Fear and Delivering in New Orleans
by AK - December 4, 2013
Wednesday Midday Bedtime Story: Fear and Delivering in New Orleans.
In December 1992, I was still a part time Promotions grunt and part time board operator, filling out my 16 hour days at WIOD with only 7.5 hours or less on paper to fulfill my under 29.5 hours per week as necessary to not receive overtime; I had nowhere else to go, nothing else to do, and it was more of an education than I’d received in 4 years of high school and 4 years of college. Plus, it was exciting and fun.
WIOD at that time was the long time flagship station of the University of Miami Hurricanes, with Sonny Hirsch as the play-by-play icon. I was frequently working at the games, either as the guy covered in dirt in the parking lot setting up the tailgate parties, or producing the broadcast in the rickety tin shack atop the stadium that swayed and creaked when the crowd cheered.
There are many people who loved the Orange Bowl. I’m sure for them it holds many fond memories of a lifetime ago when the Fin and Canes won championships there. But let’s be honest; that place was a goddam toilet. Besides the fact that the “pressbox” was a late add on perched onto a rafter you had to climb to get in to, the parking consisted of paying cash to the residents in one of the worst neighborhoods to park on their lawn. And what f-ing stadium forces groups of men to stand around and urinate into a trough filled with ice? WTF is THAT? But I digress…
Sonny Hirsch was a really good guy. At least to me he was. He was a BIG guy. Jewish. A total mensch. And he always greeted me the same way, with that booooming voice he’d say “Myyyy man, ADAM” and wink. And smile that huge smile of his. Remember, I’m a nobody in that place. A part time board op and part time promotions flunkie. And Sonny treated me like I’d been there forever, and we were old friends. Always. So not unlike how I’d do anything to help out Neil, or Rick and Suds, or Maddog, I would do the same for Sonny. “Hey can you grab me the sports page?” he’d ask on his way to the “Sports Office” which was really a converted closet of sorts. And I’d bring him the paper and he’d lean back in his chair with his feed on the desk next to the reel to reel machine and his microphone and ask me about what I was up to, always peppered with Yiddish.
Not everyone was that friendly and willing to treat you that way. That’s probably why I have warm memories about Sonny, and Neil et al.. while others, not so much.
So the top ranked Canes are set to take on the unctuous Alabama Crimson Tide for the National Championship in the Sugar Bowl on Jan 1st. And as the HOME of the CANES, what did the management decide to spend our company money on? TV ads announcing the game heard live on WIOD? Trips for listeners to head to New Orleans to cheer on their local team? Newspapers.
I guess the coffers were fat in those days… this would never happen in today’s economic climate.
Kurt, the Promotions and Marketing Director, had me look in to what it would take to have the Miami Herald delivered to the hotels for the Canes team and coaches, as well as the hotels where the majority of Canes Fans were staying. I researched the price for shipping, and delivery, and putting a wrap on them. I worked out all the figures. And it turned out that the price of a .25 cent newspaper would cost around $7 bucks to deliver.
So what did they decide to do instead?
Send Adam to New Orleans for 3 days, armed with cheaply printed 2 color “Courtesy of WIOD – HOME OF THE CANES” stickers, ship him the newspapers each morning at 5am, and have him go door to door delivering the newspapers to every hotel door he could.
I was given 1 round trip plane ticket, hotel room in the same building where the team and staff were staying for 3 days, and credentials for the game.
Prior to departing, I’d called the hotels close to where we were staying and in my official “News Radio 610 WIOD MIAMI, Home of the Miami Hurricanes” voice what the plan was, and “could they bring them to the rooms each morning, since I’m sure their security wouldn’t allow me to wander the hallways”. And they agreed.
So pretty much, the ONLY thing I had to do in New Orleans was wake up at 4:45, put stickers on 500 newspapers, and walk them in stacks of 100 to the lobby of 4 different hotels conveniently located next door and across the street. I only had to hand deliver to the doorstep the 100 in my own hotel. I was done by 6am. Back to bed for 3 hours.
Now they only gave me one plane ticket, but the hotel room was nice, and I was never told I COULDN’T bring a buddy… so I got my old college room mate, the guy who’d, interestingly enough, turned me on to Neil and Rick and Suds, to fly down. And we were OUT. OF. CONTROL. despite a winter cold front blowing through. It was in the 20’s at night, and neither of us has so much as a sweatshirt.
He and I had a system for stickering and delivering the newspapers so it took even less time. Then the rest of the day was coffee and beignets at Café Du Monde, Jacksons Brewery and godddam French Quarter. It was bedlam. The city was filled with people like it is during Marti Gras. I’d been to New Orleans a few times, but he hadn’t, so I spent a lot of time showing him around to the finer window and doorway drink distribution locations. (If you’ve ever been there, you know what I’m talking about. If not, basically every window, doorway, and actual hole in a brick wall is somewhere you can purchase a drink. You hand them cash, they hand you a beer. Or other home brewed highly alcoholic concoction.
On New Years Eve I introduced him to something handed out called a “Hurricane”. He’d never had one. It’s basically 22 different types of rum with just enough Koolade in it to change the color to red and make it sweet enough to give you instant tooth decay, in a 2 foot tall, 8 inch diameter plastic test tube. And he drank it fast.
Within 15 minutes he was stumbling over cobblestone streets and his eyes were pointing in different directions. And around his mouth between his nose and his chin was a deep red stain. He looked like a toddler after an ice pop.
In the streets, people were going berserk.. not only was it New Year’s Eve, but the game was the next day.. so roving mobs of Canes and Tide fans were drunkenly singing their team’s fight songs, and fighting.
That’s around the time someone shot the Canes mascot in the face. They didn’t KNOW he was the mascot; he wasn’t wearing the costume. He was just walking with buddies singing the UM Fite song, and blammo. Shot in the face. Luckily, it was just a flesh wound. True story. Years later, I actually became friends with the guy.
The next day, was the day of the game. So I groggily got up to sticker my papers and deliver them, by myself. Not only did my buddy have a huge headache and nausea, but he’d also contracted the flu like you wouldn’t believe.
So I spent the rest of the morning wandering around the empty streets of the French Quarter until it was time to go to the Stadium for the second part of my being in New Orleans; handing out Miami Hurricanes/WIOD chatchkies.
They’d shipped me garbage bags filled with stuff from WIOD; hand-held fans, cheapo-homemade buttons, and stickers and other assorted WIOD/CANES junk to hand out outside the Stadium. Which I did… as quickly, effortlessly, and carelessly as possible. “HERE. TAKE SOME STUFF” as I opened the garbage bag and pointed on the curb outside the building. Then I ran.
I went inside, and into the pressbox where I stood around, by myself behind Sonny Hirsch calling the game as the Canes, favorite by 8 to win, got walloped and lost the National Championship in embarrassing fashion 34-13. The place was filled with dignitaries of the NCAA, New Orleans, UM and Alabama, and National Press. At one point Sonny noticed me in the room, took off his headset, gave me that HUGE smile of his and held out his gigantic hand the size of a ham and said “Myyy man ADAM. Tough game so far, eh boichick?” Then he winked, put back on his headset, and said “Thanks for the newspaper”, then continued calling the game. I felt like a million bucks.
And despite being a Canes Alum, and disappointed in the loss, I took a certain pride out of delivering the newspapers to all those Canes fans on the morning after with a WIOD sticker plastered on the front page reading: ROLLED by TIDE, because I knew one of them was for Sonny.
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