Saturday, February 17, 2018

A Showrunner's Nightmare


Amazon announced this week that it is going forward with a fifth season of its show, "Transparent," but without two-time Emmy-winning star Jeffrey Tambor. He was accused of inappropriate workplace behavior with a co-star and a personal assistant, so he's being written out. This seems like an impossible task for showrunner Jill Soloway to pull off.

The parallel that's being cited is the Netflix series "House Of Cards," which will continue for another season without star Kevin Spacey, who had his own past come back to haunt him. But "House Of Cards" is a show that can pivot to spotlight Robin Wright's character, as well as elevate other supporting cast members, and bring in Diane Lane and Greg Kinnear in new roles that can take the stories in a different direction.

I don't know how you do that in a show like "Transparent," in which Tambor played the transgender Maura (formerly Mort) Pfefferman at the heart of every episode. Maybe Soloway should ask Christopher Plummer to play Maura next season.

George Costanza, Elaine Benes, and Cosmo Kramer were compelling enough characters, but there couldn't have been any more seasons of "Seinfeld" if Jerry left. They couldn't have kept making "Frasier" if Kelsey Grammer had been forced out. There's no "Scandal" without Kerry Washington, no "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" without Ellie Kemper, no "Better Call Saul" without Bob Odenkirk.

Sure, there are procedurals like "Law and Order" and "CSI" that changed their casts multiple times, but they survived because the stories were the star, not the lead actors. "The Office" stuck around for a while after Steve Carrell left, but that was an ensemble show in which his Michael Scott was not the nucleus of every plot. Yes, "Cheers" survived Shelley Long's departure halfway through, but could it have limped through even one more season without Ted Danson? No way.

If you want to know what a show looks like when you remove its central character, go back and look at what happened after Redd Foxx left "Sanford and Son" or when Cindy Williams departed "Laverne and Shirley" or the demise of "8 Simple Rules" after the death of John Ritter. The best example may be when CBS tried to keep some semblance of "M*A*S*H" alive without Alan Alda. The result was "After M*A*S*H," a sitcom starring some its former supporting cast that none of them remembers fondly today.

To put this in terms of one of Tambor's other famous roles, "The Larry Sanders Show" could certainly have proceeded without his Hank Kingsley, but without Garry Shandling as the title character? Hey now!!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Is Bill Clinton Saying #NotMe?


A couple of years ago, my wife and I became subscribers to the St. Louis Speakers Series, where we've had the pleasure of listening to such luminaries as John Cleese, Jeffrey Toobin, Rita Moreno, Ted Koppel, Jon Meacham, and two former prime ministers -- England's David Cameron and Israel's Ehud Barak. The only speaker who disappointed us was Jane Pauley, who gave a rambling presentation in which she told several stories from her career, most of which didn't have any payoff.

These events are held at Powell Symphony Hall and emceed by Patrick Murphy of KETC, the public television outlet here. He introduces the guest, who then speaks from a podium for about an hour. Then Murphy returns to ask questions that audience members have written down on yellow cards distributed with that night's program, collected about halfway through the presentation by ushers. He's pretty good about choosing relevant questions for each speaker, and with the queries all submitted in writing, we avoid the grandstanding that can occur when an audience member gets up to ask a question at a microphone in the aisle.

The next two speakers in the series are travel writer Rick Steves and former president Bill Clinton. Regarding the latter, I received an email from the Speakers Series yesterday that said:
President Clinton's office has requested that we submit subscriber questions to them in advance of the lecture. Thus, we ask to have all questions submitted in advance via email.
There's no explanation for this departure from normal procedure, but I can make an educated guess as to the reason: Clinton doesn't want any questions regarding sexual harassment.

Ever since the #MeToo movement exploded in the wake of charges of sexual assault and harassment against Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and others, the former president's name has come up repeatedly. Unfortunately, it is too often in the form of a political attack from Clinton-haters who want to re-litigate accusations against him because “the women must be believed.” Not surprisingly, those same right-wingers don't have a word to say about the women who have made claims about Trump, and none of them would be interested in re-opening the Clarence Thomas hearings because they now believe Anita Hill.

Still, there are legitimate questions to discuss about Clinton's past behavior, both in the White House and as governor of Arkansas. I'd like to hear what he has to say on the subject now that the environment is different and he and Hillary are out of power. I'm not expecting any revelations, but aside from his views on our current political situation, what issue could be more topical for him to discuss?

I don't blame the Speakers Series for bowing to his request. After all, it is in the business of making its guests look good, not holding their feet to the fire -- but if I'm right, then shame on Clinton for avoiding such questions in the first place.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Still Waiting For My Flying Car


I've been talking about the possibility of flying cars for a long time. My fascination with them started as a boy watching George Jetson going to work in one. I've dreamed of doing the same ever since.

On this site, my earliest post on the subject dates to May 27, 1999 when I wrote about Moller International's Skycar. In 2007, I spoke with that company's general manager Bruce Caulkins. In 2013, I spoke with Carl Deitrich, CEO of Terrafugia. Both of them said they would have a flying car ready for consumers in "the next couple of years."

I'm still waiting.

This week, David Pogue of Yahoo Finance has a piece with demo videos from several companies -- including Uber, Google, and a Chinese outfit called eHang -- that are developing flying cars or sky taxis or passenger drones. Every one of them looks really cool, with vertical takeoff and landing, but I've learned not to hold my breath when it comes to predictions of when their products will be ready for anything more than test flights.

When they are, you can be sure you and I won't be able to afford to ride in them for several more years. That's the way it goes with all new technologies. Remember when only rich people had cell phones, and they were huge? Now they're ubiquitous and small enough to carry in our pockets. While flying cars will never fit in your pants, they'll someday be affordable and safe enough for consumers like us -- but that day won't come this year, or next.

By the way, when I dream about a flying car, I'm completely selfish. I don't envision the sky full of people commuting to work and cluttering the air space. I dream about me having a flying car, and no one else. You can stick to the roads -- I'll get there by air.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Streaming Suggestion: "A Futile and Stupid Gesture"


As a teenager, I was a fan of the National Lampoon. I subscribed to the magazine, listened to the radio show, and bought the Radio Dinner vinyl album. It's fair to say that the satirical sensibilities of both the Lampoon and Mad magazine (along with Woody Allen and Mel Brooks) contributed greatly to my warped sense of humor in that era.

I knew the names of all the Lampoon writers and editors, in particular Doug Kenney, who -- with his fellow Harvard Lampoon alumnus Henry Beard -- founded the national magazine. He also co-wrote the "1964 High School Yearbook Parody" and "Bored Of The Rings," as well as contributing to the Radio Show and then the stage show "National Lampoon's Lemmings." His crowning glory may be scripting the twofer that created a new genre of movie comedies, "Animal House" and "Caddyshack."

That's why I was so entertained by “A Futile and Stupid Gesture,” a movie about Kenney that's now streaming on Netflix. It's not a documentary, and you can't call it a docudrama. Will Forte plays Kenney, who died at 33 when he fell or jumped off a cliff in Kauai, Hawaii (his colleague Harold Ramis said, “Knowing him, Doug probably fell while he was looking for a safe place to jump”).

Because this movie has a Lampoon-ish feel to it, it's not all that odd that Martin Mull narrates the movie on camera as the older Doug Kenney -- despite the fact that he's 74 and Kenney didn't live half that long. That allows Mull to pop up in the middle of a scene to comment on the proceedings with lines like: "These actors don’t look exactly like the people they’re playing. But, come on, do you think I look like Will Forte when I was 27? Do you think Will Forte is 27?”

The rest of the cast is perfect, including Donhnall Gleeson as Beard, Matt Walsh as Lampoon publisher Matty Simmons, Joel McHale as Chevy Chase, Natasha Lyonne as Anne Beatts, Seth Green as Christopher Guest, Ed Helms as Tom Snyder, and Annette O'Toole as Doug's mother. Other characters in the movie include Michael O’Donaghue, Tony Hendra, Brian McConnachie, Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, John Belushi, PJ O’Rourke, Chris Miller, Tim Matheson, and John Landis.

Two others deserve special mention. Lonny Ross, who was on "30 Rock," was cast as Ivan Reitman because he has the exact same hangdog face. And a guy I'd never seen before, Erv Dahl (who was on a celebrity impersonator reality show in 2007), does the best Rodney Dangerfield I've heard since Brad Garrett. In fact, at first, I thought the producers of this movie had dubbed in Rodney's own words before realizing none of those things could ever have been recorded if and when he said them -- but they sure sound like it coming out of Dahl's mouth.

As for the title, "A Futile And Stupid Gesture" comes from a scene in "Animal House" in which the Deltas are all sitting around mourning the fact that Dean Wormer has thrown them out of Faber College. Bluto (John Belushi) riles them up with a short speech, interrupted by Stork (played by Doug Kenney), who gets his only line in the movie: "What the hell are we supposed to do, ya moron?" Soon, Otter (Tim Matheson) jumps up to suggest, "This situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part!" Everyone agrees that they're just the guys to do it.

The value of the Lampoon brand deteriorated tremendously after about a decade, so by the mid-1980s, with most of the original writers, editors, and staff long gone, I stopped paying attention to it (as did pretty much its entire readership). The magazine limped along for a few more years, then was bought by a company that just wanted the National Lampoon name, which it attached to truly horrible movies that seem to have played nowhere but late at night on Cinemax, with titles like "Dorm Daze," "Barely Legal," and "The Legend of Awesomest Maximus."

In 2013, Ellin Stein wrote a terrific book about the history of National Lampoon, "That's Not Funny, That's Sick" (listen to my conversation with her about it here). There was also a good 2015 documentary on the subject called "Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead." Now we have this third look back at the era, as told through one of the men who led that comedy renaissance.

If you were ever a fan of Doug Kenney and the original Lampoon gang, you'll enjoy "A Futile And Stupid Gesture." I give it a 9 out of 10.

Picture Of The Day

This is a conversation from 2013 between evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and illusionist Derren Brown. The latter has become famous in England for his TV specials that combine magic and mentalism (which he never presents as anything paranormal). Dawkins asks Brown to explain cold reading, psychic tricks, and the nonsense behind tarot cards, among other things...

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Picture Of The Day

A very funny movie trailer parody from "Late Night With Seth Meyers"...

Monday, February 12, 2018

Movie Review: "Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool"


That's a clip from "Oklahoma," with Gloria Grahame as Ado Annie singing "I Can't Say No." It's probably her best-known role, although she was Oscar-nominated for "Crossfire" in 1947 and won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for "The Bad and the Beautiful" in 1952.

Now comes a movie about the end of Grahame's life called "Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool." It stars Annette Bening as Grahame in her late fifties when she's been diagnosed with breast cancer but won't get treatment. Instead, she goes to England to do a play and meets a young man named Peter who is 30 years younger. They quickly develop chemistry that leads to a love affair, until she's sick enough to need help and asks Peter to let her move into his parents' home, where his mother can take care of her.

From there, the timeline zig-zags between the family she shares a home with in Liverpool to her relationship with her own mother and sister, from her home in Malibu to a hotel room in New York. Through it all, the story doesn't move much beyond her May-December romance, and doesn't make enough of Grahame's turbulent life, in which she had four children, was married four times (the last of which was to the son of her second husband), and acted with stars like Humphrey Bogart, Henry Fonda, Joan Crawford, and Lee Marvin.

The cast of "Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool" includes two stars of "Billy Elliot," with Jamie Bell just fine as the young Englishman Gloria has a relationship with and the always-solid Julie Walters (who I loved in 1983's "Educating Rita") as his mother.

But the film belongs to Bening, who gives a gloriously vulnerable performance as Gloria, allowing herself to be seen with wrinkles and without makeup. Bening has said she used Grahame's on-screen bad-girl reputation in the 1940s as inspiration for her con-woman character in "The Grifters," so this completes a nice circle for her.

Watching Bening, I couldn't help but think of the difference in how actresses of a certain age are cast today versus all those years ago. Here's Bening, approaching sixty, still at the top of her game with lots of regular work and good roles, playing Grahame, a woman who couldn't get much of anything once she'd reached her late thirties.  It's also interesting to see a movie about a romance between an older woman and a younger man, considering that the overwhelming majority of such relationships on screen have been the other way around.

Unfortunately, "Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool" doesn't give us much besides a vivid acting lesson from Bening and a lot of morose scenes of Grahame contemplating life in the year or two before her death at 57. I'd have much rather seen a biopic about her career during her heyday.

I give "Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool" a 5 out of 10.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Opening Remarks 2/9/18

Here are the opening remarks from my final Friday show on KTRS, in which I explain how I came to St. Louis 19 years ago this month, why I jumped over to KMOX after five years, and why I returned to KTRS a decade ago while doing freelance and syndicated shows for stations around the country.

I also looked back at some of the extraordinary people from so many professions I've had the honor of interviewing in my 40 years on commercial radio. The list is too long to mention everyone, but quite often, a listener will tell me they've recently found a conversation with someone in the archives on my website, or they remember hearing it live when it happened. It makes me happy that those moments -- that have long since escaped Earth's atmosphere as broadcast signals headed off into space -- connected along the way with someone who was entertained and/or informed by them. I'm grateful to all of those guests who gave freely of their time to make my radio show better (and a few that were a pain in the ass), and especially thankful to those of you who have listened to my shows over the years, whether over the air or as podcasts or live streams.

I will continue posting new content on HarrisOnline.com on a regular basis, including several radio stories I didn't have time to tell on my show. I hope you'll come back to read them.

As for what I'll do next, I don't have anything to announce right now, but I'm working on a couple of projects. If and when they're ready to go, I'll share all the details here.

Meanwhile, listen and then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Closing Remarks 2/9/18

Here are the closing remarks from my final Friday show on KTRS, in which I explain why I quit college to pursue radio, why I didn't let a corporate VP keep me from succeeding in major markets, and offer thanks to the person who's been with me during the highest highs and the lowest lows of my career.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

The Harris Brothers


As the final guest on my radio show, I invited my brother Seth -- former US Deputy Secretary of Labor -- to join me to explain what it's like to run a cabinet department when the government shuts down. We also talked politics, from Trump's White House to the Democrats' chances in the 2018 and 2020 elections, and much more.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Showbiz Show 2/9/18


This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Max and I reviewed the new movies "Fifty Shades Freed" and "Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool." We also talked about "The Cloverfield Paradox" on Netflix and other movie and television stuff.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Harris Challenge 2/9/18

How and why did I create The Harris Challenge, the most popular feature in the history of my radio show? I explain in this podcast, and then you can take a shot at the topical trivia categories, including Radio You Can See, They Go Outside In The Cold On Purpose, and Names In the News.

Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 2/9/18


This collection of Knuckleheads In The News® stories includes a destructive trucker, a naked airline passenger, and a stadium seat stealer. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Picture Of The Day: Trump's Best People

This video from the NY Times speaks for itself -- and I love the 1970s sitcom font on the titles...

As I Tweeted

  • Wouldn't it be nice to have news coverage of a national signing day for high school kids whose academic brilliance got them into a top college with a full scholarship? They're the ones who will make all of our futures better.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Just One More Time

After 40 years in commercial radio, I'm going to do my last show this Friday, February 9th.

I've known this day was coming for several months, as KTRS has hired someone else to do its 3-6pm show every weekday beginning next week. I was asked if I wanted the job, but I have no interest in going back to work full time.

Having done this for my entire adult life, I know the stress that comes from waking up every day and immediately thinking, "What am I doing to talk about today?" It may not seem like it, but hosting and planning a well-executed, informed, entertaining radio show takes an enormous amount of preparation and brain power. Since moving into semi-retirement a few years ago -- working only one or two days a week -- I've had a lot less of that stress, and have welcomed those mornings when I didn't have to worry about developing enough content to fill three hours of airtime.

While I would have liked to keep the Friday afternoon show I've done for more than five years, I fully understand the station's desire to have host continuity five days a week. I'm not bitter about that decision or upset with management. In fact, they've asked me to consider continuing as a fill-in host on occasion, or perhaps do something else on the air. Nothing has been decided, but if and when it is, you'll read about it on this site or on my Twitter or Facebook pages (if you're not following me there, please do). That's also where you'll read news about a couple of other projects I'm working on that may go public in the next few weeks.

For my final show, I plan to tell some stories from my career, including 19 years on the air in St. Louis. My special guest will be my brother Seth, the former US Deputy Secretary of Labor, who will share some insights about politics and current events. I'll also be joined in the KTRS studio by traffic guy Tim Wilund and movie maven Max Foizey. As always, you can test your topical trivia knowledge with my Harris Challenge, and I'll have a new batch of Knuckleheads In The News®, too.

Then that will be that. Thank you very much for listening.

P.S. I'm not expecting a parade, military or otherwise.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Poker Stories: Your Quads Are Moot

I was in south Florida recently and played some poker at the Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood, which was very busy because a tournament series was in progress. That meant lots more cash games, too, so I had plenty of choices of what to play. I stuck mostly to $5-5 pot-limit Omaha.

At that casino, they have high hand jackpots every half-hour. This is a promotion run by poker rooms that have lots of tables in action (usually a couple dozen or more), and it’s very effective at drawing players.

In order to qualify for the jackpot in hold’em, you must make at least aces full between your hole cards and the five community cards on the board. It’s a little bit different in pot-limit Omaha. Since you have so many more hand possibilities with four hole cards instead of two, you only qualify if you hit a big enough hand on the flop. The turn and river don’t affect your chance at the jackpot.

They have screens on the walls that tell you what the current high hand is. It’s very disappointing when you hit a monster like quads (four of a kind), only to look up at the screens and discover yours isn’t high enough, so you get no shot at the bonus. Or you might make a better high hand, only to have someone else exceed that before the thirty minutes are up.

During the day, the high hand jackpot was $1,000, but late at night and early in the morning — because there were fewer tables full of players — the jackpot was only $100. I woke up one day at 3:45am and couldn’t fall back asleep, so I went down and played PLO until around 8am. My friend Mark, who operates on very little sleep, loves playing during those hours, because many of the players are tired or drunk or seriously stuck and desperate, all of which make them play badly.

It was during that early morning session that I flopped a straight flush (king-queen-ten of clubs on the board, jack-nine of clubs in my hand). Not only did I make some money off an opponent who thought he had the nuts with an ace-high flush, but I also won a $100 jackpot. Not a grand, but not bad.

The next day, during an afternoon session, I was at the table when a guy flopped quad threes. Since he had the best hand, he slow-played it, giving his opponent a chance to catch something. Boy, did he. The turn and river were both nines, and the opponent had the other two nines in his hand. Naturally, the guy with quad threes wasn’t happy about losing the pot, but then he pointed out to the dealer that he should win the high-hand jackpot.

The dealer called over a floor supervisor, who squashed his hopes by telling him his hand didn’t qualify. He argued, saying he’d flopped quads, but she told him that because he hadn’t even had the best cards in this hand, he was out of luck. He wouldn’t take no for an answer and started to get a little bit louder while the supervisor, to her credit, remained calm as she shook her head. He accused her of only caring about the casino’s money. She corrected him with a reminder that the money for jackpots comes not from the casino’s rake, but from the extra $2 taken out of each pot and earmarked only to be paid as a bonus — in other words, it was player money, not house winnings.

After about 90 seconds of this, the perfect solution occurred. A dealer at the table next to ours announced, “High hand — quad tens!” The supervisor grinned, told him she’d be right there to verify it, then looked back at Mr. Quad Threes, shrugged her shoulders, and uttered a phrase I had never heard before in a poker room: “Your quads are moot.”

Monday, February 05, 2018

Radio Consolidation

Several people have e-mailed asking for my opinion on the big radio deal announced last week in St. Louis, with Emmis selling KSHE and KPNT to Hubbard (which owns WIL, The Arch, and 101 ESPN), while simultaneously spinning off KFTK and KNOU to Entercom (which bought CBS Radio not long ago and now owns KMOX, KEZK, and Y98).

Much of the speculative talk about this deal concerns Entercom giving KMOX a shot on an FM frequency. It would likely be a simulcast at first, as some legacy AM stations are doing in many other major markets. However, such a move would pit the right-wing extremists on KFTK against the similarly conservative loudmouths on KMOX. Yes, they compete already, but now they’d be doing it under the same corporate roof and on the same band. Companies rarely let two of their stations have formats that contend directly with each other (e.g. while KSHE and KPNT are both male-oriented rock stations, the former plays up its 50-year legacy and plays more classic stuff than the younger-targeted latter).

Who might stay and who might go under such a scenario? Frankly, the real question of concern is what will happen to the staffers whose names you don’t know because they work behind the scenes at the four stations that have just been sold. Having been through a couple of radio ownership changes, I can tell you that they should all be worried about being fired. Oh, sure, the new owners always come in and say things like, “We wouldn’t have bought this place if it weren’t for the great people who work here.” As soon as they hear that, every one of them should immediately update their resumes and start looking for someplace else to work.

Blame it on the economy of scale. If the new company already has a human resources person, they’re unlikely to keep whoever did that job at the now-sold station. The same goes for the chief engineer, some sales managers, office staff, promotions people, producers, board ops — anyone whose job is duplicated by an already-in-place employee in the new owner’s hierarchy.

As in any other business, the cuts are likely to come quickly, and most listeners will have no idea it’s happened. This is simply a fact of consolidation in radio. The problem is that there are now only a few group owners left, limiting the options for those who find themselves on the outs.

I hope I’m wrong, but I’ve seen it happen too many other times to doubt that it will happen here and now.

Friday, February 02, 2018

Joshua Zeitz, "Building The Great Society"


Joshua Zeitz says the presidential legacy most at risk under Donald Trump isn't that of Barack Obama, but of LBJ. I asked him to explain while we discussed his book, "Building The Great Society: Lyndon Johnson's White House."

We talked about Johnson's work on Medicare and Medicaid, how much the Vietnam War detracts from his legacy, how his War On Poverty worked out. I also asked how his work on desegregation and civil rights lost the south for the Democrats and how he spent the political capital he had from his first days in the Oval Office.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Showbiz Show 2/2/18


This week on the showbiz segment of my show, guest movie critic Kevin Brackett (from ReviewSTL.com and the Reel Spoilers podcast) joined me to discuss this weekend's Comic-Con in St. Louis, the new Helen Mirren movie "Winchester," and a Netflix movie about one of the founders of National Lampoon. We also talked about the upcoming "Black Panther" film, the next "Star Wars" standalone project, and what was wrong with the Tonya Harding biopic "I, Tonya."

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Harris Challenge 2/2/18

On this edition of my Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on -- the categories include That's A Super Bowl, Groundhog Day, and Boston or Philadelphia? Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 2/2/18


This collection of Knuckleheads In The News® stories includes trouble in a box truck, a planeload of plumbers, and an Amazon delivery mistake. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

As I Tweeted

  • I don't know much about sports betting, but it seems that if you make a habit of betting on UFC fighters who have no tattoos, you're throwing money away.

My Minneapolis Super Bowl Story


The scenes of the Patriots and Eagles preparing for Sunday's big game in Minneapolis remind me of being in that town for a Super Bowl 25 years ago.

At the time, I was doing mornings on WCXR in Washington, DC, a town that was enveloped in Redskins fever from August to January every year. Under head coach Joe Gibbs, the team was pretty great in those days, what with The Hogs on the offensive line protecting quarterback Mark Rypien and running back Ernest Byner, Dexter Manley and Charles Mann as defensive ends, and the speedy trio of Art Monk, Gary Clark, and Ricky Sanders at receiver.

I'd been lucky enough to cover the Skins' victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII -- which culminated in The Day I Almost Died For Cereal. Now, four years later, they were going for the Vince Lombardi Trophy again, so I took my show back on the road for special Saturday and Sunday shows with my sports guy, Dave "The Predictor" Murray.

The biggest difference between those two trips was the weather. Super Bowl XXII took place at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, an outdoor facility with lots of sunshine and warm temperatures -- it was t-shirt and shorts weather. In fact, it was a full seventy degrees warmer there than what we encountered in 1988 in the Twin Cities for Super Bowl XXVI. We walked out of their airport to find a big fat zero on the thermometer.

On the way to our hotel, we had the cabbie drive us to the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome so we could grab a few quick interviews with fans milling around outside. Big mistake. As soon as we stepped out onto the sidewalk, we felt the brunt of the minus forty degree wind chill. It was so cold that there was no one outside the dome, so Dave and I tried to do a quick scene-setter on my portable cassette recorder before jumping back in the cab. The sound of the wind nearly drowned us out, but it made for a good bit the next day on the show.

Because we hadn't booked the hotel until the Skins had won the NFC Championship, we couldn't get a room downtown. Instead, we ended up at some motel several miles up the interstate. It didn't matter, because we weren't going to spend much time there. We got a few hours sleep that Friday night, then took another cab back into town the next day to set up at the designated media hotel. As I plugged in the equipment and talked to our engineer back in DC, Dave went off to find us a few guests.

He came back with Hall of Fame placekicker Morten Anderson, who had spent more than two decades in the NFL and was now covering the Super Bowl for a radio network in Denmark, his home country. Morten was a ton of fun to talk to on the air, and hung out with us for an hour. Then we were joined by Joe Theismann and a string of other former players and current sportswriters who helped us easily fill up a four-hour show. One of the major topics of discussion was the sky-tunnels that connect most of the buildings in downtown Minneapolis, so you can walk almost the entire length of the city without ever going outside. You feel a bit like a hamster in a habit trail, but that's how Minnesotans deal with the cold -- by building more ways to stay inside! Smart people.

When it was over, we packed everything up and headed back to the motel. With nothing better to do, we walked through the snow to a nearby Joe Senser's sports bar, where we spent several hours having dinner, getting drunk, and putting way too many quarters into some football-throwing arcade game. Then we stumbled back to the motel, slept a few more hours, and repeated the process for our Sunday show.

By now, it was finally time to go to the dome for the game. We had procured two pretty good seats about a dozen rows up in one end zone (which would eventually give us a perfect view of the gorgeous Gloria Estefan during the halftime show). Before settling in, though, we had to peel off the four layers of outerwear we had on because it was so damned cold outside. Inside, of course, the dome was heated to a very comfortable 72 degrees, so we ended up sitting on three feet of clothing piled on our seats, just like everyone else.

We knew this would not be a good day for the Bills when their star running back, Thurman Thomas, couldn't find his helmet as the team took the field for its first possession. Plus, their quarterback, Jim Kelly, spent most of the day on his back as the Skins sacked him four times and added four interceptions. Meanwhile, Washington kept rolling along, with Rypien having a career-best day, and the team's marching band playing "Hail To The Redskins" lots of times on the way to a final score of 37-24.

Elated, we hung around for some post-game audio to use the next day, then somehow found our way back to the motel, where we packed up our stuff and headed for a late flight back to DC, where we had to be on the air again Monday morning. We were exhausted, but looking forward to getting back to a city where below-zero temperatures were the exception, not the norm.

I never got to another Super Bowl game, but I've been happy to watch them in the warm, uncrowded comfort of my own home over the last quarter century. And I'm damned glad I don't have to go back to Minneapolis in the winter.

I just checked the forecast for this Sunday -- yep, it'll be zero degrees at game time.