Sunday, April 29, 2007

How Very Sad

-I tried to put myself in the shoes of the Cardinals players today after learning of the death of pitcher Josh Hancock. The team cancelled its Sunday night game with the Cubs. And, if my attempt to identify is anywhere close, the team likely will be very distracted until after the Hancock funeral on Thursday. Playing ball between now and then will be very secondary, and very difficult.

When I was about the age of most of the young people on this team, I had the experience of losing two co-workers in a traffic accident. It was one of those "out of the blue" phonecalls in the middle of the night that informed me Pete Basch and Nancy Dintelman had been killed in a head-on crash caused by a drunk driver. Pete was not only a co-worker, but a fellow sports fanatic with whom I shared many a great time at sporting events. Nancy was a talented and brilliant news reporter who, I'm still convinced, would have eventually made it to national prominence in the broadcasting business. Nancy and Pete had just announced their engagement to her parents, and were traveling to share the news with his, when the tragedy occurred.

Just as Tony LaRussa described it at the Cardinals press-conference, your work family is not "real family" but it's still family. And when someone that close to you is suddenly gone under tragic circumstances, you hurt. And the hurt doesn't go away very quickly. It's not easy to think about anything but that hurt, and that person who is no longer part of your life.

So, let's all forgive the Cardinals if they are not quite playing up to their capabilities in Milwaukee over the next three days. Experience tells me they will be thinking about things that are much more important than the final score.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


-The title comes from my lack of patience for misspellings. Everywhere one goes these days you will see poor spelling. And, the worst part seems to be that nobody really cares. You will see it in formal letters, in newspaper articles, and other public displays. And this in the day of spell-check software. Wow. I saw the plural of Silverado...spelled "Silveradoes" a TV ad recently. Come on...are we that pathetic when it comes to teaching kids how to spell these days? Sad.

-Looking forward to seeing Rick Majerus on the sideline of Billiken basketball games. I just hope, considering his health history, that he's not taking on a bear he can't wrestle.

-I really enjoy the NFL Draft...which begins a little over an hour from when I'm writing this. I have a hunch that the Rams might provide a surprise with their first-round pick. Everybody is expecting them to go with a defensive lineman. Some of Coach Linehan's comments recently lead me to believe they might not necessarily go that route.

-Tony LaRussa's blow-up at the post-game press conference Friday night has me scratching my head. He apparently refused to answer questions posed by the reporters from the Post-Dispatch because he objected to an article in Friday's paper that was critical of the Cubs. It seems to me if he had a problem with what was written he could calmly confront the writer instead of making a spectacle of himself in front of TV cameras. He also could have gone to his counterparts with the Cubs and told them that he was sorry for what appeared in his hometown paper. Now, we all have to wonder if he's unravelling in the wake of the team's poor start and his DUI arrest in Florida.

-Speaking of the Cubs, while in Chicago to visit son Stewart last weekend we scored some Cards-Cubs tickets for Sunday's game. What a treat it is to watch a ballgame in a stately, old stadium like Wrigley Field. The weather was perfect. The crowd was full of rivalry energy. Wrigley had that "old ballpark smell"...both good and bad. What a great experience. The new Busch is great too...but in a much different, less authentic, and more sanitized, way.

-I have never been an anti-gun guy. I've also never believed in keeping one around...but that's just me. But the recent spate of hand-gun related crime has me wondering if it isn't time to discuss hand-gun laws similar to those in Great Britain. It just seems that here in America the resolution to all disputes is achieved with a gun. And people practice their marksmanship with video games which doesn't help anything. What happened to good old fist-fights?

-I'll finish up this post with another thing that bugs the stuffing out of me. You see TV ads, and hear radio ads, all over the place that tout union workers. Hire a union plumber...Hire a union painter..etc. Do they bother to hire a union talent to perform their commercial?? Nooooo. I'm not a big suporter of the concept of unions. But, because of some of the voice work I do I am required to belong to AFTRA...the radio/TV actors union. Frequently, the "hire the union guy" ads feature an announcer or spokesman that hasn't paid a penny of union dues in his or her life. I guess those other unions won't mind when I cross one of their picket lines then.

Friday, April 13, 2007

More Imus

Everyone seems to have their own opinion on the Imus firing. Obviously, I was mistaken when I wrote--

"Do they really think that their protests will get Imus fired? After all this free advertising, MSNBC and CBS radio would be irresponsible business-people to do that."

Well, I guess there's always a chance that the networks could rescind their firing, but that appears unlikely. I have several thoughts about all this.

1) Because of the way this all played out, very little of an on-going nature will be done to make a difference in how women and minorities are treated in our culture. Had Imus been allowed to stay on the air to make amends and actually institute some sort of awareness campaign, the plight of minorities and women may have been addressed. But now, who will be in a position, beside the usual voices, to say anything about it. And the usual voices, and you know who I mean, are almost laughable. Were those usual voices really injecting themselves into this situation to make the world a better place? You decide.

2) The Rutgers women's basketball team had the courage and grace to accept Imus's apology. Will Reverends Sharpton and Jackson say that's good enough for them? I'll be surprised if that happens. Their stance on proper behavior doesn't seem to include themselves.

3) Who will replace the many millions of dollars that Imus raised for charity each year, those who want him to go straight to Hell?

4) As long as we're jumping on people who cross the line with hateful and hurtful language concerning women and minorities in the public arena, when is somebody going to say they are outraged at rap music? Or any other kind of music these days that objectifies and degrades women...particuarly minority women? Have you seen the lyrics to some of the songs in this art form lately?

5) Why is there a difference between what an old white guy says on the radio...and what an old white guy says on HBO...or any other mass-media setting. Obviously, it appears to be OK to say anything to millions of people, as long as they paid to watch or hear it. I don't think the impact on society is any less because the media that's being enjoyed is paid for.

6) Who is going to make the world realize that Imus does a radio show based in comedy? And, that most of what he has ever said in his whole life was intended to make someone either laugh or cringe. Someone needs to say that he's not a Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, or Al Franken who are trying to change the world to their way of thought.

7) What happens when a radio show is taken off the air? Something else takes its place. What will that be for WFAN? Probably the Mike Francesa show. And he's already said it was a big mistake for CBS to can Imus, and that he was embarassed that the company did it. Doesn't sound like there will be any help for the civil rights agenda there.

Oh...there will be more to come. You can bet on that.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Imus Ratings to Jump

I don’t think it was calculated. I don’t think he intended anything other than to poke fun…insensitive as it was…as part of what he does to everyone. But the resultant firestorm of the recent remarks by self-styled radio cowboy Don Imus, wind-whipped by the Reverends Sharpton and Jackson, will only serve to send more listeners to find the Imus show. If that’s not what they wanted, it’s too late now, because they have already provided the grist for the publicity mill. Do they really think that their protests will get Imus fired? After all this free advertising, MSNBC and CBS radio would be irresponsible business-people to do that.

The Reverends would have accomplished more to bring about racial harmony if they had issued a press release saying they were disgusted by the remarks. In it, they also could have provided background information about the young women Imus belittled so that everyone would know that these were real people with real feelings. But, of course, they had to stage marches and protests, and jump on every media outlet to declare outrage, making matters worse. There's a difference between being offended, and using every opportunity to advertise that you are the leader of an oppressed people. As long as your message contains the implication that you lead a somehow lesser people, many will believe it. Does that do anything for civil rights and harmony among the races? As long as everyone is forced by others to be uncomfortable in their own skin, how will anyone be comfortable with the color of someone else's? But, back to Imus.

Several years ago while working at the former WIBV, I was the morning news anchor when the station carried the syndicated Imus show. I got an up-close and personal dose of the show every day. For those who aren’t regular listeners, this show is predicated on poking fun at just about everybody. Presidents and politicians, star athletes and movie stars, recording artists and international figures, you name it…Imus skewers them all. It’s a show that’s based in comedy, satire, and irreverence (much like our own Frank O. Pinion show locally). Everybody is slammed with equal vigor while Imus keeps his tongue firmly planted in his cheek. Sometimes he sounds venomous…but usually he retreats from being truly hateful. Taking that into account, I buy Imus's explanation that his racially insensitive comment was part of the overall comedy of that day. Even he says that it went too far, though.

Sure, Imus likes to think his is a destination show for big-wigs, entertainers, and political movers-and-shakers to be interviewed. But, in the context of that show, almost anything that anyone says is taken with a grain of salt. Most of his “name” guests are on to show that they like a good joke as much as the next person. They come on because they know that Imus won’t go after them with really tough questions and they’ll be allowed to exit with their dignity intact. That, plus they know that they’ll be heard by millions of listeners coast-to-coast to get their own message out. Bottom's a comedy show...not a "we're trying to change the world" show.

I’m sure that Imus knew as soon as he uttered the phrase “nappy-headed ho’s” that he had crossed the line. There are certain boundaries in broadcasting that can’t be crossed, and he knew he had just had an “uh-oh” moment. Anyone who has done a radio talk show has a strong feeling for where the boundary is. Imus’s job, like many of the so-called “shock jock” variety, has been to dance right up to the boundary without crossing it. When they do…they had better be willing to pay the price. Frequently, they are. Perhaps he was prepared in this case.

Usually these guys are more than willing to serve a suspension…also known as time off from the job…without a second thought. What happens during the suspension? Usually more publicity is given to why the host isn’t there. Regular listeners get all wound up about the host’s return to the air. The rest of the media covers it like a blanket. And, ultimately, the host is better off in the ratings game for going away for awhile. How’s that for a promotion?

I’m not saying that Imus intended to get himself into this mess. That would be hard to prove without somebody ratting on the boss. But I do think he cares little about the consequences of his words. Why should he? He’s got all the money anyone could ever spend. He’s probably at the age where he’s thinking about retiring anyway. The only thing holding him back these days is how much he wants to hold on to some measure of dignity. In that light, he says that he hopes to serve his suspension with dignity.

The guy certainly will have the bright lights shining on him during his suspension so we’ll be able to see what he means by that. And he will certainly have a larger audience when he returns to the air in two weeks than what he had before the incident. Imus can thank the publicity machine that cranks up every time someone in the public eye, or on the public airwaves, even slightly crosses the line. I’m sure the ad salespeople that work for his station and networks are thanking their lucky stars these days…no matter what color they are, or what the texture of their hair.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Season Wrap-up

As the Blues play the final week of their season, I began to reflect on this season under new ownership and management. There was a time late in ’06 when I was seriously concerned about these new, and unfamiliar, people. Even though I’m not at Scottrade Center on a daily basis, I am there enough, and talk to enough of the people who are, to get a pretty good feel for what’s going on. And my feeling was not a good one back in November. But, I have to say that now that the new leadership of SCP Worldwide and its business and hockey management team is settled in, I could not be more excited about the chances of finally having a Stanley Cup parade down Market Street in the not too distant future.

My sense back in the early part of the season was that the hockey operations were struggling for direction and that Mike Kitchen was frustrated and confused. Of course, we would learn that he was not the man for the head coaching job here when Andy Murray was hired and immediately got things turned around. That one move by John Davidson seems to have gotten the entire organization re-charged and ready for great things. Murray has been magical.

I also wondered back then how JD and Larry Pleau would handle the situations with veteran free agents come the trade deadline. Obviously, whatever worries I had were answered with a series of fantastic moves for the future. Not only did our guys get big returns in the Bill Guerin and Keith Tkachuk deals, but they put a cherry on top with the outstanding Dennis Wideman-Brad Boyes trade. The team is wonderfully positioned for the youth movement of the next 3-5 years.

Jarmo Kekalainen should have some terrific assets to work with come draft day in June. There is still some worry that there hasn’t been an announcement yet on an extension of Jarmo’s contract. But Davidson promised that would happen, so I’m confident it will.

It also seemed that early on in the season some of the old front-office management team was being supplanted by new personnel without reason, other than they had been associated with the old regime. Because of my long-time association with many of the sales, marketing, and communications folks who worked under the Laurie ownership…and those before it…I probably was more emotional about seeing some of them go than I needed to be. From an objective standpoint, the energy around the office now seems to have multiplied enormously. I now see sales people who appear to be excited about their jobs, the team, and its overall direction. They obviously have goals to meet in their sales effort, and seem genuinely excited when they achieve one. Making money, after all, is also a part of any business. And with more money from ticket sales, comes the opportunity to invest in players and fan-friendly operations.

Recently, more money was brought into the ownership group by bringing aboard Tom Stillman of Stillman Distributing. The fact that Stillman is aligned with the Miller beer company in the hometown of Anheuser-Busch is causing concern for some. But I tend to think he’s on board more for his contacts in the community than to upset the beer-selling applecart at Scottrade Center and run the risk of alienating the wrong business people in town.

In summary, it is obvious that smart and talented people are now in place at the top levels of management with the St. Louis Blues. As they say, success in any business starts at the top. Believing that is true, I am of the opinion that my long tenure of working for the “lovable losers” of the NHL is about to end. The World Series-winning Cardinals and the Super Bowl-winning Rams should prepare to be joined in the next few years in the hearts of St. Louis sports fans by the champions from another pro sport in town.