Football, even the Super Bowl, may be hazardous to your health

Super Bowl LII Philadelphia Eagles

The Super Bowl is over, the Eagles won and in a moment, I’ll show you why the old phrase in the title — “may be hazardous to your health” — doesn’t just apply to cigarettes, but also football.

bob costas NBC Sports
Bob Costas (NBC Sports)

One of my favorite sportscasters since I was a teenager has been NBC‘s Bob Costas. He’s very smooth, been national since 1979 and knows what he’s talking about.

NBC just had two of the biggest events in sports less than a week apart: the Super Bowl and the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Costas, 65, was the king of both when NBC had the rights — until this year.

He hosted six NBC Super Bowls and served as NBC’s primetime host for a record 11 Olympics.

A year ago, the 26-time Emmy winner announced he wouldn’t be doing the Olympics this year. People magazine reports he said in a statement,

“It’s been a wonderful run, but I just felt now was the right time to step away and I’m grateful that NBC left that decision to me.”

2018 olympic logoIt’s a huge job, day after day, with so many events and athletes to know all about. At the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, he went on the air after catching an eye infection.

Now, NBC took Mike Tirico from ABC and ESPN to do the chore, which may have doubled because the network brilliantly decided to carry everything live on the west coast (starting at 5pm) and go until 2am in the east, when west coast prime time ends at 11. Of course, the South Korea time zone helped get everything live, but it’s still six long hours on the air.

It’s kind of fitting, in a way. Costas had hosted every Olympic Games since 1992. Tirico was the first student to receive the Bob Costas Scholarship at Costas’ alma mater, Syracuse University, back in 1987.

Costas is at the point in his career and life that he can say what he wants, and I love that. I hope I come across just as honestly these days, as well. It’s almost a waste to keep your mouth shut, if you know what you’re talking about.

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As for the Super Bowl, it’s one game and just over three hours of time that most of America and much of the world would be watching. And he’d only have to be an expert on two teams. Sounds much, much easier — something he can handle with his eyes closed.

(L-R) lining up to push and shove; Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback Nick Foles (#8) had just thrown a pass when he was with the University of Arizona; trying to tackle the runner

brains Wikibooks
brain comparison (Wikibooks)

But in November, he said, “This game (football) destroys people’s brains,” referring to players’ concussions and other head injuries.

He’s absolutely right! Don’t think so? Look at all the damage done. Look at the behavior of some former players who got hit too hard too many times. Keep reading for the names of some players who died too young because of the damage, and a description of how the damage happens.

Lenny Oak LogParents, is it worth a four-year scholarship to college? Do the students getting the scholarships actually study for a job in the real world, or is football an extra responsibility that’s much more important than regular studies and credits?

Don’t get me wrong. I love watching football, especially when I know the team and the players. But I’m no die-hard who would watch some college football game between two west coast teams I know nothing about.

I like watching the players give it all to catch a pass, the defense trying to block and then tackle the runner if necessary. And the runner doing whatever it takes to get an extra few feet or make it out of bounds while keeping control of the ball. But first, the defensive line trying to blitz the quarterback, with his offensive counterparts protecting him.

A Popular Science article two years ago stated a football game has

“an estimated 130-plus plays, hundreds of hits, tackles, spears, and lay outs. For a young and healthy athlete, that can lead to serious brain trauma.”

“According to the NFL, there were 271 documented game-related concussions this past season — the most recorded by the league since 2011. Roughly one-third of those were caused by helmet-to-helmet contact.”

The magazine describes “one of the season’s dirtiest” games. It happened in January 2016.

“How dirty? With 22 seconds left in the game, the Steelers’ star wide receiver, Antonio Brown, was midair, ready to catch a ball that he hoped would put the Steelers within range of a game-winning field goal. Instead, Bengals’ linebacker Vontaze Burfict launched himself at Brown as he came down, slamming his helmet (which in the NFL can weigh four to six pounds) into the side of Brown’s head, whipping it sideways on his brain stem. The hit, at an estimated 707 miles per hour, carried about 1600 pounds of tackling force. It flattened Brown on his back, seemingly knocking him unconscious. Jim Nantz, the NFL’s normally unflappable play-by-play guy, was apoplectic, calling the assault ‘disgraceful.’

“The Steelers, who ended up winning the game 18 – 16, later said Brown had suffered ‘concussion like symptoms.’

“In the NFL, that’s code for ‘has a concussion.’”

A co-director at Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) Center told the magazine “what mostly likely went on inside Brown’s head that day.”

“As Burfict slammed into the left side of Brown’s head, he twisted it up and to the right. The slo-mo is painful just to watch. According to (Dr. Robert) Cantu, a hit like that would lead to a textbook rotational concussion, among the worst a player can suffer. There are several things happening inside Brown’s skull, the moment of impact. Brown’s brain begins to twist and spin. It does this in the opposite direction of the hit and inside his skull’s cerebrospinal fluid, a clear fluid that cushions the brain. In that same moment, his brain’s nerve fibers stretch and rotate.”

Also, according to the magazine,

“A large percentage of NFL concussions are the results of T-bone hits (at the ear hole) or right between the eyes. These hits rattle the brain’s center of gravity. What they do is make the brain to rock dangerously backwards and forward, repeatedly hitting the skull. In young athletes (think teenagers), the brain is flush with the bone. So this effect is not as pronounced as in older players, who have a one-eighth to a quarter-inch space, more room for the brain to ricochet off the skull, and thus to cause more harm.

“Blows to the side of the head, like the that laid out Brown, are far more dangerous. The spinning a brain undergoes during a rotational concussion can cause significant structural issues.

“As Brown’s body recoils, his brain continues swirling back and forth before finally oscillating to a stop. That’s where things fade to black, both in Brown’s consciousness and in our scientific understanding.”

Stanford bio-engineer David Camarillo recently told PBS KQED’s Quest blog, “One of the serious issues is the wobbling of the brain.”

“The exertion caused by a rotational hit puts a much greater degree of stretch and strain on the nerve tissue than a linear hit,” Dr. Cantu explained. “It isn’t just going in one direction. It is going side to side, front and back.”

The magazine describes the injury.

“As soon as Brown’s head is hit, his brain violently accelerates. Neurotransmitters — chemicals that allow neurons to communicate with each other — are released, but since the trauma is so great, these neurotransmitters are chaotic and rendered effectively useless. At the same time, the new membranes surrounding the brain’s neuronal cells stretch so thin that ions like potassium and sodium flow out of the neurons and into the fluid-packed extracellular space. These ions are quickly replaced by calcium, which flows into the cell and basically paralyzes the neuron.”

It continues,

“The cell is unable to transmit nerve impulses. So what you have is a cell that is alive, but is greatly impaired and nonfunctioning. Cantu calls it ‘an energy crisis in the brain.’ And it can last not just minutes, but for months. That means whatever responsibility that cell controls, whether it be memory, speech or rage control, it can’t do its job. ‘So if the cell affects vision, you won’t see properly,’ says Cantu.”

But that’s not all.

“Microseconds after the ion chemical reaction, Brown’s nerve cells and fibers start to stretch. Once the blood vessels in those parts break, microscopic hemorrhages occur. Doctors using specialty MRI scans have seen these ruptures in injured NFL players as tiny holes where vessels have bled out. If the vessels bleed into the brain’s tissue, the fluid could kill neurons, which can already be in bad shape from a hit as severe as Brown’s.

“Scientists do not know how to measure the number of cells injured in a concussion. They just don’t know. But for athletes who suffer from CTE, a degenerative condition that can only be diagnosed through autopsy (90 out 94 former NFL players who authorized the examination over the past eight years have had it), the cell death is crippling. It leads to massive atrophy in the medial surface of the brain’s temporal lobe. That’s the region and area of the brain that is associated, in part, with memory and language. If the cells don’t have enough rehab time (say, a player takes the field too soon), they ‘tip over,’ says Cantu, and die, causing brown stains to develop throughout that region (a phenomenon noted by medical examiners during autopsies on NFL players).”

Junior Seau Wikipedia
Junior Seau (Wikipedia)

Players like Dave Duerson and Terry Long wasted away due to the ravages of CTE and then ultimately committed suicide.

No football fan could forget Junior Seau. A team of scientists who analyzed the brain tissue of renowned NFL linebacker after his 2012 suicide concluded he suffered a debilitating brain disease likely caused by two decades worth of hits to the head, researchers and his family told ABC News.

That January 2013 article reported,

“More than 30 NFL players have in recent years been diagnosed with CTE, a condition once known as ‘punch drunk’ because it affected boxers who had taken multiple blows to the head. Last year, some 4,000 retired players filed lawsuits against the league over its alleged failure to protect players from brain injuries.

“The NFL has said it did not intentionally hide the dangers of concussions from players and is doing everything it can now to protect them.”

Ken Stabler suffered from CTE, died of colon cancer in 2015 and donated his roughly three-pound brain to Cantu’s CTE Center for analysis. Shortly before his death, he established the XOXO Stabler Foundation to take

“up a cause that directly affected the foundation’s chairman: sports-related brain trauma.

“The foundation’s new initiative XOXO Game Plan for Change is focused on changing the course and culture of contact sports to increase sports safety and reduce brain trauma in athletes. To facilitate change, the XOXO Stabler Foundation funds research on related brain diseases, methods of treatment and prevention, and educational outreach.”

Antwaan Randle El, 36, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette he suffered severe memory loss and couldn’t even walk down the stairs.

Calvin Johnson announced he’d retire at age 30 likely because of fears relating to his post-retirement health.

Aaron Hernandez Flickr
Aaron Hernandez (Flickr)

“The very severity of the disease, at least that we’re seeing in American football players, seems to correlate with the duration of play. The longer they play, the more severe we see it,” Dr. Ann McKee told The New York Times.

And most recently, in April 2017, Aaron Hernandez killed himself while serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for a 2013 murder. Despite that, he was remembered in a video tribute before this month’s Super Bowl, when the league ran salutes to those the NFL lost in the past year.

Five months after the 27-year-old’s death, The New York Times reported,

“A posthumous examination of his brain showed he had such a severe form of the degenerative brain disease C.T.E. that the damage was akin to that of players well into their 60s.”

!!!!!

The gray lady’s ominous lead was,

“The brain scan came as a surprise even to researchers who for years have been studying the relationship between brain disease and deaths of professional football players.”

Frank Gifford Howard Cosell Don Meredith Monday Night Football
Frank Gifford worked with Howard Cosell and Don Meredith on Monday Night Football (Wikipedia)

The article claimed CTE has been found in more than 100 former NFL players including Andre Waters, Ray Easterling and sports announcer Frank Gifford.

surgeon general cigarette warning
The title comes from the surgeon general’s cigarette warning we were exposed to for decades, from 1965 until it got changed.

What if it was touch football or flag football, instead of tackle?

We’re talking about a whole different game! There would be a whole lot less excitement, fewer fans, less money in TV rights, and a lot less money in team and player paraphernalia.

Heck, if I could see and run better, I could even play! That just shows how different the game would be.

But going back to those injuries: Marc Buoniconti’s spinal cord injury causing him to be a paraplegic for more than 30 years. Who’s paying those medical bills? We’re talking about the rest of these people’s lives! As it stands, what percentage of former players go bankrupt due to bad advice or simply spending too much (which is much, much more than earlier players made)?

What is the union doing? This is its whole webpage on health.

Last month, Costas told Sports Business Daily the decision to sit out the Super Bowl was mutual. He explained,

“Not only do I not have a problem with it, I am actually happy about it. I have long had ambivalent feelings about football, so at this point, it’s better to leave the hosting to those who are more enthusiastic about it.”

Bob Costas with President George W Bush Wikipedia
Costas (R) with former President George W. Bush (Wikipedia)

Again, Costas not part of the Olympics nor the Super Bowl seemed like a surprise. And again, it’s great to be able to do what you want and not do what you don’t want.

But Costas says we should not be surprised. His Olympics decision was made way back. And as for the Super Bowl,

“I have been making the same points for several years, often on NBC. In halftime commentaries, interviews with (NFL commissioner) Roger Goodell and other prominent NFL figures, appearances on CNN and elsewhere, I have addressed the issue of football and its undeniable connection to brain trauma many times.

“Why?

“Because the evidence is overwhelming and the effects are often devastating. It’s the elephant in the stadium at every game whether others choose to acknowledge it or not. And it’s not going away. So the idea that I am only now finding my voice on this, or that NBC was taken aback by what I said at Maryland is just wrong. It’s all simple and straightforward.”

I love people who speak freely!world
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Yes, there are benefits to being a popular, rich athlete. A lot of good needs to be done in the world. It costs money. People need food and clean water. Children here need examples, especially the ones without fathers.

But would you go out on the field, even with a ton of protection, and do something that has destroyed so many people’s lives?

P.S. Too bad NBC doesn’t have time for professional hockey during the Olympics. The network has the rights to it, and the National Hockey League isn’t taking a break this year.

ESPN reported last April, owners were not happy with the weeks-long “intermissions” every four years and wanted “conciliatory offers from the International Olympic Committee and/or the NHL Players’ Association.”

The NHLPA said in a statement,

“Any sort of inconvenience the Olympics may cause to next season’s schedule is a small price to pay compared to the opportunity to showcase our game and our greatest players on this enormous international stage.”

A deal didn’t happen, the players can’t compete and be Olympians this year, so Costas could call hockey. I don’t think he ever has, but he’s probably too smart to compete against the Olympics!

P.P.S. I couldn’t resist! Please forgive me.

ronald reagan smoking

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Follow-up, fewer watching TV news, future president?

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First, I have to thank everybody who looked at Monday’s blog post. The analytics were incredible, the best ever (and that’s all that counts, right? 🙂). If you haven’t seen it yet, it gives a brief overview of the place I worked for 15 months until August. Feel free to comment below it, or on my Twitter page. You can also subscribe to these blogs with your email address and get an email automatically every time I post.

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One thing I left out was that during the long interview process, in early 2016, while I was working a great job in the Tri-Cities of TN/VA, the future boss asked me at the end of a Friday Skype interview to write up a critique of the station’s website. I was literally told it was “to see how smart” I am. Two other managers were sitting right there. I was given a week, but finished it that weekend because I was so excited about the possibility of returning to Philadelphia.

Look below and see, it was a very long and thoughtful critique, and included multiple pictures. During my interview at Fox 29 — coincidentally on Leap Day, Feb. 29, 2016 — the boss even joked about still reading it! I guess it was good. Too bad most of it was never implemented. That was a clue of what was to come, but it was too late. I had already moved and started the job. (The document is a slideshow. Click below to move forward, back, or to stop it.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

That’s all I have to say here on the subject of that station.

Just this week, a Pew Research Center report announced fewer Americans rely on TV news, and what type they watch varies by who they are. It found,

“Just 50 percent of U.S. adults now get news regularly from television, down from 57 percent a year prior in early 2016.”

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That’s a 14 percent decline! Not only that, but the number takes into account local TV (still first place), cable TV (still second place), and also network TV (still third place).

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I think the demographics are even more interesting. According to Pew, college graduates and high-income people watch much less local TV and network TV news. Cable news varies little.

The research doesn’t say but perhaps these people are working longer hours or have more access to news on electronic devices. Or they find the product dumbed-down. The first two possibilities can’t be changed but the last can.

But I think the biggest finding has to do with age. Pew divided the population into four groups, from 18-29 through 65+. It found across all groups, the younger a person is makes them much, much less likely to watch local, network, and also cable TV news. That sounds ominous for the future.

old tv sets

Again, the research doesn’t say, but I’ve learned from working with people young enough to be my children they have no history of getting the news from a scheduled TV newscast, or even cable. They were raised with technology that hadn’t been invented when the older people were growing up. They have no special tie to the TV set, having to watch on schedule, and probably can’t imagine watching in black and white.

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(To go along with that, a huge majority of my students — who were younger around the year 2010, plus or minus a few — hadn’t even heard of a typewriter!) Also notice radio and newspapers were not even considered in the research.

radio newspaper

Note the research was not done on web reading but following my train of thought, Americans will continue to use newer technology to get their news, which makes the web — whether desktop, tablet, phone, or whatever comes next — more and more important. We cannot continue to dumb it down, make mistakes, and hire cheap, good-looking but inexperienced people in big cities. We also need to root out the so-called journalists that lack ethics.

desktop phone tablet

Click here to see the results in a chart, which also divides the American population by gender, race, and politics.

The Radio Television Digital News Association — and we know its agenda — asks, “Is the news for local TV stations all bad?”

Its former chair Kevin Benz admits, “Stations are producing more newscasts because local production is cheap with higher payback potential from selling local advertisers.” Let’s not forget we’re coming off an election year with lots of ads.

The organization claims “profitability has been trending level or up since 2010” and “This is also far from the first time local news has been written off due to changing consumption habits … but newsrooms have been slow to adapt.”

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Back in the Tri-Cities, I was told many people get their news from their Facebook feed. That’s pitiful and of course, Facebook benefits but the publishers really don’t, other than a click to their own websites.

In the past year, not much has come out of the Facebook Journalism Project led by former news anchor Campbell Brown — who has since shown her true politics with The 74 Million, advocating for charter and private schools by taking money away from public schools. (I wrote about that in “Why teaching isn’t for me anymore” here, almost two years ago.)

According to Digiday, problems are that publishers have different business models and want different things from Facebook. And Facebook has mostly let publishers see new products before they launched, and listen to their feedback on various subjects at twice-annual meetings with nice meals. Subjects have included Instant Articles and starting a subscription product so you can’t read unlimited articles for free. There’s also discussion about separating factual news from somebody posting fiction.

oprah
File: Oprah Winfrey

It didn’t help that NBC tweeted about Oprah Winfrey possibly becoming president in the future during Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards.

NBC’s website has now clips of her speech and this description:

“The media mogul received the Cecil B. DeMille award at the A-list event, and brought the crowd to its feet with a rallying cry for solidarity amid the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements.”

The harassment scandals were huge. That’s what Oprah addressed. I’ve even written about it twice: here (“What is conscience? Elusive in the media, unfortunately”) and here (“Hey, you accused! Would Mom say, wait until your father gets home?”).

I’ve also tweeted about women who weren’t getting paid the same as men.

Variety reported, “Host Seth Meyers even joked about the prospect in his opening monologue. The tweet from NBC said, ‘Nothing but respect for OUR future president. #GoldenGlobes.’”

The next morning, the network put out a statement, blaming outsourcing. Of course, the first tweet was removed.

How horrible! Oprah hadn’t yet spoken at the time, she never mentioned anything about becoming president, viewers won’t know the difference between a tweet from NBC Entertainment or NBC News if it doesn’t say, and why would the network let a third-party vendor tweet on its account, especially without overseeing? The network has no competent employee in-house? Disappointing!

nbc sad
The peacock isn’t proud

And late-breaking Thursday morning, we learned 18-year Fox News veteran James Rosen left the network – without Fox giving a reason – after eight of his former colleagues claimed he “had an established pattern of flirting aggressively with many peers and had made sexual advances toward three female Fox News journalists,” according to TVNewser.

Mediaite reports,

“One accusation involved him groping a female colleague in a shared-cab—an action she did not consent to. He then reportedly attempted to retaliate after his sexual advances were denied by attempting to take her sources, which would serve to damage her professional image.”

Also, the Washington Post says it suspended 28-year reporter Joel Achenbach for 90 days what it called “inappropriate workplace conduct” involving current and former female colleagues. He apologized in a statement, but the paper will continue to investigate.

I’m going to end on a better note, in contrast to what I wrote about Monday. Know I’ve been interviewing with different national and international companies here in Philadelphia. Tuesday, I found out I made it to the next round with one firm, and I’m obviously very happy about that. I told the woman on the phone who was simply following up on her morning email that everybody has been so supportive. We’d talked before and her response was simply that they are a partnership, rather than a corporation, and that there is no need for competition amongst (potential) employees.

That’s nice to hear, and it gives me hope.

P.S. On a personal note: Tuesday night in Florida, my mother fell in the kitchen. She hit her face on the floor. There was lots of blood, but no concussion. Turns out, she broke her pelvis in three places: two in the front, and one in the back. No surgery required, but she’ll have to spend another day or two in the hospital. The next two weeks are supposed to be very painful, and it could take her four months to get better. The doctor suggested time rehab since she can’t do much. Please keep her in your thoughts. 😦

Special streets, signs in the City of Brotherly Love (and Sisterly Affection)

Philadelphia street signs are different than in much of the country.

For example, there’s no downtown. Locals call that part Center City. If you’re driving, and I wouldn’t suggest tourists do, look for Central Philadelphia.

2017-01-28 vine st expwy snow
Jan. 28, 2017: On I-676 (the Vine Street Expressway), just past the Broad Street “Central Philadelphia” sign. I was in an Uber, headed for my former job, when I took this picture of snow for the station’s website.

Something I just learned has to do with arterial streets. They’re noted on street signs. The city, which has grown a whole lot in area since what’s now Center City over the centuries, is certainly not a square, rectangle, circle, or any other recognizable shape — which is why arterial streets didn’t seem to make sense for those of us who look into things.

Turns out, I and many others thought too much. The city’s Streets Department says it has to do with closing roads for block parties, which is fairly common here! This website notes (somewhat redundantly):

Arterial streets cannot be closed for street events. These are streets with multiple bus routes, trolley routes and trackless trolley routes. Arterial streets are typically two way streets that carry 800 or more cars an hour and serve as the go-to streets for first responders racing to emergencies or hospitals. Closing of arterial/high volume roads causes difficulty for the motoring public and could affect our emergency responders when called upon. These roads carry volumes up to 800 vehicles an hour. Pushing this amount of traffic into smaller residential streets, which are not designed for these volumes, can have a detrimental effect on the quality of life for these blocks.

Like elsewhere, the city warns:

When snow accumulations approach emergency status, the Managing Director may declare a snow emergency. Once emergency status is declared, the City’s 110 miles of Snow Emergency Routes receive priority. Owners of vehicles and dumpsters must move them to alternate parking spaces so City forces can clear snow from curb-to-curb on the emergency routes. Any vehicle remaining on a Snow Emergency Route during the declared Snow Emergency will be ticketed and towed. If your car is towed, call 215-686-SNOW for its location. Do NOT call 911.

(The website has the final two sentences in bold.)

An interesting factoid says:

The Traffic and Lighting Unit is responsible for all traffic control devices on surface streets and replacing bulbs illuminating allies in” Philadelphia including, “approximately 360 miles of State Highway, 2,575 miles of city streets, over 2,950 signalized intersections, over 3000 all-way stop intersections, and over 15,000 conventional stop intersections. The Unit handles a wide range of requests from parking concerns on the smallest local street, to the safe, efficient movement of over 95,000 vehicles a day on a 12-lane Boulevard with 60 signalized intersections.

However, “To request a ‘Curb Your Dog’ or “No Littering’ sign, contact PMBC (the Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee  -Lenny) at 215 685-3981. For temporary ‘no parking’ signs, contact 215 686-5525.”

But you can ask for a fix. According to the Streets Department, “Traffic control signs are designed to direct, inform, prohibit, and warn vehicles of possible danger. To report a missing traffic control or street name sign, or to make another traffic control sign request, please fill out the information below. School Flashers are considered traffic control signs so should be entered on this form.”

But it’s this article from today that got me thinking. Leave it to a Philadelphia local to alter a “lane shift” signal for drivers. Philly.com reported, the “profane street sign had been gaining some notoriety on social media since at least September,” and finally, “The sign was taken down Tuesday.”

 

The vandal may have a point. There’s construction everywhere and we wonder when it’s ever going to end.

 

 

That reminded me of a picture covering a construction zone I took back on Sept. 20, 2016 — only because a graffiti artist had already gotten to it!

2016-11 speak softly

It covered the rubble that the city’s famous LOVE Park (aka JFK Plaza), across from City Hall, had become. You may have guessed, it’s “most noteworthy for Robert Indiana’s ‘Love’ sculpture,” according to the tourism folks’ website. It was installed for the country’s bicentennial, removed two years later and put back permanently two years later due to public demand. Or so we thought.

LOVE_Park_Philly
Public domain via Wikipedia (file, of course)

The city promises, “The sculpture will undergo restoration, including being repainted … and will be restored and reinstalled in its original location at LOVE Park in early 2018.” That’s already behind schedule.

By the way, the AMOR statue still stands nearby at Sister Cities Park. It was put there for Pope Francis’ Sept. 2015 visit.

amor Mundo Desconcertante flickr
Mundo Desconcertante via Flickr

And part of LOVE Park finally just reopened despite the construction as part of the city’s annual Christmas Village.

Click here and here to see some old, unique Philadelphia signs that are mainly for businesses, rather than the road.

Back to the topic on hand, if you really want to experience strange driving, hop over one of the Delaware River Bridges and try to make a left turn in New Jersey. You’ll find it impossible on hundreds of semi-major roads. This website explains jug handles.

Then, of course, there’s Florida. Last week, President Donald Trump had arrived in Palm Beach County, en route to Mar-a-Lago for Thanksgiving. On I-95, which he had to cross from the airport to the resort, The Miami Herald reported, “Two people got out of their car and began twerking” and called it “an only-in-South-Florida moment.”

 

At least we in Philadelphia know what to expect. Except construction ending.

And I have to show, publicity at the Wells Fargo Center during my extended family‘s Thanksgiving weekend visit to see the Sixers beat the Magic, last Saturday night.

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Lessons on addressing, our government’s gift to you!

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On Facebook? You’re probably signed up for a lesson on mailing a letter, paid for by the U.S. government, like the one above.

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I was a little out of it, last Thursday, told I was sounding stuffy, so I didn’t do much other than read. Part of that time was on Facebook rather than anything too important, although not entirely so.

I saw a sponsored ad from the U.S. Postal Service on how to mail a letter. (I thought the people in charge these days want smaller government and less spending.)

Donald Trump squeeze money

Their busiest time of the year is coming up. If you’re reading on the blog, you can see the countdown dates until Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas — depending on the type of media you’re using (desktop, tablet or phone).

(Did you know Black Friday is an actual holiday in 24 states?)

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Hundreds of millions of Americans will be mailing cards and gifts, despite more and more substituting email for cards and shipping for gifts.

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We all want what we worked on and paid for to be delivered in a timely manner. I’m still waiting for a card from my mother from September that hasn’t arrived. It wasn’t her fault. She actually took it to the post office to make sure the correct amount of postage was on the envelope, and it had a return sticker.

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On the other hand, I’ve lived in my condo for more than a year and still get mail intended for previous residents of both sexes with various first and last names. Just last month, hundreds of our electric bills were returned to the management company!

That’s in addition to the latest problem that just started over the past few weeks: getting mail for 2501 and 2701 rather than 2601, with the four numbers after the ZIP code wrong.

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That’s definitely human delivery error and should be eliminated, and I know that because the material was sent by professional companies with addresses typed in.

I’m sure the USPS wants to be considered as good by Santa (track him here) and the public, and stay in business for another year, so they apparently paid Facebook for advertising to teach readers the correct way to address an envelope, and which pitfalls to avoid.

Are any of these new to you? (I’ll let the experts tell you in their own words, since they paid for the opportunity.)

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I know some people try to be fancy and cute, and that hurts the postal service’s performance. Did you know you should always address an envelope using capital letters, but not to use any punctuation except in the ZIP plus 4?

Maybe not.

Perhaps the USPS should have mailed every household and business a piece of paper with their suggestions, like they print and deliver when they hold food drives, because not everyone is on Facebook and not everyone is going to click their ad. I’m not sure about the price difference, and it would certainly mean more trees cut down, but it would also cut down on late and lost mail, which is also a waste.

ups fedex

Yes, there are private competitors that should be keeping the USPS on its toes to bring us better performance.

I’ve only rarely used the companies, like UPS and FedEx, mostly for mortgage paperwork when the envelopes were prepaid. I’m not sure they were any better than the post office and I had to go looking for a special box on the street to send them, rather than this.

us post office mailboxes

Choice is good. It should lower prices and improve service. But I for one would hate to see any, especially the USPS, go away.

usps old new

First, anyone who messes with your mailed letters and packages violates federal law and should go to jail. I’m not sure if the same applies to competitors like UPS and FedEx.

usps pkg

Second, there are post offices and mailboxes everywhere. Who doesn’t have a mailbox?

In my neighborhood, I keep hearing complaints from people in rowhomes outside my building about how their big packages with goods they ordered were stolen. That’s crooks disrupting the system.

And walking by, I see people’s notes on their doors about how packages should be delivered to the convenience store down the street in case nobody is home! That’s asking delivery people make two stops rather than one — slowing the process for everyone and making them work harder — and who says they have to, considering where their items were addressed?

usps amazon

And we want the post office to succeed, and deliver mail at least six days a week, so more workers can keep their jobs.

post office worker cartoon

But it can do better.

They closed many of Philadelphia’s post offices for the same hours for days throughout the Democratic National Convention in the summer of 2016. It was very inconvenient and I can’t come up with a good excuse. I’m sure the workers got paid. Most other government employees worked extra hard and got to collect overtime.

 

(No, John Kerry had already replaced the eventual presidential nominee as Secretary of State! As you well know, Hillary Clinton got nothing.)

hillary clinton

At least they lowered the price of a stamp by a penny so it’s an even better deal than it was before.

forever stamps

So do your part and address your items correctly.

One last word of advice: Don’t procrastinate. Give whatever company you use enough time to get your package to its correct destination in time. Click here for Holiday Shipping Deadlines. (They really only mean Christmas.)

Christmas Hanukkah

Good luck, happy holidays, and drive safely, and I mean that starting with Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving

Oh wait. Look what just came up!

one last picture

Again, thanks to our tax money, and on the very edge of appropriateness for the USPS…

holiday staffing

So don’t be surprised if more government money in the form of “tips” makes its way to Facebook.

Hurricane Andrew, after a quarter century

andrew1

25 years ago today, this was nothing. It’s hard to believe so much time has passed, not that I ever forgot a Hurricane Andrew anniversary. We were lucky — awake with curiosity that night, except for my brother Josh who slept through it — but lucky.

Above was a look to the left after walking out of my parents’ house and below was across the street. Had never seen a tree pulled out from its roots. Seemed like an act of God.

andrew2

The lack of air conditioning was the worst for me. Only lasted a few days, but I spent a night with an aunt near Fort Lauderdale who had power.

Driving south to help another aunt and uncle, it was as if everything was in black and white. No leaves on trees. Just destruction. And a free-for-all at night, according to news reports.

Hurricane Andrew made lots of people survivors, brought out the best and worst in many, and moved thousands slightly north. Some good that’ll do!

It should’ve taught the importance of preparation — having supplies and enough coverage — but Florida is transient and memories are short, especially there. Plus, the safety tips and technology keep changing.

How long did it take the rest of the state, with the exception of (Miami-) Dade County, to toughen building codes? Even so, who can forget the broken glass from newer skyscrapers in Brickell more than a decade later after the 2004 and 2005 hurricanes like Wilma? It wasn’t supposed to happen.

I worked through all of those storms at WFOR in Miami, right after leaving Philadelphia. It was like one after another. (Andrew happened months after I graduated college. Was still looking for work. WSVN took more than a year later.)

The Sunshine State can be nice to visit (sometimes) but between the constant heat and humidity, sky-high insurance rates, politics and more, those of you there can have it until global warming puts Florida underwater. Then you won’t have a choice.

There’s no perfect place and there will be discomfort at times. Who doesn’t like summer in the winter and winter in the summer?

Millions still live on the coast and earthquake zones and Tornado Alley, but never underestimate the power of Mother Nature. She means business.

andrew radar

Far from paradise. Click here for Miami Herald news reports from this date in 1992 with links, and click here for a special remembrance section from Florida Power & Light.

Moving back to Philly!

be right back

Yes, you read correctly! I’m headed back after more than 12 years. I didn’t really think it was going to happen, especially considering the roller coaster my life has been over the past several years.

I left Philadelphia for family issues back in 2004. Got a good deal on my house. (But would’ve never expected real estate prices to skyrocket! That’s another story.)

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May 2002: Not expecting this picture to be taken. The old KYW building was torn down for the National Museum of American Jewish History. I’ll be working a block away.

Several good things followed. I got to do the web full time and loved that. I tried and succeeded in a whole new teaching career, and still can’t believe that ever happened! I met several wonderful people I would’ve never met had I not returned to Florida, and worked for one who took a chance on me in a place I’d never heard of.

I was asked not to put this news on social media until well after it became official, but I can tell because it’s only days away. I’m going to be a web producer at WTXF-Fox 29 and work with people I’ve already worked with twice, and some I watched and admired all those years ago. (So please take a moment. Click here to like the Facebook page and click here to follow on Twitter. They’re already doing great! Click here for the news, just out today.)

I leave work in the Tri-Cities on Tuesday, pack and have everything taken on Wednesday, and make the move Thursday. Hopefully everything will be delivered Friday!

casey yeti
Casey and Yeti’s bye-bye

Garry and Yeti moved to New York over the weekend.

RebeccaPepin
Yeti REALLY made an impression in the Tri-Cities!

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The house I just got six months ago, and had so much work done on (see bathroom and kitchen), is up for sale. It’ll get a good much-needed cleaning right after I leave.

I’m going to downsize and rent a one-bedroom apartment in Philadelphia, a block-and-a-half from where I used to live. I’m also going to put stuff in storage.

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2001-2004: Lombard Street at 11th
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Open the gate…
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walk down the stairs…
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and take a load off!

I really enjoyed working in the Tri-Cities, getting to run the digital operations at the number one station in the market. Changes will be coming to the desktop and mobile websites over the summer but I was the one who helped set up the migration to a new CMS.

I helped train new people out of school who know how to do SO much, took part in daily management meetings and was listened to, and learned the culture of a place that was very foreign to me.

But Philadelphia and the Tri-Cities are different places, and opportunities like this don’t come along often. It’s the only place I would ever consider moving and I have to do what’s best long-term.

last promo
My last promo for News 5 WCYB

So please wish me luck and I’ll let the Realtor know if you know anyone who wants to buy a house in far southwestern Virginia.

A better bedroom (and bigger blog)

I have to start off by saying this blog post is late. I warned you when I was finishing the last one.

It wasn’t entirely my fault. We got the bed for my brother and sister-in-law’s visit, and that took a while. We got it upstairs, but that took a while. And then we were too tired to get it ready, or having too much fun with the staple gun, so that took a while. (Details coming up.)

Then, there was a snowstorm. Then, Daniel and Jennifer visited, had a good time and left two days ago! Garry and I dropped them off at the airport in Asheville and finally bought kosher food at Trader Joe’s.

bristol cavernsI took Daniel and Jennifer to Bristol Motor Speedway. We couldn’t get inside. I fell on ice trying.

But we saw Bristol Caverns

a little bit around South Holston Dam (until the roads were closed)…south holston dam

and of course the newsroom. (Everyone gets that, but Jennifer actually asked!)

They saw Yeti and Casey, and also snow.

So that’s the background and this is the blog:

—–

My brother Daniel and his wife Jennifer are going to be visiting in a few weeks. It’s going to be nice seeing some familiar faces in town.holston mountain

It seems not many people visit the Tri-Cities. I don’t know why. We’re conveniently located off I-81, just north of I-26. We have mountains, a moderate climate with change of seasons, and a pretty low cost of living.

map Tri-Cities, TN/VA
from FallonGroup.com

Anyway, since I arrived 10 months ago, my parents visited once, and so did my cousins Barry and Ellen, on their drive from Florida to Boston. None of them saw the house. Hadn’t started looking for it yet.

Daniel and Jennifer are going to be here for a few days and also go skiing in North Carolina.

We’re going to set Casey’s room up as the guest bedroom. I started calling it Casey’s room right away because it has blue walls and checkered-flag curtains, and Casey is a boy.

casey

I know it’s old-fashioned. He doesn’t even spend much time there, except in the box with linens.

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There are other places to sleep, like the futon in the office…

futon

… and the pull-out couch in the basement I’ve had almost 19 years. (I bought it in Connecticut and it looked a lot different before Casey stuck his fingernails into it repeatedly.)

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But Casey’s room is going to be much more comfortable, and it’s close to the new and improved bathroom! (Let me know if you ever get locked out or kicked out of your own place.)

So we’re looking for a queen-size bed and Garry found someone advertising on Craigslist. The price sounded good, so we went to Johnson City to check it out.

Sunday (Jan. 10), we prepared with ratchet tie-downs (bungee cables to normal people) and drove the truck over to get it. (We had the truck at the time, but replaced it just before the snowstorm.) Easier said than done.

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The cords weren’t long enough to secure both mattress and box spring…

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… so we put the mattress inside, had the box spring on top and drove back extra slowly in a flurry or two.05

Saved $60 on delivery. The hard part was over, or so we thought. They had to go upstairs.

07

Neither Garry nor I expected a problem. The movers did a fine job getting a mattress and box spring of the same size up when we moved in.

09

I was at work and Garry didn’t know what those movers did, but there was no way the box spring was going to make it up!

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You can see we tried.

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We did everything we could. I even asked on social media, but the box spring wasn’t going up.

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I knew it would have to be dismembered to some degree. Unfortunately, searches on the subject only dealt with repairing broken box springs.

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We brought it down and Garry had the brilliant idea to take out the staples on one side so it would fold enough and make it upstairs. It worked!

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Of course, we had to get the right nails to put the box spring back together, but that wasn’t such a big deal. (Remember, this is Lenny writing.)

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Garry did the work. I’m not sure how much should be considered “work” when he was holding a staple gun. But he’s finally done.

garry on box spring

He relaxed and moved everything into place.

bed ready for daniel and jenniferSo, we looked forward to giving Daniel and Jennifer a comfortable place to stay. Everything worked out nicely. I just wish they didn’t leave my nephews at home!yeti missing them after

Now they’re back home, and Yeti misses having them around and protecting them. She has been spending more time upstairs, waiting for them by their room.

Until the next visitors…

From the Tri-Cities to the Tri-States

It’s me again. I have to write more often. It doesn’t have to be a book. Saving stuff up is too time-consuming, anyway. I’d be thrilled with something simple, once or twice a week.

I’m just back from New York. Was there for my cousin Danika’s bat mitzvah. Had a great time. Was nice seeing the extended family.

Right after I left: (back, l-r) brother Josh, sister-in-law Randi, cousin Jonathan, cousin-in-law Ali, nephew Preston, sister Liza, cousin Leo (front, l-r) cousin Danika (of bat mitzvah fame), nephew Logan
Right after I left: (back, l-r) brother Josh, sister-in-law Randi, cousin Jonathan, cousin-in-law Ali, nephew Preston, sister Liza, cousin Leo (front, l-r) cousin Danika (of bat mitzvah fame), nephew Logan

The service was outdoors at the beach club. Danika did great! Luckily, the weather held out. (Okay, it got a little windy for the Havdalah candle at the end.)

2015-06-06 Danika's bat mitzvah

I drove, which was a bit of a pain. (Actually, a lot of a pain. Two full days of driving for one day in New York and the first thing I did after breakfast was take a nap.) I don’t know if I’ll do the drive again. At least that’s how I feel right now. I wish I lived closer. Virginia is too big of a state: 324 miles up I-81. (I start at Exit 1.) There were lots of spots without radio stations. And signs for lots of places I’ve written about.

trip map

I don’t have a northern E-ZPass. The Florida one only works there, and in Georgia and North Carolina. And who knew the George Washington Bridge costs $14 to cross?

on the G.W. Bridge
on the G.W. Bridge

I have a wedding in August in New Hampshire. I don’t know if I’m going to drive or fly. If I fly, I have to drive a few hours to an airport anyway. I wish I lived closer to an airport, one that goes to more than four destinations, all south of here. (Atlanta, Charlotte, Sanford near Orlando, and St. Petersburg near Tampa.) The Tri-Cities is really an out-of-the-way location. (I am getting great experience here, and learning a lot. More on that next time.)

And I hope to be in Florida at some point in July when Daniel and Jennifer have their baby. Yes, the cat is out of the bag. Apparently, as I learned at the bat mitzvah, not everybody knew. Now everyone does (or should).

P.S. Garry and Yeti were with me for the first half of the trip. They are actually staying in New York, and I will miss them. I’m sure the car will smell like Yeti for a while.