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December 18, 2014

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04/09/07 My Wake-Up Call

5:30 a.m., I drag my sagging self out of bed, pull clothes over skin, spoon calories into mouth, and head for the elevator in the hallway. Push the arrow that points downward, Eric.

Pushing the button multiple times doesnít make the elevator come any faster.

Door close. Door open. Walk toward the waiting cabs. Head to the Bellagio.

Itís time for the annual Broadcasters Foundation Pioneers Breakfast and Awards ceremony, a tradition thatís been part of my life for more years than I can remember. We come each year to honor radioís longtime innovators whose contributions have made a difference. Joe Amaturo, Jeff Smulyan, Gary Fries, Jerry Lee, Rick Buckley, Dwight Case, Joe Field, Dick Foreman, and many others.

I like hanging out with these guys.

THE BIG KIDSí TABLE
A few weeks ago I received a call from Gordon Hastings, president of the Broadcasters Foundation of America. I expected him to tell me that I was invited to the breakfast, same as always.

But this year I was uninvited to sit at my regular table. This year, I was invited to sit at the big kidsí table, along with James Babb, Gary Chapman, Bob Fox, Patricia Smullin, and Dean Sorenson ó the new inductees for 2007.

The phone went silent for a moment.

ďYou sure you got the right number, Gordon? This is Eric Rhoads.Ē

ďI know who I called.Ē

ďAm I old enough to be a pioneer?Ē

ďLBJ was president and Vietnam was raging when you first sat down at the microphone, Eric.Ē

He was right. Radioís been my life for 38 of my 52 years.

Fifty-two. Am I really 52? I pull out my driverís license. Well, the state of Florida says I am, so Iíd better go with that.

I donít remember the rest of the conversation. Iím pretty sure I sounded like an idiot.

ďDear God, please donít let Gordon Hastings change his mind. Amen.Ē

The big kidsí table. Wow. This is like receiving the Pulitzer Prize, but for radio.

My head continued to spin for a couple of days while I tried to get used to the idea of being accepted into a society of people Iíve admired for most of my career.

Frankly, I still havenít wrapped my head around it.

THEY GIVE AWARDS FOR THIS?
As one whoís made his living as an agitator, a troublemaker, a pest who has tried every way possible to make the people of radio throw back their shoulders, push out their chest, and stand to their full height, itís never once crossed my mind that important people might feel I was making a difference.

Iíve lost a few friends and more than a few advertisers because of things Iíve said in editorials. And my breath catches in my throat when I think of the number of times Iíve hammered radio about sensitive subjects. My position is often unpopular.

They give awards for this?

The people at the Broadcasters Foundation say they do.

I learned something new today: 52 isnít too old to cry.

I am Humbly Yours.




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