Monday

5-2-11: I'm Baaaaaaaack...

Hello again everybody...

Wow, does it feel good to type those words again!

I actually debated between two separate titles for this post. It was either what you see above, or “Where The Hell Have I Been?!”

Both accomplished the task of announcing my return to writing, and while the latter did a better job of portending a pending explanation of why it's been so long since I've written, I decided the former was the way to go because it just sounded more positive to me.

That's really what the point of this post is going to be all about: positivity.

And I'll get to said positivity...

Right after the quote...

“My blogging might be spotty at best. At least for the foreseeable future...”
*- Dan Cook (1974 - ), written October 29th, 2010


I wrote that (or something to that effect) in the email I sent out announcing why there was not going to be a post that day, over six months ago. What you're reading today is the first thing I've written since then.

Why? Well I'm glad you asked. Because that's the point of a column I like to call...

I'm Baaaaaaaack

As I mentioned earlier, the subtitle to today's column is: “Where The Hell Have I Been?”

Six months ago (or there about) I was offered the opportunity at an interim-producer position at WCCO Radio.

What the devil is an “interim-producer”, you ask? Well basically, one of the full-time producers flaked-out, so they needed someone to fill the spot until they could figure out if he was going to be replaced, how he was going to be replaced, and/or when he was going to be replaced.

As is the nature of such things, that took six months to figure out.

In that time I was given the opportunity to try my hand at producing, to see if I liked it, and to see if the bosses liked me in that position. It was going to take a lot of work and effort, and I knew that writing my blog would have to take a back seat. I didn't realize at the time it was going to be in the “way-far-back”, but I knew the job would affect my writing none-the-less.

I was more than a little nervous about the opportunity. I'd tried producing on a very limited basis in the past and combined with what I'd seen other producers go through, I knew it was going to be a challenge.

I look back now on that nervousness and chuckle because the real truth is, I had no earthly idea just how much of a challenge it was going to be, but I was nervous just the same.

I didn't really know if producing was something I had the tools for, if it was something I'd be good at, or if it was even something I really wanted to do. But I was told by several people - and eventually grew to agree with them - that there wasn't ever going to be a better opportunity to give it a go than right there, and right then.

So on Friday, October 29th, 2010, I became the interim-producer of The Chad Hartman Show.

Chad's a terrific individual. He knows the business, works hard at his craft and has a very strong idea of who he is and what he wants to do. In most respects, those things made the job easier for me than it would've been with some other hosts.

Chad does a ton of the creative legwork for his show. Mostly, what was left for me was to execute his ideas: try to get the guests he asked for, post the links on the show's webpage that he passed along, etc.

That helped me out a ton, since what I was most worried about was generating ideas for the show. I'd never been asked to do that on a daily basis before, and was concerned that I wasn't going to be able to generate enough to justify being the full-time producer.

In the end, that concern turned out to be more than justified.

You see, while Chad does the great majority of the creative work for the show, he does need a producer to pitch in with some ideas. And in large part, that's what tripped me up in trying to do the job.

I've always had a talent for mimicry.

Show me something, let me practice it, repeat it a few dozen times, and I'll crank that process out for you as many times as you like.

What I've never really had talent for is generating something that's completely original.

That admission will surprise some who'll try to point out that music I've written and recorded surely counts as “generating something original”.

The problem is, even in that, I can show you patterns and progressions that I've copied and regurgitated from other artists. I've never come up with a truly original or ingenious chord progression. The lyrics I've written aren't stunningly poetic in nature.

Hell, even in this blog, I could say the same thing. Sure I can turn a phrase here or there. Yes, I've had some near-epic rants about things I have a passion for. But all of the regular segments I've had over the years are based on things I've seen other writers do, and tried to adapt to something that worked for me. Many of the opinions I've espoused have been formed and colored by the people I've been fortunate enough to work with, rather than being truly original.

(Except for my unrelenting Red Sox hatred. That's mine, and mine alone, and you can't have it! Well, actually, you're welcome to share it. Just don't try to take it away from me!)

Before you get the wrong idea, understand that I don't say any of this to knock myself. Far from it.

I thoroughly enjoy playing and writing music, as well as writing this blog. I just don't pretend that what I'm doing is highly artistic, or even within the same realm as those who do these things on a professional basis.

But I've digressed.

My larger point is, generating ideas for a talk show on a day-to-day basis is hard. Really hard. And eventually it caught up to me.

Over the six months there were a lot of high points. I got to meet and talk with all sorts of celebrities and politicians.

Supermodel Niki Taylor came in-studio and called me “a very handsome man”. Yes, I saved that audio.

I got to talk with filmmakers like Kevin Smith (“Clerks”, “Dogma”, and the highly under-rated “Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back”) and Morgan Spurlock (“Super-Size Me” and “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold”).

There was one day where I booked Ryan Crocker, who was recently named to his sixth post as an Ambassador for The United States of America - this time to Afghanistan, as well as the former Editor-in-Chief of the National Enquirer - and the guy who helped publish the story that torpedoed John Edwards' political career, all in the same show.

I've booked both US Senators from Minnesota, 2/3 of the Congressional delegation, four governors (three former, and one current), as well as a former Senator from Wyoming who happened to co-chair the president's commission on the national debt, and also gave us so much material that the only person who has more audio cuts under his name in our system is Charlie Sheen. Although to be fair, Donald Trump is making a late push for that lead.

We did shows live from the Mall of America, Rosedale and Keiran's Irish Pub in downtown Minneapolis ahead of this year's Twins Home Opener, which I attended immediately following the show.

If all of this sounds pretty cool, well, you're not going to get any argument from me. It was.

Unfortunately, the process that surrounded it was a daily grind that I was woefully unprepared for - and the jury's still out on whether I'm ever going to be fit for it.

I was offered a ton of help from management and other producers, and like I said, Chad did a ton of the heavy lifting. And yet far too often I found myself riddled with anxiety and near-panic over my inability to produce all the elements I was asked to, and really that the job demands.

The best way I can describe it is this: over those 6 months, I dropped two belt notches (and not in the healthy way) and had three times as many sick days as I had in a typical calendar year (all of which were entirely legitimate, despite the good-natured ribbing of some of my colleagues). To put it simply, I wasn't managing the stress very well.

So when it came time for management to decide on a permanent producer for the show, and for me to decide if I really wanted to do it, I went back to my mother's tried-and-true method of making decisions.

I sat down and wrote out all the things that I really enjoyed about being a producer, and all the things that drove me nuts. Then all I had to do was decide which of those two columns out-weighed the other.

And in the end, that wasn't terribly difficult.

I'm not closing the door on being a producer in the future, but for now, it's not the right spot for me.

Working with Chad was an incredibly valuable learning experience. As I implied earlier, whatever it was I thought the job was going to be when I went into it, I'm now blown away by how much I really didn't know.

But I think the truth is that taking that next step in my career is a lot like how Jerry Seinfeld used to describe breaking up with someone:


“...breaking up is like knocking over a coke machine. You can’t do it in one push, you got to rock it back and forth a few times, and then it goes over.”


The brief dalliances I had in the past with producing got the coke machine tipping a little bit. And these last six months had it almost ready to topple.

Hopefully the next time I get an opportunity, I'll really be ready to knock the sumbitch over!

In the meantime, I'm going to spend the next couple of days assisting the guy they've hired to take on the job full-time get his feet under him and acclimated to where everything is at the station. After that, I go back to my old job of studio coordinating from 12-8pm Monday through Friday.

I'm incredibly lucky like that. A lot of people don't get the chance to try a new job, while maintaining a fairly cushy fall-back position. I don't take that for granted, not the least little bit.

In fact, one of the things I'm most looking forward to is taking the knowledge and experience I've gained over the last six months and applying it to the studio work I was doing before.

In the past, I treated coordinating as a pretty technical position. Just make sure the right buttons got pushed at the right time and keep the bus out of the ditch.

Now, I can take some of the lessons I've learned, contacts I've forged and creative processes I've picked up and apply them in-studio as the three shows I'll be working with (Chad Hartman, Michele Tafoya and Mike Max) go along. But I won't have to worry about the constant pressure of having to have something new every day.

I like to think of it as a “best of both worlds” scenario. And that's why I'm feeling pretty positive about where I'm at.

How does all of this apply to the blog? Well, now that I'm back to my old hours, I'm going to try and get back into some old habits as well. And the first one I want to tackle is writing.

I can't promise that I'll come out of the gate with three posts per week like I used to. And I'm not really sure whether all the previous “segments” I came to rely on will reappear. All of those things are still being evaluated and considered.

But in the end, my goal is to get back to ranting and raving a little bit. I fully intend to use this space to spew some of my frustrations and celebrate the joy I find in watching and reveling in the world of sports.

Hopefully you get back into the groove of enjoying the ride with me.

That journey starts again later this week (notice how I'm not promising which day?) when I try to get caught up with a few things... you know, what's been happening while I've been away?

That's later this week.

Until then, thanks for reading!

5 comments:

  1. Please don't make it Monday and Friday, I've got so many other blogs to catch up on those days.

    (I kid, of course, pick whatever day you want)

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  2. Welcome back! You were missed a lot!!

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  3. Welcome back. I am looking forward to debating college football and the latest addition to the Big 10.

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  4. Appreciate the support!

    Can't wait for Wisconsin's Big Ten opener, Larry!!!

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  5. We're all friends here, it's safe for you to tell the truth. Or am I supposed to believe it's just coincidence that you return right after Osama Bin Laden turns up dead. I haven't forgotten about your ties to the cop on the grassy knoll either!

    Anyway, it's good to have you back.

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