Tumbleweed Sports

Tumbleweed Sports is a blog managed by Greg Cotta to bring all of his online blogging and writing to one digital destination. Twitter: @GregCotta

Jul 15

Ed Martin: The Senior Mascot

7 May 2013

Ed Martin: The Senior Mascot
by Greg Cotta

The title of “Mascot” has some pretty cliché connotations. You imagine a giant furry lion on roller skates or maybe even our campus mascot Gunrock leading thousands of fans in doing the Harlem Shake.  Here at the campus radio station of KDVS 90.3 FM, we are an alternative source of music, news, and sports, so it only makes sense that our mascot is just as unique. Our mascot does not give away free t-shirts or sign autographs (although I’d totally ask him for one), but when it comes to keeping morale at the station high or representing our station’s voice, no one speaks for us better than our very own mascot and host of the program Cactus Corners, Mr. Ed Martin.

            “When people ask me what my position is- what I do at the radio station- I tell them that I am the Senior Mascot at KDVS,” says Ed in a rich yet calming Georgian accent. The title of Senior Mascot is one that he gave himself just a couple of years ago, but he has been fulfilling the responsibilities of the title for far longer than that. Ed leaned back into his chair and crossed one leg over the other. While a CD of Spanish folk melodies murmured in the background, his eyes trailed to the corner of the room while his thoughts trailed to the corner of his mind. “I’ve been involved in community and college radio for about twenty five years now, dating back to the first station I worked at in my home state of Georgia, WREK Atlanta, 91.1 FM and—excuse me,” Ed then politely paused his conversation with me in order to tell his listeners what he just shared with them and to let them know that today marks the birthday of Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now, a program that can be heard on thousands of radio stations including KDVS. Once Ed continued the music, the now-famed opera singer Dawn Upshaw, he seamlessly picked up right where he left off. “I first came to know KDVS around thirty years ago. I was a fire lookout up on the Tahoe national forest, and I could sit atop a mountain and listen to any radio station in the western United States, you know, as far south as Baseball games in Albuquerque or whatever it was, and KDVS was pretty much the best station I could find. When I wanted to hear something interesting, I’d tune to KDVS.” Several years after that, Ed found himself looking for a hobby in the greater Sacramento area finally decided that he wanted to volunteer at the radio station in order to get his own show. He started in the early hours of 2-4 AM once a week and worked his way into the Saturday afternoon lineup where his program has become an established fan favorite.

            Although Ed is extremely popular to listeners because of his unique choices of contemporary classical music, he is even more popular amongst the DJs at the station. He is known for his activism in the community and enthusiasm for other programs on KDVS’s airwaves. He frequently calls other DJs to give brief advice or tell them what he is enjoying about their programming, just as any good mascot would. “I don’t pretend to keep up in any expert way with the music that most of my fellow DJs are into, but I listen to the station in my free time and go to the live musical events that we sponsor,” he said calmly. When asked about why he attends such activities, he instantly knew why the question was asked: “I look a little bit out of place here from time to time, as I am a bit older than most of the volunteers here at the station but going to these events and listening to these programs, it broadens what I do. It strengthens my program as well as the relationships I develop here in the work place.”

            As the conversation carried on, Ed frequently jumped to small stories about his time spent at the radio station and his enthusiasm for non-profit, freeform radio continued to shine through his calm demeanor. He carried on in that relaxed tone when he began to discuss the integrity of KDVS and what it stands for. “One of the special things to me about KDVS is that the general manager has to be a registered UC Davis student. So we don’t have a manager who is looking out for himself, his job, or his friend’s job. Our manager is not trying to please a board or whatever. He is doing his job because he wants to get things done. The station is built on honesty and hard work. We aren’t trying to take your last dime.”

Ed paused the conversation once more, but this time it was to answer a few phone calls, as listeners were calling in to learn more about the music he was sharing with them. He clearly showed professionalism in his work; he had that passion that made it very clear that he loves what he does. “I wouldn’t run back and forth and from Tahoe to here and do what I do unless it was extremely gratifying,” he said while smiling after finding an old vinyl record he had been looking for, “I am constantly shown reminders that when I am here, I am a part of something bigger.”

 As Cactus Corners moved toward its resolution, the conversation moved away from the station as a whole and stepped toward discussion of the DJs themselves at KDVS. This is when Ed’s title of Senior Mascot really started to make a lot more sense.  Ed believes that KDVS is a very special and one of a kind experience not just because of what the station stands for, but because of the people who keep the place running. Ed showed a boyish grin and said, “You know, when speaking from my life experience, the one thing I can tell you is that this is the best school club you can belong to. The kids around here don’t seem like kids much at all. They are sharp, smart, sophisticated, motivated, and they know something about themselves in the world that their contemporaries don’t always know.”

Ed’s program came to an end, and he waved goodbye to the next DJ to head back home. His listeners won’t hear from him for another two weeks, but he will definitely be heard by everybody else at the station. He’ll write emails, he’ll make phone calls, and he’ll even drop by a concert or two; he’ll root for the home team.

Ed’s show Cactus Corners is on every other Saturday from 2-4 PM on 90.3 FM KDVS and KDVS.org.

The Wide World of Whiskers

Greg Cotta, 6 June 2013

Around 3 AM I finally lost it.  I had been awake for two days, working two jobs, and was only halfway done with an 8 page paper due in about 8 hours from then. Through the several days of work and school, not only had I skipped out on sleeping, but I had also skipped out on shaving, which meant that my face itched like no other.  I was at wit’s end, so I did what every other college student does when facing a new phenomenon: I turned to Google for results.  I opened a new tab and frantically searched “How long until my-“ and before I could finish typing my question, I saw that the suggested results had already finished with “beard stops itching.”

            This was when I discovered numerous websites dedicated to everything about beards, in a fashion that I can only summarize as Beard Culture. There were tons and tons of results, but the one that caught my eye was beards.org, which claims to be the longest-running beard site on the internet, as it has existed since 1996. “The purpose of this site is to increase awareness, appreciation, and understanding of the beard” the non-profit website claims in its about page.  The first tab on the site is dedicated to instructions on how to grow a beard, followed by a range of options to forums answering beard questions about grooming a beard to just pictures of beards of all shapes and sizes.  I was enthralled by how much time people invested into their facial hair.  I continued to research and was blown away by the range of results, particularly the amount of merchandise.  The internet is loaded with t-shirts, stickers, blogs and posters dedicated to beards.  There seemed to be millions of dollars of merchandise and advertisement dedicated to beards, and I had never even attempted to grow one myself before.  After a few pages of Google results I started to wonder if I was the only person in the country to not try it out yet.  So, as you may have guessed by now, I decided to fight my way through the horribly itchy face in order to find out what I looked like on the other side of the discomfort.

Although money does not grow on trees, it is starting to show up in peoples’ beards.  There is even a website called beardvertising.com, which sells mini-billboards that are intended to be clipped into a beard so that you can advertise your company on somebody else’s face.  This advertising agency, based in Kentucky, is offering $5 per day to men willing to wear an ad in their beards with the slogan “Do you wanna get paid for having an epic beard? Of course you do.” It was, to put it simply, mind boggling.

            A few itchy days later, I met up with a more local source of beard information, a beard enthusiast named Vinnie Guidera, whose beard just had its sixth birthday on May 25th. As we sat down to eat some Mexican food, I noticed the wisps of gray hair that speckled his dark beard. It hangs down low enough to cover up the Star Wars logo on his t-shirt, and it makes him impossible to forget. Since I was so new to the world of beards, I figured I’d start with the basics and ask why he has grown such a massive beard. “I like the way it looks,” replied a rather composed Guidera, giving his response as if the question does not need to be asked. “That’s really the only reasonable reason to grow a beard.” At this point he picked a few pieces of rice out of his moustache without the slightest bit of hesitation. “After I graduated high school, I started to grow my beard out of spite because I went to a private school that wouldn’t allow facial hair and I was always at a disadvantage because of how quickly my facial hair grew.  There were even times when the dean would make me shave at lunch time because of what had grown since breakfast.” He continued to eat tacos with ease despite having a mustache that clearly reached down past his lips.

            I began to explain to Guidera my frustration with my current facial hair.  Not only was the itching still causing me to twitch every few minutes but the hair on my face resembled that of a sickly cat.  It had been several years since Vinnie had dealt with the first stages of a beard, but he seemed to be able to empathize pretty quickly and encouraged me to fight on.  “It’s hair.  It’s hair just like the hair on your head. However, it isn’t used to growing in a direction that you have conditioned it to, so it is going to poke you in the face.  Once you get it to the length that it is no longer poking your face then your face won’t itch anymore.  Some people give up too soon every time they are mildly discomforted, and they can go their entire lives without ever discovering that they can grow a really good looking beard.”  When I asked what to do when the beard no longer itches, he said, “Play the hand you’re dealt.  If, for example, you grow a good mustache but have a weak beard, then you should probably just grow the mustache.  Everybody’s facial hair has strengths to play to and weaknesses that can be avoided.”

            Guidera also had plenty of thoughts to share regarding the current trend of beards.  “Beards and moustaches are everywhere right now, and plenty of people are finding ways to make money off of them.  I recently went to a bar that held a beard contest and they seemed to know nothing about hosting a contest about anything.  It felt more like a ploy to bring customers in for an evening, and it worked; the place was packed.”  Vinnie then went on to describe a reality show called “Whisker Wars,” which follows the lives of bearded men throughout the nation who grow beards competitively. “Something has to make a lot of money before it earns a reality show,” he said with a chuckle.  Although Guidera seemed a bit agitated by the trendiness of beards, he understood the enjoyment, as he has entered beard competitions himself through The Moustache and Beard Social Club.

            That’s right.  Sacramento has its very own social club dedicated to facial hair enthusiasts.  “It’s a group of dudes that enjoy facial hair and then find camaraderie in other aspects of life and anybody can join,” said Guidera. I quickly asked if one needed a beard or mustache to join and he replied, “No, not necessarily.  Some guys need to shave their beards for work but they still come to the meetings.” By meetings, he means monthly gatherings at various bars to discuss the nuts and bolts of the club, such as events to raise money for charity or raising funds to send members to beard competitions throughout the country.  He then pointed me in the direction of the club’s Facebook group.  The Moustache and Beard Social Club has a public group that includes over 500 members from the greater Sacramento area.  The page describes the club as “a platform to show the world that facial hair is more than ‘lazy, unkept, and a dirty’ way of life.”  Guidera describes the members as diverse but easy going, and seems to appreciate the value of the group on multiple levels.  “Ninety percent of the time, our conversations are typical guy talk, so there is a lot of inappropriate humor and making fun of each other.  The other ten percent though, can be very serious and have nothing to do with beards.  There have been times when people have used the forum to bring up personal or family issues, and the positive feedback has been awesome.”

            As Vinnie went on to describe the community and how established it is, it still felt different than the public’s image of beards.  After more research into the larger realm of beard culture, I have concluded that there is one main difference between MBSC or beards.org and the newer, trendy portion of beard culture that includes shot glasses with mustaches or a reality television series that makes the two halves of the network fairly easy to distinguish.  While MBSC uses beards to raise money for charity or create a positive and supportive social network, others use the popularity to create financial gain.  There are countless websites that sell t-shirts with quotes such as “Beards Save Lives” for $25 or a flask with a beard on it for $20.

            So, what about my beard? Well, by this point in the story it has become referred to others as an actual beard, and I am enjoying the different look, even if it still tends to resemble a sick cat before most showers.  I have also received a lot more compliments since I started the excursion.  As Vinnie put it during our conversation, “There is no definitive line between ‘I haven’t shaved yet’ and ‘I’m growing a beard.’”  It really has been enjoyable and I am starting to understand the appeal, but I can imagine needing to shave for work in the near future, just as several MBSC members have before me.  As for Vinnie Guidera, he has a much more dedication to his six year old beard and expects to have it long after the current fad passes. “I don’t plan on ever being clean shaven,” he said when I asked if he ever planned on giving his beard the axe, “but I don’t know if I plan on having a sixteen inch beard my whole life.”

Long Live The Kings

             I remember when the bad news broke.  “So I hear that the Seattle Kings is officially a done deal! The Maloofs finally sold the ailing Sacramento team. Heard it from a friend I know…” was the post on twitter, courtesy of Daina Falk, a cookbook writer and daughter of a successful sports agent.  I have to admit, it only added insult to injury that somebody —with no personal affiliation with the NBA— knew before I and the entire Sacramento community did.  After that, the lawyers of Joe and Gavin Maloof, the then-owners of the Kings, refused to comment on the news that Falk had leaked out, thus twisting the knife in my gut just a little bit more.  I knew that this meant the news was true, and I was confident that a big piece of my childhood was about to depart my life forever.

I scoured the internet for any word from the Sacramento community regarding the potential Seattle deal for quite some time, trying to find out if the city of Sacramento even stood a chance at holding onto this team.  A few hours later, there was finally a flicker of good news from Kevin Johnson’s Twitter feed, where he announced that the commissioner of the NBA said he would allow him to provide a counter offer to buy the basketball team if he assembled a team of potential owners that would keep the team in Sacramento.  “Today is a significant day because for the first time [in twenty seven years], it appears that the Kings are for sale,” Johnson wrote on Facebook and twitter.  His tone seemed to match all of the responses of fans; it was cold and somber and lacked the strength required to boost the city’s confidence.  However, he did conclude conclude his official statement with words of encouragement: “Following the steps of our previous efforts, I plan on making every effort to identify a potential buyer that would ensure the Kings remain in Sacramento.” 

On the whole, it looked bleak.  The owners had attempted to move the team multiple times already and each time it failed before reaching this point, but this time it was a move that would benefit the NBA by sending the team to a group of owners with enough money to move the entire city with the team if they really wanted to.  Media all over the nation called it a done deal and even Kings loyalists were discussing buying tickets to the final games of the season. It looked as if the rain cloud had finally burst and the Sacramento Kings would cease to exist.  Now why is all of this information relevant? Because somehow, someway, Mayor Kevin Johnson pulled off a miracle, and kept the Sacramento Kings right here in Sacramento.

Before the happy ending showed up out of the blue, there were five bleak months before The NBA’s relocation committee, a group of team owners dedicated to visiting both cities, came forward with their opinion on if the team should stay or go.  The relocation committee voted unanimously in favor of Sacramento.  Just like that, The Kings now have a new group of owners, a contract is in the works for a new arena in downtown Sacramento that includes a 30 year lease on a very unsightly downtown shopping center that will be replaced by a state of the art arena by its multiple billionaire owners.  I still don’t really know how to wrap my brain around what it took for the city to pull a complete 180 and go from losing a money draining franchise to investing in a multi-million dollar project to give downtown Sacramento the booster shot that it needs to be an enjoyable city again. 

No matter how much I read and wrote and talked about the miracle of the Kings staying, the story of the success felt incomplete, so I invited Jason Ross, the Sports Director of the Radio Flagship station for the Kings CBS 1140 KHTK, onto my evening talk show Aggie Talk  to discuss just that. “It’s been incredible to go through what really has been a journey the last three or four years of thinking the team was going to leave,” said Ross after describing his 19 years of working with the Kings at KHTK. “First it was them going to Anaheim, and then the very real threat of them heading to Seattle, and now it is looking like they have held that off. New ownership and a new arena- it’s just so exciting for both the history of the Kings and the city of Sacramento.”

The NBA’s decisions to allow the Kings to stay was definitely surprising to most people, but Ross had confidence for a long time before the location debacle came to its conclusion.

“People were looking at the ownership group of Seattle that included some very powerful businessmen,” said Ross.  “There was an incredible amount of money in a good market so the national story was that it was a lock, but what people failed to realize is that Sacramento has been working on an arena deal for the better part of 10 years and yes, most of those arena deals fell through but [this time] Kevin Johnson gathered people that have never ever invested in this city.”  Ross paused to take a deep breath before gushing out even more excited details regarding Sacramento’s success, but then continued on about the actual bylaws that detail the rules and regulations of relocating an NBA franchise. “The first thing that the committee looks at is the strength of fan support, and that is the number one thing that Sacramento had going for it was its great fans. Even during the past few years of the team trying to leave, the city continued to fight for their team despite even the poor performance on the court.  For twenty eight years there has been incredible support in Sacramento. In the end the relocation committee looked at these facts and said ‘This is a market that has not failed and we cannot relocate this team.’”  Ross added more words about how honored he was to be a part of such a powerful fan base, but felt the need to credit the city’s mayor.

            When Ross brought up Mayor Johnson, he started off by saying that the city could not have pulled this off without his work. “Yeah, at this point, Kevin Johnson can do no wrong,” said Ross, regarding the city’s devoted love to their mayor, “there will either be a statue or a jersey retired or something to honor his efforts in bringing the pieces of the puzzle together.”  Johnson brought in investors from all over the state, including the owners of 24 Hour Fitness, Ralph’s Supermarket, the communication giant Qualcomm, as well as investors from the Silicon Valley and the social media industry, to show that California has a lot to gain from a more developed and stable downtown Sacramento.  He even brought in the help of local politicians to lobby for the city, including Ted Gaines and Senator Steinberg, who belong to the Republican and Democratic parties, respectively.   His work truly was inspirational as he never showed any signs of giving up, even when the rest of Sacramento’s fans did.

                As I was finishing up the conversation with Jason Ross, I felt a little bit saner.  I reflected upon the valuable leadership from Mayor Johnson and what it will do for the city of Sacramento, a city in such desperate need of good fortune.   The moment I started to credit Mayor Johnson, Ross most definitely agreed with my words, but felt that I was not distributing my credit entirely properly. “If you look at any other move in the history of the league, really the genesis of it has been failure in the initial market, and that wasn’t the case here. When you look at it, the only failure has been in ownership with the Maloofs as owners. I think the league saw that,” Ross jubilantly declared. The league saw that Sacramento still had its support, and if it weren’t for the fans keeping that image active, the Kings would be in Seattle and Sacramento would be in the talks of maybe getting a minor league soccer team.  The city’s back was to the wall, and its citizens came together to make a stand to hold onto what is –as the NBA declared— rightfully theirs.


Hank Aaron took over as baseball’s all-time home run king with No. 715 off the Dodgers’ Al Downing on April 8, 1974. The game was delayed 11 minutes for a celebration. (Tony Triolo/SI)
GALLERY: MLB’s Most Memorable Home Runs


Hank Aaron took over as baseball’s all-time home run king with No. 715 off the Dodgers’ Al Downing on April 8, 1974. The game was delayed 11 minutes for a celebration. (Tony Triolo/SI)

GALLERY: MLB’s Most Memorable Home Runs

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