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Off The
Beat

By Eric Burke

 

 

A WORLD OF FUN

12/30/15

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

Yogi Berra was full of mystical one liners. I usually laugh when I hear them, but this one is different. I am at that fork in the road right now. After 25 years in television news and 17 columns for the finest weekly paper in all the land, I am putting down my pen and paper. I'm saying goodbye to television news and The Landmark. I am starting a new chapter in my career as the public relations manager for Worlds of Fun. For those who read this column each week, the last line of my last column should make more sense now.

I've written about a lot about my life, family and all things I felt would be of interest. Many of you have contacted me with kind words and I appreciate them all.

Ivan Foley, the finest editor, publisher, wrangler I have ever worked for, is a heck of a guy. We met through Twitter a few years ago and have traded barbs ever since. A few months ago he reached out with an opportunity, this column. His sales pitch needed a little work. I think he led with “you are not going to get paid, ever.” He went on to say he respected my work in television and wanted to give me an outlet to do what I do. For that, I am eternally grateful. I don't think he was expecting the columns about Santa, school dances and the Royals, but he published them anyway, every week.

It's hard for me to explain how important putting words on paper has been for me. It's been an outlet, a diary of sorts and a way to let my mind wander. It was also therapy during my unemployment and when a teenager robbed me at gunpoint.
In some respects, this column has been an excellent way to transition to a new career. For decades I made sure of two things, be fair and be right. I've always said I would rather be second and right than first and wrong. For almost a decade, I was the “breaking news guy.” In order for me to have a good day, someone had to have a very, very bad day. It turned out I was really good at that style of reporting. Facts and emotion is the basic recipe for television news. However, with a column, there's some latitude. I could rail on one side of an issue and not care about the other. There are so many subjects that incite and inflame, it would be easy to take a stand, then sit back and watch the fireworks. I chose not to go that route. Instead I used my words to share and offer a perspective many of you didn't know about me. Some called it fluff, I call it life.

My life changes just after the New Year. One of my main priorities is to make sure people have fun. Can you imagine how excited I am to flip my world upside down? I have seen the absolute worst things people can do to one another, thousands of times. Every crime imaginable involving men, women and children of all ages and races. Now, I get to make sure men, women and children of all ages and races enjoy spending a few hours having a good time. People work very hard to earn their 'fun” money and it's now my job to make sure it's worth it. It won't be all unicorns and rainbows, but I am confident I can learn how to become one sided, in the name of FUN.

(Though his column is disappearing, you’ll still be able to catch our man Eric Burke on Twitter @EricBurkeKC and email him at ericburkekc@gmail.com)


BACK IN THE GAME

12/23/15

It's that time of year. As Christmas Day draws near, so does the end of another year.

We all do it, spend a little time reflecting back on a year that was. For me, the quick answer is 2015 was awful, let's get to 2016 already.

However, upon closer inspection, it was also one I will cherish. Note: If you are like my fellow columnist on the other side of the page, you'll probably need to stop reading. Contrary to popular belief, Kamler doesn't like “Fluff.” It's a funny trait for a man who rambles moronically. But I digress.

The Burke “Year in Review” isn't filled with Trump, ISIS, street cars or global warming. It's about life and the lessons we learn (or should learn) when good or bad things happen.

2015 started out great. My oldest turned 16 and started driving. For many this is a maddening, scary time. For me, it was epic. I no longer had to wake up at 6 a.m. on school days to get her and her sister to school.

Everything was normal as the year approached spring time. There was optimism and excitement about the Royals. I was ready for another postseason run and experiencing it in person as a member of the media.

The bubble burst on March 6, the day I was unceremoniously booted from what I had known for 24 and a half years. When my contract wasn't renewed, I was lost. I was mad, bewildered and scared. Some of those feelings still linger, but I have to admit, I benefitted a lot more than my previous employer. I spent the better part of the year being a father and a fan. It was the most rewarding time of my entire life.
I became Mr. Mom and I wouldn't trade the time for anything in the world. I will always look back and remember being there at a time when my younger kids were forming their earliest memories. I will also remember attending activities of my older girls. I missed so many of them as they were growing up because of “work.” Hopefully they too, will remember daddy being there, finally.

The fall brought incredible times as well. Remember when the Royals won the World Series? Remember the epic parade with 800 thousand strong chilling with the world champs? Yep, that was neat!

Two memories stick out the most. First, watching just about every inning of every game with my wife. We lived and died with every pitch along with every other Royals fan. Second, game 5. It wasn't the outcome, it was the scene in my living room. The entire family standing in front of the television when Wade Davis took the mound. Three outs later, instant memory cemented.

As the year began to wind down, two more things happened. I was asked by KCTV 5 to get “back in the game.” I did, on part time basis. It was fun to get back to doing what I do. Then IT happened. If you read last weeks' column, you know. Robbed at gunpoint by kids in their teens. It was scary, but it's not going to define my year. Too many other good and great things happened.

One of those “things” will be key in defining the New Year for me. After hearing “when one door closes, another opens” a million times, it became a reality.
What is in store for me in 2016? I'll give you a hint, it's going to be FUN.

(When he isn’t writing a Landmark column or getting robbed by punks, Eric Burke is a news reporter for KCTV-5. Email him at ericburkekc@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricBurkeKC)

 


ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THIS STORY

12/16/15

I thought I had seen it all.

In 25 years covering local news, I have seen the worst things imaginable. I remember my first triple homicide. All three victims were in their teens. I still see their legs sticking out from under a single white sheet and all of them wearing the same style tennis shoes. I remember when a man killed his whole family, then himself. I remember six gurneys being led out of the home, three of them were children. The highs and lows of journalism are not for the faint of heart or the overly emotional. Knowing that likely saved my life Sunday night.

I know it sounds a little dramatic, but after a couple days of reflection it's accurate. I was sitting in a news truck with my photographer, Grady. It's something we've both done a thousand of times before. We did our story earlier in the day and were back at the location for the live portion of the report. The anchor talks and tosses to me, then I talk and you see my story. When the story is done, I say a few more words and my name and I am done. You see it in every newscast, no matter what station. Sunday night, I didn't get to do that.

About 9:30, someone opened up the van door and started screaming. “Give me everything, now! Give me everything.” I was startled at first, then I said “NO (expletive) way! Get out of here.” At that point, I saw the gun in his hand. Then two more doors on the van opened. Three people and at least one gun. “Phones, wallets, EVERYTHING” was repeated over and over. One of them started pawing at me. He took my personal and work phones. Instead of my wallet, he got a wireless microphone. Seconds passed and it was over.

Grady called 9-1-1 and I got out of the van. cautiously walked around and looked for any sign of the people who just robbed us at gunpoint. They were gone. Then I got pissed. I mean I have never cussed so much. I have never air punched so much. What just happened? For the first time, i knew what it felt like to be a victim. I have interviewed so many and I empathized but I didn't truly understand until that moment.

When the police arrived and we told them what happened, they were almost as shocked as we were. The crime happened at 61st and Ward Parkway. It literally was one of the LAST places I would have ever expected this to happen. But it did. A couple hours later we were able to go home. I hugged my wife and my kids and stopped just short of breaking down. They were freaked and I didn't want to add to it. Minutes later my wife's phone rang. Police had all three suspects in custody.

The next day I talked with a couple dozen police friends. They wanted to check on me. They commended my calm, my ability to pick out some key details. One even said, “Hey, your training kicked in.” I've done so many crime-related stories I learned more than I thought. I was proud. Then a sergeant friend told me I was lucky and he meant it. The suspect holding me at gunpoint was a teenager. He said if I had freaked out, not complied or made a sudden move, it's likely I would have been shot, by accident or on purpose. It was jarring. At that point, I broke down.

It's going to take a while to get the image of the gun out of my head but I'm hopeful I have seen it all, now.

(Landmark columnist Eric Burke is a freelance television news reporter for KCTV-5 in Kansas City. Demand his valuables by email at ericburkekc@gmail.com)

 


GOOD FRIENDS ARE HARD TO FIND

12/9/15

Good friends are hard to find. So when you find one, do your best to keep them in your life. Sure, there are all kinds of friends you make over the course of your life, but the ones you can truly count on are rare.

When I was in grade school, I had several boys I hung out with. We rode our bikes all over the neighborhood, built forts out of scrap wood and played Star Wars for hours. In junior high, my family moved quite a bit, so long lasting friendships were scarce.

In high school, it was much different. I had friends in different sports, clubs and just classmates in general. I met the person I considered to be my best friend my senior year. He was really outgoing and had zero filter. He taught me how to have fun. I had spent so much time with school and work I really didn't cut loose very often. Unfortunately as time passed after graduation, we lost touch.

College is the time most say you'll make the friends you'll have for life. It wasn't that way for me. It was really when I entered the “real world” when I met those friends. I met so many people I still keep in touch with at my first job in television. It was a really small market in west Texas. It was in the middle of nowhere and we all made just above minimum wage, so about 6-7 bucks an hour. Making that measly amount of money meant you had to find creative ways to have fun. Sure most of us found the specials at the local watering holes. We also played a lot of cards, a lot. Not Spades, but cards. I learned so many variations of poker it could make your head spin. It was nickel ante, but you'd think it was the World Series of Poker some nights.

Those are the friends I still keep in touch with today. They will always be special to me because of the time we passed honing our skills, hoping to make it to a larger television market.

A few moves later, I landed in Kansas City. It was here I learned what a true friend is all about. Jerry and I met at work several years ago. He is a photographer (cameraman) and we worked on hundreds of stories together over the years. Like so many people in TV, he's nomadic and his family is hundreds of miles away. He worked in several cities and always seemed ready to move on to the next one at a moment's notice. He hasn't left yet and I am glad.

We've been through some great times and awful times at work. He's been to my house for birthdays, holidays or just to hang out. It's funny, as much as we have in common we also have our individual interests. I have kids, he doesn't want them, ever. At least not anytime soon. He loves NASCAR. I call it the “left turn only circuit.” He drinks Coke, I'm a Dr. Pepper guy. But one thing we always agree on, if one of us needs something, big or small, all we do is ask. I think he's helped me more over the years, but neither of us keeps score. Generally I just pay him back in food. The guy lives on QuikTrip food (which is great) but it's always fun to feed him a home cooked meal. I save desserts for the really big favors. One of those was Monday. It was an hour before his shift at work and I texted him.

“Hey, you should swing by and help me hang the last string of lights on my house.”

His response: “See you in a few minutes.” That's friendship, true friendship.

I'm a lucky guy. I also have to make a cheesecake sometime this week.

(When he isn’t writing this Landmark column, Eric Burke is a freelance television news reporter at KCTV-5. Reach him at ericburkekc@gmail.com)

 


GREED INVADES THE SANTA EXPERIENCE

12/2/15

I've finally digested the obscene amount of food eaten Thanksgiving Day and I am fully entrenched in the Christmas spirit. The house is decked out in everything merry and bright and I can't wait for Dec. 25. It's a magical time of year, especially if you have kids. The sparkle and awe in their eyes is the best.

Eyes lit up at my home as the tree and all the decorations were unloaded from plastic tubs. Ceramic Santas, stuffed animals, hundreds of tree decorations and countless other festive knickknacks covered every table and counter top. Among them, pictures of the kids with Santa. For more than a decade, my kids have visited the same Santa year after year. I tell myself and anyone who will listen, it's the real Santa. He comes down from the North Pole just for me and takes a picture with the kids. Then he goes back to work getting ready for his big night. It's always fun to look at how the kids have grown over the years. I bring this up, because sadly, there will likely be a new Santa in the picture this year. The reason, greed.

I'm all for people making money. Make all you want. I'm not going to judge anyone for working hard but I draw the line at Christmas when paying to take a picture with Santa is not a choice. My Santa is no longer visible to the kids this year. No one can just walk by and get a look at the jolly old elf. He's now hidden inside a huge display. A display you have to pay more than 30 bucks just to enter. The signage says you get a Santa “experience” and of course pictures, but come on.

I think I have paid 15-20 bucks the last few years. I get a picture for the Christmas frame and maybe a couple wallet sized copies for the grandparents. I've never even griped about the price before. It's the least I could spend because Santa makes a special trip just for me. Not this year. At least not with “my” Santa.
I know it may sound weird or petty or dumb. I don't care. I'm angry no kids can even wave at Santa. Sure there are other places and other Santas that are more budget and viewing friendly, but still. Who hides Santa from everyone unless they pay? Yep, the Grinch.

Maybe it's just a marketing test this year. I hope it's one that fails, not for me and my kids, but for everyone. Think back to all your past Christmas seasons. Can you remember just one where you didn't see a long line of kids waiting to sit on Santa's lap? Nope. It's going to change for thousands of people this year unless they do what I do. I'm shopping for a new Santa. One that isn't hidden from the world in the name of the almighty dollar. I will have a picture to put in the frame and a new Santa to call my own. It will be MY choice how much I decide to spend.

(Eric Burke is a former Fox 4 television news reporter. Send email to ericburkekc@gmail.com)

 


COURTROOM TRIALS CAN BE HORRIFIC

11/25/15

Some days I really DON'T miss the news business. I hate when bad things happen to innocent people. Granted, I should never wish ill will on anyone, but the truly innocent should be spared. Unfortunately that's not always the case. I have the unique situation of not being on the news anymore, yet still being IN the news, thanks to my wife, Jeanene Kiesling.

As a reporter at KCTV-5, she covers mostly crime. Two times the past few months it meant covering horrific trials. The first was that lunatic who thought it was his right to murder three people in Overland Park. A boy and his grandfather at one location, a woman at another. He was eventually found guilty and given the death penalty. Unfortunately, he was given the chance to spout his racist, insane rationalization time and time again at his trial.

I know this because I watch the news nightly. I got the two minute version of the defendant's rants and the district attorney's objections but it was after the news I really learned things. My wife had the task of covering the trial from gavel to gavel. At first I was excited for her. She loves covering trials but by day two I could see it was already weighing on her. This is where I can help. Almost every night she decompressed all the sensational, idiotic and just plain sad details. Neither of us can really be shocked or caught off guard anymore so it's nice for her to be able to dump all the garbage of the day and then enjoy the kids.

We had the chance to have nightly decompression conversations again this past week. You probably remember the story. A 10-year-old girl found locked in a closet. When police removed her from the home, she weighed as much as a toddler. Disgusting, horrific, etc. Well, her mother stood accused of the neglect and abuse. She was on trial last week and guess who covered it? Yep, Jeanene. This one was a little more difficult. Despite the fact neither of us can be shocked or grossed out, we can be pissed off. This happens when a child is the victim. So every night when I watched the news and heard the extent of the abuse, my blood boiled and I knew, I'd be standing around the kitchen island listening to even more. The week of awful details finally ended with a guilty verdict and a sentence recommendation of more than 30 years.

Friends and family, even strangers, wonder how she does it. How I used to do it. I don't have an answer. It's not that you become immune to the bad because sometimes it can still get through. This is where I think it's important to talk and it's much easier when your spouse knows exactly what you mean or what you're going through.

I'll be honest though, I'm really hoping she gets the “people didn't lock their car doors and lost change and cell phone chargers” story for a while. She could use a mental break.

(Landmark columnist Eric Burke is a former television news reporter for Fox 4 in Kansas City. Email him at ericburkekc@gmail.com)

 


ONE WEEKEND, TWO COOL DATES

11/18/15

Ever have one of those really cool weekends? The kind that you look back at on Monday and just smile? I did. I had two of the best dates of my life with two of the most important young ladies in my life.

The first was Saturday night. I went to the Shawnee Mission Northwest MSFD Dance. When I first saw the initials I thought my oldest daughter came up with some new cussing acronym. It stands for Mother Son Father Daughter Dance. Apparently it's a thing. To top it off, it was a costume dance. Couples were encouraged to dress celebrating their favorite decade. My daughter and I couldn't figure out what we wanted to wear until Saturday morning, then it hit us. Why celebrate one decade when we can celebrate two? We decided to go as fans from 1985 and 2015. She wore the 1985 Royals Championship shirt, whitewashed jeans and crimped her hair. I got lucky. I put on a pair of jeans and my Mike Moustakas jersey.

It made going to dinner a little easier for me. My daughter and I had a wonderful time. We talked about everything. The terrorist attacks in Paris, what colleges she wants to apply to, boys and a myriad of other subjects. It was just plain awesome. I thought the evening had peaked, then we walked into the dance.

It was like walking back in time a good 25 years. The cafeteria was decked out in 1980's décor and the costumes were fantastic. I saw Richard Simmons, a few Danny Zuko and Sandy duos and some gangsters and flappers. My daughter found her group of friends and hustled all the dads to the dance floor. It was odd, then scary, then just fun. My favorite moment, dancing to MC Hammer's Too Legit in her snapchat story. Her favorite, watching her dad lead the entire group in the Electric Slide. Yep, it happened. I was so worried I embarrassed her, but it was just opposite. She looked at me and said: “You just made my life.” In high school language, that's a really good thing.

Not to be outdone by her older sister, my 10-year-old and I had a date on Sunday night. The American Girl store hosted a private screening of a documentary for some girl scouts. “The Empowerment Project” was an hour long look at women in various occupations across the United States. The filmmakers, all women, shot the entire film in a 31-day road trip from California to New York. It was really well done. It took issue with the disparity between men and women in various occupations. In some cases, it was startling. I had no idea that in 2015 men still make up as much as 85 percent of power positions in many industries. It's pretty despicable. I'm not saying that because I was the only man in the room, or to cater to female readers. I was raised by a single mother, most of my favorite teachers were women, the majority of my bosses in my professional career, women. But in the grand scheme of things, women are nowhere close to being on an even playing field. Hopefully it will be different when my 10-year-old joins the work force. She seemed moved by the documentary and inspired. I was inspired too. I made a promise to myself to be more encouraging to her and her siblings.

Two very different dates, but both equally rewarding. It's always fun to find out you can be cool AND a parent. It's often a tough combination but I succeeded for at least a few hours.

(Eric Burke is a former Kansas City television reporter who is now Off the Beat. Email him at ericburkekc@gmail.com)

 


SO, WHAT NOW?

11/11/15

What do I do now? Where did the time go?

Both are questions many, including myself, have been asking the past week. I have leaves all over my lawn. The sun is now setting around five o'clock. The local meteorologists are using the word snow in their long range forecasts and Christmas is six, SIX weeks away. Again, where did the time go?

The last time I really wondered about the date it was Labor Day. Check that, it was my wedding anniversary in mid-September! By my account, we have all lost about seven weeks of our lives. The reason, your World Series Champion Kansas City Royals. For years, decades even, the Royals were out of contention by Labor Day, if not earlier. But the winning ways returned last year and now the season continues into October and November. This has to include a major lifestyle change for me.

It's a good problem to have. The last two years I have been immersed in baseball much later than any time in my life. I am usually counting down the days in August to kickoff weekend in the NFL. I'm a huge fan. Football was my first love.

Fantasy football has consumed more of my time the past 20 years than I care to admit. But for the past two years I haven't really paid attention until week seven or eight. Those pesky Royals. Those world champion pesky Royals. It has a nice ring to it and I am more than happy to fix my schedule to accommodate late season and post season runs.

I would venture to say all Royals fans are happy to have a similar problem. But seriously, it does take some getting used to. My wife and I talked about how consuming the sport can be. We watched all or a portion of all 162 regular season games and every pitch of the post season. That takes commitment and a really good DVR. The games locked up three hours of our day from April to November. Other than a job or kids, there's not much I can think of that takes such a daily dedication.

There's a tremendous upside I learned this past season, besides the Royals winning. It's an instant bonding opportunity.

My three-year-old daughter now knows most of the players by sight. No, she didn't watch every pitch or really care the majority of the time, but she still knew when Hosmer was at the plate. That's pretty cool.

My 17-month-old son won't remember anything about the past two seasons, but there are pictures and I have all kinds of stories to tell him. These are the reasons I can't really be mad about losing seven weeks of my life. In fact, I am prepared for it to be an annual tradition. I'm sure you wouldn't mind either.

(Eric Burke is a former television journalist for Fox 4 in Kansas City and now a Landmark columnist. Follow him on Twitter @EricBurkeKC)

 


A ROYAL THANK YOU
11/4/15

Thank you. No, not the Kansas City Royals. You, the fans.

Thank you for embracing me as a new fan in 2002. I never lived in a Major League city and was determined to adopt the first team I lived close too. It turns out, I couldn't have moved to a better place. After enduring what felt like thousands of losses, the “process” we've heard so much about began to develop. By 2013, the tide had officially turned for the Kansas City Royals and ultimately their fans. Fans who know their team and love their team.

Dedicated and educated fans are nothing new to me. I grew up in the mid-1970's just outside of Denver, so the Broncos were quickly imprinted on me. Then as a pre-teen my family moved to west Texas. I was six hours from the Texas Rangers and back then, there was very little MLB on television. There were two exceptions, the Chicago Cubs on WGN and the Atlanta Braves on WTBS. The Cubs became my team. The main reason, their Double A team played 20 minutes away in Midland, Texas. It was fun to see the players on the field one season, then a year or two later see them on my TV. In an interesting twist, one of my first and favorite players, Joe Carter. Yes, that Joe. Now more than 30 years later we live just a few miles apart.

Growing up a Cubs fan prepped me for my move to Kansas City and my desire to root for a “home team.” Following the loveable losers, I was used to and almost immune to being mathematically eliminated by Aug. 1. My first season as a Royals fan was much of the same. They went 62-100.

Then in 2003 I watched as Kansas City awoke and fans started to talk about the good old days finally coming back. After a hot start, they fizzled but finished 83-79. I was excited, ready for season after season of promise. Hopes for a September run were high. Then 2004 happened. 104 loses. I didn't give up. I was used to it.

As the years went by, big changes. A new general manager, a new manager and number one draft picks out galore. Along with them came a promise from the Royals to get better and win. The team already had me in 2002, but this cemented my dedication. Glimmers came in 2011 and 2012, but it was 2013 when my time as a fan truly turned fun. The Royals started winning and there was a feeling of promise. There was also a fan base ready to explode. I met hundreds of them via social media and we all buckled in for the beginning of a tremendous ride. The best part, no one questioned my loyalty. No one asked how long I had been a fan. They accepted my dedication, knowledge, sarcasm and love for a team.

We all know what happened in 2014 and bought in to the “unfinished business” in 2015. It was a tough road at times, but the Royals rallied and when it mattered most, came out on top. The champagne flowed and so did the tears. Some fans have been waiting 30 years to relive a memory. Others were too young or weren't here. I know many from each category. They are all fans, but I am proud to call them friends too. The tip of my cap at the victory parade wasn't just for the team, it was for all of you fans too. Without you, there is no championship. Without you, I don't have as many memories.

So, thank you fans, thank you.

(Eric Burke is a former TV news reporter in Kansas City and now a Landmark columnist. Yes, he stepped it up a notch. Follow him on Twitter @EricBurkeKC)

 


IF IT WORKS, IT ISN'T WEIRD
10/28/15

You do it, I do it. We ALL do it. It doesn't matter that it has no scientific fact to back it up, but we still do. If you are a fan of sports, you are most definitely superstitious.

Just remember, it's not weird if it works! You have a favorite shirt, hat or pair of something you HAVE to wear when your team takes the field. It's been a part of my life as long as I can remember.

Back in the mid 1990's I had to have a new football jersey before the start of each season. I put it on opening weekend and didn't wash it until my team lost. For the most part, it was a good four to six weeks before it hit the washer for the first time.

The mind game continues to this day. I still have the first Royals hat I bought when I moved to town in 2002. Yes, it's nasty, but boy did it work last season. I either wore it or had it with me for 162 regular season games. It was with me at the Wild Card game, then through the ALDS and ALCS and even the World Series.

Unfortunately, it failed me in game seven. So, I retired it and hung it on a hook.

Soon after the unceremonious retirement, I needed a new hat. While many were going after the World Series logo, not me. I wanted the ALCS Champions hat. The reason is simple. We won the pennant, we did not win the Series. Like the entire Royals organization, I stewed through the off season, spring training, 162 games, the ALDS and the ALCS. Like them, I have unfinished business. I WANT a World Series Champions hat. The new one has served us well. It has done its job so far. Some might argue it did better than the 2002 version. The Royals won the division and are back in the Series. The only thing left to do is win four games.

I know, I am fairly convinced I have a problem. But I firmly believe, like thousands of others, it is my responsibility to the sports universe and the Royals to not deviate from the course. I still haven't worn the light blue shirt I wore for every clinching/elimination game in 2014. I did wash it in between games (I have grown up a bit in 20 years). But when Alex Gordon was stranded at third base, it was washed and put in the closet never to be worn again. So far that's the only shirt to be banished. I have others that have failed us this year but not to the same degree.
If for some reason the Royals falter a bit, there's no reason to worry. Along with my superstition, I also have a strange obsession with numbers and the ability to make them work in almost any situation. For instance, my birthday is Jan. 7. I have three girls and my favorite player is Moose. For those of you with the same numerology issues, you already know what all that means. 1738.

I know, I know, but if the Royals can win four more games, YOU'RE WELCOME!

(Landmark columnist Eric Burke is a former news reporter for Fox 4 television in Kansas City. Follow him on Twitter @EricBurkeKC)

 


THE SIMPLEST THINGS ARE THE BEST
10/21/15

The simplest things are the best. I wish I could remember to appreciate them when they are happening, but sometimes life is so hectic. Families these days are busy. Work, school, kids, kid's activities, holidays, chores, errands – whew, it's exhausting just listing everything. I do, however, try to take some time at the end of a busy day to remember just a few details. It's those memories that make the craziness worthy.

Take this past Saturday. Events started early and didn't end until late. It began with my three-year-old’s gymnastics class. We slid out of a sleeping house about 8 a.m. and hit the road. In addition to doing her 'hop-hop,’ she was wanted to make sure we got a doughnut on the way home. We passed on the doughnut this time, a full house meant a lot of hungry people and I wanted to cook breakfast.

When we got home the house was awake and no one could settle on what to eat. I literally took out a pad and pen and took orders. Within a few minutes, I had a makeshift Denny's going on. It was a fun time. I almost yelled out “Vera, Pick up!!” but knew the reference would be lost. After breakfast the busy day ramped up. We had two Halloween events for the younger kids and my 10-year-old had a cheer game. The oldest had a band competition, but she can drive and fend for herself (thankfully). It normally wouldn't be a race against the clock, but there was another important event the family wanted to take part in, watching the Royals play game two of the American League Championship Series. Yes, we have our priorities.

Once the breakfast dishes were done, it was time to suit up the younger kids. Mickey and Minnie Mouse never looked so cute. We all scampered out the door to make the first event at noon. There was a petting zoo and not much else. Normally that would be a disappointment but we had another event at one. We went to the Blue Valley Rec Fall Festival last year, so we knew what to expect and it lived up to the expectations. We loaded the kids in the stroller and made our way in. They picked out pumpkins, played games, ate popcorn and candy and even went on a hayride. We did it all in about 60 minutes. We had to leave at two to get the older daughter to her game.

Eventually we were all home and planted in front of television. The timing couldn't have been more perfect. The real part of the game didn't begin until the seventh inning. The win made for a great end to a busy day. But it wasn't until my oldest was home and everyone was in bed that I realized I almost missed some of the best parts.

The giggles from the back seat on the way to gymnastics. Everyone laughing at me running around the kitchen. The cooing at the goat in the petting zoo. The “weeeee” on the hayride. The “get a hit, Hosmer” from the 3-year-old. The constant tweet creations with my 10-year-old. The laughter from my 18-month-old-son when I bounced around with him after the final out. The “Royals are life” comment from my 16-year-old when she got home. None of these moments registered when they were happening, but thankfully finding just a few minutes to look back on the day, I remembered them all. I can only hope for many busy days to come.

(Landmark columnist Eric Burke is a former Kansas City television news reporter. Follow him on Twitter @EricBurkeKC)

 


MONDAY WAS ONE OF THE BEST AND ONE OF THE WORST
10/14/15

I will continue to be proud of my team and my community. This is how I ended my column last week. Little did I know how fitting it would be to start this week’s column.

The difference is, it has a whole different meaning. Monday Oct. 12, 2015 will go down in Kansas City history as one of the best and worst days.

The Kansas City Royals did the improbable and rallied to win game four of the American League Divisional Series. It was an elimination game, lose and the season was over. However, they didn't give up, worked as a team and won. Then about the same time they were returning home another team was just getting to work.

There was a huge fire near Independence Avenue and Prospect. Dozens of Kansas City, Mo. firefighters arrived on the scene to do what they do. They attacked the fire and saved lives. Firefighters do the unthinkable. They run in as everyone else runs out. Then it happened. The weakened walls of the building gave way and began to collapse. Within seconds, four KCFD firefighters were hurt. Soon we all would learn two of them died from their injuries.

I've had the luxury to cover the Royals, be in the clubhouse and interview the players. I've also had the honor to cover KCFD, be in the firehouses and watch them do their work. It was a rare occasion though, to interview one of them on camera. Yes, most are camera shy, but there's also an unwritten rule in the firehouse. Show up on television and it will cost you. The “penalty” depends on the house. For most it's ice cream or doughnuts for the entire crew. The cost could be astronomical, not only monetarily, but the ribbing would be constant.

It may be silly, but the same could be said for a bunch of grown men running around a baseball diamond. The careers are similar to a degree. Teamwork and dedication are essential. But Monday night put a huge separation between the two. If the Royals had lost, there's always next season. When a firefighter loses, there is no tomorrow.

Families are now forever changed. Their personal homes and fire houses will never be the same. But thanks to another similarity, support for the home team, none of them will be alone. I couldn't keep up with all the support for the Royals after Monday's victory. Tweets and posts were flooding in. Then the mood shifted but the tweets and posts continued. This time with sober words and reflection. It was during this time the word “hero” was used correctly.

The KCFD was embraced by the metro. A virtual hug started Monday night and has only grown bigger and stronger. For this reason I am happy and honored to repeat, I will continue to be proud of my team and community.

(Eric Burke is a former Kansas City television news reporter now penning his thoughts in The Landmark. Follow him on Twitter @EricBurkeKC or email ericburkekc@gmail.com)


TAKE TIME TO ENJOY THE GOOD
10/7/15

It's beginning to look a lot like the postseason!

It's a new season that's finally returned to Kansas City. After nearly three decades of futility, fans who were digging out the Halloween decorations in years past are now adding a little blue to their displays. It's Blue October, a phrase coined in 2014 as the Kansas City Royals made a push for the post season. A year later, on the eve of the 2015 American League Divisional Series, the city and surrounding communities are once again going blue.

When I moved to the metro in early 2002, I was excited to finally live in an area with professional sports teams. Over the years I have said on many occasions there is no place I would rather live, especially if any of the teams were doing well. Winning consumes fans and it seems everyone is happier. While the majority of the time it was difficult for fans to be happy, most always had some form of hope. A hope for wins. A hope for a good draft pick. A hope someone would be fired. Granted, it's not all unicorns and rainbows, but still there was a glimmer. Now, there's a full on solar flare shining down on Royals fans.

The first sign the tide was turning happened after the final out of the Wild Card game last year. It grew through the Royals tremendous playoff run and didn't slow after game 7 of the World Series. The majority of the 2015 season was fun. There were bumps in the road here and there but for the most part the Royals were in charge of their own destiny. After game 162, the Royals had the best record in the American League and secured home field advantage as long as they keep winning. The day after the season finale, it happened again.

Blue EVERYWHERE. Fountains, pumpkins, lights and of course, all the new Royals gear. It won't slow down either, in fact, it will get bigger and bluer with each Royals win. It's not all baseball fans either and that may be the best part of all. Winning is contagious and it's so much fun. There are likely people wearing hats and shirts, flying flags or trying to buy tickets who couldn't name five players, but I'm not mad. It makes me happy and proud.

Sure, there are some who say it's just a game and there are so many other things in the world to worry about. The statement is 100 percent true. However, if a game can give people a couple hours of distraction, so be it. With so much bad in the world, why not take the time to enjoy the good? Wins are never guaranteed but if last year was any indication, this post season will be full of fun, excitement and even more community spirit. I can't wait to see what happens. But no matter what the outcome, I will continue to be proud of my team and my community.

(Eric Burke is a former Kansas City television news reporter now penning his thoughts for you in The Landmark. Follow him on Twitter @EricBurkeKC)

 


RESPECT FOR TAKING A STAND
9/30/15

In my first few columns I wanted to let you know who I am, what I am about. You've learned I used to be in television news, I have a wonderful wife I met at the end of a police chase and four incredible kids. Oh, and I kind of like the Kansas City Royals.

I didn't dive right into current events or controversial subjects, it seemed like low hanging fruit. For my entire professional career, I had to be impartial, not give my opinion publically. It's not the easiest thing in the world to do, to bite your tongue, but I did. It took me a while before I realized now I can have an opinion and voice it if I choose too.

The topics are limitless. Left wing, right wing. Pro-life, pro-choice.Taxes. Education funding. Healthcare reform. Police use of force. It is mindboggling how many topics can quickly divide a room, a city, a country. I am not saying we all have to agree and get along all the time, but I would like to see more respect. No one is ever one hundred percent right. It's good to have checks and balances and differing opinions. It's even better that we live in a country where you are allowed to, and challenged to, offer a differing view. It is what this great nation is built on, freedom.

I think back to a trip I took my senior year of high school. I was one of a couple dozen kids from west Texas who went to Washington D.C. on a field trip. It was a long time ago but almost every single part of the experience is easily recalled. It was fun and educational. My favorite part of the trip, a discussion on the death penalty with students from California and Florida. Everyone picked a side and we were placed on opposite sides of a large room. For those who couldn't pick one, they were positioned in the middle. The debate was intense.

The rules were fairly simple. If you were in the middle you couldn't talk. You had to pick a side first. Also, at any given time you could change your stance go to the middle or the other side. About 20 minutes into the debate, I heard some great points and was being swayed. It wasn't enough to join the other side so I went to the middle. Big mistake, HUGE! Once there, the muzzle was on. Finally a few minutes later I crossed to the opposite side I started on. Every time it happened cheers and jeers rained down but there was always a respect for taking a stand.

It doesn't matter which side I was on or where I stand now but I can tell you, it's more fun than being in the middle. I like having an opinion, I love being able to share it. If it's not a popular opinion, I don't care. I am allowed to believe what I want. The same goes for anyone who believes something different from me. If the conversation turns to debate or contention, it's fine, as long as there is respect on both sides. You can all thank Ms. Shedwin, my 12th grade government teacher. She said I would learn valuable lessons on the trip. She was right. I only wish those who don't show you the respect of a differing opinion had Ms. Shedwin too.

(Eric Burke is a former television news reporter who lives in Kansas City. Follow him on Twitter @EricBurkeKC)


 


THERE IS A MOMENT
EVERY DAY TO REMEMBER

9/23/15

Teaching is a two way street. This will be easy to understand if you have a child or children. I have four, yes FOUR. I have three daughters and a son. They are 16, 10, three and one. I pride myself on being a good father, dad, friend, role model and teacher. I recently learned, they all make good teachers too. This past weekend, there were several times I caught myself learning. Each of them taught me at least one new thing.

My oldest, who is a junior in high school, is an incredible young woman. My favorite time with her is when we just sit and talk. It's usually late at night and the conversations are wide ranging. She updates me on school, work, boys and pop culture. Everything I know about Twenty One Pilots, Snapchat and “Squad,” I have learned from her. Sometimes, it's too much, but I like that I can relate to her on a different level.

I had a project I was working on for a potential job and had to put together a Power Point presentation. My previous career never called for one, so it was a new venture for me. It was weird to ask my 16-year-old for help but her eyes lit up when I did. It's not rocket science and within a few minutes of her instruction I was off and running. When I was done, she was impressed and I was proud. Not only with the presentation I put together, but of her.

My 10-year-old gets some credit for the Power Point, too. She was right there along the way, providing her input. It often contradicted her older sister's but that is expected. As a fifth grader, she is well versed in the electronic age. She has forgotten more than I will ever learn. But her lesson to me wasn't technology based. I learned (remembered) how fun it is to be 10. It's a chameleon age. She can play with her younger siblings, talk with her older sister or just be 10. The latter is my favorite. I catch her “acting her age” almost every time we are in the car. If a song she likes comes on the radio I glance in the rearview mirror knowing I am going to smile as she mouths every single word.

I learn a lot from my three-year-old these days. Being home with her and her brother is fun, exhausting but fun. I learned she is compassionate. She truly loves at a young age and it is wonderful to see. The most recent example happened when I was changing my son. She usually tries to help but this time she helped her little brother. He was fussy and verbally assaulting me, then it happened. She grabbed his hand and said “It's okay Bubby, it's okay. I love you, Bubby.” He stopped yelling at me and smiled at her.

The girls taught me a lot but it was my son who taught me the most, early Monday morning. His cry woke me up. He hasn't done that in months. I went into his room, picked him up and he stopped. It's normal, kids learn right away parents are suckers and use it to their advantage. We spend a lot of time together but this was different. He curled up and slept in my arms. His hands clutching my shirt. It was priceless. Hours later I was tired but smiling. The lesson: No matter what is going on in your life there is usually a moment every day to remember. Mine just happened to be at 3:30 a.m.

(Eric Burke is a former television news reporter who lives in Kansas City. Follow him on Twitter @EricBurkeKC)


'MOOSE' IS AN EASY GUY TO LIKE
9/16/15

Two days in a row, TWO days, I read a story about my favorite ball player and I teared up. The first out of respect, the second sadness.

For those who don't know, I am a huge fan of Mike “Moose” Moustakas. I have been since June 21, 2011. It was the day he made his big league home debut at Kauffman Stadium. I had the opportunity to be there when he was introduced to the Kansas City media, watched him take batting practice and ground balls. I also witnessed something I had never seen before. As Moose walked off the field, he pulled out a pen, signed a baseball and tossed it into the seats behind the Royals dugout. The stands were empty. I later found out it was not the first time. Combine that with his easy going demeanor and love of the game, it was easy to like the guy.

Over the next few years, I had several conversations with Moose. Some for television interviews, others just two guys exchanging pleasantries. He always said hello and more often than not it was accompanied by a fist bump. The 12-year-old in me was giddy every time. But my favorite conversation with Moose happened June 20, 2014. My wife was being induced the next week and we could pick the day. So, I asked Moose, “When should my baby boy be born? The 23rd, 24th or 25th?”Without hesitation, Moose said “the 23rd “ I knew why right away. The number 23 is historically a “sports” number. He smiled and walked into the clubhouse. How's that for a story to tell my only son someday?

With that back story, it's easier to understand why an article written by Jeffrey Flanagan made me well up on Saturday evening. Moose had a career game. A grand slam, three run homer and a two run single. Nine runs batted in. Not a bad game, one day after his 27th birthday. But the story within the story was why Moose doesn't celebrate his birthday. He hasn't since he turned 13, on Sept. 11, 2001. The amount of respect Moose has for what happened shows he gets the big picture. After reading the story, my respect grew even more.

Then came Sunday morning. I was checking Twitter and saw a jaw dropping headline. “Mike Moustakas reflects on mother's passing after career day at plate.” My heart sank. It was widely reported Moose took time off from the team to be with his family twice this season. The last few weeks I had a feeling something was going on, but it was his business and most respected his decision not to talk about it. But in this story he did. His mother, Connie Moustakas, passed away on Aug. 9. I won't lie, the tears started streaming. As I thought about the past month, I understood why there were times when Moose just seemed a bit off and distracted. Sure, in the moment I yelled at the television, something I feel guilty for now.

Something I will never feel guilty about, rooting for Mike Moustakas. Moose is “my” guy. The one I will always support. Someday I hope to bore my grandchildren with stories about him. Among the first ones I will share, the stories I read on Sept. 12 and 13. The days my respect and admiration for Moose were cemented in my memory.

(Eric Burke is a former television news reporter who lives in Kansas City. Follow him on Twitter @EricBurkeKC)

 


BEING A STAY-AT-HOME
PARENT IS A JOB

Written 9/9/15

Believe it or not, this is not my first newspaper column. What I am about to share, only a few people know about. When I was 13 I wrote a teenage advice column. Yes, it's true. I have some clips and even the black and white headshots. I'd show you but I don't believe anyone should be subjected to the 1984 “butt cut” I sported back in the day.

Now that I've bared my soul and opened myself to ridicule, let's get down to the real reason I agreed to write another column. The answer is easy, I'm unemployed. Technically that statement is accurate, although I do take care of my two youngest children, Monday through Friday, sun up to sun down. Any stay-at-home parent will tell you, it IS a job, one of the toughest. It's also the most rewarding job I have ever held. As I write this, my three-year-old daughter is riding her bike around the kitchen island, with her one- year-old brother helping push. It's a sweet sight that is sure to be interrupted any moment by a squeal. Little man is going to fall down or he is going to pull his sister’s hair. I am not clairvoyant, I am a parent. Despite not having a “job” to go to every day, I have never felt more valued and fulfilled.

If you are still reading, don't worry, you are halfway through. I now have the remainder of the column to say whatever I want. A little more background: I'm proud father of four children. I also have two older daughters, rapidly approaching 17 and 11 years old. I am married to a wonderful woman, whom I met at the end of a police chase. As reporters from competing television news stations, we were just doing our job, then she stuck out her hand and introduced herself. She should have been charged with a crime that day, she stole my heart. Yes, I hear the collective “groan” but it's true.

She could and probably will be the subject of a future column, but I will say now, she's an incredible woman. We were friends first, then dated, and married in 2011.She opened her heart to me, and more importantly, to my two older daughters. That alone would be enough for any man, but she's so much more. She has seen me at my worst and stayed. When I found myself out of work for the first time since I was 13, she didn't freak out, yell, scream or cry. She said, we, WE will get through this. Six months later, she has the same attitude. Being out of work is not easy, but it is manageable, because of her.

I am excited to share more with you. I have seen incredibly good and incredibly bad things during my time as a television reporter. I am a Twitter-holic. I am a rabid Kansas City Royals fan. I am sarcastic.

All that will have to wait until later, because IT happened. Little man is crying. Incredibly, he didn't fall and his sister was not involved. In the spirit of my first adventure in newspaper columns, I will share some advice. If your one-year-old has a loaded diaper, stop writing and change him.

(Eric Burke is a former Fox 4 television news reporter who lives Kansas City. Join him here in Off the Beat each week in your Platte County Landmark and follow him on Twitter @EricBurkeKC)