Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Randy, Rudy and Travis lead us over the double jump

It is my belief that we find our best people during tough economic times. When things are good, the so-called experts are everywhere flashing phony smiles and offering cheap advice.

So as we continue to struggle with every conceivable element related to the economy nowadays, there is a select group of people who deserve a salute considering their tenacity.

In particular, Saturn of St. George general manager Travis Bostwick and Mesquite, Nev. casino mogul Randy Black come to mind as individuals who are struggling but refusing to give up at the same time.

In Bostwick, we have a 40-year-old native of St. George, Utah whose voice can be heard all over radio stations when so many others in his profession are throwing in the towel. During the Easter Weekend, I must have heard him pitching his dealership no less than 10 times a day.

He is believable even though rumors out of General Motors have been dire to say the least. Even with a high level of bad public relations messages, Bostwick has been pushing full-speed ahead telling anyone who will listen that he’s going to be here and his product remains a good purchase especially with incentive plans that have been offered during the past few weeks.

Consistency is king in business nowadays. Bostwick probably isn’t selling as many cars as he was a couple of years ago, but his delivery is proof positive that he’s not taking down his tent.

Proof is Bostwick’s radio commercials during a time when so many automobile executives have cut or eliminated their advertising budgets. If you’re driving anywhere near Southern Utah, the Travis Bostwick messages illustrating his continued belief in Saturn are both convincing and effective.

Like Bostwick, Randy Black possesses an interesting pitch that never seems to die even when the television or radio commercials have subsided. The owner of the Casa Blanca and Virgin River hotel casinos in Mesquite, Black is a tireless worker who has participated in a long line of competitive ventures ranging from real estate to homebuilding and even off-road racing.

In fact, the former resident of Kingman, Ariz. once explained off-road racing provided the ultimate challenge with a pair of possible outcomes.

“When you’re running an off-road car, you put your foot flat on the floor and one of two things happen,” Black once said.

“You either win or you die.”

AJ Foyt and Richard Petty could not have said it any better. And while it’s been many years since he got all he could out of an off-road car, his philosophy remains the same only with a different set of logistical challenges.

In both Bostwick and Black, you will find a couple of characters who face frightening double-jumps every day. They may apply the brake simply to slow down and regroup, but neither one of them will ever be seen getting out of the car and throwing their helmet in disgust.

They don’t know how to quit even when so many others around them are doing just that. They smile when things are good and they keep the faith when things are not so good.

The key to both Bostwick and Black is that they don’t go to the extreme in either situation. They keep telling the world that their products are available while also presenting incentives encouraging their customers to believe in their pitches.

While Bostwick keeps selling Saturns in St. George, Black tells anyone who will listen that Mesquite is the ideal getaway with inexpensive rooms complemented by gorgeous golf courses, skeet shooting, and even better, a chance to chill out with a world-famous massage.

Frankly, I get tired of people who complain when things get tough. It’s more difficult to find the good when things are bad and only lazy people choose to cry about everything from the economy to the weather and the traffic.

In the meantime, I’ll gladly adopt Bostwick, Black and Rudy Ruettiger as my motivators since they’re true examples of individuals who refuse to give up. Bostwick and Black have competed in at least one element of automobiles and Ruettiger once sold Cadillacs before vaulting his career as a motivational speaker.

Ruettiger made the Notre Dame football team even though he stands only 5-foot-6. To say he has drive is an understatement.

Whether they’re driving it or selling it, competitive and successful people usually have some sort of a tie to the automobile.

No, it’s not easy right now, that’s for sure. But I have more respect for those who refuse to give up than I do for those who hunker down.

And if you have a group of worn-out souls looking for a boost, just remember that Bostwick, Black and Ruettiger have been successful simply because they refuse to take their foot off the gas even when they are facing a massive double jump.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Banquet, second Cup race make sense in Vegas

The recent announcement that NASCAR is moving its year-end awards banquet from New York to Las Vegas not only makes good sense but is also overdue.

In fact, back in 1981 at the Nevada Motorsports Awards at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas, guest speaker and stock car driver Harry Gant hinted that NASCAR needed to take a look at what Vegas had to offer clear back then.

"Man, this is really something," Gant said of the Nevada Motorsports Awards which featured rising stages, showgirls, multi-media presentations and a full-bore stage presentation in the Siegfried and Roy Theater. "In fact, it's nicer than what NASCAR does at the Waldorf Astoria in New York."

And you can bet Gant's words were echoed by many other drivers and members of NASCAR more than 28 years ago. It's a well-known fact that NASCAR drivers, their crews, sponsors and the media love coming to Vegas anytime of year considering the hospitality, the glitz and the chance to enjoy the Adult Disneyland of the world.

New York was supposed to land a Cup race years ago, but that possibility has since been ruled out, so the awards ceremony almost seemed out of place - and when the city of New York ruled against a parade of stock cars running through the streets as part of the hoopla associated with the event, it was time to move on anyway.

God knows what Las Vegas and Las Vegas Motor Speedway spent to get the NASCAR awards brought to Las Vegas, but the move is a win-win in every single category. Vegas can use the business, those attending can use the getaway and the sport of stock car racing will benefit through added exposure and the professionalism affiliated with awards ceremonies in the city that never sleeps.

However, there is even more that needs to be added to the story. NASCAR needs to move its season-ending race from Homestead in Florida to Las Vegas where a combined year-end race and awards ceremony makes as much as much sense as high octane fuel in a race car.

Since SMI Chairman Bruton Smith purchased LVMS in 1999, he has preached that (a) Las Vegas deserves a second race and (b) Las Vegas should be the site of the season-ending NASCAR awards banquet. He came to town more than a decade ago, outbid NASCAR Chairman Bill France for LVMS and went to work finishing a drag strip that had been left unfinished.

And when he had time, Smith was preaching to the world that he was going to take Vegas and LVMS to another level. He also wasted little time telling anyone who would listen that LVMS deserved a second Cup race especially considering the fact that other tracks had two dates and didn't deserve more than a single event.

Well, now that the banquet is headed to Vegas, the wizards of NASCAR should follow by moving the year ender in Homestead to Las Vegas where a blockbuster combination would undoubtedly gain world-wide attention for a week.

However, while the combination makes good sense for every reason, the fact that International Speedway Corp. not only owns NASCAR but Homestead Raceway at the same time.

Can we spell "C-O-N-F-L-I-C-T" without too much trouble? An obvious head-butting contest between the outspoken Smith and the France family (Bill France has died and has son, Brian, is in for the fight of his life) has been ongoing for years and you can bet Sir Bruton isn't about to let up this time either.

In fact, Smith's nature as the PT Barnum of auto racing will most certainly reach 200 mph during the coming months as he puts both NASCAR and the France family on their heals - this time with the powerful Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority joining his efforts.

Smith beat the France family to the punch when he bought LVMS and you can bet he's about to throw the knockdown punch on this topic, too. He has too many teammates not to win this battle.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Would someone please find Tony George for me?

Hello, operator. Is this Indianapolis Motor Speedway? I need to speak with Tony George about the fact that Bill York was fired last year. If you don't know York, you just need to understand that York has been to IMS what the Yankees have been to New York.
And he was sent packing by IMS right before the running of the Indianapolis 500. It was the goofiest move ever and so help me, every member of the auto racing fraternity has got to be shaking his or her head.

I dunno why York was canned, but I have a feeling that some 30-year-old thinks he or she can replace him. I know York is 75, but he has been running press centers since reporters used manual typewriters and a cell was what we watched in a microscope. Geez, back when Bill York started, reporters had to dictate stories because email and laptops weren’t even on the horizon yet.

Operator, what Tony George needs to understand is that reporters don’t usually stand up for media center guys primarily because there are more important topics nowadays. But I’m telling you, people like Robin Miller of Speed TV and Michael Knight of the Spin Doctor blog put everything aside to start questioning why Bill York was sent into the unemployment line.

I live in Las Vegas and the news of York’s firing was here in no time. Honestly, Bush’s invasion of Iraq didn’t carry the weight of IMS’s firing of Bill York. In fact, going into Iraq made more sense than firing Bill York, for God’s sakes.

Look, the Indy 500 is not far away and God knows there are thousands of media folks looking toward the event. But the fact is that IMS just imploded the media center when it handed a pink slip to gentlemanly Bill York. If you know media types like I do, they’ll drive you nuts the Monday after the event with a flood of complaints so bad you’ll swear Tony Stewart isn’t the only one who knows how to drop the F bomb.

Tell Tony (George, that is) that York isn’t short of business since he also heads up the media center for the Colts and the Pacers. It’s not like the guy is going to end up in a soup line and besides, Conseco Field House folks named its Pacers media center after York. It’s just too bad that IMS doesn’t understand that it just kicked aside a living legend.

Then, too, York has worked press rooms all over the country, ya know. There ain’t a track operator in the nation who hasn’t thought about calling York for help about now.

Operator, I admit I’m not as worried about York as I am Tony George, whose latest decision has got us all wondering if we’re gonna be back communicating with tin cans and a real long string.

Look, I gotta tell you something from a personal standpoint. See, I used to have epilepsy until the docs at Scripps in La Jolla removed a sizeable chunk of my brain to halt the disorder in 1994. Prior to the surgery, traumatic events would kick in a seizure – and the firing of Bill York would have sent me into a grand mal of grand proportions.

Sure, I’ll wait. I know Tony has a busy schedule and I’m just a freelance writer. But the fact remains that a giant part of the history of Indy was just erased by someone who simply doesn’t understand.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Help someone during these challenging times

The current economic tailspin is approaching frightening proportions in so many ways. In particular, the effect it is having on young people is particularly disturbing especially considering the many homeless students who are literally running the streets trying to survive.

Every one of us has needed a helping hand in some fashion when we were younger. And I still remember those who helped me more than 40 years ago when my own situation was literally over the edge. My folks had split up, my mom continued to ride a reckless path of alcohol and at the age of 15, I suddenly found myself trying to survive.

I wasn’t homeless, but for a period of my life I was on the edge. I survived the challenge only because there were a few adults who spotted a wayward kid and offered a helping hand during some confusing and mind-boggling times.

So when I see or hear of kids wandering aimlessly through life needing help, it tends to humble me while also reminding me that most of these young people are good kids who simply need a helping hand.

At least three instances of adults helping young people come to mind in the past few months. In each case, members of Farmers Insurance were involved in providing not only monetary assistance but basic necessities such as food, clothing and an assortment of health good such as toothbrushes and toothpaste.

Two schools in Salt Lake City were helped by the throng of good people. One was Granite High School while the other was Woodrow Wilson Elementary. Still one other was Whitney Elementary in Las Vegas, where the school has a high percentage of homeless young people.

In the case of Whitney, the local chapter of the sheet metal workers union jumped in to help by providing a good breakfast for more than 600 young people. And in the case of each school, backpacks full of basic need material were given.

In Northern Utah and Southern Nevada, those involved left the schools at the end of the day feeling good about themselves because they took time out of their day to help innocent young people who have been thrust into needy situations for whatever reason.

Many of the kids are homeless. Then, some who are actually living under a roof are in a home without utilities let alone guidance from an adult. In any instance, they are living a life of terrible challenges.

You can bet that many of the individuals who help young people now have to stop to wipe away the tears as the youngsters thank them for their efforts. The strongest individuals on earth will melt when a young person looks into their eyes to say thank you.

The key to homeless kids nowadays is that they don’t ask for help. You generally won’t find them standing on street corners with signs in their hands begging for help. Kids simply don’t seem to know how to ask for help.

In fact, I didn’t know how to ask either. It took someone coming to my aid and it was at that time that I accepted their help. But I couldn’t ask for help for whatever reason apparently because I felt it was my job to deal with my own challenges even though I was only 15 at the time.

I was embarrassed by my plight although I didn’t need to be. I just needed someone to pick me up by the bootstraps and given a little guidance during a very precarious time in my life. Truth-be-known, I call the people who helped me several times a month just to say hello.

I assure you there are areas nearby where poor kids only want a chance – and that’s something you can provide.
You just need to spot the void and provide hope along with compassion.

Get involved in some fashion whether it is through providing a meal most kids don’t receive on a regular basis; or simply give them a backpack with the essentials needed to survive nowadays.

Or better yet, put a smile on your face and pat them on the back while combining the two with a voice of reassurance. Trust me when I tell you that those same students will never when you took time out of your life to help them.

And then, too, there is the fact at you’ll be a better person for the act of kindness.

Henry Ward Beecher once said “Every charitable act is a stepping stone to heaven.”

It’s true. Step up during these challenging times and help others especially young people who will never forget what you once did for them.

Mike Henle is a Las Vegas based freelance writer and the author of “Through the Darkness: One Man’s Fight to Overcome Epilepsy.” He can be reached via email at mhenle@aol.com or through his web site www.mikehenle.com.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The old days of journalism were awesome

The 1977 NCAA Final Four in Atlanta with a manual typewriter and a tape recorder

The call for help came when at the age of 26 I received an assignment that was nothing less than monumental.
The UNLV basketball team was headed for the 1977 NCAA Final Four playoffs in Atlanta, Ga., and the responsibility of covering the event was mine.

Mind you, my biggest assignment in the newspaper business to that point had been high school athletics along with short track auto racing.

The NCAA Final Four was big-time and in fact, was so significant that journalists from all over the country would attend.

The Runnin’ Rebels coached by Jerry Tarkanian had captured the hearts and souls of Las Vegas scoring victories over the likes of teams such as USF and Idaho State en route to the trip to the NCAA Final Four.

The task was daunting especially considering that I was being sent to an event that included some of the finest journalists in the country. I was about to join an elite group in more ways than one.

Among the other teams traveling to Atlanta were the University of North Carolina, North Carolina-Charlotte and Marquette University.

UNLV was the darling of the tournament considering that the team had averaged an unbelievable 107 points per game long before the three-point line was included in college basketball. When the team reported to practice at the Omni Arena, an estimated 10,000 fans showed up to witness a team so exciting that 25-foot jump shots were the norm.

UNLV would lose 84-83 to a Michael O’Koren-led North Carolina team in the first round of the tournament, which was eventually won by the Al McGuire-coached Marquette.

The experience remains one of my favorite times in print journalism for several reasons although I will never forget walking into the UNLV locker room following its loss to North Carolina and seeing the understandable look of despair on the faces of every member of the team.

UNLV guard Reggie Theus saw me standing in the locker room and knowing that I, too, was in an uncomfortable situation, stepped forward to speak about the loss. I could just imagine filing a story without reactions from the losing team and it goes without saying that Theus saved my neck considering that no one else would talk.

However, the real key to the old days of journalism is that major events were covered without the tools that today’s journalists enjoy. While we didn’t even know it, we struggled and seemed to love every single minute of the challenges.

I journeyed to Atlanta with a manual typewriter and a tape recorder along with a good supply of pencils, pens and notebooks and the end result was that the job was completed with the basic essentials.

No cell phone and no internet or email capabilities. None of us enjoyed the amenities of today although we all enjoyed ourselves doing our jobs.

Still, I made deadline even while filing stories by dictating them to editors on the telephone. When I returned to Las Vegas, the bosses congratulated me for a job well done. Truthfully, it almost seems that journalism was enjoyed more when we had less considering how much work we all did in a short period of time without the electronic technology now available.
Frankly, I have heard too many journalists complain about being overworked today and while the profession is certainly facing its own challenges, the business enjoys a much better environment when speaking of the tools available.

There are definite issues as the business continues to figure out how to compete with or against the internet, but the overall rewards in journalism remain. Considering that I wrote my first copy when I was 12, it is evident that I’m addicted to the business.

The bottom line is that journalism is a fascinating profession where the greatest challenges also include an unbelievable level of self-satisfaction especially with the tools that are now available.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Avalanche on Utah's Highway 14 and Mile Marker 8 could have been true disaster

There is a saying that goes “The road to heaven is paved with good intentions” that with a little editing would seemingly fit the recent avalanche that closed Highway 14.

You see, Highway 14 from Cedar City, Utah east to Duck Creek and then to Highway 89 is the road to relief for so many people. It serves as our getaway route complete with beautiful scenery and cabins that serve as respites for weary souls.

However, what came down the south wall of Highway 14 at mile marker eight on the evening of Monday, Jan. 5, the road to Duck Creek and beyond could have very well been the disaster that most never thought about before.

The people of Cedar City and Duck Creek had just celebrated a glorious New Year’s weekend and as usual, the areas were the perfect escape for gatherings. Some headed for Duck Creek days before New Years to spend the time relaxing while leaving behind the previous year and praying for a better ’09.

Thankfully, most headed home Sunday and workers had already headed down the route earlier in the day.
The avalanche let go at least a day after most had headed home for the holiday. Its magnitude was measured by the fact that boulders were as big as cars and houses and the dirt was a deep as 10 feet in some places in a massive fall of earth, dirt and trees that covered an estimated 1,000 feet of roadway.

Photos of Highway 14 after the avalanche are evidence that this was not an ordinary landslide. This was serious as major media outlets rushed to the area that overlooks a deep canyon to record the scene of what could have been much worse than it was.

As many times as we all travel Highway 14 during our escapes to Duck Creek, I could not help but think about what could have been. Thankfully, the slide did not occur when people were going either east or west on Highway 14 especially after a busy holiday weekend.

“We came down about 3:30 in the afternoon headed for St. George to make a Costco run,” said a relieved Cindy Allen, who along with her fiancĂ© Rudy Delapaz traveled Highway 14 headed home at about 8 p.m. “We had dinner at Milt’s. Thankfully, we didn’t wait any longer before heading back up the mountain.”

In fact, two of Delapaz’s employees were among the first at the scene. They immediately retreated and headed back to Duck Creek. But had they been even minutes earlier, it end result could have been deadly.

The road is heavily traveled even during the slower periods and with both visitors and workers counting on the route constantly, most are traveling during the daylight hours. Those heading back to Cedar City from Duck Creek generally leave on Sunday sometime, so if an avalanche was supposed to occur, thank God it did not happen during “rush hour” on Highway 14.

I shudder to think what could have happened to many good, hard-working people who frequent Highway 14 throughout the year. While workers certainly have their hands full even having to dynamite boulders so big that they can’t move them with the biggest of heavy equipment, the end result could have been news that made headlines all over the nation and even the world.

When driving Highway 14, I spend so much time relaxing that I can only imagine what would have gone through my mind along Mile Marker 8 when the avalanche started. I have had my share of scares in my life ranging from brain surgery to a house fire, but an avalanche would undoubtedly surpass the other challenges.

I worry about snow storms while traveling to and from Duck Creek, but this could have made a blizzard seem like no big deal. Truth be known, an avalanche could have been tantamount to what people experienced when the Titanic went down.

So for every one of us who either travel Highway 14 or know people who do, it’s time to reflect and be thankful for what happened and what could have been.

And cross your heart every time you drive the area again because this particular avalanche could have been disastrous.
Thank God it required only heavy equipment to repair the damage and not emergency personnel responding to what was very close to being a disaster of monumental proportions.

Mike Henle is a Las Vegas-based freelance writer and the author of “Through the Darkness: One Man’s Fight to Overcome Epilepsy.” He can be contacted via email at mhenle@aol.com or through his web site www.mikehenle.com

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Plain and simple, greed has taken this country to its knees

When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, it was the belief of those in charge that our country was preventing against future attacks by terrorists.

Surely, this country and its allies would find weapons of mass destruction while also preventing against future attacks on our soils. More than five years since sending thousands of troops into harm’s way in what has proven to be expenditure worth gazillions, we’re discovering that the real land mines are in this country.

Our greatest dangers are dressed in three-piece suits with flashy shoes. They drive expensive cars, talk a good game and make regular trips to the bank with armloads of cash stolen from fellow Americans.

You see, the terrorists taking this country to its knees right now are actually Americans. They operate using deceit as a weapon while stealing billions from thousands of people who have placed their trust in fellow-Americans.

Look no further than Bernard Madoff, a so-called Wall Street powerhouse who has ripped off more than $50 billion from clients that include some noteworthy folks who are now seeing their retirements disappear.

Madoff’s actions have taken people to their knees, but he is not alone in his actions. You see fraud and theft unfortunately seem to be a part of our country that has become everyday behavior.

But Madoff’s reported actions certainly are not alone. Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has been implicated in another mess and still other politicians are being hammered for everything from cheating on their spouses to racketeering.
Look around you. Politicians in virtually every corner of this country are in trouble for everything from selling votes to abuse of power.

From one end of this county to the other, we have so many politicians and high-ranking officials going to prison that they could start a fraternity featuring stripes and numbers across their chests. Sadly, it’s almost a way of life and the common folks are getting their life savings ripped away from them in droves as the politicians and Wall Street types scam everyone from little old ladies to the owners of professional sports franchises.

I mean the continued reports of leaders in every position conducting themselves in startling and dishonest ways is so endless that we seem to take the developments for granted. Sad to say, but we don’t seem to have many credible leaders anymore.

In fact, I have a very good friend who has refused to run for office in some cases because the trail of misdeeds left behind by the previous administration was so corrupt that a once respected level of government had become the laughing stock of the country.

In virtually every case, the offenses are based on greed with total disregard for those who are being affected. The mere fact that the offenders can sleep is mind-boggling considering that they have victimized good, honest people by combining an element of deceit and theft with heartless behavior.

I still say we could have stayed out of Iraq and instead concentrated on our own problems right here in our country. Lord knows we could use a little help here in what has become a battlefield of financial and political terrorists born and raised right here in the United States.