Off the Dial



On March 24, my alma mater celebrates a big milestone. Syracuse University turns 144* years old. For the next two weeks, school representatives are traveling the country, getting alumni together. The Charlotte event is tonight (3/13) at the Dilworth Neighborhood Grill.

I was recently in Syracuse, where the weather did not disappoint – 9 degrees and snowing! Kim Brown is the assistant director of alumni programs and she asked me to record a short message for the celebration. It was very much off the cuff and I was glad to do it.  Curious how it was going to be used, I checked out the CelebrateSU page:

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Didn’t really expect to be on the front page (wish I’d put on some makeup!)  You can see my video below;  click here to see others. Happy birthday, SU!!

*Why 44? Since 1954, nine football players have worn the #44; three earned All-American honors (Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, and Floyd Little. I have a funny story about that, actually…). In basketball, two players (Derrick Coleman and John Wallace) wearing the same number broke scoring records. To reflect the importance of #44, the University’s zip code changed to 13244 and phone prefixes to 442 and 443.

Lucky Number 44

Floyd Little will be inducted into the Football Hall of Fame this weekend. As a Syracuse alum, it’s always great to see another #44 get his place in history. For those who don’t bleed orange, here’s why #44 is special


I am strictly a casual SU fan – but I will always be thankful that a few of the best football players in school history also have a good sense of humor.

In 1989, I had been a reporter for student newspaper The Daily Orange for about two weeks.  A freshman who could barely find the Carrier Dome, I had been assigned to cover a football story. The editor didn’t tell me much, just that some old players were coming back. It sounded like a nice, sentimental feature, so off I went.

As soon as I arrived, I could tell something big was going on. I didn’t recognize one person in the room, but you could tell just by the way other people were acting – everyone was beaming, some even seemed nervous – that these weren’t ordinary players.  I had no idea.

But at least I knew I didn’t’ know!  I went over the SU pr person (boy I wish I remember who it was!) and confessed I was clueless. What else could I do? He laughed and said, “I can help.” I then got a personal introduction to each player.

That’s how I met Floyd Little, Jim Brown, and Don McPherson. They couldn’t have been nicer and each spent several minutes answering my dopey questions.

I learned great lessons that day. Mostly about not being afraid to look stupid – you’ve got to ask the questions if you don’t know the answers. Also, it’s a good idea to research the story before you head out to cover it.  But the best lesson? Nothing makes your sportscaster wanna-be friends at Newhouse jealous like getting close proximity to famous players.

Still Full From Syracuse

My trip to Syracuse earlier this month was a reunion for WJPZ – the student run radio station and “The greatest media classroom in the world!” It really is amazing.  However I only worked there for about five minutes, and I still kick myself for not doing more.  However, I was smart enough to have a wonderful roommate who did! We’re still great friends and Beth and her husband, Dave, are the real reason we decided to head to the frozen tundra. (why do they hold reunions in Syracuse before spring even pretends to start?)

Easy plane ride there – we saw Nancy Pelosi at Reagan National (flying commerical?) – and made it to town in time for lunch at Cosmos. Little did I know it would be the beginning of an entire weekend of ridiculous food on the SU campus.

Above is a THB – a toasted honey bun. They split a sugary honey bun (it’s just a big ol’ donut), grill it, and put two huge scoops of ice cream on top.  Yes, that’s a little bit of butter on the side! I can’t begin to tell you how good this is – and I hope to never see one again.

Dinner was pizza, wings and piles of fries at Varsity. I had a wrap – I didn’t even know Varsity served wraps – but I can’t eat like this anymore!  No wonder I gained 20 pounds in college.  We missed going to the Dinosaur (I know!) so we’ll have to make a trip back.

I took part in a panel discussion about the future of radio. Matt Friedman wrote about that quite nicely here.  As for career advice – seems to me the students who stuck around on a sunny Friday afternoon to listen to our panel are already motivated enough. They’ll make it work (I got to meet and talk to several of them one on one.  Seriously smart kids, most of whom already have part time jobs in radio or media).

The formal banquet Saturday night was a nice chance to reconnect.  Here’s our table:


(Back row Henry Ferry, Beth & Dave Gorab, me, Slade – Front row, Scott Meach, Hal Rood, Ken Scott, Larry Ross)
Also, I hope they fix that construction on I-81.  We just had to get one more last meal in Sunday morning and we almost missed the plane.  I was so frazzled, I tried to walk onto the wrong flight – really. The detour did take us past the Little Gem Diner, though! Luckily, we were full – or I’m pretty sure we would have stopped!

Syracuse (Evil) Orange?

So much to share about our quick trip to Syracuse last week. We went back for the first time in a very long time for SU’s student-run radio station reunion. (More soon on WJPZ – the greatest media classroom in the world!)

SU was #1 for about 5 minutes, so we had some fun watching the Louisville game at the Sheraton Syracuse, where we stayed.  That was great – turns out an old friend of ours, Rich Duda, is the manager there! They’ve redone much of the hotel and while I remember it being very nice, it really was terrific. They even won the 2009 Good Earthkeeping Award (see, Rich, told you I’d pass it along!!).

So here’s my only complaint.  SU has such a great mascot – the adorable Otto the Orange. Lately, they’ve been trying to make Otto look tough. This is a mistake.  An orange is not a tough guy – he’s a cutie.


Ottogood Ottomean
(I can’t get them the same size. It looks like Mean Otto ate Good Otto!)

I saw the worst one ever this weekend, though.  So excited to find golf club covers in Manny’s on Marshall Street until I looked a little closer.  That’s his nose, but doesn’t it look a little too much like a mustache?


I yelled out, “Hitler Otto!” in the middle of the store. Classy.  It’s enough to make you want to bring back the Saltine Warrior.