Thirty’s Something

During a staff meeting in preparation for this anniversary issue, editor Bob Yearick insisted now was the time—after all these years—to reveal to readers what the TSN, in our corporate name TSN Media, represents.

I figured the story behind the letters would be about as interesting to readers as what I had for breakfast. So, I rejected the suggestion as being self-absorbed. But the staff countered, taking turns to support Yearick’s argument. Turns out, each had been asked more than once about the acronym. Plus, Facebook is the place to reveal what you had for breakfast.

So, I reconsidered. Not because I really believed readers were dying to know the story behind three letters, but because it was a good opportunity to share my view on why Out & About has survived for 30 years.

But first, for those who must know, TSN stands for The Softball News, a publication I started back in 1983 as a moonlight enterprise when I was a sportswriter for a small weekly in Maryland. It was my first taste of independent publishing and a lifelong lesson in the travails of being butcher-baker-candlestick-maker. To say it was a mom-and-pop operation would have been exaggerating my staff size by 100 percent. I sold the ads, designed the ads, covered the games, wrote the stories, wrote the headlines, laid out the magazine, then with the magic of wax and a razor blade, pasted the halftones and galleys on graph paper and did a late-night sprint to the printer and returned the next morning to pick up the publication and help deliver it.

Obviously, the experience didn’t scar me for life because in 1988 I began publishing Out & About while still producing The Softball News. Two publications merited a corporate name, so I chose the initials of The Softball News for one simple reason: I thought they were lucky. When The Softball News debuted in ‘83, we were the newest of approximately 50 softball-specific publications in the country. In less than a decade, that number was seven. We were one of the seven.

The secret to that survival? Recognizing an audience and adding energy to their passion. We engaged the audience in ways they found flattering and entertaining.

We didn’t just compile score and standings, we told colorful stories, had dynamic photography, and treated the sport like it was the biggest thing since WWF. We shined a spotlight on weekend warriors by naming Players of the Week, Teams of the Week and Top 10 rankings. And just to stir up the rivalries, every headline was a pun:  Herman’s Meats grills Goldey Beacom Alumni; Casapulla’s peppers Brandywine League foes. In fact, we were able to raise the profile of the game enough that we even had a short-lived TV show on local cable.

Five years later, we took that same energy into Out & About, ignoring the naysayers who complained there wasn’t enough going on in Wilmington to support our endeavor. In fact, during our first six months, more than a few area businesses told us quite candidly—and without animus—they doubted we’d last a year.

Undaunted but far from overconfident, we stayed true to our mission and convinced enough talented writers, photographers and artists that with their help we could be a valued storyteller. Compelling local stories told by local talent has been the key to our success.

That and our genuine commitment to the community. From the beginning we didn’t just chronicle the scene, we worked to expand it. When we saw a worthy enterprise in need of a hand, we tried to lend it. When we noticed a void, we worked to fill it.

In fact, we batted around a lot of ideas regarding the proper way to commemorate this anniversary. A bash for the decades was considered. In the end, we chose to stay true to our personality — more about the community and less about us.

The result, with apologies to ESPN, is our very own 30 For 30…30 events to commemorate 30 years. Ambitious, for sure, but it’s a fitting way to showcase many of the partnerships Out & About has developed over the years – partnerships indispensable to our longevity.

Thirty years? Go figure. To think that I’ve now spent half of my life publishing this magazine is, personally, astonishing.

But it’s also quite rewarding to reach this milestone, to know the community still has value for your contribution. That’s something Out & About has never taken for granted. And something we never will.

Positive Traction

Welcome to our annual Optimism Issue. Tell me you don’t need a dose of good news right about now —even if you are an Eagles fan.

Well, here you go. Inside, veteran O&A contributor Larry Nagengast spotlights the Office of Volunteerism, an under-publicized state agency that connects those who want to help with those who need it. Throughout 2018, as part of our 30th anniversary celebration, Out & About will be partnering with this office to share compelling stories of volunteerism as well as volunteer opportunities you can pursue. There are many.

In addition, the O&A staff has compiled an inspiring list entitled “50 Ways Delaware Gives Back.” Trust me, we reached 50 easily. And finally, contributor Adriana Camacho-Church provides scientific and anecdotal evidence of why volunteering isn’t just beneficial at face value, it also helps the volunteer.

Good stuff. Hope you enjoy. But to be honest, I needed this issue. It’s not the easiest of times to be rosy about the future with all this ranting about walls, shit holes and deportation. Not to mention the daily revelations about sexual abuse.

Silver lining? Maybe revealing the worst about ourselves helps us become better.

Which reminds me of a television interview of a young black teen living in Detroit that I watched last November. I’m guessing he was about 14, and the interviewer asked how he felt about Trump being elected, despite the numerous disparaging comments he made about minorities during the election.

I know the response I was expecting; instead, this is what he said (and I paraphrase): “I think it’s a good thing. For him to be elected after all the things he’s said just shows how much racism is still tolerated. I think him being president is going to expose a lot of things that need to be exposed.”

And we worry about explaining the world to our kids? Perhaps we should consider asking the kids to explain the world to us.

Partisan mulishness may dominate the news outlets, but it’s the fresh perspective of millennials that is my cause for optimism. My kids, their friends, and virtually every young person I meet accepts the world for the complexion it is today, not what it was in the good ol’ days.

They didn’t grow up in Ozzie and Harriet America. And they’re not fettered by tired racial or sexual stereotypes. Furthermore, if we’re really being honest, the good ol’ days weren’t all that good, especially if you were in the minority.

In the good ol’ days, I was using a typewriter, making calls from a phone booth, getting up every time I wanted to change the channel. Times change. Attitudes should keep step. As a 60-year-old white guy who sent his first tweet a week ago after encouragement from his 22-year-old daughter, I’m optimistic they will.

Getting Sidetracked

This was not the column I was going to write. Traditionally, I would use this space to introduce our annual Worth Trying Issue, then go on to make a few hopeful suggestions for the new year.

But a funny thing happened on my way to the next paragraph…

While I was composing, a good friend emailed me a link to a story in The News Journal concerning an outbreak of violence at a youth football tournament in Middletown in early December. The behavior resulted in one event (Big East All-American Bowl) being terminated mid-tournament and a second event, scheduled for the following weekend (National Youth Football Championships), being cancelled.

The events, wonderful opportunities for young athletes to showcase their skills—not to mention a significant boost to the local economy because many of the 40 teams expected were from out of state—got called off because of horrendous parent behavior (fights among parents, the assault of an official, and other threats and confrontations). One incident occurred during play in the age 7-and-under division, as an irate parent challenged an official to meet him in the parking lot after the game. Yes, the 7-and-under division.

As my friend and I exchanged impassioned give-and-take regarding the pros and cons of cancelling the tournament, the comments of a parent quoted in the story grabbed my attention:

There should have been more state police at the games because these teams come from all walks of life and you never know what you are going to see.

Now, I’m sure equating certain “walks of life” with bad behavior was not the parent’s intention; however, that is unequivocally how I interpreted it. I doubt I am alone. It’s the classic other-side-of-the-tracks stereotype, a reference that strikes a nerve with me.

For years, a guy I grew up with used to kid me about “doing all right for myself considering I came from the other side of the tracks.” No insult intended—in his mind it was a compliment —but his fundamental assumption was something I couldn’t reconcile. Implied in his statement was that people on his side of the tracks were superior. Implied in his statement was that those on the other side were not, because of where we lived.

Now, it’s easy to dismiss my reaction as being overly sensitive. Compared to the bias minorities face, it certainly is. But consider: 30 years later I’m still bothered by a little joke suggesting people from my side of the tracks are inferior. Imagine daily doses of it.

This is the slippery slope we traverse when we make hasty generalizations. Often, we don’t realize we’ve gone too far until we’ve gone too far. Then it’s too late.

Isn’t it ironic that we demand to be viewed as unique, yet are so quick to pigeonhole others? We assign behavior characteristics based merely on geography, income, religion, political affiliation, race. It manifests itself everywhere, from our political debate to the policing of our streets.

So, the real tragedy in Middletown isn’t simply that a football tournament got cancelled. It’s that good kids from the wrong side of the tracks got lumped in with bad ones and opportunities vanished—opportunities that don’t happen in daily doses.

We’re attracting the wrong crowd. These events draw a bad demographic. Let’s just pull the plug!

No! Evaluate the situation with the proper perspective: You were the unfortunate victims of bad behavior, despite commendable intentions. Bad behavior occurs in all walks of life. So, you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. You institute a code of conduct, require a refundable deposit based on sportsmanship, beef up security.

Or, put another way, you throw out the bad apples. Please don’t cut down the tree.

As for the introduction of this issue, I can introduce it in a sentence: Welcome to our eighth annual Worth Trying Issue, in which our esteemed staff and contributors share opinions on people, places and things they deem worthy of your time. Enjoy.

Experiences: Lifetime Gifts

On my son’s wall hangs this memory, a framed scorecard and photograph signed by Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay, who threw a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds on Oct. 6, 2010—the first playoff appearance of his storied career. We bought it at Citizens Bank Park during the first homestand of the 2011 season. I remember it well.

When I heard about Halladay’s fatal plane crash last month, I immediately thought of this image. I was thankful that my son, a lifelong baseball player who continues that pursuit in college, got a chance to see this Phillies great in person. I was glad that as father and son, we experienced that magical Phillies run from 2007-2011. And I was reminded of the many wonderful Phillies moments I’ve had with both my son and daughter—from crab fries to a world championship.

In fact, I’ve spent quite a bit of time lately cruising down memory lane. Mostly in preparation for this magazine’s 30th anniversary, which will take place in March 2018. In planning for that issue, I’m enjoying sifting through images of the magical moments Out & About has had the good fortune to witness. There were many.

Which leads me to the theme of this month’s issue in the season of gift-giving: The magic of giving an experience.

As we all know, Jeff Bezos has become a very rich man by having Amazon deliver things to us. Today, you can order a thing for everyone on your list—all without leaving your couch. In fact, technology is making it so we might soon be able to eliminate the last human component of the gift-buying process —the delivery person. Drones can handle that.

But Amazon can’t deliver a concert with a friend. Or a ski trip with the boys. Or a ball game with your kids. Delivering memories is a personal thing. And as the Halladay tragedy reminds us, it’s a gesture that should not be put off for another day.

In this issue, contributing writer Leeann Wallett gives some creative suggestions on experiences as gifts. And contributor Dillon McLaughlin reports on some of the wonderful holiday traditions we’ve built around the state.

Let me be clear, I’m not opposed to the efficiency that technology has brought to holiday shopping. For me, the mall is an intimidating place. Furthermore, saving time by shopping online allows us more time to pursue experiences. In fact, it makes experiences easier to coordinate because you can shop for them in advance.

In a recent issue of Business Week, Jim Coulter, co-CEO of the major private equity firm TPG Capital, pointed out a significant trend in today’s economy: Spending habits are changing from things to experiences. Coulter goes on to say that experiences are not only more valuable to people, that value is enhanced when the experience can be shared through channels such as Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat…

Encouraging trends are not easy to find these days, and I find Coulter’s observation encouraging. An experiential gift can last a lifetime; all you need is a prompt to relive it. Can’t say that for my Christmas tie. It disappeared days after the holidays, lost amid all my stuff.

Why Delawareans Should Like Beer

You know, you guys write a lot about beer.

It’s a comment I’ve heard frequently in 29 years of producing Out & About. In fact, it’s an observation our teetotaling editor, Bob Yearick, has pointed out on more than one occasion.

My defense? There is none. I like beer. And as a Delawarean, you should like beer, too.

Since 1997, when Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione put a six-pack into a homemade row boat and “exported” his brew to Cape May, N.J. (a memorable and clever publicity stunt), the craft beer industry in Delaware has been rowing with the current. And, oh, what a current.

Today, there are 19 operating craft breweries in Delaware. That number will expand significantly with the recent announcements of Stitch House Brewery, Midnight Oil, Braeloch and Wilmington Brew Works (See story on page 25). In fact, Wilmington Brew Works will be the first production brewery located in the city since 1954.

Today, craft beer is generating more than $318 million in economic impact for our state, says the nationally-recognized Brewers Association. We’re in the top 20 in the nation in breweries per capita, and Delawareans over age 21 drink about 11 gallons of craft beer per year—sixth in the U.S.
In other words, I’m not the only one in Delaware who likes beer.

What’s not to like? The craft beer industry promotes agriculture, science, creativity, entrepreneurship. It also promotes historic preservation, as abandoned buildings, warehouses and brownfields are popular new homes for aspiring brewers. Case in point: The recently announced Wilmington Brew Works will occupy the former Harper-Thiel Electroplating headquarters on Miller Road, a Superfund site that sat vacant for nearly two decades. The state helped clean it up, Wilmington’s economic development office found a development partner in Rose and Ralph Pepe, and soon beer will be brewed there.

Just five years ago, Delaware breweries employed 200 people directly and another 2,600 in related jobs such as wholesaling and retailing. Those numbers have doubled.

Dogfish Head has become more than a tasty brew; it’s now a brand that helps sell our state, much like the DuPont Co. has done for years. A stretch? Put it this way: On more than one occasion while traveling, I’ve had people respond to me when I say I’m from Delaware: Hey, that’s where Dogfish is from, right?

It’s an evolution not lost on state officials. The Delaware Tourism Office created a special tour—the Delaware Beer, Wine and Spirits Trail—which has doubled in size since its launch in 2010. And just last month the office introduced the Delaware On Tap app, a mobile version of the BWS Trail.

“The craft beverage industry as a part of tourism in Delaware is booming,” says Liz Keller, Delaware Tourism director. “The state has the ninth largest economic impact per capita from craft brewing in America.”

This month, Out & About will raise a toast to the craft beer scene with our seventh annual Wilmington Beer Week (Nov. 6-11). Read all about it in this issue, as well as other fascinating developments for the local craft scene.

Yes, more stories about beer. Hey, we like to paddle with the current, too.

From the Publisher: Un-Easy Rider

The League of American Bicyclists proclaims Delaware the third “most bike-friendly state in the country.” If that’s the case, may I never be on my bike in any of the states ranked below the Top 20.

To say Delaware is bike friendly is like saying because you throw your plastic bottles in a recycle bin you’re an environmentalist. Sure, we’ve built hundreds of miles of bike paths over the past decade, and more are in the planning stage. We also have some wonderful group rides that welcome riders from near and far—Bike to the Bay, Amish Bike Tour, Delaware Gran Fondo.

We passed the three-foot passing law way back in 2011, which basically tells motorists who approach a cyclist traveling in the same direction: “Proceed with caution and reduce the speed of the vehicle to a safe speed and leave a reasonable and prudent distance by providing a minimum of three feet of clearance while passing such bicyclist, if changing lanes would be impossible or unsafe.”

But as a driver, did you even know about this legislation? Have you ever seen a road sign reinforcing it, much less know someone who received a ticket for violating a bike-safety statute?

Sure, we’ve made strides toward being bike tolerant. But bike friendly? Hardly.

I recently had the pleasure of visiting Montreal. My son will be attending college at McGill University this fall and I can’t wait —to visit him and take a bike ride in this wonderful city, that is.

Now, Montreal is a place that can boast of being bike friendly and it doesn’t come off like Donald Trump proclaiming to be a “great negotiator.” Bike share racks are everywhere, many streets have dedicated lanes for cyclists (protected by Jersey barriers and providing dedicated lanes in both directions), and a cyclist’s right to be on the road is respected throughout the city—bike lane or not. In fact, considering traffic and the omnipresent road construction, a bicycle is often the most efficient means of getting around in Montreal. So, people on bikes are everywhere.

However, being bike friendly is about more than laws and infrastructure. It’s a recognition that bikes belong, a viewpoint sorely lacking in Delaware and every state ranked behind us. To many motorists, people on bikes are an inconvenience. How dare we think we should share the road with cars and trucks.

Studies say there is safety in numbers. The more people we have riding bikes the more we’ll raise awareness, and reinforce our right to share the roads. OK, but we need more than that. We need an aggressive and uncompromising PR/lobbying campaign. We need a movement like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

Legislation outlawing driving under the influence existed long before MADD, but until the Texas-based non-profit began creating powerful commercials and PR campaigns, before they started a relentless attack on legislators, drunk driving laws were not aggressively enforced. Today, MADD is credited with reducing deaths by drunk driving by half in the U.S., and the organization is responsible for having mandatory all-offender alcohol interlock (car breathalyzers) laws passed in 25 states.

Cycling needs to take a page out of the MADD playbook. Hell, let’s take the whole playbook.

How about Riders Against Getting Eliminated (RAGE)? Time to put the pedal to the metal, so to speak.

From the Publisher – Putting My Best Footprint Forward

Ok, so Al Gore got a little caught up in hyperbole, but there are some inconvenient truths in An Inconvenient Truth.

You remember Al Gore, right? You know, the guy many claim was denied the presidency in 2000 by a few hanging chads. The guy who created the Internet (he didn’t, and he didn’t actually claim that). The guy—in fact, one of the first politicians I can remember—who tried to make climate change a national discussion.

Gore took a lot of heat (no pun intended) for his claims about the Internet, not to mention his sky-is-falling call for action on global warming chronicled in the 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Truth is, Gore was a politician ahead of his time in recognizing the vast potential of the Internet. And today he is seen as more visionary than alarmist when it comes to climate change.

Unfortunately, it takes cries that the sky is falling to get people to look up from their cell phones. But we’re finally looking up. And taking action, hopefully, before it’s too late.

The herd of global warming deniers is thinning. With the exception of Mitch McConnell and the oil and coal barons, climate change is being accepted as a real and present threat.

But it takes time to break old habits and, quite frankly, I’m as guilty as the next. Until recently, I hadn’t given much thought to my carbon footprint. Oh, I recycled and tried to be somewhat environmentally conscious. But was I letting concerns about the environment affect my personal energy consumption? Was I considering how I could reduce my footprint?

No, I was among the consume-and-keep-walking crowd. It wasn’t complete disregard for the environment. It was more…oh, you know…inconvenient to think deeply about. Fortunately, glaciers melt slowly, giving me and millions like me time to wake up and smell the urgency.

On pages 24-25, you will find an infographic with suggestions from some of the O&A staff on simple ways to reduce your carbon footprint. The staff promise to practice what they preach. Furthermore, at right I’m announcing my 2016 resolution to reduce the duPhily family carbon footprint.

Have I shared this resolution with my family? You mean, before this column?
Like a good diet, I will start small, with practical, relatively easy behavior adjustments. Hey, one doesn’t begin a running regimen by going out and entering a marathon.

10 Easy Things the duPhilys Are Doing in 2016 to Reduce Their Carbon Footprint

• Eat the leftovers. It saves money and reduces the food waste that ends up in the landfill. In the U.S., 40% of food is thrown out every year. (My wife is doubled over with laughter right now, as I am pretty weak when it comes to eating leftovers. But that was the old Jerry. So I’m good with chili for the fifth straight night. Call me “The Carbonator.”)
• Quit warming up the cars in cold weather—it’s a waste of fuel. (Even when it’s 10 degrees out.)
• Cut down on bottled water. (The number of containers our household recycles in a year is embarrassing. And those water bottles are convenient. This is a major concession.)
• Use only compact fluorescent light bulbs. (If every home in the U.S. switched to these bulbs it would reduce the electricity spent on lighting by half. Enough said.)
• Quit running water when brushing our teeth. (I’ll be watching … and looking in the mirror.)
• Make sure all of our car tires are properly inflated for better gas mileage. (I’m pretty good about this for my car, but our household now has four cars and four drivers. Tire gauges would have been a good stocking stuffer.)
• Unplug gadgets and chargers when not in use. (It’s remembering to unplug the chargers that will take some discipline.)
• Buy produce only in season and make sure it’s locally grown. (I don’t actually do the grocery shopping, but I’ll diplomatically make this recommendation.)
• Begin using rechargeable batteries. (Off my radar until it was suggested in our staff discussion. I’m on it.)
• Eat a lot less beef. (After reading a recent Outside magazine article about the energy needed to raise cattle, not to mention the methane gas emitted by cows, we’ll be eating a lot more…PIZZA!)

These steps might seem minimal and if I’m the only one doing them, they will be. But multiplied by thousands, even millions, they will add up to major change. They may be inconvenient, but let’s face it, sometimes the truth hurts.

From the Publisher – A Practice Worth Trying

Welcome to our annual Worth Trying issue. We began kicking off the year with this theme in 2011 and we’re pleased that it continues to resonate with readers. Throughout 2016, Out & About will be making suggestions the staff deems worthy of your time. Just look for the Worth Trying page in our Start section.

To be clear, this is not a “Best Of…” list. While that approach is a staple of many magazines, the truth is many of those themes are self-serving and veiled attempts to sell advertising. Sure, we’re all about selling advertising—it’s how we pay the bills—but we like to do things our way. So when it comes to endorsements, we prefer to temper the hyperbole.

The suggestions on the pages to follow are personal recommendations from our staff and contributors. These are things we’ve experienced, things we’d recommend to a friend. Give them a shot and let us know if you agree. While you’re at it, let us know of things you feel are worth trying. We’ll try them and maybe even share with your fellow readers.
Which is a perfect segue to a practice worth trying for each of us in 2016. Hey, ‘tis the season of resolutions and turning over a new leaf, right?

Today, we’re so consumed with getting an edge we’ve gone over the edge. We anticipate the worst and are suspicious of the best. What if we anticipated the best—without letting our guard down?

In November, I attended USA Cycling’s national conference. During his state-of-the-sport address, newly-elected USAC President Derek Bouchard-Hall, knowing there were many competing interests in the room, offered a few words of wisdom that resonated with me. It was advice he had received years ago. Once applied, it became a practice he found indispensable as he progressed in his career.

Before entering any important encounter, be it a business negotiation, community discussion, political debate… assume the other side is trying to do the right thing. Trust there is no hidden agenda. Believe your adversary’s heart is in the right place. Accept that negotiation is not a zero-sum game.

Assume best intentions drive the other side, he continued, and it’s remarkable how it leads to a more fruitful encounter.

Oh, I know what you’re thinking: Those are words of wisdom? Sure, and all we need to do is love thy neighbor and we’ll have world peace.

Not so fast. When is the last time you paused to consider that the other side might sincerely believe it was doing the right thing? Before you made assumptions about their motivation? Before you began focusing on ways to get an edge?

Today, we’re so consumed with getting an edge we’ve gone over the edge. We anticipate the worst and are suspicious of the best. What if we anticipated the best—without letting our guard down?

Naïve? Perhaps. But do you not agree that the discourse of today has deteriorated into bellicosity? Are you not turned off by today’s raucous, political tit-for-tat? Far too often we strive to win the argument through intimidation. Being louder certainly gets you noticed, but it doesn’t make you right.

So tone it down, listen with an open mind, and assume your opponent is trying to do the right thing. Aren’t you more receptive in a discussion if you feel the other side respects your opinion? At worst, it will produce a more civil dialogue. At best, you might even arrive at an ideal solution.