You never see many crossover episodes on television. Crossovers are also kind of rare in literature and movies.
The unusual “crossover” happening today between The Daily Gazette and The Times Union of Albany is going to take a minute to set up, so it’s time for a quick lesson in these strange situations.
Crossovers are basically adventures in which characters show up in places they normally are never seen, interacting with other characters they normally never bump into. In the newspaper business, local bylines from one paper are never seen in another newspaper. Kind of against the rules — you’ll never see TU “Advocate” Cathy Woodruff in the old Gazette; you’ll never see Gazette columnist Carl Strock in the old TU.
More education: Here are a few possibilities and examples from pop culture — some cool crossovers.
In television, a classic crossover would have been Elizabeth Montgomery’s sorceress from “Bewitched” running into Barbara Eden’s cute genie from “I Dream of Jeannie.” They might have teamed up to knock some sense into those dopey witches from “Charmed.”
In literature, Sherlock Holmes is in London to track down Jack the Ripper. In the movies, Dracula teams up with Frankenstein; Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man. Fans of 1940s Universal Studios monster films know these crossovers actually happened.
You get the idea. Characters “cross over” into places normally forbidden to them. They get together, have a little fun, shake hands and head back home.
Today, as part of a continuing feature in The Times Union’s sports pages, I’m showing up in their newsprint as the guest handicapper for the Saratoga Race Course card. This is a place I’ve never been — my name and picture in the Times Union? I’ve always been a company man! Responsive, responsible, all the news with integrity and all that.
This is all my brother Tim’s idea — he’s been covering horses at the TU for the past 26 years or so — and he’s signed up people like Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings, Talk 1300 radio chief Paul Vandenburgh, WRGB’s Liz Bishop, WTEN’s Jamie Seh and Union College hockey coach Nate Leaman to pick a few winners. It’s a good idea. I’ll bet people who have never followed horse racing are visiting the TU handicappers’ box to see the special guest star each racing day.
So today it’s a Gazette-Times Union crossover. I secured permission from the brass here at the paper to ensure this VSOP — Very Special One Performance in jazz circles — would not get me fired.
Actually, this crossover has happened before. On television.
In 2003 and 2004, the folks at cable news station YNN (Your News Now, formerly Capital News 9) asked Tim and me to film a weekly three-minute commentary on happenings at the race track. It was just for laughs — the much more experienced track man Tim coming across as the sports authority and yours truly talking more about the feature angles. It was free publicity for both the old Gazette and the Truly Unique newspaper on Wolf Road.
Today’s one-shot crossover is kind of like someone from Marvel Comics visiting a character from rival superhero factory DC comics. And to tell you the truth, crossovers are really a lot more common in comic books than anyplace else. Or so I’m told by my comic book sources.
That’s not to compare the fine newspapers in Schenectady and Albany to comic book houses. Some people might, but not me. As mentioned, I’m a company man.
Still, I kind of like the analogy. Tim could be Batman, the brooding, moody fellow from DC Comics. It fits, because Tim has his own rogue’s gallery in the Saratoga press box — “The Tall Man,” “Toughest Man Alive,” “Gort,” “Head Gator” and “Mr. Saratoga” are the people he must deal with just about every day. The first three are really TU sports guys — Mark Singelais, Matt Graves and Mike Jarboe. Head Gator is the “mascot” who appears in TU race track videos, just a guy in an oversized alligator head. Nobody knows the true identity of Mr. Saratoga; he was in the guest spot earlier this month.
I guess that makes Jerry Bossert of New York’s Daily News Commissioner Gordon. Times Union turf writer Claire Novak gets to be Vicki Vale.
So if Tim is Batman, I guess his brother in comic book fiction would be ... Marvel’s Captain America. Kind of patriotic, generally optimistic. A decent guy. Both characters are evenly matched — so I’m told — and are well respected in their respective comic book universes.
No rogue’s gallery for Cap. Unless you count “The Commander,” I guess. That's Bill Buell.
The newspaper version of Captain America is no dope, so he has asked around about horses. Mike MacAdam, the Gazette’s main man at the race track, has picked a few winners in his day. So has my pal Pete Geremia from Webster, N.Y., who was trackside last weekend and needed a wheelbarrow to cart away all the money he won. I’ve checked in with both.
I made the picks ... and got off Stormy's Majesty in the eighth. Hope that doesn't come back to haunt me!
If you’re a betting man or woman, and read the Times Union — in addition to reading the old Gazette for handicappers Mark Cusano and Bill Heller, of course — I think you might be better off considering my brother’s picks. Not mine. I hope to get at least two, maybe even three winners out of the nine races. Even a blind squirrel finds a chestnut once in a while, as Matt Graves used to say.
If the comic books gods are watching, maybe I’ll get lucky. Comic book followers tell me Batman and Captain America squared off years ago, when Marvel and DC staged a giant “crossover” event. I’m told Batman won their evenly-matched competition.
Maybe it’s time for Captain America to get even. Hopefully, the red and the white and the blue will come through ...