Thursday, October 22, 2009

The thing about life is....

... that it's not about where we've been. It's about where we're going. And how we've lived. And, like the Script song that American Idol Kris Allen covered says, we've got to at times "live like we're dying."

That's why I was riveted this morning to my Blackberry listening to the MJ Morning show on my old station in Tampa. And while I don't like to look back in life too many times because I believe we live with forward momentum, today, I kinda had too take a look back as the world got to hear a reunion between two people who together - along with an amazing cast of supporting players - made what was the most talked about - and most imitated morning show in the history of what I do.

What they did is imitated every morning in city after city even to this day. The difference? They did it all first... almost a decade ago. And they won. Time after time, again and again. They received more awards and honors than most any other show anywhere could hope to receive. They were, simply put, the best.

Then, earlier in the year that I arrived in Tampa, 2001, it all came to an end.

There were whispers as to why. Rumors. Stories. Innuendo. Sensational things which you'd not even believe were possible if they weren't grounded in some truth. I won't get into those stories. I won't speculate on things. And despite all of these things - a fierce sense of loyalty for BJ permeated the consciousness of the place I worked. A fierce sense of belief that despite whatever had happened, his passion for the game of radio... for the art of radio and even for the science of radio... would carry him through as he continued down the path of wherever life would lead him.

I admired that loyalty. I admired the good of what I heard. Hell, I even admired some of the stuff which might have made some raise an eyebrow.

Read into that what you will.

He might have been gone, but his spirit lived on. In so many. And that spirit is what instantly burned an imprint into my radio soul that first day a kid from Market 121 pulled up at 4002 Gandy on a weekend to "see where I'm gonna have to work on Monday..." to assume the role of Assistant Program Director and Afternoon Drive at the station.  It was a spirit of working as hard as we played, but play only when the work is done. It was this fire of believing that we could do anything... that we could succeed despite any obstacles or odds which might come our way. It was a belief that we had two families... our physical family... and the family which was in the fight with you...

Tampa - if you let it - has this way of, well, making you make a choice. Either you dive in... all in... and keep some control so that you don't let it consume you - or you stand on the sidelines wondering what everyone else is doing because you just can't understand it. I think everyone there dives in to an extent. Some people dive in and stay away from the deep end of the pool. Others test the deep end, swim out, swim down, and swim back to where they can touch the bottom. Still others swim into the deep end... hang on the wall, relaxing and having a great time or whatever but aware that there's nothing under them which can give them footing. Regardless, there's this thing about Tampa that, well, just requires that you push some edges in life to find out where they used to be.

You do, and you'll find yourself. You overdo it, and it will consume you. Regardless, it will define you.

BJ pushed edges. Some he pushed more than others, but you can't deny the impact he made on modern CHR radio. As a talent and as a programmer. And that's why now, as his life has gone on, he has continued to be successful as a programmer and talent. And that's why he continues to inspire me.

He pushed edges. He went there when he shouldn't have. He took his stations to levels that were scary, but which brought amazing success to the companies and teams which came along for the ride. He pushed edges in his personal life - and, he's said all he needs to say about that in my opinion. After all, when you live life - and when you live life like you're dying, you keep moving. You look back for motivation and inspiration, but you don't live in that past. When you've wronged some... and when you've wronged yourself, you atone and you apologize. Life may not offer forgiveness immediately, but if the atonement is real, and if the passion in the heart of one is true, it will eventually reveal itself because it's part of what is an amazing universal bond that the passionate share.

It's what I heard this morning on I heart radio.

How appropriate. Part of the reason I heart radio like I do is because - well - there was a morning show that had the balls to put up a billboard of mugshots of themselves up alongside OJ... right about the time he was standing trial for the death of his wife and Ron Goldman. Part of the reason I heart radio is because that team was amazing and BJ embodied the kind of programming philosophies that I always hoped I'd one day be able to be a part of.

And part of the reason I heart radio is because you can make a comeback in this industry... and this life... and thanks to the power of what we do now, it can be broadcast worldwide... and maybe - just maybe - it can touch a life. Make a change. Inspire someone to something greater and even motivate someone to over come.

I say that knowing that I've sinned my sins in this life and career.

But we live like we're dying. And we keep living. And that's what this life is all about.

I met BJ when I was in Tampa once. We all went to a BUCS game. At the time there were four people who had been PD of FLZ, and  they each just happened to be in Tampa at the same time. Huge names. We had this house near RayJay that we threw these pre-game tailgates at. It was all pretty surreal. Anyway, one Monday night game, I was live at the house when they arrived. The FLZ PD's had had dinner or something - I don't know, but it was at that time I met BJ. He didn't know any more of me other than what I assume he'd heard from our mutual colleagues, as I'd never worked for him. But I certainly knew of him. See, I try to make it a point to know about leaders I respect and admire. I remember telling him that night that it was an honor to meet him and that if I had 1/10th of the career that he'd had along the way that I'd be able to retire a legend.

In this case, now, I've learned that some legends live on. Why retire when you're just getting warmed up in life? The striking thing about BJ is that even through all he went through, brought on himself or whatever, that man pressed on. He lived his life. He's overcome. He keeps overcoming because he keeps on living.

That's the secret. Overcome. And live life.

I remember Mack telling me once after I left Lancaster, while we were all out in Tampa at 2001 Odyssey, that one of our former coworkers asked him once why "people like Toby always end up with the dream gigs in places like Tampa..." I didn't have an answer then.

I do now. Here it is:

Why don't you push the edges - like BJ and so many others before him have - and find out? 

Here's to the spirit of that team which will forever stand... long after we've come and gone...


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