We are suffering from identity theft

by Ogi Overman

If Greensboro is feeling a bit like Kevin Bacon’s character in Animal House it would certainly be understandable. Still reeling from the Professional Golf Association’s announcement that it may shorten the tour and potentially eliminate the Chrysler Classic, we tried to put a happy face on it by pliantly bending over and saying, ‘“Thank you sir, may I have another?’” So the gods of bitter irony complied by proclaiming that Jefferson Pilot has merged with Lincoln Financial and that the corporate officers will be moving from their downtown landmark to some far off burg. So, again we put on our brave face against the onslaught by admonishing, ‘“All is well!’”

Of course, the next scene is of a flattened ROTC uniform on the sidewalk after the masses have crushed Bacon like a bug, which is exactly what’s going to happen to our fair city unless we do something drastic. In short order we’re losing both the sporting event and the company that have given Greensboro a large part of its identity for as long as anyone can remember. When taken with the chilling specter of High Point’s losing a share of the Furniture Market to Las Vegas, we had better get in crisis mode in a hurry.

A couple weeks ago in this space I broached the subject our community’s tenuous future, and last week hinted at a first tentative step toward redefining ourselves. This week I’ll get a bit more specific.

As I mentioned, for years I’ve been a tub-thumper for a local, unaffiliated television station, one that would be free to broadcast programs that a network affiliate wouldn’t touch and tackle projects too ambitious for public access. The need has always been there, but now it becomes even more imperative, for reasons I’ll attempt to elucidate.

A locally owned station, airing locally generated programming, covering strictly local events and issues would be a vital piece of the puzzle toward reestablishing our post-Chrysler Classic/post-JP identity. It may not be the first step, and is by no means the only step, but it is a necessary step. If Greensboro is to sustain the momentum already underway ‘— compliments of Action Greensboro, FedEx, Dell, First Horizon Park, downtown revitalization and a number of other factors ‘— it must reverse the losses of JP, Chrysler Classic and the Furniture Market sooner rather than later. Our own TV station would fit into the grand scheme of things thusly:

‘• It would showcase our area high schools’ athletic events. Each week it would televise a football or basketball game or, conceivably, any other contest, giving unheard-of exposure to thousands of student-athletes, most of whom will never get to play on a bigger stage after high school. As noted last week, Dan Falinski’s Triad Sports and Entertainment Network (TSEN) is already doing this, airing games on Saturday mornings on WGPX PAX 16 (cable channel 14).

‘• It would be able to cover dozens of events that are unfeasible for a network affiliate, such as Christmas parades, the Miss Greensboro and/or Miss High Point Pageant, Fourth of July activities and fireworks, Festival of Lights, A&T Homecoming Parade, Carolina Blues Festival, blogger conventions, selected EMF concerts, Coliseum trade shows and special events, etc. The possibilities are endless.

‘• It could bring back some of the live shows of our childhood. Who’s to say we couldn’t have an updated version of the Ol’ Rebel and Pecos Pete, or ‘“RC Dance Party’” or Cordelia Kelly’s cooking show or, of later vintage, Billy Bobb’s cartoon show on WGGT? We have plenty of TV celebrities around here, but what we need are characters! Where’s Dr. Paul Bearer when you need him? Or Arlo Lassen or Chef Mark or Mr. Wiggles? Sure, it would be corny and hokey and a throwback to a time long gone, but sometimes you have to look backward to move forward.

‘•It would be able to have live, interactive talk shows on any number of issues. I can think of at least three perfectly suitable hosts who would jump at the chance. At the very least, it would help inform the citizenry and raise the level of public debate.

Speaking of which, it could host candidates forums during City Council and County Commissioners election seasons.

‘• I haven’t spoken to Mitchel Summers or Rich Whittington or Pedro Silva et. al. about this, but why couldn’t it air some live theatre every now and then? Wouldn’t you love to see your kids on TV welcoming you to Munchkin Land?

‘• It would be able to give TV exposure to local bands and musicians playing in our various nightclubs. It could also have artists in-studio for interviews. Having been associated with the public access show ‘“Beat Street’” and hosting my own radio show, ‘“Our Town,’” for a year, I know this is feasible.

‘• I had a chat with Grasshoppers president Donald Moore last week. Promotional guru that he is, naturally he is open to the possibility of airing some select Hoppers games in the future. Now wouldn’t that be a fun night at the old ballyard?