Saturday, April 29, 2006

Tye on a Klopfenstein

-NFL Draft Day '06...and the Rams have an impressive first two rounds.

The guy I predicted they would take at #11 (Brodrick Bunkley, DT, Fla. St.) was taken at #14 by Philadelphia right ahead of the Rams. The Rams were picking 15th in the first round after a trade of their #11 pick to Denver who took Vanderbilt QB Jay Cutler. The Rams got Denver's #15 pick and a high third round pick in return. The Rams braintrust apparently had more interest in improving the defensive secondary than the D-line and got the guy they had rated highest at cornerback, Tye Hill of Clemson. Everybody I'm hearing rate the Rams pick is positive...but a little concerned about Hill's lack of size. Hill supposedly had the fastest time of anyone at the NFL scouting combine. Not surprising, considering he was a sprint champion running track at Clemson.

The Rams come back in the second round with the 46th overall pick to claim Colorado tight end Joe Klopfenstein. At 6-6, 256 pounds he certainly will present a target for quarterback Marc Bulger when he goes out to catch a pass. The reservations I'm hearing on him...good, but not blazing speed for a guy that size. And, he apparently has some problems with his blocking due to lack of lower body strength. But, I've heard no major negatives about him from anybody analyzing the pick.

Here's what I like about these two picks. They make sense by addressing actual weaknesses on the Rams' roster. Where St. Louis was picking in this draft there was no chance at getting one of the major stars available without trading up to get one. So, keeping their senses, the Rams went for the kind of player who will actually be able to go to work on the field and fill a hole. In other words, the highest rated players on their board who play the positions they want to bolster. Smart. You don't break the bank with a marquee player, and you responsibly address the concerns on your current roster. "Well done!" from here to new coach Scott Linehan, GM Charley Armey...and the rest of the Ram's braintrust.

By the way Klopfenstein translated from German to English means knock stone. Let's hope he's as solid a pick as his name. Tye Hill just sounds like a star player too.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Is There a Draft in Here?

-I, like most other red-blooded football fans, get pretty wound up about the NFL draft each year. For those who aren't red-blooded football fans, this year's draft is Saturday, beginning at around 11am St. Louis time.

This year's high-stakes crap shoot and meat market is particularly intriguing because there are 9 or 10 players who are labeled "can't miss" and they play at all different positions. And, nobody seems to know what's going to happen after Houston takes USC's Reggie Bush with the first pick. And, even that has been somewhat in question due to the Texans saying they aren't sure whether they'll take Bush or defensive end Mario Williams. (Many think that's a negotiating ploy to keep Bush's price down). But either way it goes, the rest of the top ten, before the Rams pick at 11, seems to be a matter of who you talk to.

Of course, you have two teams that are picking ahead of the Rams who have been known to come up with a silly first-round surprise over the years. The Lions at #9, and the Bidwill Boys at #10, pick right in front of the Rams. So, who knows what mayhem their picks might cause.

Many of the mock drafts I've seen have the Rams going for a defensive back. Michael Huff of Texas seems to be the most highly regarded DB that could be available at #11. Other prognosticators have defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley of Florida State as the likely choice for the Rams, even though they've busted on several other defensive tackle first-rounders over the last several years. (Damione Lewis, Ryan Pickett etc.) Jimmy Kennedy is still in town...but hasn't exactly been the superstar they thought they were getting.

Then, there's the quarterback scenario. Other draftniks have the Rams braintrust opting to draft a replacement for the oft-injured (under Mike Martz's minimum protection offense) Marc Bulger and drafting Vanderbilt QB Jay Cutler. Cutler is one of three quarterbacks expected to go in the first round....the others being Matt Leinart of Southern Cal and Vince Young of Texas. Many seem to think Cutler may turn out to be the best pro of all of them. Apparently his size and arm strength are eye-popping.

So, obviously, there is no real concensus on what the Rams might do Saturday. We haven't even talked about a possible trade up, or down, or other teams trading in front of them. The Rams choice at 11 will go a long way to determine what happens in the next several picks after them too. So, the interest level is high. And the pre-determined nature of many previous drafts is totally absent.

I might as well make my prediction as to what the Rams will do. Because, it doesn't hurt anything. And, after all, I was the only one in the press corps to correctly predict that the old Gridbirds would take UCLA kicker John Lee (and essentially waste their pick) in the second round of the 1986 draft. You might remember they stretched and wasted their first round pick too on linebacker Anthony Bell from Michigan State. He was the guy who showed up at his initial press conference in St. Louis and said he had had no contact from anyone with the Cardinals prior to the draft. Oh, don't we long for the draft-day pain of those good old George Boone days! Naaahhh.

So, here we go. I'm thinking the agressive nature of defensive coordinator Jim Haslett is going to have more influence on this Rams draft than anything else. The defense is definitely the area of most need. And, unless there's an offensive player (TE Vernon Davis, or possibly Cutler) that becomes available and is just an overwhelming value, I think they'll go with defense. That brings about a number of possiblities because of the Rams many needs. But, they seem to be weakest right now at corner and defensive tackle. Because I think Michael Huff will likely go to the Lions at #9, I'm predicting the Rams will pick--

Brodrick Bunkley--Defensive Tackle, Florida State.

Height: 6-2 3/4 Weight: 306 40-Time: 4.94

Strengths:Very solid and compactly built...Extremely strong...Holds his ground and will not get pushed around...Has tremendous balance...Is very quick and explosive...Does a pretty good job of penetrating and makes a lot of plays in the opponents backfield...Has a motor that never stops...Plays with good leverage...Locates the ball well...Gets a great push up the middle...Had an outstanding senior campaign. Weaknesses:Does not have great size or bulk...Durability is a concern and he has a history of knee and ankle problems...Has not been the hardest worker throughout his career...His lack of size might become more of a problem at the next level...Is on the ground too much...Was arrested for stealing a video game in 2003. Notes:Tore the ACL in his left knee while in high school and then tore the MCL in the same knee in 2002...Potential nose tackle...Could end up being one of the best defensive tackles the Noles have produced, which is really saying something.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Too Soon?

-As United 93 premieres at New York's Tribeca Film Festival, I'm struggling with whether to see it when it comes to local theaters. For me, the events of 9/11/01 are still a bit too fresh in my mind to be terribly excited about running out and buying a ticket. We all remember the feelings of vulnerability and deep sorrow of that day. There's still that pain down deep in most of us that has yet to totally subside. Maybe it never will.

They say, including family members of those on board the doomed plane, that the film is a dignified presentation and certainly worthy of the heroes who re-took, or at least tried, the plane from the hijackers. But, knowing the outcome, I'm still a little squeamish about wanting to see it. It's sort of like going to a football game knowing that your team is going to play the best game of all time, but still lose.

British Director Paul Greengrass calls the documentary-style film a "believable truth" about what might have happened that day on the plane. It apparently tries to re-create (with as much accuracy as possible with the limited amount of actual facts available) the on-board drama that played out from the time air traffic controllers knew there was a hijacking, to the time the passengers stormed the cockpit to seize control back from the villains.

Would you feel guilty going to this movie that will likely be a huge money-maker for Universal Pictures when it's based on a real human tragedy? There are mothers and fathers who lost sons and daughters....wives who lost husbands and vice versa....children who lost parents. Real people with real emotions who lost real loved ones. The company apparently wasn't totally insensitive to that. They are donating 10 percent of the film's profits from opening weekend to fund a permanent memorial. What form that will take, I'm not sure. But, it's a nice gesture.

It will be interesting to see how the public responds to this film. Most of us are probably curious enough to go see it. We all would like to know what happened on the plane. We all would like to think that the people who saved the White House...or whatever other target the terrorists had...were really bona fide heroes. And we, for our own sense of justice, probably need to see that scenario committed to this sort of permanent public presentation.

I'm just wishing they would have waited a little longer.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Idol Time

Results Update- It looks like the competition has gotten to the point where America considers the results too important to allow a mistake. Kellie, as cute as she is, just wasn't as good a performer as she needed to be....and America told her so. The voters were not going to let the outstanding Chris Daughtry fall into the bottom two again. They were not going to let the judges' poor (and admittedly wrong-headed) assessment of Katharine McPhee stop them from voting her into the top two. The voters, rightfully, rewarded Paris with more votes than Kellie. And Elliott and Taylor are enigmatic enough to be somewhere in the middle. 47 million people voted. And, they likely out-voted those with regional and personal biases. The system definitely worked this week. Somebody in the final five...maybe more than headed for a career like these people------------>

And, if you didn't get goose-bumps during the Andrea Boccelli performance, you may want to have your blood pressure checked...because it must be zero.
-What an interesting, entertaining, joyful, and sometimes painful performance show on American Idol this week. It's time to size it up and predict who will be cast off the island.

"Classic Love Songs" was the theme this week with help provided by Italian songmaster Andrea Boccelli and producer David Foster....both holders of numerous grammy awards. Sometimes when Boccelli opens his mouth...the sound that comes out assures you there is a God. A truly colossal and awesome talent. Foster had some "tough love", but good advice, for the contestants during rehearsals.

As to the performances, I'm not sure about the song choices made by a few of the contestants... particularly Katharine and Paris. They both took on songs made popular by bona fide superstars. And when you try to do Whitney Houston and/or Barbra Streisand you had better nail it good. I thought they both did OK, but were slightly off the mark. I thought Katharine's performance was much better than the reviews she received from the judges. It almost seemed as though they were trying to "take her down a notch", and knew that going in. Just the way I saw it. Paris looked unfamiliar and a little uncomfortable with The Way We Were.

Elliott, who I have not been terribly impressed with from early on, was just outstanding with A Song For You. He is certainly convincing me that he has much more talent than I realized. He's a threat to all of the remaining contenders.

Taylor seemed to struggle a bit. I think he's a passionate and charismatic fellow...but not blessed with a great voice. He can't get to the final two...IMHO.

Chris was given rave reviews by the judges for his Have You Ever Loved a Woman...and with good reason. He was truly and completely professional. I'm trying right now to vote for the guy but can't get through.

Now, I'm going to take up a cause that might get me lynched in parts of the South. It is time for Kellie Pickler to go. This girl is, and likely always will be, cute as the day is long. She can charm the rust off your car bumper. But, this girl is not anywhere close to a professional singer. She botched up Unchained Melody something fierce. It's her second botch job in as many weeks. If she wasn't every Southern boy's dream, she would have been gone long ago. And, by now we all know about her unfortunate family situation. Daddy's in prison etc.... But, come on people, it's time.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Opportunity Lost

-I read with interest this morning that Mike Anderson's contacts are telling him that Cardinals baseball will be back on KMOX by '08. Well, I'm sure you could get arguments on both sides of that issue, depending on who you want to talk to. But, there's one thing that I don't think anyone can argue, that the Cardinals' transition from KMOX to KTRS hasn't gone anywhere close to as smoothly as either entity had envisioned. Can KTRS fix what's broken? Can the Cardinals afford to continue the association? I'm willing to give it some more time....maybe more than the Cardinals are.

One of the comments I read recenly, and apparently uttered by someone in the management mix at KTRS with regard to their strategy, goes something like this. "We already had a KMOX in St. Louis, so we thought it was best to try something different". What he/they apparently, and disastrously, overlooked was that KMOX, or what many of we St. Louisans remember as "The Voice of St. Louis" in it's hey-day, had already moved to 550 on the dial in the last number of years. Adding Cardinals baseball to the station would have largely made KTRS into KMOX. And "The Voice" would have just switched dial positions. Sure, more work was needed. But, the framework and the essentials would have been in place.

With the proper tweaks to programming, and the right type of promotion, The KTRS folks could have convinced many St. Louisans that Robert Hyland's once wildly successful radio station had been re-created. And, that what KMOX had so foolishly abandoned in the corporately-controlled years after Hyland's death, was now once again available. Of course, that would have required someone with Hyland's business savvy, programming instincts, aggressiveness, awareness of market history, and connection with the community.

Instead, the now, easily-questionable strategy has been to blow out all of the old and bring in a collection of cheaper, and, obviously less-seasoned, talent from out of town to go for a thorough makeover in an appeal to a younger demo. Throw in some bells, whistles, rock bumper music, a voice guy who sounds like he's puking every time he says BIG 550, promote it heavily within Cardinals games (where you should be sold out), and VOILA!'ve got a dominant station. Uhhh, you mean that's not working? What do you mean there's no substance? Who wants substance?

In my humble, and no-longer-in-the-business opinion, many of the elements that were needed to move KTRS to the place it wants to be in the market were already there before last December when they decided that 13 of our market's finest professionals were expendable. I would admit that the morning show was struggling, but Bill and Wendy have been St. Louis icons for many years and were never properly promoted by the KTRS regime. If deemed necessary, you could have re-located an already successful morning show, i.e. (Corcoran or Phillips, etc.) to 550, and let B&W lead into Frank O. Pinion in the afternoon. (Frank will never go back to mornings) McGraw could have stayed put. (Of course, they've already brought him back to his old time slot). The sports guys they brought in could have been added to the stable...instead of replacing respected people like Randy Karraker and Jim Holder. Deals could have been made with Bob Costas, Dan Dierdorf (one of the KTRS owners for crying out loud), Joe Buck and other notable St. Louisans, to host on occasion. Hyland always had some ratings-grabbing trick like that going on.

But, not many in broadcasting these days see the benefits of loading up the broadcast day with the best possible them the tools they need to be successful...and then letting them perform. If KTRS had done that, as Robert Hyland used to, the current billboard campaign could have actually been successful, and accomplished more than just informing Cardinal baseball listeners where they can hear the games. It could have given listeners a blockbuster station populated by this market's most recognized and respected talent to enjoy again...and one that would have provided the warm glow of the old KMOX days.

Yeah, you might say, those would have been over-50 listeners and undesirable to the ad salespeople. Point taken. But, in it's days of dominance, KMOX skewed older...but was also such a juggernaut that it had big numbers in every age group. I listened faithfully in my teens and twenties to much of what The MOX offered. Who in this market didn't? Sure, we listened to other stations for our favorite songs. But when it was important...or often just because they had great broadcasters who were interesting and fun...we listened to 1120.

The Hyland KMOX was, sports, gossip, humor, personalities, sports updates, and whatever brought about good radio....a true full-service station with all local broadcasters and content. When something of any importance was going on, we automatically turned to "the MOX" to get the skinny. Because we knew somebody we respected like...Jack Buck, Bob Hardy, Wilkerson, Wiese, Dierdorf, Costas, Jack Carney, Gary Bender, Jim White, Bruce Bradley, Anne Keefe, Randy Karraker, Bob Burnes, Bob Broeg, Ron Jacober, Dan Kelly, Mary Phelan, Mike Kelly and about five-hundred others during the glory years... would be all over the story and taking phone calls. KMOX news was always read by someone whom we had grown to know and trust. Unknowns were not allowed, unless they were auditioning at midnight on a Saturday. Sports updates were part of every newscast, not limited to thirty or sixty seconds, and had to have fresh sound.

As I look back, I find my days there as an intern in the early 70's...and an announcer/producer in the sports department in the late 80' be some of the most rewarding of my radio career...mostly because of the important position in this market, and in broadcasting, that KMOX held during that time.

Hyland didn't do it on the cheap. He did it on the very expensive. But he made money. Lots of it. And, wasn't it good? No, wasn't it great? Maybe you just can't do that kind of radio any more...or convince the people who sign the checks that it's a good idea...but I'll bet if Hyland were still alive, the good old "At Your Service" KMOX would be too....somewhere.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Hodge Podge

-Update--Well, I'm having fun predicting...even if I haven't been very good at it. Ace Young pulled the deuce out of the deck in the American Idol game of "high card draw"this week. You might remember, I felt Ace was vulnerable to elimination the last two weeks. But, I thought he rose to a new level this week. Obviously, America felt differently. More shocking to me this week--Chris Daughtry with the second lowest number of votes. Chris regarded lower than Kellie, Elliott, Taylor and Paris?? I guess I might have to start voting. Andrea Bocelli is the guest artist next week. I have no idea how that's going to work...should be interesting.
-Prediction on who leaves AI tonight. I'm sticking with Elliott..although I think his performance was much better than Kellie's. Kellie just won't be voted off tonight because of her other plusses. Paris may be in some danger...but I thought her performance was good enough to stick around, and she's the only minority contestant left. Chris, Ace, Katharine, Kellie and Taylor should have no problem. I'm sticking with Chris and Katharine as the eventual final two.

In reading reviews of last night's show on the internet today, I see many columnists who somehow still believe this is a singing contest. It's NOT a singing contest. Or, at least, you don't win by being the best singer. That's been proven in the last four seasons. It's a personality contest...with singing as the presentation vehicle. It's about who the public likes and will pick up the phone and vote for.

-Hopefully soon the sports radio talk-show hosts, who have to do so regularly, will figure out how to pronounce the name of the Cardinals' new right-fielder. It's not really that hard if you break it down by syllables. EN--CAR--NAH--SEE--OWN. I'm hearing about every other possible bastardization--
En-car-NAY-see-own (I think that came from one of the Post's Cardinals beat writers)
You get the idea. Maybe, if they remember that encarnacion translated from Spanish to English is incarnation it would be a little easier.

-There is one sports radio host in the city with whom I have run out of patience and who's show I now refuse to listen to. This guy is knowledgeable...on everything except fact admits on the air that he doesn't like hockey. But, that's not the reason I've given up on him. It's his insistence on a speech pattern and delivery that comes across to me as condescending. When he makes a point...he insists on driving it home by repeating it. Verrrryyyyy slowwwwwlllllyyy and emphaticalllllyyyyy... sometimes more than once. For instance he might say... "The Cardinals will not win many games this year without 50 home runs from Albert Pujols....withouuuuuttt Fiffffffteeeee Home Runsssss frommmmmm Allllllbertttt Puuuuuuuuuuujollssssss." It's not even so much that he stretches out the words to make his point. It's the attitude that he has when doing though you either didn't hear him the first time...or you were too stupid to understand him. You get the impression that he's saying...."Hey I said something important....and you might want to write it down, you here it is again". If you've heard this man...who's paired up with someone else that I actually enjoy listening probably know who I mean.

-The new ownership of the Blues had better put their personnel in place very quickly. Dave Checketts and his lieutenants likely already have most of their top brass in mind...or under contract. Because, the amateur draft happens in June and the Blues will have either the very first, or the second, overall pick. The NHL won't approve the new owners until probably late May at the earliest. A lot of the leg work on the draft will have to be done well before that....or, they will have to rely on the current collection of scouts that hasn't really been much to shout about.

-Chris Carpenter could easily have 4 wins already. After today's win at Pittsburgh, he's 2-1 with a no decision. The bullpen failed him in the ND at the Cubs. And the other was the 1-0 loss to Cincinnati. His ERA is 1.67.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Tax-Day Tellings

-It's sad. And it's happy. The end of the Blues season comes Tuesday night in Chicago. The home season ended last night with a somewhat pathetic excuse of a professional sports event at the Savvis Center. Pathetic because of it's lack of enthusiasm of any kind. There were few fans. (11-thousand plus paid...but fewer than 7-thousand actually in the building...likely the smallest crowd since Harry Ornest owned the team in the early 80's) There were few players who actually seemed to care. And everybody was talking about getting it over with so the new owners could get their people in place and begin the process of regaining respectability. Sad that such a proud franchise has come to this. Happy that we can go nowhere but up.

-It had to be one of Wayne Gretzky's sons that I saw in the press lounge prior to the Blues/Coyotes game. The young fellow was about 13 or 14 years old. Was tall and thin. And had a face that looked EXACTLY like Janet Jones. I know the "Great One" has three sons and two daughters with the former actress and dancer from St. Louis.

-Could there possibly have ever been a better hitter in any situation than Albert Pujols? The guy continues to be absolutely amazing. Thank goodness he has been so super-human here at the beginning of the Cardinals' season, because it's hiding a number of flaws and question marks. Why opposing managers are allowing their pitchers to throw anything to him that is anywhere close to the plate is beyond me.

-As I write this, the news is fresh that two Duke lacrosse players have been indicted in the alleged rape of the stripper who entertained at their team drinking party. This story appears to have all the flash points of the O.J. Simpson case. Race, class, sex, serious alleged crime. Screamers and yellers on each side appear to be divided by race and income strata. People believe they know what happened based on the skin color of their hero, or heroine. Sad, that in the year 2006 race is more important to many than the truth. Conclusions are too easily drawn. If the case goes to trial, we will be in for another media-outside-the-courthouse circus.

-Advance thoughts on this week's American Idol. The American Songbook music (meaning 20th Century standards) with Rod Stewart as the guest star. This should be interesting...and again challenging... for a couple of the remaining would-be Idols. Chris Daughtry...who I like to win the whole shabang...will have a difficult time finding something anywhere close to his high-energy, rock and roll, comfort zone. But he always manages to come up with something that's pretty amazing. I see all three remaining women (Katharine, Kellie, Paris) able to purrrrrr their way through this week. Ace (who actually could probably do a pretty good Rod Stewart immitation) should be OK. Taylor will bring personality to something and be all right. I'm thinking Elliott will be in the most trouble this week. He's been on the brink of elimination a couple of times already. He's an excellent singer...but, through no fault of his own, lacks the star quality of every other remaining contestant. I'd be surprised if we see him next week.

-On the 100th anniversary of the Great Quake of San Francisco, two reports to be released at an earthquake conference indicate that a quake of similar magnitude now would do much more damage, kill more people, and run up destruction costs into the billions. Geologists expect another big quake on the San Andreas fault near SF sometime in the next 30 years. They say if the quake should hit during the expect at least 3,400 deaths. And we thought hurricane Katrina was a big deal.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Upon Further Review

-Most of the post below about the Commerce/West Pointe business deal was written late Friday afternoon when I had all day to stew about the potential negative ramifications of it...and about 5 minutes before Terry Schaefer called me to talk about it. He said much to ease my mind.

Mr. Schaefer asures me that this deal will be in the best interest of everyone involved, including our Belleville area business community as a whole. And that's really all I needed to hear. Negotiations between the Commerce execs and West Pointe's toppers have been going on for the last 5 to 6 months. Nothing that would be perceived as a negative by West Pointe's current customer and employee base was left unadressed or unsatisfied in Terry's mind prior to agreement on this deal.

I'm sure I'll hear more details when we are able to talk some more, but Terry made it clear to me that Commerce Bancshares Inc. views this deal more as a starting point for further expansion into southern Illinois, as opposed to a bank acquisition in an effort to eliminate competition or add market share. The West Pointe operation at 5701 West Main is expected to serve as the headquarters for it's southern Illinois ops. That would mean the people currently employed would be more likely to be kept on to administer the expansion of Commerce's business into other cities and markets everwhere south of Springfield.

I'm sure many will still question whether or not the type of service that West Pointe customers have become accustomed to will still be there. Terry assures me that the people he's been dealing with are like-minded and will make it clear that it will.

As to the advertising and marketing that I've been helping out with, well that's something that will have to be adressed. But, I'm confident that I'll be given every chance to continue doing business with Commerce at some level.

For now, says Terry Schaefer, it's business as usual at West Pointe before the deal, and for the forseeable future after it closes.

West Pointe Deal

-I was as shocked...maybe more anybody when I opened my morning Belleville News-Democrat to find my friend, and business associate, Terry Schaefer smiling back at me from the front page. The headline read:


I have been working with West Pointe for a number of years now as an advertising consultant and have produced a number of the bank's television and radio commercials. I am proud of what we've done together and hope that somehow this relationship will be able to continue.

There are a number of points to be made about this deal that fall into the realm of speculation. So, being a somewhat prudent business person, I choose to not go down that road yet. So, the following items are what I feel comfortable saying about this deal with what very limited knowledge I have about it.

-I know of noone who saw this coming. Besides being one of our area's finest people Terry Schaefer is as good as anybody I've run across at keeping a secret a secret. Oh, there are always rumors these days about locally owned banks being sold to bigger companies. There have been some rumors about West Pointe going around for several years. But, I have always been assured by the toppers at WP that there was no intention of selling the bank to anyone. But, as we all know, circumstances in business change. Usually a deal of this magnitude doesn't come down without some advance warning. People on the inside of the talks generally let something slip to someone, who lets something slip to someone else...and you know how it goes. But, in this case, I don't think that happened.

-I hope the people who work at West Pointe will be OK after the buyout. From what I've been told, the work force found out about the Commerce deal at a mandatory meeting for all employees at the main branch Thursday evening. I do know this, that West Pointe management has achieved a culture within it's organization of only hiring top flight people, of unchallengeable character. This is no small part of what makes doing business with West Pointe so pleasurable. There are some truly outstanding individuals that toil at all levels. And if it comes to a point of many being let go by the new parent company, it would be very sad for me. Buyouts tend to go that way...but we'll wait to see how it goes.

-With Terry Schaefer staying on as the President and CEO of Commerce Bank's Southern Illinois Division, it appears that Commerce understands his importance in fostering an identity as a community-oriented operation that really cares about it's customers. That has been the hallmark of West Pointe's business model since it opened. Make no mistake. If there is anyone who can pull that off, it's Terry. I'm hoping he makes a commitment to stay around for at least another ten years, or so.

-I'm sure that this deal will allow Harry and Toddy Cruncleton to finally get some down time. Harry is the Chairman at the bank. And Toddy is his thoroughly devoted wife who has also been heavily involved with the bank's advertising and marketing. These two classy people have been going to work nearly every day since the bank opened in 1990 and are undoubtedly looking forward to a real retirement.

-West Pointe is a real stalwart in the business community and has given the Belleville area a bank that local leaders could point to with pride as a monument to local success and stability. It seems it would take a business miracle for that not to be lost.

-It will be difficult, and somewhat painful to me, as someone who did a radio broadcast at West Pointe on it's first day of business, to imagine the West Pointe signs being replaced.

-Just about everything else about the news of this deal, that has caused my stomach to churn all day, will not appear in this space until I get more information. I am counting on a meeting with Mr. Schaefer next week and am hoping that it will bring me a little more peace of mind.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

One Liners

-Here, please find several of my most recent observations, opinions and predictions.

-Veteran reporter (and friend) Steve Jankowski is the best street reporter on St. Louis TV.
-His colleague Revecca Wu does a nice job, but seems distant by never interacting, by name, with any of her studio anchors.
-Jason Isringhausen may eventually lose the closer role on the Cardinals to young Adam Wainwright who was untouchable in today's game.
-Fox 2's new news set is just like the Fox News Channel's and designed to be that way.
-Channel 4's Vicki Newton has become the best news anchor in St. Louis.
-When I first met Joe Buck (circa 1987) he was a college kid hanging around at KMOX, and is now America's premiere play-by-play man.
-The Blues goalies next season will be Curtis Sanford and Jason Bacashihua, not necessarily in that order.
-The sooner we get geared up with infrastructure to handle the coming Ethanol revolution the sooner we will all be able to afford it and thumb our noses at OPEC.
-Kellie Pickler is a really, really good actress and not nearly as stupid as she would have us believe.
-St. Louis doesn't need a new downtown bridge, just a re-direction of the interstate system to take the I-55 traffic across the J.B. Bridge to the south via I-255 and I-70 traffic to the north across the Chain of Rocks bridge via I-255 & 270.
-The Cardinals should think long and hard what they've done to, and with, KTRS, and what they need to do as a result.
-Who will create the first really big gathering spot in the vicinity of the new ballpark to rival the Cubby Bear in Chicago? Hrabosky's? Paddy O's? or someone else?
-If someone wants to know how to keep one of those 8 or 12 dollar beers cold until you're finished drinking it during the hot weather this season, ask me about my son's idea.
-For the umpteenth time in the last few months I've heard Belleville referred to as the St. Louis area's next O'Fallon/St. Peters because of the coming growth explosion.
-Simon doesn't like Ace because he sees him more as a "pretty boy" than a singer, and he's probably right.
-I will sell my Al MacInnnis special edition hockey puck from his jersey retirement night to the highest bidder...bidding starts at $2000... (just kidding, this one's not going anywhere)
-George W. Bush will likely do something soon to "make his mark on history" that doesn't involve war...because they all try in their second terms.

More when I have more.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Catching Up

Update-- I think America got it right. Bucky goes back to N.C. Be honest. He was a very likeable guy. But was he really a performer you'd pay to see, or more importantly listen to? Didn't think so.
-The Al MacInnis jersey-retirement ceremony Sunday night was tremendously well thought out, terifficly planned and executed, and a real tear jerker. I must admit to getting a bit misty just like Kelly Chase during Chopper's speech. My role was minimized, but that's OK. Those responsible, yes including Bill Laurie who paid for it, should be commended. Laurie, Mark Sauer, and Larry Pleau were booed mercilessly by the crowd when they were introduced. I'm sure they expected it for their role in this pitiful season. The only negative aspect to the ceremony that I could pick out? Brian Sutter's was the only previously retired jersey that was unrepresented. I heard no explanation of his absence. Somewhat disappointing.

-Opening day at the new Busch Stadium was also well done. I had no tickets (didn't really try) and watched on TV. Fox Midwest did a nice job with the broadcast. The crowd singing the anthem is always touching. It's still pretty amazing to me that they are already playing ball on that field. The speed of the construction project has been nothing short of miraculous. You can already feel a more "Wrigley-like" atmosphere in the area surrounding the ballpark. Business in downtown St. Louis is sure to grow exponentially in the next few years.

-Speaking of opening day, I was tuning around the dial on Monday morning and couldn't believe the audio quality (or lack thereof) coming from the radio when I turned to KTRS. Of course, about all of the local stations were doing some type of remote broadcast Monday as a part of the "Home Opener is a St. Louis Holiday" theme that everyone has adopted. But, there was something wrong with KTRS's technical set-up to the point where most of what they were doing was unlistenable. Every time one of the hosts said anything there was some type of accompanying buzz that made me instantly want to turn the dial. It wasn't overmodulating the mixer to the point of distortion which is easily adjusted and I'm not sure what the problem was. But it is sad that the new "Voice of the Cardinals" couldn't get a simple technical set up right on their "debut day". The late Bob Hyland would have had a conniption fit if it were his station.

-I'm wondering how long we will continue to miss Reggie Sanders and Mark Grudzielanek from last year's team. The Cardinals are struggling to replace them, and nobody seems capable of doing so yet. Whoever plays in left field, usually So Taguchi or Skip Schumaker, aren't anywhere near the threat of Sanders. And why John Rodriguez isn't getting a shot, after his performance last year, is baffling. Aaron Miles has had a nice start at second. But it's no secret he was brought in more as an insurance policy than a regular. It seems the easy answer was to pay the guys we had a little bit more and keep them. But someone, or a group of someones, at the management level obviously decided to play the hand differently. I guess they decided to keep that money to throw at free-agent pitcher A. J. Burnett, who eventually signed with Toronto, and wound up with "none of the above". Too bad...Reggie and Grudz were excellent players and fan favorites.

-Hockey prevented me from watching the Idol performance show Tuesday night. I've got it recorded. But, from what I've read and discussed with friends, it looks like another toss-up as to who will go home. I'm told that Ace and Bucky were ordinary at best and may be the top candidates for elimination. Although, Paris was also out of her element and may be in some danger. Elliott was in the bottom three last week...but his performance this week is said to be good enough to avoid elimination. Kellie was hot (looking) as usual and her Bohemian Rhapsody was done well enough. Katharine, Chris and Taylor seem to be above concern.

-Are Chris and Kellie the 2006 version of these people? --->

-Interesting for me to note that there has been very little reported anywhere about the lack of official warning for the people in Fairview Heights of the tornado that ripped apart that community a week ago Sunday. There has been one "oh by the way" type story on Channel 5's website about it. But, unless I've missed it, there hasn't been much else. This story should be big news to the Post and the News-Democrat. Why it isn't, I dunno. The Channel 5 story...written by an AP reporter...basically says the National Weather Service was caught by surprise and didn't expect tornadic activity out of that portion of the storm. Why wouldn't the TV stations report this? Of course, they trumpet loud and long about how they are always on top of these situations with their teams of meteorologists. But, the bottom line is. If the Weather Service doesn't issue a warning, they won't either. The TV weather departments are not going to go out on a limb by themselves. One man died in the Fairview Heights storm when the roof of the K&G store caved in from the F-2 tornado.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


--I'm looking forward to the Al MacInnis number retirement ceremony on Sunday before the Blues-Edmonton game. I've been given twenty seconds to make a remark or two about Al. I didn't expect that, but I am pleased to play a part.

--I haven't been there yet, but the people I've talked to who have, say the new Busch Stadium is spectacular. There are a few issues to be de-bugged, like the enormous foul poles that some patrons have to try to see around, but most say the experience will be much better compared to the old place. By the way, I'm told that in the old stadium the foul poles weren't as big because they were supported by guy wires. In the new place, they are free-standing, so they have to have a bigger circumference. So it's like trying to look around a Sequoia tree instead of a flagpole.

--By the way, the Grizzlies have new foul poles at their stadium too. In the past, there were a number of long fly balls that produced guess work by the umpires as to whether they were fair...and a homer...or foul and a strike. Apparently the problem has been adequately addressed by Rich Sauget and the Grizzlies ownership group. The recent storms did no significant additional damage to the stadium. You'll remember a couple of storms tore up the right field scoreboard wall and other parts of the stadium last year.

--Is it just me, or does the Post-Dispatch seem to have an agenda to discredit everything about the KTRS/Cardinals relationship. They seem to not know what to write if they can't re-hash the old "KTRS has signal problems" story. It was a story for two months after the move from KMOX to KTRS. And, now that the season is underway, it looks like every reporter on the staff will take a turn at blasting the Cardinals, KTRS, and anything that's different than what we've had for the last 50 years. Maybe it wasn't the best move in radio or sports history, but it's done, it's over with, let it go. Find something else to whine about. Does the Post make any money off the Cardinals? If I'm Bill DeWitt or Mark Lamping, I start finding a way that they make less.

--Katie Couric on the CBS evening news? I wish her well, but I'm having a hard time seeing that working. Good move by NBC to fill her chair with Meredith Vieira.

--Sad to see the Missouri Black Legislative Caucus coming out against the leaders of the St. Louis NAACP for reversing their position on Dave Lenihan and his racially insensitive slip-of-the-tongue on KTRS. I thought the press conference held by the NAACP in support of Lenihan might signal a breakthrough in race relations in the area. I guess not. It seems to have given the various factions in the minority community a platform from which to bash one another in an effort to continue a tradition of hostility. You might think that forgiveness would creep into the minds of some of these individuals from time to it did that of Harold Crumpton of the NAACP. But, I guess forgiveness and understanding doesn't fit the agenda of most civil rights groups...or white supremacist groups for that matter. If it did, they might finally recognize that one option they have is that of going out of business.

--Kudos to family friend Dr. David Wild. He happened to be shopping in Fairview Heights Sunday when the tornado came through. He was temporarily trapped by the downed power lines. And, when law enforcement found out he was a doctor, they asked him to help out with the injuries...which he did. To what extent he may have prevented death, or further injury, to any of those affected I haven't learned as yet. More to come on that.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Who's Turn to Leave?

RESULTS-- I guess you can disregard the predictions made below...and maybe for the rest of the competition...because I wasn't even close this week. You'll note that I said--In the safe zone this week....Mandisa, Elliott, and Paris. Of course that was your BOTTOM three...with Mandisa being shown the door. My apologies to Ace.

Analysis--All three of them were so-so this week in a genre that doesn't suit them. The "big city" phenomenon that I cite below seemed to be of no consequence to Ace, or Katharine. Taylor, Katharine and Chris were the first to be safe this week. They seem to be the cream of the crop for the voters. I picked either Chris or Katharine to win it all back when we had a top twelve. Mandisa, in my humble opinion, fell victim to a song that wasn't suited to her, a genre that wasn't suited to her, performing in the middle of the pack, and (I know this isn't PC, but) her size. Let's face it, she decided to strut around the stage in jeans this week, and as great a singer as she is, that wasn't a "professional site".

The music of Queen next week...that should be interesting. I can't wait to see what Chris pulls out of his hat.
-Country music was the theme for this week's American Idol performance show. That meant that a couple of performers were in their natural element and would breeze on to the next week without fear of elimination. Right? Maybe.

I'm not convinced that Bucky and Kellie were that great. They were definitely in their element. And the judges...(who seemed to have something on their minds other than judging)...acknowledged that. But Kellie, as cute as she is, is not a teriffic singer. And Bucky, as well... country as he is, is also not what you would call a great singer. He manages to hit most of the notes, but there's just no wow factor. Kellie's wow factor is her physical beauty and Dolly Parton personality...not her ability with a song.

So, who will go away on Wednesday's results show?

It's getting really tough to predict, but I have to point to a phenomenon that seems to be setting in that can't be denied. As I have said before, the big city contestants seem to be at a handicap because they don't have millions of fans who easily identify with them ringing the Idol phones off the hook to vote. Big city people are too jaded, indifferent, and unenthusiastic to be bothered by something like a couple of hours of phone dialing to vote for a contestant on a TV show.

Therefore, even though I think he's probably the second best singer left among the guys, I'm predicting that the Denver area will not rally behind Ace...and his less-than-stellar performance of a country song that was out of his comfort zone will send him packing.

I'm also expecting last week's close call, and this week's sexy and perky performance by Katharine to re-elevate her to the star status that most think she's worthy of.

In the safe zone this week...Mandisa, Elliott, Paris.

Bottom three for this week... Taylor (because he went first and was so-so with "Take Me Home Country Roads")...Bucky (because he was just OK) and Ace.

Best performance this week. Even though he sang a ballad, and that's not his thing, Chris Daughtry can just flat out sing, and continues to hit home runs.