July 22, 2008
Little did I know that by following Brett Favre’s recent interaction with the front office of the Green Bay Packers I’d be honing my mindset for the even-more-recent rhubarb between the Blair Feulner and the board of trustees of Community Wireless.
There are dissimilarities aplenty, of course, but the two clashes of iconic individuals and the historic organizations that brought each fame and fortune do have a certain resonance. Both Brett and Blair, in some ways, see their contributions as looming far larger than those of the governing bodies involved.
What adds intrigue to both squabbles is the manner in which all involved keep their cards close to their vest. Phillip Marlow and Sam Spade would have trouble getting to the bottom of these behind-the-scenes scenarios.
Both Brett and Blair also appear to have managed the ebb and flow of any information that may or may not shed light on the respective proceedings. To us on the outside, clarity of any kind has proven hard to come by.
Brett retired and said a tearful goodbye some time ago but now is hinting that he should be allowed to either return to his long-time position as starting quarterback and totally disrupt Green Bay’s current direction with his old backup, Aaron Rodgers, or be traded to a competitor of the Packers.
Neither scenario provides much comfort for Brett’s old club and each is currently attempting to stare down the other. Terms from the world of poker such as "raising the ante" and "calling their bluff" have been brandished of late.
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One big difference between the two controversies, of course, is that Brett Favre never had the opportunity to handpick the front-office staff of the Green Bay Packers. For the most part, as I understand it, Blair has always performed that function. I know he selected the original board of trustees of Community Wireless, of which I was a part.
Not to imply that I was anything but overjoyed at the prospect of being part of the ensemble that would go on to create a radio station from whole cloth in my adopted home town. They were quite heady times, indeed, and Blair, with visions of much more than sugarplums dancing in his head, understood very well the hoops through which we would all have to jump in order to acquire a "building permit" from the FCC.
As the board of trustees evolved from the original five which, for the most part reflected a "radio bum" ethic, to members of the small-business community and on to encompass newly-arrived professionals in town, there never seemed to be a radical element challenging the status quo of KPCW programming policy from within.
At least in the very beginning, the opinion that the "underwriting" of programs might lend itself to an ever-growing corporate mindset on the board had an opportunity to be expressed. It was soundly squashed, however, as most members feared that funding the overhead of the operation solely through listener contributions was not a viable approach.
Soon, fundraising at the station would take a quantum leap and there would be enough legal tender available for the redistribution of wealth among the powers-that-be. By the time possible excesses were being pointed out, phrases such as "entrepreneurial management" arrived in defense of any windfalls being shared by those who had weathered the "hard times."
Another word that has been achieving a bit of notoriety as this in-house brouhaha plays out is "sabbatical." Now there’s a term that doesn’t raise its head all that often in the world of small-town public radio. Actually, that more than likely best describes my relationship with the station since we stopped doing play-by-play rugby from atop the "Mucker Bus" back in the day. And what a grand sabbatical it’s been!
Reportedly, Blair had wanted a new contract agreement with the board a few months back, one that included a "sabbatical clause." When it wasn’t forthcoming, he resigned as president. This may or may not be true. I wasn’t there and this is all second-hand gossip. There is some longstanding lore out there about never trusting a columnist that might bear repeating in this current context.
Meanwhile, communications between Brett’s hometown of Kiln, Mississippi, and the "cheese-head" Packer bunch up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, aren’t currently being shared with the fan base. As with Blair and Community Wireless, we’re on a strictly "need-to-know" basis.
Even down at Red Butte Garden last Sunday, there were those waiting in line for the Emmylou Harris show whose past associations with KPCW didn’t keep them from being totally clueless as to what had prompted Blair to announce his immediate departure from the local airwaves last week.
No doubt some word will come out of tomorrow night’s board of trustees meeting at the Gateway Center in Park City. There is something to be said for not being in the loop, however. That way, theories beyond the pale can be bandied about over beverages quite similar to those that were on the table when the original board met and opened what would become this quite singular can of worms.
Who knows where all this will end up? Maybe Brett will become offensive coordinator at Wasatch High School and, following Blair’s departure, KPCW will end up, as a Salt Lake City Weekly blogger suggested a few years back, switching to an "All Skynyrd, All the Time" format.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and a free-lance writer with a background in commercial and community radio, among other pursuits. He has been a columnist and feature writer for various Park City publications going back to 1973.