Thursday, September 18, 2008

Choose Your Teams Wisely!

As I fawned over a bottle of Sierra Nevada's Southern Hemisphere Harvest Hop Ale while on the deck last evening, I thought about the life-decisions that confront us, the choices we make, and the ramifications that impact our future. Was it the impending election that took up so much of my cerebral activity? The latest banking crisis? The political unrest in Pakistan? Hardly. The subject that occupied my mental meanderings can be summed up in one word: Cleveland.

I have a friend in Nashville who grew up in the Music City while the Titans were still running amok inside the Astrodome as the Oilers. The nearest professional baseball team was 4 hours away. The NBA? Even further. So, growing up, he elected to choose his favorite teams without being locked into geographical boundaries. Of course, not being hog-tied by "proximity" leaves the door open to all sorts of possibilities. Let's see....his favorite football team: the Cowboys. Gee, have they even been in the same county as the Lombardi Trophy? Now, over to basketball. Why, wouldn't you know it: the Los Angeles Lakers! Gosh, they've never even smelled an NBA Final, have they? And baseball? The lowly Los Angeles Dodgers. Koufax, Drysdale, Garvey, and Kirk Gibson...what a pathetic bunch of losers. Well, at least he can't pick Notre Dame, since he's a University of Tennessee grad.

I, on the other hand, grew up in Canton, Ohio. In my neighborhood, there was only one city's teams that we cared about. That also meant that our allegiance was, and is, defined not by Super Bowl rings and NBA Championship banners but by gut-wrenching phrases such as "The Shot" (Michael Jordan's last-second shot over the outstretched arms of Craig Ehlo), "The Drive" (John Elway thrusting his sword in the abdomen of Browns fans in the waning seconds of the '87 AFC Championship game), "The Fumble" (Ernest Byner drops the ball on the 2-yard-line en route to the end zone in the '88 AFC title game at Mile High) "The Hit" (Edgar Renteria's bases-loaded single to drive in the winning run for the Marlins in Game 7 of the '97 World Series), "The Sweep" (the Cavs pathetic performance in the 2007 NBA Finals against the Spurs)....and on, and on, and on, and on, and on........

In much the same way that this wonderful beer's bitterness is tempered by a more-than-generous helping of Centennial and Cascade hops, my bitterness is always lessened by....hope. For those of us who haven't chosen their teams wisely, it's really the only thing on which we can lean. The hope that Romeo Crennel will find ways to get the Browns to an even better record than last year's 10-6 mark. The hope that Jamal Lewis will have another 1000+yards rushing season, the hope that players such as Kellen Winslow and Joshua Cribbs will stay healthy, and the hope that somebody will come up with a few spare tickets in the Dawg Pound so that I have don't have to pay for them. (those 9-dollar beers at Browns Stadium take their toll on the wallet).

Then, something always comes along to ruin all that good "hope". It's a feeling, a force...almost a kind of virus, that, even amidst the strongest sense of good expectations, always manages to, seemingly effortlessly, thwart even the most ardent strides towards turning the tide on this litany of bad karma. Interesting enough, I can also sum that up in one word: Pittsburgh.

There are many things that I, more than likely, will not see in my lifetime. I will not see a winning lottery ticket with my numbers on it. I will not see a deed to a summer home that I own on Maui. I will not see Angelina Jolie beckoning me to accompany her on an evening of frivolity. And I really don't think I'll see a time when the Cleveland Browns will beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. And as our Pittsburgh friends wasted no time in contacting us after the Steelers beat the Browns for the 10th time in a row (you know it's pathetic when they're sending us text messages with the words "I'm sorry"!) I decided that maybe....just maybe....I didn't do the best job in choosing my teams.

But, what's done is done. So, I popped the top on another Sierra Nevada and wondered how different things might have been had my father chosen a teaching job in....Rapid City, South Dakota. Than I could have chosen any number of teams: Yankees, Celtics, Red Wings....

....or maybe the Steelers.

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* Why not grab your favorite beverage, cop a squat, and groove to some DEMOS at www.mattmultimedia.com

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

"In a world...."

Years ago, a friend and I attended one of our first classical music concerts. I know very little about classical music. I mean, I know enough to be able to recognize the opening strains of a Mozart concerto or a Beethoven symphony, but I'm fairly ignorant of the history of music, the nuances of composition and theory, etc. (Now if we're talking about the collected works of AC/DC, yeah....sure.) However, a friend of ours gave us tickets to a performance, and I NEVER turn down free tickets. He informed us that the guest violin soloist would be "playing in the style and technique of the great Daniel Haifetz". Well, during the concert, he merely sounded to me like...a violinist. I didn't hear any missed notes and the crowd responded approvingly after each selection, so I figured, you know, cool! I just witnessed somebody "playing in the style and technique of the great Daniel Haifetz". Whomever that was.

We met up afterwards and I said, "Well, how did this guy and Daniel Haifetz stack up?" He took a long drag from his cigarette, exhaled slowly, and said,"This guy had boxing gloves on his hands compared to Daniel Haifetz".

Whoa.

I would say that would pretty much sum up the conversation if I were being compared to the great Don LaFontaine. Those of us in the voiceover world knew that Don was pretty ill, but he had been making some strides in recovery. That's why it was pretty shocking to hear the news today that Don had passed away.

I've wanted to be behind a microphone for as long as I can remember. But it was only after I had begun working at my first radio station that I became enamored of the "station voice". Their voices seemed other-worldly to me. I knew that my voice didn't sound anything like them but I tried, even early on, to emulate their rhythm and cadence. I would sneak into the production studio between long songs at WDJQ in Alliance, Ohio, grab some carts filled with lazer blasts, turn on the microphone and the Otari reel-to-reel, and pretend that I was the "Mr. Big Voice"....Joe Kelly, Mitch Craig, J.R. Nelson, Charlie Van Dyke, or Ernie Anderson.

But there was only one Don LaFontaine. (Or as my sister likes to say, "that movie voice guy".) Log on to any voiceover website and listen to any "Trailer" demo, and almost all of them are trying, in some way, shape, or form, to "be like Don". And if we can't be like Don, we're quizzing each other on what equipment and processing he used so that we can "sound like Don". But we all know that no Manley Gold Reference microphone or Tube Tech CL1b or Urei 1176 is going to truly make us "Don". It was his sense of drama...his sense of urgency...his ability to nail a phrase EXACTLY as it should be nailed...and, later, his ability to poke fun at himself....that really differentiated him from most of the voiceover field. He was an icon.

So, I sit here perusing my demos, changing bits here and there, and trying to size up how to attract more folks to the MAV family of clients. And, I listen to my "Trailer" demo and I laugh...at myself. Me? Don LaFontaine? Please. There might as well be boxing gloves tied around my vocal cords.

Rest in peace, Don.

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* Why not grab your favorite beverage, cop a squat, and groove to some DEMOS at www.mattmultimedia.com