MAN OF THE YEAR
I resigned from CPB effective June 30, 1980. It had got so I couldn’t stand the place and the Board any longer, and my last couple weeks were an agony of impatience wanting to get out of there.
It was next to my last week, and Cal Watson called me into his office. “George, they’re having a CEN (Central Educational Network of 35 or 40 TV stations) meeting in Chicago on Friday, and I’d like you to stand in for me.”
“Oh, Jesus no, Cal, I want to get out of here. It would be just my luck the damn airplane would go down. No.”
“Now come on, George, CPB should have a presence there, and I’m just not able to make it.”
“Cal, I just don’t give a shit about CPB’s presence at this point. I can’t think of any reason my presence would enhance anything they might be doing out there.”
Cal had been my friend for some years, and when the television department fell in his lap, he asked me to be his assistant. We worked together wonderfully well for several years. Then, due to the exigencies of the times, eventually, I became Cal’s boss. Nothing changed in our relationship, and our respect for each other was the same no matter who was in charge. I loved the guy, and he kept after me to go to Chicago, so, begrudgingly, I agreed to go.
I had planned to spend the weekend at my mountain cabin in West Virginia, and the closer it got to Friday, the more enticing that became. It was never characteristic of me to welch on a deal, but, on my way home on Thursday, I gave into temptation and said to hell with CEN and Chicago and just drove the hundred miles straight to the mountains. I had a wonderful relaxing weekend, albeit with a few pangs of guilt for not letting Cal know what I had done.
On Monday morning my office phone rang. It was Cal.
“George, you sonofabitch! You sonofabitch!”
“You sonofabitch! You didn’t show up in Chicago! That meeting was intended to give you the CEN Man of the Year award. They had arranged a banquet and had a plaque made for you, and you crapped out on them. You sonofabitch!”
Jack McBride was CEN chairman that year and sent me the plaque in the mail. I could never bear to look at it.
The only time I was ever a man of the year of anything in my life.