Sunday, August 29, 2010

Introverted Twins

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

When former Detroit Pistons Vice President of Public Relations Matt Dobek died on Saturday August 21 at the age of 51, I got sick to my stomach!

Yet, his cause of death is something that I mentally deal with on a daily basis.

Dobek apparently committed suicide just months after losing his job with the Detroit Pistons.

In the past year, not only did Dobek lose his job of 29 years, but the loss of his father, former Pistons Owner William Davidson and Coach Chuck Daly also died and that obviously was too much for him to overcome.

I have known Matt Dobek since 1988. He was the first local Detroit Sports Public Relations Director to grant me credentials when I returned home from college in Florida, and one year in Sports Management in North Carolina.

My first assignment was the 1988 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Pontiac Silverdome.

I never missed a big event at the Palace of Auburn Hills when I lived in Detroit.

Those crucial playoff games, finals appearances, ring and retired jersey ceremonies are long long lasting memories.

Dobek made sure I always had my season passes. When I went on road trips, there was never a problem.

There was a time when I took a cross country trip that lasted over 35 days, spanned over 10,000 miles where I drove a rented car which included NBA stops in Sacramento, Seattle, Portland, Utah and Indiana.

When these Public Relations Directors needed verification, Matt took care of the situation! There were times when I called him from the road and he told me to relax and drive safely after I told him the project I was working on.

There were other trips to Boston, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Miami and Orlando where we would talk, hangout at lunch or dinner.

In my eyes, Dobek was the Most Misunderstood person I've ever known!

While he maintained a low-keyed demeanor and wasn't the most outgoing person, Matt was cordial, cooperative, had a calmness about himself but more importantly was always there when you needed him!

The last time I saw Matt was in Miami in April of 2009 just shortly before Daly died of Cancer. Chuck lived in Jupiter, FL and Matt was not only his friend but his publicist. Matt was working the Pistons and Heat game and must have known that Daly's health was near its terminal stages thus it was a great opportunity for them to spend time together.

After Detroit won its second championship in 1989-90, Matt presented me with a plaque with a piece of the Pistons floor at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

It proudly hangs in my hallway in Deerfield Beach, Florida!

He told me that you deserve it!

Matt and his staff treated me with respect! They were like another family to me, My Basketball Family.

If you were loyal to them, acted professional, did an honest job but covered them not only when they were winning but also losing, they showed their appreciation. They used to send Christmas Cards every year to myself and Sports Editor George Eichorn.

They were a class act and that's attributed from the man in charge which was undoubtedly, Matt. It was easy to continue to write about this team, from Matt, to Tom Wilson, Mr. Davidson, etc... That's why I loved covering this team.

But as sadness about Matt's untimely death continues, plus lingering questions on why he committed suicide by hanging himself, I found that after this happened, we are more alike than I thought we were.

Matt and I like to keep things bottled up inside.

We don't like to burden our friends & family with personal and financial hardships.

Matt and I are proud individuals!

Therefore, I'm not surprised he committed suicide!

Everybody has their own set of problems and I won't add to them!

Although I'm 47, since I've relocated to South Florida in 2002, I've watched myself age by 53 years!

While I've enjoyed many great sports memories connected with my passion in the media, the inability to find a constant career in South Florida has been a tremendously huge lingering battle.

What I've discovered in this transient Sun-Belt Melting Pot during this process is that I'm over qualified for the majority of the positions I've applied for.

While there are dishonest people everywhere, there are more scams and cons in South Florida than any other place that I've ever been connected with.

I've seen human resource people that are late to interviews, fail to show up and don't hire you because they're concerned you'll eventually replace them.

I even had a youngster in his early 20's interview me and one of his first questions during the interview was, "What is your favorite toy?" He was looking at his list of questions in the back of his desk and just pulled it out of his drawer.

To me, this would be enough to drive anyone nuts!

My intensity to land a good career and competitiveness to be the best when I landed the position has led to numerous sleepless nights.

Have to admit many of these interviews could be book material down the road and I have been real calm the majority of the time. Sponging these experiences is priceless but it does nothing to help ones checkbook.

I even had a friend say to me one time that we can't even get a job we don't want. Go figure.

But like any athlete or person, I hate to lose and despise failure!

To complicate matters, I suffered a major lower back injury in 2007 and physically haven't been the same.

In June of 2009, I had back surgery to remove a disk and had two cages inserted to provide me with support. For the past 14 months, there have been major travel restrictions and I haven't been able to lift more the 10 pounds. Thus, a bad job market became worse.

I'm still on the mend and while there has been progress in the recovery, there seems to be no end in sight to a lawsuit that could take years to resolve but won't solve the hardships I've experienced financially, physically and mentally.

Besides the injury and poor South Florida job market, dealing with criticism by family members at meals, over the phone that make accusations that I'm lazy because they don't understand the complexity of how difficult it is to deal with liars and snakes on a daily basis is enough to drive anyone over the edge!

It would even frustrate Albert Einstein!

This entire situation makes it difficult to create a personal life with a potential significant other.

As I define Matt Dobek's legacy, there are certain ways to view things.

1) I've always had the belief that you "Live Everyday As If It Were Your Last."

2) It isn't Quantity, but Quality!

Todays job market has no loyalty. When I entered the work force 31 years ago, two weeks notice was a common courtesy. Now it's two seconds.

To work 29 years at one job and not be given severance pay as was the case with Matt, was idiotic. I've worked in industry's where politics prevented me from landing in other positions.

That's why Matt rejoined his other support system.

I don't know what God has in store for me.

But I do know that when my time is over, there is an All-Star Team waiting for me when I pass away.

In addition to Dobek, who was one of the greatest public relations people that I've ever worked with, there is Ernie Harwell, Mr. Davidson, whom I became very friendly with at Pistons games and is ironically buried in the same cemetery that all of my family is in back in Michigan, Daly, whom I enjoyed the time working with during the Bad Boys Era.

Add family members Terry Kroll, Morris & Celia Kroll, Sidney & Dorothy Caplan, Sidney Jacobs, Sidney & Sophie Jacobs-Morganroth along with other close people such as Fred Cullen, Ronald Grant & Peter Bluesten; this is a group that I miss dearly!

As most of these recent blogs turn into death related stories, it's hard to believe that Dobek has joined the likes of Harwell, John Wooden, George M Steinbrenner and Ralph Houk as painful deaths of 2010 that I've been associated with.

We haven't even reached Labor Day.

While watching a Pistons game will never be the same again without Matt, once again, he's taught me that it's not how many years you live, but how good they are!

The one signal that I'll know when My Life Is Over is I will not Live and Sell My Heart, Soul, Ethics, Integrity and Wallet Short "To Exist."

When the time comes that "I Live To Exist" then I'll Flip the Switch and "Non-Exist!"

For those who know me, while I'm glad I've accomplished a lot, enjoyed the memories we've shared together, I have no fear when my life comes to a halt as I'll one day reunite with My other All-Star Team.

I will never be trapped into a situation just to hang around a few extra years!

Meanwhile, Matt, you'll always be viewed as not only a colleague, but a great friend, and I hope you rest in peace.

I imagine one day we'll be at court-side one at the old Richfield Coliseum in suburban Cleveland watching Daly lead his Pistons to a victory in a nationally televised game talking about the "Bad Boys."

Thanks again for the piece of the championship floor and being a championship person!

I'll miss you greatly!

Scott Morganroth's blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com and he can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Gork Hammered By A Dork

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

I have been to Fayetteville, Arkansas once to see the Razorbacks play a basketball game at the old Barnhill Arena (10,000 capacity) and I have to say that these are some of the most passionate college fans in the country.

During my hoops game, these folks had to have sore feet because they stood-up the majority of the contest and the energy is enormous.

But the Razorbacks energy took on an entire new meaning earlier this month, when in my view there was an over-reaction when an Arkansas radio personality was fired recently for wearing a Florida Gators hat to a Hogs press conference.

Two days after wearing the Gators hat, Renee Gork was fired by KAKS, a northwest Arkansas radio station that calls itself Hog Sports Radio.

Last season, Arkansas lost to the Gators 23-20 at Florida, and Hogs Coach Bobby Petrino commented on Gork's hat after answering a question she asked. He told her, "And that's the last question I will answer with that hat on."

Gork said that she grabbed the hat without thinking because it was raining outside and also sent a letter of apology to the university and Petrino. She was even going to apologize publicly on the radio but never got that chance because she was fired.

I know that the station is Hog Sports Radio, is very biased and support the Razorbacks 100%, but please, the woman made an honest mistake and owned up to it.

What bothers me about the entire decision is the man who made a big deal about the situation is anything but perfect.

In 2007, Petrino abruptly resigned from the Atlanta Falcons and didn't finish out the season. He was 3-10. Petrino quit on his players and the organization which paid him millions of dollars to try to make them a winner. He informed his players through a note of explanation in the locker-room instead of having the guts to talk to them directly that he felt more comfortable in college.

You talk about professionalism, who is Petrino to criticize anyone when he makes a boneheaded move like this?

I'll never forget the first time that I started covering FAU Sports.

I was interviewing Tennessee Titans QB Rusty Smith. He asked me where my college ring was from. I told him the University of South Florida. It just so happened that FAU was going to play USF in Fort Lauderdale that season.

Smith asked me who I was rooting for? I told him the truth. My allegiances are to USF but if you win, that won't bother me at all.

USF did win a close game in what was one of the most difficult contests that I've ever sat through. I bit my finger nails so bad that they were bleeding and my heartbeat was moving faster than open-wheel indy cars. I told Smith I wanted to see a competitive game and that's what I got.

FAU Sports Information Director Katrina McCormack and I used to joke around about my USF connections all the time and she politely asked me out of respect not to wear my alma-mater's attire around the university especially when they faced each other.

Of course, I had no problem with that, but I told her that the ring stays on my finger. She smiled and had no problems with that.

Former FAU Baseball Coach Kevin Cooney and I used to joke around about when these two teams faced each other and he would tell me that it must be a tough night for you. I admitted to him it was and yes, the finger nails took a beating.

But his pitching coach was Tony Fossas (2005-2008) who also attended USF. I did write a story on Fossas and we had a great time.

The bottom line is I understand there is a fine line to the area where you work and what your collegiate loyalties are, but Gork did try to take the high road, but the dork Petrino, who took the low road in Atlanta, should have cut her a little slack. He's anything but perfect.

Even an ESPN Sports Nation Poll asked a question as to whether Gork should have been fired for wearing a Gators hat. Of the 5,375 votes, 72% said no and 28% said yes.

As we enter another college football season, the only time these two teams could meet is if they play in the SEC Championship Game since they don't face each other during the regular season.

If they do meet in the SEC Championship Game, there is no doubt that the absurd end of the Gork situation would over shadow the game.

If anything good does come out of this, perhaps Gator Nation will give Gork a job at the university or a Gainesville radio station will hire her.

Scott Morganroth's Blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com and he can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com.

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