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, December 19, 2018

A Few of My Favorite Things


Three upcoming events are worthy of your attention in the New Year - baseball, eSports and country music. (My job does not lack for variety!) 

Tickets are on sale!!! Did someone say stocking stuffers???

Archway Foundation Night of Champions. January 26.

Durham Bulls alum and Clayton NC's favorite son, Chris Archer, is holding his annual Archway Foundation Gala here at the DBAP in the PNC Triangle Club. The Pittsburgh Pirates ace has recruited a few of his MLB buddies to attend - Brent Honeywell, Marcus Stroman and Willy Adames.




Chris has a particular interest in homeless youth, and he's planning to make that a focus of his foundation’s work in our community. The Bulls are cheering him on!


Triangle eSports Championship. February 10.

I am the most unlikely person in our company to be working on eSports. Is there an AARP league? But I'm a believer. eGaming is no longer a childhood pastime that young folks outgrow. It's now adult recreation, and it's booming! There are 800K gaming consoles in our TV market according to Nielsen. 77K people read a video game story on wral.com in the past 120 days.

Capitol Broadcasting Company has partnered with the Kramden Institute, the Triangle Literacy Council and the Durham Sports Commission for a February tournament at the Durham Armory. Check out the website for info and tickets.

Kramden and TLC are trailblazers. These progressive nonprofits view eSports as a way to promote digital inclusion and literacy. And we are cheering them on!



Nashville Songwriters at DPAC. April 6.

They've written hits for Blake Shelton, Dierks Bentley, Brad Paisley, Jason Aldean, Toby Keith and Carrie Underwood. Nine of Nashville's top songwriters bring their guitars and share their behind-the-scenes stories from Music Row. It's laid back and "unplugged"...a unique musical experience. DPAC website.



The concert is a benefit for Kidznotes, The NC Boys Academy and Voyager Academy Friends of the Arts. Yes, we are cheering them on, too!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Baseball Roots



The Bulls have been celebrating the 30th anniversary of Bull Durham this summer, reveling in our Hollywood birthright. On Saturday, we are seriously cranking up the time machine - 160 years retrograde - for a vintage game of "base ball" at the iconic Durham Athletic Park. 1860 rules and old-timey uniforms. No gloves, no foul balls, no strike-outs, underhanded pitching. It's a benefit for the Duke Homestead State Historic Site. Adam Gold at 99.9 The Fan has organized the celebrity team. He calls it the ultimate throwback game:

We’re going back in time, not to the 80’s or the 70’s, but to the 60s - the 1860’s!!!  Back, before there was such a thing as Tommy John surgery or lunch angles or even the dreaded shift.  We’re going back to the game’s original rules, to the game as it was intended, with limited commercial interruption.  No mascots, no in-game human bowling, no Chicken Dance, just the game as it was intended.  

Duke Homestead is in for a tussle when the Fourth Estate Nine rolls into historic Durham Athletic Park.  13 members of the local media celebrating the game as it used to be - apart from the chewing and spitting - will turn back the clocks almost 160 years.  

The DAP gates open at 3:30, BP at 3:45, first pitch at 5:00. Five bucks will get you in. 


Here's the Duke Homestead release...


Join Duke Homestead Education & History Corporation at the Historic Durham Athletic Park on August 11 for a vintage "base ball" game that celebrates and includes all those who contributed to the game over the past century and a half!

Experience the beginnings of America's pastime in Durham's historic ballpark - just a bat, a ball, and a lively match. Organized by the nonprofit friends of Duke Homestead State Historic Site (Duke Homestead Education and History Corporation), a team of vintage ballers will take on local sports media personalities, playing by vintage rules. We'll have game-inspired crafts and activities for kids. Don't forget to bring your appetite for food trucks, Bull Durham Beer Company brews, and old fashioned concessions. Hurrah!

This program will also recognize Durham's rich and complex baseball history, which includes decades of segregation during the Jim Crow era. We will share the story of segregation at the Durham Athletic Park and the Negro League, as well as the the early history of the game.

Tickets cost $5 per person, kids 4 & under are free! Get your ticket in advance online, or at the door (cash only).
Thank you to our sponsors, Capitol Broadcasting Company, the Durham Bulls, and Stone Brothers & Byrd Garden Center.
All proceeds from the event will benefit the nonprofit friends of Duke Homestead, the Duke Homestead Education and History Corporation.