The Week: What Caught Our Eye

April 2, 2022

Sunset over a lake“I saw the civil sun drying earth’s tears,” wrote Henry David Thoreau, as though he, too, had seen the spring sun over the Tomhannock Reservoir in Rensselaer County  (John Bulmer)

Dear Colleagues and Friends:

Not to disappoint right at the start, but this week’s Facing Out will contain nothing about the slap heard round the world.

DETERMINED TO SUCCEED: Bryce Weiler fell in love with sports broadcasting while listening to Brian Barnhart paint word pictures as the radio play-by-play voice of University of Illinois basketball. He decided he, too, wanted to be a sports broadcaster, helping his audience experience the game through his descriptions. He has broadcast more than 150 college basketball games as an analyst, despite having been blind since birth. He also started a nonprofit to give people with disabilities opportunities to experience sports and the arts, as well as job training and placement. And what would Weiler have to say about Justin Hardy? Hardy, a senior at Washington University in St. Louis, was the No. 2 scorer this year on the school’s nationally ranked Division III men’s basketball team, which is impressive in its own right and astounding when you learn that he did it while fighting late-stage stomach cancer. He matched his career high in scoring days after learning the cancer had spread, but by the end of the season, he was limited to a brief appearance — and an emotional basket — on senior day. His determination to do what he loved never wavered. “If this isn’t beating it,” he told ESPN’s Gene Wojciechowski, “I don’t know what is.”

A painting of a man and a womanCOMMUNITY LEADERS: Jerry and Elvira Ford launched Team H.E.R.O. — for Helping Everyone Recognize Opportunities — in Troy, N.Y., with a mission to develop and implement programs to support youth making the transition from childhood to adulthood and keep them off the streets. In the summer of 2020, during local Black Lives Matter protests and following the drive-by shooting death of an 11-year-old, Jerry Ford is widely recognized for having helped defuse tensions between teens and police, and Team H.E.R.O. provided grief counseling to those who needed it. Jerry and Elvira Ford’s all-in, around-the-clock dedication to serving young people has earned them national recognition from the community-building nonprofit NeighborWorks, whose affiliate, the Troy Rehabilitation Improvement Program, nominated the Fords for the Dorothy Richardson Award for Resident Leadership.

STING UPSTATE: Sting, the musician who fronted The Police before transitioning to a successful solo career, will make two late-summer stops in Upstate New York as part of his “My Songs” tour. He’ll be at the St. Joseph’s Health Amphitheater at Lakeview in Syracuse on Sept. 6 and the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs the following night. Dead and Company roll into Saratoga on July 6.  And let us bounce this off you: The Biggest Bounce House in the World is coming to Saratoga County in May.

SKY HUMOR: The Transportation Security Administration conducts a no-nonsense function of government, but its social media team has a keen eye for finding, and highlighting, the lighter side of its mission, often with clever word plays and images. There’s a method to the humor, and a valuable communications insight. As the leader of the TSA’s social media team, who started as an airport agent, summed it up for The New York Times: “Nobody remembers what was on the news in the morning, but they’ll remember the joke you told them. If it takes humor to help you remember what you can and cannot do when traveling through security, then humor is what we will provide.”

FAMILIAR LOOK: Fans of the popular Showtime series Billions fell in love with the location that served as one of the backdrops for the episode that debuted last Sunday. The Sagamore in Bolton Landing, N.Y, has been having that kind of effect on people since the 1880s. The show also filmed scenes in Albany, about 80 miles south.

ALL IS FORGIVEN: Last fall, the New York City Public Library discontinued fines for late book returns and a funny thing happened. Thousands of old books suddenly reappeared, many with notes of apology. “I’m sorry for living with these books so long,” one patron wrote. “They became family.”

HOME SHORTAGE: The U.S. is facing a home shortage unlike anything it has ever seen, with beleaguered builders battling for materials and labor and unable to keep pace with demand. The root cause predates the pandemic and current supply chain snarls. The Great Recession drove a lot of builders out of business and their skilled craftspeople into other lines of work. New construction failed to keep pace as rebound demanded, and the influx of young buyers, combined with newfound mobility, has resulted in a shortage of an estimated 3 million homes nationwide. The pandemic made things worse, as do restrictive, exclusionary zoning policies that make high-density housing impossible, regardless of what the market wants.

PARTING WORDS: Madeline Albright, the former Secretary of State who died March 23 of cancer, late in her life wrote an afterword for the paperback edition of her last book in which she shared some final thoughts about making the most out of life. She declared resilience superior to intellect, lamented the frivolity of modern life in the face of so much sacrifice and loss, and challenged readers to prepare for the challenges ahead. Recalling the faded, broken and misshapen headstones of an old Washington cemetery, she wrote, “To those who despair of that possibility, I have a measure of (subscription required) sympathy but little patience. There is no shortage of worthwhile work to be done and, as those broken headstones remind us, no surplus of seasons in which to achieve our goals.”

SHADING THE TRUTH: Anyone who has watched certain activists at work knows that not all let facts or ethics stand in the way of their aims. The worst of them stoke fears of the unknown, and then play up the unknown, knowing that the complexity of the subject is their friend in a world that loves simplicity. If their willingness to employ misinformation finds a receptive audience, good luck getting any business done, as developers of renewable energy projects throughout the country are discovering.

NO JOY IN MUDVILLE: Mud season is the poor cousin of the calendar for its lack of redeeming qualities. This year, Vermonters say it’s worse than ever: Ambulances and school buses are getting stuck. Roads are closed. The gravel that road crews use to fight the mud gets swallowed up as soon as it’s poured. “It’s of biblical proportions,” one local official said, and likely to get worse.

THE NEWS IS SWEETER in the Adirondacks, where maple season is under way and, according to early signs, strong. Heavy sap runs are attributed to cold nights and snow that have recharged the trees. But competition looms from the West, boosted by a government grant to explore and foster the development of maple sugaring in that heretofore untapped region.

WISH COMES TRUE: We told you a few weeks ago about the unique Captain America shield that Make-a-Wish Northeast New York was raffling at its annual gala. The shield, signed by four actors from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and donated by one of them, Sebastian Stan, generated $50,000 in ticket sales across the country. The winner, selected last weekend, was Kara Lakatos of Burlington, Wisc.

WE INTERRUPT THIS BROADCAST: Doug Kammerer, the longtime meteorologist for a Washington, D.C., news station, was in the middle of a special weather bulletin Thursday night when he realized the news he was delivering was literally hitting home. Alerting viewers that tornados were in the region, he saw that his house was in the middle of the warning zone. He took out his phone, called home and told his kids to get in the basement immediately. His urgency likely made viewers take the situation a bit more seriously, though the warning was lifted a few minutes later.

SAY YES TO OFFICE DRESS: The post-pandemic office dress code is casual Fridays on steroids – with sneakers. (subscription required) Are hoodies acceptable? Or, God forbid, leisure suits? “Everyone laughed when they said they expected us to adhere to some level of previous dress code,” one returnee says. “Post-pandemic bodies don’t necessarily fit pre-pandemic wardrobes.” And what about (subscription required) all the hair you lost during the pandemic?

RUNNING DOWN A DREAM: A filmmaker in India was driving home late one night when he spotted a young man with a backpack running very fast and thought he might be in trouble. The filmmaker asked, and the young man said no, I’m fine; just running to stay in shape in hopes of achieving his dream — acceptance into the nation’s army. The filmmaker started recording the chance encounter on his cellphone, and the result is an inspiring video seen by more than 11 million people, followed by myriad gifts from strangers and a scholarship form an academy that specializes in preparing candidates for their military exams.

CARBON-NEUTRAL SOX: The Boston Red Sox made waves (renewable!) this week when they announced their intentions to become carbon neutral through a deal with Aspiration, which measures an enterprise’s total carbon footprint. Aspiration will serve as the official sustainability provider for the team in a deal that will mark the Red Sox as a climate leader in Major League Baseball. The Red Sox will contribute a portion of the sale of each ticket to the Aspiration Planet Protection Fund for the purchase of carbon credits and to provide other sustainability services that help counter fans’ individual climate impact, according to a statement announcing the deal.

FLAMINGO ON THE LAMB: A flamingo known as No. 492 — the number on the band affixed to his leg — took flight from a county zoo in Kansas in 2005 and eluded recapture, leaving handlers to worry about his fate in the inhospitable climate of the region. They needn’t have worried. No. 492 evidently found his way to the Gulf Coast of Texas, where he’s both an oddity and a celebrity with a new name — Pink Floyd.

LIVES

JOAN JOYCE was one of the greatest female athletes of all-time, a 19-year member of the LPGA Tour whose exploits as a dominant fast-pitch softball pitcher led to her induction in the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1989. Known for striking out major league hitting legends like Ted Williams, she also was an outstanding basketball and volleyball player and later founded the softball program at Florida Atlantic University, where her teams won 1,002 games. No cause of death was given. She was 81.

DAVID J. COLLINS needed to find a way to track rail cars rumbling through Massachusetts in the early 1960s. He was working for Sylvania Electric Products Inc. in Waltham, Mass., when he came up with the idea of labeling the cars with patterns of bars in various colors that scanners could read. The (subscription required) father of the bar code was 86.

MIKE WACHOLDER was an adjunct faculty member at RPI with a master’s in urban and regional planning when the college’s president, George M. Low, asked him to lead a feasibility study for a technology park. Wacholder would become director of the Rensselaer Technology Park, an essential economic development catalyst in New York’s Capital Region, and founder of RPI’s world-renowned Incubator Program. He was among the visionary leaders nationwide who helped launch what at the time were novel concepts but are now commonplace. He later served 10 years with his local planning board. He was 79.

CHUCK LIDDLE loved Albany, art, the Adirondacks, the Metropolitan Opera, Giants football and traveling with his friends, and over more than half a century of community service, became a pillar of the Capital City. He led the Albany insurance firm Austin and Co. and served on no fewer than 20 local nonprofit boards. He was 91.

ALMOST FINAL WORDS

“April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.”
William Shakespeare

THE SIGNOFF

EYES ON CRIME: Winnebago County, Ill., an outer suburb of Chicago, is using $40,000 in American Rescue Plan funding to purchase 2,000 Ring doorbell cameras for county residents, an effort to reduce crime in the county. The goal is to start the program in 90 days.

THANK YOU to our contributors: Bill Callen, Bill Richmond, John Bulmer, John Brodt, Lisa Fenwick, Tina Suhocki, John Behan, Matt Behan, Tara Hutchins, Claire P. Tuttle, Kelly Donahue, and Katie Alessi.

FACING OUT is what we do. We help companies, organizations and individuals work effectively with their most important external audiences – their customers, their shareholders, their communities, the government and the news media.  www.behancommunications.com

Facing Out features news and other nuggets that caught our eye, and that we thought might be of value to you, our friends and business associates. Some items are good news about our clients and friends, others are stories that we hope will leave you a bit more informed or entertained than you were five minutes ago. As always, we welcome your ideas and feedback.  

Let’s make it a conversationmark.behan@behancom.com

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