What the Wind Blew In


Finally, some controversy in a Walter Kaitz Foundation dinner acceptance speech! Honoree Decker Anstrom — possibly feeling he was safely surrounded by Yankees fans at the New York Hilton — dared to draw a connection between the Boston Red Sox not signing black ballplayers Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays and the team's not winning a World Series since 1918. Bostonians in the table behind me grumbled aloud, and I heard a few hisses from other parts of the room.

More significantly, several people remarked after the dinner that although the ballroom was completely full, there seemed to be fewer faces of color than usual. The ratio might even have been worse than when honoree Bill Bresnan, in 1999, lamented that a glance around the room showed it looked about the same as it had five years ago. "We must not look like this next year," was Bresnan's advice, which hasn't proven easy to heed.

That '99 dinner played out against Hurricane Floyd, a September visitor to the North Carolina coast on its way north. Isabel sure helped make The Weather Channel chairman Anstrom's selection seem prescient — the humorous introductory video the channel supplied called him Hurricane Decker and warned of an influx of hot air from Washington.

How timely, too, to be honoring a former, much-liked administrator of the NCTA, which now is stepping in to help get Kaitz dinner revenue and other Walter Kaitz Foundation money spent more effectively. Having him around has to make that transition easier.

As an aside: TWC might feel it has to do it, as do many local-news outlets and even CNN, but is anything more hackneyed and unnecessary than when TV networks send correspondents out to the beach when a hurricane is blowing through? CNN's Jeanne Meserve had that lovely assignment last Thursday afternoon in Virginia Beach, clinging to a railing on a boardwalk, surf surging majestically in the background, the picture and audio repeatedly dematerializing.

Fortunately, one of her appearances came during Inside Politics, which had the wit to send co-host Tucker Carlson outside in the light wind and drizzle of Washington, D.C., which as always took the precaution to send all federal workers home before the weather got bad.

End of that rant.

Also gone with the wind last week was the cable-backed women's pro soccer league the WUSA, a potentially great way for operators to build popular community events — much liked within the operators' own ranks, especially by parents of daughters — and create some cost-contained, TV-rights-worthy sports besides. But as key backer John Hendricks discovered, having the U.S. Women's World Cup winners on the covers of Time, Newsweek,
Sports Illustrated
and People
in the same week in (of course) 1999 wasn't a permanent breakthrough for female sports leagues in this country, or for pro soccer. It certainly wasn't enough to generate a sustained investment from corporate sponsors.

The hope in this corner is that someday some friendly wind blows in some of the CEOs whose companies pay millions to put male athletes on a promotional pedestal. They need to steer some dollars toward the WUSA, or form another league to try to get that magic back again.