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Month: September 2014

Why I felt I had to leave Hospital Radio after eight years…

I want to start with an overview of doing voluntary work. When you give up your time for free to give something back, you do so because you enjoy it and not because you endure it. Once you come away from it less happy than you were going in then it is time to stop. In general I’ve found voluntary work to follow a certain pattern. You start and you enjoy it, then you enjoy it a little bit less but still enjoy it, then you do it because it is what you do, then you do it out of obligation and then you the negatives start outweighing the positives and it is time to walk away. That is pretty much what happened here.

For seven odd years I thoroughly enjoyed it but the last year less so and certainly the past few months. Most people that knew me away from the station were really hoping I’d walk away as it sooner than I did. They knew how much it was agitating me. As someone else at the station said (whom I didn’t share a night with) said to me ‘there is just too much politics’ and that I think it probably quite a fair statement. Heck I’m involved in politics and if you’d have asked me whether local politics or the Hospital Radio station was more political, I wouldn’t be able to answer straight away, it would require some thought.

I was involved in two separate shows and I will talk about them in isolation because I could do one without the other.

For eight years I had been involved in the request show on a Wednesday night. People have come and people have gone. The show has gone on and will continue to do so without me. For many years I was trusted to do the show but in recent months it was clear that for whatever reason, that trust had evaporated. I was never told why this trust had gone but I have my suspicions. It could of course be that the board had decided to adopt Fox Mulder’s policy of ‘Trust No-one’ because the rumblings from other nights and from other people was that the board didn’t trust anyone who wasn’t them.

It came to a head for me personally when one week a board member was sent in to spy on me under the pretense that we needed extra people to do the show as we had a grand total of one person away. So that meant we still had five people, which is way more than enough to do the request collecting and present the show. How do I know that she was sent to spy on me? Well lets put it this way, she won’t be working for the secret service anytime soon. I won’t go into detail but I will say this, it wasn’t just me that thought it, every single person thought it and thought it straight away.

There is some added background I should probably throw in at this point. Certain people have long perceived me to have an ego that needed to be curbed. Whether or not I have an ego is up for debate and I won’t sit here and type that I didn’t think I was pretty darn good at what I did – both on the wards and in terms of presenting – but when new members are introduced to me with the words, ‘this is Neil, he thinks its his show but its not’ then I personally think that lacks class somewhat and is actually off.

I haven’t applied to do any other radio work. I never asked to do my own show. Even when I joined the football team I did so because I was asked and not because I asked. Many people come into that radio station with ambitions to go further in radio and actively use it to just further their radio journey before dropping it the moment they’ve got what they wanted, yet folks it is me, the loyal guy who hasn’t used the station who has the ego problem that is damaging everyone else. With me out of the way everyone will be happy and blossom. I was the problem. Yeah…

Here is a good example of the type of thing that was being introduced that I found annoying. Obviously when presenting a radio show as part of a team, only one person can drive the show at any one point. That just comes with the territory of presenting on radio. So you have to rotate amongst the people that want to do it. However too much rotation within a show leads to a disconcerting experience for the listener. I have heard shows with three or four main presenters within a two hour block and frankly they are terrible.

Anyway recently there were just two people who wanted to drive the show so we did the whole show each on alternate weeks. We both preferred that to doing one hour each every week. However the board decided that wasn’t good enough and that every week we had to rotate amongst everyone who wanted to drive a show. So if for example there are six people who want to drive a show then they have to get 20 minutes each. That is to be frank madness and doesn’t think about the listener experience but whatever. In terms of the night I did, we had to change the way we did things despite everyone being happy with how we did it because someone on the board disagreed. Does that really make much sense?

So I was always going to take the World Cup off as a) I wanted to watch as much of it as possible and b) I actually had quite a bit of work to do on unsurprisingly giving what I actually do for a living. I also thought this would give plenty of time for others to present without my evil spectre hovering over them and curbing them. When asked why I wasn’t there the next week, a board member said that I had ‘gone off in a huff’ – all class folks. All class. I had decided not to return during this hiatus but came in for one week as the others who could present were both away, I came back but got told so many new rules and all the things I now wasn’t allowed to do because I was too dominating and I knew I was done.

That is why my request show team days were done but of course I still did the football, well I thought I did. I’ll start from the very beginning. Three years ago I was asked to become the third man in a two man booth to cover for one of the two main guys if they were away, one of these two was retiring and moving away so I would do my time and become his replacement. Excellent news.

For three years that was the case up until this summer. Over the course of these three years I had done more and more games but only strictly as the summeriser. That is key here folks and I’ll tell you why. At the AGM this year it was brought up that they really needed someone to train up to commentate if both of the two main guys were unavailable. Someone actually brought me up and asked about me as surely I was involved and it drew a rather interesting response. Apparently I was only a summeriser, I was not as good as I thought I was, I had too big of an ego, I didn’t understand how much work was involved in commentating and to be blunt – I just wasn’t the person they wanted. The fun bit was I was actually in the room and heard all of this. A nice personal attack at the AGM and did anyone step up and say that wasn’t on? No they didn’t. Afterwards several people came up to me and asked what that was all about and I said I didn’t know but it just reinforced the notion that I believed I just wasn’t liked and it was thought life would be better if I just disappeared.

For three years I was told I would be the next commentator and I was ready to undergo whatever training was needed. Everyone knew this and I was told I’d get the appropriate training this summer. Instead of this however the station advertised for new commentators, interviewed a couple of people and I believe have brought at least one of them on board and maybe even both. With the current set up of two commentators and bringing in at least one new person, you don’t need four people as it is extremely rare both main guys will be unavailable. So the new person is now obviously the cover guy and I’ve been relegated to ‘use only in desperation’ or ‘do not use at all’ – I haven’t been told which.

Now here’s something else. I was already down to cover the opening game of the season as one of the two guys was unavailable. A few days before I was told that they had hired a new person and he’d also be doing that game. The thing is we only have two press passes. Three into two doesn’t go. I read this and knew that even if I went to the game, I wouldn’t get in as you aren’t going to bring in a new person for their first game and say he can’t come in, so I just said if I needed to step down then that is fine and that was greatly received.

I said nothing on it because of the Southend v Portsmouth match on September 13. I had already been told that I was covering this game so I knew that if I was completely out of the radio that I’d hear nothing and not get to cover this game. I heard nothing and can now assume that I’ve been cut adrift completely. It is annoying as I had two friends wedding that day and I had said I couldn’t go to the reception because I already had plans.

Personally I think certainly on this front I’ve been treated pretty shabbily. I’m sure others will disagree and say I’m at fault or maybe that I was just never good enough but three years ago I was brought in to replace a guy as he was leaving. Three years later I’ve been culled before he’s left and before I was ever given the opportunity to step up to commentate. To be cut without ever actually being given the opportunity sucks but what can you do?

So I walk away with a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth I must admit. I’ve not even written half of the things that I could. I hope that my departure means that everything is now amazing and my perceived reign of terror is over. Everyone will come out of their shells and blossom into the radio presenters they were meant to be if I wasn’t stunting their growth and dominating the situation. In case you can’t tell I’m being sarcastic.

Yet at some point you just realise that you just aren’t wanted anymore and when that happens it is best to just walk away. That is the same in many forms of life. There is no point trying to save something that is beyond saving and if you aren’t wanted you aren’t wanted. What can you do? I’m sure the station will carry on perfectly well without me and probably most think it’ll be a darn site better too.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

Fan is short for fanatic – we should remember that

fan (noun) — an enthusiastic devotee, follower, or admirer of a sport, pastime, celebrity, etc. (origin: 1885-90, Americanism; short for fanatic or, some say, fancy)

fanatic (noun) — a person with an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm or zeal, as in religion or politics. (origin: 1515-25, “insane person” from L. fanaticus, “mad, enthusiastic, inspired by god”, originally pertaining to a temple, from L. fanum.

Some say that the term fan may have devolved from the word ‘fancy’ but the general wisdom seems to suggest that it comes from the word fanatic. Why am I writing about this today? Well as most people who have known me in real life will know, sports has been a rather large part of my life for an awfully long time. I will call off social events and activities if I want to see a sporting event on the tellybox. I was once a Sports Editor. I have commentated, no wait, summerised only, on live football games for radio and I may or may not have yelled an insane amount of swear words when following various sporting events and seen my mood adjust to quite concerning degrees based on what is going on.

I would argue that over the years I have mellowed. I can sit and watch a game and not get so emotionally invested. Pompey were on the tellybox the other day and I sat and watched it in a rather monotone way. We weren’t very good and I just shrugged and moved on with my day. Maybe I had actually got past the point where sport could get to me. Maybe I had grown up. Maybe it was time for me to emerge from the sporting cocoon that I have enveloped myself in and maybe just into things that were more high brow, take in some culture, get interested in the arts.

Then Saturday night happened.

When you are up until nigh on 5AM watching a College Football game with your blood pumping, engaged swearing, too much sweat that is good for a single man in the early hours of the morning when fully clothed, then maybe the link between fan and fanatic isn’t too far-fetched.

So yes. On Saturday my day was pretty much built around watching Arsenal v Manchester City and then Rutgers v Penn State. One kicked off at 12:45PM and the other 01:12 AM. So they bookended my day. I watched the football match and enjoyed it. I did have another game I was meant to be seeing but as they say, things change, I will have plenty to say on that matter in due course (and I know you are reading this waiting for what I have to say – I can see you). By 11ish I was pretty tired but I persevered, I had a shall we call it, rather tepid shower to revitalise me and I put on the Big Ten Network to settle down to watch the game.

Now it was in the early hours and I wasn’t alone in watching this game. Whilst physically alone I had twitter open, I had Black Shoe Diaries game threads open and I had a skype conversation open with someone who was also watching the game (although not a fan of PSU – he still watched as I was and he stuck with it as it was the most compelling game of the night) and I’d like to show off my witty repartee and the type of language that was flowing out of my fingers as the game unfolded. I am not proud.

Quotes are me if no initials, NM is also me, NH is the person on the other end of the skype conversation window.

It started off with general game conversation. Our O-Line may have slightly false started…

NH: how many would you estimate moved early there…
NM: more than the amount of women who’ve turned me down…

then I got annoyed with the WildLion formation…

fuck that WildLion

Then I saw a safety blitz that the QB didn’t see…


Then I revealed a shocking truth…

NM: oh fuck this
NH: just awful
NM: you know I turned down a date tonight for this?
NH: good grief
NH: i hope you thought up a better reason than i want to watch penn st…
NM: I just said I was busy.

Then a Rutgers player got a first down when he really should’ve been tackled short of the line to gain on a big 3rd and long. Not sure I took it too well…


Then it was half time and we discussed Lily Adams from the AT&T commercials and how she was an actress and not a real AT&T employee. I fancy her. Anyway on to the second half…

if this flag is against us…
throw him out for being a prick
yep – no doubt I’ll sleep maybe 45-60 mins after this game ends
I’ll be wound up

Then we did something good. An interception…

NH: we were saying…

Either I was writing in prose an orgasm or Penn State did something good here…


Then we didn’t do so good…

oh come on
busted play again
too many of them today
didn’t need to hold either
what the hell was that?

Then we scored a TD to win it but it was called back because of a penalty but we would score another TD and it would hold up. This is the conversation. I was rational for brief moments…

NH: wow oh wow…
NH: too quick!
NM: its a hold
NH: pretty clear
NH: sadly
NH: lol
NH: go for 2?
NM: No.
NM: get the 1 so a FG only ties, if they miss the 2 a FG would win it

Then we stopped Rutgers and won the game…

NH: who says it wasnt worth staying up for?
NH: that will make getting to sleep a touch easier!
NM: I’m too pumped

So maybe on occasions I can still see the link between the words fan and fanatic.

One of the biggest issues for personally is many of the events I get so pumped for are on US time and therefore are in the early hours. When a game finishes like that, that I am so emotionally invested in then I can’t just go to bed and go to sleep. So I have to unwind and that takes time and I can easily see the sun rise in the morning before falling asleep. I am so lucky I have employment that grants me some flexibility and I can work late at night and don’t have to work office hours every day.

I don’t know the reason for this blog post but I thought it was interesting that despite my education, my journalism background, my thoughts that I am smart and linguistic, at times just shouting and swearing is all that can come out of my mouth/fingers. Sport still has that effect…at times.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

Sky Sports NFL Coverage 2014 – Once more stepping it up

The NFL season got underway the other night and tonight we are back with our usual Sunday night doubleheader. On Thursday Sky Sports showed us some of their plans for the 2014 season, the 20th that they have been coverage the league and I must say I’m quietly impressed with what they are doing. Here is an overview.

Firstly they are making their analysts more permanent. In recent years it has been Nick Halling and latterly Neil Reynolds being joined by a seemingly random cast of others. This year it will be Shaun Gayle joining the team until Thanksgiving whereupon he’ll be aside for Jeff Reinebold to take us the rest of the way.

Personally I like this set up as it gives the team more of a chance to gel and I wasn’t overly keen on the show being used as a tryout for former NFL players who wanted to get involved in broadcasting, Rocky Boiman (who sounds like Lisa’s character in The Simpsons when she was pretending to be a boy to do Maths at the boys half of Springfield Elementary) aside, I have not been impressed by any of these people and any set up that gives us more Jeff Reinebold is one that I can fully endorse. I think Jeff is by far and away the best analyst we’ve had on Sky Sports NFL coverage in the decade plus that I have been watching. He has a relaxed style but also has the technical nous to take us through the x’s and o’s so I’m happy.

Of course then there is big Cecil Martin. I know many of the more knowledgeable fans get annoyed by his antics but I like it. He’ll be around for the Wembley games this year so he is still involved. A Gayle-Reinebold-Martin monopoly in the analysts chair is a ok by me. I don’t know if they’ll be extra guest analysts but between those three they have a good solid team.

Neil Reynolds received a tonne of stick when I wrote the blog post about Nick Halling leaving the NFL team for the Boxing gig three years ago. The comments do not read well for Neil but my namesake isn’t half as bad as some of those comments say. Reynolds is a more than solid guy and if we all put up with Kevin Cadle’s presenting style then we can put up with Neil Reynolds.

The Red Zone is back on Sunday’s and they’ll show more highlights on the main channel as well as live look ins. For the Thursday night game, Sky will also show the CBS pre-game show, which will be something different. Like other Sky shows, they’ve also been given a ‘SkyPad’ aka a rather large touchscreen where Reynolds and the analyst can go through tactics and the like. Again Sky showing some decent investment in the NFL.

I don’t think the NFL brings too many subscriptions to the company but I do think it is a relatively inexpensive and popular filler for Sky. If the NFL does expand to London in terms of a full-time franchise based in the capital then it will be a very significant sport for TV companies over here. I think Sky do a very good job in terms of most sports and I think they treat NFL with more seriousness the more they cover the sport.

When you throw in what Channel 4 do with the Sunday Night Game then fans of the NFL in this country get a pretty good deal. Eurosport will show the Monday Night game against this year and that is a strange one for me but heck, it is live on TV. I think if my memory serves me right this is the last year of Sky’s three-year deal they signed in 2012 and that means the rights will be up over the summer and I have zero doubt BT Sport will make a play for them. As I said earlier, it isn’t a sport that brings in a tonne of subs but it will be a very nice addition to BT’s portfolio should they steal it and I suspect a key thing to keep for Sky Sports.

Personally I hope Sky’s long partnership with the NFL continues beyond this season but I think it is very much up for grabs. Sky are showing commitment to the sport with their coverage and I expect another good year this year both on the field of play and in the TV studio.

Lastly you can tweet the team here:

Kevin Cadle – @kevincadle
Neil Reynolds – – @neilreynoldsnfl
Shaun Gayle – @85worldchamps
Cecil Martin – @cecilmartin1
Jeff Reinebold – @jeff_reinebold
Sky Sports NFL Account – @skysportsnfl

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Yet another reason not to bring back the death penalty – Henry McCollum & Leon Brown edition

I’m sure many people have read the story about mentally disabled half brothers Henry McCollum, 50, and Leon Brown, 46, who were convicted in 1984 of raping and killing an 11-year-old girl in North Carolina. That girl, 11 year-old Sabrina Buie, had been raped and suffocated with her underwear crammed down her throat, her body left in a soybean field. One of them was on death row for the crime and the other was sentenced to life imprisonment. The crime is certainly one that many people would feel passionately should deserve the ultimate punishment but there is one big issue…these two men were completely innocent.

Yesterday a judge ordered that they be released after spending three decades in jail. DNA evidence from the crime had been tested and it ruled out both men and implicated another man who is currently in prison for another crime. That man lived only a block away from where the body was found and was arrested and convicted of a very similar crime weeks after the body for this crime was discovered, however the prosecutor never even looked at him believing that he had the right people and that was that.

The lead prosecutor still believed up to a week ago that the right people were convicted, you have to worry that people like Joe Freeman Britt are allowed in positions of power. He was a bible quoting DA who sought the death penalty more than any other DA in his era, I know I struggle to believe that a Christian could be so tied to the death penalty but there you go.

One of the two men, Mr McCollom confessed to the crime following a marathon interrogation where they weren’t allowed to see their family or a lawyer. They initially came under suspicion because they were new to the small town and people saw them as outsiders. Long story short, there was no evidence against these two young men and yet one of them has spent thirty years on Death Row and to most people he should’ve been executed a long time ago. Those people no doubt would feel very little remorse today.

People will tell me that one wrong conviction shouldn’t mean anything and that mistakes happen. Mistakes do happen but if the state put to death an innocent person then that is just not on. Just because it is someone that you don’t know doesn’t mean you should feel any differently about it. If it was someone you knew that had been falsely convicted of a crime based on shaky (at best) evidence but the raw emotion had led to a jury filing a guilty verdict and a judge because of the emotion of the case imposing a death penalty then how would you feel?

The death penalty is something that I cannot stomach because of cases like these. When people say to me that it should only be used for people who are ‘guilty guilty’ and do ‘horrific crimes’ then I try and point out that we only have two verdicts in the UK, ‘Guilty’ and ‘Not Guilty’, there is no ‘Guilty Guilty’ verdict for people that are just clearly guilty of a crime. Also the people that make up a jury are human beings, they can be influenced my emotion.

I have been on a jury and have seen such a thing where people wanted to convict solely based on the crime they were accused of and not on the evidence presented. The jury system is the best we have but it isn’t perfect and in the US of A the jury can impose the death penalty in certain states and situations.

State sanctioned murder is not for me. Not for people who have committed horrific crimes and nor for those who actually hadn’t done so. Making mistakes happens to us all and sending innocent people to prison happens but they can get released and still live their lives. If they are put to death and then found they are innocent then there is no recourse.

Bringing back the Death Penalty in the UK would lead to nasty people being killed by the state but it would also no doubt lead to innocent people being put to death as well and I’d like to know what ratio of nasty people to innocent people being put to death would be acceptable to people who back the death penalty because to me, even one innocent person being slain is one too many.

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