Aircheck: ABC News, 10/29/1998

With the passing of John Glenn a couple of days ago, I thought I’d look back at his other spaceflight of note, riding on board Space Shuttle Discovery as a 77 year old mission specialist in the fall of ’98.

The shuttle launches had once again gotten routine, after it was proven in early 1986 that space is indeed a risky business after Challenger’s ill-fated flight. But for a brief bit of time in the fall of 1998, the networks were again captivated by the novelty of it all. The people flocked to the Cape as if it were the launching of one of the Apollo moon missions, and even got delayed for a bit due to a Cessna plane violating launch airspace. (Kind of like a streaker roaming a football field in the 1970’s, I suppose.)

Although it was a fleeting moment of fame for the space program, people stopped what they were doing and watched the event wherever TV’s were available, as even the broadcast networks covered the launch and gave extensive coverage to it. John Glenn and his crew came back to Earth safely, and the shuttle flights went on until the summer of 2011.

By Authority Of The NFL

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ESPN turned NBC sportscaster Mike Tirico…

I’ve never been a big fan of Mike Tirico’s work, but I have to admit that a recent decision by the NFL regarding who broadcasts their games gave the Syracuse grad a lot of garden hose up his keister, without benefit of lubricant.

CBS and NBC are splitting the series of Thursday night games this season and next. CBS will simulcast the first five games with the NFL Network, then do three games on NFLN. The second half of the games goes to NBC, three strictly on NFLN, then the remaining five simulcast on NBC. If your local team has a game on NFLN only, it will be simulcast on a local station in your market. Got all of that?

Four months ago, Tirico, who had called Monday night games for ESPN going back to when they received the package from ABC, was hired by the Peacock to spell Al Michaels for the Thursday night games they had the rights to. Al turns 72 in November, and is actually older now than when Howard Cosell was terminated for ABC in 1985 at the age of 67.

It would make sense to lighten Al’s workload right? But no! (The author says in a Cosell impersonation.)  The NFL reportedly vetoed Tirico doing the TNF games with Cris “Turkey Neck” Collinsworth (that’s my nickname for him anyways, been calling him that since he was a Florida Gator back in the early 1980’s), and thus wants Brother Al doing the whole kit and caboodle, citing that CBS uses their “A” team of Jim Nantz (57 years old) and Phil Simms for their package.

Just one of those “jerky” things the NFL does, I guess. No wonder why some fans think they’ve become the “evil empire” these days.

Terrorism Becomes Routine

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The incident in Nice, France where a terrorist plowed into a Bastille Day crowd, killing (as of this writing) at least 84 people, crept up on me kind of like the terrorist attack last year in Paris did.

Late in the afternoon on Thursday, I saw on my Tweet Deck page that I use to keep track of the Big Brother season (which is often easier to crunch information to me than the feeds are) that there had been an incident in Nice. As is often the case with news out of France the past 20 years (Princess Diana’s death comes to mind), the news and the magnitude of what breaks is understated at first, or so it seems. Maybe something gets lost in the French to English translation?

Then around 6:30pm or so my time (US East coast time), the numbers came in that at least 60 were killed in the incident, with the number climbing through the night past 70, then past 80. That got my attention, sadly.

These incidents have gotten to point where the senseless killing has begun to desensitize me. Even the big US networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, an Fox) didn’t break into programming to provide coverage, whereas CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News carried it extensively. It reminds me of how the space shuttle launches back in the 80’s got so routine that they were barely covered anymore as news, and then the Challenger disaster happened in 1986, and everyone started caring again for the wrong reasons.

Terrorism has become routine. Even CNN’s anchors were saying last night something like, “80 dead in Nice, but let’s take a commercial break, and we’ll get right back to the breaking news.” Then they run those sad ASPCA commercials of pets crying out for care, love, and attention. Almost made ME want to cry, but not for the reasons and emotions that were being prompted out of me.

The question is, how and why did it get so routine, and are we fully aware of the dangers of sleepwalking through this sort of thing?

Aircheck: Various Sources, 7/11/1979, The Fall Of Skylab

This was a bit of a big deal back in ’79, as the first American space station, Skylab, visited three times by crews in Apollo spaceships for several weeks at a time in 1973 and 1974, was coming back down to Earth. It’s orbit was allowed to deteriorate, leaving a big mystery as to where the ship would crash back on our planet.

I remember watching the bulletins and reports on TV as a seven year old two months shy of my 8th birthday, with Walter Cronkite anchoring on CBS, doing a few minutes on the latest developments every hour. I imagine the other networks did the same, this being the year before CNN took to the air.

They were hopeful that the space station would crash into the Atlantic, but it stayed together long enough to where parts of it crashed into the mostly barren portions of the Western Australia state of Australia. Pieces of it were put on televised display nine days later when the Miss Universe pageant aired from Perth.

Deja Vu All Over Again

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With everyone still talking about the death of Prince on the networks in a near breathless detail, it gave me a weird sense of deja vu that I’ve only had one other time in my life.

I was at home on February 1, 2003 in the early morning hours. I knew the space shuttle Columbia was set to land just past 9am. The cable news outlets were preparing to briefly cover the landing, or so I thought. I read on the bottom of the TV screen that Mission Control in Houston had lost contact with the shuttle minutes prior to landing, which began ringing alarm bells in my head. I knew from following the landings that there is usually a blackout period when the shuttle returns to Earth, but that time should have come and gone by that point.

Then the landing time of 9:16am came and went, still no shuttle. Commentators like Jay Barbree on MSNBC (who I once talked to in my radio travels, decent man) and Miles O’Brien on CNN were beginning to put Columbia and the fallen shuttle Challenger in the same sentence. Something was wrong, but what, and where would it come down, and in how many pieces?

The rest of the day was a blur. That day in February, to me, very much resembled January 28, 1986. The three anchors were the same: Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, and Dan Rather on ABC, NBC, and CBS respectively. The facts slightly different, but as was the case in 1986, a loss of all seven members of the crew, each time five men and two women.

Prince passing felt very similar to me to Michael Jackson’s passing. MJ died on a Thursday in June 2009 right after Farrah Fawcett had been buried, Prince died on a Thursday a few hours after pro wrestler Joan “Chyna” Laurer had passed in California. In both MJ and Prince’s cases, there seemed to be warnings the each was not well in the time leading up to the passing of each rock/pop legend, but only fully decipherable until both had respectively died.

Not to mention the “King Of Pop” had two sons named Prince, which is somewhat odd.

Another odd fact, Prince mentions in his 1987 song “Sign O’ The Times” the following lyric:

Is it silly, no?
When a rocket blows and, and everybody still wants to fly
Some say man ain’t happy truly until a man truly dies
Oh why, oh why?

In a way, everything ties together when you really look at things.

Much like that day in 2003, Thursday was a bit of a blur to me. Even though there were marked differences in the lives touched and now changed, it felt like generally it was the same script, a story I didn’t want to relive again, but a reality that will now be there eternally.

Flashback: “A Place In The Sun” by Stevie Wonder

The beautiful part of these “Flashback” blog entries I do is I stumble upon songs I’ve never heard before, and this week’s selection is one of those songs that is just that: a song prior to this week I’d never heard.

This week, I had stumbled upon the 1997 St. Clair Classic PBA bowling tournament, which was the last time ABC had aired the Pro Bowlers Tour that June 21st. This show was a Saturday afternoon staple in my household growing up, and my Dad would always watch it if at home. I think he enjoyed the blue-collar nature of the sport, with the late Chris Schenkel provided the commentary most of the time along with Nelson Burton, Jr. analyzing away.

This week, I’m listening to the song, and I’m thinking, “Oh my God, that song is beautiful. Got to get this posted as a Flashback this week.” So here I am.

The show had been on for decades, but only had a few moments on the last show to wrap up such a long run, so the producers chose Stevie Wonder’s version of “A Place In The Sun” for the tearful closing montage.

It went to #9 on the Billboard charts in 1966. Surprised it didn’t go higher.