Friday, March 31, 2006

The Best Part of the Lost Season

-After tonight, there will be ten games remaining in the 2005-06 schedule of our St. Louis Blues...5 home, 5 away. There is only one thing remaining on the schedule that provides any sort of excitement for fans of The Note. On Sunday, April 9th the Blues will have pre-game ceremonies to retire the number, and honor as they should, one of the classiest gents to ever put on a Blues sweater... Al MacInnis.

I wish I could have gotten to know "Chopper", as his teammates called him, a little better during the years he played here in St. Louis. We would exchange a few pleasantries from time to time on the occasions he found himself in the penalty box, from where I do my p.a. announcing. But, for the most part, I'm like many other fans who know him through the media and the way he has conducted himself on, and off, the ice. He has been a remarkable example of nobility and gentlemanly play in a sport that features little of it.

Al was born July 11, 1963 in a place called Inverness, Nova Scotia. From what I have read, he is treated like royalty in that town...and with good reason. In another century, you could envision Al being a leader of men, a member of royalty, or a man you would gladly follow into battle. With a name like MacInnis, it's easy to imagine him donning the kilts and battle armour of the clans of the Scottish highlands and swinging the battle ax with fearsome force, much like he has blasted those 100-mph slap shots for the past twenty-plus years in the NHL. He has a strong presence, but a gentle soul. He has the right mix of mental acuity and physical ability to command his due respect.

The man with the big number 2 on his sweater simply played hard, played well, and played fair. Off the ice he invariably had positive things to say about teammates, coaches, management, opponents, and just about anybody else. Not an easy demeanor to maintain in these days where there are so many examples of the opposite among the pampered and spoiled lot we know as professional athletes. What a shame that this man who is held in such high esteem by almost everyone who has had the pleasure of his company, could not be on a Stanley Cup winner here in St. Louis. He did have that joy while with the Calgary he does know what it's like.

So, as we wind down this season of ownership uncertainty and eventual change, on-ice injury, win-loss frustration, fan misery and disappointment, at least we will be able to have one special moment with one of St. Louis's all time greats and future hall-of-famer. The small part I will play in the ceremonies on the 9th will be very special to me. It will truly be an honor to have a role in that part of Al's tremendous career... and Blues history.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

No Fun League?

-In trying to limit the amount of "over-the-top" end zone celebrations by it's players, NFL owners and executives say they are responding to communications from officials of youth football leagues. These guys say that their young players are attempting to mimmick NFL strutters like Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson, Joe Horn, and others when they score in little league games. The NFL brass also says that they are attempting to quell a growing sentiment among defensive players that celebrations are OK...but just too much.

Well, I think the first excuse is the best. If there's a legitimate reason for taking the fun out of scoring for the most theatric of the league's players, it would have to be the poor example that they set, and what their "moments of glory" say to anyone interested in the concept of team in football. The "dig me" crowd in the league..(of which T.O. is the poster boy)..needs to just cool it and understand that the touchdown isn't scored by one guy.

Yeah, one guy is holding the ball when the points go on the board. But, was he solely responsible for his team's success? Did he hike the ball to himself, block for himself, and throw the ball to himself? Everybody knows the answer to that one except the peacocks of the game. When the wide receiver crosses the goal line, he does it because the coaches called the right play, the offensive line did it's job, the other wide receivers and running backs blocked well or created the proper distraction, and the quarterback delivered the ball to the right place. These "look at me" guys with their Sharpee and other scripted celebrations and dances are not only "in your facing" the other team, but diminishing the contributions of their own.

Sure, its fun occasionally to see a new and different long as it's really a fun thing...and not one of those "the game revolves around me" deals. So, did the NFL big wigs do the right thing? I think so. I think they've tried to leave in the celebration...without the craziness of the props and pre-meditation. Plus, they made it a 15 yard penalty. If a player starts hurting his team with some of his stupidity, then he'll have to answer to the coach and the other players.

I'm sure it won't take long for the T.O.'s of the league to come up with some plan to circumvent the new rules. But, at least the owners have addressed what grates on most of us...the "me first" players who forget there are ten other guys on the field who helped them get the chance to strutt their stuff.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Flying Blind

UPDATE-As expected..Lisa is shown the door. But, the surprise this week...Katharine in the bottom three...and in fact bottom two. THAT'S NOT RIGHT!! Wow...again lack of support for someone who hails from a large metro area. Katharine is from the L.A. area and the big city people are too blaze' about it to vote...I suppose. Bucky will get a reprieve for another week because they're singing country music next Tuesday. Look out Ace!
-Once again this week a previous engagement cost me the opportunity to watch the American Idol performance show. And, once again this week I forgot to set the DVR to record it. DOH!!

So, based solely on the reviews I've received from fellow fans...and on what I've been able to gleen from the net...and gut feelings about the relative strengths of the remaining comes this week's prediction.

By all accounts, the theme for this week didn't work out as well as you would expect. The contestants were allowed to choose any 21st century song. Apparently, most botched the opportunity to perform new material.'s my expected bottom three... Bucky, Lisa, Ace.

I'm still expecting Bucky's rural support to save him...and expect Lisa to fall victim to the numbers this week.

What's Goin' On?

-As Elmer Fudd would say..."This is vewwy, vewwy stwange".

The NAACP St. Louis chapter holds a press conference to announce that they were wrong when they commended the management of KTRS last week for firing Dave Lenihan when he uttered a racial slur. You'll remember Dr. Lenihan inadvertently...according to most stated opinions...spit out the word "coon" instead of "coup" when referring to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and her qualifications to be NFL Commissioner. Lenihan then...unfortunately and unprofessionally...exacerbated the malaprop by taking the next thirty seconds of air time to apologize for what he had said.

KTRS GM Tim Dorsey...after deliberating a full 20 minutes...announced to the 550 listening audience that the decision was made to terminate Lenihan. It was a no-tolerance decision and resulting action that has since been hailed by some, and castigated by others, for it's swiftness and certainty. Some have suggested that the station's actions were part of a stunt, or that they already...after only eight days on the air...had other plans for Lenihan's time slot and were waiting for the opportunity to "swing the hatchet". Others believe the action was just wrong-headed and an overreaction to what might be perceived as a willingness to allow borderline racist comments find their way on the air.

Whatever the real story, we now are way into the secondary phase of this drama where questioning the motivations of those who wish to perpetuate it becomes necessary. Sure, it's an interesting little segment of employee/employer relations, but isn't it over? Apparently not to some.

What's in it for the NAACP to announce that they were wrong about Lenihan? Are they really that much about fairness, equality, and personal and human rights? Is it another opportunity to get some "face time" with the local media? Can coming out on Lenihan's side of the issue really be a beneficial move for the cause of the organization? Do they really want to have avowed conservative and supporter of most of the orgnization's enemy causes...get his job back?

What's in it for Lenihan? He's said if KTRS changes it's mind and offers him his job back...he would take it. That won't happen. By joining the NAACP prior to today's press conference has he taken a misstep in a potential Republican/conservative political career? Is he really just a nice guy who wants people he might have offended to know that he's sorry?

Unfortunately, the answers to most of the questions St. Louisans are presented with here are not easily found. It was interesting though, to see Caucasians and African-Americans at the same press conference table with the blacks speaking out in support of whites. "Vewwy, vewwy stwange" for St. Louis. But encouraging.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Just Wonderin'

-Another too-short weekend is about to come to an end and I have several questions to ask before I start another work week.

Can you name more than one hit song recorded by Buck Owens who passed away yesterday at age 76? I got 2... (answers at bottom)

Did your bracket have any of the teams that made it to the Final Four? Mine didn't. I crashed and burned with U-Conn. But, George Mason is about the best Cinderella story college basketball has had in recent memory.

Since McGraw Millhaven was originally a Tim Dorsey hire at KTRS...and since he apparently is being hired back to man the 9-noon show...and since Dave Lenihan was unceremoniously dumped by an unusually available-to-the-media Tim Dorsey from that show for what many thought to be a contrived utterance...and since KTRS hosts have unabashedly been using the incident for talk show fodder... and since Lenihan was doing a show on WGNU prior to his 8-day existance at KTRS and would have been a locally available conspirator...and since most of the people that Program Director Al Brady Law has hired before Lenihan were out-of-towners...and since Millhaven probably wouldn't agree to do a show on a station from which he had been fired a few months before, and agree to start in a matter of a few days, without considerable legal and professional forethought...and since there was a 7-second delay system that could have prevented the boo-boo from getting on the air that was not used...and since Lenihan seems to be milking his firing for all the publicity he can get...and since Lenihan has made no bones about having political aspirations...and since this incident is providing Lenihan with enormous national and local recognition...and since Lenihan has attained considerable sympathy for what's happened among the conservative element in the local population...and since the whole Lenihan incident had a funny smell from the beginning...and since it seems possible that all of the events that were set into motion by the on-air bobble could have been expected to go pretty much as they we possibly have the makings for the radio equivalent of the "birds on the billboards" publicity stunt? I guess that's a long-winded question, but one that I thought should be asked.

Jim Compton starts doing auto racing reporting for 1380ESPN radio and the first story out of the box for him is the tragic death of Paul Dana of St. Louis killed in warm-ups at the IRL race in Miami today. Too bad for Jim, tragic for the racer and his family. Auto racing is no sport for those who cherish a long life. question there.

I'm questioning if Mike Anderson (no...not the M.A.) is a good choice for the basketball coach at Mizzou. He's been a winner at UAB with his "40 minutes of hell" defensive approach to the game. That seems to be a perfect approach for a so-called mid-major program. But, I'm wondering if blue-chip high school prospects will choose his program. It seems to me they might be reluctant if they believe they are talented offensive players and will be forced to play in a defensive scheme that might not showcase their prowess. Good players accept scholarships to an attractive program. Great players go where they believe they will have a chance to stand out and be groomed for the pros. Does that make sense?

Will Mizzou fire Mike Alden...or let the situation at the school settle back down?

Tracks from "The Very Best of Buck Owens"
Under Your Spell Again
Excuse Me (I Think I've Got a Heartache)
Act Naturally
Together Again
I Don't Care (Just as Long as You Love Me)
I've Got a Tiger by the Tail
Only You (Can Break My Heart)
Waitin' in Your Welfare Line
Open Up Your Heart
Sam's Place
It Takes People Like You (To Make People Like Me)
Sweet Rosie Jones
Who's Gonna Mow Your Grass?
Tall Dark Stranger
The Kansas City Song
Rollin' in My Sweet Baby's Arms

Friday, March 24, 2006


-Mark it down in your official Blues diary...Keep tomorrow's newspaper for future display...Don't ever think about erasing the video from your DVR. Today...Friday March 24th, the day that things stopped going downhill for the Blues organization. And, if the new Dave Checketts ownership group is as good as many in the sports business seem to think it is, it might be the beginning of a story that includes a Stanley Cup parade in St. Louis.

Whatever the future success of Mr. Checketts and his partners, it's got to be a red letter day for Blues fans. At least there will be (after a two month league approval process) an ownership in place that can make decisions about spending money, provide a commitment to winning, and provide assurance that the team will stay in St. Louis. Of course, that's what's crippled the franchise ever since Bill and Nancy Laurie decided to put the team and Savvis Center up for sale last June. The Lauries spent a lot of money and made no small commitment to their ownership tenure, but just didn't have what it takes to win for whatever reason. The ownership change alone allows us to all breathe a lot easier.

I watched, with keen interest, today's news conference announcing the sale. Of course, I have a small stake in the situation being a game-night employee of the team. But, more than that, as a Blues fan I wanted to get a sense of the man who is heading the new ownership group. I had heard many good things about him from a lot of different sources, but I wanted to form my own opinion based on how he presented himself, and answered the important questions before him. I must say, I was not disappointed in any way.

Dave Checketts is obviously an intelligent, well-spoken, passionate-about-sports, and handsome individual. I couldn't help but recall the initial news conference at which Mike Shanahan was introduced as the lead owner of the Blues back in the 80's. The two men struck me in much the same way. It seems that if these guys weren't successful at running a hockey franchise, they would be successful at something. You get that feeling about certain people. If Mr. Checketts has the same people skills as Shanahan, we are in for a great era in Blues hockey. Mike Shanahan was not only a superb sports executive, but he took joy in his relationships with all of the people associated with the team. ALL of them. From the guy selling the General Manager...Shanahan was comfortable with them...and them with him.

As an example, I remember one time at the old Arena telling Mike Shanahan that my wife, mother, and sister and some of our family were going to be watching the game from one of the party boxes. I believe it was my mom's birthday. I've never been a big fish in the Blues scheme of things, but before that game was over, Mike had stopped by the party box to see my family, wish my mother a happy birthday, bought everybody a round of drinks, and spent a lot of time visiting and telling stories. Not only was my family impressed, I was trememdously grateful. And, obviously, Mike made an impact as simply a great person to the point where here, some 20 years later, I remember it enough to tell the story. I'd like to think that Dave Checketts will bring that sort of "all for one, and one for all" mentality back to the Blues organization and work force.

Whatever he does bring, it can only be better than the purgatory we've been in for the last two years. Blues fans are deserving of an ownership that puts the same passion into the team as they do. There may be a smaller core of hockey fans than Cardinals or Rams fans, but that core makes up for it with undying loyalty and love of the Blue Note. For that reason, it was an important moment of today's press conference when Checketts noted the outstanding Blues alumni group that exists in St. Louis. He obviously understands how important they can be in winning the public relations battle that's ahead. With the likes of Al MacInnis, Blake Dunlop, Bruce Affleck, Kelly Chase, Perry Turnbull and many others out in the community telling the Blues story, it will be a lot easier to get the casual Blues fan back on board and into the building.

Friday March 24th, 2006. Let's hope it's the beginning of what Blues fans have been dreaming about.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Business vs.The Golden Rule

-All right...There's a fine line you must walk when you are trying to do "the right thing". It appears the management at KTRS is stomping all over the place while trying to walk it. Either that, or there are some serious questions that need to be asked in the wake of yesterday's Dave Lenihan incident.

As I said yesterday, I think Tim Dorsey...or whoever, individually or collectively, called the shot on firing Dave Lenihan for his on-air faux pas...pretty much had to do it for business reasons. Allowing that sore to fester with Lenihan still doing a daily show was not going to make any business sense. This is a company that..A) is trying to get into the business of major league baseball B) is trying to finally sell itself as a dominant "player" in the market's radio wars, and C) needs to right it's public relations ship after the "Black Friday" firings of most of it's on-air staff in December. The Lenihan black eye would have continued to darken...not heal. And salespeople don't need that sort of distraction or hurdle while trying to convince an ad agency or prospective advertiser to sign on the dotted line. Radio sales is tough enough. That doesn't even take into account the PR kick-in-the-crotch the Cardinals stood to take as a new part of the station's ownership.

Having said that, Mr. Dorsey's on-air comments, and subsequent television interviews, came off to me as somewhat disingenuous. While I understand that TV reporters tend to use only the soundbites that make someone look bad, Tim seemed to not even allow for the possibility that Lenihan's utterance could have just been...a mistake. There was total judgment of Lenihan's intentions...and no empathy toward him as a human who could have had a "human moment". Unless Lenihan confessed to Dorsey that he had planned the thing as a publicity stunt, TD would not be in a position to be that unequivocal...certainly not within twenty minutes of it happening. If Lenihan did confess to some sort of subterfuge, then Dorsey should have said that and taken the onus off himself. At least one on-air host on another station I was listening to this morning takes it a step farther with a conspiracy theory in which the whole thing was a publicity stunt akin to the "birds on the billboards". Seems unlikely.

But also tasteless to me is the willingness of the station's hosts (at least their morning hosts) to "pile on" Dave Lenihan. The station is fielding calls, and using the situation as fodder for it's format. All the while, the hosts plead to the listener that "Dave Lenihan's comment is not what we're all about. Puh-leassse don't judge us by what the guy that we fired said. Larry..You're on the air... Do you have a comment about what he said?" If you're not about what he said, then don't let what he said continue to perpetuate itself on your air.

It begins to look for all the world like someone in the hierarchy is saying..."Hey, let's milk this for a while since it looks like the rest of the media is enjoying making us look bad. As long as we're getting our call letters on TV...what the heck. And think of all the radios being tuned to 550. We can slough off all the blame on the guy we fired and ride this 'til it dies for a possible spike in the ratings". It sure appears that they are willing to allow the incident to become a ratings-getter, which would eventually mean a money-maker. If that's anywhere close to being true, someone should be ashamed.

What should have been done to take the high road? Fire Lenihan. Tell the television and newspaper interviewers that Lenihan likely misspoke, but that KTRS can't be put in the position of apologizing for him. Then say...It's over...period. Then you don't talk about it on the air, or anywhere else. You let it die. By doing so, you allow the man you fired to have some claim to his dignity. To continue to drag him through the slop is unprofessional, unseemly and mercenary.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

What Did He Say?

-Since I started blogging, about a year-and-a-half ago, It has been at most a daily thing with me...usually 4 or 5 times a week I feel the urge to write about something.

Well, today's a first. Three posts in one day. First Mizzou...My weekly American Idol prediction... and I couldn't be a former "regular-check-getter" in broadcasting without saying something about today's unbelievable happenstance at KTRS.

In case you haven't are the details in a story by Jake Wagman of the Post-Dispatch and STLToday.
Talk show host fired after on-air racial slur

A radio personality at 550 KTRS was fired on the spot this morning after using the word “coon” on the air in a conversation about Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Dave Lenihan was dismissed after what he called an inadvertent slip of the tongue. Within 20 minutes, station CEO Tim Dorsey apologized on the air to listeners and announced that Lenihan, who had been with the station for less than two weeks, had been let go.“I don’t know what was in Mr. Lenihan’s mind,” Dorsey said in an interview. “I know what I heard. I know it was reprehensible.”Lenihan’s comment was made during a discussion about Rice’s credentials to become commissioner of the National Football League, a topic that has been fodder for sports talk radio since the current commissioner announced he would retire later this year.
Lenihan was listing what assets Rice could bring to the league, including her tenure as a top academic officer at Stanford University and the fact that she is African-American. From listening to a tape of the broadcast, it appears Lenihan meant to use the word “coup” but immediately backtracked when instead the racial slur came out of his mouth.“She’s just got a patent resume, of somebody that’s got such serious skill,” Linehan said on the air. “She loves football, she’s African-American, which would kind of be a big coon, a big coon – oh my God, I am totally, totally, totally, totally, totally sorry for that, OK? I didn’t mean that. That was just a slip of the tongue.” Lenihan, who had previously been with radio station WGNU, was part of the recently reshuffled lineup at KTRS since half of the station was acquired by the St. Louis Cardinals. He had a morning talk show.


There's actual audio of the slip...and KTRS GM Tim Dorsey's on-air apology and announcement that Lenihan was being fired on STLToday too...if you want to hear it.

My take? Based on what I heard, the guy actually had a brain fart and committed a slip of the tongue. He seemed instantly aware of how his mistake would be perceived...and apologized profusely. But he only made the problem worse by apologizing and calling attention to what he had said. Back in Broadcasting 101 you are taught that if you make a've made a can't take it keep going on and DON'T CALL ATTENTION TO IT. By calling attention to it, you only make it worse. That's what Lenihan did. If he had just kept on talking and acted as though nothing had happened, someone may have called him on it...but most of the audience would have realized it was a legitimate error and forgotten about it...and the rest would have thought they must have misheard him. He certainly didn't help himself either when soon after his slip, and resulting apology, he seemed to giggle as he went to a commercial break.

What is really interesting is the management reaction. I think Dorsey's hand was forced. He pretty much had to fire Mr. Lenihan...(who I hear is a real-life brain it's actually Dr. Lenihan..which must mean he doesn't have a degree in mass communications either).

Damage control is the key phrase here. KTRS is trumpeting a new "edgier" and "hipper" direction for it's talk...and, of course, it's new partnership with the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals, or their radio station, can't be drug into any kind of a racial-oriented public relations problem....and moving swiftly to nip any potential controversy in the bud was what had to be done. This is not something that happened in the lunch room...or on a smoke happened on the biggest daytime radio signal in the midwest.

Not firing Lenihan would be perceived by some, especially activisits, as condoning racial jokes, or slips-of-the-tongue, whether they be unintentional or not, on a station that's new hosts are trying to be "out there" and less KMOX-like. Management at the station probably immediately had horrific visions of pickets outside the new ballpark and at the Westport Plaza studios....and television news coverage of the controversy for weeks to come. No matter what KTRS programmers and management thought of Lenihan's potential for the future, business was not going to be enhanced by keeping him on the air.

You can argue all day that Lenihan shouldn't have been dumped for a slip of the tongue...and you might be right in principle. But, I'll bet even Lenihan himself knew what management had to do as soon as he put the N on the end of the word coup. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure that one out. Talk about a station that's "snake bit".

Idol Prognostication

-I was working at the Blues game last I had to DVR the American Idol performance show. After a quick scan of the two hours...I'm ready to offer up this week's prediction. Barry Manilow was the guest "coach" with the show featuring the music of the 50's. It appears to me that we have gotten to a point with this year's crop that there's a top 8...and a bottom three. There's very little to choose from between the top 8. All have enough of a combination of performing ability and personality to keep their vote support coming in...with the exception of Elliot Yamin who only has vocals to keep him going. A bad performance...or song choice...will be what eliminates anyone in the top 8.

Featured below are my bottom three. I think any one of this group might be sent home tonight. If anyone else does, it's a mistake.

Bucky Covington

Kevin Covais

and Lisa Tucker (whose photo wouldn't upload for some reason).

I have a feeling...and I better go with it...that Lisa will come up least popular tonight.

The Mizzou Mess

Another Update-A couple of hours since the last update...Alford issues a statement saying he's not scheduling any interviews for other jobs. Prior to that, KC Star reported he wasn't high on the Mizzou list...making one wonder if Alford was circulating his own name into the rumor mill...then backed off when it looked like he was stranded at Iowa anyway. Apparently he's not well liked in Iowa City..and may not be there long. So who's the man for Mizzou now?
Update-Minutes after posting this...reports by the Kansas City Star and indicate Huggins and Majerus have been rejected as candidates for the Mizzou job by Chancellor Brady Deaton...and AD Mike Alden. Former Mizzou star Jon Sundvold, who is a member of the search committee, indicates he's upset that the two weren't even given an interview. Apparently Iowa coach Steve Alford and Dana Altman of Creighton are emerging as front-runners who will be interviewed soon. It appears Alden is still swinging the most weight in the power structure of Mizzou athletics.
-Most sports fans in the Midwest have heard plenty about the on-going melodrama that surrounds the basketball coaching position at the University of Missouri. The situation has transcended the usual intrigue of hiring and firing a coach. There's the controversy surrounding the firing of coach Quin Snyder. Then the ensuing investigation...and follow-up investigation...and investigation of the investigation. The back and forth...pull and tug...yin and yang...of the various political factions at the athletic director's level...the university president...the chancellor...the board of curators...the wealthy alumni. It's a real plate of collegiate "power spaghetti".

Now...the same factions are beginning to insert themselves into the choice for a new basketball coach. And, this will be just as interesting. Of course, the day Snyder was fired/asked to resign/quit...whatever you believe...there were already twenty names being mentioned as possible successors. Now, as the serious suggestions begin to come forth from those asked for recommendations, it begins to get juicy. It will be intriguing to follow the situation and see what faction prevails...the school's academicians at the top of the management structure who tend to be interested in the educational experience at a university and, of course, their own job security...or the "win at all costs" sports management, athletic department contributors and alumni crowd.

The latest names to be "out there" for public scrutiny--Bob Huggins...the searly, but usually successful, former coach at Cincinnati noted as much for off-the-court problems as on-the-court victories. Rick Majerus...noted for his successful runs at Marquette and Utah, but also for his obesity, health problems, acceptance...and then immediate rejection...of the head coaching job at USC. These two guys are both qualified, as far as pure basketball is concerned, but would also bring along considerable baggage. Huggins is practically the poster boy for dirty basketball programs populated with players as close to prison as graduation. Majerus would have us all worried about whether he would actually live through each game he coaches. Defibrillators on the bench would be essential.

I'm betting that because of the controversy with Snyder, and Athletics Director Mike Alden's questionable role in it, the people farther up the food chain at the university will have the final call on this one. That would put the decision in the hands of the non-basketball, "learned ones" at the school. In that case, it would be likely the egg-heads would pick someone with less basketball pizazz...and more squeaky clean man the hoops helm. They would be more interested in someone who would fly further under the radar and keep their names out of the headlines. A coach, in their minds, should be more about graduation rates than RPI....more about giving young men a valuable educational experience than a ticket to the pros.

So, given that, the names that make the most sense would be Mike Anderson of UAB, Dana Altman of Creighton, Kim Anderson of Central Missouri, Jim Larranaga of George Mason, Steve Alford of Iowa, Jim Les of Bradley, Chris Lowery of SIU. (I still think Kevin Stallings of Vanderbilt should be considered).

There might be a surprise name out there that hasn't surfaced...but to get immediate interest back into the basketball program they would need to hire someone with a decent resume'. And, whoever they hire, they should get it done quickly. If recruiting new players into the program is of any priority, and it should be, they need to make a splash with the news before the NCAA tournament is over. The new coach should have the opportunity to make some headlines during March and then set about bringing in some student-athletes...(you know, that's what they call the "unpaid professionals" known as college basketball players).

One thing is for sure, whatever is done with the basketball coach, the Mizzou athletics situation as a whole has been exposed as disfunctional to the brink of comedy to the Midwest, if not the entire country. Somebody besides Snyder should be out looking for work by now. How far up the university ladder did leadership fail? All the way up? Seems that way to me.

Monday, March 20, 2006

How Long Will it Take?

-One has to wonder how long it will be until the kinder, gentler, media-friendly, Terrell Owens that we saw trotted out at the Dallas Cowboys press conference Saturday, turns back into the ego-maniacal, scowling, the-world-revolves-around-me, cancerous tumor of a person that we're used to.

It will take a little while. After all, there's a fairly good stretch before any mini-camps or official team workouts. But soon after Mr. Owens puts on a uniform in earnest once again, we'll be treated to the media circus, and "T.O. Show" to which we're accustomed.

What's amazing is that this guy keeps getting hired. If his antics in Philly aren't enough of a warning shot for the owners, what is? He went to work for a team that was Super Bowl caliber, with or without him, and turned it into a "steaming pile" sideshow with no hope of winning. If the guy weren't Spiderman in a football uniform, he would already be selling cars by now. But, he does have that kind of amazing ability, so there will always be an owner who thinks he can be "cured".

Of course, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones considers himself to be the top owner and sports executive of all time, so these two deserve each other. Jones believes that he, and his cadre of football coaches and executives can make T.O. see the light. So, he's rolling the dice. And make no mistake, Jones will deserve whatever he gets. He understands the risk, and stated so in the press conference. He is gambling that T.O. will finally take his team, and teammates, seriously for the first time in his life. He is gambling that Bill Parcells will be able to get Owens to check his ego at the locker room door. He is gambling that winning might finally mean more to the guy than all of the other little things that he has blown up into major problems in the past. He is simply gambling. But his odds aren't as good as he believes.

I would hope Jones was smart enough to include heavy protection for his team in the way the Owens contract was written. It seems to me that a "monkey business" clause is a must. Any kind of tomfoolery should be punishable by the harshest of fines and/or suspensions. If I were Jones, I would also have some provision stating that Owens' access to the media is limited to ten minute periods after games, and one minute after each practice. We all know, that the guy can't help himself when someone sticks a microphone in his face. And someone is always trying to. His "I am the greatest" personality kicks in and he invariably says something that gets the old fires burning again.

What would be really fun to hear now would be the conversations between Owens and his agent Drew Rosenhaus. Rosenhaus, for all his bluster and bombast, must be getting tired of baby-sitting his client. Sure, he'll make a ton of money off Owens' new deal, but not if he gets kicked off his team again. So, you have to believe that Rosenhaus has tried to hire Dr. Phil, or someone like him, to follow Owens around to keep his personality on an even keel. Can't you hear it?...."Now, Terrell, we mustn't put ourselves first in every situation... we must learn to put our team, and teammates, ahead of our own petty problems. We mustn't belittle our quarterback, or our receivers coach, or our head coach, or our".... well, you get the idea.

How long will it take? Owens is like a moth in the vicinity of a flame. It's just a matter of time...probably a short time...until he flies into it.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Where's the Power?

Update (Sunday Evening)-The Sweet Sixteen is set. Before I say anything else, I should point out that the classy half of the Nantz/Packer broadcasting team ate the appropriate amount of crow during the Villanova/Arizona broadcast this afternoon. Jim Nantz admitted that the Missouri Valley teams "had a right to be proud, and have proven many people wrong, including two right here at courtside". Packer...uh.. sort of agreed but grudgingly so. So, Jim Nantz gets kudos from here for admitting his wrongheadedness of last Sunday. Mr. Packer apparently still needs a little convincing. The conference tally of teams still alive:
Big East-5
Mo Valley, SEC, Pac 10-2
ACC, Big 12, CUSA, West Coast Conf, Colonial A.A.-1
Update (Sunday afternoon)-Well, well, well... So, Bradley beats Pitt (Big East) to make it to the Sweet 16...So, Wichita State beats Tennessee (#2 seed from the SEC) to make it to the Sweet 16... Hmmm...could Billy Packer and Jim Nantz have a screwed up view of the college basketball world? Could they possibly be biased toward the teams they cover all the time? Could they possibly be too close to the power boys...and too enfatuated with the view they've always had of things? Could they possibly be wrong about how many teams should get into the tournament from the power conferences? You most likely won't hear them say it...BUT THEY ARE!! At least on the Bradley/Pitt broadcast today Lundquist and Raftery made the the face of their colleagues...that the Valley has proven that it deserved the respect that the tournament committee gave them in putting four teams in. Lundquist said...paraphrasing..."A lot was made on the selection show about whether the Valley should have gotten four teams into the dance. I think they've answered that question." Raftery said..."You don't see enough of these teams (Valley and mid-majors) to know how really good they are. But they are very good in every aspect." Chew on that Jim and Billy.
Again an Update (Saturday evening)-Illinois loses to Washington 67-64. The Illini played a strange game in this one. They looked horrible in the first half...only to come back and dominate the last 5 minutes of the half and first 10 minutes of the second half on the strength of James Augustine's dominance. Then the big lead in the second half melts away as Augustine disappears..and they are called for three times the fouls that Washington gets. Die hard Illini fans will say the refs were bad. I tend to think they earned most of the fouls that were called. Dee Brown takes the last shot to tie...after a timeout where I'm sure Bruce Weber wanted to make sure Brown took the shot. He's earned the chance to take it. Too bad there was no fairy tale ending. Also, Wichita State strikes another blow for the mid-majors as they take out Tennessee to go to the Sweet 16. If Bradley wins might get Packer/Nantz et al. to finally shut up.
Another Update (Saturday morning)-Here's my feeling about the Packer/Nantz comments on the selection show after the conclusion of the first round games...They were right to question the committee chairman if they really thought there was some sort of injustice being done...BUT...they were flat out wrong. The games of Thursday and Friday prove to me that there are more mid-majors and small schools who can compete now with the "big boys" than there ever have been. In my mind, it's because the great players leave school early to play in the NBA. The power conferences are subjected to that problem much more than the mid-majors and small conference teams. So, that serves to even out things more than in the past when truly great players went through at least four years of college. It's a more level playing field now...and the sooner Packer, Nantz, and those like them wake up and realize it, the better off we'll all be. It seems to me the committee got it right...but again, I would question the seedings even more in the future. Just because a school plays in a power conference, doesn't mean it's automatically worthy of at least a 4 or 5 seed.
Update (Friday night, before the late games)-- After watching Michigan State get taken out by George Mason...and Connecticut struggle to beat #16 seed Albany...Iowa gets bounced on a buzzer beater by NWestern St....and many other hotly contested games between so-called power conference teams and their lesser-seeded opponents, I am not only questioning why the power conferences get so many teams into the tournament...but why they are always seeded so high compared to the mid-majors and small conference teams. To me that's becoming more of a story in this tournament than Packer's poor ACC not getting enough teams into the dance. Let's start questioning the seedings from here on.
Update (Fri afternoon)-- SIU gets blown out by West Virginia...and Northern Iowa plays Georgetown tough, but loses. Not good for the Valley today. We'll wait to see what Bradley does against Kansas, and then re-evaluate things...stay tuned.

--Jim Nantz and Billy Packer will either be eating crow...or crowing by the end of the day.

You'll remember the two lead announcers for CBS' coverage of the NCAA basketball tournament were appalled and aghast at the lack of respect shown by the tournament selection committee to the so-called, power conferences when picking this year's at-large teams.

Well, if yesterday is any indication, maybe we had better start coming up with a different name for the power maybe...regular conferences.

The Big East...which had a record eight teams in the field...lost three of them in first round action. Syracuse laid an egg against Texas A&M, Marquette went down to Alabama, and Seton Hall went out wimpering at the hands of Wichita State. Of course, Wichita State is one of those Missouri Valley teams that Packer, Nantz and the rest of their elitist buddies in broadcasting thought shouldn't have had four teams in the dance. Boston College of the ACC, another power conference, was put through two overtimes yesterday by Pacific before finally winning. Wisconsin-Milwaukee knocked off Oklahoma of the Big 12 yesterday too.

Today, we will really start to get the picture as Southern Illinois, of the Valley, has a chance to take out Big East memeber West Virginia, and the Valley's Northern Iowa will take on Georgetown, also of the Big East. Noone is expecting UConn or Villanova of the Big East to lose today. They both have number one seeds in their part of the bracket.

If SIU and Northern Iowa win today, the silence from Packer and Nantz, who really went too far in their biased analysis of the world of college basketball during the selection show, will likely be deafening. I might expect Nantz, who has been the classy part of the team, to admit to a wrong-headed view of the college game. But could we expect that from Packer? Doubtful.

It will be very interesting to hear their comments...if they make any...should the mid-majors continue to knock off, and/or play right with the big boys.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

What the?

-I had Melissa in the bottom three...and wasn't totally surprised by her being voted off.....but, Ace and Lisa in the bottom three? WOW! That's just not right.

Ace was ordinary in his performance and did go first this week...which is never a good place to be. Lisa was good...if not very good. I think she is somewhat personality challenged...but, there is no way she or Ace should go before Bucky, Elliott, Kevin, or Kellie in a real talent contest.

Again..we are looking at a show that rewards engaging personalities...probably more than talent. We have to keep reminding ourselves of that. It's American Idol, not America's Best New Singer.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Who Must Go?

-Time for my weekly American Idol fix. And, starting this week, I will try to predict which contestant is going to lose the election. After all, that's what it is. I have to keep reminding myself that it's not necessarily who sings the best, it's who gets the least amount of votes. One performer will be voted off by America each week until the next Idol is elected.

With that in mind, I will take my best shot. And, I will assume if you've read this far you're not looking for a re-cap of this week's performances. But, in case you missed it, everybody met Stevie Wonder in rehearsals and then had to perform one of his songs on the show.

The most vulnerable to the voters this my humble opinion...Elliott, Melissa, and Bucky. I might have said Kevin...but the little guy did a pretty good job singing...and got a zinger in on Simon who was less than impressed.

Melissa did an OK job with her song. Bucky was obviously very uncomfortable doing "Superstition"...but wasn't bad. Elliott was decent...not good...or great. Several contestants were awesome this week. Katharine, Mandisa, Chris, Taylor and Paris were all stunningly professional.

I'm going out on a pretty big limb with this...but I predict Elliott Yamin...who has an incredible singing voice, but zero personality, will be going home this week.

Check back here after the results.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Hoops, Pucks and More

-All right, I guess Jim Nantz of CBS was just trying to be a friend to his fellow broadcaster Billy Packer, because it seemed Nantz (normally pretty level-headed and reasonable) was a borderline lunatic on the NCAA selection show Sunday. Packer, most everyone knows, is a big ACC guy. Packer believes his beloved Atlantic Coast Conference is the be all, and end all, of the college game. Nantz and Packer went way overboard while trying to argue that the Missouri Valley and other, so-called, mid-major conferences didn't deserve as many teams in the NCAA field as the ACC, and other "power conferences", should have had. The MVC got four. So did the ACC. Power conference...The Big a record eight teams in.

Nantz, while not getting emotional about it, was obvious in his irritation that the committee had apparently given considerable weight to the RPI number of the Valley teams, while also arguing that they had considerably weaker schedules than the "power conference" teams who didn't get bids. "Who did they play?" he said....then rattled off a number of opponents. That only works if you perceive the schools he named to be weaklings. Some might...others wouldn't. Either way, it was unseemly of Nantz to belittle those schools by using them as an example of who he thought were "weak sisters". Packer made similar arguments when he spoke with the chairman of the selection committee.

They seem to forget that the perceived weaker schedule of the Valley teams, and other mid-majors, is a product of not being able to get games with the "power conference" teams. The Dukes, North Carolinas, U-Conns and Kentuckys of the basketball world have forever refused to play the Missouri States, Bradleys, and Wisconsin-Milwaukees on a home-and-home basis for fear of what it might do to their elite status. They believe they have nothing to gain from playing the "little guys". So they don't. They are content with the overblown reputation they enjoy, based on the East- coast bias of ESPN, CBS, Packer, Nantz, Dick Vitale, and others like them. They certainly wouldn't want to risk that on the basketball court....oh no. The RPI is a legitimate way of leveling the playing field when it comes to evaluating which schools can play basketball, until something or someone forces the power programs to play the up-and-comers.

Nantz and Packer seemed to be trying to make a case for a "two-class", status-quo arrangement for the tournament. (Power conferences should get more bids and higher seeds) Thankfully, the selection committee put more emphasis on giving the "have nots" a chance to compete. Now it's up to them to prove they belong on the same court with the so-called "big boys". That's tougher too when you are seeded lower in the tournament. So, tournament won-loss records by teams or conferences is a moot argument. (Of course Packer and Nantz tried to use that flawed logic too)

-The Blues had another strong weekend in their return to respectability. An overtime win Friday against Minnesota. And a shootout loss (where they still get a point) to Los Angeles Saturday night.

The new NHL shootout has accomplished something that I have never seen before. My wife is actually interested in the sport. At least that part of it. Barb finds the shootout interesting and exciting. She has never...even though I've been doing the Blues p.a. for 20 years...had much interest in the sport. Saturday night she asked if the game was going to be on TV so she could see the shootout, if there was one. If that's indicative of the attitude of other casual observers of the sport, I guess they're accomplishing something.

-While watching severe weather coverage on television Saturday night, I happened to be tuned to Channel 5. They, of course, frequently broke into the presentation of Saturday Night Live in order to update the weather situation. I wouldn't have minded it so much but the graphics they continued to put up on the screen were impossible for me to figure out. I don't know if they were having some kind of technical trouble...but I kept seeing a map of the bi-state region with a set of diagonal streaks going through it. The weather guy, Mike Roberts I think, kept referring to counties where there were tornado warnings. But, all I saw was those funny diagonal streaks. My colleagues are telling me that Channel 2...Dave Murray and gang...were awesome with wall-to-wall coverage both Saturday and Sunday night.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Stuff n Such

-Grizzlies GM Tony Funderburg has done it again. After introducing other exotic food items the last two seasons, he's accomplishing exactly what he wanted when he dreamed up the newest featured delicacy for the ball games on the East side of Sauget. Baseball's Best Burger will debut this season and is getting all kinds of buzz locally, and nationally. Sports Illustrated, ESPN, The Tonight Show, and more are giving attention. Tony decided that health food was not the most important thing, and came up with a bacon-cheeseburger held together by a Krispy Kreme doughnut for a bun. Whoa! A thousand calories and 45 grams of fat. I'll bet at least a couple of thousand people come to a Grizzlies game this year just to try one. Way to go "Fun Man". (I hear they'll be installing defibrilators in each section at the stadium..ha!)

-Bill Laurie was seen hanging out in the Blues locker room area after last night's 2-1 overtime win over Minnesota. Hmmm.... could Billy be having second thoughts about selling the team? Is there a reason he might be inclined now to keep the property? Is there some personal slant to the situation that the public doesn't know about yet? Does the recent upturn by the youth-oriented roster give him hope of actually making a profit? Has he finally taken a liking to hockey? Just asking.

-This son-of-a-bitch Charles Cullen, that killed all those people while working as a nurse in Pennsylvania should have been suspended by his short hairs in the courtroom yesterday. While the judge was giving victims family members the opportunity to "get it off their chest" to this scum, he stood there in the courtroom saying "Judge, you need to step down" repeatedly, until the judge ordered him gagged with duct tape and a towel. He not only killed these people's loved ones, but then he disrespects them in court. Man, talk about a good case for bringing back public stonings.

-So, I guess all of the arenas that host NCAA basketball tournament action over the next three weeks will now be outfitted with metal detectors and extra security after the latest terrorist warning from the FBI. Suicide bombers supposedly plotting to blow themselves up in crowded basketball venues. Oh boy...get there early and check your coats a few blocks from the arena...coming to a building near you.

-I'm glad to see the Rams worked things out with Isaac Bruce. He would look just as strange in another uniform as Kurt Warner does in those silly Arizona Cardinals clown suits.

-Interesting that new Belleville Police Chief Dave Ruebhausen asked for activation of the Major Case Squad in the year-old triple murder case. That was on Thursday. He must have felt they were close to a major break. But in this morning's News-Democrat he denies the Friday Post-Dispatch report that they had identified a bloody fingerprint found in the getaway vehicle. The MCS usually only activates for recent murders. Strange. I hope they get it done soon so the Chief doesn't come off looking jumpy...or pressured.

-Get ready to see those brackets on Monday. Right now U-Conn (despite their loss in the Big East conference tourney to Syracuse) looks like the team to beat. That Calhoun guy sure can coach.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Play Time

-There's an interesting article in today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch that deals with the problems high schools have in this day and age with putting on entertaining, relevant plays. The problem comes when they are too relevant, too topical, and therefore sometimes too offensive to parents and the more conservative element of our society. See "School Plays vs. Community Values" by Georgina Gustin-

I'm a little closer to this sort of thing than some because of the career choice of my son Stewart. He's been a "theatre rat" ever since he was in seventh grade, so I have been a "stage Dad" out of necessity for quite a while now. Stew is currently a third-year acting major at the Theatre School at DePaul University in Chicago.

This "problem" seems fairly easily handled in my eyes. High school stages should not be the proving ground, or test kitchen, for really controversial, or highly sexual subject matter. Yes, high schools are a learning environment, so it's important to help the student grow and learn more about the world. But, in high school, its more important for a student to learn about theatre itself. Most kids are involved in theatre at that age for the fun of it. They like performing, telling a story on stage, and the social opportunities afforded to high school thespians. Most have no intention to become professionals.

I'm remembering some of the productions Stewart was involved in at Belleville West. High school kids are still kids. At most, they are 18 years old. Playing adult roles, using adult language, and dealing with adult subject matter is still very un-natural. It is still a time when parents, teachers, and the community at large, see these young people as their children. Many times I've seen a child in an adult situation on stage and think..."How unnatural is that?" If I'm thinking that, I'm sure many others also believe the show is not working, and the adult situation is inappropriate. Yes, it's true, that those young people fancy themselves as adults and certainly are capable of adult, language, etc. But, it's difficult for anyone to make that part of life seem natural on stage...let alone high schoolers.

Stewart has already been in several productions at the university that are very adult in subject matter and presentation. Language, sexual content, bordeline nudity, the whole nine yards. That seems OK to me though, because in order to learn the craft of acting, you need to stretch yourself as a person, find what's going on in the world with regard to subject matter, and how to professionally present such material. Plus, we're talking about people who are closer to, if not, adults. And, most importantly, these people are learning to be actors. In high school, its more of an intramural or recreational activity.

While I believe really controversial material is not necessary in high school, I still wish some adults would lighten up when it comes to what they deem controversial. A few "hells" and "damns" in a high school play never hurt anyone. In Grease, which has been the most popular high school musical in the country for the past 25 years, there's a little "dirty dancing" and references to pre-marital sex that seem to send some parents into a hand-wringing and gasping tizzy.

When I say controversial material, I'm talking about cutting-edge, political agenda, or sexually-explicit type stuff. Not Grease. Of course, there are still parents who will rail at the presentation of Inherit The Wind*, and think that life, as they know it, is being challenged by some high school kids, or their teacher, who really are just trying to present a good play as best they can.

*Inherit the Wind--On a scorching July day in 1925, a trial began in Dayton, Tennessee, pitting two intellectual greats of the time against each other. At issue was a state law banning the teaching of evolution and a Dayton teacher's knowing infringement of that law. For twelve days, Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes captured the nation's attention as a media circus swept through Dayton, carrying the historical event to a world of readers and listeners. But as the trial failed to achieve its intended purpose - testing the Tennessee law - and the participants gradually followed each other to the grave, the once-famed Scopes "Monkey Trial" fell from the public eye and memory. Thirty years later, playwrights Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee published their dramatized account of the trial in Inherit the Wind.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Weekly Idolizing

Update-- Bad week for me! I got only one out of the four who went home. Kinnik goes home. Melissa, Kevin and Bucky survive. Actually getting the ax instead were the above 3...17-year-old Ayla Brown of Boston, 17-year-old Gedeon McKinney of Memphis, and 17-year-old Will Makkar of The Woodlands, Texas. Bad week for 17-year-olds. Most surprizing to me...Ayla. I thought she had the looks and talent to carry her further into the competition. I have noticed a phenomenon that may have claimed her early. It seems contestants from big cities don't get the support that candidates from rural America tend to get. I'm wondering if being from the "big city" is a handicap. Maybe big city people are too blaze' about such things to actually pick up a cell phone and vote for someone from their area. Just an observation.

-Time for my weekly assessment of the situation on American Idol. For those of you who aren't into Idol...I can skip down to Other Stuff.

So far in the competition, I think it's been farely easy to choose who should be eliminated. I've done pretty well (picking all four of last week's eliminatees, is that a word?) and America has, I think, gotten it right too in the voting. This week it starts to get a little tough...especially with the guys. So, let's start with the girls.

Tuesday night's performances by the ladies left two strong candidates for elimination in my view. Kinnik Sky, the 28-year-old from Duluth Georgia, and Melissa McGhee, 21-years-old from Tampa, should be getting the bad news tonight. Sky shows flashes of brilliance, but I have to agree with the judges comments that she just missed the notes in several places in her performance and that makes her vulnerable. McGhee, in my humble opinion, has an attitude problem, and has a "caustic edge" to her performances that makes me uncomfortable. She looks good...but not great...and that's why I think she'll get the other ticket home. All of the other girls performed well enough...and Mandisa really stepped up her survive. Katharine McPhee continues to be my choice to go all the way among the gals. Although Kellie Pickler's personality, and Lisa Tucker's enormous talent may make it interesting.

As to the guys... Most performed well enough this week that they would have advanced at the same stage of the competition in years past. But, I believe the two weakest members of the remaining 8 at this point are Kevin Covais and Bucky Covington. Kevin's "church mouse" appearance and personality have carried him this far. His singing is just OK in my view...nothing that should make him a star on any national stage. Bucky has an interesting niche in the competition being a Southern rocker. His singing is suspect at times...and Chris Daughtry (also a southern boy with a rock edge) is much stronger as a performer. Because Daughtry will take most of that voting block, I think Bucky is going to head back for Rockingham, N.C. after tonight's show.

Strong performances this week by the guys--Daughtry...although not as good as some previous performances...prematurely-gray Taylor Hicks nailed "Takin' it to the Streets"...and Ace Young stepped back up with his strong falsetto on a Michael Jackson tune.
Other Stuff

-I was sure that Dallas Drake was announced as one of the stars of the game for the Blues Tuesday night because someone knew he likely wouldn't play another game wearing the Blue note. But, as of this writing, the captain is still in place. Just one-and-a-half hours 'til the trading deadline. Many teams are having trouble dealing with the salary cap....something new at the trade deadling for GMs.

-I had a nice long conversation with Jim Holder Tuesday. Jimmy is doing fine, after being one of the many talented broadcasters purged by KTRS in December. Holder has a wealth of talent, an enormous knowledge of the business, and will make someone a great addition to the staff. He's weighing his options, but nothing is apparently imminent for him right now. He says lovely wife Mary is ready for him to get out of her space in the kitchen though. Jim is a great cook too.

-I spoke with Mark Sauer, the Blues President, briefly after Tuesday night's game. He's happy with the recent upturn of the club. He said the team needed to get younger and faster...a reference to the Sillinger and Weight trades. Since then, the Blues have been much more competitive...who knew? Sauer appears to me to be a guy who knows that his days are coming to an end in his current position...and enjoying the relaxation of pressure that it brings. I could be reading it wrong...but that's what my gut tells me. Mark is a brilliant man, and will do well wherever he lands...if he doesn't work for the new ownership. Some think that's unlikely.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Big Question

-There has been a spate of recent deaths of people, young and not, famous and not, that remind me to ask myself the big question. It's the question that I suggest everyone ask themselves upon getting out of bed in the morning.

"What will I do to honor this day?"

Don Knotts, Dennis Weaver, Kirby Puckett, Darren McGavin, Dana Reeve...are some of the high-profile humans who have recently run out of days.

Last night I attended the wake of a friend who didn't posess a high profile and passed at much too young an age....unexpectedly, unpredictably, unbelievably. This man...Ralph Bertelsman... touched many others with his ready smile, quick wit, and "eager-to-help" approach to life....but is now no longer with us. Ralph worked for the Belleville Parks Department for 28 years. Not what many would consider to be a place where you could do "great things". But, Ralph didn't limit himself to his job in order to positively impact others. He was active in many other ways and places. His major accomplishment? Probably being someone that other people liked to be around.

Ralph honored the majority of his days. It was obvious from the turnout at the funeral home that many others in our community believe so. My wife and I stood in line for over two hours for the opportunity to pay our condolences. There were people from all around the area who came. Parking was hard to find. And, as with all funeral home visits, we saw many people we hadn't seen for some time and asked ourselves..."What is their connection to Ralph? How did he know him? How did she know him? What brought their lives together?"

Whatever the answer to those questions in Ralph's case, by seeing such an enormous turnout, we came to realize that there are so many ways and opportunities to touch another's life in a lasting, positive way. We needn't be a movie or sports star, have a position of political or corporate power, or be rich. Just by asking the above question each morning, we tend to put ourselves in the frame of mind to also honor others we encounter. And, just as importantly, we also face the reality that our opportunity grows shorter with each sunrise.

Much like the central character in the movie Big Fish, Ralph influenced many along the way, besides his family and close friends. Even though he wasn't a President, CEO, or anything close, the impact of his days will always remain. It's the best any of us can really do. Well done Ralph. Thank you for honoring your days.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Weekend Wanderings

Update--Theresa was about the only scoring threat Althoff had in the championship game Saturday night in Normal. She scored 24 points against Bolingbrook (Chicago area)..a team that starts 3 girls over 6 feet tall. Final score was Bolingbrook 45-Althoff 34. So it's on to SLU for Theresa.
-Thursday I mentioned that Theresa Lisch would explode onto the women's basketball scene when she enters the student body at St. Louis University next year. She's currently in the midst of her project of trying to take Belleville's Althoff high school to a state championship. Friday she pumped in 31 points, despite turning an ankle early in the game, as Althoff knocked off River Forest Trinity (Chicago suburbs) in the quarterfinals at Redbird Arena in Normal. The semifinals and championship game are today at Illinois State's campus.

Of course, brother Kevin, a freshman, has been excelling on the men's team at SLU this season.

I was fortunate to be courtside as a broadcaster for most of the games played by their dad Rusty when he was a star at Belleville West in the early 70's. Rusty was thought by many to be a better basketball player than he was a football player. I believe he told me once that he actually preferred roundball over football. If memory serves, Rusty played intramural basketball at Notre Dame on a team that was said to be able to compete well with ND's varsity before the football coaches prevailed on him to stick with football. After his college years of competing with Joe Montana for playing time, Rusty was drafted by the Big Red and played pro football (although not much of it) for the old "Bidwill Bunch". His most active season came with the Chicago Bears in 1984 when he completed 43 of 85 pass attempts in 7 games at quarterback.

Rusty was one of the most naturally gifted athletes I have ever seen at the high school level. He was big enough to be overpowering, graceful enough to do things others couldn't, and competitive enough to raise his game when needed. The only knock on Rusty I ever heard was from teammates who thought he actually was better than he believed himself to be. They thought if he just had a little cockiness about him he would have been unstoppable.

-The Cardinals will sell out their season at the new Busch Stadium today when single game tickets go on sale. Can you believe that? Those of us who don't spend money on baseball tickets will be lucky to see a game there this year. Unbelievable.

-I'm glad to see that Wayne Hagin will replace Bob Carpenter on Channel 11's broadcasts of Cards games this year. Carpenter, if you hadn't heard, is taking over television duties for the Washington Nationals. Hagin, though posessing a style that is hard to warm up to, is well thought of by those I know who frequent the press box. I also hate to see anybody dumped in the fashion he was...although I do think John Rooney will be a strong upgrade on the radio side. Hagin stood to be paid for the coming season under his old contract anyway. But, now he'll get a chance to work 50 or so games while choosing his spot for next season.

-Animal House? So there's this fraternity at Central Missouri State University in Warrensberg that's been suspended by it's national headquarters for holding an "insensitive" Martin Luther King Jr. Day party. The Alpha Kappa Lambda house was the scene for a "chicken and beer" party at which attendees were encouraged to dress based on the organizers' perception of how blacks dress. So there were plenty of do-rags and baggy pants. Beer was served in 40 ounce bottles...and the menu featured fried chicken.

Uh...did these guys think that they could get away with this? And, if so, how did they pass the entrance requirement at this school? I'll bet there are some moms and dads who are proud of these guys right about now. Whoa!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Trail Mix

-Along the trail today I've jotted down a few items on which I thought I'd share an opinion.

-Item number 1...It was the 16th of December. A day we'll always remember. (Sorry, I slipped into Papa Was a Rolling Stone there for a sec) The day we referred to as Black Friday. The majority of KTRS on-air people were told their services were no longer needed. Nothing unusual these days in the maelstrom we know as the radio business. What was a little different was that the station was remaining a talk station. They were just going to do it with new and "edgier" talkers. Sometimes this is done by telling the flesh-and-blood people to take a hike in favor of satellite-delivered, syndicated programming. Not this time. It was a change of people and attitude, more than anything else.

I realize I'm not in the target demo for the new collection of hosts. I'm too old. But, I don't believe I've got the mind-set, or approach to life, of someone most would consider to be old. Most fellow Boomers are still kicking pretty good. And, I think, more than most previous generations, we have a youthful approach to being in our 40's, 50's...and now for some...60's. I think the huge chunk of the population that falls into the Boomer age group makes shooting for the 25-34 demo to satisfy the local ad agency's desired target pretty questionable in the first place.

All that being said, the new lineup at "the Big 550" has either not captured my attention or has lost it. I find myself spending much less time with my radio tuned to 550 than I once did. Now, realize that I'm talking about a station where I have been employed on a full-time basis in the past. I have done some fill-in news anchoring as recently as a month ago. I have some loyalty to, and affection for, the place. Some of the best days of my on-air career were spent toiling at the West Port studios. (Sept 11, 2001 comes to mind) I would very much prefer to be engaged by what's going on there. So, I'm saying this at the risk of not being invited back. I just am not attracted to what they're doing. There's no point in naming names because they are all in the same boat with me. Nothing personal, because I don't know any of the new people...but sorry, so far, I'm not a fan. I still catch my daily dose of Frank O. Pinion...but that's about it. I hope Cardinals baseball provides the ratings boost they're looking for...because, if I'm any indicator of acceptance of the talk's going to be needed.

-Item number 2..."Mr. Trivia"... Dave Strauss...apparently has been let go there in favor of the satellite. Dave may have the sharpest mind of anyone I have ever had the pleasure of sharing a studio with. Some local station manager would do well to keep "Mr. Trivia"'s Sunday night tradition going in this market.

-Item number 3...At the risk of sounding cryptic, I caught wind of a rumor that there may be more than meets the eye to what's holding up the sale of the Blues. If you run into me, ask me about it. No phone calls, or e-mails please.

-Item number 4...On January 11th I wrote that someone who was in an East St. Louis house where a 14-year-old boy named Tony Dean died from a gunshot to the head needed to step up and say what happened. There were several relatives in the house at 2 a.m. when it occurred. Police thought at the time that the shot came from inside the house. Relatives say it must have come from outside. A coroner's jury yesterday said the death was a homicide, based on the evidence. But, nobody has come forward to set the record straight.

What I'm wondering now could the coroner...medical examiner...whoever investigated this case from a medical standpoint...take that bullet from the boy's head and not be able to tell if it was shot from long or close range? We've all seen enough episodes of CSI to know that bullets usually tell you where they've been...what kind of weapon they were shot from...and what kinds of material (glass, siding, wood, etc.) they might have encountered before killing someone. We need to get someone else on this case. Something's really fishy about this one.

-Item number 5...If you are a fan of Kevin Lisch and what he has brought, as a freshman, to the basketball program at St. Louis University, just wait to see what his sister Theresa does for the women's program when she plays for SLU next year.

-Item number 6...The Missouri Valley Conference tournament is at Savvis this weekend. I can't believe SLU would rather be in the Atlantic 10. Think of the potential rivalries in the Valley...SIU, Missouri State, Illinois State, Bradley. Meanwhile, SLU fans are treated to the excitement of games with Fordham, Rhode Island, LaSalle and Duquesne. Oh well.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Idol Chatter

Update- In the aftermath of Wednesday night's guy performances...I have to alter my position on the favorites a bit. The two best performances by the guys came from Chris Daughtry and Elliott Yamin... hands down. Ace Young was just OK. He was not nearly as good as last week. He won't be voted off...but he may not be the front runner any more either. It's funny how your opinion can change from week to week though. I remember Bo Bice having a few shaky weeks last year too...but, eventually his superior talent came through. So, who goes off the show Thursday night? Because Bucky Covington stepped up...and because David Radford and Sway Penala stumbled...I think Radford and Penala (above) go buh-bye... saving Wil Makar and Bucky for another week. (Mousy Kevin Covais stays because he's got all the "buzz" going...Chicken Little, sex symbol, etc.)
-As anyone who read some of my stuff around this time last year knows, I'm a huge fan of American Idol. I try my best not to miss it. But, of course, that puts me in the company of some 50 million or so other Americans.

Last year I tried to predict what would happen in the competition...and did pretty well....up until the final night. I didn't expect Carrie Underwood to take the top prize. I had that pinned on Bo Bice...from pretty early on. I think I underestimated the "likeability" factor of Carrie...and didn't heed my own observation that Idol is more of a people-with-talent popularity contest, than it is a singing competition....because of the phone-in voting system. Many of the folks who vote don't know the difference between a well-sung song and screeching brakes on their car.

Having said that, let me give you my credentials for picking who's hot...and who's not. Uh...well.. I sang a little in high school and college. I like the Beatles....uh...ummm...I met Ricky Scaggs once. I'm no expert. But, I'm going to give you my best shot anyway.

My impressions so far this Idol season. The girls are OK... The guys are really good...but, not great like last year.

As to the girl's show last night... My early pick to be the girl finalist...Katharine McPhee had one of those dreaded "bad choice of song" nights. I don't think that will keep her from moving on...there are several other candidates more ripe for elimination. So, I'm still picking Katharine...with an outside shot to Lisa Tucker...the little 16-year-old who's been on stage since she was 10. Both my humble opinion...way more singing talent than the rest of the field. And, they are also likeable. But, there's always a chance that someone's "super likeability factor"...(i.e. Kellie Pickler..the little blonde from North Carolina with the Dolly Parton personality) could throw a wrench into the obvious like Carrie did last year.

Who will be voted off Thursday night? If it's not Brenna Gethers (bad performer and unlikeable) and Heather Cox (good looks but weak performer)...with Paris Bennett(young, scared, and off key) also a possibility, America will have made another mistake.

The guys will sing tonight... My early pick here is Ace Young. He has the whole package. Everybody else has a liability of some kind. We'll see if Ace is on again tonight. But, if he continues to perform at the same level as last week, I think there's no way he doesn't make it to the final show. There are 4 or 5 other very strong singers...Chris Daughtry, Elliott Yamin, Jose "Sway" Penala, Taylor "Grey Hair" Hicks...but, they all lack something.. either looks, likeability, or comfort-of-performance.

The "X factor" among the guys? Little, mousy, 16-year-old Kevin Covais. He's just good enough to continue to get the "sympathy votes" of the pre-and-early-teen girl voting block. That's been big in the past with Clay Aiken, last year's John Stevens, and a few others.

Expectations this week for the guys.... We say good bye to long, stringy, blonde hair, Southern boy Bucky Covington and 16-year-old Wil Makar of Texas. Only out-of-nowhere performances should be able to save them. Although... Gedeon McKinney, whose smile, of all things, annoys Simon...had better step it up too.

I'll probably do one post a week on Idol through the finals in June... Should be fun.