2019 Kidney Walk: Wet day can’t douse spirits. . . . Goal surpassed. . . . Stop thief!

Registration
A Kidney Foundation information booth (back left) was set up at Sunday’s Kidney Walk, while beneath the Lordco canopy you were able to find merchandise after first checking in at the registration table. (Photo: Murray Mitchell/Murray Mitchell Photography)

We awoke Sunday to cool weather (12 C) and showers.

The cool wasn’t a problem because warm weather and people with kidney disease aren’t a good match.

But the drizzle . . .

KWlogo2Well, if you have been, or are being, impacted by kidney disease, what’s a little rain? Right?

And so it was that more than 100 people were at McDonald Park on Kamloops’ North Shore on Sunday for the city’s 10th annual Kidney Walk.

Not all of them took part in the walk, which always follows Rivers Trail for more than one kilometre to McArthur Island, but they all were there to show support to people in our community who are dealing with kidney disease or to remember friends and loved ones.

Larry1
Larry Read, the Kidney Walk’s emcee, kept folks informed and everything on time. (Photo: Murray Mitchell/Murray Mitchell Photography)

We couldn’t have done it without Larry Read, the sports information guru for the WolfPack at Thompson Rivers U. He is our emcee, and he brought along six athletes from the WolfPack swim team and, oh boy, what a big help they were. This wasn’t the first time Larry brought volunteers from TRU, and it is a tremendously positive feeling to see these young people so eager to help at an event like this one.

With Larry at the controls, we saluted Hugh McLennan and Louis (Big Rig) McIvor as the honourees for the 2019 Walk. Hugh, a rancher, is the host of the Spirit of the West podcast and a familiar figure in the cowboy world in Alberta and B.C. When he needed a kidney almost two years ago, he got

HughLouis2
Hugh McLennan (left) and Louis (Big Rig) McIvor, the honourees of Kamloops’ 2019 Kidney Walk, address the crowd. (Photo: Murray Mitchell/Murray Mitchell Photography)

one from Big Rig, a long-time friend who is a former long-haul driver and radio personality.

They were introduced by Edna Humphreys, the executive director of the Kamloops chapter of the B.C. and Yukon Branch of the Kidney Foundation of Canada. Hey, if there’s a renal-related event in Kamloops, you can bet that Edna is the push behind it.

We went into this walk with a goal of raising $20,000. By the time the counting is done, we will be somewhere around $24,000, which is unbelievable. In all of our pre-walk chatter, I don’t once remember anything close to that figure being mentioned.

In 2018, we raised $21,764, after bringing in $16,736 in 2017.

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Allanmoney
Allan Dodds (right) returns money that had been lifted from the Brock Central Lions Club’ breakfast table on Sunday. (Photo: Murray Mitchell/Murray Mitchell Photography)

There was some excitement late in the program, too.

The Brock Central Lions Club was there, again, to provide us with a pancake breakfast, along with sausages and coffee, all by donation.

So with most of the folks already eating and a few in line to fill their plates, a cry went up: “Stop her! Stop her! She took the money box.!!”

It seems that a person had appeared on the scene, got in line for breakfast, then grabbed the cash box and took off on the run.

However, her plan hadn’t accounted for Allan Dodds, who when he isn’t playing Superman works at Lordco in Kamloops. His connection with us? His wife, Julie, has kidney disease and is in need of a transplant.

Anyway . . . Allan took off after the thief, caught up with her and brought back the money.

As Julie wrote on her Facebook page: “My husband not only helped set up . . . and with the delivery of chairs and tables, he helped present a large cheque, and also chased down a would-be thief.”

In the end, the Lions Club raised $326.90, all of which, thanks to Allan, was there to be donated to the Kidney Walk.

If we were to give out an MVP award this year, it would go to Allan. As a member of the Southern Central B.C. branch of the CIM (Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum), he presented the Kidney Walk with a cheque for $5,000 in late August.

Through Lordco, he was able to provide us with a truck with which he picked up tables and chairs from the good folks at TRU. He also supplied, again through Lordco, a large canopy that really came in handy considering the weather.

And, of course, he topped it all off by jumping into a phone booth — OK, there aren’t any of those these days; he just went behind the Lordco truck — where he donned the Superman suit and went on to rescue the money.

Thanks, Allan!

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DorothyLeona
Dorothy Drinnan (right) and friend Leona Backman enjoy a rainy time during Sunday’s Kidney Walk. (Photo: Murray Mitchell/Murray Mitchell Photography)

Dorothy says: Thank you! Thank you!! Thank you!!!

With help from so many of you, she was able to raise $3,230 for Kamloops’ 10th annual Kidney Walk, which was held on Sunday morning.

With such great support from so many terrific people, she was the leading fund-raiser for a sixth straight year, and she now has raised more than $16,000 in total.


Dodds
Julie Dodds (in red jacket) has kidney disease and is in need of a transplant. She poses with friends and family, all of whom were there to support her at Sunday’s Kidney Walk. (Photo: Murray Mitchell/Murray Mitchell Photography)

 

DOG
Not all of the participants in Sunday’s Kidney Walk were of the human variety. This pooch got into the spirit of things by donning a Kidney Walk t-shirt, too. (Photo: Murray Mitchell/Murray Mitchell Photography)
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Talking kidneys with Freda, Howard, Dorothy and Jill. . . . Update on Vic Morin’s situation. . . . Kamloops Walk on Sunday

With Kamloops’ 10th annual Kidney Walk set for Sunday, my wife, Dorothy, along with friends Freda and Howard Brown, got together with Jill Sperling of Kamloops TV station CFJC on Thursday. OK, I was there, too.

We met at McDonald Park, the site of the Walk, where we chatted about kidneys, transplantation, dialysis and the Kidney Walk.

Dorothy had her transplant six years ago, after almost four years of peritoneal dialysis. Freda recently began doing hemo-dialysis; she does three runs a week at Royal Inland Hospital. Howard was hoping to donate a kidney to his wife and spent the past nine months undergoing all of the necessary tests. However, one of the tests turned up a kidney stone, so he has been disqualified, at least for now.

There’s all that and more in this piece right here.

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In the TV piece referred to above, Howard Brown points out that if you are considering being a live kidney donor, you shouldn’t wait because the testing process takes some time.

But, at the same time, if the medical team finds any issues with your health, they will be dealt with ASAP. In Howard’s case, he already is being put in touch with a specialist in Kamloops and is hoping to have the kidney stone removed so that he can get back into a process that, hopefully, will end with him being a donor for his wife, Freda.

That brings us to Vic Morin, a friend who lives in the Dallas area of Kamloops and who also is in need of a kidney.

Vic has been a regular at Kamloops Kidney Support Group meetings for a while now, and was preparing to begin peritoneal dialysis (PD) in the near future. That is the same form of dialysis that my wife, Dorothy, did before she was fortunate enough to get a kidney from a live donor.

Because Dorothy had experience with PD, she and Vic have had many conversations over the past months. And we were quite excited to hear last week that he was to have a catheter surgically placed into his peritoneal cavity next week. That meant he was one giant step closer to beginning PD.

(BTW, someone who does PD hooks up to a machine called a cycler and does a fluid exchange seven nights a week while sleeping — toxic fluid out, clean fluid in, to be carried around all day in that cavity.)

Unfortunately, Vic’s kidney function deteriorated so rapidly that he was to begin hemo-dialysis on Friday. However, things now have been moved to Monday. He still is on schedule to have a catheter surgically installed on Wednesday so that he can begin training for peritoneal dialysis.

While all this is happening, the search continues for a live donor.

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One of the reasons that I stopped writing about hockey here and turned mostly to renal-related items is that a lot of education is needed when it comes to kidney disease, dealing with kidney disease, organ donation and transplantation. . . . If I am able to provide enlightening information in this space I will be more than pleased. . . .

A few things you should know . . .

There is no cure for kidney disease. Once you have been diagnosed, that’s it; it doesn’t go away.

A person who has had a kidney transplant isn’t cured. For example, Dorothy takes anti-rejection drugs twice a day in order to keep her system from rejecting the organ that is foreign to her body. Those drugs also suppress her immune system so there are some precautions that have to be taken as she goes through daily life.

Should you choose to be a live donor, you don’t need to be the same blood-type as the person in need of a kidney. Instead, you are able to donate through the Living Donor Paired Exchange Registry. In short, your kidney goes to someone else, but only on the condition that the person you want to help gets one from another live donor. This is how Dorothy got her kidney — her best friend gave a kidney to someone (neither she nor Dorothy have any idea who it went to), and Dorothy got one from someone else. No, we don’t know a name, nor do we have any idea how many donors and recipients were involved in that particular chain.

If you are being tested and an issue with your health is discovered, it will be dealt with ASAP. In Howard’s case, a doctor at the renal clinic at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver got him in touch with a specialist in Kamloops in short order.

A donor will spend a couple of days in hospital — Dorothy’s friend had surgery on a Monday and was released from hospital on Wednesday. It is suggested that a donor take it easy — no heavy lifting, for example — for up to six weeks and then it’s full-speed ahead. I know of one donor who was back to jogging in three weeks.

A donor also will continue to be monitored by the medical community. Should there be serious issues with the remaining kidney, a donor would automatically go to the top of the transplant list.

And, yes, a person is able to live with one kidney.

I would never pressure anyone to be a donor. If you are at least thinking about it, I would only ask that you do some research.

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If you are thinking about being a donor, feel free to call the donor nurse co-ordinator at St. Paul’s Hospital (604-806-9027 or 1-877-922-9822), or email donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca.

Should you make the call and be asked who will be the recipient, feel free to mention Freda Brown or Louis Victor Morin.

Understand, too, that the people who work in renal clinics are big on privacy — I mean, they are really, really big on privacy. Everything you say or do will be kept confidential.

As well, a donor is able to change his/her mind and walk away at any time during the process.



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Don’t forget that the 10th annual Kidney Walk Kamloops is scheduled for Sunday (Sept. 22) at McDonald Park on the North Shore. . . . We will begin registering folks at 10 a.m.; we will go for a walk at 11.

Larry Read, who is so involved in our community, will be the emcee, again. Hugh KWlogo2McLennan and Louis (Big Rig) McIvor will be in attendance as the honourees for this year’s walk. When Hugh needed a kidney almost two years ago, Louis, his longtime friend, stepped up and gave him one.

As well, the Brock Central Lions Club will be on hand to provide breakfast — pancakes, sausages and coffee — by donation. A year ago, they served more than 100 breakfasts.

The Kidney Walk helps raise awareness about kidney disease and raises funds for important programs and services to help kidney patients in this community and others across BC and the Yukon.

Dorothy will celebrate the sixth anniversary of her transplant on Monday. She will spend part of Sunday taking part in her sixth straight Kidney Walk; she also helps Edna Humphreys and me pull the whole thing together.

If you would like to help out — Vic Morin is part of her support team — you are able to make a donation right here.

A plea from the wife of a friend who needs a kidney . . . Are you able to help? The info you need is right here

Vic Morin is a regular at our Kamloops Kidney Support Group meetings and has become a good friend. He was with us on Sept. 11, just last week, when he informed us that he was soon to begin peritoneal dialysis. With that in mind, he was to have had a catheter surgically implanted into his peritoneal cavity on Sept. 25.

But, when you have kidney disease, things are out of your control and can change in a hurry. On Thursday night, his wife, Colleen Bruce, made an emotional plea on Facebook:

SEPTEMBER 19, 2019 — It’s been close to 8 months since I first posted our story in search of a living kidney donor for my husband, Vic.

At the time of the posting, Vic’s kidney function (GFR) was holding at 19, but over the next few months it began to drop quickly. On Wednesday, he had his regular monthly lab work and he now is at 6. Today (Thursday) was a very emotional day as we got a call from the Kamloops Kidney Clinic advising that Vic was in kidney failure and needs to start emergency hemo dialysis tomorrow (Friday).

He was scheduled for surgery next week to place a catheter into his peritoneal cavity (lower abdomen) so he could start peritoneal dialysis within a month after the healing was complete; unfortunately, his kidneys can’t wait that long and now he will have a central line inserted into his neck so he can start on the hemo-dialysis tomorrow.

I know dialysis will help but it is only a temporary solution like a Band-Aid is to a wound; what Vic desperately needs is another kidney. I have seen the immense drop in his energy level over the past few months. His zest for life is slowly disappearing as he knows he is slowly getting sicker and sicker.

As I am typing this tonight, I have tears running down my face as it breaks my heart because I know I can’t give him the one thing that will make him better — a new kidney.

I’m once again reaching out to anyone and everyone that I can in search of a living kidney for my beautiful husband.

When we were down at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver at the end of April to the meet the kidney transplant team, we were reminded by one of the doctors that kidney donors live a long and healthy life with just one kidney. They are thoroughly screened before the transplant and they will only proceed if the donor is healthy and if there are no risks to him/her.

Once they have donated their kidney, they are continually being monitored over the years and if any other unrelated health ailments arise such as, say, cancer or heart disease, it will be diagnosed earlier than the average person because they are being medically checked regularly and may have a stronger chance of overcoming the disease as it was caught early.

I’m hoping and praying that someone out there can give my husband the beautiful lifesaving gift of a kidney so he can have a long and healthy life. My original posting is shown below and it has all the information if someone choses to come forward and start the process of kidney donation. Thank you each and everyone for taking the time to read this UPDATE and once again, please “Share” our story so we have a strong chance of finding a living kidney donor.

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January 24, 2019

Dear Family and Friends:

This is a difficult post for me to write, but I truly need your help. My husband’s kidney is failing and he is in desperate need of a kidney donor.

My wonderful husband Vic was diagnosed with CKD (Chronic Kidney Disease) more than five years ago and he has been monitored by doctors and nurses at the Kamloops Kidney Clinic, who have been extremely supportive over the years.

His kidney function, however, has been declining and he now is facing the reality of kidney failure. I have seen changes in him — tiredness, lack of interest in activities we both used to enjoy, and depression.

While dialysis is one option that can help short-term, it is not a cure. The average time on dialysis is five years, before total kidney failure. Our best option for him to have a long and healthy life is a live kidney transplant.

Vic completed his testing and is a good candidate. I completed all the testing to see if I was a good candidate for becoming a kidney donor, but unfortunately a call on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019 from St. Paul’s Hospital informed me I am unable to become a kidney donor because of my own health issues. It was a very emotional phone call. I now had to tell my beautiful husband I could not be his saviour. We both hoped I could be a donor for him, but that is not the case.

Now, I am desperately reaching out to as many friends and family online as I can in search of that kidney, which he needs so badly. We are hoping and praying someone will come forward and consider becoming Vic’s kidney donor. The more who come forward for testing, the better his chances for a match will be.

Doctors indicate that kidney donors live a normal and healthy long life with just one kidney. Donors are carefully medically screened to make sure it is safe for them to donate. The transplant team makes the donor’s health and well-being a priority before and after donation. We understand donors don’t have to be a relative or be an exact blood match in order to donate. We understand this is an extremely personal decision and there is a lot to think about.

If you would like more information or to explore kidney donation further, feel free to contact the donor nurse coordinator at St. Paul’s Hospital by calling 604-806-9027 (1-877-922-9822) or by emailing donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca.

Vic’s legal name is Louis Victor Morin. If you call and they ask who the recipient will be, give them that name. Please know your inquiry, as well as the process for determining your eligibility as a donor, would all be kept confidential. St. Paul’s runs a very professional donor program and we will never be told if anyone has expressed interest in donating a kidney (unless you tell us of course).

Donors may change their mind at any time, even on the day of the transplant.

Thank you for letting me share Vic’s medical situation with you.

RE/MAX, WHL partner again to help Kidney Foundation. . . . Raised more than $460,000 in two seasons

RE/MAX of Western Canada and the WHL are once again getting behind WHL Suits Up with Don Cherry to Promote Organ Donation, the annual promotion that benefits the whlKidney Foundation of Canada and its provincial  branches.

If you aren’t familiar with this promotion, it involves the WHL’s 17 Canadian-based teams, each of whom uses one game each season to help promote organ donation and transplantation.

I don’t have dates for all teams but the B.C. Division games will go like this: Prince George Cougars, Jan. 31; Vancouver Giants, Feb. 8; Kamloops Blazers, March 6; Victoria Royals, March 13; and Kelowna Rockets, March 14.

During the 2017-18 season, the promotion in WHL cities raised more than $265,500, making it the largest public awareness and fundraising campaign in the history of the Kidney Foundation. Last season, the final total raised was $196,600.

In two seasons then, RE/MAX of Western Canada and the WHL have helped raise more than $460,000.


The 10th annual Kidney Walk Kamloops is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 22, at McDonald Park on the North Shore.

Registration will open at 10 a.m., with the walk to start at 11. And we will walk in the KWlogo2rain if the forecast holds true.

If you would like to join us, you are able to walk all or part of the approximately 2.5-km pathway between McDonald Park and McArthur Island. Or you don’t have to walk at all; you might want to just sit and enjoy the company and festivities, then have breakfast. The Brock Central Lions Club will be on hand to provide breakfast — pancakes, sausages and coffee — by donation.

The Kidney Walk helps the Kidney Foundation raise awareness about kidney disease and raises funds for important programs and services to help kidney patients in this community and others across BC and the Yukon.

My wife, Dorothy, will be celebrating the sixth anniversary of her kidney transplant by taking part in her sixth straight Kidney Walk. In her six walks, she has raised more than $15,000. If you would like to support her — she reached the $3,000 mark on Thursday — you may do so right here.


A note from the Kidney E-News letter of the BC and Yukon Branch of the Kidney Foundation of Canada:

“The BC & Yukon Branch and the Children’s Organ Transplant Society (COTS) were excited to have 43 youth from across BC attend Camp Latona on Gambier Island in August.

“The kids got to enjoy the camp experience with other young people at various stages in their kidney disease/organ transplant journeys. The weather was fantastic and some of highlights included tubing, campfires, extraordinary food, swimming and, of course, making new friends! 

“A huge thank you to all of the gracious donors who made it possible for the kids to attend a cost-free, worry-free camp. We appreciate you!”






Scattershooting . . . on a Wednesday after another evening with Ken Burns’ superb Country Music series . . .

Scattershooting
When you spend most of a rainy Sunday and a Monday evening watching the NFL on TV, you realize that you really have forgotten how bad a lot of commercials are. I’m pointing a finger at you, Subway.


On the subject of the NFL, do we write off the New Orleans Saints and Pittsburgh Steelers without quarterbacks Drew Brees (thumb) and Ben Roethlisberger (elbow), respectively? . . . And what of the New York Jets without Sam Darnold (mononucleosis) and Trevor Siemian (ankle), and the Jacksonville Jaguars without Nick Foles (shoulder)? . . . Then there’s the Carolina Panthers, who have Cam Newton (foot), and we won’t even get into Oliver Luck who walked away from the Indianapolis Colts and football before the season began.

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Mike Reilly of the B.C. Lions is the only one of the nine quarterbacks who were starters to begin the CFL season not to have been injured to this point. Might the NFL be headed for the same kind of season in terms of injuries to quarterbacks?



Two questions from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “1. Has there ever been a more fitting NFL team to tank than one called the Dolphins? . . . 2. Is White Sox rookie pitcher Dylan Cease destined to become the team’s stopper?”



The Lethbridge Hurricanes, one of the WHL’s four community-owned teams, held their AGM on Monday night and reported a profit of $282,168 for the 2018-19 season. . . . Meanwhile, if you’re wondering how much a WHL championship is worth to a community-owned team playing in a smallish arena, well, the Prince Albert Raiders told their shareholders on Tuesday night that they made $633,314 last season. That comes a year after the Swift Current Broncos reported a profit of $561,500 in 2017-18, their championship season.

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You cannot over-estimate the job done in Lethbridge by general manager Peter Anholt and Terry Huisman, the GM of business operations. Remember that this is a franchise that WHL commish Ron Robison recommended be sold to private interests. “It’s not to say that this community organization can’t get things turned around,” Robison said in May 2015. “But we think, when you look at the franchise moving forward, that private interests would be in the best interest of the club.” . . . Not enough shareholders listened, Anholt rode in on his white horse, and the rest, as they say, is history. . . . It’s just too bad that the WHL’s board of governors didn’t see fit to put the 2020 Memorial Cup tournament in Lethbridge instead of Kelowna because the Hurricanes and their fans deserve it.


Have been out and about a bit over the past couple of days. Have decided that I will vote for any candidate who promises to ban all of those gawdawful election signs.


PotatoHead


By now, chances are that you have seen that TV commercial featuring the A&W guy at Mosaic Stadium in Regina. It seems that the commercial, which is all about the Beyond Meat Burger, has caused some controversy on the flatlands. . . . There is more right here from 3DownNation, while Adrienne Ivey, a Saskatchewan rancher, has her say right here. . . . And now the Roughriders, like QB Cody Fajardo evading pass-rushers, are scrambling to distance themselves from all of it. The Regina Leader-Post has more on that right here.


Baseball, as we all know, is a game of numbers and statistics, moreso than any of the other major sports. But every once in a while something comes along that defies belief. . . . For example: Manager Bruce Bochy of the San Francisco Giants has managed in the bigs from 1995-2019. On the morning of Sept. 10, his lifetime record was 1995-2019.


Sheesh, it must be boring to be a fan of the New England Patriots. Two weeks in and they’re 2-0, having outscored the opposition, 86-3. And in their next game, on Sunday, they get to beat up on the — wait for it! — visiting New York Jets.


Ready to go Kidney Walking in Kamloops. . . . Pearlman, Valdez talk about transplant. . . . Mother wants to make late son proud, donates kidney

Almost all is in readiness for Kamloops’ 10th annual Kidney Walk.

We will gather on Sunday at McDonald Park on the North Shore, with registration at 10 a.m., and the walk to begin at 11.

Edna Humphreys is the executive director of the Kamloops branch of the Kidney KWlogo2Foundation. I can tell you from experience that without her leadership and organizational skills, the Kidney Walk would experience some difficult times.

(It’s also worth noting that if it’s a renal-related activity in Kamloops, you can bet that Humphreys is in the forefront. Among other things, she is a co-founder of the Kamloops Kidney Support Group, and also is the lead organizer of a Christmas luncheon for dialysis patients and transplant recipients. With music by old friend Jesse Jones. Yessss!)

Anyway . . . Humphreys recently took time out from her busy schedule to talk with Todd Sullivan of Kamloops This Week about the 2019 Kidney Walk.

That story is right here.


One of my favourite renal-related stories involves a woman named Catherine Pearlman, who walked into a Los Angeles-area Starbucks on Dec. 30, saw a poster on a bulletin board, and decided that very moment to become a kidney donor. . . . The result was that Eli Valdez, a complete stranger, received one of her kidneys. . . . They told their story to today.com, and it’s all right here.

If you missed it earlier, Pearlman wrote about her experience for the Los Angeles Times, and that piece is right here.

Catherine’s husband, Jeff Pearlman, is a writer and published author. He wrote on his blog about what all of this meant to him. Here’s how he started it:

“It’s 10:15 am, and as I write this my wife Catherine is in surgery here at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center — donating one of her kidneys to a complete stranger.

“You read that correctly, but I recommend reading it again. My wife Catherine is in surgery donating one of her kidneys to a complete stranger.”

The complete piece is right here.

BTW, if you are a sporting fan and haven’t read Jeff’s book, Football for a Buck, you’re cheating yourself. It’s all about the USFL — remember that league? — and is loaded with especially juicy anecdotes, including some involving, yes, Donald Trump.


Laura Gillum’s son, Dean, was 23 months old when he drowned in the family’s backyard pool in the Pittsburgh area in 2015. His heart, lover and kidneys were donated.

“My son was amazing,” she told Lisa Washington of KDKA-TV. “At 23 months old, he saved three people’s lives. Not many people can say that, and even though he’s gone, I try every day to do something to make him proud of me.”

On March 7, Lisa donated a kidney to Brian Cox, a complete stranger. They met early in April.

“I just can’t comprehend why someone wouldn’t want to donate their kidney, so hopefully getting the message out, more people will want to do it and that they’ll want to educate themselves to find out just what everything entails,” Gillum said.

Washington’s complete story is right here.









Mondays With Murray: The Dawning of the Age of Cable TV

Today we take you back to 1981 when Jim Murray’s column was focused on a brand new TV channel, ESPN, and the man who made it happen, Chet Simmons.

  Sports broadcasting and cable pioneer Chester R. (Chet) Simmons served as president of ESPN when it launched in 1979. As a founding father of sports television, Simmons started in 1957 with Sports Programs, Inc., which soon evolved into ABC Sports, where he was instrumental in the development of Wide World of Sports. He became president of NBC Sports and later of ESPN, and was founding commissioner of the USFL.

   Thank you, ESPN, for always being in the JMMF corner.

  ENJOY!

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THURSDAY, JUNE 4, 1981, SPORTS

Copyright 1981/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

The Dawning of the Age of Cable TV

  In the early 1920s, a new medium, radio, and a new monopoly, network broadcasting, burst on an unprepared public and the satraps of the industry were quickly locked in bitter ideological conflict.

  On one side were forces headed by Gen. David Sarnoff, ruler of a conglomerate, Radio Corporation of America. He held that the greatest good the new medium could perform mondaysmurray2was to move goods. In other words, it should be a giant advertising agency whose entertainment specialties, like the old medicine shows, should be used primarily to sell snake oil, to unclog the pipelines of American’s manufactured goods.

  On the other side were the forces of free enterprise, which thought the entertainment should be sold directly to the public at the marketplace, just as stage, screen, sports and penny arcades were. Put your nickel in the slot and see the show. Pay-radio, not advertising — subsidized radio.

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  Gen. Sarnoff prevailed. He usually did. Pay-radio never came into being. Instead, toothpaste companies controlled the medium. They hired the comics, paid the orchestras, leased the wires. Razor blade companies brought you the World Series. Beer bottlers put on the Wednesday night fights. Pro football broadcasts carried sales pitches for shaving lather.

  When television came in, the old argument reopened. Executives such as Gene McDonald, president of Zenith Radio and Television, argued for selling products direct to home owners. His reasoning: Why should a World Series, which could gross $40 million a day if everybody who watched paid a dollar, sell radio rights for $175,000 and TV rights for $65,000 (as it did then in 1949)?

  McDonald and pay-TV advocates were blocked at every turn, largely by an aggressive mob of 12,000 movie exhibitors whose business was doomed anyway. They collected signatures and stopped pay-TV in its tracks. It was like the buggy-whip manufacturers collecting signatures to prevent the manufacturer of carburetors, but for a while the illusion of “free” TV prevailed. There is no such thing as free TV, actually. You paid for Jack Benny and the World Series, anyway.

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  But all this is ancient history, Pay-TV is alive and well and proliferating. Only this week the industry, which once held its convention “in a clothes closet in Las Vegas,” drew 12,000 conventioneers and 350 exhibitors to its three-day annual gathering in Los Angeles, attesting to its growth and vitality. The business’ enemies thought two decades ago they had patted it in the face with a shovel.

  It’s called Cable TV today, but it’s the same business. Gen. Sarnoff would be aghast. It managed to escape the political buzz-saws of “fee” TV in the nick of time because it happened to be needed. When there proved to be massive pockets of population unreachable by an ordinary TV signal because they were behind mountains or other interrupters, entrepreneurs built community antennas and charged the subscribers for piping the pictures into their living rooms. Not even Gen. Sarnoff could say, “You can’t do that!” Nobody could collect signatures to take away television altogether from your home screen. So, pay TV had its foot in the door.

  I had breakfast the other day with a TV executive who has a foot in both doors. Chet Simmons, when I first knew him, was in charge of sports programming for NBC in the days when competition for network sports preeminence made the Dodgers-Giants look like two sisters dancing.

  It’s well to remember that the American Football League succeeded where earlier expansion leagues had failed, simply because NBC needed it. No other single factor contributed so much to its success. NBC could not tolerate putting on Sunday afternoon zoo shows while CBS was showing the real Lions and Rams and keeping score.

  Chet Simmons runs an operation called The Total Sports Network, ESPN (for “Entertainment Network”) with headquarters in Bristol, Conn., of all places. It’s an audacious enterprise bankrolled by Getty Oil. It welcomes advertising, but it distributes its product by cable system, a bit of Roman riding that Gen. Sarnoff never thought of.

  “We are advertising-supported, we generate revenue the same way the three networks do,” Simmons said. “We are in affiliate agreements with cable systems. But we are in one business and one business only, we are a program source for the cable industry, that’s all we do.”

  Where does a 24-hour all-sports network find product? Would you believe televising the NFL draft? Twenty guys sitting around a room for 8-1/2 hours sorting out photographs of kids with 20-inch necks whose classes had graduated from A&M (usually without them). That’s entertainment?!

  “Believe it,” says Simmons, convincingly. “To our viewers, it’s news, it’s entertainment, it’s suspense.” Lyrics by Irving Berlin.

  What do you show at 4 o’clock in the morning, Chet, barroom fights? Reruns of the Cincinnati Bengals picking a linebacker? No. Chet said reruns of an event first programmed live the evening before are as avidly watched by sports fans as Saturday afternoon cowboy movies are by kids. They will watch the same film over and over. Especially if the good guys win.

  Where otherwise do you get product? Well, Simmons notes, the major networks leave an astonishing amount of prime sports footage just laying around. Not Notre Dame-Michigan, the World Series or the Super Bowl, perhaps. But they do leave the college World Series of Baseball and the NCAA golf tournaments.

  Even the famous Notre Dame-Brigham Young basketball playoff of last year was up for grabs. ESPN grabbed it. ESPN has the advantage, too, that it is all sports. It does not have to go pettifogging off after comparative trivialities such as elections, assassinations, wars, revolutions, drownings, floods, and other dilemmatic happenings of the non-world out there. If it doesn’t happen between the foul lines, so far as ESPN is concerned it’s a non-story.

  Network-station sportscasts usually have a breathless announcer trying to cram in 24 scores, a shouted interview with a third baseman on the way to a shower, and a look at a three-horse spill at Aqueduct, all sounding like Donald Duck interviewing Mel Tellis — film at 11. Rush-hour train-calling at Grand Central is more entertaining — and informative.

  How fair is the box office?

  “In May of 1979, we had a million and a half subscribers,” reports Simmons. “In May of 1981, we have 10 million.”

  How close is cable TV to bidding competitively against the networks for a World Series, a Super Bowl, the Olympic Games?

  “We are a long way from making money,” Simmons said “But, when it was estimated that it would take $400 million to wire the Borough of Queens for pay-TV, 20 applicants bid for the privilege of spending $400 million. So you know what the return is they were looking at. The networks are now looking into cable TV themselves. What does that tell you?”

  It tells me it’s a good thing Gen. Sarnoff isn’t around to hear it.

Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times

Jim Murray Memorial Foundation, P.O. Box 60753, Pasadena, CA 91116

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What is the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation? 

  The Jim Murray Memorial Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, established in 1999 to perpetuate the Jim Murray legacy, and his love for and dedication to his extraordinary career in journalism. Since 1999, JMMF has granted 104 $5,000 scholarships to outstanding journalism students. Success of the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation’s efforts depends heavily on the contributions from generous individuals, organizations, corporations, and volunteers who align themselves with the mission and values of the JMMF.

Like us on Facebook, and visit the JMMF website, www.jimmurrayfoundation.org.

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A dozen years ago, Linda McCoy-Murray compiled a book of Jim Murray’s columns on female athletes (1961-1998). While the book is idle waiting for an interested publisher, the JMMF thinks this is an appropriate year to get the book on the shelves, i.e., Jim Murray’s 100th birthday, 1919-2019.  

Our mission is to empower women of all ages to succeed and prosper — in and out of sports — while entertaining the reader with Jim Murray’s wit and hyperbole.  An excellent teaching tool for Women’s Studies.

Proceeds from book sales will benefit the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization providing sports journalism scholarships at universities across the country.