Atlantic Heavies vs. WTIX Radio Football Event
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Practically everyone remembers where they were during an important event like last year's Super Bowl. But can you recall where you were during the unheralded spectacle billed as the super bowl of the music industry? We didn't think so. And that's precisely why this story lives-on today because this was definitely a first and maybe even the last. You see, no inner-business sporting event like this had ever occurred while drawing such an impressive group of industry VIPs to a party town like New Orleans. In comparison to today's radio & record marketplace, seems nowadays hardly anybody ever leaves their cubicle to perform a task - let alone fly across the country to play in a touch football game.
The story unfolds in the year of 1971 as radio station WTIX in New Orleans was programmed by a sports enthusiast named (L) Bob Mitchell. He was a crafty guy and held the morning shift on the mighty 690 and was a favorite DJ in the Crescent City. The station held dominant ratings above their counterparts while the music programed over the airwaves always sold well at the retail level. Plus, the radio station was viewed as a leader on the national scene and was the flagship station for Storz Broadcasting. Considering Bob Mitchell was very busy guy as he handled the day-to-day activities for this top station, it appeared that record promoters were getting frustrated and having a difficult time contacting him regarding getting new records added to his station playlist. Practically every major record company in the business was seeking to find a common ground with Mitchell.
During this same period Atlantic Records was experiencing an enormous growth period with literally dozens and dozens of break-through artist entering into the mainstream market. This prosperous cycle was viewed by industry analyst as the golden years for the music business and Atlantic was indeed a front runner in all musical categories. Atlantic's promotion staff was headed by another sports enthusisast by the name of (above) Jerry Greenberg. He had been hired through the distribution system in Hartford, Connecticut and now relocated in the corporate offices in New York City. In his new job it was Greenberg's responsibility to remedy all airplay dilemmas. As with many leading radio stations, the WTIX jocks were highly visible in their respected community and did a great job of pleasing the masses. When they showed-up at a publicized function the crowd attendance was always consistent. Plus, Atlantic's crack-pop promotion staff had recently been noted by a industry magazine for breaking many new artists while being coined as "The Heavies" for their heroic duties. Atlantic Records and WTIX Radio were both active in community functions and enjoyed being called in to action. Considering that times were good for both industries, it appeared the two businesses were a perfect twosome and blended together like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
As a general practice every week playlist additions were routine with new product being analyzed and critiqued. Record companies sent their promotion personnel in numbers calling upon stations in lieu of seeking new airplay. Yet, with a flood of new releases every week there was only so much room for new records over the airwaves because radio station playlist were frequently tight. These weekly battles created fierce competition between both industries and everyone was seeking the upper-hand. The leaders of both teams, Jerry Greenberg and Bob Mitchell, had met one another through industry connections and became good friends while admiring each other with great respect. However, anytime you mix together two alpha males combined with two competitive sports enthusisast...sparks are always going to fly.
After a frustrating cycle of long-distant telephone calls and tons of overnight special delivery letters trying to gain the edge with new playlist additions, the competitive juices of Mitchell and Greenberg finally reached a peak. That's when Greenberg gambled by calling Mitchell's bluff by saying, "My team's better than your team." Mitchell responded to the challenge by saying, "Heavens forbid, bring your team down to New Orleans and let's see who is the best." That's when Greenberg took the bait and dared to meet Mitchell's radio station team in a touch football game between the WTIX staff and The Atlantic Heavies.
The timing was perfect as the annual Billboard Magazine Convention was being held in New Orleans in several weeks as the contest could be held there. This worked great for both parties as it allowed time to prepare for the grudge match. Both Mitchell & Greenberg were on the phone actively recruiting players as all the weekend jocks began to fine tune their skills. On the day of the game, Mitchell had secured an actual football field located at the noted Saint Roch Playground complete with stadium lights for the playing field combined with certified football referees.
Supported by an enthusiastic audience coming from the station's airwaves plus additional spectators who attended from the Billboard convention, the sidelines were packed with fans. Mitchell had even appointed several female employees from the radio station to act as cheerleaders for the home team. In attendance that night was popular WTIX DJ 'Skinny' Tom Chaney as he recalls, "I remember the game vividly as I was there and sitting on the sidelines watching the entire game with my good buddy, Johnny Walker Red." At kickoff it appeared that Greenberg had the upper-hand with talented players like Atlantic's mighty Dave Glew, the speedy Vince Faraci and wideout threat Dick Kline. Plus, from the local radio ranks, Greenberg had added the athletic Bill Thomas and Larry Ryan to the roster at the last minute. Confidence was high and testosterone was abundant with the Atlantic team as someone whispered, "Anytime you got skilled competitors playing against clumsy wannabes, bumps and bruises are certain." Be that as it may, WTIX's Bob Mitchell then introduced his beefy lineup as the crowd swooned amongst themselves when the players trotted out on to the field. But then Mitchell unexpectedly unveiled his ultimate trump-card. Behind the scenes and to everybody's surprise, Mitchell had recruited former NFL player Ben Scotti (L) to show-up at kickoff. As Scotti appeared on to the field mouths dropped open and eyes popped out as the Atlantic team was in total shock. Yes, it was Ben Scotti, and he was no light-weight as he had previously played for the San Fransisco 49's and the Washington Redskins. It seemed like the ground shook when we came running by. Scotti was currently the co-owner of the Scotti Brothers record label and feared by many folks. Including myself. His appearance added a total new dimension to this so-called friendly game. Fortunately for the Atlantic team, they won the coin toss and received the kickoff. During the first offensive huddle Greenberg gathered his troops and asked, "All right team, who wants to play offensive lineman?" Suddenly you could hear a pin drop as not a single person volunteered to play upfront. After several minutes of posturing, the referee stepped-in and said, "Okay girls let's go, times' a wasting." Seconds later the ball was snapped and immediately bodies went flying. Scotti had busted through the line while leaving players in his wake laying on their backs with feet in the air. Ouch! You could hear the moaning and groaning of grown men in pain. Only two minutes into the game and Atlantic called their first timeout. Atlantic's Dick Kline recently recalls the moment saying, "Ben Scotti was a killer, no touch ball for him, that wasn't in his game." Kline added, "He was a real ball-buster and teammate Dave Glew got a separated shoulder in the first half. Plus, I got hit so hard that I got my bell rung. It was a game I'll never forget!" When the WTIX team got their first offensive possession, the Atlantic Heavies scrambled to regain control as the intensity mounted like a pressure cooker. Bob Mitchell added, "I was playing quarterback and somewhere in the second quarter I went back to throw a pass and as soon as I released the ball somebody crashed into my chest and busted my rib." Mitchell continued with his story, "Man, I got hit so hard that I swear I saw stars, just like the the cartoons when the little birdies are swirling around your head and making that tweetie sound." Jerry Greenberg remembers the game by saying, "Even though it was a touch football game, we were playing the game by regular rules and everyone took it so seriously." Greenberg continued, "Man, Scotti told me not to get close to Mitchell, that he was untouchable and nobody better get near him or else." Greenberg laughed by saying, "Okay man, I told Scotti, I have no problem with that."
The second half was even tougher as suddenly a city ambulance appeared in the parking lot. Mitchell said, "I don't know who called the ambulance or if they were there just to watch the game but it sure made me feel alot safer." Sweat was flying and players became exhausted as time was expiring. Mitchell added," I looked over to the sidelines to send in a couple of fresh players and all of a sudden there was nobody there. All used up. We had used all our reserves before the game was even over." But even in football, every good game comes to an end as the horn sounded and remaining players dropped to their knees with a sigh of relief. It was all over plus this one ended on a positive note of good competition and sportsmanship.
If you're asking who won the game, the Atlantic Heavies did end up winning the contest by a narrow margin. Afterwards, the players all celebrated while meeting in a restaurant in the French Quarter which allowed them to dine despite the appearence of their bloody noses and soiled uniforms. It was a classic event and definitely a game to remember. Even though my ears are still ringing today from Ben Scotti banging me up side my head, I am honored to say that I played in that unforgettable football game. For all my colleagues who participated in or witnessed this classic event, I thank you for the wonderful memories.
Game recalled by former Atlantic Heavy and fantasy sports journalist, "Scoop" Raulsberger, editor of THE PHOTOLOG. Copyrighted (c) story 2012 Rauls Media All rights reserved.