Wednesday, June 27, 2007

On the Red Carpet (Okay, it was just a welcome mat that happened to be red)

By now you’ve heard about RaveTV’s unprecedented hat trick at the Capital District Emmy Awards earlier this month. Three nominations. Three Emmy’s. Three wonderful speeches, two of which included salutations to yours truly – come on Larry, what gives? But what you haven’t heard is how an evening affair in the Nation’s Capital transformed the staff of RaveTV into the Hollywood Icons they are today (okay, they’ve gotten some pub on and in The Baltimore Examiner, but I’m sure Peter Bart – Editor-in-Chief of Variety – reads Coffee on the 50 and will soon be calling).

The night began well before the first award was handed out as the RaveTV crew and their significant others, including this proud blogger, hopped in a limo outside M&T Bank Stadium. The parking lot was bustling as we left with an O’s game set to start later that night and preparations well underway for last weekend’s Dew Action Sports Tour. In case you missed it, they built a full-size half pipe in Lot D, where Shaun White would go on to win the Skateboard Vert Final, besting Baltimore native Bucky Lasek, and continuing his run as coolest kid in the world.

The ride to the Ritz went smoothly, thanks in part to the wine and Corona flowing freely in the back seats. Bonus points to Broadcast Coordinator Matt Brevet, who packed pre-sliced limes. Unfortunately Matt’s partner in crime couldn’t attend the affair as Multimedia Coordinator Jay O’Brien stayed home to battle the dreaded summer cold.

The beltway traffic delayed our arrival until the cocktail hour was already over, but fortunately for all of us who may have had one too many on the drive down, dinner was already being served and the ceremonies were about to begin. One annual pastime that I’ve learned in previous years is to flip ahead in the program to see when your category will be called. All three of RaveTV’s nominations were listed on the same spread, about two-thirds of the way through the book, so we knew we would be in for a few hours of festivities before our fun began. One award winner of note was Aisha Karimah, Community Affairs Director at NBC-4 in D.C., who won The Board of Governors Award. Her contributions to the community were inspiring, but her speech was even more memorable as she took time out to blow her nose (possibly fighting the same bug that bit O’Brien back in Baltimore) and started her speech over as she rightly claimed that this was her chance to shine.

The RaveTV run began with a win for Outstanding Achievement in Editing for I Am a Raven, which was produced by Senior Director of Broadcasting, Larry Rosen, filmed by Director of Photography, Jeff Atkinson, and edited by Manager of Broadcasting Lauryn Lukin (in case you hadn’t put two and two together up until now, she’s my better half). However, in her acceptance speech, which clocked in just under twelve seconds, (she’s a woman of few words, but wonderful eyes) she did refer to me as the better half, but I don’t buy it.

The second award was secured back in May when nominations were revealed as Jonathan Ogden’s Wired episode was the lone entry left standing in the category. The entire RaveTV team accepted this time, with Larry doing the verbal honors. In contrast to Lauryn, his speech surpassed the allotted 30 seconds, but he still managed to avoid thanking me as the maestro cued the music.

Their third win, for the broadcast of last seasons Eagles vs Ravens pre-season game, was the real upset of the night and judging by the look on Director of Broadcasting, Don DiRaddo’s face when the MC announced the winners, you knew he was either surprised or stammering for a speech now that he would have to talk the talk. Smart man that DiRaddo as he too included me, along with the other spouses and significant others at the table, in his impromptu remarks.

After the sweep, the group convened in the hallway outside the ballroom for the post-game paparazzi session. Bystanders remarked on the bevy of Golden Angels adorning the arms of all of us - there was enough for spouses to hold as well. For a brief moment, you could imagine what it was like to hang out with the cast of The West Wing when Aaron Sorkin’s scripts still earned statues and ratings (I really think Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip has hit its stride the last few weeks, too bad the show has already been cancelled).

Alas, we partied like rock stars for a few hours, but our true colors were revealed on the ride home. Nothing inappropriate, rather, half of those taking the limo back north had already dozed off by the time we hit 95. But not before we popped the almond flavored champagne (okay, sparkling wine) to celebrate the success of the past year. 13 wins in the regular season, 3 Emmy’s in the award season, and who knows, maybe a pilot deal for the new Fall season on NBC – Studio 60’s timeslot is open.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Ray Q. Public

He has been described as “fearsome”, “larger-than-life”, and even “the best damn football player in the world” by Football Digest. But last Friday, on a playing surface just 17 miles to the north of his home field, Ray Lewis appeared more human than superhuman. A mere mortal like you and me. That’s because on Friday night, Ray Lewis went bowling.

Following in the choppy footsteps of Dick Weber, Roy Munson, and Jeffery Lebowski (a.k.a. “The Dude”), #52 suited-up, or rather suited-down as I’ll explain in a moment, and took center stage at Perry Hall Lanes for the K Bank Celebrity Bowling Tournament. The tournament was one of myriad events during Ray’s Summer Day – a four-day charity event benefiting the Ray Lewis Foundation.

Although there was no red carpet to make his entrance on, the beige and olive linoleum served as an appropriate runway on this night for Ray and his high powered entourage, which included Steve McNair and Willis McGahee. Lewis arrived wearing a three piece, but his first brush with mortality struck quickly as he had to change out of his suit, take a seat and put on his bowling shoes, one foot at a time, just like you and me. There’s really no other way to do it, no matter how many tackles or sacks or stare-downs you’ve recorded.

Of course the ten pins awaiting his first toss were not buying the ‘John Q. Public’ act and ducked for cover as soon as the ball got close. Ray’s first roll was a strike. After a few more frames, Lewis left his post and returned to his role as Mayor of Ceremonies. As he party hopped from lane to lane, a throng of guests began to form in the aisle behind the bowling area, armed with digital cameras and craned necks, in a scene reminiscent of the gallery following Tiger on the 12th at Augusta.

Another lesson learned during the course of the evening was that the popularity of bowling must be at least partially due to the ability to feast in-between frames. With the smell of barbeque in the air, players and guests alike helped themselves to the free food and drink, including McGahee, who seemed happy to be seven hours closer to the sweet taste of southern Q. The beverage sponsor for the evening, Vitamin Water, was also on hand to distribute free product including one variety appropriately labeled, “Defense”. The mix of vitamin-C and zinc proved almost as potent as C-Mac and Sizzle and washed down the wings nicely.

The guest list for the evening included Ravens owner Steve Biscotti, who rolled a strike on cue with RaveTV filming and a celebratory cigar in-hand; stars of Baltimore morning radio, Mikey and Amelia from 98 Rock, whose team won the group competition; current Ravens such as Mark Clayton, Samari Rolle and Ed Reed, who finished second in the celebrity competition with a 182; new Ravens like Troy Smith and Willis McGahee, who beat Reed with a 191; former Raven Adalius Thomas; former Redskin LaVarr Arrington; and even Nathan Corbett of HBO’s The Wire, who has become a regular at Ravens related activities typically reserved for teenagers. But no one in the alley, not even the “best damn football player in the world”, commanded more attention than Magic Johnson.

Arriving fashionably well past late, the only thing accompanying the Magic Man as he entered the building was the buzz he brought with him. Johnson’s appearance added to an already strong track record of support for The Charm City as he previously partnered with Baltimore-based developer Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse on projects in Mount Vernon and Charles Village. As Magic made his way on to the hardwood, Ray and his Ravens were once again relegated to the real world. They were now the ones in awe of a sports legend and looked up to Magic, literally, as Johnson stands 6’9”, much taller than any of the purple and black in attendance, and the same height as Jonathan Ogden. But could you ever imagine JO running the point or driving by Jordan?

Another clear sign that Magic wasn’t your typical league bowler was that none of the bowling balls on hand fit the glove responsible for more than 10,000 assists during his Hall of Fame career. To solve the problem, the Pro Shop went into Pit Crew mode, measuring Magic’s fingers and drilling a new ball for him on the spot. I think he could have palmed the ball just as easily, but the emergency excavation made for an entertaining side note to the blog, right?

The action resumed soon thereafter and the celebrity bowler’s showdown was underway. McGahee would emerge victorious, but not before summoning the Arctic Monkeys. Willis did look good on the dance floor with celebrations ranging from a high-stepping sprint across the lanes; a walk away hook shot in which he threw the ball, turned his back, glanced over his shoulder and watched all ten pins scatter; and even a few push-ups during an impromptu frame-by-frame competition with another guest. Ravens fans can only hope the multi-talented tailback displays those fleet feet on the field come this fall.

Reed, on the other hand, was rewarded with a second-place trophy and a few memorable high fives and hand pounds. After rolling a strike midway through the final game, Ed was congratulated by his teammates, just a couple of dudes seemingly enjoying what could have been guys-night out at the bowling alley, with a few pitchers on the table and onion rings on order. (Speaking of onion rings, am I the only one who liked the final scene of The Sopranos?) Of course these Regular Joe’s had won six world championships in their respective sports and were named to a combined total of twenty all-star teams, but for one night, they were just Edward, Ray and Earvin. Dudes just like you, me, and Lebowski.

Friday, June 08, 2007

We Are All Witnesses

It has been one week since LeBron James made me jump off my couch and stand at attention during the last 20 minutes of Game 5 in the Eastern Conference Finals. One week since King James announced his arrival at the gates of NBA greatness. One week since I developed a new found respect for the creative minds behind the marketing at Nike. One week. One word. “Witness.”

The campaign began in the fall of 2005 with a 212-ft wide banner on the side of a building near Quicken Loans Arena, home of the Cleveland Cavaliers, that featured LeBron mid-flight and the headline, “We are all witnesses.” The idea being that the city of Cleveland was knowingly witnessing the emergence of the next great one.

Nike knew what they were talking about, and not just because they helped brand the last great one, but because James took the Cavs to the second round of the playoffs last season and as of last week, had carried them to the Eastern Conference finals as a 22-year old. In the process, sales of Nike t-shirts with nothing but a swoosh and the word, “Witness”, sold out in C-Town and were going for up to $100 on eBay. But to paraphrase the Bachman Turner Overdrive - you, me, the city of Cleveland, Pistons fans, the rest of the NBA, and even the good people of EspĂ­rito Santo, Brazil (hometown of Cavalier forward Anderson Varejao) ain’t seen nothing yet.

That’s because LJ dropped 48 points on Detroit in that historic Game 5, scoring 25 straight to close out a double overtime victory.

Bart Scott, a native of the Motor City and an avid Pistons fan, was a witness. “LeBron was exactly what we thought he was,” Scott told RaveTV’s Matt Brevet. “A superstar. We haven’t seen that since the likes of Michael Jordan.”

Daniel Wilcox was a witness. “He’s proved it every single year.” Wilcox said. “He’s one of the best players in this league. When it’s his time to takeover, that’s when he takes over.”

Corey Ivy was a witness. “LeBron started to come into his prime in the last series against the Pistons.” Ivy told’s Mike Duffy. “He’s a grown man out there and just bullies the rest of players around. LeBron is a man amongst boys, and this is his time to rise up his game to another level.”

So what would happen when James and Co. took on the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 of the NBA finals? Well despite the praise for the young King, one Raven’s prediction would prove to be the most poignant. “Larry Hughes can’t guard Tony Parker,” declared Terrell Suggs when asked about the series. Suggs added that he would take the Spurs in 7 and after watching the future Mr. Eva Longoria flash by Hughes, James, Boobie, and anyone else Mike Brown put in front of him, I’d say Suggs might be giving the Eastern Conference Champs too much credit. And it wasn’t just Parker exposing the Cavs, ABC made it clear that Cleveland was over matched thanks to their tie-in to the movie, Fantastic Four – Rise of the Silver Surfer. ABC singled out the “Fantastic Four” to watch during the game and three of those profiled were Spurs. Not even Mr. Fantastic (James) would stand a chance against The Human Torch (Ginobli), The Thing (Tim Duncan) and The Invisible Girl (Longoria?).

The Spurs won game one 85-76, but in the best-of-seven style of the NBA, the sports world is guaranteed at least three more nights of wondering just how good James can be and whether he will continue his ascension to the NBA throne. We will all be watching, waiting, and wondering because all we want is to make sure we are all witnesses.