a-row liner card festival. If and when a brave company decides that it's safe to go back into the water, here are some lessons I hope they'll have learned from those who took the arrows before them:

1. "FM Talk" is not a format. Somehow, the term came to mean something aimed at 18-34 year old males and involving teams of young guys thrown in front of mics with a copy of Maxim magazine. That's one idea, but there are very successful talk stations on FM that talk about politics, about the news, about stuff appealing to women, about sports, about everything. The FM talker in Salt Lake City doesn't at all resemble the one in Orlando or the one in Charlotte or the one in New Jersey. All are successful. And if you put all four styles in one market, they could easily co-exist (right alongside yet another style, your friendly neighborhood NPR talk station) and remain successful.

2. Speaking of throwing young guys in front of a mic with a copy of Maxim magazine, don't do that. Or, more precisely, don't throw just anyone in front of the mic under the misapprehension that, well, if you're trying to appeal to young guys, you gotta have a young guy talking about what young guys care about, which is, as we all know, babes, beer, and more babes. And some fart jokes. Maybe throw in a female sidekick to chuckle disapprovingly because Robin did that for Howard. Turns out that those are not the key elements of a successful FM talk show. What DOES make a successful FM talk show? The same thing that makes a successful AM talk show....

3. ...Get hosts with something to say. Get hosts with a unique point of view. Get hosts who can talk about anything, but always have a lot to get off their chests. Here's how you want it to go: something big happens in the news, and your listeners feel like they just HAVE to tune in to hear what your hosts have to say about it. It doesn't matter whether you're known for lifestyle talk, either; if your target audience is into, say, "Heroes," you want to be the place they all feel compelled to tune into the next morning so they can find out what your hosts thought of the episode. It's not just about guys talking about what they did the night before, it's about hosts who make the audience CARE what they think and do and say, whether it's what they did the night before or illegal immigration or a movie they saw. Or a movie they saw last night about illegal immigration. Is it easy to find people like that? No. But that's no excuse to put someone on who just isn't that interesting, unique, or different.

4. Local is good. That's not to rule out any syndication, but it's good to have at least a couple of shows on which the hosts talk about what's happening right there in town. We've talked before about why this is important, so I'll leave it at that. Also, I'm very, very tired.

So I'm hoping that this year's terminations (and, in some cases, mercy killings) of FM talk stations aren't the end, that soon we'll see companies regroup and try again. It's worth the effort. And I promise that when it happens, I won't do the Happy Dance over the corpses of the music stations that get the axe.

Since I'm too cranky and tired to do a clever segue into the plug for Talk Topics at All Access News-Talk-Sports, I won't even try. Just go there and enjoy the show prep magic, with a big pile o' stories and topics and cheap jokes for your talk radio broadcastin' pleasure, including items on the Great Thai Food Terror Scare of 2007, why you do NOT want to take a dip in the Gowanus Canal, why you should always view guys in Yankee caps with suspicion, how not to get out of going to the class reunion, why Vince Carter might be sporting alligator shirts and Dock-Siders this season, a pregnant 60 year old, the joy of at-bat music, who's selling magazines this year, why professors are rebelling against laptops in class, the tyranny of the pitch count, a teacher who assigns homework to parents, a story that combines the essential topics of strippers, tips, and fertility, and a guy running around Nicolas Cage's house naked except for Nicolas Cage's leather jacket, and that's just a tiny sampling of what's there. There's also a particularly entertaining and hyperlink-laden "10 Questions With..." WXYT/Detroit "Deminski and Doyle Show" phone screener/sidekick/rock star/legend Rudy DeSantis and the rest of All Access with industry news, columns, features, charts, ratings, job listings, all that stuff, all great, all free. Go look.

Next week: Some rambling diatribe about radio with a pessimistic non sequitur about Philadelphia sports somewhere in the middle. At least I'm consistent.


October 5, 2007


The Internet is a wonderful thing, because you can look anything up and chances are you'll find it. But it's especially wonderful when it reads your mind.

The other day, Fran and I were talking about the Jersey Shore, where she went to high school and we both worked at WJLK, and the topic of downtown Asbury Park came up. WJLK, at the time, was still in the old Asbury Park Press building, and I remembered the eerie hulk of the Steinbach department store on the next block. The store closed in 1979, and it was still there, empty, boarded up, and in bad shape, when I got there in '86. They had a fire, but the place was still standing years later, still neglected, in awful shape. Today? Totally renovated as brand new condos.

But the topic of the Steinbach building came up -- I think it was last night -- and Steinbach in general and then I went to sleep and forgot about it. Today, while looking up something else entirely, I happened upon an amazingly fascinating site to someone like me who's interested in things like "dead malls" and other retailing relics. It's called Labelscar (after a term for the shadow left when the old lettering is removed from a retail building or mall facade) and I ended up paging through much of the site, gazing at the pictures of dead malls of my childhood like Bergen Mall and Wayne Hills Mall. And while I was wasting time with that, up popped... Steinbach, with a photo of the place just as I remembered it. And more Steinbach.

I have no idea if anyone else is interested in those creepy, mostly empty retail palaces, but I am, and if you're as weird as I, go check it out. Bring your Bradlees card.


October 6, 2007


It was the seventh inning -- still is -- and I was about to post a bitter diatribe about how the Phillies were pressing and letting Jimenez off the hook, and then Victorino hit one into the right field stands to tie it up and after Ruiz singled the Rockies pulled Jimenez out of there, so never mind.

I'll shut up now.



I guess I don't control the baseball universe after all.

For once, it wasn't the pitching. Except for game two's troubles with middle relief, the Phillies would have been fine had the bats awoken, but once again tonoght, other than Victorino's homer, the vaunted Phillies offense did absolutely nothing. Hoard hit a garbage-time homer but kept up his strikeout frequency, which is now beyond alarming to the point of needing major attention, and Utley, of all people, just plain disappeared. That's the disappointment for me. I didn't expect anything from the pitching and got pleasantly surprised tonight. I didn't expect anything from Charlie Manuel and didn't get anything. I did expect the bats to wake up, and they didn't, not even at Coors Field, where the balls must have not only been kept in a humidor, they must have had lead weights inserted behind the stitching.

By the way, Philadelphia fans take a lot of abuse for being classless, but Colorado fans didn't exactly cover themselves with glory, what with someone throwing an object into left field while a play was in progress -- and not even drawing a warning announcement over the P.A. -- and a bunch of guys cavorting on camera in shirts that clearly read "PHUCK FILLY." Hilarious. It's a good thing for TBS that, effective last week, they're no longer on broadcast TV.

Fox should be praying that the Red Sox win the AL, or the Yankees win three straight, because a Cleveland-Arizona or Cleveland-Colorado Series will not move the Nielsen needle. Boston-Colorado won't, either, but at least they can count on Red Sox Nation to pump the numbers a little. Personally, I'd love to see Cleveland finally win the Series, because, well, 1948. And it would suck if Cleveland fans had to watch some expansion team beat them once again. Doesn't really matter much to me, though. The Phillies train's derailed, so I'm getting off here. I'll watch what happens next, but not all that intently. I'm more interested in the "Leave It to Beaver" marathon on TV Land, or the "Get Smart" reruns that have quietly popped up on KDOC-TV. It's a long wait 'til next year. Might as well laugh.


About September 2007

This page contains all entries posted to PMSimon.com in September 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

September 23, 2007 - September 29, 2007 is the previous archive.

October 7, 2007 - October 13, 2007 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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