Thursday, December 22, 2005

Ho, Ho, and more Ho!

I'll be taking a few days off from blogging as I wrap up the year and enjoy a little down time with my family. I hope you'll remember the reason for the season, as I will try to do, and will be blessed with a special moment or two in the next ten days.

If you have enjoyed any of my ramblings during the year, I'd appreciate you spreading the word about my efforts here. Just tell your friends to visit:

Happy Holidays my friend!


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Better, Worse, or Just Different?

During the holidays I often have moments of melancholy when I wish today's young people could enjoy the type of life I had as a young boy. And yet, I wonder if they would. I savor memories of my "good ol' days", but I tend to wonder if they really were any better than any other era. Let me explain.

When I was a tike:
-We had black and white TV that usually only got three channels. No TiVo. No satellite dishes. No DVDs. No video games. We listened to a lot of radio and found other things to do with our time. Lives weren't centered around TV nearly as much as now.
-We could leave the doors to our house (and just about anything else)unlocked. People respected one another's property. There was little crime, or fear of it, at least where I lived.
-People were not all in a hurry. They couldn't be. Transportation was not nearly as efficient. You walked a lot. You rode bikes. The bus. You had one car, if that.
-The only mobile phones were in cartoons and movies. Telephonic communication was more a matter of necessity than convenience.
-Most, not all, but most families had stay-at-home moms. Usually, the mother's job was to raise the kids, teach them right from wrong, feed them, and keep them out of trouble. Most people lived a life not too far off from the old "Leave it to Beaver" or "Ozzie and Harriet" shows. (I realize young people reading this might not know what those shows were like either)
-People were more into the lives of other people. You knew about the neighbor's sick aunt. You were sorry when your cousin's, friend's dog died. You were excited to see an old friend in church. Parents seemed to be more like leaders and teachers than friends and admirers. Grandparents were more a part of the family. Family members usually all had the same last name.
-Being a sports fan was simpler. By that I mean the basketball hero in your life was more likely to be the kid down the street who starred on the high school team than Shaquille O'Neal. Your baseball hero was "Stan the Man" or Mickey Mantle, and you could expect them to play their whole career on the same team. You wouldn't miss the "big game" between the high-school football rivals. You showed up at a playground basketball game because it featured two guys who could "really play".
-There was a lot less gray area between right and wrong. And if you weren't sure about it, any convenient adult was more than willing to straighten you out.
-A best friend was a constant companion and you didn't do anything without each other knowing about it.
-Life was simpler, safer, slower, warmer, fuzzier, centered around family, friends, school, church and love.
-Special moments seemed to be fewer and farther between. But they were really special.

By now, you're probably thinking this sounds a lot like an Andy Rooney piece on "60 Minutes".

I tend to think this would be a life and time that everyone would want. But then, the more I think about it, I really don't know. Maybe I'm just thinking that way because it's part of my history, and so many fond memories of people and places that I have enjoyed are found there. So, I tend to think of it as idyllic.

Would someone born in the last twenty years really want to go back to that time? If they could, would they want to stay? A better question is, would I be willing to give up the many conveniences and interesting technological aspects of living today? Cell phones? Cars that rarely break down? Computers and the internet? Interstate highways? Air travel? High definition TV? Surround sound? Drive-up windows? Automatic dishwashers, clotheswashers and dryers? ATMs? Pay-at-the-pump? Cordless drills? Should I keep going? Of course, noone would want to give all these things up. But, I didn't miss them as a kid, because we didn't know any better. They didn't exist. We did just fine without them. Different, but fine.

One thing is for sure, there's no going back. I tend to think that today will be the "good ol' days" to my sons; which is kind of a scary thought. I don't know how much more things can advance. Will they be thinking of the days when you actually had to pay for gas? When cars only drove on the ground? When you didn't have retinal-scan on every bank transaction? When everyone needed insurance to fix their car or their broken leg? When you had less than a thousand channels on your TV? When you couldn't transport yourself to another place in less than 5 seconds?

Who knows what living 50 years from now will bring? But could today (with all it's crime, hustle and bustle, people seemingly not caring about each other, "instant gratification is everything"-mentality and political correctness) possibly be thought of as "the good ol' days"? I think not. But then, I wouldn't think of my dad's, or grandpa's, time as the "good ol' days" either.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Pre-Holiday Notebook

Time for a bunch of random thoughts on the Monday preceding Christmas.

-How eerie is it to drive past the new stadium and see that big, rubble-filled hole in the ground that used to be Busch Stadium? As I was driving home from the hockey game Saturday night, I drove by on the south side of the Pavillion hotel and looked south into the construction dust that was illuminated by the lights on the new stadium. I got goose bumps. Very strange, and very cool at the same time.

-I've always thought one of the weaknesses in the whole scheme of things at KTRS radio is the lack of a clearly defined marketing plan. Many combinations of peronnel that have been on the air there since 1996 have been capable of taking the station to a dominant position in the market if only there were a professional effort put into advertising what the station offered. It's always amazed this little punkin' head how people in the advertising and communications business expect people to spend their ad budgets with their station, but have no clue about budgeting for, and creating, strong ad campaigns of their own. Duh?

-It seemed to me that the President made a rather strong attempt to connect with those who question the Iraq war policies of the administration in last night's address. His usual mechanical and distant delivery was replaced with a more personable and caring approach that should help him. He obviously has received some different coaching since his approval numbers dipped. I also think he's right when he says he can't say when we're going to pull out until the time is right. A pitcher doesn't tell the batter what pitch is coming.

-This will be the first Christmas that my oldest son spends away from our home. He has accepted a full-time position in Colorado ski country that will require him to work through the holiday season. It will be strange. And it makes me feel old.

-I will miss John Spencer. I've always thought he was a teriffic actor. His portayal of Leo McGarry on "West Wing" was, in my humble opinion, brilliant. It will be very interesting to see how the producers of that show deal with his loss. It looked as though he was destined for several more years as the Vice President to Jimmy Smits' character Matthew Santos, who observers expect to win the presidency in the current story line.

-The current battle over whether to say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" is very amusing. I think most intelligent folks understand when each is appropriate. Christians shouldn't force Christmas down anyone's throat. But, at the same time, shouldn't be castigated for wishing someone a Merry Christmas at the wrong moment. Just because you're thoughtful enough to say "Happy Holidays" doesn't mean you're dissing Christianity, does it?

-I'm a little less than "jumping-up-and-down-excited" about the latest group rumored to be trying to buy the Blues. MattlinPatterson Global Advisors, from what I've been able to find out on the internet, is a group of people that specializes in taking over a company, infusing cash and different strategies, and then when the company is profitable again, selling their shares at an enormous profit. More than once I've seen the company referred to as "vulture investors". Interesting term. Kind of makes me wonder if they'd be in it for the love of hockey and/or St. Louis. They may be just what the doctor ordered, but I need to know more about the actual people who might run things.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Black Friday Afterthoughts

I'm surprised by...
-the thouroughness of the house-cleaning
-Randy and Jim being included, and Hadley not
-the way FOP came off on TV
-"Farmer Dave" not knowing until late Friday afternoon
-the fired people being allowed to continue through January 6th
-all of the new people being unknowns in this market
-"the Redbirds station" wanting to take on this new,"shock and awe" tone
-Tim Dorsey having to "lower the boom" when it wasn't really his call
-how radio execs always fall for the "out-of-town-host will work here" mindset

If it were my station to run...and I was going to clean house...I would have considered bringing in some people to replace them who have some cred in St. Louis. Maybe Guy Phillips, J.C. Corcoran and John Ulett, Dave Glover, anybody that St. Louis people could have some connection to, and might know something about sports. Corcoran does the baseball shows in Chicago during the summer already. He's been a proven ratings getter and seems to be able to "get along" at this stage of life. Phillips is a sports-oriented guy too. These people do mostly talk shows on music stations anyway and would bring with them something that none of the people coming in will have..."a built-in following".

Its like KTRS hiring all of KMOX's Cardinals salespeople. They have an existing relationship with their clients and could expect the money to follow them. I suppose they (Corcoran, Phillips etc.) wouldn't bring the "Holy Grail" of being strong enough in the 25-54 demo. These new people had better be REALLY good to get the under-35 crowd to actually listen to AM radio.

All of these out-of-towners have no existing audience and credibility and will be starting from scratch. As I stated before execution day, St. Louis listeners will be very slow to warm up to "outsiders". They could ask McGraw how long it took him to become "a St. Louis guy" over at KMOX.

I'm thinking about the future of all of the ex-KTRSers, but the guy I worry about the most is my good friend Jim Holder. As most everyone knows, he is one of the nicest people you will ever have the pleasure of knowing. And, like me, he's not a young gun anymore. I'm concerned about where, in this market, he will find work. Good luck "Holder-Man".

Friday, December 16, 2005


Many times over the years I've been asked to give advice to young people eager to enter the field of broadcasting. Where should I go to school? Should I go into radio or TV? How much money do you make? Isn't it cool to be on the radio and play your favorite music? Isn't it fun being around sports all the time? ...they ask.

All of the answers to all of these questions make no difference unless you're willing to live through a day like a group of talented people did today at KTRS. Because one of those days will undoubtedly come. Not once, but likely several times during a career in radio or TV. The person who gets to the top quickly and stays there is a rarity. It's very likely you'll get caught up in sweeping format or personnel changes like today's "Black Friday" at the Big 550. Or you might just happen to have a boss that doesn't like the way you pronounce "Wednesday". Or you might make too much money for the big boss in Dallas. Or your ratings (which many times are bogus numbers) are down. Or you might just be the wrong person at the wrong time in the wrong place.

I'm not saying that these kinds of things don't happen in other professions. It's just that in broadcasting it's such a public "execution". And in broadcasting, many times, it seems so personal. You're work is out there for thousands of people every day, and when somebody passes negative judgment on it, it's a hard thing to live down within the business. Many times you must re-locate to an entirely different market and start over to keep working. Especially if you specialize in a certain format. How many talk stations can there be in a given market. St. Louis is actually quite different than most markets. Here there are two major talk stations where you can actually make a decent...if not

I knew it was coming today at Westport. But I feel very badly for each of the professionals sent into broadcasting oblivion by the management people who felt the necessity to purge KTRS of it's short-lived "tradition". Oh, the philosophy behind the change is understandable. But that doesn't make it any easier for the people who were handed the pink slip and thought they had a promise of employment they could count on.

I hesitate to discourage any young person who envisions a broadcasting life for themselves. But I also urge them to understand what they might be getting into. So, I tell them... before you choose that career in the sexy, glamorous, "out there", edgy, and not-as-lucrative-as-you-might-think world of radio or TV, make very, very sure you have what it takes, and can take what it gives. Either that, or buy your own station.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Why I Got Out

From all the indications I'm getting, and the words of some people I trust to know what they are talking about, we might not recognize what station we're listening to when we turn to 550AM after December 31st.

"The Big 550-KTRS", as it has been billed for several years, may be getting ready for a pretty thorough house-cleaning. Of course, I don't work there full-time anymore. I haven't for almost two years now. But, all the signs point to a "blow-it-up-and-start-over-again" format change. Talk will stay. People will come and go.

The signs?
The ownership change when the Cardinals came over with the baseball broadcasts.
There is a new man in place calling most of the shots. Bobby Lawrence was put in place by the Cardinals people.
There is a new Program Director. Al Brady Law, who's been all over the country at other stations, was hired on. Usually that's an indication that upper management wants to do something different with programming but would rather bring in someone to "put new ideas in place". Of course, implementing change in radio programming inevitably means lost jobs for those currently on the air.
On-air auditions by people unknown in this market. Several times over the past month, Scott St. James and Meme Wolff (9am-Noon) have been inexplicably absent with individuals, and teams, heretofore unheard of taking their place. There have been other strange appearances in other dayparts, including evening sports programming. So far, there have been no unusual personnel switcheroos in morning or afternoon drive, but I wouldn't take that to mean there is no possibility of change there either.

Wendy Wiese and Bill Wilkerson (morning drive), Brian Kelly (News Director), Jim Holder (Sports Director), St. James, McGraw Millhaven (Noon-3), Randy Karraker and John Hadley (evening sports)all could have targets on their backs because of their one-time employment at KMOX. I understand that Brian Hartmann, an excellent voice and commercial production talent, has already been jetisoned. It would seem that the new regime is not necessarily interested in the best talent available, but is interested in new, different, energetic and "non-KMOX/KTRS tainted" individuals.

I would not expect the Frank O. Pinion show to be tinkered with, unless the new management is prepared to deal with an all-out revolt. Frank's show has carried the mail at the station for a long time. His show, even without the recently departed Terry Dailey, not only has huge numbers on a consistent basis, but obviously has connected with a fiercely loyal group of regulars. He could take "The Large Morning Show in the Afternoon" to about any other station in the market and blow a big hole in 550's good lead-in to Cardinals baseball in the Spring, if the management at KTRS doesn't deal with him carefully.

My opinion? The new management team had better be very thoughtful, careful and professional with how much they clean house. It's been proven time and again that St. Louis market radio is a different animal than that of the rest of the country. Listeners here have grown up on a different brand of radio because of the influence of KMOX...and the competition that has grown out of that station's one-time overwhelming dominance. People here get to know, like and trust certain personalities and don't like it when someone "messes with their people". The radio hosts here aren't "plug-in parts" like they are in other markets. People here expect someone who knows how to pronounce Gravois road and understands life in the Midwest. Hosts here, much more so than elsewhere, become members of the family. Throwing in a syndicated show because of it's success in other markets has only worked in the case of the most popular syndicated show of all time, Rush Limbaugh. And Limbaugh is from Cape Girardeau, something not lost on the local populous either.

So, Lawrence, Law, and the other "programming tinkerers" in place now at Westport Plaza had better be very sure of themselves before they eject someone in favor of a less-tested, and likely cheaper, replacement from Cincinnati, Little Rock, or Tuscaloosa. The high-energy approach to talk radio is something that might be interesting at first, but it better have some substance to it if St. Louisans are to buy it on a consistent basis. I hope they realize that different, doesn't always mean better.

I do know one thing for sure, this whole situation has many very talented hosts, and quality people, walking on egg-shells during the holidays. It's the worst part of being a radio personality. I've been there...and I'm glad I no longer am. Best wishes, and my condolences to those who unquestionably will lose a job soon.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Ah-nold vs. the Death Penalty

The execution of Tookie Williams in Califonria early Tuesday has, like few cases lately, stirred debate on the value and righteousness of the death penalty. Some in Arnold Schwarzenegger's native Austria, where the death penalty is not an option, have called for the revocation of his citizenship as a result of his refusal to grant Williams clemency. Others around Europe have also voiced their outrage. As happens frequently with most people in high office, "The Governator" was presented with a no-win decision. One has to wonder if he went with his heart, or went with what he thought was expected, given his political positioning.

Personally, I've gone back and forth on the death penalty through the years. As of this writing, I'm leaning toward being anti-death penalty. My current thinking is that the judicial system is never going to be proficient enough to get it right one hundred percent of the time. There are too many humans involved. And, even though some defendants may be unquestionably guilty, the sanctioning of the death penalty opens the door to the mistaken execution of others. I do not have enough faith in the system to be totally confident that death is appropriate in each potential instance where it's sought. There are too many variables between the time of the crime and the eventual punishment. And executing one innocent person, ever, is too many. Ending a life cannot be un-done. That same person could be let out of prison after it's discovered they are innocent, as long as they are still breathing.

Having said all that, I have to laugh at the "holier than thou" comments of those who find fault with Schwarzenegger on this particular case. Here are a few I've seen:

Peter Pilz, a leader of the Green Party in Austria--"Whoever, out of political calculation, allows the death of a person rehabilitated in such an exemplary manner has rejected the basic values of Austrian society."

Richard Schadauer, the chairman of the Association of Christianity and Social Democracy--"Mr. Williams had converted, and unlike Mr. Schwarzenegger, opposed every form of violence."

Julien Dray, a spokesman for the Socialist Party in France--"I am proud to be a Frenchman, I am proud to live in France, in a country where we don't execute somebody 21 years later. Schwarzenegger has a lot of muscles, but apparently not much heart."

Similar statements have come from a number of the usual particpants on this issue.

What amuses, and mystifies, me about these comments is the lack of attention to the actual crimes committed by the defendant. You would believe by their words that Williams was some sort of saint being executed despite his overwhelming contributions to peace on earth and good will toward men. This guy took the lives of four innocent people. And there is no reasonable doubt about that. We can also be pretty sure that as a founding member of Los Angeles' Crips gang, he has been involved in, if not responsible for, a number of other deadly crimes. And, as Schwarzenegger points out, Williams never apologized, or took responsiblity, for anything. He just started writing childrens books in prison that made it appear he was a "changed man". We can only wonder now if he actually was.

The anti-death penalty commentators would do well to at least acknowledge the victims and their families if anyone is to accept their ideas. Standing up for the life of the person to be executed only garners so much favor. Showing an understanding of the heinous behavior that landed that person in the death chamber, and a modicum of empathy for the victims, might actually produce headway for their cause. Accusing an elected official of being a barbarian by allowing the judicial system to run it's course is not going to sway much opinion, cetainly not among those who already believe the death penalty appropriate.

I would like to hear just one of the anti-death penalty spokespeople be thoughtful enough to say--

"Obviously, Mr. Williams was guilty. God bless the victims and their families. There can be no adequate compensation for them. But no human being, or system devised by human beings, should be allowed to take the life of another human being. The lives of those taken by Mr. Williams should not be dishonored by any potentially mistaken execution. Real justice would not be served in that way. Mr. Williams should do whatever good he can, and make whatever amends with God possible, from a prison cell. Knowing that this man will never harm another person outside prison, and that he will know the hell of a penetentiary for as long as he lives, ought to be enough satisfaction for us all."

Perhaps if the anti-death penalty people were as caring about the lives of the victims, and able to show an understanding of the total picture, some who disagree with them may see their arguments in a different light.

The Obvious Choice

Shortly after posting my thoughts yesterday on the Blues goaltending situation, the management called a press conference and did what they had to do--give up on another highly-paid goaltender who came to the team with great expectations. Patrick Lalime is another in a line of failed attempts to remedy an on-going Blues nightmare at the most important position in hockey.

Hopefully, one of the "young guns" in the organization will grow into the position and become the steady player we've been looking for. Will it be Curtis Sanford? Jason Bacashuhua? Or one of the other highly touted youngsters toiling in the minors? Apparently the organization has already given up on Reinhard Divis as an NHL-caliber player.

At this stage of the game, I'm hoping that the team is patient with the situation and allows these younger guys some time to grow into a comfort zone. Being an NHL starting goaltender is pressure enough without the added expectation of immediate success. Sanford, 26, has shown the ability to play well at this level, maybe not as consistently as we'd like. But then he doesn't have the 1960's Canadiens playing in front of him either. He seems to have good puck awareness. Something that Lalime was way short on for some odd reason.

Bacashuhua is a 23-year-old who was drafted in the first round a few years back by the Dallas Stars. He obviously has the tools that teams are looking for in a modern goalie; more so than Sanford. Sanford is a little undersized and relies on athleticism and concentration to get him by. Bacahuhua will have the size to cover more of the goal on a consistent basis and make the saves up high that Sanford will likely let in.

Who knows if either of these guys are the answer to the problem for the long term. But we need to remember that they are young, and being asked to play a position that experts say you can not master until you approach 30 years of age. I hope we as fans, and the Blues as a team, are not going to expect immediate stardom from whoever is between the pipes after this Lalime debacle. Give someone a chance to take command of the situation by showing them some confidence, and see what happens. How could things possibly get worse?

Monday, December 12, 2005


First, let me say that I would not want to be an NHL goaltender for all the gold in Snoop Dog's teeth. Having said that, Patrick Lalime has been as far from the answer in goal for the Blues as one can get without being paralyzed.

After Saturday night's pathetic performance, in which 4 of the 5 goals scored by the New York Rangers in a 5-4 overtime loss were very stoppable, I noticed something I don't think I've ever seen before. It appeared to me, from my position next to the Blues penalty box, that nobody wanted to go out on the ice to congratulate Lalime. It's traditional in hockey that all of the skaters go thank, congratulate, or apolgize to, their goalie after the game in almost all situations. It sure looked to me like noone wanted to lead the way to do that Saturday night. And with good reason. I don't remember ever having seen a team reluctant to console, congratulate, or whatever, their goaltender in my 18 years working for the Blues. Blues coach Mike Kitchen went off on Lalime too, or at least didn't hold back from making it clear who was to blame, after the loss Saturday.

Lalime was touted as one of the better goalies in the NHL when the Blues acquired him after the '03-'04 season. He had led Ottawa to several strong regular season and playoff runs in the past. The only knock on him was that he gave up a couple of soft goals in a critical Senators playoff game a while back. It was thought that Ottawa would have kept him around had they not had the chance to sign world-class netminder Dominic Hasek when he came back out of retirement.

There is a train of local thought that says Lalime doesn't like the situation in St. Louis and doesn't really want to play here. If he's tanking his performance...or even not really caring about it...because he wants to be traded, that's about as low as a guy can sink in professional sports. If that's true, I hope he never plays another NHL game, anywhere. The poor Blues are obligated to a pile of money on his current contract though. So, if he's finished here, somebody will have to trade to get him for the Blues to be rid of his contract. Yikes, can things get any worse for Blues management right now? If they start playing some of the younger guys in the system in goal it will appear to the Blues already disaffected fan base that they are giving up on the season. If they don't do something, it will still look that way. It's a no-win.

The other question Blues fans have to ask at this point is..."Why do goalies suddenly forget how to stop a puck when they put on the Blues uniform?" There have been several others over the last number of years who have had decent reputations before playing here, only to then play like the sport was new to them. Lalime is just the last. Remember Chris Osgood, Brent Johnson, Roman Turek, Fred Brathwaite, Tom Barasso, Jamie McLennan? Is there some systemic problem that messes up these guys when they play here? Is the lack of a full-time goalie coach that important? Does Keith Allain (the organization's goaltending coach) have some kind of counter-productive effect on these people?

At this point you have to wish The Note had never traded Curtis Joseph.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Proposed Constitutional Amendment

I am not an elected official, nor do I play one on TV. But, if I were, I would quickly draw up legislation proposing a constitutional amendment that outlaws the use of parking all situations...period. OK, yes I got a parking ticket today. But it was just the inspiration for writing this...not the ideas behind it. I've been an ardent fan of the idea of doing away with parking meters for some time.

First of all, I don't understand the logic behind parking meters. They are paid for, installed and maintained at considerable expense by the cities that own them. Then these jurisdictions have to hire people to go around and check the meters, and the vehicles parked by them, to make sure some hardened criminal isn't "breaking the law" by not feeding the meter. Then you have all of the administrative work that deals with collecting the fines from the tickets. Is this really an important function of a city government?

Wouldn't the tax dollars spent on meters be better spent by using them to encourage the public to do business in the city? Perhaps they could advertise the city's fine "no charge public parking" policy. Perhaps they could beautify the shopping districts, and business districts in some way. Perhaps they could colorfully paint the curbs to deliniate where the parking spots are and make parking more fun. Perhaps they could buy up old, run-down buildings and tear them down to create brightly lit, secure and free parking lots and garages.

Encouraging, instead of discouraging, parking near where people have to do business should allow the city (whatever city) to collect more sales tax revenue from the increased business conducted in that city. This would eliminate the need for meters, wouldn't it? It seems totally counter-productive to put up parking meters and hope people park one minute too long so you can write them a ten dollar ticket. The Country Club Plaza district in Kansas City is a good example of what I'm talking about here. They have clean, modern, parking garages interspersed throughout this upscale business district and it's booming. It has for many years.

When I got a ticket today...and I'm sure you've felt the same way...I was just pissed. It makes you feel like a criminal, even though you fed the meter like you were supposed to. I was 7 minutes over my time when the meter person wrote the ticket. 7 minutes! There should be a way for them to know if you actually fed the meter or not. If I had just parked without feeding the meter and flauted my responsibility, then got the ticket, I would expect to pay. But, I had parked in this very place many times before, put in my quarter for twenty minutes of time, and gotten back in plenty of time after doing my business. But not this time. So, of course, there's the ticket under the windshield wiper.

But, enough of my personal grievance. Parking meters are just not a good idea. From perspectives I mention above, and about any other angle I can think of. Parking meters, to me, signify a tired and outdated way for a city to raise money. It's an ancient idea that only punishes people for trying to do business in an otherwise fine municipality, wherever it might be. It's unfair (as in my case today). It's stupid. And it should be unconstitutional. We pay enough taxes in this country without having to be doubly taxed in the cities where we live in this ridiculous way.

I think I'll send a copy of this to my congressman. Maybe that constitutional amendment will be on next year's ballot.

Monday, November 21, 2005

A Fitting End to Rams' Glory Days

What a perfect way to officially ring out the best era in St. Louis professional football. Kurt Warner, the centerpiece of our most joyful gridiron Sundays, comes back to town with the Cardinals to emphatically destroy all hope for the Rams.

Now the job is to clean house and try to find a bunch of young people to get excited about all over again.

Who should stay in the current organization? Aside from Steven Jackson, Torry Holt, Orlando Pace, Leonard Little and Marc Bulger, maybe nobody. Oh, there are several other good to decent players, there are a few competent coaches. But, none that are inexpendible, IMHO.

Let's start with the off-field staff.

With all the current turmoil, including bitter office politics, behind-the-scenes back stabbing, fighting coaches, veteran players bashing other players anonymously, and other distateful intrigue, if I'm Georgia Frontiere, I seriously consider a total house-cleaning starting with John Shaw and descending from there. After all, Shaw's out-of-town management habits seem to be the "while-the-cat's-away" environment in which all of this mess festered. I seriously wonder, though, if Georgia is at a place in her life where she would consider such a vaporization of the entire front-office. It seems she puts so much faith in the decision-making of Shaw, that it's unlikely she would send him packing too. But, if she wants a true organizational facelift, that's what she needs to consider.

What about the team itself?

If you look closely, it appears there are less than a handful of real "keepers" on this team. Most of the recent drafting has been mediocre to awful, resulting in some young "baggage" that could easily be traded or jetisoned. You'll also see some veterans who have either hit the end of the line...or are getting close. (Faulk, Bruce, Timmerman on offense...Jackson, Coakley, Claiborne on defense) Then you have a slough of people with some experience who you have to think about replacing for various reasons, inluding frequent injuries, and lack of production. Archuleta, Tinoisamoa, Kennedy, Pickett, Lewis, and all people playing tight-end and offensive line other than the starting tackle positions.

Someone who knows how to put together a team would have some cornerstones to work with, but would have to do a good job drafting and teaching young players to get this team back to respectability within the next 3 years. It could be done. But, it has to be done now before the Rams slide even further into the depths of NFL irrelevance. As it stands now, they are a soap opera without any chance for a happy ending.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Hagin Treatment...Shabby?

I've been amused the last few days with newspaper articles and broadcast utterings suggesting that the Cardinals' treatment of Wayne Hagin was...let's see, the terms I've heard are...shabby, classless, shoddy and sleazy. Well, let's examine this situation from both sides as best we can.

To be sure, noone would want to be put in Mr. Hagin's position of being told that he was secure in his job, and then being let go. There is no arguing that that's a distasteful and devastating sequence of events from his perspective. I'm sure the Cardinals/KTRS wish it could have been handled differently as well. Mark Lamping probably lost more than a few good hours of sleep with a churning stomach over knowing that he was going to have to let a good man go after allowing that man to believe he was secure.

But, don't you also think that Wayne could see a little bit beyond his superficial "security". He had to know that he didn't make any friends in the Cardinals' camp when he got himself embroiled in the Todd Helton steroids controversy earlier this year. He also had to know that the Cardinals are committed to Mike Shannon long term. And, that he was not on Shannon's good side. Don't you think he had more than one feeler out for possible employment elsewhere knowing all this? If not, he should have. I would expect his agent was keeping an eye on other potential employment. If not, he should have been. If Hagin and his agent were "blindsided" by the firing, they shouldn't have been.

It seems to me that those who are writing in the paper, and crowing on the airwaves, about Hagin's treatment as being unfair either have an agenda, or have gotten to know Wayne as a friend and colleague. It's easy to see it from the ostensibly-mistreated employee side when you have an agenda (such as a KTRS competitor, or regular panderer to the working class), or are press-box friends with the affected person. To me, the administration of Mr. Hagin's position is just another chapter in how things are handled in big-money, long-term-contract, hiring and firing situations. It's the business. And business decisions often hurt someone. And, let's face it, when you're talking about the kind of money top-notch broadcasters make, it's significant business. You're not talking about hiring a minimum-wage, beer vendor for the games here.

So, how do the Cardinals/KTRS, Lamping/Dorsey, best handle the situation?

Do you offer Hagin the chance to work for the final season of his contract and hire John Rooney anyway and bring him into the mix? No. Everyone knows that doesn't work. Hopefully I don't need to explain why.

Do you tell Hagin at the time of the announcement of the switch to KTRS that he's going to be replaced? No. Because you don't know for sure about Rooney at that time. And, you have to cover yourself, even though you might be looking at a change.

Do you just keep Hagin with Shannon (even though they don't get along and you have other issues with the quality of the broadcasts)and hope that Rooney, or someone of his caliber, is available after next season? No. Because Rooney is so good that he likely would be snatched up elsewhere. Why would he sit out a season? And as long as you're making changes, you might as well change the broadcast mix too.

Or, do you hire Rooney (who you truly believe will be a cornerstone broadcaster a la Caray, Buck and Shannon), offer to pay Hagin for the last year of his deal, get the Rooney "buzz" going for the first year on KTRS, appease Shannon with a new and likeable partner, and deal with the Hagin fallout that's sure to come? Of course, this is the option that the Cardinals and KTRS chose.

Just about everybody also feels that Wayne Hagin won't be unemployed for very long. Even if he doesn't get a job for next season that's to his liking, he has the option of taking the Cardinals' money and using next season to search for the "right fit". Not a bad fall-back position.

I'd like to hear somebody do a little more than try to disparage the Cardinals for their handling of a messier situation than meets the eye, and explain what they would have done to handle it in a less "shabby" way. I suppose doing nothing, authorizing uninspired broadcasts, and allowing the tense situation between the broadcasters to fester, was that option.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Blues Win...but...

The Blues showed some spunk and determination in beating the Columbus Blue Jackets (not exactly the Canadiens of the 60's) 2-0 last night in Ohio. They got a shutout from Curtis Sanford. They got a goal and an assist from Lee Stempniak, who shows some promise, and ended their 11-game losing streak.

That's step one in getting things going in a different direction. It's hard to imagine they'll come right back and beat Detroit in Michigan Saturday night...but, life is full of little surprises.

No matter what they do on the ice, Blues followers still have the spectre of the unresolved "For Sale" sign hanging on the team. With the Checketts group bowing out of the takeover sweepstakes, there seems to be the growing sentiment that someone interested in re-locating the team may emerge with the cash. Of course, you can't help but be concerned about that if you're one who "bleeds blue". The longer the bidding goes, and the more we hear rumors about out-of-town bids, the harder it will be to muster any excitement for our boys. Not that it's easy now.

What have I heard? Nothing that has meat to it. But, I do know that the Kansas City group is licking it's chops. I have had the opportunity to work for the group that's trying to bring the NHL to KC the last few years. They annually host a pre-season game to impress NHL brass. They hire the off-ice officials and game night staff from St. Louis to help them put on a professional show. Paul McGannon and his NHL21 group have impressed upon me that they are totally serious about getting a team any way they can. If that means ponying up for the Blues, I'm sure they've got the means to do it and have probably made the necessary phone calls.

What's more than a little bit scary at this point is the apparent fact that the league is setting a bottom-line price for the team. They don't want the Lauries to take any ol' bid just to get rid of the team and set a low price for any expansion team the league may offer in the near future. That would mean that the price of the team (supposedly $150 million) is non-negotiable downward. If true...the Lauries could be put in the position of taking the money for the team and dealing with the problem of the Savvis Center lease later. If the team stays in St. Louis, it would, of course, require a package deal. If it doesn't, "Bill and Nancy Inc." could deal with the two products separately. It doesn't take a financial wizard to figure out that it then becomes more likely the team may be on it's way somewhere else.

Also scary is the lack of a public outcry to keep the team here. Back in the early 80's, when the rumors started flying that the team was headed for Saskatoon, there was all kinds of hand wringing and gnashing of teeth. This time, either the hockey faithful don't really believe there's a threat, or there is an overwhelming apathy. I'm not sure. I haven't heard any local bidder saying they are trying to make a deal either.

It's amazing how fortunes of Blues fans have changed so dramatically since the end of the season in April '04. I'm concerned that being a "Blue Bleeder" might soon require having to look at old video tape.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Happy I Was Wrong

Albert Pujols wins the National League MVP award.

I must say that my happiness for A.P. winning is nearly equalled by my surprise that the baseball writers who vote on this award actually got it right. Finally, they looked past a single stat posted by someone else. People who don't see the Cardinals regularly never saw that Albert is a passionate leader for his team. They never saw how he swung at pitches out of the strike zone many times this year because the Cardinals were so banged up that opposing pitchers were frequently attempting to "not give him something to hit".

I'm guessing that some of these people swung a vote Albert's way based on the fact that he was due. He's been in the running for the award every year since his he started playing in the majors. I would think several of these guys thought he should get a vote now that Barry Bonds is "out of the way".

Albert Pujols, hard to believe he's 25 years old and will be in a Cardinal uniform for a long time.

Philly Cheese

Cowboys 21, Eagles 20, in the Monday night game.

Too bad. Terrell Owens is probably gloating somewhere. You can almost hear him even without the cameras and microphones that are constantly in his face. "Yeah...I told you they couldn't win without me. They're back to the old Eagles. Can't win the big one." He's probably having a chat right now with his agent. "Hey, you gotta get me a press conference so I can get back on ESPN and just stand there with a smirk on my face. Or maybe I'll write something on a goal post with a magic marker. Eagles lose without T.O. Yeah, give those ESPN boys a call."

Whether the Cowpokes (who by the way have an owner, Jerry Jones, who said he wouldn't mind having T.O. on his team) or the American birds won last night was really of no consequence to me. I had no dog in the fight...or bet on the line. But, you gotta know that the loss will fuel the fire of those (like Jesse Jackson..Holy Cow is there any situation he won't stick his nose into for publicity?) who think the Eagles are being too tough on their recalcitrant wideout.

There really is no question that, football wise, T.O. makes a team better. He does so many things that can't be defended that any defense is going to be a lot easier to attack with him in the lineup. But, is a team really better in the long run with him on their roster? Of course, the Eagles have learned the answer to that one the hard way. They may have to suffer a few more losses this season than they would have with Owens on the team, but mental health and togetherness will eventually make them better than they would be with all the foolishness around. Too bad they invested so much in the T.O. dream.

I saw a feature on ESPN before last night's game that analyzed the possibilities for Owens for next season. Who would be the team willing to take a risk on him this time? Chris Mortensen, the football analyst, eliminated most every team except the Denver Broncos. I think it was more of an opinion than anything else, but he seems to think Denver coach Mike Shanahan would be willing to give the guy a shot. One can only imagine the kind of antics he would come up with in the Mile High City with even less oxygen getting to that brain on a regular basis.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Weekend Cogitation

--Seems to me the Seahawks big guys were too much for the Rams big guys. Steven Jackson had little room to run all day. (So he did too much dancing and changing direction behind the line trying to find somewhere to run). And the 'Hawks O-Line kept tacklers off of their guys all day too. Especially Chris Claiborne (1 tackle all day by a middle linebacker...come on!) That game looked like it was definitely won in the trenches, and the Rams haven't been very good drafting or acquiring players for the non-skilled positions over the last 5 years.

--I hope I'm wrong, but I'm expecting Andruw Jones to beat out Albert Pujols for the MVP in the NL. The voters won't look deep enough into the stats to figure out how much more valuable Pujols is. They'll just see that Jones led the league in homers. They won't see his pitiful stats with runners in scoring position. And, they will think that a center-fielder is more valuable as a home run hitter than a first- baseman. For all of his great play, Pujols hasn't broken through to the next level as a superstar because he wears the uniform of a team in the Midwest. Sad, and unfair, but true. Like I said, I hope I'm wrong.

--The ownership situation with the Blues doesn't look like it will be settled any time soon. The Checketts group is having second thoughts. ****UPDATE 9:40PM Monday*** (Checketts officially out of the picture) Tony Sansone is apparently trying to keep Checketts in it. A local group, headed by Shawn Hayes, appears to be ready to jump in if allowed. But, even if they get something pulled together soon, it's too late to help the on-ice product for this season. By shrinking the payroll to a level that would be more attractive to a prospective owner, the current managment has succeeded in out-smarting themselves. They didn't figure that the loss of Demitra, Mellanby, Khavanov and Pronger...and the injury to Tkachuck would add up to this kind of disaster. But, it has. Those of us who bleed blue...will just have to BE Blue for this season.

--It looked like it would take forever to knock down the old stadium based on that first couple of feeble doinks produced by the wrecking ball. But, now look at the place. A gaping hole in the southwest quadrant. And it looks like considerable progress has been made. The hole's still not big enough though for Lawrence Phillips to get more than 3 yards.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Not Mickey..Not Andy...John Rooney

I should have seen it coming more than I did.

I knew John Rooney and Tim Dorsey were friends from way back. Both were at KMOX in the early 80's. In fact, I remember being at a KTRS Christmas party at John Carney's house with both Dorsey and Rooney in attendance. There were rumors then that Rooney was coming to work for KTRS. That would have been '97 or '98. I spoke with Rooney that night, (I was acquainted a bit with him from my KMOX days too) and he said to me that he would love to get one of the Cardinals' radio jobs whenever one became available, but was happy in Chicago.

So, it's no surprise that Tim would push for John in this situation. Especially since Rooney wasn't being retained in Chicago. If Cardinals/KTRS didn't strike now, they may have had to miss out on John for the length of another multi-year deal he made somewhere else. I'm sure the Cardinals were ready to shed Hagin too. What with his inability to get along with Shannon. His somewhat stiff approach to the broadcasts. And, of course, his PR debacle with the Todd Helton 'roids comments. I've already heard rumors that Hagin may wind up back in Denver. But, I'd be surprised if the Rockies would want anything to do with him after that mess.

What I do find somewhat interesting is that Rooney would be allowed to walk in Chicago after all those years...and as established as he was there with Ed Farmer. I'd like to know more about why the new flagship station wanted to make a change up there. Could John's less than diminuitive ego have gotten a little too big in the Windy City? Or was it a dollars-and-cents decision?

Aside from all the behind the scenes stuff, I think John will do a teriffic job on the broadcasts here. He is easily one of the most listenable and totally-informed baseball men in the country. He has won numerous awards and been recognized repeatedly as a top-notch guy, particularly on baseball. As someone who's been in and around sports broadcasting for a long time, I can't think of anyone who's any better.

During the introduction press conference today, Rooney said a few things that I harped on in a blog post several weeks ago when critiquing the Rams radio broadcast. He said that he enjoys being the eyes of his listeners. And that he is proud and happy to be on radio where you create "the theater of the mind". Hallelujah!! He gets it. It's an audio only medium. And he understands that the enjoyment level of the listener is totally dependent on including them in as many details of the game, and overall experience, as can be accomplished in the time given. He also showed that he likes to have fun (something Hagin was criticized for) with the broadcast by doing a "dead on" Harry Caray shtick during the press conference.

Even though you always feel badly for someone who loses a job, and it's hard to handle such a changing of the guard with class, I believe Lamping and Dorsey handled this as well as they could and did the right, the perfect thing...for Cardinals fans.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Sad Sack Blues

Everywhere I go, people ask for my opinion on the current state of affairs with our struggling (to put it extremely mildly) St. Louis Blues. Here's my take.

Hurry up and get the damn team in the hands of someone who wants to own it!! The loyal and constantly optimistic fans of the NHL in our city deserve better.

Until the cloud of anticipation and negativity is lifted, we will continue to have to put up with the current roster and it's shortcomings. Not that the current gaggle of skaters isn't trying. They just don't have enough ammo to fight in the current war. It's Custer against the Indians...the Christians against the lions...New Orleans against Katrina. Even with Tkachuck and Weight healthy this group didn't figure to win many games.

I've been working for the team since '87, and there's only one other time when I remember there being as bad a situation as this. It was when Bob Plager tried his hand at coaching at this level. Everybody loves Bob, including me, but he would be the first to tell you that he was in over his head. And the team showed it. When he was replaced, the team came back to respectability.

Right now, there is very little hope for respectability this season. The ownership situation getting straightened out will at least give us an idea of whether or not the team will:
a) Stay in town
b) Have enough money behind it to be solid and competitive
c) Maintain the current leadership structure (President, GM, scouts, coach etc.)
d) Make a serious commitment to winning The Cup
e) Have solid hockey people calling the shots
Until some of these questions are answered, the players will reflect the general malaise that hangs around the hallways and offices at the Savvis Center.

The current roster of players just won't be able to win many games. All of us who love hockey in St. Louis will just have to get used to that and enjoy hockey in '05-'06 for hockey's sake. At least it will be fun to see Detroit and Nashville a few more times this year. They are among the cream-of-the-crop teams in the world right now.

"Hang in there" is the motto for Blues fans this year. I know, it always has been.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

T.O. Follow-Up

Stand your ground Eagles! Stand your ground!

Did anyone get the feeling...really...that there was any sort of contrition or genuine remorse in the words puked out by Terrell Owens at his press conference yeterday? Anyone? I didn't think so.

Just a bunch of words typed up by his smarmy agent Drew Rosenhaus. Then Rosenhaus gets up and pretty much destroys any possibility that fans would side with Owens by citing how unfairly T.O. has been treated by the media and everyone else. Waaah-Waaah! Puh-leeeease! Give me a frickin' break.

What was apparent to me was that these guys are finally realizing that their little game of "We have the sports world by the short hairs" is over. And this case the putting a stop to it. They were trying to maneuver a way back to regular pay. (In T.O.'s case about a quarter of a million dollars per game)

One quote from Owens in yesterday's media opportunity is particularly laughable.

"I fight for what I think is right. In doing so, I alienated a lot of my fans and my teammates".

This quote goes right to the heart of what is wrong with this guy. In the space of two short sentences, in which he is supposedly apologizing, he uses the word "I" three times, and "my" twice. Again, it's all about "me and my world". Not anything else. He believes they are his fans, and his teammates, and they are operating on his time and his turf.

Could he have made a better impression by saying it this way? "As a fighter, sometimes one makes mistakes. These mistakes have obviously alienated football fans and fellow members of the Eagles team. This behavior has been destructive and is unacceptable. I want to be a better person and teammate. I intend to change."

I'm not sure that even had he said it this way, his body language and general attitude could have carried it off. He smirks and snears at the world. And characterizing himself as a fighter is even more off-base. His enormous athletic ability has gotten him a free ride through life. He hasn't had to fight for anything, including the spotlight which he so desperately craves. Fight? For what? I don't see where he and his agent could believe even someone as dillusional as they are would swallow that one.

And having the agent that everyone loves to hate get up and try to make things better just made things worse. These two guys are a team that personifies what big-name, big-money, big-ego sports stars and their agents should strive NOT to be. They are so detatched from reality that they actually believe they are part of the big picture. In reality, if both of them died tomorrow, few outside their immediate family would shed a tear.

I'm sure there are some who hope that T.O. gets reinstated. I'm sure there are some who hope he catches a touchdown pass to give the Eagles their much sought after Super Bowl win. But, outside of Philadelphia, I believe there are many more who would like to see this fellow squirm in his own venom for a long while, and not be paid to be the boorish, childish, and selfish icon who shows kids how to spit in the face of convention.

This whole saga has now become a media trial about what's right and wrong. What's acceptable and unacceptable. What you can, and cannot, get away with before enough is enough. Let the lawyers fight it out now. And let T.O. eat his lunch backstage.

Stand your ground Eagles! Stand your ground!

Monday, November 07, 2005

T.O. Needs Personality Enema

I'm sure he doesn't believe it, but Terrell Owens is in danger of talking his way out of a football livelihood. And for an athlete as enormously talented as he is, that's just a damn shame. How frustrating must this situation be for Philadelphia football fans? All that talent, so little success.

At this point, the only team in the NFL you could envision putting up with his poisonous, cancerous, putrid, cataclysmic, pestiferous (insert your favorite adjective here) personality is the Oakland Raiders. One insider with that team has said "We're doing our best to get rid of troublemakers. Why would we want him?" And, Raiders owner Al Davis doesn't have enough cap room to take on the Owens contract anyway. Besides, Randy Moss, thought by most to be as talented, only caught one pass in yesterday's loss to KC. They're having trouble getting the ball to whoever plays wide receiver.

Noone, at this point, seems capable of getting through to this numbskull Owens that he is his own worst enemy. I'm sure his agent (the almost equally obnoxious Drew Rosenhaus) has tried to impress upon him that he may be killing the Golden Goose. Certainly he knows the press will always give him enough rope to hang himself. And he proceeds to do it with regularity anyway. As talented as he is physically, that's how thick-headed he seems to be when it comes to the stuff that comes out of his mouth in front of cameras and microphones. He is more than willing to go out of his way to say anything that might ensure that he is the center of the sports universe. And he does it with total disregard of how those words might affect his standing with his teammates, coaches, team ownership, and fans. His total lack of ability in that regard is as laughable as his athleticism is admirable.

The fact that I am writing about a wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles is evidence enough that the guy is a fascinating case study. He is one of those people that you just can't help but be interested in. You wish you had a small percentage of his physical ability, but you wouldn't want to actually be him for all the tea in China. I've often wished I could dunk a basketball, but I wouldn't want to at the cost of everyone else in the world hating me.

One must wonder just what kind of true mindset a man such as this actually has. I'm sure a psychologist would have a field day. Does he really believe all the stuff he says? Or is he trying to convince himself that he's "the greatest" by saying stuff that he wishes were true? Does he hurt those around him to make himself feel more powerful and influential? Is he compensating for some other shortcomings in his life? Is he putting on an act? If so, can he stop it? Does he really care more about himself, and his place in the sports world's salary structure, than everything else? Like football and winning.

Terrell Owens sure appears to be the quintessential "me first" athlete. He's taking it to the level of becoming a caricature of himself. The "Leon" Bud Light commercials couldn't even live up to his level of self-aggrandizement and greed. I guess that's why we don't see them any more.

It appears that Owens may have to take up professional wrestling soon to actually make a living with all that physical prowess. But I doubt, even then, that he could be trusted by his fellow wrestlers to "act out the script".

Where will it end? Ask T.O. I'm sure he believes he has the answer.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Bad Sign(age)

--I fully admit up front that this post is prompted by an editorial in today's Belleville News-Democrat. Rarely do I find something that makes me jump up and say "I've been thinking the same thing", but today's writing was different.

The editorial--"While We Wait for a New Bridge" could not have been more right on. It speaks to the poorly thought out and ineffective signage on the Poplar Street Bridge...officially the Bernard F. Dickman Bridge...spanning the Mississippi by the Arch. This overused mess of a thoroughfare is the primary access for Illinoisans to Missouri...and Missourians to Southern Illinois. And folks from everywhere travel 3 major interstate highways across the water there too.

While a group of esteemed leaders from both states engage in a pissing contest over funding of a new bridge, the Poplar Street is congested and confusing. One of these days there will be a deadly accident that will call attention to just how confusing it is...particularly for out-of-towners. I'm sure, if you use the Poplar on a regular basis, you've been involved in the mad, lane-changing scramble that occurs as soon as all the entrance ramps from Illinois converge into the five, side-by-side lanes that carry all of the traffic across the river. That scramble would be lessened considerably if drivers knew what lane would be most appropriate for them to be in before they reached the bridge.

Often, a driver will not know what lane gets him to where he's going until he's actually on the bridge deck and a short way from an exit ramp. Then, after seeing the sign he's looking for, he has to slam on the brakes...or at least slow down an effort to cross a couple of lanes of traffic to get to the appropriate lane. I don't cross the bridge every day, but I still have been in enough "near miss" situations to consider myself lucky not to have had a major accident on the freakin' thing. And that's mostly because you can see other drivers losing their cool when they realize they have a lot of lane changing to do in a short amount of space. It's hard to believe that they (IDOT, MODOT or both) couldn't come up with a better plan for signs.

And that exit ramp that carries 55/44 off the bridge on the Missouri side is an absolute joke. How some engineer thought that the volume of traffic that goes down that ramp could be adequately handled by a single-lane, 90-degree turn at the end of the bridge on the Missouri side is beyond me. You would think a first-grader could have come up with a better idea.

Kinda makes you wonder how effective a new bridge would be if similar engineering expertise will be put into that planning. And we've already downgraded the budget for that project to less than half of the original plan. Should be interesting.

In the meantime, somebody fix the current Poplar Street mess before some foggy morning when a tangle of cars and trucks winds up in the river.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Martz Madness

There have been strange situations arise in St. Louis sports before, but the Mike Martz soap opera takes the proverbial cake...and eats it too.

Let's see...our little Midwestern super-drama includes:

--Office politics of a pro sports team (Shaw, Zygmunt, Martz, Armey, Frontiere, and staffs of all of the above)
--Strong personalities butting heads (see above)
--Physical ailments of the lead characters (Martz' heart, Vitt's heart, players injuries)
--Rich people (All of the lead characters are rich by most common-man standards)
--Clashing media personalities (pro-Martz vs.anti-Martz, Slaten vs. Savard, Hadley vs. about everybody)

Add in a little sex and gunplay and we'd really have one for Hollywood. Who knows, those things may happen too before this little tale is finished being told. If this melodrama were playing out in New York or Los Angeles (where the Rams came from) I'm sure somebody would be writing a screenplay least for a TV movie.

What's really strange here is that Martz, because of his heart ailment, is not even around the office intrigue anymore. He's practically incapable of doing, or saying, anything else that will lessen his image, or give management more of a reason to send him packing. He can't be a lousy coach for the rest of the season either. Not that he's been a lousy coach...just one of questionable judgment from time to time.
Everybody's writing him off as the Rams coach, but he can't go out an make a bonehead move on the field to open the door to his firing, at least not for the rest of this season.

Personally, I never bought into Martz being a head coach. I liked his play calling when he was in the press box as a coordinator. But, he never quite seemed to grasp the idea that he was in charge of the whole shlameel. The rest of the team was left to the other coaches...he was going to focus on his pride-and-joy offense. That, to me, seemed like an Army general saying he was going to command the artillery...and telling his colonels to worry about everything else. The troops always know where the big guy's heart is. And if they know he doesn't care about them, then they won't care about him, or his success. Consequently, the Rams have been a slip-shod defensive and special teams operation ever since Vermiel did his retirement/un-retirement thing after the Super Bowl championship.

But, back to "As the Rams Squirm". I hope Joe Vitt continues to do well and forces the front office to hand him the job without the "interim" tag. He seems like a good coach, and down-to-earth person. I could get excited about the scenario where the underdog coach with, the heretofore unrecognized, head coaching ability takes over and takes charge and leads them to the playoffs. That would be the coaching version of "The Kurt Warner Story". Then Martz could be handed his hat after the season and allowed to take his career to a market where his "I'm smarter than you" personality will have more of a chance at success. We don't cotton to those left coast, smarty-pants guys here in Archville.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

How Appropriate

--The Cardinals lose to the Astros and their season ends.
--The last game is played in Busch Stadium.
--It's rainy, cool and generally dreary today in St. Louis.

I was at Busch for the first baseball game in 1966.
I was at Busch for at least one game of each of the World Series' the Cardinals played there.
I was at Busch for the last Cardinal football game played there.
I broadcast high school football games there..
I did the p.a. announcing for one baseball game...(USA vs. Japan Olympic teams in 1992...I think)
I couldn't be at Busch for the last baseball game due to my duty at Blues hockey last night...but I was pretty close. (My last game was game one of the San Diego NLDS. Reggie Sanders grand slam. Cards win 7-5)

The old stadium being knocked down will be almost as emotional for me as the day I watched them blow up the old Arena. At least they'll do this one little by little and not all at once like the "Old Barn".

Isn't it strange how concrete, metal and various other building materials take on a personality when they are configured into a sports venue. They absorb and hold as many memories as we can muster just like a photo album. Then when the building goes away, we lose the context for those memories. Of course, the memories are still there...but a little more difficult to put in their place.

Good Bye old friend. We'll miss you.

It's a dreary day in St. Louis.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Music--Today vs.Yesterday

God...I can't believe I'm going to write what I'm about to write. It's going to make me sound exactly like my dad...and his dad...and his dad. But here I go anyway.

"You call that music? How in the world can you listen to that stuff? It's just a bunch of unintelligible noise"

It was said about the music of Scott Joplin, Benny Goodman, Bill Haley, Elvis, The Beatles, The Stones, Run DMC, and so on. Pick your era. I can almost still hear those words coming out of my dad's mouth...and Grandpa's. Isn't that how it goes? Today's music sounds like crap to most people over the age of 35. And so they complain about it and yearn for the "good ol' days" when music was music. I guess I might as well make my case and get it over with.

I'm thinking that what I'm looking for in music must just be different than what others (especially those significantly younger than me)look for. I'm looking for a melding of beat, melody and lyrics that tells a poetic story while pleasing your ear musically. It seems to me that most, not all, but most of today's hit music is going for "the hook"...a beat, melody and tag-line type lyric that is memorable..not a good poem or story set to music. Having a vocalist seems to be silly because you usually can't understand a thing that's being said/sung anyway.

Especially in Rock, Top 40, Rap and Hip Hop..(I'm not even sure of all the categories any more) tend to get mostly a beat, or a musical nuance that is memorable. Lyrics are far from the most important thing. In soft-rock and country you tend to get more of a poetic approach where the lyrics meld with the melody better...but it still seems to be more about what notes the performer can hit...or what kind of cutesy guitar riff...or synthesizer riff...can be dropped in to sell the song. The interpretation of the story...or lyrics...seems to have little, or no value. I'm obviously over-generalizing here, but it seems to me to be the way it is.

I heard an example of the singing aspect of this on the radio today. The remake of "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" George Michael (live) with a guest shot from original performer Elton John. The instrumental part is a pretty true-to-the-original cover. Michael's performance, though, was all about stretching out the voice...doing little scale runs and variations on the original melody to call attention to his singing ability. He seemed disconnected from the lyrics. When Elton John came in halfway through the suddenly became about performing THE MATERIAL...not calling attention to himself. John's inflections and intonations were for the purpose of telling the story behind the lyrics. I could cite many more examples of this phenomenon, but this song,with the different generations performing, seemed to exhibit my thoughts well. Listen for what I'm talking about next time you hear it.

I guess that's my bottom line problem with most of today's performers. It seems to be all about ME and my cleverness....not the melody...the material...the story...the communication between performer and audience. I know the bottom "What will sell?" But, it seems there should be enough garage studios around that you could get some sincerity out of somone once in a while. Josh Groban can't be the only young person in the world with a great voice and a desire to communicate musically to someone other than kids can he? I'm sure, because of my age, I'm out of touch.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Back to the Rink

It was strange and surreal.
It was uncomfortable, but fun.
It was the return of hockey last night at Savvis Center.

I've been doing the Blues public address announcing since 1987. And last night's first pre-season game against Nashville was one of the more unusual nights of all of the 900 or so games that I've been around.

It was the new game, and the old game.
It was new people, and it was the usual people.

I had to work hard at remembering the policies and procedures that govern my job and the presentation at Savvis. Nothing was fresh in my mind, and nothing was easy. In a lot of ways it seemed like my first night on the job back in '87 except I was re-learning most things while learning some new things. After all, it's been a year-and-a-half since anyone was involved with an NHL game at Savvis. Many of the same people were around to run the show...but at the same time there were enough new and different people involved...and a few of the old guard make for a "first day of school" type feeling.

The hockey itself? I think it will take some getting used to. When all is said and done, I think most people will enjoy the changes made to the game. Especially the shootout that ensures that no game will end in a tie. A lot of the hockey purists are dead-set against this addition to the game. And, I understand why. It's like the soccer shootout. You play a team game for a couple of hours...then the outcome is decided by a series of man-to-man challenges. Not perfect by any means. But, professional sports is a form of entertainment. And there's certainly not been enough entertainment value in hockey over the past several seasons.

When I announced, after the regulation game was over, that there would be a shootout to demonstrate to the fans how it would work during the regular season, many of the fans who were headed for the exits returned to their seats. As a demo, last night's shootout was perfect. The score of the shootout was tied after the first three shooters from each team took their shots. Then it goes to a "sudden death" shootout. Each team sends out another shooter. The first time one team scores, and the other doesn't, the game is over. Nashville missed their first shot, the Blues didn't. So, it was a great practice run.

The Blues have sold just over 10-thousand season tickets. That's down from around 14-thousand. I'm thinking, before next season rolls around, that the new rules, and the excitement that they bring to the game, will bring enough fans back to hockey to replace the missing season ticket holders, and then some.

It was weird.
But it was wonderful to be back at the rink.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Slaten The PR Machine

By now, you've probably heard about yesterday's "dust up" between Kevin Slaten and Steve Savard at the Martz press conference at Ram's Park. I have to laugh. Before Monday was over, Slaten was calling for the Rams, and Channel 4, to fire Savard, and Savard was calling for a boxing match at Guns 'n Hoses.

As I said yesterday, I don't really know Steve Savard. But I do know, and despite his checkered past, like Kevin Slaten. I've worked with him at KTRS and found him to be a fun person to be around. Oh, Kevin likes for people to agree with him, but generally I had no problem with Kevin as a co-worker.

My slant on yesterday's fracas? Kevin is being Kevin. But he is also no dummy. He, I believe, is doing his job by generating publicity for himself as he has done many times in the past. To be sure, some of his past exposure has been negative. We all know about his Steamers p.a. debacle and some of his public, domestic problems. But, I think Kevin realizes that to command the big bucks in any market, you have to be in the spotlight. And he goes to unusual lengths to be noticed, and get his name in the paper. Dan Caesar cooperated nicely in this morning's Post-Dispatch.

Yesterday's tensions started out with Kevin, unusually, showing up at the Martz press conference to ask "tough questions" which, he claims isn't done often enough by other members of the St. Louis media. Apparently it escalated when Savard sniped at Slaten about never showing up at these events before. Savard, used to being the top rooster around Rams park, apparently couldn't stand another rooster being in the coop.

Not many of us would find a way to get into an "almost fight" with a guy who is obviously as big and in shape as Savard. But, I believe Kevin's mindset at this thing was to get himself some attention. And, if it means having to sling insults back and forth with Savard, so be it.

What's interesting to me is that Kevin Slaten is not really a candidate for a boxing match...or, for that matter, any other type of physical contest. Besides recently having shoulder surgery, Kevin is not as young a man as he would have you believe. Notice, when he's on the air, that Kevin always deflects or dodges questions that come up about his age...or anything that might indicate how long he's been in broadcasting. Many will remember, like me, that Kevin was doing TV sports at Channel 4 back in the mid-70's. You do the math, Kevin Slaten is at least as old as me...and I'll be 55 in December.

I wonder if Steve Savard knows that he's challenging a man to a boxing match that's been eligible for his AARP card for several years. Would it solve anything if the ex-NFL player who is maybe 42?, beat up on a guy who might be pushing 60?...even if it were for the benefit of Backstoppers. I don't think so.

Savard said last night on KTRS that he would continue to conduct himself with class. Well that's admirable. But I've always been of the opinion that if you have to say you're conducting yourself with class, you don't really have the right idea of how it's done. That's for someone else to say, not you. He would have been better off, in my opinion, to tell Randy Karraker, Jack Snow and John Hadley...who were doing the show on let it go, and not comment at all on the Slaten deal.

Anyway, both guys should take a deep breath. But my belief is that Kevin is getting what he set out for, more attention for himself and his radio show.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Radio Sports Announcing 101

As a young radio broadcaster, aspiring to do sports play-by-play for a living, I was taught a valuable lesson once that I would like to share with anyone who is of a mind to listen. The actual instruction will come at the bottom of this post. In the meantime let me explain what got me thinking.

My wife and I, and our oldest son, spent the weekend in Chicago visiting my youngest son who attends DePaul University. While there, we did a lot of shopping, eating at restaurants, and looking around. We even spent some time in the Wrigley Field area at the conclusion of Saturday's Cardinals-Cubs game. What an interesting synergy when St. Louis and Chicago fans stuff themselves into a small area. We spent about a half-hour at the Cubby Bear to "drink in" the post-game hijinks of the Cards/Cubs rivarly on the day the Redbirds clinched the division. Lots of fun.

But I digress. We headed back for St. Louis mid-afternoon Sunday. After clearing the Windy City suburbs and post-Bears/Lions traffic, I decided to try to pick up the Rams/Cardinals game on KTRS. Just south of Joliet, we were a good 260 miles from St. Louis, and the 550am signal came booming in. So, I was able to listen to almost the entire broadcast by Steve Savard and Jack Snow as we headed south on I-55. For the most part, a decent call of the game. But I was frustrated at times by the effort that I had to put into it.

What do I mean by that? Steve Savard seems like a nice man. But he exhibits a play-by-play style that many younger broadcasters, especially those who are also TV sports anchors, have. They do radio play-by-play as if it were a television broadcast. I mean, they describe the action as though the listener can also SEE the game. This is an understandable habit as we all are video animals these days. When you see highlights, or play-by-play on television, there is no need for the announcer to do a good radio play-by-play description. Such as:

-The weather.
-The color of the uniforms.
-The direction the team with the ball is going.
-To what side of the playing field the ball is thrown.
-The type of formation the offense displays.
-The size of the crowd.
You get the idea... All of the things the listener CAN NOT SEE FOR HIMSELF!

Often, this manifests itself with the announcer saying things like:

In baseball-- "That one's hit deep to left field" That what? Was it a pitch down the middle? Was it a curve ball? Is it a line drive? Is it a high fly or a beach ball?

In football: Out of nowhere--"There's a pass to the sideline" Where were they on the field? What down is it? How many yards for a first down? What formation were they in? What's the defense doing? Who are the wide receivers? How many are there? Which sideline? etc. etc.

I could go on and on. But the announcer operates under the assumption that his audience sees what he is seeing.

This is the area where Mr. Savard's technique...and that of many of his current colleagues... falls short in my book. It's a common problem among the current generation of broadcasters who have grown up with video. Back when some of us "old dudes" were learning the business, very few games were actually on television. The occasional baseball "Game of the Week" was televised. NFL games were not nearly as plentiful. ESPN, and the constant stream of video highlights, was way off in the future. So, the radio broadcast was our primary exposure to sports. The current crop of guys has grown up with the mindset that every piece of audio is an accompaniment to some video. But, as with the Rams-Cardinals game that I was tuned to yesterday, that's certainly not true. I was begging for someone to "put me at the scene".

The end of the game was a perfect example. Kurt Warner marched the Cardinals down the field on a drive for the potential winning touchdown. But I couldn't visualize whether the sun was at his back, or in his eyes, or for that matter if the sun was even a factor (many times it is at Sun Devil Stadium). He threw several passes where receivers were tackled inbounds, which kept the clock running. But I didn't know if the passes were inentionally thrown over the middle, or if they were thrown to the sideline and the receiver couldn't get out of bounds. There were times when the ball was thrown to the sideline..but I didn't know who the intended receiver was...or which sideline it was. Long pass? Short pass? Swing pass? Didn't know. On the play where Adam Archuleta of the Rams sacked Warner to essentially end the game, unless I missed it, there was no mention of whether Archie (I'm not much on nicknames either)came through the line to make the play...or from one of the sides. I'm talking about basic description of the action.

The lesson I learned about this early in my career was simply this--On radio, you describe the action as if everyone in your audience is blind, and has never seen anything, let alone a sports event.

To be an effective radio play-by-play person, describe everything you see in detail because the audience members, sightless or not, don't see what you're seeing. This lesson came to me not from Jack Buck, or Dan Kelly, or any of the broadcasters that I've been fortunate to be around. It came from a listener in O'Fallon, Illinois who used to catch my descriptions of high school and college games on the old WIBV. He had heard some of my poorly-worded efforts and decided to call me with some advice. He was blind.

His critiques made me realize that in order to be effective for everyone, a play-by-play radio broadcast must be geared to basic description for the benefit of every potential listener. Less analysis...more descriptive phrases...more atmosphere...more scores...more setting up the play...more situational description.. and attempts to involve the listener in the actual experience. It may seem elementary at times, but it's not about you being's about the listener being there.

It was a powerful lesson from a man who had no broadcast training...but was the perfect professor. Since then I always tried to become "the eyes" of my listener. Many of today's broadcasters could benefit from my sightless friend's advice. Paint a vivid picture. Radio is a medium for great storytellers.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Opportunity vs. Entitlement

The Hurricane Katrina situation has forced many of us to come to grips with the daily disaster of the poor, and their plight in this country. I include myself as someone who hasn't fully understood the scope of the problem. What's ordinarily out of out of the old saying goes. We generally aren't concerned with how the extremely poor in this country live from one day to the next. So, we don't have to be terribly concerned.

Being a part of the cycle of futility that exists below the poverty line is not a happy place to be. But, try as we might to help, some of the poor seem hell-bent on a pathetic existence. As Dickens so skillfully demonstrated in "A Christmas Carol", the poor will always be among us, and leaving their fate in their own hands, which was Scrooge's answer, is also not a solution. At the same time, their own spirit and self-determination must be at the source of anything that approaches a solution. The welfare system, which is a comfortable and compassionate approach to some in government, also robs our poor of the self-esteem needed to achieve and strive for a better life.

That brings me back to the hurricane. What is really disheartening, is the mindset that many of the affected people of New Orleans have displayed. We have seen, through their lack of action and comments to news cameras, individuals and families who have the expectation that someone else is in charge of their lives. They have submitted to futility. They assume no obligation to care for themselves, their families, or the places they live. They wait for someone to tell them where to go, what to do, and where their next meal is coming from. There can be no question that this attitude is a result of the welfare state, the way of life of the poor in this country for many years. The futility that is borne of being on the public dole has been exposed as the real human tragedy of this incredible natural disaster.

So how do our poor go from being those who simply exist on the leftovers of society to self-sufficient, self-sustaining and confident contributors to a better life for themselves and those around them? When and how do they discontinue the expectation of a better life based on what someone else allows them, to assuming the responsibility for their own future? I don't have the answers. But, it is obvious that these are questions that will need to be addressed in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath. The welfare system, as we know it, doesn't appear to cut the mustard.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Rams Observations

--Haven't we seen way too many games that had the same script as the Rams' loss to the 49ers today? The whole game had the feeling of an I Love Lucy re-run. The only thing missing was "Meata-Vita-Vegamin". The players change...somewhat...but the producer and script remains the same. It was all so damn predictable.

--Rams player makes stupid play on opening kick-off putting team deep in the hole.
--Rams seem to have too much offensive fire-power for the other team..they march the ball down the field giving us the feeling that they will destroy the opposition. But wait, they can't seem to get the ball into the end zone. Wilkins kicks a field goal.
--Rams seem to...(uh, just re-read the previous paragraph)
--Rams march ball down field...except for a couple of minutes of commercials when they have had to call a time out for some inexplicable reason.
--Rams defense looks all right're kidding me...the other team throws a long bomb and connects. Oh well...we're behind but we're still a better team.
--Rams play on even terms for a while with the opposition...(which seems to be vulnerable). Then, uh oh, the other team runs back a punt for a long touchdown. Oh well, we'll still be OK it's not out of reach yet.
--Rams struggle running the ball back after the touchdown again. Now I'm getting frustrated.
--Rams fall behind by a couple of touchdowns by halftime.
--After the bathroom and refreshment break...
--The re-freshed opposition takes the opening kick-off and runs it down the Rams throats for another score. Now we have to go into panic mode...shoot!
--Rams seem to have re-grouped a bit...They're moving the ball better now...but we need to score at least three times.
--Rams score a touchdown...Let's see we're going to need a two-point conversion...OK...let's surprize them even though we have three wide-receivers that nobody can cover...we'll try to run the ball up the middle behind our offensive line that hasn't been able to block anybody all day...yeah, that'll surprize 'em. Nope. good. Now we're going to have to score at least a couple more times.
--Rams manage to get the ball back late...still needing a touchdown and a field goal. Coach pulls a neat play out of the hat to baffle the opposition and score a touchdown. Where's that play been all day? Now we need to stop the opposition to get the ball back and drive for the tying field goal or winning touchdown.
--Hey..Rams stop the opposition on three downs. They punt and we get the ball back. OK we're in business now. Remember, we're playing a much inferior team.
--Rams begin last-minute, desperation drive. We are in field goal range. Jeff Wilkins hasn't missed all day.
--DOH!!! We throw and interception trying to move in closer...DOH..S%##! F#@#!..Son of a $%&*!!.

If you're a Rams could have written this whole thing for me.

For the most part, Rams football under Mike Martz has been winning football. But, for me, it's also been totally frustrating football. It more often than not seems the Rams have the better talent on the field but manage, in numerous ways, to shoot themselves in the collective foot. Some games they are able to overcome their self-inflicted wounds, others not. If the fault of that isn't poor coaching, what is it? Martz seems to always have a reasonable, if not very good, offensive team. But, rarely do we see anything to get excited about in any other phase of the game. I hate to say it, but you have to go back to the pre-Martz days and the Super Bowl team of '99 to find a team that was good in more than just offense.

Someone in the ownership/management structure of the Rams surely knows this...don't they?

Friday, September 09, 2005

Katrina Thoughts--10 Days Later

Well, it's been over a week since I posted. I've taken a little vacation time...and been very busy...but it's time to get back to it.

A week ago I paid $3.19 a gallon. Most places are at just under $3 right now. I guess not filling up last week turned out to be a good idea. Even though I had to fill up a couple of times since. I'm guessing the gas will come down another quarter or so as the summer travel season is over. But, we won't be seeing anything under $2.50 any more...just my prediction. Once they break a certain "psychological barrier" with the consumer, you rarely see them retreat very far. Competition doesn't seem to be much of a factor at this point.

Here I go again being unsympathetic. My wife asked me some good questions yesterday..."If our house were flooded out, or burned up, or blown away by a tornado, would the government feed us, clothe us, and give us a place to live until we were able to make it on our own again? Is the government responsible for everyone affected by some kind of natural disaster?" Interesting queries aren't they?

Got me to thinking...What is the difference between me and a tornado...and the Gulf Coast people and their hurricane? Where do you draw the line? Do we, as taxpayers, take responsibility for them and not for someone else equally devastated? Is the government acting as a big insurance company in this case? Is it just the amount of devastation that separates this natural disaster from others? This storm is costing taxpayers many billions of dollars...and it doesn't matter where the taxpayer lives. A smaller storm here in the midwest could devastate a smaller area...but not receive anywhere near the attention or response from any level of government. Maybe someone can explain to me how this works?

Other questions...If some of the Katrina survivors had their homes blown away and then they go back and rebuild on the same spot, should they feel bad about being turned down for insurance in the future? Will they have to sign something that says the government is not responsible for what happens to them financially if they do rebuild? Looks like they will have some serious economic issues to ponder before they can reclaim anything that resembles their old life.

Regarding New Orleans...My suggestion would be to salvage the French Quarter as an entertainment district...and try to rebuild and reopen whatever historic and cultural aspects of New Orleans you reasonably can. For instance, you could reasonably open a college campus like Tulane...most of the kids aren't permanent residents anyway. But, I would not rebuild most of the business and residential areas in the low-lying areas destined to have the same thing happen all over again. It might be 10 years, it might be 100 years, it might be 500 years before another storm like Katrina comes along. But, I believe it's irresponsible to put that many people and buildings right back in harm's way, unless your damn sure the area is safe from a repeat performance. Make a giant park or wildlife area out of it...someplace where thousands of humans won't have to, or be able to hide from another giant hurricane.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

More Katrina

Everybody's talking about I thought I would too.

--I just paid $3.19 a gallon to fill up at the local quick stop. Actually I didn't fill up, I just stopped at $30 worth. I guess I'm hoping that in a week it might go back down to under $3. Probably not..but I thought it was worth the gamble. If all of this causes us to think more about how much gas we're burning, and how we're burning it, maybe there will be a silver lining to the high gas prices.

--I saw President Bush--along with George H.W.(#41) and Bill(#42)--on TV this afternoon explaining all of the steps that are being taken to ease the restrictions on the movement of gasoline. I hope it helps. I would think the environment can stand a few months of extra pollutants until we get back to something like normal. And, I don't mind that we use a Canadian, Brazilian, or Japanese ship to move some gasoline from one American port to another. Normally, only US owned ships are allowed to do that. I don't know how that got started, but I'm guessing it was something that a union (Longshoremen?), and shipping industry moguls lobbied through Congress.

--I understand that when you're hungry, and maybe thirsty, and have not had a decent place to sleep, or go to the bathroom, for a few days that you start to get more than a little testy. But, I have to go back to what I said a few days ago. All of the people in New Orleans were ORDERED to leave. Not asked. Not expected. ORDERED! Some of the people who stayed despite the order (elderly, sick, without transport) I can sympathize with. But, most of them have no right to be all ticked off or violent because someone isn't coming to their rescue in a timely fashion. I don't mean to sound unsympathetic, but they broke the law by staying behind. And, how could you not be scared out of there by the prospect of a category 5 hurricane? I would have been halfway to Canada by the time the thing got there.

The National Guard, and anyone else who will be coming in there to help, needs to have a clearly defined strategy and approach. They don't need to be rushing in there one vehicle at a time and be taken over by a mob of people who want to be the first ones out. And clearly, the people who are still in there have a mob mentality. When there is no sense of order, mob rules apply. So, the rescuers have to think about their own safety first, then go in, en masse, to provide the help that's needed. In this case, faster is not necessarily better.

--Make no mistake...we all will be paying for Katrina, in one form or another, for a long time.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Where Would You Rather Be?

Just about wherever one lives in the United States, one runs the risk of being the victim of a natural disaster. Though it's hard to imagine the total devastation of such a large area like we're seeing in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.

In the Midwest we have our occasional floods, tornadoes, and the New Madrid fault could produce the big earthquake at any time.

The West has it's wildfires, earthquakes and other seismic events.

The East and Gulf coasts have hurricanes and several other possibilities.

The North has tornadoes, floods and blizzards.

The Southwest has it's droughts, fires and severe heat.

I'm not sure where it's safest to live in our country, but I guess I'll take my chances here in the Midwest. We don't seem to have the extremes of the other places.
Although, we've been close to a couple of tornadoes over the years and it doesn't get much more frightening than that.

Even with all of these disastrous possiblities, would you rather live in any other country? Yes, that's a rhetorical question. I think I know your answer. When's the last time you heard of people flocking to get into any other country in the world?

They're breaking down the doors to get into Denmark? Nope.
They're closing the borders to South Africa? Not a chance.
They are not allowing new immigrants in Russia? Right.
They're fighting to get into Brazil? Give me a break.

With all of our problems...not just the weather...our good ol' America is still where people find the greatest possibility of living out their dream.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Katrina Questions

What a terrible storm. But we have to be thankful that it took that little turn to the East before coming ashore. Otherwise, they say we could be looking at death and devastation on the order of the Asian tsunami. I heard one New Orleans official say if the city would have taken a direct hit they wouldn't have had enough body bags.

Here are the questions I have in the aftermath.

--Will those that are being rescued from their roofs in New Orleans be charged with a crime? There was a mandatory evacuation order that they obviously chose to ignore. Now, tax money has to be spent, and the lives of rescuers are at risk, because these people chose to "ride it out".

--Will insurance companies be allowed to just quit selling insurance in hurricane affected areas? Some have already pulled out of Florida.

--If companies can sell only where they want to, will they be forced to lower their rates in the areas they do sell? I bet not.

--I actually read this morning that people are complaining about the conditions in the Super Dome. When does someone wake up and realize that they are lucky to be alive..or that someone else is taking care of them, not vice versa?

--Will the Saints have a place to play football? Their first home game in the Super Dome is scheduled for Sunday, September 18th. They've got a little over two weeks to get the place in shape...and make sure people can get to it without a boat.

--Will gas prices go up because of market pressure...or will the oil companies just have a good excuse for gouging?

--Where did Forrest Gump's shrimp boat wind up?