Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Helping Ted Williams

No, not THAT Ted Williams, the dead baseball player. The guy pictured above. The Ted Williams whose story came to light when a Columbus, Ohio newspaper reporter did a story about Ted, a homeless man with a gorgeous voice, who spends his days standing at an intersection begging for money, holding a placard saying he has a great voice and will talk for money. Ted’s had issues with drugs and booze, but says he’s been clean for two years now.

You can see Ted’s story here: This is the video that went viral Monday.

The electronic media quickly picked up on the story, obsessed, as we are, with well-modulated baritone (and bass) voices. The CBS morning show scrambled to get an “exclusive” interview with Ted, and the young hosts immediately patronized him by asking Ted to “say something!!!!” You can see that disgusting interview here: They treat him as though he were some sort of animal trained to “speak” on command.

Lots of my Facebook friends are broadcasters, and they posted and re-posted Ted’s story. A Columbus radio station invited Ted to sit in with their morning show. All the media want to milk this story, under the guise of “helping Ted land a gig.”

Now, the offers are pouring in for Ted left and right: ESPN, MTV, a pro sports franchise wants him to be their “voice”, and many more. Ted’s life is changing for the better. The Central Ohio Credit Unions organization was probably the first to try and do something tangible to make Ted’s life better, by hiring him to do an ad campaign for them, and setting up a website.

Ted’s on the Today Show on NBC Thursday morning. I hope they won’t treat him like some sort of trained seal, and ask him to speak on command.

Once in a while, the media DO get something right. Ted Williams’ story could be an example.


  1. Colonel,

    This business with Ted Williams made me a little queasy. So did the "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" show in Neenah last year in which a Neenah family was given a 4000 square foot house on national TV.

    I'm queasy because of the notion that this poor joker, Mr. Williams, was clutched to the bosom of the all-seeing, all-caring media. Helping this guy out cost them nothing. It actually helped them because this sort of human interest story generates viewers, readers, and GoreNet hits.

    I suppose that I'm a sourpuss. This one down-on-his-luck guy with an undeniable talent is pranged with the magic wand of the media and his life is made instantly better. I don't begrudge this guy his good fortune. I just can't help wondering about those other homeless folks that don't have such media-friendly talents. The media outlets can now put a notch in their belts showing that they've done good, by gum! Now they can go back to the playoffs.

    That's it, I think. The smarmy self-congratulatory pose of the media boffins.

    Today I'm the curmudgeon, Colonel!

    The Town Crank

  2. Mr. Crank: If this guy's talent was carpentry or drywalling or short-order cooking or auto mechanics, it NEVER would have gotten this far.

    Obsession with well-modulated baritone voices.


  3. Hmm. I would alter that, Tim. If this guy's talent had made him the "best" carpenter, or drywaller or short order cook in Columbus, then it would have been just as interesting because we like to see the best fall from grace, admit their sins and beg for reinstatement. This guy had been sort of near the top, as I read it. A talented but ordinary radio guy wouldn't have gotten this exposure either because, just like carpenters and drywallers and newspaper reporters, there are a lot of talented radio guys out of a job. He was, after all, in a very visible public position. You can't generalize on these things, my opinion is.

  4. Thinking further about this fellow, I can see the human interest angle more clearly, as George reminded me: the "fall from grace".

    But there's something else. It wasn't just the fairy godmother department (the media). Williams had already dried himself out for two years and gone through the most humbling experience of his life...but he seems to have retained his optimism and creativity. His sign says:

    "I have a God given gift of voice. I'm an ex-radio announcer who has fallen on hard times. PLEASE!! Any help will be greatly appreciated. Thank you and God bless you."

    Lots of folks seeing that will be touched by that optimism and expression of faith in God. Especially since his mother spoke so severely about him.

    It's certainly possible that the tsunami of work and money will sweep him back into the drug and alcohol habit. We can only watch.

    That tsunami wouldn't be possible without the GoreNet...but he has undeniable personal appeal even though he was a stupe in his career, and worse, with his family (he apparently has several children). I hope that all of this work and money will get him to do the right thing by his family.

    His ex-wife is a Rock of Gibraltar in all of this, rearing their four children as well as one of Williams' other offspring by a different woman. They're all grown now, but Williams has an opportunity to prove that being humbled didn't just put on the shelf the weakness that led him to the humbled state. Lets hope that that weakness stays on the shelf and that he turns into something better than he was.

    The Town Crank