Archive for March 2009

March Madness Where it All Began

It is November 1891 and unruly and bored students at the Springfield International Training School (YMCA) have begun taking their frustrations out on each other. The monotony of indoor routines of tumbling, twirling and calisthenics, have gotten to be too much. In the preceding month two instructors asked to be reassigned from the rowdy class. With black eyes and fights not speaking well of a Christian organization, the situation is desperate and Physical Education Head, Luther Gulick, calls a meeting of his faculty.

Stating that it was imperative to keep bodies and minds active and distracted throughout the long New England, winter Gulick presents a challenge to his faculty – devise a new game that could be played indoors with the “roughness” extracted. His faculty is less than enthusiastic.

Present at this fateful November meeting is newly arrived Canadian divinity college graduate, thirty year old, James Naismith. Naismith, with a full schedule of courses to teach at the training school and considering himself unavailable for this unappealing assignment with the disorderly class is most vocal with suggestions for his fellow faculty members.

Naismith, outlining his enthusiastic ideas, unwittingly assures himself the position with Gulick finally saying, “Naismith, you’ve got two weeks, the class is yours, see what you can do with it.”

After repeatedly attempting to dissuade Gulick of his candidacy, Naismith resigns himself to the task and his fate with the difficult class. He astutely realizes that what was getting to the students was the boredom of routine physical drills with an absence of a sense of game play or challenge.

Remembering Gulick’s remark that there was “nothing new under the sun” Naismith tried at first to adapt elements of other games including; sailor’s tag, English rounders, town ball, handy-over and leapfrog which all fail miserably in succession. Naismith’s students, many in their 20’s and 30’s, felt as if they were being forced to take part in children’s games and are unmerciful towards Naismith. And James carried his anguish home nightly.

He next decided that the key would be to bring indoors the concept of adult outdoor games. Adaptations of cricket and baseball are rejected early on and finally he introduced football to the indoor playing field. For this experiment Naismith adapts some elements of English rugby. The Americans in the class, familiar with the all out tackling of American football cannot grasp the idea of the “gentle tackle” above the waist in stopping their opponent. Universal ridicule from his class ends this new gentle version of indoor football.

Soccer, known as “association football” at the time, was the experiment where student injuries began to mount. Naismith’s players often forgot they were attired in soft-soled shoes and in their excitement of kicking a ball, break several toes. Much to Gulick’s and Naismith’s dismay, many balls kicked from these newly injured feet tend to sail right through the large glass gymnasium windows.

With the injuries mounting and damage to the YMCA facility escalating, Naismith decides to introduce a version of indoor Lacrosse, which he had played in Montreal. As the Canadian national game at the time, Naismith knew half of his students, who were Canadian, would at least grasp the rules of the sport. Unfortunately, indoor lacrosse would be recorded as his greatest debacle.

Naismith’s Canadian students not only knew the game, they used the tactics and tricks they had honed over the years of playing the sport against the beginners in the class. Simple on site first aide proved inadequate to repair broken limbs and jaws, which resulted from this miscalculation.

Reaching the end of the two-week experiment to create a new game and with just forty-eight hours left of his assigned task, Naismith considered himself a colossal failure.

Facing his unsympathetic class, on the next to last day, with nothing new left to try, the smug looks on his student’s faces confirmed to him that they too knew he had failed. Disheartened, Naismith prepared to turn the experiment over to another instructor.

Leaving his students and wearily climbing the stairs to his office above the locker room he paused and the words of his strong-minded Scottish grandfather echoed in his ears. When Jim and Grandfather Young worked the fields around the farm in Canada and encountered an obstacle, his grandfather would always sternly repeat, “Don’t think you can’t master it! Do it and make a man of yourself.”

This memory combined with the boys hearty laughter drifting up from the locker room below brought Jim’s already beaten down self-esteem to its depths. Naismith had never failed to master any task or situation in his life from being orphaned at nine years old to becoming a lumberjack then gaining a full scholarship to the theology school at McGill University.

This, James realized, was to be the defining moment in his life. If he gave up now he would carry the burden of his failure for the rest of his life. His belief in himself was now all he had left. He decided to let go trust that somehow, someway the solution would come to him. Over the next two days James Naismith would write his name into sports history.

With intense determination, and deepened resolve, Naismith methodically reviewed each of his failed attempts at creating a new sport. James, through those sleepless nights, came to the conclusion that first – all team games utilize a ball as an essential item of competition and second the difficulty of the game is inversely related to the size of the ball – that is small balls, like a baseball require a stick or a bat which complicates the game and large balls, like a soccer ball tend to simplify the game by serving as the direct object of competition.

James quickly drew diagrams of an indoor playing field with these criteria in mind; it must be easy to play and easy to learn. Added to that, he realized because of space limitations and a hard floor surface, that running must be kept to a minimum and tackling was out of the question.

Naismith reduced his new, yet unnamed game to two prerequisites and snapped his fingers in elation. “If the player can’t run with the ball, we don’t have to tackle; and if we don’t have to tackle; the roughness will be eliminated.” He had found the solution.

With no sleep, Naismith began his final day of the “experiment” knowing he did not have a fully formed game. “The players have to have something to do with the ball once they have it”, he thought. Some type of goal was required. Keeping to his idea of a non-tackling sport, he decided against the concept of a horizontal goal like lacrosse or soccer and the requirement for a goaltender.

He remembered a childhood game from Canada, Duck on A Rock, in which players tossed rocks at a larger rock or “duck” aiming to knock it off its perch. Naismith, elated, had found the final piece of the puzzle. He decided that the goal would be elevated and tossed at. This created a measure of difficulty for defense and required skill on the thrower’s part. With this final element he remained true to Gulick’s ideal of non-roughness because with an elevated goal, one above the player’s heads, accuracy would win out over force in getting the ball into the goal. Naismith could hardly contain his excitement.

Still with morning, just hours away and before introducing his new game, Naismith did not have a ball for the new game. He scouted his office for a suitable one and found a soccer ball. Temporarily this would have to do. Seeking out the school’s janitor, Naismith asked for two 18” boxes to be brought to the gym. Stebbins, the janitor, responded that all he could provide were two old peach baskets. Naismith took them and quickly had them nailed into the lower rung of a balcony which was part of an elevated running track.

Returning to his office, Naismith condensed all his work down to a short set of “Rules”. In less than an hour he had come up with “13 Rules” and had the departmental secretary type them up and post them in the gym.

Entering the gym, December 21, 1891, and facing the final hours with his eighteen reluctant and smug students, Naismith’s confidence was again deflated when he saw troublemaker Frank Mahan pointing and laughing at the peach baskets. “Hey look, another new game!”

Naismith carried on with pretend optimism and quickly divided the students up into two teams of nine players and went over his new thirteen rules. Having no idea how to start the game Naismith decided that the best way to begin, without roughness, was to toss the ball up between two players at mid court. Later Naismith joked that this method of starting his new game only encouraged roughness.

Both squads took to the game immediately and Naismith had great difficulty in pulling his students off the court so they could attend their next class. Naismith’s new game was a resounding hit. History records that the single “basket” scored that day had to be retrieved by Stebbins, the janitor, as the peach baskets still had their bottoms.

The new sport was an instant success; the most rebellious of the class became its devotees. Frank Mahan the troublemaking student from North Carolina gallantly offered the name “Naismith ball: for the new sport. Laughingly Naismith fended off the suggestion as the death knell for the new sport and Mahan offered, “Why not basketball?” And thus the game was named. Naismith’s players had a haunch that something historic had been created and Mahan, first to scoff at the new game, stole the original thirteen rules for the game right off the bulletin board.

Mahan sheepishly returned to Naismith weeks later with those same sheets of paper to which Naismith proudly signed his name. Little did either of them imagine, that those same sheets of paper containing the original thirteen rules of the game of basketball, would be requested by both the British Museum and the Smithsonian Institution for their permanent collections.

News of the new sport of Basketball spread like wildfire. After the students returned from Christmas vacation spectators filled the balconies to the rafters. Naismith later recalled that since their class was held at noon ladies from the nearby offices began spending their lunch hour watching the boys from the gallery. This, he said, elevated the boys on the court a great deal and added much excitement to the atmosphere. On January 15, 1892 the school paper printed the original thirteen rules and the story was distributed nationwide in all YMCA’s. In addition, students who had returned to their hometowns brought word of the new game and began introducing it to their local communities.

In April 1892 the New York Times, with the opening of the new YMCA Athletic Grounds welcomed it as “A New Game of Ball,” “A Substitute for Football without its Rough Features.” The game found enthusiastic players and supporters throughout the city and leagues quickly formed. Before basketball was even a year old Dr. Gulick wrote in October of 1892, “It is doubtful whether a gymnastic game has ever spread so rapidly over the continent as has basketball. It is played from New York to San Francisco and from Maine to Texas by hundreds of teams and associations, athletic clubs and schools.”

James Naismith left the Springfield YMCA three years later. He went on teach and serve as chapel director and first basketball coach at the University of Kansas at Lawrence where he spent the remainder of his academic career. Ironically, the only losing record in Kansas University basketball history belongs to Naismith.

In 1936, coaches of the NCAA began the National Naismith Fund. Over five thousand dollars was raised to send James Naismith to the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin, Germany. Naismith would witness the sport he created played in Olympic competition for the very first time. 52 Nations were represented on the stadium field on opening day and 22 of them brought basketball teams, the largest number entered in any Olympic team competition that year.

During those opening ceremonies, as James Naismith walked past each of those 22 national teams, rousing cheers began, “Alabeebo” from Mexico and “Banzai” from Japan. After he paused to greet each nation’s team captain, their national flag dipped to him. Naismith’s eyes filled with tears and he confessed later that it had been the greatest moment of his life.

During the games he tossed up the ball to start the very first game of Olympic basketball between France and Estonia. And later he watched from the stands at the United States beat his home country Canada in the gold medal match 19-8.
Posted by Robert Child
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11 Black Soldiers Murdered by Nazis

Although the title of this article is provocative, I assure you that story you are about to read is absolutely true and I want to thank Norman Lichtenfeld for bringing it to my attention.
Among the greatest "unknown stories" from WWII is that of the Wereth 11. Shortly after the outbreak of Hitler's Ardennes Offensive or Battle of The Bulge in 1944, members of the all-black 333rd Artillery Battalion were just eleven miles behind the front lines. With the rapid advance of the Germans the 333rd was ordered to withdraw further west but C and Service Battery were ordered to stay behind to give covering fire to the 106th Infantry Division.

On Dec 17th the 333rd were overrun with most killed or captured. The remnants of the unit were ordered to Bastogne and incorporated into its sister unit the 969th Field Artillery Battalion. Both units provided fire support for the 101st Airborne Division in the Siege of Bastogne, subsequently being awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

11 soldiers, however, from the 333rd were separated from the unit shortly after they were overrun by the Germans. These men wound up in the little Belgian hamlet of Wereth, just 25 kilometers southwest of Malmedy, Belgium, site of another much more well known WWII atrocity.

At about 3 pm on Dec 16, 1944, the 11 men approached the first house in the nine-house hamlet of Wereth, owned by Mathius Langer. A friend of the Langer's was also present. The men were cold, hungry, and exhausted after walking cross-country through the deep snow. They had two rifles between them. The Langer family welcomed them and gave them food. But this small part of Belgium did not necessarily welcome Americans as “Liberators.” This area had been part of Germany before the First World War and many of its citizens still saw themselves as Germans and not Belgians.

Word leaked out from a Nazi sympathizer in the area that the men had been sheltered and were hiding in the Langer home. When the SS troops approached the house about 4 pm that day, the eleven Americans surrendered quickly, without resistance. The Americans were made to sit on the road, in the cold, until dark. The Germans then marched them down the road and gunfire was heard in the night. In the morning, villagers saw the bodies of the men in a ditch at the corner of a cow pasture. Because they were afraid that the Germans might return, they did not touch the dead soldiers. The snow covered the bodies and they remained entombed in the snow until January when villagers directed members of the 99th Div. I&R platoon to the site.

In the official US Army report it was revealed that the men had been brutalized, with broken legs, bayonet wounds to the head, and fingers cut off. And It was apparent that one man was killed as he tried to bandage a comrade's wounds.

In 2001, three Belgium citizens embarked on the task of creating a fitting memorial to these men and additionally to honor all Black GI’s of World War II. With the help of Norman Lichtenfeld, whose father fought and was captured in the Battle of the Bulge, a grassroots publicity and fund-raising endeavor was begun. The land was purchased and a fitting memorial was created There are now road signs indicating the location of the memorial, and the Belgium Tourist Bureau lists it in the 60th Anniversary “Battle of the Bulge” brochures. The dedication of the memorial was held in 2004 in an impressive military ceremony.

It is believed that this is the only memorial to Black G.I.s, and their units, of World War II in Europe. Norman's goal is to make the Wereth 11 and all Black G.I.’s “visible” to all Americans and to history. They, like so many others, paid the ultimate price for our freedom. Please visit his site where you can learn more about this dark and virtually unknown chapter from WWII.

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Posted by Robert Child

The Rise of Ancient Japan

A Divine Wind Preserved Japanese Culture for More than a Century

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In 1274, Kublai Kahn, emperor of the Mongolian dynasty after his conquest of China, set his sights on concuring Japan. In August of 1274 Kahn set sail for Japan with a combined Korean-Mongolian army of 40,000 men. Out of nowhere, a violent typhoon appeared and wrecked more than two hundred of the Mongolian and Korean fleet, which forced the surviving crew to abort the invasion and return home with many of their soldiers dead or swept away in the powerful storm. In a second invasion with a much larger force of 140,000 men, once again a violent typhoon welled up and destroyed practically all of the Mongolian invading fleet. Again, the Mongolians were forced to return home or be captured by the victorious Japanese. Kahn never again set out to invade Japan and the country was isolated from China for more than a century. The Japanese believed that they were “divinely protected” due to the two mysterious typhoons that defeated the invading Mongolian armada.
Posted by Robert Child

Miracle at Dunkirk

A Mysterious Fog Saved the Allies Cause

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164 years after Washington crossed the East River, another miraculous escape allowed more than 300,000 British forces to cross an even wider body of water and live to fight another day. Outnumbered by German forces two-to-one, British and French troops were pinned down on the French Coast at Dunkirk. On May 27, 1940 with German panzer forces less than 20 miles away and the Luftwaffe pounding the beaches, British Admiral Bertram Ramsey ordered Operation Dynamo forward. That night, suddenly, a heavy and dense fog rolled across and covered the entire channel. It was not the season for fog and no instance of it had been recorded before happening in May. Under the cover of this heavy fog, British ships crossed the French channel and the German subs and war ships did not detect them. As a result, more than 300,000 soldiers were rescued and brought safely back to England. 
 As soon as the last of the British ships returned home, the fog lifted. Churchill commented, "A guiding hand interfered to make sure the allied forces were not annihilated at Dunkirk."

Weather and Warfare Next Installment: The Rise of Ancient Japan
Posted by Robert Child

The Battle of Brooklyn Heights

The First Crossing that Saved America

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It was not the crossing of the Delaware that first preserved the American cause but the crossing of the East River at Brooklyn Heights New York. In August 1776 with Washington’s men out numbered three-to-one and surrounded on all sides except one, a serendipitous downpour delayed British artillery attacks. In addition, unfavorable northeast winds prevented the British from moving their ships up New York Bay to encircle the American position. This mile wide channel was Washington's only possible path of retreat. The rain continued and on the night of August 29th the unusual northeast breeze intensified. The seagoing soldiers of John Glover's Marblehead Massachusetts Regiment were called on to ferry the American troops across the East River to Manhattan, and the exodus began at 9 PM.
When first light appeared, the evacuation of 9,000 American troops was far from complete; the oarsmen needed at least three more hours. Then rising out of the wet ground and off the East River, came a dense fog, which covered the entire river. As the sun rose, the miraculous fog did not lift! Washington’s entire army was extracted, except for the heaviest caliber canon. Just as the last boat pulled into the channel with General Washington aboard, the fog began to lift and dissipate. 9000 men had been saved from certain capture or destruction, and the American cause preserved.

Weather and Warfare Next Installment: Miracle at Dunkirk
Posted by Robert Child

The Defeat of the Spanish Armada

The Start of Spain's Decline as a World Power

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In the sixteenth century Spain was the Western Europe’s dominant power. King Phillip II sought to extend his empire and Roman Catholic faith. In July of 1588 his Armada reached the southwest coast of England where they were besieged. In retreat to Calais the Spanish fleet scattered and the only route back home was north around Scotland and Ireland. This decision was their doom. The Spanish armada encountered heavy storms and many of the ships were violently wrecked. It is reported that only 67 ships out of the 132 got back to Spain because of that fateful storm - totally defeated and demoralized. Medals awarded to British naval officers who took part in the battle bore the inscription, “God breathed and they were scattered”. This was the turning point in British history and began Spain’s decline as a world power.

Weather and Warfare Next Installment: The Battle of Brooklyn Heights
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The Battle of Waterloo

The End of the Napoleonic Era

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On the night before the battle of Waterloo in June of 1815, it rained heavily and both the French and Allied forces spent the night in the rain and mud. Because of the heavy rain that night, Napoleon wasn't able to attack immediately as his artillery could not move until the ground dried. This forced him to delay the attack until eleven o'clock the next morning; a delay that cost him the entire battle. Wellington and his forces were able to secure higher ground and repulse continued frontal assaults until Napoleon’s surrender came less than twelve hours later. Napoleon was exiled from France and never returned to power.

Weather and Warfare Next Installment: The Defeat of the Spanish Armada
Posted by Robert Child

Inside the World of TV Sports

A Sports Instant Classic Story

Imagine a job where every decision you make has to be the right one, where no gray area exists and if you make the wrong decision not only will the guy or gal (Director) sitting next to you most likely start yelling at you but millions of people watching TV at home will witness your mistake instantly.

That, in a nutshell, is the life of a live sports technical director. I can speak with some authority on this topic as a large part of my career in television has been in the technical director hot seat.

Unlike other broadcast positions on a live event; a camera can be slightly panned or tilted off center or can even be slightly out of focus on occasion. An (A1) audio mixer can have his microphones or music too low or too high. A video operator’s cameras can drift to be too bright or too dark and on it goes. Each broadcast technical position has some “wiggle room”. Not the TD.

This unforgiving aspect is what drew me to the job when I began my television career in the mid 80’s in news in Boston at WCVB-TV. The two elements that attracted me were first, that it was a challenge and second, you could not BS your way through it. The modis-operendi was “you’re only as good as your last show” and that certainly holds true today. During my tenure at that station, I recall before the newscasts, the audio man would drop by my area of the control room, put his hand on my shoulder and say with a grin –“good luck we’re all counting on you” and stride back to the safe confines of the audio booth.

Moving on to New York City in the 90’s, I technical directed mainly entertainment programs but did dip my toe in sports along the way; The Sports Reporters with Dick Schapp, Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel and Inside the NFL with Len Dawson, Nick Buoniconti, Jerry Glanville and Cris Collinsworth. In addition, I launched ESPN’s first game show 2-Minute Drill with Kenny Mayne in the summer of 2000. And for you trivia buffs, I also technical directed the New York audition, in 1993, of a fresh-faced female sports anchor who, WOR-TV, in their infinite wisdom, passed on. I am confident Suzy Kolber is much happier and wealthier reporting from the sidelines on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.

I have to admit, I had avoided live sports along the way turning down numerous calls for football, baseball, hockey you name it. The stress combined with the lower pay made it doubly unattractive. In 2004, however, I got a call from SFX Entertainment, which was crewing, for NBC network. The network was planning a live telecast from Woodbine racetrack in Toronto as part of the Breeder’s Cup series and needed a TD badly. Most of the regular NBC sports crew was away at the Olympics.

I had come highly recommended (what they always say to persuade you to take the job) and their first technical director had, in their words, “chickened out”. I was intrigued. The woman on the other end of the phone continued. “Yes, our first TD wasn’t as familiar with the type of digital switcher in the truck and when he found out it was (A director who shall remain nameless) our first TD decided to bow out”.

This was just the sort of challenge I couldn’t resist, an unfamiliar sports truck with a legendary director whom I had never worked with and whose “reputation” preceded him. Like John Belushi in Animal House I naively said, “Let’s Do it”!

On the plane to Toronto I was certainly having second thoughts that this gig might be tougher than I imagined. Little did I know how difficult. Upon arrival at the race track, which was also a casino, I found the big red “Hockey Night in Canada” truck – Canada’s premier live sports truck and started getting down to business. Early on conversations with the Canadian tech manager revealed that the NBC broadcast was not only live to the United States but being fed internationally as well. Multiple millions would be tuning in as the race featured a million dollar purse. NBC expected huge ratings from around the planet.

Later in the day the director finally arrived in the truck and the first thing he said was, “So I hear you’ve never done sports, huh”. I had told SFX Entertainment that I wasn’t a sports TD but an entertainment TD when I agreed to take the job as if that was some sort of “out” if I screwed up. So the director and I were not off to the best start. Part of the psychology between a director and a technical director is their perceived confidence in you and as a TD. You have to instantly make the director feel at ease. He most definitely was not. He had never worked with me and he knew I had never done live sports. I knew I’d have to draw upon every resource to win his confidence. I decided right there, that no matter what was thrown at me, somehow I’d handle it. I knew what was expected, that I had to perform flawlessly – live sports experience or not.

This particular director had not only done Monday Night Football for twenty years but also directed the Kentucky Derby for years and this little horse race in Canada was going to be MNF, The Kentucky Derby and The Academy Awards all rolled into one – at least in his mind.

First off, there were 17 cameras –every angle you can imagine including POV’s everywhere. This would be fine except the switcher did not have enough inputs! As we began building the graphics for the program, the, by now frazzled, Canadian tech manager had to fasten a sub-router switcher into the console in front of me. He, as well, had expected a simple little five-camera horse race.

Because we had so many cameras, I had to literally assign my fingers to different cameras zones. Most technical directors do this but with 17 cameras and ten fingers you need “stoppers”. There is no time to actually look at the buttons on the switcher during a live sports telecast so after the sixth camera, I put a “roadblock” up in the form of a piece of elevated masking tape. I knew that when my hand bumped into it, that was as far as my left hand could go. The last camera on the left side of the tape would be Number-6 and the first camera on the other side of the tape would be Number-7. My right hand would be assigned to cameras 7- 12. I put up another roadblock at the 12th camera. Cameras 13-17 would be on the right side of that “roadblock” and if we went to those, my right hand would jump the masking tape roadblock and my left would float for the rest.

Most NFL games have 17 cameras or more and many technical directors use this technique but many people watching at home don’t realize how fast a game is cut. Just for fun, next time you are watching an NFL, game count the number of seconds between camera cuts and tap your finger each time a new camera shot is taken. This will give you an excellent idea of how fast things are moving inside a live sports truck and how many “one-second” shots are actually used in a broadcast.

Part of a sports TD’s job is also to act as crew chief and make camera assignments. The camera folks here were a pick-up crew from all over the United States so I asked them to choose the camera they felt most comfortable with and if there was a conflict to decide between themselves. By the looks on their faces they had never experienced this amount of freedom or in retrospect “lack of guidance”. But I had no choice I had to get back in the truck to continue the pre-production.

Almost every graphic you see on a sports telecast is pre-built from the player intros to stats. It all has to look visually cohesive and a technical director works closely with the graphics operator in the truck. Sports graphics folks are among the unsung heroes in a live broadcast. They have to be razor sharp, creative and on high-alert all during games. They normally work with a sports graphics producer but the graphic operator has to make it all happen. The next time you are watching a live sports event, focus in on how quickly the stats, scores or downs change in relation to live action. You’ll realize immediately how fast these folks are moving.

A sports TD not only has to be concerned with the camera and graphics but the highly specialized razzle-dazzle that has, today, become an expected and critical part of any live telecast. This horse race in Toronto was no different. We had telestrator (think John Madden’s scrawl on screen), seven digital tape decks, two super slo-mo replay machines and a DVE (digital video effects) device in the switcher itself.

Most of these elements had to be fed through the DVE to “fly” on screen at the right time. Today most of those DVE “moves” are accompanied by a triggered sound effect for added excitement. If you want to appreciate how far live sports has evolved - just watch an old NFL or MLB game on a classic sports channel. There is no comparison. Watching those almost quaint NFL broadcasts you’ll soon get frustrated looking for the super-imposed yellow first and ten-yard marker.

At about a half hour to go before the broadcast with racing graphics complete, our sports truck went live on the bird (satellite) with color bars and the countdown began. These last few minutes prior to live broadcasts provide the critical but all important bathroom break for most technical directors. They know they’ll be locked in the chair for the next three hours and I as well certainly took advantage of this window of opportunity.

During this calm before the storm a technical director will rehearse and rehearse in his or her mind the way they will execute the show almost imagining in advance how all will unfold and where they need to place their hands. At this time a TD also needs to confirm everything is still working and every department can still hear you on headsets (Camera, Tape Video, Audio). During most live sports events the camera channel is usually the chattiest. I tended to keep this channel low as to not get distracted by the humor. Most camera folk are born comedians and they are always hunting for “money shot”. There are reels and reels of shots from games that never makes air and for good reason. You can just use your imagination on that.

With two-minutes to go before our horse race, the director confirmed all was ready and wished everyone a “good show”. After that he turned to me and said “You ready for this?” Without hesitation, and as firm as I could sound, I said, “You bet, let’s go”. He looked at me a moment and shook his head and said, “OK…good, you’ll be fine”.

Most of the live broadcast was a blur except for the one time the director asked to go to something via a method that was impossible. We dissolved instead. It was as near flawless as I could have hoped for and at the end of the program the director turned with an outstretched hand and said “Great Job” with a look almost of disbelief on his face. I took that look as a compliment. The network producers all felt the show went very well and backslapped each other. Right then, one of the associate producers turned to me and said, “this was great Rob, I’ve got a Miami Heat game I’d love you to come down and do next week”. With a smile, I told him I appreciated the offer but no thanks, this was just a cameo for me. There was no doubt I was pleased it all went well with a heady feeling of accomplishment and the almost addictive adrenalin rush it provided. But I knew at that time I did not want a life on the road with young children at home. That’s what live sports technical directing is – constant travel and constant excitement…hey on second thought.

In a job where your first mistake can be your last, with millions of people watching each button push, give thanks for our talented, hard-working live sports technical directors who fearlessly bring you your favorite teams and games each weekend. They are the true iron men and women of the broadcast sports world.

(This article was originally written for Eye on Sports Media and published on Dec. 19, 2008. That same day it was picked up by the Number-1 Sports Blog in the USA – Deadspin)
Posted by Robert Child
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The Siege of Vienna

"It is beneath my dignity to allow the weather to interfere with my plans". – Sulieman The Magnificent, Ottoman Ruler
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In 1529 The Ottoman Empire was at it’s peak ruling most of the Balkan including Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia, Romania, Greece, Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Israel, Egypt, North Africa, Algeria, and most of the Arab Peninsula and Sulieman, the Ottoman ruler, was seeking the prize of Vienna. Spring rains characteristic of southeastern Europe were particularly heavy that year, causing flooding in Bulgaria, and making many of the major roads on Suleiman's route barely passable. Sulieman’s advisors recommended he not make the march because of the weather. Suleiman disregarded their concerns and on May 10 began a four-month march into Austrian territory, which resulted in the loss of many of the men, camel, and the large caliber guns, which became hopelessly mired in mud and had to be left behind. By the time the invading army reached Vienna in late September, no heavy caliber cannons remained and the Ottoman force was reduced to slinging arrows at the heavily guarded fort. On October 14, Sulieman began a retreat back into Ottoman territory, which turned into disaster. Unseasonably heavy snows slowed his march and the remaining light artillery and most of the baggage and supplies were lost.

The siege of Vienna would come to be recognized by the Ottomans as their “high water mark”. It signaled the end of their imperialist expansion in Europe after 150 years of plunder.

Next Installment: The Battle of Waterloo

The Battle of Agincourt

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English King Henry V and his force at Agincourt were outnumbered 10-1. The king, fearful of annihilation, sought a truce with the French, but his terms were rejected. And an English account describes the day before the battle as a day of remorse in which all soldiers cleansed themselves of their sins to avoid hell. The French, on the other hand, were confident that they would prevail and were eager to fight. They had not, however, taken into account the recent heavy rain. The battleground was a recently ploughed field, and the rains had left it mired in mud. This spelled doom for the French force, which consisted chiefly of armored cavalry. Demoralized by the fate of their cavalry and severely hampered by the mud, the French foot soldiers were completely overwhelmed. Once knocked to the ground, the heavily armored French struggled just to stand upright. Their limited mobility made them easy targets for the volleys from the English archers. Henry V triumph paved the way for English domination of most of France until the middle of the 15th century.

Next Installment: The Siege of Vienna
Posted by Robert Child

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