Thursday, October 25, 2007

Striking a Blow for Consumers

I'M not a violent man by nature.

The Army tried to make me into a trained killer, but I came up woefully short.

I played all kinds of sports but, despite the urging of coaches and teammates, never really wanted to maim anybody.

With the possible exception of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, I believe in attempting to resolve all conflicts peacefully.

But sometimes you just have to hammer home a point.

I offer as Exhibit A one Mona Shaw, a 75-year-old resident of Manassas, Va., who took matters into her own hands to get the attention of her cable provider.

It seems that Mona bought into one of those "bundling" packages that cable companies like to arm-twist you about through endless phone calls and mailings. The service combines phone, cable and Internet service.

Her provider was Comcast. Without saying anything more about Comcast's reputation in the cable community, I will merely point out that there's a blog called that does a lively business on the Web.

Anyway, Mona and her husband scheduled a service call. The company failed to come on the appointed date. When they did show up two days late, they left with the job half-done.

Two days after that they cut off her service.

Mona and her husband decided the best way to get this misunderstanding straightened out was to visit the local cable office. When they arrived, a customer service representative told them the manager would be right with them and asked them to please take a seat.

They did - for two hours. At that point, the customer rep cheerfully announced that the manager had left for the day.

Shaw told the Washington Post, "They thought that just because we're old enough to get Social Security that we lack both brains and backbone."

So after a weekend spent at low boil, Mona, armed with a claw hammer, visited the Comcast office again.

But there was no waiting this time. Mona delivered a few well timed blows to a computer keyboard and monitor and, for good measure, to the telephone.

"After I hit the keyboard," Mona said, "I turned to the blond who had been there previously, the one who told me to wait for the manager, and I said, `Now do I have your attention?"'

In taking decisive action, she lived the fantasy many of us share who exist in an era when customer service is as forgotten a concept as chivalry.

For her outburst, Mona was led away in cuffs. She received a three month suspended sentence for disorderly conduct and a $345 fine.

But she eventually got the service she sought. From Verizon.

And won a place in our hearts.

My friend Doug Hays reminds me that an important anniversary in the history of the Rose Bowl is approaching.

And not many people realize it.

It was on Oct. 25, 1947, that the first football game from the Rose Bowl was telecast, a titanic between the Pasadena City College Bulldogs and the Los Angeles City College Cubs.

Doug knows because he played for PCC in the game. In fact, he looks like he could still run some deft pass patterns and toss a few blocks.

He offers as evidence a program that said that the broadcast, carried on KTLA Channel 5, would take place from the rim of the Rose Bowl on the 50-yard line with action close-ups by means of a telescopic lens.

The cameras would relay the game to the station's transmitter on Mount Wilson where it would be sent to every set within 150 miles.

Calling the game was Bill Welsh, one of those icons of early-day TV who did the news, worked as a sportscaster, covered live events and probably sold tickets and cleaned the rest rooms before he went home at night. He became such a local legend that he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The Tournament of Roses Web site will tell you that the first Los Angeles telecast of a college football game was in 1948.

We may be dealing in semantics here. The 1948 broadcast was the first Rose Bowl game, not the first game in the Rose Bowl.

But in any event, both were forgettable.

Doug and his PCC buddies lost 32-6. "At least we were famous for two and a half hours," Hays says. "Channel 5 was the only channel in town, and everyone who had a TV saw us."

As for the 1948 Rose Bowl game telecast, it was Michigan 49, USC 0.

For the record, the first televised college football game occurred during the experimental era of television's broadcasting history, when a game between Fordham University and Waynesburg College was broadcast on Sept. 30, 1939.

One month later, on Oct. 23, 1939, Kansas State's homecoming contest against the University of Nebraska was the second to be broadcast. The following season, on Oct. 5, 1940, what is described as the "first commercially televised game" between the University of Maryland and the University of Pennsylvania was broadcast by Philco.

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