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December 15 2010


A faded vivid memory…

Mickey Pfleger

We all have these stashed away in the hinterlands of our minds…people we met on stories. Folks who for some reason embedded their very essence into our cells for some reason unknown to us or them.

Mickey Pfleger was one such with me. I only met him a few times, although I probably ran into him many times over the years without realizing it. That’s how it is with newsies. Casual eye contact is enough to make us more than acquaintances…but to become friends, it takes only a few words.

Mickey is gone now.

I’ve known for the past week…but it didn’t hit home until I visited his facebook page today and read the many, many comments.

You see, Mickey was a news photographer – the kind who freezes time. His specialty: sports. And that’s how I came our relationship became more than a passing nod in the field. He became the focus of a story I worked on in 2000.

Mikey was working the 49ers field, snapping away and grabbing the game action, when he was pummeled by tight end Tony Gonzalez. Yeah, that sideline action can be pretty brutal…one of the hazards of the biz.

Pfleger was knocked unconscious – and that’s when the miracle began. Were it not for this somewhat minor accident, Mickey would probably never have been sent to the hospital and gotten a CT scan of his brain. And he might have discovered – too late – that he had a brain tumor.

Irony. When you expect one outcome and something else occurs.

That collision on the field and hospital visit spared his life. In his own words:

“…I really believe that things happen for a reason.
I was supposed to be knocked out by Tony Gonzalez at the football game. I was supposed to go into a seizure while I was unconscious, so that Dr. Klint of the 49ers would tell the paramedics to tell the emergency room doctors to do a CT brain scan on me. I was supposed to be taken to San Francisco General Hospital and land in the hands of Dr. Martin Holland, an incredibly talented neurosurgeon.”

After an operation to remove the tumor, Mickey went on with his life, until an aggressive cancer did what a 49ers player couldn’t – taking him out of the game last Friday.

But within each of our minds…those who knew him will always remember that sweet smile and equally sweet demeanor. A gracious man who accepted his fate and moved on. Who shared his insight and photos freely and was even grateful to yet another news crew stumbling into his life for a brief time to extract his essence. And some of it stuck.

On Mikey’s facebook page, he leaves us his philosophy:

“Almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. Only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement.”
-Patricia Graynamore

September 04 2010


Story ideas (early) 9-5-10

As with many of you, I’m outa here for the Labor Day weekend, so thought I’d post a few ideas before heading out the door.

Three - TwentyTwo - ThirtySix

The first one is personal – for me as well as you.
Who are your grandparents (or meaningful elder)? Who are they REALLY?
We tend to ignore or revere our elders…now is the time to look at them in a totally different light.
Once they were just like you. Ten years old…a teen…a young adult…they had mid-life crisis…had fears of growing older. They have been through every stage you have been through and survived and they can look back with or without regrets at their life and are able to understand the connections along the way from the safe distance of time.
Story idea: interview someone old, someone close to you. Force them back in time to their youth and have them talk about everyday things. What they had for breakfast. What their favorite toy or saying was. Slang from their youth. What they hated/what they loved. Ask them how things have changed…where they might have had a party line shared with other families, what do they think of cell phones that can shoot video, stills, and surf the Internet.
Just think about it – maybe as teens they couldn’t even conceive of the changes they have lived though.
Not think about this – can YOU imagine the changed YOU will live though?

Second and final idea.
It is Labor Day Weekend. Symbolic of many cultural themes. The end of summer. The beginning of the school year. A change in seasons.
How many of you or your audience have ever celebrated the true meaning of Labor Day?
Story idea: check out your community and see if there are any local events, picnics, meetings that hone in on the reason for the quintessential three day weekend. Does anyone show up? Ask them why? Then head out into the community and do a survey on what is really happening – what does your community do to celebrate Labor Day and what do they think it’s all about.
Not the most original idea…but I remember covering labor and union meetings held on this first Monday in September back in the 70s, where labor was truly honored. I’m not too sure that is happening any more.

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