Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Bull City Birthday | Sesquicentennial

As Durham wraps us its 150th birthday observance, I reprise a springtime post from The Bulls of Durham website. Check out their blog. Publisher Sheila Amir is without peer when it comes to being bullish on Durham. 

For two decades I’ve been an inveterate promoter of the Bulls baseball club and more recently the renaissance of downtown Durham. But honestly, I hadn’t given any deep thought to the Bull City’s character. I’ve been challenged by the Bulls of Durham to unpack Durham’s uniqueness. Here’s my take... 

Our mill town motif creates a distinct sense of place. There’s an architectural ambience owing to the brick tobacco factories and warehouses spread across town. We have a smattering of office towers, but our true urban personality sits low on the horizon. It’s framed by masonry cornices and the red-orange brick of our native clay.

Speaking of personality, Durham nurtures a blue collar attitude. We talk of “Bull City grit” and “keep it dirty Durham.” It’s the soul of this 150 year old factory town that birthed the Durham Tobacconists baseball team in 1902, playing against furniture makers and textile workers from other NC mill towns. The Lucky Strike chimney and water tower at American Tobacco are emblematic of that heritage and spirit.

Attitude compliments architecture, but the contradictions are equally intriguing. The venerable warehouses are now home to academics and entrepreneurs. We are the City of Medicine, high tech and higher ed. That lunch pail mentality drives these high achievers in their discovery, disruption and innovation. 

A noteworthy aside: Durham’s lunch pail is truly exceptional. We are the South’s Tastiest Town, an accolade from Southern Living magazine. This working class town has world class victuals. 

Last but not least, Durham’s most distinguishing feature - at least by Triangle standards - is diversity. It’s dangerous for a 66 year old white guy to talk about race, but I’ll wade in... 

The City of Durham is close to evenly black/white with a significant Latinx component. (42% Caucasian, 41% African American, 14% Hispanic, 5% Asian American; 2010 US Census) This is bigger than the data points. There’s a civic ethic of tolerance and inclusion around race, gender and sexual orientation. There’s a notion that everyone is welcome, that all have a seat at the table. It’s also an expectation of the major employers and burgeoning millennial work force that have revived our downtown. For most of my years in Durham the mayor was African American, ditto for the chairman of the County Commissioners, and the CEO of the Duke health system was Chinese American. A gay man led the Chamber of Commerce. This isn’t a flash in the pan; it endures.

Durham Bulls Pride Night 2019

Durham Bulls Latino Heritage Weekend 2019

I’m not a cockeyed optimistic. It’s not all rainbows and unicorns. Folks fight to be heard and compete for resources. We rally, protest and over-react on social media. Watch out for the sharp elbow. There’s that Durham grit! But I would like to think (and pray) there’s a “force field” protecting Durham from the current wave of tribalism, nativism and racism. Durham is better than that...far better. 

It’s an honor and a privilege to be counted among the Bulls of Durham. Let’s toast our tobacco town heritage and grit. Let’s celebrate tech town innovation and inclusion. Happy 150th birthday to Durham NC!

Monday, June 3, 2019

Progress Report: Bull Durham | The Musical

Three decades after it’s theatrical release, Bull Durham has been reinvented as a musical, and it is Broadway bound. I attended a preview last month in New York City. The momentum seemed palpable. 

The producers have been stubbornly dedicated to this project. As Bull Durham’s creator Ron Shelton says in the video clip below, it’s like distilling a fine scotch. 

Of course, I am a cheerleader for this makeover! Just imagine a popular Broadway musical...the cast in Bulls’ caps and jerseys...set in Durham NC...then a nationwide tour of 30-40 cities (including our DPAC.) The movie, now considered a classic, conferred a special status on Durham and its ball club thirty years ago. The Broadway version would be a marvelous revival of that phenomenon. 

WRAL’s Bryan Mims tells the story...

We weren’t allowed to record the preview - top secret - but Bulls Production Manager Patrick Norwood talked with celebs in the audience. 

About Crash Davis: Baseball Hall of Famer Joe Torre attended the preview. He’s certainly an authority on our National Pastime, and the story resonates with him...

About Annie Savoy: Director Marc Bruni enthusiastically brings the story of an empowered female to Broadway...

The movie gave us memorable characters and quotable dialog. The Broadway show raises the bar with music and dancing. You will leave the theatre singing this soundtrack so cleverly crafted by Susan Werner. It's new territory for Bull Durham's mastermind Ron Shelton...

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Bull City Strong Day

We celebrate and honor first responders at the DBAP today. May 1st is Bull City Strong Day

The gas explosion in Durham was a tragic event on April 10th, but it could have been 20x worse if not for our courageous Bull City firefighters. As gas was silently building up, they cleared the building that was moments later blown to smithereens. Mission accomplished; mass casualties averted. 

A first responder/first pitch this morning from Durham
firefighter, Acting Captain Phillip "Speedy" Faucette. 
His Engine One, B-Shift was first on the scene when
the Duke St. building exploded April 10th.

Listening to news coverage of yesterday's campus shooting at UNC Charlotte, I’ve repeatedly heard the police described as “running toward the gun fire.” That’s a heavy concept - running toward gun fire...or clearing a building that could be filling with gas. We think of these people as brave and courageous, but there’s a transcendent aspect to this. They’re willing to put their lives on the line for the safety of others. 

We know this intuitively about the men and women serving in our military, and first responders deserve more attention and credit for their sacrificial work. The Durham One Fund is worthy of your support. 

Images from April 10th in downtown Durham,
on Duke Street and from the DBAP.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Nashville Songwriters return to Durham

Memorable songs - the tunes we sing in the car or shower - are associated with the superstars who recorded the music. In most cases, however, that song came from the heart and soul of a not-so-famous songwriter - a poet or wordsmith with a guitar. We will celebrate (and enjoy) that talent Friday night April 5th at DPAC as the Nashville Songwriters return to the Bull City. They have penned hits for Blake Shelton, Dierks Bentley, Miley Cyrus, Brad Paisley, Jason Aldean and Rascal Flatts.

Click on image to enlarge.

The show, a benefit concert, is organized by Durham's Jeff Outlaw and his family foundation. We signed on last year because a portion of the proceeds goes to Kidznotes, and some of the kidz have an opportunity to perform with the professionals in one of the country's leading theaters.

Consider this your invitation to join us! And check out the videos...

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Raycom's ACC Sign Off

I get a little misty eyed as Raycom "retires" from the ACC after 37 years. If you are a Tobacco Road hoops fan, Raycom telecasts are a family member. After this conference tourney in Charlotte the new ACC Network will be birthed. Bob Holliday and Jeff Gravley at WRAL stroll down memory lane with a Raycom tribute:

Story & Video from wralSPORTSfan.com
My sports broadcasting and marketing career began with UVA's radio network in 1979 as the Ralph Sampson era commenced in Charlottesville. The company was acquired by Capitol Broadcasting, and I moved to Raleigh in February 1983 as the Wolfpack started its National Championship run. My Brentwood neighbors spray painted our street red and white. Soon thereafter Capitol sent me to Richmond, but I returned to NC in 1991 as Duke University took the NCAA title. It's wonderful to have these big sports stories among your life's historical markers. At Capitol I've had the incredibly good fortune to work with the trifecta of NC State, Duke and UVA on their radio networks and athletic department marketing.

When I was starting out four decades ago, televised games were rare, so commercial breaks were limited. (Imagine that!) In some games, we weren't able to air all of the spots we had sold! But eventually, advertising revenue won the day, and collegiate athletics was transformed into a major media enterprise. In addition to the big bucks, technology now brings us to place where a conference can have its own cable channel and practically every sport can be televised.

I do have a lament, as someone in the local broadcasting business, that all of this programming will move to cable/satellite/Internet. That's hard to swallow, and viewers will probably be surprised (or confused) when the new network premiers in August.

But we move on, and we tip our cap to Raycom. Their vision and platform transformed college sports. What's next? Further conference expansion? Games in Europe or Asia? 3D telecasts? Augmented reality? I'll be OK as long as State plays Carolina and Duke and Wake Forest, as long as the local rivalries endure...on Tobacco Road.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Numbers to Notes, Sums to Song

Rhonda Carlile, our sports division business manager and my colleague of 36 years, retired last week.

Some excerpts from my tribute at her retirement luncheon:

I came to work at Capitol’s TN Spot Sales in 1983. I was not very buttoned up back then. Rhonda’s been trying to bring me around to her rigorous standards ever since. In my 1984 goals I was asked to address “the punctuality and accuracy of required reports...” That had Rhonda’s fingerprints all over it!

But accounting has been more than numbers and columns for Rhonda. She was eager for new assignments and projects. CEO Jim Goodmon always had a puzzle for us to solve, a new business to on-board.

In 1990 CBC acquired the Bulls. She was handed a box of ledger books and associated office debris... “Here ya go Rhonda, turn this into a business.”

In that decade we had a two dozen P&Ls within Capitol Radio - business units forgotten to history:

Carolina Panthers Radio Network, Tenn Titans, San Francisco 49ers
Duke and Univ of Va Radio Networks
Carolina Hurricanes TV Network
WDNC news/talk radio
Winston Cup Today
Drive-time, the daily golf show
Myrtle Beach Pelicans

Rhonda has been indispensable. INDISPENSABLE! That word captures the character of her career at CBC, her community service above and beyond the job, and her friendships with co-workers.

Rhonda set the bar high for sound business practices, and she set a great example over the years with her leadership of United Arts, United Way, and most recently, with the Capitol Women’s Network. She’s the “go to” co-worker for a “crucial conversation” and mentor to many.

It’s been a privilege to work with Rhonda. I’ve benefited from her advice - from her candor. She is uber organized, very disciplined. None of that rubbed off on me.

She’s a person of the highest integrity and a person filled with grace. That has rubbed off on all of us!

I offer the “accountants blessing” upon your retirement...

May your numbers give way to notes,
May your sums give way to song!
Here’s to harmony in retirement!