Living with the new normal in the age of Covid-19

“Do you miss sports?” That is the question I get asked most frequently in the new era of stay-at-home. The Covid-19 new normal.

Friends and family know that I spent part of the past twenty-five years covering the NFL, NBA, MLB and college sports. 

“Not really,” I say without hesitation. The callers pause to let that fact sink in. The truth is, during the last decade, I have been quietly re-inventing myself. 

In addition to digesting the television coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic, I have been tending to my online radio station – a hobby of sorts that I launched in 2012. It mostly ran itself, using software, while I searched for an audience for the free form rock format.

My first foray into broadcasting was in 1977. It was a small 500-watt sunrise to sunset, top-forty AM station in a small North Carolina town. Everything was done live – playing records, reading the news, even some of the commercials. 

These days most disc jockeys pre-record their announcements. It’s efficient, allowing a four-hour show to be produced in less than an hour. It also enables one personality to be present in radio markets all across the country. 

I could have continued doing something similar. Instead I decided to return to my radio roots. Four hours a day, five days a week, from 10 AM to 2 PM Central time, I’m in my home studio in the Chicago suburbs. Live. Nothing taped. Sans safety net. Although the songs are all digitized, the announcements are in real time. I’ve reached out to friends and broadcast colleagues who have joined me via Skype or phone. Even my adult son has been pitching in, covering some of the hours with new music not in our standard playlist.

So far it’s been a tremendous success. We’ve had Albert Bouchard, co-founder of 1970’s multi-platinum recording artists Blue Öyster Cult. College acquaintances, current friends, and listeners all contribute. The rep for another chart-topping songwriter has offered to arrange for his client to join us. 

Fridays belong to the listeners. Our audience encompasses all fifty states and 136 different countries. We asked for themed song requests and the listeners responded with very creative ideas. 

The feedback is overwhelmingly positive. Thank yous and appreciation for the diversion from the steady stream of Covid-19 news. “Really dig the whole show,” wrote one listener. “One of the perks of work from home, I get to blast the station all day. ” 

We plan to keep the phones and email open as long as the stay-at-home order is in place. And then maybe who knows. We might have stumbled into something.

The rest of the day? Some of that is preparing for the next day’s broadcast. Finding songs that aren’t already in the library. Organizing the music into something that resembles a show (as opposed to random tunes.) Watching some of the TV news coverage. And when that gets too monotonous? Binging shows of course. The challenge is finding something that everyone is willing to watch. My wife likes reality shows, which I abhor. She has no interest in two of my favorites “The Walking Dead” or “Homeland.” 

We settled on “Outlander”, the historical drama television series based on the novel series of the same name by Diana Gabaldon. It was created by Ronald D. Moore, screenwriter for Star Trek, the Next Generation and the Battlestar Galactica reboot. The show checks off time travel/sci fi for me and romantic drama for her. It’s available on Netflix and has been a wonderfully fun watch so far. 

Additional entertainment has come from our DVD collection. Yes, we still have a lot of movies around. So far we have watched “Accepted” and “Murder By Death” from my Ten Underrated Comedies List and “The Social Network”. 

It sure has been a long week.