Columns & Blogs

Steve Cameron: Interviewing a rooster was never part of the job description

I'm facing a historic assignment today.

Doing a video production, no less.

Normally that wouldn't be such a big deal. I've spoken to very large groups lots of times, and even hosted my own radio and TV shows.

Not exactly Oprah, but I've been out there under the lights.

What's going on this afternoon, though, is all new territory.

For one thing, I do have the luxury of video tape -- so if I have a sudden coughing fit or a jet fighter comes roaring right over the top of us, we get a do-over.

Kind of like shooting a movie.

I like that part.

Live radio and TV can make you sweat, believe me.

Once a word is out there, it's gone forever.

On a couple of radio talk shows that I've hosted regularly, we had a "panic button," so if a guest -- or one of the hosts -- uttered something truly awful, you could bang that button and the audience would hear nothing but seven seconds of dead air.

That cut-off switch came in mighty handy a couple times, too, believe me -- once when a member of the Denver Broncos, who had been cut that very afternoon, phoned up to unleash a string of profanities at the coaches and general manager.

Talk about being quick with your hands -- I had that lad gone after about four syllables.

Today's challenge, however, is completely different.

I've interviewed all sorts of athletes and other celebrities through the years, but never a bird.

But that's what we've got.

Please disregard any funny lines which just came to mind about birds, thank you very much.

For one thing, this is not any ordinary fowl.

This, ladies and gentleman, is the Booster Rooster.

If you haven't read about our Booster Boy already, he's the son of a legend.

Who can forget the exploits of our famous Pickin' Chicken, former resident at the farm of Sun-Star staffer Carol Reiter, and the magic he created last football season?

The Pickin' Chicken eventually wound up as a national icon. He was mentioned in several newspapers across America for what mathematicians called almost impossible success selecting the winners of high school, college and pro football games.

In fact, the Pickin' Chicken connected at a rate of nearly 70 percent, despite tailing off slightly at the end of the season.

The Chicken made his picks by pecking at some kernels of corn, which Carol placed next to the name of each team in whatever game he was handicapping.

The results, which the math wizards at Merced College claimed should have been fairly close to 50 percent over more than a hundred selections, were deemed close to miraculous.

For most of the season, the Pickin' Chicken stayed almost even with choices made by the Sun-Star staff -- and frankly, we were pretty doggone hot.

At one point, the professors announced that the odds against a bird having such success were less than one percent.

We all thought we'd dust off the Chicken with high school games that figured to be completely one-sided -- so we'd get an automatic win while our feathered friend should be reaching for the corn at about a 50-50 rate.

But he didn't.

I'd have to double-check this, but I believe the Chicken picked every single game involving Merced High correctly.

It was stunning.

We were looking forward to see if the Pickin' Chicken could repeat his heroics this season but, alas, he was an old guy and he died of natural causes during the past off season.

That was really a blow to all of us, so imagine our surprise when Carol mentioned that the Pickin' Chicken had a son on her farm -- and wondered if perhaps he'd inherited his dad's mysterious ability as a pigskin prognosticator.

And that's what today's event is all about.

I'm going face to face -- for the first time -- with the Booster Rooster, offspring of our nationally acclaimed Pickin' Chicken.

Online editor Brandon Bowers will be toting a video camera to record the proceedings, which will be posted on our Web site at

Oh, and my role?


I've never actually interviewed a rooster, so that'll be a first.

Joe's plan seems to consist of having me introduce the Booster Rooster, and then he's going to tape our new football handicapper as he makes his selections for this weekend's games.

I've already announced that I refuse to go head-to-head, stabbing at little piles of corn.

Thanks, boss, but...


Viewers will, however, get a great look at the bird who could be Merced's next miracle-worker.

So hey, go online and check out your columnist meeting the Booster Rooster.

I'll be the one without the beak.

Steve Cameron is the sports editor of the Sun-Star. He can be reached at