"Hey, Nice Tie."
By Steve Kremer
This is a true story. Only the names have been changed.
Back in the 1980's I worked for a television station in a mid-sized
Midwestern city. The city was dominated by a large University and its sometimes
nationally ranked Cougar football team.
Mitch Whitley was a star quarterback for the team during several years when they were not only nationally ranked but also appeared in some holiday bowl games. After graduating he went on to play professional ball with the NFL for two seasons before being permanently sidelined with a knee injury. Like many athletes Mitch's college degree was in television broadcasting so it wasn't surprising when it was announced that he was returning to our city to be our TV station's sports anchor.
There was no question that Mitch Whitley was a "star" and it became very apparent to me and my co-workers at the TV station that he intended to be treated like one. Presenting sports during a live television newscast is a team effort just like football. Perhaps Mitch never learned to treat his fellow football teammates well because he didn't treat his TV teammates that way. This story is about one of his TV teammates he pushed a little too far.
When Mitch began his television career he found that he had to trade in his NFL uniform for the uniform of TV news: the suit and tie. This is a guy who had spent probably his entire life wearing one type of football uniform or sweat pants, a T-shirt or a combination of them all. He readily admitted that he had never owned a suit coat or even a tie. So just like a mother helping a child pick out his clothes, one of the station's secretaries was asked to take Mitch out to the shopping mall to buy him some clothes. They came back with an assortment of suit coats, dress shirts, and neckties. Mitch had no problem with the shirt and coats but admitted privately to one of the other male anchors that he had no idea how to tie a necktie. So about fifteen minutes before his first night on our newscast, the news anchor took Mitch off to one of the dressing rooms, locked the door, and proceeded to try to teach him how to tie a necktie. It didn't go well. Mitch really didn't want to learn how, so under pressure of getting the tie tied before the beginning of the 6 PM news, the news anchor simply tied it for Mitch.
Mitch's first newscast went off relatively well and afterward he returned to his office. Just like returning to the locker room after a game he took off his suit coat and undid his dreaded necktie. But that first time he must have paused realizing he didn't know how to re-tie the tie. So instead of undoing it completely he simply loosened it enough to slip it over his head. He then hung the looped necktie on his office door knob where it sat every day, just like a hangman's noose, waiting for the next newscast. He owned four suit jackets that he would vary each day on the news but no one seemed to notice he always wore the same necktie on every broadcast. Because he refused to learn how to tie a tie, he wore the same dark red tie with a small silver diamond pattern every day.
In live television everything, and everyone lives and dies by the clock. Every second counts and everything always happens on time. Newscasts begin at exactly 6:00:00 PM to the second and each commercial is exactly thirty seconds in length. You would think since Mitch came from a sports background where "the clock" was very important he would have had more of an appreciation for time. But he didn't. Mitch's sports segment began at exactly 6:16 PM every night after the weather and a commercial break. At the beginning he was in the studio, on the news set, ready with time to spare. But as the months wore on he began arriving on the set later and later. He began showing up at the last second running into the studio with his looped tie in hand. He would sit down and throw the tie over his head and, violently yank it tight, and straighten out his collar with just seconds to go. This caused quite a bit of stress on the newscast Producer, Director, and Floor Manager who had to make sure the show went on smoothly. Often the most stressed was the Floor Manager, Diana, whose job on the studio floor included making sure the anchors had their microphone clipped on their coat or tie, and that they were correctly positioned on the set. Mitch's late arrivals made Diana's job impossible. How could she make sure he was "ready for air" when he burst into the studio with only twenty seconds before he was on? She began leaving the studio and running down to the newsroom during a commercial break to personally tell Mitch he was needed in the studio. You would expect he was late because he was checking on a late score or reviewing some new videotape. But she usually found him on the phone with one of his girlfriends or shooting the breeze with one of his old football cronies who had dropped by.
Every night Diana trekked to the newsroom to tell Mitch he needed to be in the studio but it fell on deaf ears. Even through she tried her best to baby-sit our star the night finally arrived where the commercial break ended and the sportscast was to begin and Mitch was nowhere to be seen. Left with no choice the Director came out to the news anchor who quickly ad-libbed a news story originally scheduled for later in the newscast. During the videotape Mitch came running into the studio, tie in hand, and finally got on the air panting and out of breath. You would think that after such a mistake Mitch would have learned his lesson. But that was not to be. The very next night after his usual last minute arrival and tie yanking he failed to clip his microphone on to his tie. With no microphone when he began talking everyone at home heard nothing. After several sentences and frantic gestures by Diana he finally realized and reached down to put his microphone on.
With two such embarrassing mistakes, two days in a row, it came to the attention of the TV station's management. The station's General Manager reviewed all the facts and decided to lay the blame on the Floor Manager, Diana. Despite the facts, he had decided it was easier to blame the minimum wage Diana than to alienate the star sportscaster. Mitch didn't see it as his fault either. He had spent his life often blaming his mistakes on his coaches so blaming Diana was no different. Diana didn't lose her job, but it was mentioned that the incident would be part of her upcoming job review and the basis of whether or not she would get a raise.
Everything more or less went back to normal. Every newscast Diana would run down to the newsroom to tell Mitch he was needed in the studio which he would promptly ignore. Until finally one day she decided she had enough.
That day as usual she ran to the newsroom to fetch Mitch but he wasn't in his office. She could see through the window that he was out in the parking lot showing some of his football buddies his new red Porsche. She yelled out the window her usual message. Then as she was leaving the office she saw Mitch's tie hanging in its usual place on the door knob. On the spur of the moment she grabbed the tie, balled it up, and threw it behind the office file cabinet. Several minutes later Mitch burst into the studio as usual looking very harried. He also wasn't carrying his tie. He quickly clipped his microphone onto his suit coat. In the banter with the newscaster he quickly covered his lack of tie by lying that he had just returned from the Cougar training camp where things are a little more casual. Mitch didn't find the tie behind the cabinet and didn't know he had been "had". He just figured he had mislaid the tie somewhere. He bought a new tie, had someone tie it for him, and hung the new tie on a lamp directly on his desk so it couldn't be missed.
Again things returned to normal with Mitch looping the new tie over his head, yanking it tight, all at the last second. Around this time Diana had her job review. During the review he boss mentioned the "lack of tie" and "no microphone" incidents and inferred she was to blame. Was it not her job to make sure the anchors are ready? Despite her protests the boss told her that she needed to work on her people skills, especially in working with the on-air anchors and her performance did not merit a raise.
Diana had come to a decision to make a change in her life and at the same time decided to really teach Mitch a lesson. Late one night after everyone had left the TV station she returned. She went into Mitch's office and retrieved his new tie off the lamp. Using a razorblade she very carefully cut through the back of the tie's knot in several places. She also made just enough incisions on the back of the tie so that it would appear normal but certainly would not take the stress of being yanked hard.
The next day everyone noticed that Diana seemed in a much brighter mood than normal. She had been a little down after her job review but had perked up quite a bit, especially as the sports segment drew near. True to form Mitch arrived at the last moment and sat down and began talking with the news anchor. He looped the tie over his head, and just as Diana gave the five second stand-by call, he gave it a hard yank. The tie came apart in two pieces. It happened so quickly that the Director didn't notice and came out on camera to a frozen Mitch holding half of his tie in one hand, and the other half around his neck. There was a second of stunned silence then the news anchor recovered by saying "Well, I guess they aren't making ties quite as good as they used to eh, Mitch?" Mitch recovered and agreed with him. He set down the half of the tie in his hand and began his sportscast. About three words into the first story he suddenly realized that the other half of his tie was still around his neck. He abruptly stopped, pulled out the rest of the tie out from under his collar while muttering how he "never liked ties anyway." The sight of him pulling bits of tie out of his collar was enough to send everyone in the studio and control room into fits of laughter. After the sportscast Mitch stormed off the set
About a week later Diana resigned to go back to college to study to become a nurse. Mitch still didn't learn how to tie a tie. He bought a third one which he kept looped and ready to wear in a locked desk drawer. The tie breaking episode had escaped the notice of our local newspaper's media columnist but Diana decided to clue him in. She wrote a letter to the columnist to watch Mitch's sports casts closely and pay special attention to his tie. The columnist did and noticed the tie never changed. He then wrote a blind item in his column about a "local sports personality who can afford to drive a Porsche but can only afford one tie."
Diana told all us "behind the scenes" folks the full story when we got together to celebrate her graduation from nursing school and her new career.
Mitch is now a well known sports anchor on one of the major
networks. Whenever I see him on TV I always wonder if he tied his own
necktie, or does he still keep one looped and ready to go.
Another TV Story....A Christmas Parade
March 10, 2002
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