Don’t Talk To Me About The Super Bowl

There is unanimity of opinion. The Eagles will get blown out by the Patriots. As an Eagles fan this is disheartening.

Of course I choose not to believe that.

This opinion is widely held by the sports intelligencia but repeated by everyone who has ever seen a game… and many who haven’t. People feel obliged, knowing I’m an Eagles fan, to make sure I know. Thanks.

I will say this. The mouthing off of Freddy Mitchell and Terrell Owens’ possible return are both distractions. The Pats seem cool and collected while the Eagles are acting as if they’ve snuck into a bar with a phony ID.

It is surprising so many Connecticut residents are ready to back the Pats. Have people already forgotten how Robert Kraft played us like the discard in a high school love triangle? What he did to Connecticut was mean spirited, to say the least&#185.

Luckily none of this matters. Only what happens on the field will be meaningful. I think (hope) the Eagles are up to the task.

&#185 – Astoundingly, Governor Rowland’s press release on this matter is still posted on the web. How could the highest officials in the state have been that naive?

My Day of Kayaking

As anticipated, 8:30 AM came very quickly. Hey, to me that’s the middle of the night. A little procrastination with the bedroom TV, and then I was in the shower getting ready. I was actually running on time!

The plan was to meet at my friend Kevin’s house, in Cheshire at 10:00 AM. Kevin had invited me, his boss Scott and his daughter, plus a friend, Jeff.

It was beautiful. A little on the humid side, but with a pure blue sky. I had the top down and the radio up. As I turned from N. Brooksvale to Mountain Rd, a bicyclist came the other way. He was dressed in a loud, skin tight biking suit. But, he had the best advice of the day, “Cops ahead.”

The speed limit on Mountain is 25 mph – an unattainable goal, even if you know there are police lurking. I did about 30. As I passed the patrol car, the policeman turned his head and looked at me. No one does 30 without being tipped off! I’m sure he knew.

Kevin has a small trailer. He lashed the kayaks to it, and we were off. We went up I-84 to Waterbury and then north on Route 8 into the Southern Litchfield Hills. It didn’t take long to get to the White Memorial Foundation – hundreds of acres of nature preserve.

If the White Memorial Foundation sounds familiar, it should. It’s where Connecticut’s Governor Rowland has a small cottage, which had a hot tub, which is all swirled within the specter of corruption charges.

Scott checked the water temperature as we brought the boats down to the Bantam River. His thermometer read 70&#176, though we would later all agree it was probably in the 60’s farther from shore.

If I had been in a kayak before, it was a long time ago. I rocked a little from side to side as I set out. Last night, at the station, our director Tracey had admonished me to push, not pull when paddling. Otherwise, she said, I’d get very sore.

Easier said than done, but I tried.

The Bantam River is small and gently flowing in this part of Litchfield County. We headed to the right, against the minuscule current. A light breeze was at our back.

You actually wouldn’t know there was a current on this river except for the beaver dams. I had heard and read about beaver dams for years, but had never really experienced them. From bank to bank, a pile of twigs, branches and mud choked the flow. We found weak spots and paddled over… though I got caught a little more than once.

The kayak handled really easily and it didn’t take me long to get into the rhythm. Inertia is an important part of kayaking. When you stop paddling, the kayak continues… in my case it often kept going until it hit another kayak!

The White Memorial Foundation land is a protected habitat for all sorts of wildlife. We saw birds, including a few hawks and beautiful red winged blackbirds. A duck, probably protecting a nearby nest, let me get pretty close without flinching. I turned back, not wanting to upset him. There were turtles too, including one who seemed to be stretching out as if he were sunning himself on a Caribbean vacation.

After a mile or so (Kevin had a GPS receiver capable of plotting our course) we came to some beaver dams too high to paddle over. So, we just turned around and went back down river.

The river wasn’t crowded, but it wasn’t empty either. A while later we ran into an older husband and wife, and their dog Coco. The dog was sitting comfortably in a wicker basket lashed to the front of one of their kayaks. Coco started kayaking at 3 months and wouldn’t even think of staying on shore now.

My five hours of sleep and the gentle rocking of the kayak was starting to catch up with me. I asked if it would be OK for us to end it here – and we did.

I hadn’t flipped the kayak. I hadn’t really gotten sick. I hadn’t put anyone else in mortal danger by doing something stupid. The trip was a success.

I’m hoping to go with Kevin again. Next time, with a little Dramamine, I’d like to try the Thimble Islands, off the Branford coast, in Long Island Sound.

I’m Not That Nice

A few months ago, Elizabeth McGuire (no Lizzie McGuire jokes, please) asked if she could interview me for Hartford Magazine. Never the shy one, I said yes.

I have just read the article, and can now guarantee, I’m not anywhere as nice as she portrayed me. I am grateful, however, she lied on my behalf.

Only part of the article was on the magazine’s website, so I retyped it to place here on my site. Other than changing the spelling of my daughter’s name, and my length of service at WTNH, I’ve left it as is.

Hartford Magazine / February 2004

WTNH weatherman Geoff Fox doesn’t mind being call a weather geek. In fact, he finds it flattering. Fox loves the scientific process of predicting and forecasting the weather. “I’m the kind of guy who does like to look at lists of numbers, charts and gr4aphs. It’s a different math puzzle every single day, and no matter what you do, you’re presented with another math puzzle the next day,” Fox says.

Day after day for the past 19 years at WTNH-TV, Fox has pored over the maps, graphs and charts; analyzed the data; and then translated the information into “plain English” for his viewers. Fox gets two to three minutes during evening newscasts to tell viewers how the weather on any given day is likely to affect them. Without being asked, he answers dozens of questions such as, “Should I wear a raincoat, start that outdoor project or cancel that backyard picnic?” Fox says many viewers listen critically to his forecasts, and they hold him accountable when he’s wrong. “Believe me, people can be tough if you are wrong – and they should be, because other than the Psychic Friends Network, there aren’t too many people who come on television and predict the future for a living,” Fox explains.

As we sit at the kitchen table in Fox’s spacious Hamden home one recent afternoon, Fox explains to me that advances in computer technology have increased weather forecasters’ ability to develop more accurate forecasts. Suddenly, Fox excuses himself and leaves the room. Moments later he’s back with his laptop computer. There begins my tutorial on weather patterns. A map with curvy lines shows barometric pressure, one with splotches of color shows precipitation, and a pretty blue graph shows, well I’m not sure what that one showed, but it sure is colorful! Though much of what Fox explains is lost on my unscientific mind, his main point isn’t: The mathematical calculations and other technical information computers offer weather forecasters are essential tools of the trade. Like blueprints to contractors, or EKG printouts to doctors, computers make it easier for weather forecasters to be correct more often. “We can get more detailed information about what the atmosphere is doing… why it’s doing it… how it’s doing it…”

But once Fox comes out from behind the computer, he is able to deliver important information in an easy-to-understand, conversational manner. And he just about always throws some humor into his forecasts, often catching his co-anchors off guard. “I’ve always been the guy who told the jokes and made funny little remarks. And I think I have good timing,” says Fox.

Fox honed his timing during his 11 years as a morning-radio personality in Cleveland, Philadelphia and Buffalo. In 1980, Fox became the host of a Buffalo TV magazine show at WGRZ-TV. That’s where he became interested in weather forecasting, applied for a weekend weather position, and got the job. Fox realized meteorology was an area in which he could use his math and science skills. Fox says he was always good in those subjects and was even on the school math team as a kid growing up in Flushing, Queens, NY.

Even though Fox says he scored higher than 700 on the math portion of the SATs, he tells me he was not a very good student, especially in college. “I was in the accelerated dismissal program at Emerson.” he jokes. In fact, he flunked out the first time he attended the Boston college that specializes in communications.

He is now, however, getting straight A’s in his course work to become a certified meteorologist. He’s enrolled in a distance learning program at Mississippi State University. But most of what Fox needs to know to get a degree in meteorology he already knows.

After years of on-the-job training and watching New England weather patterns, Fox has a pretty good track record of predicting the weather. A classic example of getting it right was his forecast for the so-called “Storm of the Century” (as some television promotion departments dubbed it) that took aim at Connecticut the first weekend of March 2001. Most of the computer weather models were indicating the strong possibility of at least three feet of snow with blizzard conditions. But Fox didn’t think they were correct. He had been using a different computer model (maintained by a major university) during the 200-2001 winter season, and it had been extremely accurate. So, Fox was pretty certain the site’s calculations on heights, temperatures and pressures in the atmosphere were reliable. He stuck with his prediction that the storm would bring mostly rain, sleet and perhaps a few inches of snow. “If you’re confident in your abilities, you have to give what you think is best, in spite of the pack,” he says. Fox’s news director at the time questioned the accuracy of his forecast but then decided to trust it. Gov. Rowland, however, put his faith in the blizzard forecasts and practically shut down the state. The “Storm of the Century” never materialized. Fox would later write an Op-Ed piece for the New Haven Register that he was “hurt” by an article in that paper, which led readers to believe that all area forecasters got it wrong.

That’s not to say, however, that Fox gets it right all the time. Even after 20 years in the television business Fox says he is still “incredibly bothered” when his forecasts don’t bear out. “there will be times when I wake up on a Saturday morning and I will be upset that it’s sunny. If I said it’s gonna rain, than a rainy day is much nicer than a sunny day.” Fox has been know to apologize to his viewers on the air when one of his forecasts has proven incorrect.

In the family room of Fox’s house, the fireplace mantel is crowded with pictures of his 16-year-old daughter Stefanie, in various stages of childhood and Fox’s wedding pictures. Fox and his wife Helaine recently celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary. Next to the mantel, behind the glass door of his entertainment center, Fox displays his seven shiny gold Emmy awards – meticulously lined up in a row. He earned those awards for weather and science reporting. Along with his work at WTNH-TV, Fox has hosted a show called “Inside Space” on the SciFi Channel and has been a fill-in weathercaster on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Fox says he would like to do more work for ABC because the experience was “cool.” He’d also like to host a game show but says those jobs would be in addition to his work at WTNH-TV.

When Fox isn’t working, he spends his time with his family, maintains his Web site( with his daily postings and plays Internet Poker. Fox also does charity work, and his favorite charities include the March of Dimes and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Fox sums up his feelings about the charity work and accurate forecasts this way” “Look, I’m not living in a hovel. I’m not driving a ’65 Pinto, and the reason I have whatever success and nice things I have is because of the people of Connecticut, so I feel there’s an obligation to give something back.”

On The Radio – WTIC

This was my morning to be on WTIC. Even though I had been in radio for 11 years, I was apprehensive. I’ve only done talk shows a few times, and haven’t done one solo in better than 20 years.

I feared there would be no calls. What would I do or say? How could I fill that much time? And, what about topics I wanted to shy away from?

I have a rule to stay away from partisan politics because I work in a newsroom. Even though talk show hosts would normally be expected to let it all hang out, I had my ‘real’ job to return to. Even the weatherman should be ‘above’ the political fray.

I woke up early – around 7:15 AM. For me, who usually doesn’t go to bed until 3 or 4 AM, that’s the middle of the night! Actually, knowing I’d be home in time to catch a little nap made it easier to get into the shower and get dressed.

A definite advantage radio has over TV is the dress code. I could wear anything and not even shave. I went with a black pullover sweater and jeans with sneakers.

Remembering the last time, I left the house about 5 after 8 and headed directly to Dunkin’ Donuts. Medium coffee, cream and sugar, I was set. I had a long enough drive to allow the coffee to reach the correct drinking temperature.

This being the day after Christmas, traffic was fairly light. I absentmindedly blew by Route 9 on I91 and ended up heading to I84 in Hartford. Though I’ve been to WTIC before, I never remember how to get there. And, the directions are only moderately helpful because I never remember if the phrase “I84 West” means I’m driving west on I84 or coming from the west on I84!

WTIC is located in a nondescript, two story building in a Farmington office park. It’s a perfectly fine place for a radio station, I suppose. Deep inside, I really feel WTIC deserves to be in a free standing building of its own. It is one of America’s storied radio stations, with a long and rich history. It should be in a building that makes a statement. This building does not.

Mike Constantinou, my producer, was waiting in the parking lot when I arrived. The lot itself was 10% full. WTIC and its three sister stations were, in essence, still closed for Christmas. Only the air staff was on hand, and even then it was a smaller staff than usual. There was a sub for traffic, a sub for news, a sub for weather, and me subbing for Jim Vicevich.

We walked inside and I said hello to Ray Dunaway, who along with the vacationing Diane Smith, does the morning drive show. Ray has the deep, ballsy voice I always wanted, and never got. Like me, he had known from childhood that he was going to be in radio and then just followed through.

Before long I had headphones on and was schmoozing with Ray. We talked global warming (both of us are somewhat dubious of the gloom and doom) and how kids growing up have a misconception of the cleanliness of our air versus the pollution I knew as a kid.

He’s used to working with a partner and plays well with others, so I had no problems.

Ten O’clock came along and Ray left… leaving me the studio. I had told Mike that I wanted to run the board for the phones, but let him handle the commercials, news and traffic. As the news played out from a small studio off to the side, I sat down and got as comfortable as possible.

The studio is average sized for a radio studio. There are three mikes at the table surrounding the audio console, and one mike at the console itself. Off to the left were two computers – one for the commercials and logged content and another for communications between the producer and me. Slightly behind me and also to the left a lone PC on the Internet.

I had noticed a memo in the newsroom admonishing the staff not to use company computers to check their private email accounts whether they be Hotmail (actually, in the note it was Hot mail), Yahoo or anything else. At the same time, I couldn’t call home on the studio phone because you needed an accounting code to place an outside call. This is 2003 and I’m paying 3&#162 a minute for long distance service at home; they must be paying less. What are they worried about? After all, the studios are full of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment and there’s the liability that comes when the air staff is live. Internet and phone access should be way down the list of concerns.

News gave way to traffic and weather and then I was on. It was like getting back on a bicycle. I was ready to go.

In a talk show, you throw out topics in much the same way bartenders seed the tip jar. You’re trying to get your idea out to the audience. And, if they deviate or find a better place to go, you go there too.

Quickly, I started taking calls. After the fact, Helaine said I was trying too hard… and maybe I was. I didn’t have tomorrow to correct my mistakes. It was now or never. I wanted to limit calls – keep bringing in fresh ideas.

The common wisdom in talk shows is, it’s very easy to let someone go on too long. You’re better off moving through many calls. Of course to do that, you need calls.

A few minutes into the show, I started having technical troubles. It was my fault without a doubt. The controls for the phone lines were straight forward, but not very well marked. After a few calls I started pressing the wrong buttons and got trapped in some sort of talk show hell where I was camped on a line with someone who had been dispatched and no way to get to the next listener. Bad for the rhythm of the show.

I had received a note with the names of my traffic and news reporters. Next to the traffic reporters name, Rachel Duran, was a note saying, “Don’t call her Jill.” In some sort of radio insanity, the folks who report traffic on many different stations use many different names.

Best line of the morning (spoken on air but directed to Mike the producer): “Some people don’t call because they’re worried about being on hold too long. There should be a policy. If there are more than two callers waiting, we’ll open up another register.”

A woman called from Bristol. She had no idea who this new voice on the air was, and when I told her, she still didn’t know who I was. After nearly 20 years in the market, I’m entitled to have a little fun with that, so I told her we had given out $1,000 to each of our TV viewers last week and she had missed out.

From then on, I began to ask all the callers if they had gotten their $1,000 and everyone seemed to go along with the joke. Later, I began asking if anyone had gotten a hot tub from a friend… a not too veiled reference to Governor Rowland who had accepted a hot tub and is now in hot water.

I made it to the top of the hour newscast with only minor cuts and scratches.

Things went well as we began the second hour, but then trouble. The phone lines dried up. Beads of sweat began to form. I made a crucial mistake – a rookie mistake: I said we were out of calls.

As soon as I said it, I knew I had crossed some sacred talk show line. Sure, it’s not my job, but I’ll still kick myself every time I remember I did it.

With no traffic in Connecticut, every time Rachel (not Jill) came on the air, I asked her for a traffic report for some obscure area of the state, like Occum or Forestville or Union. She laughed and took it like a trooper.

The first rule of improv is going along with the bit. Rachel (not Jill) played the game correctly. Her willingness to have fun made the bit funnier. Actually, without her laughter it wasn’t funny at all. She made the bit.

As noon approached I was rolling and actually dreaded the end coming so soon.

I’m sure if I did it again, I would do some things differently. And, when I listen to the aircheck I brought home, some of my talk show shortcomings will come into sharp focus. I still have my amateur status, so that’s not a big deal.

Maybe there will be another time. You never know.