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.