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Butler’s Mascot is Out of this World

Posted By · April 2, 2011 at 4:09 pm

posing with WTHR's Kris Kirschner at Johnson Space Center

Standing in front of the Saturn V rocket at the NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, it’s impossible not to be awed by the size .  One hundred yards in length–the size of a football field.  Close enough to reach out and touch it–the history of the Space Program is brought to life–and names like Lovell, Aldren, Grissom, and Armstrong come to mind.  All those history makers and their feats displayed on the walls of the hangar that houses the rocket.

But on this particular Friday, the visitors marveled less at the wonders of space than the  unexpected appearance of a sweater-clad bulldog named Blue.With an entourage that included his handler, Michael Kaltenmark, Michael’s wife and infant son, Butler alum , a t-v crew (myself and a photographer) and our tour guide–a NASA flight surgeon–Butler Blue arrived at the Rocket Center at Johnson Space Center like a rock star–or better yet, an astronaut.  And getting the star treatment every four-legged step of the way.

This was his first stop in Houston–but the latest in an exhausting schedule as what is arguably the most recognizeable mascot in the NCAA Men’s Tourney.

The Butler Men’s basketball story–becoming the first Indiana team to earn back to back appearances in the Final Four–is one of movie lore.  Last year’s last second heartbreaking loss to Duke emblazoned the Butler brand in the minds of basketball fans.  This year’s surprising appearance as one of the four teams remaining sealed their place as a force to be reckoned with.  And the popularity of Butler–as the team people can’t help but root for–is largely due to the dog who can move a basketball and hearts with the swipe of a paw.

So perhaps it isn’t surprising that heads turned from the massive rocket–to the stout, but loveable pooch.  A man with a  UCONN shirt asked if he could get a photo with Blue.  “I love Bulldogs”, he said.  Then, “not Butler Bulldogs” but the breed.  However, he also admittedd he wanted to buy a Butler banner–because he wanted a picture of a Bulldog.

A Texan said he enjoyed following Blue 2 on twitter (@ButlerBlue2) .

And on the way out–a gentleman in a University of West Virginia shirt stopped to give Blue a pat on the head –all the while raving about the Butler program, the players, its coach.   Then he paused for a photo op with the famous bulldog.  Turns out he was the president of the university.

The flight surgeon, Dr Richard Scheuring, says he’s worked with the top astronauts.  And he’s “seen a lot of things”.  But he’s never seen anything like the popularity of this stocky school mascot..

Lovell, Armstrong, Aldren, …and Blue 2?

Let’s face it.  As cute as he is, he’s no rocket scientist. 

But Blue 2’s charm and popularity has launched him among the stars of college basketball …and beyond.

Kris Kirschner

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Houston, we are a go…

Posted By · March 31, 2011 at 6:21 am

Pace yourself.  It’s a mantra I need to repeat to myself after our first day in Houston netted my photographer colleague and I about two hours sleep!  Traveling to cover an event like the Final Four is a privilege.  But it’s also work.  In our case, we started our morning in Indy leaving the WTHR studios about 6am headed for the Indy airport for an 8am flight.

On board the plane bound Houston-via Dallas– I met a delightful man who offered some interesting conversation.  He happened to be from Texas, and so I felt really good about the people we’d be running into during our stay there.

No sooner had we arrived in Houston and our work had begun.  Photographer Matt Whisner with camera ready rolling on the volunteers passing out mini basketballs to visitors at the airport.  We ran into a couple of Wildcat fans…then we’re shooting “beauty shots” around Houston–hoping to give our viewers at home a feel for the city. 

It was during our first stop at Reliant stadium where the game will take place that we ran into our first Hoosier.    She was visiting a friend who lives in Houston–both big Bulldog fans. 

We managed a quick stop to check in to the media  hotel–the Crowne Plaza–located adjacent to Reliant Stadium.  Enough time to wash my face, freshen up and we’re on our way again.

More scenic shots–noticing Houston traffic flows a little heavier and a lot more aggressively than Indy (thank goodness Matt was driving).

We planned to be at the team hotel by 7p to help our sports crews gather content–and I was hoping to land an interview with the Tracy Stevens–wife of Butler head coach Brad Stevens.  The team bus ran later than expected (which is usually the case–since they’re coming from the airport).  A fairly large group of media gathered outside–as did the hotel staff decked out to welcome the team–a great chance to catch up.

By 7:45 they arrived (that’s local time–8:45 Indy time)…Tracy was gracious enough to grant me an interview–even though her kids were ready for bed–and we headed back to the hotel.

Now it’s time to put together all that we gathered into what we hope is an interesting story to run during Surise the following morning.  After all was said and done–I hit the sack about 11:30p local –with a wake up call set for 2am.

And the day starts all over again. 

It is work.  But I must admit it is fun.  Running on adrenalin with the help of a good cup of coffee.  Covering a story that’s captivated the state–and the country–but with the possibility of 5 days to go (assuming Butler wins!) I better pace myself.

Kris Kirschner

Categories : Uncategorized
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Silenced But Grateful…

Posted By · March 13, 2011 at 9:23 am

When you’re a broadcaster without a voice, what do you do?   That was the dilemma I was faced with on a Sunday morning.  I’d been fighting a chest cold for a few days…taking the proper medication, thinking it beaten.  Then I woke up Sunday morning without a voice.  It’s happened before..and usually in those situations, a little nursing, a little hot tea and honey and I can get through the day.  Not this day.  The more I tried to remedy the problem, the worse it became.

Problem was, I had a three hour newscast to anchor.  I mustered as much sound as I could when Weekend Sunrise started at 6am..but I sounded less like a broadcaster and more like a squeaky toy.   After about a half hour of what must have been agony to the ears of viewers, the producer made the call to bring in the relief.    So I stepped off my anchor mound…and in my place,  sat a team player who is not only a star catcher–but it turns out, throws a pretty awesome curve ball. 

Nicole Misencik –who is my partner on Weekend Sunrise-(-she delivers weather, I report the news-)-stepped in without missing a beat.  In her former life before coming to 13 as a meteorologist, she was a news anchor.  So it was second nature for her to report with credibility.  However, doing double duty–both anchoring and weather forecasting is no easy feat.  She handled it with not only grace and talent–but with generosity seldom seen in this business.   

While she was changing hats–live on the air–another news femme fatale was ready to go at a moment’s notice.  Lynsay Clutter, who left the business to take care of a more important production at home–her two little children–freelances with us from time to time.  This time,  with good humor and no hesitation, she took over an interview with one of NBC’s top political analysts…with little time to prep…but you’d never know it on air. 

Meantime, one of the most respected women in news in Indianapolis–was called away from her family on a Sunday morning.  Sandra Chapman  came in to anchor that 3rd hour.  Never failing, never complaining…always willing to help a colleague.

I mention all of them, because sometimes in this business you run up against ego–and sometimes–in an effort to “get ahead”…there are people willing to step on a few toes along the way.  Often women are the worst offenders.  Not this Sunday.  And in my experience, not at 13.

I’m grateful to my colleagues–who were willing to step up–and fill in–not because it’s their job–or because they “had” to–but because they are quality people.  And wonderful teammates.

To them I give a sincere (although silent) cheer.

Kris Kirschner

Categories : Sunrise Blog
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Governor’s Race Still Up in the Air

Posted By · February 21, 2011 at 6:04 pm

As one office-holder told me, “Two years is an eternity in politics”.  That said, for someone running for the state’s top job, will it be long enough?

In December, Democrat Evan Bayh (who our political analyst Peter Rusthoven (R) refers to as “the appointed one”) announced he would not, as some expected, run for Governor in 2012.

That opened the door for three other Dems to rise to the short list:  Rep Joe Donnelly, Former Congressman and Senate hopeful Brad Ellsworth, and Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel.

Over the weekend, Weinzapfel announced he would not run for governor.  I had the chance to talk with him in person about his decision.  Like Bayh, he cited family reasons.  The father of three–an 11 year old and 9 year old twins–he said not only the rigors of the campaign would take its toll–but the office itself.  His family would remain in Evansville–and he would be (as he estimated) in Indianapolis 21 months of the year.    Weinzapfel told me ” I couldn’t see leaving the kids at home when they still call you Daddy …I think I would be miserable doing that”.

As for Ellsworth–(who came to our studios with Weinzapfel–something I didn’t expect)–he said solely and repeatedly “I will not be a candidate for anything in 2012″

It’s an interesting situation for Democrats–especially since the expectation is that Republican juggernaut Mike Pence
“is” expected to run.

Pence, who is not only known statewide–but nationwide (he only recently announced he wouldn’t run for president)–is also according to Rusthoven, “beloved by his party”.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t Dems up for the challenge.  This week Democrat and former speaker of the Indiana House John Gregg told the Terre Haute Tribune Star he’s giving it some serious thought:  http://tribstar.com/news/x186196340/BREAKING-John-Gregg-giving-governor-run-serious-thought

And Joe Donnelly is still a possibility.

But no one is committing.  Not yet.  Rusthoven explains it this way, “While the (state) legislature is in session, no one can raise money, so there is no point declaring that your going to run…”  He expects when the session is over in April, the candidates will surface.

With one exception.  Businessman and former Hamilton county councilman Jim Wallace has officially announced he plans to run for the GOP ticket.

There is a little less than two years before the election…but for those hoping to win over voters across the state–this race may be more a sprint than a marathon.

Kris Kirschner

Categories : Sunrise Blog
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A Life on the Line

Posted By · January 24, 2011 at 5:06 pm

It was a slow Sunday morning.  Cold, but sunny.  A typical day in mid-January.   And at 9:00am it was a routine traffic stop.  The next two minutes would change everything..  That’s when the first of four 9-1-1 calls came in to city dispatch …residents of a northeast side neighborhood who heard gunfire…and at least one who saw an IMPD officer  on the ground..

That officer, 29-year old David Moore had a minute earlier typed in license plate information for a ’98 Gold Camry he’d pulled over.  Information had come back that car was reported stolen.  But before the 6-1/2 year veteran had a chance to radio in…the driver of the car, shot him. 

Trauma surgeons say preliminary tests showed the bullets miraculously missed  (by millimeters) his vital brain stem and spinal cord.  Hitting instead  a vertebrae and blood vessel.  But that more tests were needed…Tthe next 24-48 hours were crucial to this young man’s survival.

Police shootings are rare.  But the possibility–is part of the daily life of the 1600 men and women who protect the streets of Indianapolis.  They are in the underappreciated, often criticized business of public safety.    A duty they gladly accept.  A service we barely comprehend.

While we celebrate and salute our men in women in military uniform (rightfully so)–hailing them heroes who serve overseas –we are more inclined to look down on the city soldiers–who fight for our safety right on our very street corners.  Whose mere presence in many cases will keep the bad guys away.  And who would proudly uphold the law–even if it means putting their own lives on the line.

David Moore is one of those soldiers.  He joined IMPD in July of 2004, fulfilling a lifelong dream to follow in the footsteps of his parents, both IMPD veterans. 

Now he fights for his life. 

Just a routine day on the job. 

IMPD Officer David Moore Shot 4 Times During a "Routine" Traffic Stop

Kris Kirschner

Categories : Sunrise Blog
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Sometimes it’s not what’s over it, but the rainbow itself

Posted By · January 22, 2011 at 7:49 am

 As we were all digging our way out of yet another winter storm, the snow weighing heavily on our shovels and hearts…a sign that perhaps there is a light at the end of this dismal tunnel.  Friday morning, about 8:30am, as I was driving my two youngsters home after picking up our drive-thru breakfast, I saw before me a vision.  A beautful rainbow that dimly hovered above the frosty horizon.  I’d never seen a rainbow in winter..and felt compelled to mark the moment with a photo.   So I pulled over the car  (safety first!)  and snapped away.  (see photo above).   

While my kids and I had fun wondering if the rainbow ended at our house…I got the feeling that colorful anomaly was there for a reason.  To remind us that even in our darkest (and coldest) times…there are moments of brightness and beauty…and when it comes to winter, this too shall pass.

Kris Kirschner

Categories : Sunrise Blog
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Even Police Have a Sense of Humor

Posted By · January 19, 2011 at 4:52 pm

…I often get the priviledge of seeing the more humorous side of police officers.  Today I had what we call in the biz a “beat day”.  It’s a chance to check in with my contacts, usually over lunch or coffee, and hopefully come away with a story lead or two.  (Some people call it networking).  It’s something that, quite frankly, is my achilles heel.  I’m just not great with small talk.  Which is why I appreciate the levity of a police chief who for Christmas received a computer game –that he gladly shared with me during my visit.  It’s not the kind of game you actually play on your computer (like Solitaire or Tetris )–but rather one you control from your computer.  The device on the desk of Greenwood Police Chief Joe Pitcher was a miniature machine gun of sorts–that shoots nerf-like darts from the command of his computer.  He could navigate it in any direction–and fire at will.   (His deputy chief displayed a cannon that shoots out circus people–same concept–see link below).


Don’t get me wrong…I don’t want you to think it’s something they spend the day playing with rather than fighting crime.  But it’s a great outlet for a job that is certainly stressful.  And it made for a wonderful ice-breaker for someone who feels more comfortable asking questions with a microphone in her hand than those of a more personal nature.

Police are human (and humorous) too.

Kris Kirschner

Categories : Sunrise Blog
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