Thursday, November 6, 2014

Fame - How did #AlexFromTarget Happen?

So this is how the internet works now...

On Sunday, a boy named Alex is working at a Target store in Texas. A girl takes a photo of him and posts it on Twitter. He's cute -- at least this unorganized, yet powerful faction Gawker refers to as "Teen Twitter" thinks he's cute -- so the photo gets shared. A lot. And now #AlexFromTarget is a thing.

Suddenly, Alex is famous -- his Twitter account gains hundreds of thousands of followers. He appears on "Ellen." And, of course, Target embraces this sudden free advertising. Other companies pick up on it by using the hashtag. And why not? But is this just a random example of social media at its most pervasive or is this a calculated marketing campaign?

An internet marketing company called Breakr tried to claim the latter. In fact, the company's CEO wrote a post on LinkedIn in which he seemed to give his company credit for the quickly rising popularity of #AlexFromTarget. But there seem to be some holes in that story.

What's clear is the internet moves fast and what's hot in pop culture changes constantly. Smart marketing companies and alert businesses need to be paying attention. (Remember this from the 2013 Super Bowl?) 

Whether the trend is organically viral or a planned campaign, there's no doubt it can be powerful. But it can also be fleeting. It seems after just a few days, #AlexFromTarget has already worn out his welcome with plenty of people

[I originally wrote this article about #AlexFromTarget for]  

Today's Title: Live forever? No. 15 seconds maybe

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Old Man

This post is gonna make me sound like an old man. The guy who says "when I started in this business..."  a lot. And I'm trying to accept that.

I sat on in some web-training at work today. It was a refresher course for posting news on the television station's website. I'm all for that -- I completely understand the importance of it. You don't have to sell me on the reasons providing online content is crucial for traditional television newsrooms. In my first television job, we'd post our stories on the web -- no video, just text versions -- after the newscast had aired. This was the 1996/97 and it was pretty forward-thinking.

When I started in television (see, there I go), a newsroom's philosophy was "get it on the air first, then, maybe, post it on the (world wide) web." As a reporter, you devoted all your attention to making sure the story "made page" -- which means it was ready when its time came up in the newscast. Now, reporters need to be posting information and photos to twitter and making sure information is available to update the station's website the moment they've information to share. News waits for no one. People who look to us for news (they're not just "viewers" anymore) expect to get that news almost instantly.

Again, I get all that. I agree with all that. The way people get their news and information is changing and we've got to keep up with those changes. My fear is that news becomes less and less about good journalism and strong storytelling and more and more about search engine optimization and getting clicks by using keywords, providing lots of links and posting attention-grabbing photos. I understand the reality: clicks = ad views = money = success. But I hate to see news sites starting to lean on the "click-bait" that seems to be clogging Facebook these days. "Click here to see the rest of the story, you'll never guess what happens next..." 

Call me old fashioned, but I still want to believe "Content" -- not "Click Bait" -- is still "King."

Of course, It probably doesn't help that I still FEEL like an old man (#StupidACL). My recovery from surgery is going well, but it's still pretty painful and the more time I'm spending on my feet, the more swollen and sore my leg gets. It's kind of a vicious cycle -- the better I feel, the more I do... the more I do, the worse I feel... 

Alright.. now that I got all that old guy out of my system, I need to go play a video game. Or post a Snapchat. Or... what are young people even doing these days?!?

Today's Title: This song, released the year I was born, by a guy who's about turn 69-years-old

Friday, October 24, 2014

One Week

It's been one week since I went back to work. And... well... I made it. I mean, I didn't expect anything less -- except for a little while on Wednesday. 

I actually wasn't sure I was going to make it through Wednesday morning's broadcast. If Gil Simmons had offered to cut my leg off, I may have taken him up on it. "Hump Day" was, by far, my hardest day of the week. "Hump Day?? More like Hurt Day!! Amirite?!?!" ... Sorry, that just sounds dumb...

Despite enjoying three weeks of a "normal" sleep schedule, it didn't take too long to get back into the 2:30AM wake-up routine. (It's still early... and I'm  never going to get 8 7 more than 6 hours of sleep.) And the knee was sore, but holding up just fine. Until Wednesday. Man, Wednesday sucked. I could blame Tuesday's fairly intense physical therapy. I could blame spending two days on my feet. I could blame the brace which was keeping me from bending my knee. (It was also likely keeping me from falling on my face, but.. details..) It was probably a combination of all those things. I could not hook myself up to that ice machine fast enough when I got home.

By Thursday, the swelling was down and the leg was feeling better. And today it feels as good as its felt at any point since the surgery. Of course, I've got physical therapy in a bit.. so, who knows? 

So what have we learned?

Some days are better than others. Recovery is freakin' slow. Physical therapy is tough. Ice is nice. I've got to remember to "listen to my body," as I've been told many times. And 2:30 is still really, really early. 

Today's Title: They're neither naked nor are they ladies

Monday, October 20, 2014

The First Time in Forever

Okay, maybe not the first time in forever... but for the first time in October, I got up at 2:30AM and went to work this morning. Three weeks is the longest I'd ever been away from work, so I wasn't sure how re-entry would be. It was pretty unremarkable.

By the way, how weak am I? Using the title of a song from "Frozen" as the title of this post... hoping to steal a few "clicks" from fans of the movie who get linked here by Google. (Oh, hello fans of Elsa and Anna... thanks for dropping by!) 

Anyway, today I went back to work. And in most ways, it's like I never left. If you watched, you saw I was using a crutch. (You could argue I use verbal "crutches" on TV all the time, but I digress.) We stand on Good Morning CT, so the crutch was a necessary companion. I just can't put a lot of pressure on that leg. I'm at the point now where I'm dealing with kind of a vicious cycle. The better I feel, the more I do... the more I do, the more my leg hurts. I have a feeling that'll be the case for awhile. I'm trying to listen to the oft-repeated advice I've heard recently: "Take it slow... Don't try to do too much... Go easy on yourself." I'm trying...

Unfortunately, this morning's news was not so pleasant. I guess that's usually the case... maybe I just noticed it more since I've been off for a little while. We were covering several "death investigations" from the weekend. And I found myself saying "Ebola" this morning, far more frequently than I'd said it during the three weeks I wasn't on television. I guess news is gonna news... (Or should that be "newz is gonna newz..."?)

Finally, a thank you to my coworkers who seemed genuinely happy to welcome me back this morning. Either you guys really did miss me... or you are a fine bunch of thespians. And a great thanks to the many people who emailed, tweeted and facebooked (that is a verb, right?) me to say nice things about my return. Sometimes I forget how many people make me and the GMCT part of their mornings. I -- we -- really appreciate that. Talking to you beats talking to ourselves...

Today's Title: Okay Frozen fans, here's your song

Friday, October 17, 2014

I Will Not Take These Things For Granted

I've been complaining a lot lately about how difficult it's been to, well, do pretty much everything. My leg hurts, the immobilizer is uncomfortable, crutches are inconvenient. Doing simple things has been hard. Just standing up has been painful. But you know what I've realized? ... I've really got nothing to complain about.

I've already turned the corner. I'm driving again, so in the last 24 hours I've taken my daughter to her guitar lesson, gone to the grocery store, gotten my haircut and gone to the dentist. So, you know, really taking advantage of my freedom. On second thought, maybe driving again is overrated. And on Monday morning -- or more accurately, sometime overnight Sunday into Monday -- my alarm will go off and I'll be going back to work. 

Here's the thing, life is getting back to normal for me... as opposed to this becoming my new normal. I've had a lot of time to think (daydream, ponder, theorize, imagine, consider, etc) while I've been sitting here for the last 19 days.. and as my mobility has been limited and my ability to do the things I'm used to doing has been compromised, I've thought a lot about those who are struggling with health challenges far greater than mine. Far, far greater... long-term health challenges. Like, not even close... like, stop your whining Velardi. 

Look, I know I don't have to, but I feel like I should say it write it -- I've been blogging, posting on facebook and tweeting... not to complain, but to tell the story of my recovery. I thought it might be interesting to share how a regular guy, a weekend warrior-type who isn't an elite athlete, recovers from a surgery like this. 

There's a light shining very clearly at the end of this, yes, painful.. yes, frustrating.. yes, inconvenient.. but yes, ultimately temporary tunnel. And inside this tunnel, I've learned how easy it can be to take things for granted.

Today's Title: I can't believe this song is 21 years old

Monday, October 13, 2014

Strong Enough

As in, "Your leg isn't..."

I didn't really expect my physical therapist to say anything other than that today. Still, it kinda sucked to hear her tell me my leg isn't strong enough yet to walk without crutches and/or the immobilizer. I mean it hasn't even been two weeks since surgery... Still, I was hoping to hear, "Chris, you're healed. Your leg is as strong as a super hero's. In fact, you're ready to walk... to run... to dance like that crazy kid at the baseball game."

I've been going to PT twice a week (insurance only pays for so many, otherwise I'd go every day) and I've been doing my exercises at home. Tightening the quads, lifting the leg, balancing on the leg, straightening the leg, bending the knee. It's a long way from an "Insanity" workout. (Then again, I'm a long way from an "Insanity" workout.) In fact it's dreadfully tedious and boring. But it's important. I know that. I've heard it 47-Million times (I'm rounding up) -- the physical therapy is crucial and the recovery is going to take a long time. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm not the most patient patient. But I'm trying... 

So much of it is mental. I mean of course, there's pain. Like, a lot of pain. Bending the knee can be excruciating. I try not scream when the physical therapist is testing the limits of my flexibility. But I can do it. It sounds weird, but straightening the leg is even more of a mental challenge. When I get to that point where my leg is fully extended, I get this fear that my knee is going to buckle and bend the wrong way. The physical therapist assures me it won't and I suppose she's got the credentials, so I'll believe her...

Am I making progress? Yes. Am I getting more flexible? Of course. Am I getting stronger? Sure. Just not as quickly as I'd like. And apparently that's something every patient says. Patients with no patience... go figure.

Today's Title: It was either this or Sheryl Crow

Friday, October 10, 2014

Video Killed the Radio Star

I've been watching a lot of radio during the last week and a half, as I've become one with my couch. No - I'm not delirious from the pain meds (not completely delirious, anyway) -- I typed that correctly. I've been watching a lot of radio. 

There is a lot of radio on television -- particularly sports talk radio. Mike and Mike (ESPN2), Boomer and Carton (CBS Sports Network), Dennis and Callahan (NESN), Dan Patrick (NBC Sports Network), Colin Cowherd (ESPNU), SVP & Russillo (ESPN News), Mike Francesa (Fox Sports 1), Michael Kay (YES), Doug Gottlieb (CBS Sports Network), Paul Finebaum (SEC Network) -- it is the perfect daytime space-filler for the 947 sports networks on cable TV. They've got live games at night. They've got to do something during the day. And sports talk radio is already there. You can argue that radio is dead (or alive and kicking), but sports talk has certainly found a niche on cable TV. It's also almost exclusively white and middle-aged... but that's a topic, perhaps, for another time.

I love radio -- always have. I learned so much about broadcasting -- so much about life -- in the greatest media classroom while a student at Syracuse University. The lessons I learned working at Z89, I still lean on today. Same with the friends I made there. While I was still in college, I turned an internship with the "Glenn and Pat" morning show -- yeah, that Glenn -- into a summer job at KC101. One of the great things about radio -- throwing on a hat and sweatshirt, showing up at work and talking into a microphone. When I did radio, I didn't have to worry about hair and makeup... though, I usually did. Well, at least the hair... I always worried about the hair. 


A quick update on the ACL recovery...

Things are moving along pretty well. When I'm sitting with my leg elevated and iced, it feels great. When I'm up and moving around, it's still pretty sore. The doctor says the leg looks good; the physical therapists say the leg is getting stronger. I'm still wearing the immobilizer, but I'm able to walk shuffle around a little with no crutches. (I know Dr. Kelley is shaking his head at me right now.) I still usually use at least one crutch so I don't put too much pressure and weight on the injured leg. I'm also doing my physical therapy -- squeeze the quads, lift the leg, bend the knee. Boring, but important work. 

Today's Title: The answer to an MTV trivia question

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Wake Up!!

*Chris rolls over, looks at the clock*

Nice... 7:22. Sleeping in is swee--- wait... what?? 7:22?!?! 

"Emma. EMMA!! Wake up!! The bus will be here in ten minutes!!"

So, that's how my morning started. Like a predictable sitcom plot. The mom (my wife) is out of town on a business trip leaving the dad (me) in charge. The dad is an incompetent but lovable oaf and things go hilariously off track. My daughter jumps out of bed, throws on some clothes and gathers her school things. I scramble downstairs and pack her a lunch. Throw in the fact that I'm hopping around on one foot, and you can't cue up the laugh track fast enough. 

Now in my defense, I've got the afternoon routine down pat -- homework, snack, soccer practice, swim practice, dinner, reading, bedtime -- because I'm home in the afternoon. I'm at work in the morning, so that routine is a bit of a mystery to me.   

So what went wrong? There's plenty of blame to go around.
--Blame my son. Okay, maybe I shouldn't throw my seven-year-old under the blame bus, but I was counting on him to be our alarm clock. He always gets up early. In fact, he did get up early this morning -- he was in my bed at 5:00. But he fell back asleep.
--Blame the cable. Something's going on with the cable box in our bedroom. Some of the channels aren't working -- important channels, like Disney Channel. So when my son couldn't watch "Phineas and Ferb" this morning, we turned off the TV and that's why he (we) fell back asleep.
--Blame my daughter. You know, she does have an alarm clock.
--Blame myself. I am supposed to be the adult here.
--Blame Tuesday. If you follow me on Twitter, you know I'm no fan of Tuesday. It's the worst day of the week (#BlameTuesday). By the way, if you don't follow me on Twitter, you need to rethink your social media decisions...

Of course it all worked out in the end. My daughter got up, got dressed and got on her bus with a packed lunch in hand. It always works out in those sitcoms...

Today's Title: We were supposed to wake up at six o'clock

Monday, October 6, 2014

Full Circle

I got the pedal all the way around this morning. Made a full circle. And my knee didn't explode. So I did it again... and again... and a few more times! What, you're not impressed? Well, I was. But then again, I've got a different perspective right now. Yep, something I would normally take for granted -- peddling a bikein this case a recumbent bike at physical therapy -- gave me a real sense of accomplishment. I laughed when the physical therapist greeted me with, "We're gonna start on the bike today." But this apparently isn't her first time dealing with a guy trying to bounce back from ACL replacement surgery.  (Obviously...)

I also did some super-exciting leg lifts on my back, side and stomach. It's all about strengthening the quad muscles. When they're strong enough, I can lose this full leg brace and go back to the smaller brace which will allow me some flexibility. Honestly, one of the most enjoyable parts of PT is the opportunity to shed the immobilizer for an hour. 

Before the brace went back on, the therapist put some kinesio tape on my knee. You've seen athletes using this stuff, right? Athletes use it because it's supposed to support joints and muscles while allowing for full range of motion. In my case, it's supposed to alleviate some of the bruising. Kinesio tape has its skeptics. In fact, my physical therapist says she was one of them, until she used it on someone recovering from the same surgery I had. His bruising was worse then mine, but it went in away in the area that had been taped. So, we'll see what happens. It certainly can't hurt. And it's a cool pattern. If only it were a flashier color. By the way, that wound above the tape is the small incision from surgery. It's really doesn't look too bad, does it? 

After PT, my mom (my ride today - thanks mom!) took me for lunch outside. Man, it was nice to get outside for a little while.

Saturday, October 4, 2014


I kinda knew this would be the case, but now I've got visual proof. This afternoon my left leg -- around my shin and ankle, particularly -- is a purple and navy colored mess. (Again, I'll spare you the photo.) And it's pretty sore.

I was feeling pretty good about my recovery yesterday. Maybe too good. I'd gotten out of the house for a few appointments and the physical therapist said my leg looked good and seemed strong. When I got home, I was ready to run a marathon! Okay, maybe a 5K. Alright, at least I thought I was well enough to help out a little in the kitchen -- I unloaded the dishwasher (on one foot -- I'm really good at hopping). And I'd even managed to climb the stairs (slowly, with crutches) and sleep in my own bed last night. 

That was great. I slept really well. What probably wasn't great was the fact that sleeping in my bed required me to unhook myself from this machine that had been keeping my leg iced for the last 48+ hours. So today, the leg's a little more sore than it had been and a lot more colorful.

I'm still getting up and unwrapping the leg to do the exercises the physical therapist told me to do. But for the most part, I've been back on the couch and connected to the machine all day. At least the Sports Gods have been smiling at me with today's football schedule. But can we just not talk about what about what happened to Syracuse last night. Talk about bruises...

Today's Title: Yeah, I've got 'em

Friday, October 3, 2014

Sitting, Waiting, Wishing

How 'bout a Friday update? It is Friday, right? It's amazing how you lose track of things when you're sitting on the couch, waiting to get better, wishing you could fast forward.

It's also amazing how 48 hours sitting in the same place can feel like so much longer than 48 hours. I got out of the house yesterday for my first follow-up with the surgeon. And the feeling of freedom -- to be able to unhook my leg from the ice/compression machine for more than just a bathroom visit -- was amazing.  As for the medical update, everything is as it should be. In fact, my leg looks surprisingly less horrific than I'd expected. I've got a picture, but just in case you are reading this while eating I'll spare you. But seriously, why would you be reading this while eating? 

Anyway, getting out of the house yesterday was a treat. It was even more so today. I had my first physical therapy appointment. My exercises at the moment consist of slowly, gently bending my leg... pushing down on a towel beneath my knee by squeezing my quad... and turning my ankle to "draw" the alphabet. Exciting stuff, huh? The physical therapist also said things look good. But as I've mentioned, I'm not the most patient person and this slow, deliberate approach to getting back on my feet is frustrating. But, I know better than to push it. In the meantime, I'm gonna be the best leg bender, quad squeezer and ankle speller there is.

Meanwhile, life goes on around me. My wife has been juggling caring for me, preparing for a major conference at work and organizing a school fundraiser. My kids have been going to school and soccer and swimming and student council meetings... thank goodness for my parents and our friends, who've been helping with the taxi service, dropping off food and generally offering support. 

It's all made me think how fortunate I am to have family and friends nearby to help. "It takes a village," as a friend texted me the other day while offering to help. I'm fortunate I live in that village. And, more important, I'm even more fortunate that this setback is only temporary. I know eventually I'll be up and moving again like nothing happened. And I know there are others who are dealing with challenges far more daunting than mine. Seriously, I see what they're going through and think "suck it up, Velardi." There are far worse things than sitting, waiting and wishing...

Today Title: The relaxed stylings of Mr Johnson.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Big Comfy Couch

Technically, my couch isn't made of that "memory foam" stuff, but in a day or two that's not gonna matter -- there's going to be a clearly defined Chris-shaped groove in this cushion. I've been here - leg elevated, attached to this ice machine - for more than 24 hours now. As I mentioned yesterday, I've got plenty to keep me occupied in the "Recovery Zone," as my wife dubbed it: Phones, TVs, a laptop, a Playstation, a Kindle, books, and magazines. But I'm not gonna lie, being stuck in one spot is getting old. 

And my butt's getting sore. 

But I should probably suck it up and deal with that. That may just be the appetizer to my main course of pain. Everyone warned me about the second day -- when the local anesthesia starts wearing off. I can tell that's starting to happen. I can feel the cold water pumping through that contraption and I can tell when the compression kicks in - that part is good. That tingling sensation is also becoming more pronounced in my left quad - that part is odd. And then there's the knee. I feel ya now, knee. Not a sharp pain, but a bit of a dull ache - that part isn't so good. And yes, I am absolutely taking my pain medication - as advised - every four hours to stay in front of it. 

What worries me a little, is what it's going to be like trying to sleep tonight. Last night was pretty tough because of this immobilizer. You know those days when the three-year old didn't want to go to daycare so he wrapped himself around your leg so you couldn't leave? Imagine trying to sleep with that kid still giving your leg a bear hug. That's what it was like last night. Not painful, but quite uncomfortable. Tonight, I'm afraid the bear won't just be hugging... he might be biting too.

Today's Title:  Now that's a comfy couch

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

So Far, So Good

Well, that wasn't so bad. I mean, what do I know... I was sleeping the whole time. But so far, so good.

I had my ACL replacement surgery this morning. And the hardest part was being unable to eat or drink anything prior to surgery. No water -- and I was really thirsty. No coffee -- and, well, I'm me. Have you met me?

I'm what the nurses called "an O-R virgin." Somehow, I've managed to avoid any broken bones, severe sprains or anything else that would require me to be admitted to a hospital. So this was my first time getting general anesthesia. The pre-op nurses were great -- making sure I knew what was happening, answering my questions and ensuring the surgeon would be cutting into the right correct knee. My post-op nurse was wonderful too. I remember talking to the nurses, meeting with the surgeon and walking into the operating room, noticing how bright it was and... yeah, that's about it.

So what now? I'm not exactly comfortable, but in any pain. I'm sure the femoral nerve block which hasn't worn off -- basically feels like Novocaine for the leg -- is largely responsible for that. And the pain meds, which EVERYONE has told me to be sure I take. I'm not a big fan of taking pain meds, but I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "Stay ahead of it!" in the last few days. So, I will. I'm also hooked up to my constant companion, my new best friend -- this machine which pumps cold water and compression into pads wrapped around my knee, under the full leg immobilizer. 
And guys, let me just say my wife is awesome. Today hasn't just been surgery day -- it's also our 14th wedding anniversary. It's "Anniversasurgery" day. She's spent the day moving furniture around to set up the "Recovery Zone" -- I've got the ice machine, smart phones, a laptop, Playstation, books, magazines and TVs all within arms reach. There's even a window! I can't possibly get bored, can I? Stay tuned...

Today's Title: Song from a 1986 movie soundtrack that feels like it's from a 1986 movie soundtrack.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Return of the Mack (Or, at least of me... to blogging)

So, it's been awhile since I've posted anything here. Like, more than a year and a half. Don't judge me, I've been busy. Or lazy. No, I'm sticking with busy. But I need to start writing again about, um, stuff. (That's the technical term for "whatever I want to write about, whenever the mood strikes.")

For the next few weeks, I'm probably going to spend more than a few posts writing about my recovery from ACL reconstruction surgery. Surgery is tomorrow (9/30). And I'm not gonna lie, I'm a little uneasy about it. As far as I'm concerned, power tools should be purchased at Lowe's or Home Depot and be used to build things, not to drill holes in my limbs. My doctor is great and has certainly prepared me for it. But I know the recovery isn't going to be easy and definitely isn't going to be quick. I'm going to miss three weeks of work -- and spend a lot of that time on my back with my leg elevated and iced. While I'm looking forward sleeping later than usual, I'm not the most patient person and I'm usually on the go. So, what I'm saying is... this should be frustratingly fun.

Should I blame the Mets hat?

It's been a few months since the actual injury. I hurt myself in early July playing in a rec league softball game. I probably should lie and say I was scoring the game-winning run from second on a ground out, or making a game-saving diving catch. But the truth is I planted my cleat and turned my body while playing the outfield. The cleat pointed left, my knee twisted right and I felt a pop. I fell, the knee swelled and the rest is history. As my doctor says, if it weren't for old guys like me (I'm not THAT old) playing kids' games... he wouldn't have nearly as much to do.

To be honest, I've gotten used to the injury. There's still some swelling in my knee, but I can move around pretty well now. I still wear my hinged knee brace almost all the time. I don't want to take one funny step and make things worse. I can't run -- maybe I could, I haven't tried (which I'm sure my doctor appreciates) -- but I have been able to swim. So I've tried to stay as active as possible. I've been swimming, coaching my son's soccer team, etc. 

If NFL stars like Jamal Charles, Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski can do it... if NBA players like Derek Rose, Al Harrington and Baron Davis can do it, I know I'll be able to come back from this injury -- run road races again, play softball, stop limping. What? They're professional athletes and they're younger... well, sure... but... 

Today's Title: A one-hit wonder that 18 YEARS OLD!!!