When Mrs. Ethel Kennedy called to tell me that the depth reporting class at University of Nebraska I was teaching along with Joe Starita had won a Robert F Kennedy Journalism award, we talked about several things.Read More
Bill Frakes Nebraska
It's Christmas. And I'm on a plane. No Santa out the window, but we are racing the setting sun, and the view is liquid visual goodness.Read More
Strange flight tonight. Leaving Nebraska for likely the last time in 2016 — (yikes, “Leaving Nebraska” sounds rather like a poem about death). In any case, my work demands that I have always had to spend huge chunks of time away from this good land where I was born.Read More
This is home. This is Nebraska.This is the American west.The last frontier.Last fall while working on the Nebraska Project, I spent a good chunk of time in Scotts Bluff county.Read More
I’m a fifth generation Nebraskan, this was my first home and will be my last. I was born in the badlands of the western end of the state. I grew up in the cattle country of the Panhandle.Read More
Not sure how exactly why I stopped to talk with him.I was in a hurry, working on an assignment for ESPN at the baseball grounds in Birmingham and things were hopping.Read More
Covering the Kentucky Derby is no easy task. There are countless photographers working to get the position they need to make their picture.Read More
I live much of my life with a nonstop musical score, sometimes just the one in my mind, but more often actual sounds… so I considered it a very good omen when the first song in the rotation today was Patty Larkin's Letter..."Give me a ticket for an airplane...” I'm heading to Louisville for the 141st annual running of the Kentucky Derby, my favorite annual sporting event.
This will be my 31st time there, and every single time it's been magic. I love being at Churchill Downs, they've always greeted me warmly -- Southern Hospitality at its finest.
Sunrise on the backside. Beautiful. Blissfully peaceful, even with the cacophony of Derby week.
The stunningly powerful thoroughbreds, just babies, but magnificent, the best of their breed -- coats glistening in the early morning air as they breathe hard following the morning gallop. Getting washed, and rubbed down, surrounded by crowds of onlookers all eager for this private glance at the elite 20.
There are a number of sporting traditions that still move me. The crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground singing Waltzing Matilda before the Aussie Rules Grand Final, the quiet when the sprinters get into blocks for 100 meters final at the Olympics, match point on centre court at Wimbledon, walking through the Grove before an Ole Miss/LSU game Dixie quietly being played behind heavy Southern drawls and lilting coed laughter -- I've gotten to be there front and center for all of them. But there is nothing like hearing My Old Kentucky Home as the horses enter the track for the greatest two minutes in sports.
When that happens, I go to a different place, the one where I am a young boy hanging out in a pasture with a little red transistor radio listening to the call crackling on the tiny speaker imagining the splendor of the great place. Little did I imagine I'd be standing on the track year after year during the race, comfortable with surroundings I've come to know so well.
Lots of my friends will be in town for the race and it'll be wonderful to see them, especially Dan Dry who took me to my first Derby; Razor Bogdon who will no doubt borrow something from my cases; and the little General, Bill Luster, whose covering his 50th Derby. 50! Wow! From hearing stories, I would have guessed the number to be much higher.
But three won't, and I'm sad about that.
I worked the race maybe 25 times with the legendary Heinz Kluetmeier -- the best there ever was, and my default answer at the track is always the same, WWKD?
Laura Heald has been with me doing a lot of the heavy thinking -- and lifting -- for the past 7 Derbies, but we've been running especially hard this year, and she is sitting this one out. I'll really miss her. We got in from Beirut last night, and we're headed back out right after the Derby so she drew the long straw and gets to enjoy some much deserved beach time before another three intense weeks on the road.
The last absent friend, Tony Leonard. His image of Secretariat as a colt hangs in my office. He was a special guy. We lost him a few years ago, 89 years young. I'll raise a lens to him, and save him a spot on the rail -- as he would have done for me.
The Nebraska name game continues...... I was the keynote speaker at the Freedom Awards in Kearney, NE. on Tuesday night. Great crowd, completely sold out.
Walking to the conference room, Laura and I were discussing how long it would be before I met someone I could play connect the Nebraska name game with.
I immediately connected with my cousin Kip, but Laura claimed he didn't count.
At dinner, the woman seated next to me introduced herself and her husband. Thirty seconds into our conversation, I learned my Uncle Ron married them.
After the speech more familiar faces showed up.
Nebraska, the good life.