This is the first of 16 Hog Blogs. Every week I will use this forum in hopes of keeping you abreast to all the behind the scenes happenings of the Prep Pigskin Report. I will also try to address the most frequent questions, complaints and suggestions. As always, your feedback is both welcome and encouraged. We can’t make the show better if we don’t know what you like and dislike.
For example, we received lots of feedback regarding our experiment with the 90-minute format in 2016. Most of you preferred the tighter 65-minute run time. So, in 2017, we’re going back to the shorter show. Less is more. But for those who liked to stay up late, we’ll be re-launching PPR Plus. Our internet show will begin immediately after the PPR ends. We’re still working out some technical issues but we hope to launch the live stream program before league play begins.
But the biggest change will occur in the East County. Back in the mid-70’s, the Rolling Stones were the biggest musical act on the planet. Platinum records, sold out tours, universal critical acclaim, the works. Imagine the surprise of the fans when then lead guitarist Mick Taylor announced he was leaving the group. At the very zenith of their popularity. When asked why, Taylor could only explain, “it wasn’t fun anymore.”
I thought of Taylor’s decision when Stephanie Kelly informed the world she was leaving the PPR. Our on-air line-up has been together so long I had to consult human resources for our last line-up change. We’ve had the same cast of characters for more than a decade. That’s doesn’t happen in TV. It’s rarer than a solar eclipse.
Stephanie came to KUSI fresh out of college. She had a diamond stud in her nose and a chip on her shoulder. She also a competitive spirit to be the best at whatever task was assigned to her. And she was - be it shepherding the Pigskin Idols or organizing the Gala, whatever job Kelly was given, it was completed to perfection on time and under budget. If some eggs got broken along the way, so be it. The work always got done.
It surprised nobody that when Kelly’s on-air opportunity finally came, she was better than good straight out of the box. I called her “Peter Jennings in heels.” Her live shots where so perfect I thought she might have invested in a portable teleprompter.
But you all know that. Here’s something you don’t know. When it came to mentoring fellow Red Jackets, Kelly was a class act. Most TV types are threatened by newcomers. The thought of helping a rookie is as popular as a flesh-eating microbe. Not Kelly. If you were brave enough to disregard “The Rattler” moniker, and ask for her help, you couldn’t have a better guiding light. Especially for the female Red Jackets. Sports can still be a boy’s club, so Stephanie went out of her way to display “girl power” and show our female candidates the ropes and advance their careers.
Like a lot of people who work on the show, or in high school athletes in any capacity, Kelly has a real job. As you would expect, she’s good at it. But when your sales territory includes Hawaii, and you live in the North County but report in the East County, well, you can imagine the anxiety of her travel itinerary. Throw in the added responsibilities being heaped on PPR reporters and it’s easy to understand how this “labor of love” can stop being fun and instead become an unhealthy level of stress.
So, after 14 years Kelly is hanging up the Red Jacket. She will be missed. The Rattler has been an integral part of the show’s success and a main character in PPR history. Her name pops up in all our favorite stories to tell. It’s now up to West Hills alum Matt Gilson to fill those considerable heels. I don’t envy him. After all, he doesn’t even have his own sound effect! I suspect he’s up for the challenge.
Last night, I was watching a video of the Stones’ 50 & Counting show at Hyde Park. Mick Taylor was back on stage with Jagger and Co. for the first time in 35 years. His guitar leads sounded better than ever. Which suggests to me there is hope we’ll one day see the Rattler in Red again.
Until then, we must soldier on. First show is this Friday night, 10:30 pm.