Friday, October 28, 2011

Only a few voices speak to me

He was supposed to call at 11, but it was 20 minutes before that and the phone was ringing. The caller ID display said it was from “Enberg, Barbara,” so I readied my recorder and answered the phone.

“Hi, is this Ed?”

“Yes, speaking.”

“Oh good, this is Dick Enberg.”

“Uh, yeah... I recognize your voice.”

That was an understatement. The voice was crystal clear. This was the play-by-play voice I remembered from NCAA basketball, from eight different Super Bowl broadcasts, the World Series. He was the host of the game show, Sports Challenge, which I loved to watch as a kid. I talked to him for about 15 minutes, and listened as he regaled me with stories of traveling with Al McGuire and Billy Packer during the college basketball season, and his enduring friendship with the former Marquette coach. It was a very nice conversation with a charming gentleman.

I'm not generally affected by celebrities. I've met more than my fair share. In this job, I've interviewed all sorts of folks, including a big chunk of the performers who have played here in town. I have finished many interviews thinking the artist I've just talked to is a very nice, bright person, but it didn't really register with me that this person was a celebrity.

That was how my talk with Mr. Enberg was as well. Almost. You see, the voice of Dick Enberg took me back to my youth. The voice that brought NFL football games to me. The voice that described college basketball games during my high school and college days. The voice that helped my enjoy Major League Baseball games. That voice! It was a little like being young again.

The last time I had felt like that was when I had a chance to do a phone interview with impressionist Rich Little. Growing up, Rich Little was my favorite performer. Talking to him was not so much getting to know a celebrity, but letting him take me back to a simpler time. He even did a couple of impressions while telling me stories, and when the interview was over, Mr. Little just kept going. He was obviously having a good time talking, and I was lapping it all up. I was 13 again and was a private audience with my favorite entertainer.

I've tried to think of other celebrities that have had a similar effect on me, but for the life of me I can't come up with another one. No other performers, no other announcers, no politicians. Nobody. Earlier today, I did go through a bunch of old voicemail messages on my phone here at The Times Bulletin and found one from country performer Charlie Daniels. I remember my interview with Mr. Daniels. He was entertaining, funny, and all I ever wanted from an interview. I even had a few of his records back in the 70s. (Kids, if you don't know what a “record” is, go ask your grandparents.) But talking to Charlie Daniels was not like talking to Dick Enberg or Rich Little. Maybe if he'd launched into a chorus of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” it would have been different, although, I have always been amused by the concept of me having a voicemail message from Charlie Daniels somewhere in the phone system.

I have tried thinking of other people who could have the same kind of effect on me, but I can't really come up with any. Of course, as with Dick Enberg, I probably wouldn't realize it until I heard the voice. Well, I'm sure Howard Cosell's voice would do the same thing, but considering he has been dead for more than 15 years, hearing his voice would probably have a quite different effect on me!

I've heard it said the voices of the past are heard in old photographs and other such memorabilia. As it turns out, voices of the past are also heard in voices of the past.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Making the right costume choice

If I may, I would like to direct my words of pseudo-wisdom this week to those who are deciding on a Halloween costume for next weekend's festivities. You're asking yourself, “Ed, what should I dress as for Halloween?” Well, ask no more! Let's start with you adults. What costume will make you the hit of this year's party?

For guys, it doesn't really matter. Nobody really pays much attention to your costume anyway. Unless you are extremely trendy and topical and choose to come as a Gaddafi zombie, you'll just fade into the wallpaper anyway. So wear something comfortable and enjoy! (Now if you do go as a Gaddafi zombie, I'll expect you to send me a buck or two to pay for your inspiration) For adult ladies, sadly unless the title of your costume begins with the word “naughty” you probably won't be noticed either. For some reason, the past few years have seen the increase in adults dressing for the day, but the only requirement for ladies seems to be to show more skin. At least that's what I've been told.

But really, Halloween costumes are all about kids. Since kids are down to the last minute for costume choice, I feel it's my duty to offer tips that will help kids win prizes at costume contests and charm extra candy bars out of those crabby old people. First tip: If there is a group of trick-or-treaters traveling together, have a theme. Dress as M&Ms, but different colors. Maybe one of you can be purple or striped or moldy or something unique, but make sure you have a theme. My wife and I dressed three kids in themed costumes for as long as the oldest would continue to dress up. We did a Wizard of Oz theme, a rodeo theme, etc. Don't laugh. We won costume contests repeatedly.

Second tip: Wear something that adults will recognize. This is important because if the grown-ups don't know who you are supposed to be, all that effort to get the right look will be mostly wasted. When I was a youngster, I had the perfect costume but nobody knew it. I had a leash and harness that was all stiff so it looked like you were walking an invisible dog. At that time, there was a cartoon called Goober and the Ghost Chasers in which one of the characters walked a dog that often turned invisible. So I found a pair of khaki shorts and a khaki jacket, the proper hat and sunglasses to go with my invisible dog prop, and I had THE perfect costume. Everyone would surely be impressed. Except I forgot that everyone else was not spending Saturday morning watching Goober and the Ghost Chasers. So mostly, people just kind of looked at me sideways and moved on. So kids, before you dress like your favorite minor character on a Nickelodeon cartoon show, don't blame me if the candy sack is a little light this year.

Third tip: Dress as something that everybody else ignores. What I mean is that if you enter a costume contest, it seems there are always categories for the event. Some of these categories were set up decades ago when everyone thought it was cool to dress like Matt Dillon or the Lone Ranger, but now if you enter the Cowboys category, you'll have almost no competition! We capitalized on this one year when two of our kids and our dog all dressed as clowns. Nobody else went clown. The family earned first, second, and third. (I don't remember which prize the dog won.) So don't overlook the classic costume choices that adults will look at and remember when they wore similar get-ups. But avoid the sheet-over-your-head ghost look. Nobody is impressed that you can cut two holes in a sheet.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Hot Dog Etiquette

In the news business, we see a lot of odd stories come across the desk (or computer monitor). For instance, this past weekend, golfer Tiger Woods was putting in a tournament when a man (I am resisting the urge to simply call him an idiot) tossed a hot dog onto the green. A hot dog. The bozo then laid down and waited to be arrested (which he promptly was). The frankfurter was retrieved and disposed of, and Woods went on to miss the easy putt. (So I guess the guy had money on another golfer?) End of story, right? Of course not. Soon, there came a press release from a group known as the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council (website The president of these fine folks issued a statement reading in part, “The use of an iconic food in an act of violence against an iconic golfer like Tiger Woods is reprehensible -- and a violation of hot dog etiquette.”

Hot dog etiquette? Really? I laughed it off, but then noticed near the bottom of the press release, “For more information about hot dog etiquette, see” Well, that was an invitation I couldn't refuse. So after a few minutes poking around the site of the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council (, I finally hit upon the page entitled, “Hot Dog Etiquette.” As I scanned the list, wondering who came up with these and where was the line about tossing wieners at golfers (or any professional athlete), I realized that a small section of the worldwide web was being wasted. Let me include a few rules of hot dog etiquette:

Don't use ketchup on your hot dog after the age of 18. Mustard, relish, onions, cheese and chili are acceptable.

Condiments remaining on the fingers after eating a hot dog should be licked away, not washed.

Eat hot dogs on buns with your hands. Utensils should not touch hot dogs on buns.

I could continue, but I'll spare you. The list goes as far as laying out the order that condiments should be put on the dog, but no mention is made of chucking franks at putting millionaires. But hurling hot dogs was not the only area not covered by the definitive essay on hot dog etiquette from the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council ( So, allow me to fill in a few items that were not included from the frank folk.

The proper way to cook a hot dog is with a stick, roasting the frankfurter over an open fire. Don't boil them like they were some tubular lobster. And do not put them in the microwave. There should be at least a little black on the outside from the flames.

The only time hot dogs that were not cooked over an open fire should be eaten is at a sporting event. Baseball, football, basketball... let's face it, the hot dog was made to be sold as a concession.

Hot dogs should be made from real meat, not the stuff you cut off and feed to the family dog. I've tasted hot dogs made from parts of the chicken I don't even want to think about consuming again.

The hot dog bun should not be so large that it distorts the hot dog-to-bread ratio. Too much bread dilutes the hot dog taste.

The entire hot dog should be eaten. If you are reasonably close to adulthood and have not had gastric bypass surgery, you should be able to eat an entire regulation-size wiener. Do not eat half and throw the rest away.

Use any condiment you desire on your hot dog unless the smell is so strong it sends the person sitting next to you at the ball game into sneezing convulsions.

There. I figure my contributions to hot dog etiquette are as good as any of those from the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council ( Oh wait, one more:

There should be absolutely no throwing of hot dogs by idiots desiring a bed in a cell, even if you're rooting for another golfer.