Play-by-Play Madness

Posted in Uncategorized on March 25, 2015 by amylawrencepxp

I can’t remember the last time I was THAT nervous to tip a basketball game. I’ve done play-by-play for countless college games on both TV and radio, perched courtside for conference championships and NCAA tournament battles, called the action inside some of the most celebrated venues in the country. But as the start of the 2015 Big East Women’s Championship drew closer, it felt like the first time. There was absolutely nothing I could do about the knots in my stomach no matter how many texts I got from loved ones or how many pep talks I gave myself. It didn’t matter that I was as prepared as I could possibly be. The nerves weren’t going away until I was sure I could handle the stage: my first ever play-by-play assignment for the Westwood One Radio Network. An opportunity more than 15 years in the making. In the last decade, the only other time I was comparably nervous was the night we found out Navy SEALS had finally hunted down Osama Bin Laden. I was literally shaking in my ESPN Radio studio every time I turned on the microphone to tell the audience the mastermind behind 9/11 was confirmed dead. That was history, a significant event that affected our entire nation, and I was honored to convey the news to so many. The magnitude of that occasion could not be understated, and I wanted to offer as many details as I could with the perfect amount of respect. When people ask me about the biggest moments of my career, I always go back to that Sunday night. On the surface, it’s almost laughable I would feel similar emotions over a college basketball game, but there was no downplaying the importance of that opening tip in Chicago.

My first play-by-play memories are from my bedroom in the Concord, New Hampshire, house where I grew up. I would listen to my beloved Boston Celtics on the radio while doing my homework because we didn’t have cable TV out in the woods. I would also sneak a little radio under the covers to listen to the Denver Broncos when they played on Monday Night Football. I was supposed to be sleeping, but I couldn’t turn off the action until I knew if John Elway led my favorite football team to another win. Not only did I grow into a huge sports fan, but I also fell in love with radio play-by-play. I was fascinated with the idea that I could describe the action on the court or field in such a way that listeners didn’t feel like they were missing anything, even though they couldn’t see it with their own eyes. I began telling family and friends (as a teenager) that I wanted to be the first female Johnny Most, the first woman to serve as the radio voice of the Celtics, and I’ve been churning toward that goal ever since.

As a grad student at Syracuse, I sat in the stands at women’s games and did play-by-play into a handheld recorder until the manager at the campus radio station finally let me do a game for real. What a thrill! A few years later, I shared play-by-play duties for the Lebanon High School boys’ basketball team in upstate New Hampshire. The team battled into the state championship game, and the Boston Globe sent a reporter to Lundholm Gymnasium at UNH to do a story on the only female in the state doing play-by-play. When the spread came out, my family bought a dozen copies, and Mom laminated the article and photos for me. I still have it packed away somewhere. I used to send a copy of the story along with my resume and tape when I applied for jobs. The next stop in my journey was a town near the Oklahoma panhandle with more cows than people. Woodward was culture shock for me, but I served as News & Sports Director for a radio station with a 100,000 watt signal. I called games year-round: high school football and basketball and American Legion baseball. Then it was onto Oklahoma City where I dabbled in softball play-by-play for the University of Oklahoma at the Women’s College World Series. My first college action, and I had very little idea what I was doing, ha! I’m grateful for the experience and the chance to stretch myself; but at that point, I decided basketball was my niche. The next few years carried me back to New England where I did games on TV and radio for the University of Rhode Island as well as the Big East. I’ll never forget being courtside in the Carrier Dome at Syracuse, the same arena where I screamed and yelled for the Orangemen as a student and the same campus where I sat in the stands with my handheld recorder. Full circle.

My big break came in 2008 when the University of Hartford hired me to travel with the women’s basketball team as the voice of the Hawks. Head coach Jennifer Rizzotti put that program on the fast track, and I was privileged to be along for the ride. An upset of #5 Duke in Chicago; trips to UConn, Ohio State, Louisville, and Notre Dame; holiday events in Cancun and Florida; buzzer-beaters and battles for conference supremacy; America East title tilts; 20 straight wins; and a trio of NCAA tournament games. My 6 seasons with Hartford catapulted me into the fire and prepared me to navigate every possible play-by-play challenge. And yet there I was, moments away from the opening tip at the Big East Women’s Championship on Westwood One, as nervous as a rookie. It was the culmination of a lengthy journey, my first network radio play-by-play, my first chance to prove that I belong courtside with the best. It took about five minutes of game action before I settled down. It’s a good thing I had the players’ names memorized because I couldn’t see a thing on the charts in front of me. Once I got into the flow of the game, I was in my element as always. But the magnitude of that moment was not lost on me. I’m so grateful for all the family and friends who listened across the country and bombarded me with texts of support and encouragement. They knew how much it mattered to me, too.

In a few days, I get to experience another “first.” I’m thrilled to be part of Westwood One’s coverage of the women’s NCAA regional final in Oklahoma City Sunday night. The winner heads to the Final Four. Without a doubt, the single biggest moment of my play-by-play journey. More than 20 years after I did my homework next to the radio while Larry Bird buried jump shots, this broadcast is another dream realized. And instead of feeling the nerves, I absolutely can’t wait! Bring on the Madness.

Entertaining the Masses

Posted in Uncategorized on February 22, 2015 by amylawrencepxp

Hard to believe it’s been a full 7 weeks since we launched the newly expanded version of After Hours with Amy Lawrence. The nights are absolutely flying by, and it’s not just because we’re having a blast. I’m definitely enjoying myself–and I’m so thankful to be part of an enthusiastic, creative team. Time is also flying because we’re using every single show to improve the product, appeal to new listeners, and expand the brand. We want to package the right mix of humor, information, opinion, production, fun, phone calls, personality, and social media. Keep it moving and keep it fresh; make it entertaining. Those are the goals; that is our stated mission. But HOW? How do you take a plain old sports radio talk show and turn it into appointment listening? The million-dollar question!

Earlier this month, I was honored to represent CBS Sports Radio at a talk radio conference in Atlanta. The only female on a panel of 6 hosts from around the country, I was asked to share insight on the entertainment aspect of what we do. To get organized, I used the flight to Georgia to put my thoughts down on paper and came up with far more than I expected. All these years of experience definitely aren’t going to waste, ha. As I scribbled my notes, one idea prevailed over all the others. The key to captivating a network audience is being unique and different, delivering a product listeners simply can’t find anywhere else. For me, that starts with passion and a contagious energy. It’s not an accident that I’m always ravenous after wrapping a 4-hour show. I pour everything I have into my work every night, burning calories the whole time! It’s also important to be genuine, authentic, relatable, inviting, inclusive, and conversational. Each of these qualities helps to court a national audience, no matter what the topic.

To finish our panel discussion in Atlanta, the moderator asked us how we set our shows apart from the other available options. He reached me last and qualified the question. “Apart from the obvious, what makes you different, Amy?” Yes, my gender alone makes me noteworthy. Being a woman instantly attracts attention. It also invites extra criticism. A double standard will always exist. I have to be more knowledgeable, more prepared, more polished with fewer mistakes where my male counterparts are naturally given the benefit of the doubt. When I was relatively new in the business, I had more than one boss suggest that I downplay what made me different, that I try to blend into a world dominated by men. One manager told me to stop smiling so much while I was on the air; another said laughing would take away from my credibility as a female. It took awhile for me to realize I don’t need to hide or cover up or de-emphasize my distinct perspective and approach to sports radio. In fact, that’s what makes my shows entertaining. There isn’t anyone else out there quite like me. Equal parts sarcastic, salty, emotional, and irreverent, I refuse to take sports too seriously. While there are sobering topics like domestic violence or major injuries, sports generally provide an escape for fans. The majority of the time, the subject is not life or death, so why treat it that way? I want to make listeners laugh, and I want them to know I will laugh at myself. I’m not perfect (it’s impossible to be perfect while hosting 4 hours of live radio per night), so I make fun of the fact that I always mix up my cliches or have trouble remembering dates.

By expanding to 5 shows a week, we have time to experiment with creative ideas. One of our most popular is the After Hours “Hall of Flame,” born from a mistake I made on the air. Typical! “Hall of Fame” came out the wrong way, and now we have a brand new Hall for the most outrageous and laugh-out-loud-funny sports rants, tirades, errors, and filibusters. We’ve also introduced “Hump Show” (middle show of the week) and “Bite Me” (most compelling audio over 24 hours). Listener favorites include “Ask Amy Anything” (sort of) and “Nerd Alert!” (impressive stats to make geeky the new cool). We threw a Super Bowl pregame party complete with chili cook-off and vintage football jerseys. Our “Question of the Night” frequently travels outside the lines. Who doesn’t want to join in the “Great Bacon Debate” or the “Worst Sports Apologies of All Time”?? I never stray too far from the games and events, though. In the first few weeks, we’ve touched everything from NFL to college hoops to NBA to golf to the college football playoff to NASCAR to hockey. February’s always a fun month to show off my versatility.

In the end, the creative use of features, music, production, guests, phone calls, social media, and outside topics falls flat if I can’t convince people of my knowledge and credibility. Entertaining the masses eventually boils down to who I am, how I deliver my opinions, and how I relate to a diverse audience. To date, the response is overwhelming. Even when the feedback is negative, people are investing enough time to develop a strong reaction. The show is grabbing attention across the country because I finally learned the most critical ingredient for entertainment: never fit in when you were born to stand out. The treasured poster I hung on my wall as a kid spotlighted a small white flowering tree in the midst of a forest sea of green leaves. The caption? “To be different is often a wonderful thing.” I had no idea the power of those words over the course of my life and my career.

Just as the title of this blog indicates, my form of radio is unconventional, unique, and always passionate. Me in a nutshell.

 

Best is Yet to Come

Posted in Uncategorized on January 13, 2015 by amylawrencepxp

As we turned the page to 2015, I couldn’t help but feel excitement over a blank canvas, a chance to begin again. I spent the first few days chewing over my ideas for a blog post…about a fresh start, positive attitude, and gratefulness that we get to hit the reset button every January. I was planning a mini-pep talk to encourage us to move forward with great anticipation. And then I woke up to a text telling me Stuart Scott had died. It felt like a sucker punch to the gut. Even now, it’s still hard to believe he passed away. I always knew if anyone could beat cancer by sheer will, it would be Stuart. He attacked this disease all three times he was diagnosed, finding motivation in his family and friends and a job he loved, and fighting back with a vengeance. He literally gave it everything he had.

A cultural icon for sports fans and athletes of this generation, Stuart was a superstar in the broadcasting industry. He helped to usher in a new, hip, cool era of SportsCenter and left his fingerprints all over this business. Plenty of people wanted to BE him; yet in my encounters with him as a colleague, he was kind, friendly, unassuming. Above all else, he was an inspiration. Like thousands of others, I was reduced to tears listening to him accept the Jimmy V Perseverance Award in July: “When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live. So live. Live! Fight like hell. And when you get too tired to fight, then lay down and rest and let somebody else fight for you…The best thing I have ever done, the best thing I will ever do is be a dad…I can’t ever give up because I can’t leave my daughters.” Those weren’t just words for Stuart. He walked the walk. Even as the cancer and treatments took their toll on his body, he showed up to work and did his job with the same energy and gusto. I was always amazed that he could muster the strength for MMA training sessions immediately after chemotherapy. Who does that?? The same guy who said a few short months ago: “Fighting is winning. Not quitting…not saying, ‘Oh I have cancer. I can’t do anything. I’m just going to lay down and cry a pity party for myself.’ That to me is the only way you lose.”

Even with his awesome attitude, with a heart and mind equipped to fight and inspire, with all the support of his family and friends, Stuart couldn’t add another year to his life. How is that right? How is that FAIR?? The obvious response is that life is not fair. Nothing is guaranteed. There is no way to be sure we’ll wake up tomorrow. Some of us may be forewarned of death, but we can’t be sure of that either. The idea that you can fight so hard and live the right way and yet only survive to 49 years old…it’s heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, and discouraging. I can understand how some live in fear, afraid to take any kind of risk. And it’s not only battles with cancer that rip your heart out. If you watch the news these days, you know our world is rife with tragedy: plane crashes and disappearances, senseless terror attacks, school shootings, domestic violence, deadly wars overseas, and horrific natural disasters. Beyond depressing…almost like the odds are stacked against us. But one thing I know without a doubt: we can’t truly live while worrying about when the end will come. In order to create an existence with impact, we have to adopt Stuart’s philosophy to fight like hell, attack every day and every challenge. We have to believe the best is yet to come.

Not every day is extraordinary. Not every week gives you the opportunity to change your life or leave an indelible mark. Not every year is one you cherish and look back on with fond memories. Some days, weeks, and years are flat out hard. We slog through them, wondering if we’ll ever see the light at the end of the tunnel. That’s why I always love turning the page on January first: it’s a chance to fix the mistakes I made the year before. But HOW do we keep moving forward and building on the past? How do we make the most of the time we’ve been given? Instead of my resolutions,  I’ll call them reminders, my ways to ensure 2015 is NOT just another year.

Laugh a LOT. Don’t take myself too seriously. Try new adventures. Stop procrastinating those phone calls and emails I need to make to family and friends. Don’t make excuses. Choose my battles; not every battle is worth the effort. Let it go. Refuse to waste time fretting over the small and inconsequential. Smile at everyone. Take time for a kind word. Pay attention to the world around me because it’s BEAUTIFUL! Stop to help when I’m in the right place at the right time. Go with my gut and rely on my instincts. Don’t listen to the negative or the destructive or the people who want to tear me down. Share my heart, my struggles, my wisdom. Pray more. Be open, genuine, transparent, gracious. Forgive myself when I mess up; forgive others even if they never ask. Reach out. Make new friends. Sing loudly. Remember who and what really matter. Dump the pride; stay humble. Don’t be in such a hurry. LOVE with all my heart and soul. Cling to my faith and God’s promises. Know there’s ALWAYS hope; it’s never too late.

With no guarantee of tomorrow, I will stay thankful for what I have and count my blessings in this moment. And I WILL believe with my whole heart the best is yet to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Face Value

Posted in Uncategorized on December 25, 2014 by amylawrencepxp

The night before the night before Christmas, I felt a strong urge to call my 92-year-old Grammy Helen in rural Wisconsin. I usually talk to her on Christmas Day while she’s spending time at my uncle’s home, but this call couldn’t wait. As soon as she answered the phone, I knew something was off. My grandmother never complains, ever. She said she hasn’t been feeling well, so she drove herself to the local clinic where the doctor suggested a few tests. As a result, Grammy told my uncle not to trek halfway across the state to come get her. She’s weathering Christmas largely alone in her little apartment. She may drive the two miles to church if there isn’t any snow on the ground. But since she hates to inconvenience anyone, she won’t ask any of her friends to come visit or pick her up. Not on Christmas…because she knows most people have their own family gatherings scheduled. It breaks my heart to think about her sitting by herself on this special holiday. I wish I could drop everything and make my way to Wisconsin, but it’s just not possible. Of course, I’ll call her and other family members will call her, but she will still be alone. It’s a stark reminder that not everyone is surrounded by loved ones this holiday season…not everyone is full of joy and peace…not everyone enjoys Christmas. For some, it’s the exact opposite. They dread this season with all of its hustle and bustle, parties and events, get-togethers with friends, emphasis on family. Instead, it’s a reminder of what they don’t have or what they’ve lost. The holidays are a struggle instead of a celebration, a season to survive. Neighbors, colleagues, friends, even some of our own family members have braced themselves for this time of year. We may not recognize their personal pain; they may be like my grandmother who would never admit to being lonely on Christmas. But when we dig a little deeper, not everything is what it appears to be on the surface. Not everything can be taken at face value.

I recently heard a speaker at a ladies’ event talk about how the holiday season heightens whatever emotions you’re feeling at the time. If you’re in a positive place in your life (new relationship, new baby, new job or promotion, financial gain, prosperous year), Christmas will enhance your joy, peace, contentment, and excitement. But if you’re struggling through a difficult wilderness stretch in your life, the holidays can magnify your sorrow, despair, sadness, and depression. More than likely, you don’t even know if your neighbor, co-worker, or friend is fighting a battle. No one wants to bring everyone else down and spoil the party this time of year. Better to plaster on smiles and join the holiday march. But not everything is what it seems. So many are contending with private pain that threatens to overwhelm them. In the last few weeks, two of my friends have suddenly lost their fathers. Another friend’s sister passed away with very little warning. Still another lost her grandmother unexpectedly. Others I know are bravely battling cancer or debilitating health problems. One of my best friends in the world is facing her first holiday season since the break-up of her marriage and trying to make the week perfect for her young boys even as she remembers holidays past. Then there’s loneliness…a category all its own this time of year. When so much of the emphasis is on getting together with loved ones, it’s easy to feel isolated if you don’t have your own family or someone with whom to spend the holiday…like my Grammy. If you’re moving forward after a broken relationship or still waiting for the right relationship to come along, loneliness at Christmastime might be the worst kind. There is no hiding from it. Anyone who’s ever wrestled with loneliness knows it can be debilitating and threaten to drown you.

My biggest struggle over the last six months has been financial. I’ve been trying to sell my empty house in Connecticut while keeping an apartment in New Jersey, closer to work. You’d be surprised how quickly money flies out the window when you’re responsible for both a mortgage AND rent payment. The money disappears in no time, and there’s never enough to go around. I’ve spent hours figuring out how to cut expenses, even necessities, to make ends meet…and I still can’t pay all the bills. I’ve considered moving back home and navigating a four-hour round trip commute, and I’ve wondered whether I made the wrong decision leaving my house behind and taking my job with CBS. I’ve felt like a big fat failure. The whole situation has been frustrating, disheartening, and humiliating. To work so hard yet continually fall behind is unbelievably discouraging. Thankfully, I’ve recently signed a contract to sell my house, but I will need months to get back to even financially. It’s changed my approach to Christmas. I love finding the perfect gifts for my family and surprising friends with packages, but I was unable to spend a dime on presents this year. It’s forced me to remember what Christmas is truly about…and how I can GIVE to those around me without spending money.

Most everyone we meet is fighting a private battle, managing personal pain. We don’t always know the struggles of those around us, but we CAN lighten the loads of family members, friends, neighbors, colleagues, even strangers. It means not being so wrapped up in our own holiday hustle that we miss opportunities to share the true spirit of Christmas. It means looking beyond face value and understanding not everything is what it appears on the surface. Compassion, empathy, joy, kindness, consideration, tenderness, patience, caring, concern, grace, and mercy are the perfect gifts. A Bible verse says it best: “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” (Proverbs 12:25)

Merry Christmas!

 

How Did I Get HERE?

Posted in Uncategorized on December 5, 2014 by amylawrencepxp

You may not believe this, but I never really wanted to be a talk show host. This wasn’t part of my grand plan. Looking back now, I couldn’t have dreamed up this journey if I tried. If I could have seen the road ahead of me, I would have been too overwhelmed to handle it anyway. Twenty years ago, I had zero designs on being a talk show host. Ten years ago, I wasn’t very good at it and only saw it as a means to an end. Five years ago, it felt like the walls were closing in and my options were drying up. So how in the world did I get HERE??

On January 1st, After Hours is moving! My CBS Sports Radio show will expand to five episodes a week, Sunday through Thursday nights (or Monday through Friday mornings on the East coast). Therein lies a huge part of the challenge. In this time slot, it’s primarily a West coast audience to start; toward the end of the show, it morphs into mostly morning commuters on the East coast. I LOVE that! I also love going into work at night–sifting through the various storylines in the immediate aftermath of all the action. Sunday nights during NFL season are my absolute favorite, and I won’t be giving that up. On a personal note, I’m looking forward to Saturdays off from work since I’ll get to see my family and friends a little more often and since my church meets on Saturday evenings.  But the most exciting part? Since my hours won’t be all over the map, I can actually settle into a regular sleep pattern! Wooooo! So many reasons to be thrilled for this new challenge. It’s the first time at the network level that I’ll be responsible for my own talk show five times a week. That comes with a growing audience, expanded platform, increased scrutiny, higher stakes, and loftier expectations. I can’t wait to dive right in! I also can’t help but smile every time the thought pops into my head: how did I get here??

Twenty years ago, I was telling everyone who would listen that I would be the female Johnny Most someday. The first woman to ever do radio play-by-play for the Boston Celtics. That was my dream. It’s STILL my dream. But two decades ago, I didn’t have the first clue about how to make it happen. After graduating from Syracuse with my master’s degree, I just wanted a job. My professional journey started in Rochester, New York, where I read the news headlines at the top of every hour overnights on the weekends. I convinced my boss to let me do the sports updates on Saturday mornings after my shift for free. I worked mostly as a news anchor and reporter the first six years of my career. I picked up play-by-play when I could, but news paid the bills. In 2002, a small start-up outfit in Norman, Oklahoma, hired me to host a sports talk show. I was terrible at it. No training, not much support, a newbie and an outsider trying to build an audience among men who didn’t want a woman telling them about their favorite teams. I got fired a year later. Next stop was co-host of a morning drive talk show at a Providence radio station. Got fired after a year there, too. A variety of factors went into those pink slips (one of the stations went dark soon after), but I wasn’t very good at the talk show thing back then.

Ten years ago, I still looked at talk shows as a way to earn a paycheck and support my play-by-play habit. But then ESPN Radio started offering me fill-in work, and I began to realize how much fun hosting could be at the highest level, expressing my opinions and debating them with others. I got bit by the bug and found a new passion, but I still wasn’t very good at it, ha! I barely recognize the girl who first showed up in Bristol, Connecticut, in 2004. It was my first real training and guidance toward developing into a host who is equal parts knowledge, preparation, personality, and versatility. But the national stage also included a type of pressure and competition I never faced before. I had to learn on the fly and improve rapidly or I wouldn’t last. Even when I DID find a foothold, I could never get comfortable. Industry changes, management changes, philosophy changes–they’re all cyclical, and they didn’t always work in my favor. Five years ago, the opportunities were drying up and I was stuck in a role that didn’t suit me. But by then, I was confident in my abilities and driven by a passion that never waned. I knew all I needed was a chance to prove what I could do on the air. CBS came calling two-and-a-half-years ago and gave me that chance, and I’ve spent every day since then grateful for bosses who believe in me and give me these wings to fly.

I never wanted to be a talk show host. This was never part of the plan. Looking back, there were dozens of moments when I could’ve packed it in and chosen an easier path. I’ve been fired, taken out of rotation, passed over for jobs time and time again, rammed my head into the glass ceiling over and over, and heard the gloating when I stumbled. I’ll never forget the manager who told me, “We believe you’ve reached your full potential so we’re going to invest our resources in developing other talent.” To answer the question of how I got here, I have to acknowledge the failures and the people who gave up on me. They are fuel for the fire and motivation that never leave me. But they’re only part of the equation. I also got here on the strength of unwavering support, encouragement, and prayers from those family members, friends, colleagues, managers, and listeners who refused to give up on me. So 2015 is for you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I wouldn’t be here without you. XO

 

 

 

 

Alternate Universe

Posted in Uncategorized on October 14, 2014 by amylawrencepxp

There exists the age-old question of whether or not alien lifeforms inhabit other planets, whether our world is one of many in the cosmos. Well, search no further…the answer is an emphatic “YES!” Our scientists have simply been searching in the wrong places. You don’t need to travel to outer space to discover alien life. You only have to go as far as your smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Social media is PROOF that an alternate universe is not only surviving, but thriving! This other world features its own inhabitants, languages, rules, and ways of calculating success. Relationships and communication take on very different forms which are barely recognizable at times. It’s like our own version of Narnia where we walk through the wardrobe by logging on.

Since my initial foray into this alternate universe, I’ve received quite an education. Did you know that all social media users are experts?? Medical, legal, psychological, you name it. All members are well-trained in language arts/spelling, athletics, and self-improvement; and they’re ALL willing to share that expertise free of charge. Opinions are formed at breakneck speed, and the truth is optional. In the world of Twitter and Facebook, an investigation or complaint turns into a conviction within moments. No need for the justice system when you have the social media mob. Instantly, Tony Stewart is a murderer and Colin Kaepernick is guilty of sexual assault. It reminds me of an avalanche: when Twitter starts tumbling downhill and picks up speed, it collects anything and everything in its path. Lebron James is branded a quitter because he can’t finish an NBA Finals game with debilitating cramps. The greatest shortstop in baseball history is overrated. Tom Brady is old and broken, Peyton Manning can’t win, and Kirk Cousins is the best option under center for the Redskins until he commits five turnovers on national TV…then he promptly turns into a bum and needs to be traded immediately. According to recent statistics, only 7% of the US population uses Twitter, but none of that 7% is shy or reserved. Those roughly 50 million people wield great power and influence; their collective voices can be LOUD when singing in unison. Just ask the NFL or the Baltimore Ravens, Minnesota Vikings, and Carolina Panthers how impossible it is to ignore the chorus.

The assumption is that advice and input are always welcome. No such thing as privacy either. If you choose to enter the social media sphere, everything from your work to your family to your background to your dating life is open for discussion and debate. Not even my mother weighs in on my hairstyle as much as my “friends” on Facebook or Twitter…most of whom have never actually seen me in person, ha! The marriage proposals may be my favorite part, though. Did you know it’s unnecessary to develop a personal relationship with a woman before asking her to spend the rest of her life with you in this other society?? A tweet of 140 characters serves as romance. Of course, social media is a world of extremes, so for every marriage proposal, there is hate mail. I’m reminded on a continual basis that I’m a hack who shouldn’t have a job, only good enough to host on weekends, a woman who will never make it in a “man’s world” and ugly to boot (because that definitely matters on the radio). I get called names I’ve never even heard before…and would never hear in person.

The inhabitants of this social media universe may LOOK human, but human decency doesn’t always apply. Cowards hide behind their profiles and take keyboard potshots. They fancy themselves warriors whose end game is to provoke a reaction and be recognized for their efforts. A response serves as their badge of honor and spurs them on. These aliens or “trolls” have no accountability and nothing to lose. The same standard does not apply for public figures: athletes, actors, entertainers, TV and radio broadcasters. One offhand comment, spontaneous remark or angry retort can spread like wildfire in minutes; and the consequences can be massive. Opinions and impressions are shaped and formed, fair or not, based on 140 characters that can never truly be deleted. As a result, I’ve settled on several basic rules for my time spent in this alien world: no vulgarity, no name-calling, no personal attacks, no words that would embarrass my 92-year-old grandmother or my employer, no posts or tweets that I don’t read at least twice before I hit “enter,” no messages or pictures I wouldn’t want the entire world to view. Respect, kindness, humility, humor, and empathy disarm the majority of on-line opponents. Most importantly (and this is the toughest rule to remember when I’m emotional), I choose my battles carefully. Not every battle is worth fighting.

After spending time in that universe, you’d think common sense would kick in, and people would avoid any contact with these alien lifeforms, but the opposite is true. I’ve come to accept that social media is like a drug; and in the sports world, it can easily turn into a minor obsession. I’ll admit to my love-hate relationship with Facebook and Twitter. I vacillate from morbid fascination at the process to joy over the comradery to disgust at the language to gratefulness for the access to anger at the conversation. I’ve reconnected with high school and college friends through social media, and I’ve formed brand new friendships, including one that I now consider among my closest. I interact with listeners and sports fans all over the globe, from every corner of the US to England to Israel to Australia to Afghanistan. I can barely remember what it’s like to watch a major sporting event without the running commentary on Twitter, and I recognize the value of social media to promote my radio shows and build my “brand.” And there are amazing moments we would never experience otherwise. The Ice Bucket Challenge craze raising more than $100 million for ALS research this summer is just one example.

I’ve seen more than enough to know I don’t desire dual citizenship. Short ventures through the back of the wardrobe are plenty. It’s a relief to be able to step out of that alternate universe and reconnect with the real world. Funny thing: not one other member of my family uses social media to any measurable degree. That’s reason enough to leave it behind and beam back to my own little corner of the planet.

Seeing Is Believing

Posted in Uncategorized on September 9, 2014 by amylawrencepxp

The last time I posted a blog entry, the sports world was blowing up in outrage over a meager two-game suspension for an NFL player accused of domestic violence. Radio and television shows, print media, and the internet were engaged in a massive debate over whether or not two games was fair punishment for Ravens running back Ray Rice. Six weeks ago, the only video evidence available to the public was one that revealed the aftermath: Rice dragging his unconscious fiancee’ out of an elevator. That’s all we could see with our own eyes. The details of the incident were reported by multiple outlets, including NFL insiders. In fact, I used those reports as I talked about this case on my radio shows and in this blog. Rice was charged with felony assault after he punched his now-wife Janay in the face, knocking her out cold. We heard the details from others; we read them in print or on the web. But 99% of us couldn’t see the violence with our own eyes…until today. The reports can no longer be disputed. Those who defended, justified, or excused Rice and the NFL’s weak response are now silent. Seeing is believing.

After this new video was published by TMZ, the reaction was swift. Within hours, the Ravens cut Rice. The league followed suit by suspending him indefinitely and prohibiting other teams from negotiating with him. Once again, radio and TV shows, print media, and the internet are blowing up. This time, the chorus of voices is disgusted, shocked, infuriated, repulsed, enraged, nauseated, offended, saddened, and appalled. While I can appreciate and understand these feelings after watching the footage, a gruesome video shouldn’t be necessary for the NFL, the Ravens, and football fans to take a stand against domestic violence. As much as the elevator video makes me sick to my stomach, Ray Rice was dead wrong BEFORE we saw it. So why did it take so long? Why did it take another six weeks for the REAL hammer to drop?

The move by the Ravens to cut ties with Rice is the first and only move they’ve made to discipline him. According to CBS NFL Insider Jason LaCanfora, team officials knew exactly what happened inside that hotel elevator in February because Rice told them. He was forthcoming with them, so they didn’t see anything they didn’t know about already. Until today, the front office and staff were unified in their support of Rice. They pointed to his track record, his contributions to the community, his contrition, and his commitment to counseling with his wife. But as soon as the video was released, it “changed things.” That’s what coach John Harbaugh said in his comments to the media after Rice was cut. Yes, the video DID change things: it whipped the public into a frenzy and made the Ravens the target of intense criticism and scrutiny. The video did NOT change their scope of information. They already knew Rice punched his wife and knocked her out cold. However, even though it smacks of hypocrisy to take a stand and cut him NOW, it’s a move made better late than never.

The NFL is facing more pressure of its own, despite suspending Rice from the league indefinitely. Roger Goodell’s office claims no one saw the video before it was posted online, but that explanation isn’t likely to satisfy the masses. More than one NFL reporter indicated Goodell had access to the full video before handing down the original punishment. Since I believed what I read and heard, I told my radio listeners that NFL officials saw it. But even if those reports are incorrect, there’s no way Goodell didn’t know specific details. If the authorities, the Ravens, and members of the media knew, the NFL also knew…or should have. The league conducted its own investigation by talking to the Rices, the Ravens, and the police. We already had the footage of Janay being dragged unconscious out of the elevator. She certainly didn’t knock herself out. As terrible as it is to see the violence on tape, Roger Goodell can’t possibly be surprised. I wasn’t. I already knew what happened, and I’m just a radio host. The reports were 100% accurate, but only NOW is the NFL showing zero tolerance. To his credit, the Commissioner has instituted a new domestic violence policy that mandates a six-game suspension for first-time offenders with indefinite suspension and a possible lifetime ban for repeat offenders. Not sure where Rice fits under this policy: this is his first offense, but he’s now suspended indefinitely. It doesn’t make much sense, but no doubt the NFL was reeling in the wake of the video and scrambling for the appropriate response.

Sadly, only after seeing did the NFL and Ravens truly believe. My sincere hope is next time, they don’t wait for backlash or outrage or video but take a stand initially. Be proactive instead of reactive! We shouldn’t require video evidence as a catalyst to recognize domestic violence as appalling and indefensible. The football powers that be are saying the right things now, but how much has actually CHANGED in the last six weeks? Pro Bowl defensive lineman Greg Hardy was convicted of assaulting and threatening a former girlfriend this summer, yet he continues playing for the Panthers. He’s appealing the judge’s ruling and wants a jury trial, but he was already convicted and given a suspended jail sentence. I can’t help but wonder why the Panthers and the NFL don’t act in his case. I want to be optimistic. With all the dialogue and debate and decisions made (albeit late) regarding Rice, I want to believe we’ve turned a corner. But seeing is believing, so I’ll watch and wait.

 

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