Sunday, April 22, 2012

No. 774 – Time Machine

Performer: Joe Satriani
Songwriter: Joe Satriani
Original Release: Time Machine
Year: 1993
Definitive Version: None

Being in the news business, as I was for 15 years (and more or less still am, I suppose), you’re always attuned to big events that happen in the world. But one I particularly remember took place almost right after this album came out in October 1993—Joe Carter’s World Series-winning home run.

It was a Saturday night, and I was the lead sports copy editor, which meant that I was in charge of laying out the whole section from a news standpoint and getting the section out on time. Getting the section out on time meant keeping everyone else on task and not watching too much TV at the appropriate times.

I had learned a harsh lesson about mishandling TV watching years earlier, so I was much more of a stern taskmaster in this regard—even though I never resorted to something so drastic as actually turning off the TV. That would be absurd!

The way World Series games had been going that year, it was likely that Game 6 would run long. But it seemed we’d have time to get it in all of the first edition, even if just a score. I wasn’t going to chance it. I designed a news hole across the top of the front page and got a dummy wire feature to fill the space as a backup. When the game ended, we could just quick-swap out the feature for a game story and make deadline.

It was a good night in terms of page flow, which had been another concern. It was no good if you made deadline but you had, say, five pages coming to prepress all at once at the end. In other words, you’d still be late even though you had sent everything with supposedly enough time to spare, because there were only so many paste-up people who could assemble the pages.

The college football page went about 10 and the agate followed, so by 10:45, the entire section was ready to roll. With the ballgame heading into the bottom of the ninth inning, there still was a chance that we might be able to get the final score in before 11.

I wrote a paragraph to the line and a headline based on the Phillies winning 6-5 and tying the Series at 3-3, which was the situation if the Phils could hold on for one more inning. I had it printed out next to the final pages—the front and the jump—and told paste-up to not do anything until I gave the word.

Sports moved its operations down to the hallway outside the newsroom where we could watch the game—now on in the newsroom—and be back in paste-up in just a couple seconds at a moment’s notice. I knew that we really could go a few minutes past 11 if we had a late-breaking story, so the debate began between sports and news.

Well, it wasn’t much of a debate as opposed to news pressing to get the pages out and me pushing back on that. To me, it was clear-cut: If the Blue Jays pull this out to win the World Series, that’s worthy of a slight delay. Dan, who was the news guy in charge of the Sunday section, disagreed. To him, 11 was sacrosanct, regardless of the poobahs’ policy. They weren’t there; he was.

In fact, he started pushing me at 10:46 when we finished the pages with the filler story. No way. If the game ends in the next five minutes, we’ll be fine. Rickey Henderson walked; the winning run was coming to the plate.

He pressed again. Dan, I have 8 more minutes. Paul Molitor got a base hit; the tying run was now on third, the winning run on first. Up steps Joe Carter. The count goes 0-2. And there’s Dan again at my shoulder. He was all but pointing at his watch. It’s 10:55. ARGH! I gave up. OK, send them. His smirk signified his little victory.

Literally not one minute later, Sean McDonough made his famous call on CBS: “Now the 2-2 … Well hit! Way back … and … GONE!! Joe Carter!! A Three-run homer!! And the winners and still champions the Toronto Blue Jays!!”

Now it was my turn to smirk. We still could have made it in on time. Not that Dan cared one way or the other, although I suppose he might have if I had run him through with my pica pull, which I was seriously contemplating at that moment.

So I sent everyone else in sports on their merry way and went back upstairs to wait for the game story. In retrospect, I should have stayed much later than I did—and made Dan stay late, too—to completely redesign the front of the sports page to get a huge headline and a picture of a jubilant Carter on his delirious romp around the bases in there for the late editions. It was a huge story, and we should try to get it in as many papers as we could.

But I didn’t feel like it. If the paper didn’t trust me enough to take care of proper business with an eye on what’s best for the paper, why should I care enough to go an extra mile on a Saturday night to make the paper look better?

That was, of course, the wrong attitude to take, but I was miffed. Besides, my pizza was getting cold and my beer was getting warm at the Horse. A full and proper followup would have to wait until Monday.

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