Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Air America - Meet Your New Daddy?


We've all heard it from our kids. As kids, we said it to our parents.

"Daddy, if I'm really good, will you buy me a pony?"

We divert. We distract. What you want to say is,

"No way, kid! I'm still paying for those ice skating lessons from last year!" Instead, you say,

"Hey Sweetie, let's go to Chucky Cheese's. They have a pony there".

"But Daddy, I've already ridden that pony!" What you want to say is,

"Sorry kid, but that money is already earmarked for your mother in the divorce settlement." Instead, you say,

"Sweetie, what if Daddy buys you a rocking pony. It'll be just like a real pony."

"But Daddy, that's NOT a real pony. Please Daddy, please, please, please, I have to have a REAL PONY?"

Out of ideas, and not wanting your ex to use what you say against you in a divorce court of law, you stall. You scramble. You wrack your brain for any idea that will keep her happy and keep you from being called a lying sack of horse muckings, by her, twenty years from now, in therapy.

Desperate, you drive to the ends of the earth (okay, San Pedro) to find that one stable at the edge of the Unocal refinery where your baby can ride on the swayed back of some rat-tailed mare at fifty dollars for fifteen minutes. All the while you keep rehearsing what you're going to do for your little angel on the way home that'll keep her from telling Mommy what an a-hole you've been and keep Mommy Dearest from totally ruining what little financial portfolio you have left after marrying her in the first place.

After a hot cocoa for her and a Grande Drip for you (with enough room in it for what's left in your whisky flask), your drive your princess home, thankful that your sincere effort at keeping her happy has made peace between the two of you, and hopeful that an enduring Father/Child relationship has been forged so that when you're old, your baby won't stick you in a home somewhere just like your parents did with your Grandma.

Has this happened to you? I didn't think so. Me either - except for Grandma in a home. But you can imagine how it could, this 'Rugrats gone bad - Angelica Pickles on steroids' nightmare of the waking mind. Right?


Well if your name is Dick French, you did.

That would be Dick French, Managing General Partner of Regional News Network, or RNN, a local digital channel covering a 5 square mile area east of the Hudson River. According to the FCC, recent ratings for the station, located in Kingston, N.Y., place it 24th out of 29 in the market, ranking it even lower than the ImaginAsian and Azteca America networks.

Until yesterday, French and RNN were considerd the front-runners in the bankruptcy acquisition sweepstakes for "Progressive Talk" network Air America Radio. Air America, currently in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, has been the object of a slow-motion bidding war to see who would attempt to resurrect the perpetually underfunded network since filing for federal protection last October.

The rumored big winner in all this was to be Richard French, son of RNN Managing Partner Dick French. Richard French hosts an evening news broadcast on his father's TV station that is watched by tens of dozens of television viewers every evening (remember, 24th out of 29 - ImaginAsia; Azteca America). According to various news outlets including Associated Press, Reuters, and The Wall Street Journal, the younger French was a possible replacement for departing on-air talent Al Franken.


Whatever credibility gap Air America's financial woes had dug for it, it still had broadcast credibility from the likes of Al Franken. Left Wing, Right Wing, Defenseman, Goalie, like him or don't, it's still AL FRANKEN.

Not Angelica Pickles, urrr... Richard French. It makes you wonder what goes therough the mind of a child when he utters the words, "Daddy, will you buy me a Radio Network?" It makes you wonder what must go through the mind of a parent whose child probably got more than a pony when he was young. And it makes me wonder what went through the mind of Dick French last week when he blinked just long enough to allow another company to jump in and win the Air America sweepstakes.


Financially troubled Air America Radio has reached a tentative agreement with with New York real estate mogul Stephen L Green and SLG Radio LLC. Green, whose brother Mark Green, a long-time New York political figure, has been a frequent guest host on the Air America program "Politically Direct", as well as a guest on many other AAR shows. Mark Green, in an interview with the website Liberal Talk Radio (ltradio.blogspot.com), said that no hiring or programming positions had been decided for the network, should the deal go through. Furthermore, a possible executive role for him at Air America is unknown.

Please, just please would somebody buy Stephen L. Green a cup of coffee for the drive home?

Copyright © 2007 Bill Friday

Sunday, January 14, 2007

SportsOpinion: Over-The-Hill "Savior" Worth Every Cent

Meet David Beckham. The most famous athlete in the world. Not America. THE WORLD. He is also, at age 31, a has-been. Now don't get me wrong. Playing in the soccer equivalent to US minor league baseball, known as the MLS (catchy acronym for the product branded as "Major League Soccer", get it?), Beckham will probably be as successful as Barry Bonds batting clean-up in a beer league softball game.

Now relax. This article is NOT about sports. Or about "Becks and Posh" for that matter. That would be a story for "Gossip" or "Night Life" or Page 6 of the N.Y. Post. And it's definitely not about him playing for a team (the Los Angeles Galaxy) that isn't even the most popular team playing in it's own stadium (that would be Chivas USA but, mercifully, that's a story I'm never going to write).

And no, it's not even about one man getting paid over a quarter-of-a billion dollars to play in a league where most of the players don't make in a season what Beckham will make in a his first hour (that's right, one hour) in uniform.

So, if David Beckham isn't here to make American soccer better, or to champion for higher pay for pro athletes who earn less per year than a line cook at TGI Friday's, or to return a team to it's former glory (give me a break, this is minor league soccer, remember?), then what is he here for? The love of the game? To elevate soccer in the US to the place it already holds with the rest of the world? Probably not.

As they say, just follow the money.

According to the league's own website, investment in the MLS increased by over $1 billion in the last 18 months. This includes extensions of television contracts with ESPN and Fox Soccer Channel through 2014, as well as new contracts with NBA billionaire Mark Cuban's HD Net and Spanish language broadcasting giant Univision.

Last year Anschutz Entertainment Group, owner of the Galaxy (and at one time as many as 5 MLS franchises simultaneously), sold it's New York franchise to the Red Bull group for $100 million, and on January 8th of this year(three days before the signing of Beckham), sold off it's DC United franchise for $33 million, dropping it's current franchise ownership number to 3. Overall, the league's 13 teams are now owned by 9 investment groups with a net worth in excess of $10 billion between them.

And that was BEFORE the signing of The Savior.

So what is the reason?

Pure, short-term profit.

Of the $50 to $55 million annual income Beckham will receive, only around $10 million will be salary. The other forty-plus million will come in the form of already-existing sponsorship ($25 million from Motorola, Pepsi, Gillette, Volkswagen, etc.), shirt sales ($10 million), and revenue sharing (another $10 million from the profits of the Galaxy). Given that AEG has unloaded $133 million in dead weight in the last year, the signing David Beckham hasn't cost them a penny.

That's great! So now, on to the future.

In five years, when David Beckham is no more or two years after that, when the TV contracts expire, what then? Given that league attendance averages less than 15,000 per game (and many observers claim it's much less than that), where will the profit come from?

I have no idea.

Maybe by then there will be a whole new generation of billionaires with big piles of discretionary dollars cluttering numbered accounts in countries where soccer is still called football. Maybe they will invest whatever it takes to get the sport's next great has-been to come to America to introduce "The Beautiful Game" to a whole new generation of potential fans. Why not? History repeats itself all the time.

Yeah, and maybe next you'll tell me there will be another NFL franchise in this town before history repeats itself again, and again, and...

Never mind.

Copyright © 2007 Bill Friday

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Those Who Can't Do...


Ever hear that one? Well add another line to the time-honored.

"THOSE WHO CAN'T TEACH, BLOG." I'm really new at this internet thing. I had no idea all people had opinions on everything till I got DSL. Before that, the closest I ever came to seeing that people can think, and clearly express those thoughts, was talk radio.

Or books.

After all, what were my options? Depending on the time of day - or night - I could hear a dialogue (diatribe?) on whether, "Dubya is a NeoCon puppet." or, "Obama is the Anti-Christ." or, "The Lakers suck." All valid opinions I guess, but none could be confirmed at the time of this writing. But now? Five free minutes at work? Read a blog. Ten minutes left at the end of lunch? Read another blog. Boss left the office for the rest of the day? Write a blog! Blog unto others as you would have them blog unto you! And many in a way that would make my College english professor, Betty Dillon, renounce her tenure (Don't do it, Betty!).

For years people said, "Conversation is a lost art." Well, I don't know if I believe that. Conversation, like art (if you count tagging), is everywhere. After all, you're reading this. The true lost art is listening. The thing you do when the appliances are turned off and the only sound you hear is the turning of a page. All this has been summed up for us in the words of the philosopher turned super villain "The Human Ton" (or was it "Handy"?) who said,


What? You think great thoughts can't be animated?

Yeah, like Ben Edlund blogs.

Copyright © 2007 Bill Friday

My Popularity Is 0

This just in: My popularity is 0.

Zeeerohh! As if I needed proof (see tiny picture, at left). Thanks for the update. A clean slate by any other name, etc.

Oh well.

Guess it's better than entropy. Not "Entropy", the movie that almost killed the career of Phil Joanou, but "entropy", from which we get the nursery rhyme (for the sad children of rocket scientists), "We cannot win, we cannot tie, and in the end we're all gonna die".

(Warning! This is not a movie review, a SciTech article or a children's story. It's safe to keep reading - Ed.)
I know, this intro is probably going to keep my popularity at zeeerohh for the remaining years of my writing life which in this town is more like less than zero. Not "Less Than Zero", the movie that should have killed the career of Brad Pitt (really, Google it), but...

(Warning! Bill Friday has never been popular and therefore has never known when to shut up - Ed.)

The good news in all of this is that, if I've done the math right, I can never receive a rating that isn't at least a zeeerohh. A lot like the song, "Saved By Zero" by The Fixx that really did kill the careers of...

(Warning! Bill Friday will never write on the topics of physics, poetry, movies or music ever again - Ed.)

Copyright © 2007 Bill Friday