By Todd Franko
A call came in this week pitching a nice news story.
The message closed with a polite observation:
“I know you live in Poland.”
While I don’t specifically recall announcing where I live, I know I’ve done so in various ways as a vehicle for some thoughts.
But it reminded me that I did just kind of thrust this Sunday column out there without much of an introduction.
How rude ....
My first piece was in February and titled “Have we forgotten how to celebrate a winner?” It was about the Valley leadership’s uninspired build-up to the Feb. 21 Kelly Pavlik fight.
I remember thinking then that I’d write a who-I-am-piece in a couple of weeks. But the weeks have become months.
So here’s a quick, bumpy, unspackled look at Toddyville — a place where MTV still plays music videos and clam chowder is on the menu every day of the week.
- My climb up the ladder of newspaper leadership has taken me through Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Nebraska. I think that if I get to Iowa, I win some kind of five-states-across-Interstate 80 prize from the American Automobile Membership — or at least a BP gas card.
- I’ve always been more enamored with business than politics. I’m inspired more by folks who work their way up through accomplishment, competition and ingenuity.
- I’m tragically frugal as a norm, but unexpectedly splurge on people and places. I don’t know why. Shotgun consumerism.
- I grew up on a porch in the city of Buffalo. I now reside, like many of my neighbors, on backyard decks in the suburbs. Consequently and sadly, I know fewer of my neighbors now than I knew when I was a kid.
- About Buffalo, laugh as you will, but for six years, the Bills were the best football team in the NFL. Hush, Browns and Steelers fans, you were 39-53 and 50-46 over the period; 70-26, thank you.
- My kids have more weekly study halls than physical education classes, and I don’t understand why.
- Son, husband, brother, editor, neighbor, concerned citizen and coach are among the titles I hold. But all of them all together don’t surpass my title of Dad.
- When I drive the turns of I-680 within Youngstown, I’ve been known to say aloud “Earnhardt takes an outside lane coming around Turn 3.” Others do, too. Don’t lie.
- My cell phone rings on the vibrating setting when at all possible, and my voicemail is simple. No excessive use of music, cheers or bugle calls.
- I wear around-the-house clothes on Saturday that embarrass my wife, especially when they become errands-about-town clothes. The paint-stained shorts and T-shirts show the victories of home-improvement projects across at least three states. Possibly four.
- Letterman over Leno and Conan. Kimmel is No. 2.
- The 10 singers who need to be in any CD collection are Springsteen, Mellencamp, Journey, Manilow, Cash, Todd Snider, Loretta Lynn, R.E.M., James Taylor and Rush. In the on-deck circle are Neil Diamond, Van Halen and Jim Croce.
- I’m asked frequently (Thursday the most recent) what I think of the Valley.
(Quick sidenote before continuing that thought: There’s this mannerism that always accompanies that question. It’s usually a guy. His shoulders rear back, his chin goes up, and his lips smirk like Robert Conrad in the old commercials daring you to knock the battery off of his shoulder.)
I like the Valley, which often surprises the questioner.
What I can’t understand is why so many people who live here do not like it here.
I understand that there’ve been 30 years of struggle and loss. But Youngstown was not born prosperous. Guys such as the Tods and the Heatons created something from nothing. These were business guys who were ingenious, competitive and accomplished.
They built, developed and polished it over the course of 100 or more years. These 30 years are but a small chapter.
What I think is needed is more ingenuity and accomplishment and less complacency and entitlement.
- And I’m editor of The Vindicator, and darn glad to serve the Valley.