There’s a Miami Hockey Coach tape, and I just finished watching part one

Oh, you guys. I was mistaken, off-the-mark, and oh so very, very wrong. There really is an interview of Miami hockey coaches that ostensibly was conducted for the Oral History Project. I just watched what’s been referred to as the good tape, and there’s still more to come once the damaged tape is repaired. I’m very, very sorry for leading you all astray and getting your hopes up. I was so hopeful that Carl Knox’s former secretary might appear somewhere, anywhere. But after watching the tape from 00:00:00 to 01:30:32, I can assure you that she didn’t.

Let’s do a quick Q&A, OK?

Oh, that’s a bummer.

It is. I was sincerely hoping that I was right—but nope.

Which coaches were interviewed?

The coaches who were interviewed match the consent forms: broadcaster Steve Baker conducted the interview with Steve Cady, Enrico Blasi, and William Davidge.

Did they look younger?

Yes, they looked great, and I’d say they all looked about 13 years younger. They were also dressed in short-sleeved shirts, which matched the time of year that the consent forms were signed. They were definitely dressed appropriately for May 19, 2009, in Oxford, Ohio.

They actually talked for an hour-and-a-half?

I couldn’t believe it either. Yes, they really, truly did. 

What was the quality of the tape?

Bad. The good tape was unbelievably bad. There were weird slow-mo moments and checkerboard screen moments and it was extremely out-of-sync with the audio for most of the tape, and by extremely, I mean like by minutes versus milliseconds. So you’d be listening to Steve Cady talking but William Davidge would be gesturing and moving his mouth. Thankfully, everything synced up for the last 10 minutes or so of the tape. But the audio ran for 1 ½ hours with only one noticeable jump, so it must have run even longer.

What did they talk about?

You’re posing this question to someone who doesn’t know a lot about hockey, but they talked all about the history of Miami’s hockey program—the building of the program, their philosophy when recruiting student athletes, the cost-saving measures during road trips, the championship games—as well as life and family issues too. The word puck was mentioned at least twice. One story that I found compellingly human had to do with when Steve Cady was coach, and the team was traveling to an away game. Back then, on road trips, players were required to wear a coat and tie to dinner. When they were walking into the restaurant, he noticed that one of his players was still on the bus. So he went back and asked him why. The player said that he didn’t know how to tie his tie. So Steve tied it for him. That was my favorite moment on the tape.

Another story that Steve Cady told had to do with the naming of the new hockey building. He didn’t want the building to be named after him. He really didn’t. You can tell that he’s a modest person. But the first donor, who’d played hockey under him, insisted on it, and he eventually gave in. They all laughed about that. That’s the last story that’s told on part one.

What else did you think about the tape?

I’ve watched a number of the Oral History Project recordings. In my opinion, this one was by far the most interesting. All of the coaches seem like very kind people—super nice. There’s not an obnoxious jerk in the bunch. I can imagine that the hockey players who played for them would have loved them. 

Also, as I was watching it, I was thinking that it must have absolutely killed the people from the Oral History Project to have these legendary coaches telling such amazing stories on a tape that turned out to be unusable. I would have been physically ill—I probably would have puked—if I had to walk into someone’s office and tell them, “You know our Oral History Project recording where a renowned hockey broadcaster spent well over 1 ½ hours interviewing three legendary hockey coaches? Yeah, well, it got damaged really bad. So bad, in fact, that there is no possible way that we can use it.” I also had to wonder: what in the H-E-double-hockey-sticks happened to the tape? 

If the video is so bad, can they just post the audio online?

Well, that’s what I thought too. I would have thought they would have treated the audio backup as if it was Wu-Tang Clan performing “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin.” But I recently submitted a public records request for the backup audio, and I heard from the OGC’s Aimee Smart today. Here’s the university’s response:

“We do not have a responsive record. The Oral History project originally intended to back-up the interviews with multiple tapes, dvds, etc. However, they made adjustments to the original plans as the project and the budget evolved.  In the case of the audio recording, time and digital storage capacity constraints forced them to only archive the final video file rather than the secondary media on the audio device. Eventually, the memory cards would have been reformatted and reused, recycled or otherwise disposed of as well as the cassette tape.  The original plan also included multiple DVD copies of the final videos for archives and complimentary copies for participants. They felt that it became impractical due to cost and time and because the DVD media proved to be less reliable than they had hoped. Accordingly, they reduced the number of physical copies being made and mostly ceased providing complimentary copies altogether. Instead, they focused more on archiving the final video files online for eventual streaming.”

Still, don’t you think they should have kept the audio if the videotape was already damaged?

Yeah, I would think so.

And if the video had been damaged later on, wouldn’t they have already converted the tape to DVD, so the damaged tape shouldn’t have mattered at that point?

Great point. So it’s almost as if the damage occurred during some fleeting point in time after they’d destroyed the audio because they’d felt confident in the quality of the videotape, yet before they’d had time to create the DVD, which by then, was usually within 2-3 weeks of taping. Hmmm.

Are you OK?

Oh, thanks. I’m bummed, because I felt as if we were on to something, and you have to admit that there were weirdnesses. But I’ll get over it. After all, we’re trying to find a recording of Carl Knox’s former secretary. I don’t want to waste time looking in the wrong place.

What kinds of weirdnesses?

I mentioned several of them in my recent write-up on the consent forms. Chief among them is how no one from the Oral History Project could name one interview that hadn’t been posted online. Not one. Don’t you think someone should have remembered filming those hockey coaches for over 1 ½ hours and then not being able to use the tape because…[fill in some unbelievably sad and unfortunate story here]. I’m one of those people who remembers ALL of my past mistakes—every single one of them—usually in Dolby vision. If I’d been involved with the Oral History Project, there is no way that that interview wouldn’t have sprung to my mind immediately as one of the most epic technological fails of my career.

Another weirdness was when, early on, I’d asked several Oral History Project representatives if one of the unposted interviews was with Carl Knox’s former secretary. Not one person answered my question. They either told me that they personally didn’t interview Carl Knox’s secretary or they said nothing at all.

There are other weirdnesses too, which I’ll keep to myself right now. 

What’s the plan?

As far as the Oral History Project is concerned, I’m still waiting on the damaged tape, therefore my Court of Claims complaint is still pending. I also have a couple remaining public records requests in mind.

In addition, I’ve heard back from Aimee Smart regarding my request yesterday having to do with Athena and the screenshots for all data fields pertaining to work panel control number 110, or msv00110. Here’s what she said:

“We do not have any responsive records as Athena was the name of the computer they were using for the project and not a software program. During that time period, some internal computers in digital initiatives were given names of Greek gods and goddesses. The computer has since been decommissioned.”

So bah on that too. But make no mistake: we know that Carl Knox’s former secretary was interviewed relatively recently (within the last 20 years or so) by someone at the university, and I believe it was with someone from the library. We also know that University Archives doesn’t throw anything away. And I’ve learned a ton about archival recordkeeping through all of this. 

So I’m down but not out. Not by a slap shot.

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Oops, I have one additional question to add:

You said the tape was “ostensibly” conducted for the Oral History Project. Why did you say that?

I used the word ostensibly because the tape begins at the 0 counter with Steve Cady already addressing a question. There’s no mention of the Oral History Project or of Miami’s bicentennial and there are no introductions as there are with the other Oral History Project recordings.