There were a lot of memorable moments at last week’s annual National Association of Broadcasters convention. The Anne Sweeney keynote was interesting (I’ll write more about it next week), but it wasn’t the most memorable moment of NAB. Nor was it my first time being on a television show broadcast in HD; although I must say that was pretty cool. My most memorable moment wasn’t even the launch of our Community TV Channel, the nation’s first all digital sub-channel dedicated to bringing critical local news, weather, sports, network and local programming information to viewers 24/7. Nope, that wasn’t it either, but I am proud of the team that built it.
My most memorable moment wasn’t even at the convention hall at all, or at my hotel or at a blackjack table (Lord knows I’ve had plenty of memories at all of those venues over the years). My most memorable moment was in a mall, the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace, to be exact. After nearly a week of meetings, presentations, tapings, opening remarks, shaking hands, etc., I acquiesced to an excursion with my wife; shopping for her, blackjack for me.
Shortly after we parted ways she called me on my cell to see if I wanted Pete Rose to autograph a baseball or photograph for me (for a fee, of course). “He’s sitting right here,” she said. Hmmm…, how much would I pay for a baseball autographed by Pete Rose? “I’ll be right there,” I said and I headed for the middle of the mall. Sure enough, sitting alone at a folding table, in front of a sports memorabilia shop across from the Tommy Bahama store was a pale, pudgy, subdued Pete Rose, pen in hand, watching mall traffic go by. I was overcome with feelings of being 11 again and watching the Big Red Machine with my father.
However, my reverie had a catch. Pete was in the Forum Shops signing baseballs, photographs and even posing for shots with anyone and everyone who had at least $69 to spend: glossy 8 x 10s were $69, baseballs were $99; you had to buy one or the other to get a snapshot with Charlie Hustle. Something was definitely not right about one of my boyhood heroes sitting at a card table with a rag tag entourage selling $99 baseballs. It still doesn’t.
This image haunted me for the rest of the afternoon. I wanted to remember Pete Rose as the guy who inspired me to slide fearlessly, head first into home plate. I wanted to remember him in the same reverent way I remember Johnny Bench and Sparky Anderson. But now I couldn’t. It didn’t help that my wife referred to him as the guy who bet on baseball. That’s all she knew of him. I remembered him as so much more. He was one hell of a baseball player before he became the “guy who bet on baseball.” Heck, I’m a guy who bet on baseball. When I was not even 12 years old I bet my dad $1.00 that Dave Concepción would make the last out in the 9th inning of the 1975 World Series. I won. My dad grinned and paid up. It’s a great memory, like my memories of Pete Rose, that now, because of NAB 2006, are tainted. Damn him for betting on baseball and wrecking it for all of us. I should have stayed in the booth.
P.s. I didn’t buy the baseball…