Friday, January 29, 2010

The Josh Howard Enigma

How much has he been a hot topic lately?  There are the reports he's being shopped around, yet again.  (I have an excellent source confirming as much).  There's the recent story about his improved attitude.  You can see how his play has evolved or devolved as many would say.   In October, I weighed in on what I thought was a reinvigorated, more mature Josh Howard.  On media day in October, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry both called Howard this team's "x-factor" in conversations they had with me.  I don't think he's proven to be that factor and, frankly, it seems like he's not much of a positive factor on the court at all.

No one really knows what's up with Howard, from the physical pain he might still be enduring from the ankle problem to wherever he his mentally.  We can guess, speculate and talk but we don't know anything.  Very few people do.  What I do know is what I have seen from him over the years.

I first met him at an offseason workout shortly after the Mavs drafted him.  He had that shy enthusiasm you could expect from anyone in his position.  He was friendly and nervous at the same time.  He was impressed when I mentioned I had a friend with the same name and I stupidly joked that "I'll always remember yours!".  He actually gave me nice courtesy laugh.

I have seen him overcome by tears when dedicating a basketball court for which he personally wrote a check to build.  Say whatever you want, but he does a lot for others and has dedication to giving back.  He does a lot philanthropic contributions of both time and money that don't get camera-time.  That always has and always will impress me.  

At the NBA All-Star game in Las Vegas, sort of the peak of his career, he was interested and concerned about me and my photographer's schedule and curious what we were going to do in Vegas.  He was genuinely interested in how we were covering All-Star weekend and our plans one particular evening (it wasn't exciting as his, I'm sure). 

Then I saw that real change.  Discussing his pot use before a playoff game on the radio, the playoff birthday party and the national anthem nightmare.  It affected the way he interacted with just about everyone.  That led to the "treat him like fragile glass" approach the Mavericks have seemed to take with him.  Howard is the poster child for positive reinforcement.  From when he plays well on the court to when he gives a good interview, it's an accomplishment.  It's not a knock on the approach, it's just interesting to me.


The Mavericks know they need more from him.  They think he can play selfishly when he gets the ball and you've seen him be ineffective (3-10, 7 points vs Phoenix just last night).  They're looking for a solution and I think it's going to be to move him at some point.  I know many Mavericks fans are ready for that.  Perhaps Howard is, as well.  One veteran player told me he was sitting at practice one day with the team for which he'd played 10 years.  He was sitting there, miserable, and said he had a moment of clarity and realized he wanted out of that team, that situation and out of that sick feeling he would get in his stomach when we goes to practice.

What team would be a good fit for him?  Golden State comes to mind - a reunion with Nellie.  Many think a move with won't happen until the offseason so Dallas can take advantage of the great Summer of 2010 NBA Sale.  Who knows.  My question is what will you continue to get from him and unless he changes/evolves/improves yet again is he more of a liability than asset?
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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Crescent City Getaway

New Orleans Spanish Street Sign
I love so many of the Spanish influences in New Orleans.

I recently made my 20th trek to New Orleans. Not my 20th overall, my 20th in the last 3 years. I didn't realize it until I started checking back through my Southwest airlines travel history. I've actually been back 27 times since Katrina ravaged the city in August of 2005. I'm officially giving myself expert status!

New Orleans, in my opinion, is the most unique and charismatic U.S. city. It's architecture, food, people, music, lifestyle, even the smells are as close to an old-world European city you will find in the states. It's such a great melting pot. I've run into former mayors, neighbors of mine from Dallas and New York City hedge fund guys who just needed to get away. People seem to let down their guards when they visit New Orleans. Certainly, a cocktail or two might help but when you're there, you almost get a feeling of belonging that is shared among anyone who visits the city.

Those who haven't traveled there since Katrina ask if "it's ok" or "if it's safe". They seem to think FEMA trailers still line Canal street and that looters are hanging outside Galatoire's waiting for diners to leave. In my opinion, it's safer and cleaner than it was pre-Katrina.

I first went back there about five months after Katrina. I stayed at the W Hotel in the Central Business District. THEN were FEMA trailers lining the city. You could still see signs of the flood all over the CBS and French Quarter. There was a distinct water line along the buildings on Canal street. The majority of businesses were still closed. The majority of just about everything from restaurants to hotels and gas stations had yet to reopen. The few places that were open were grateful for the business. At Emeril's eponymous restaurant, the sommelier told of me the wine from the cellar that was floating in ground-level restaurant in the days after the storm. Certainly not a tragedy but definitely a perspective gainer.

I could feel the city's will to rebound from the disaster. I could sense the focus and see determination in the eyes of the people that had come back. I heard stories of those were dead set on returning the city to the magical place it was.

At that point I fell in love. I didn't go back for another year but since then I've done just about everything you can without getting thrown in jail. I've caught beads at Mardi Gras, run a half-marathon, held a cocktail party at my hotel and ate my way through the city without gaining 50 pounds. It's such an easy trip from Dallas' Love Field. Typically, I can get to the airport 30 minutes before my flight and two hours later, I'm having champagne at my hotel.

So these are generally the follow-up questions I get when I tell people I go so frequently: what do you do? where do you stay? where do you EAT? Here you go:

Hotels:
Ritz-Carlton: Typically, I stay here. It's one of the most affordable Ritz-Carltons in the family. I've stayed there for as little as $129/night. It's right on the edge of the Quarter and just across Canal from the CBD. It's beautiful, gracious and smells AMAZINGLY (you'll know what I mean when you get there). Only downside is that there is no pool. The bar gets crowded every night. It's a hotspot. You can enjoy the more subdued Club Level which is offered by every Ritz-Carlton for an added fee. They do five food presentations every day and offer complimentary cocktails. I prefer that because it has more of home vs hotel feel. You can play backgammon in the library while having breakfast or simply read a book in the afternoon after a long day of exploring.

W Hotel, French Quarter: This is such a cute, boutique-like hotel. It's like walking into an actual Quarter residence with the beautiful courtyard. It's small and can get loud at night but a fun little spot. You'll feel like you're staying in someone's Quarter apartment.

W Hotel, CBD: this one is located near Harrah's casino. Looks like an old office-building converted to a hotel. Typical W - very cool. Fun pool

International House: I've stayed here a few times. This is a beautiful Beaux Arts-style boutique hotel in the CBD just a few minutes from the French Quarter. It has a very big-city feel that reminds me of the Dylan Hotel in midtown Manhattan.

The Roosevelt Hotel: This is perhaps the most famous/infamous of New Orleans hotels. The CBD spot reopened this summer after a multimillion dollar renovation. The lobby area is stunning: gilded ceilings, beautifully restored murals and rich hardwood floors. It's an historic preservation marvel. The Sazerac bar is a great scene. It serves period cocktails that are dangerously strong (hello, blackberry julip!). You get a real sense of being transported to a bygone era. It ends there. The room remodels were really disappointing. I stayed there in November, a little more than four months after it opened. The furnishings are cheap, the bathrooms are tiny and the overall feel is more Homestead Suites than Waldorf-Astoria collection Roosevelt. Still there are some good deals to be had at the hotel if you book at the right time. Definitely get a cocktail in the bar.

Some other hotels to consider: Marriott or Sheraton on Canal street, the Renaissance Pere Marquette downtown and the Windsor Court or Lowe's near the Casino.
AVOID: Doubletree near the Casino. I couldn't sleep and stayed up all night at that hotel because the Casino noise was so bad. Our company booked us there for the NBA All-Star game - NIGHTMARE. The walls were so thin, I could here EVERYTHING the person in the next room was doing (Janet had fun that night). I rolled by bag along Canal street at 6am and checked into the Marriott. That particular Doubletree is a rat-hole.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Harsh Realities of the TV News/Sports Biz

A lot of people think this gig is easy.   Reality TV has made seem it like wannabe tv reporters, anchors, etc. can up and get a job.  Some can, candidly, it's the really good looking ones. The majority cannot.  The realist is this business is much more cutthroat, harsh and vile than it seems.

Here's a recent e-mail I received from a viewer who shares his niece's story. 

Here's the e-mail:

Hello Ms. Miller,

I'm writing on behalf of my niece XXX XXXXX. She recently graduated as a broadcast journalist major from the University of XYZ and is currently working for a public relations firm in X City. Like many college graduates she has not been able to find a job in her field. She has had positive interviews with the This Team and That Team as well as ESPN, CNN and numerous local television stations across the nation. In each and every case she has been told that she has very good broadcasting skills. They really liked her and loved her personality and attitude, but in all cases the job went to someone with more experience. I know that is the nature of the beast, but there must be some way to break in to the business. Her family is very sports centric. Her Uncle played football. Her father played for A Big Time SEC School. She has always been around athletics and is very knowledgeable of it. Because of this she is interested in a career in sports broadcasting. That brings me to why I'm contacting you. Do you have any information that I could pass on to her regarding the broadcast industry and how to get her foot in the door? I would appreciate any advice or encouragement you could provide.


This was my response:

Thanks for the email. The story you have told me is the same one that hundreds of thousands of aspiring reporters, anchors, journalists have encountered, as well. It's the nature of this beast. I have only been offered 5 jobs in my career and been turned down for about 250. Seriously. When I graduated college my goal was to send out 5 tapes a week my senior semester of college. That was around 80 tapes that year (at the time it cost $3.74 to send those VHS tapes out via USPS - it SUCKED). I got ONE job offer. (that sent me to Guam) I've been in this business for 15 years and while I am not currently submitting material for positions at that rate, I've applied for A LOT of jobs and been turned down for many more. It's a brutally tough business. That's why the majority of people who major in radio/television/journalism end up doing something else.

The pay is poor: most recent college grads make around $12-14,000 a year in small markets. The hours are long: no overtime on a 40-60 hour work week. The work itself is challenging: digging for stories, shooting & editing all of your own material while having to focus on looking professional and attractive when you need to be on television. It's really tough. Combine that with the fact that stations are eliminating positions and and many predict that local news operations will die in the coming years, it's tough to get a job.

That being said, if she wants to work in this industry, she just needs to keep at it. I know it's tough, frustrating and challenging. While she is working her pr job, she should offer to work for free anywhere that will have her with a company/team that can help her advance in the direction she wants to go. She should start a website or a blog so she practices writing and "covering" stories. She should start video blogging so that she can showcase her skills and knowledge on the web. This kills two birds with one stone: it shows her knowledge/passion/skills and keeps her work fresh and current.

it's not easy. it's one of the toughest industries to break into and succeed. She needs to stay persistent, almost doggedly so. If she has the talent, knowledge and drive something positive will happen.
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