Monday, March 18, 2013

Where Did the Consonants Go?

I'm not sure why misuse of the language gets me fired up. But it does. I've been that way since I can remember. I guess it's what makes me the logophile that I am. Here's my latest rant on my belief that our language is being ushered down the porcelain facility.

I'm driving down the road recently when I tune the radio to the broadcast of a high school basketball game. I have no idea who was doing the broadcast or who was playing, except to say that one of the teams was nicknamed the "Spartans". A few seconds into my listening experience the young man (I say young man because he sounded young to me) calling the play-by-play says..."And the rebound goes to the Spar-uhns". And I said to myself..."What? The Spar-uhns?" I must not have heard him correctly. So I decided to leave the broadcast on the radio as I drove on to see if I misunderstood.

Sure enough, a few moments later out comes..."The Spar-uhns bring it up the court". So now I realize what I'm hearing is one of the quirks in modern speech that has been brought about by the younger generation's exposure to popular music and the so-called "Hip-Hop" culture. In this strange speech pattern, the consonant, usually a T, in the middle of multi-syllabic words gets abandoned in favor of a last syllable that starts with a vowel. No sooner did I realize this was what was happening in my basketball broadcast, than it happened again with a double whammy..."The Spar-uhns star-ing lineup features..etc.etc". Wow! This really got me going.

So I listened on. And as I drove along, otherwise enjoying the game description, this man-behind-the-microphone continued to treat me to variations on the theme.

"That long shot ra-uhls the rim." (rattles)
"Time will tell if the Spar-uhns can whi-uhl away at the lead." (whittle)
"This is really a heck of a ba-uhl going on here tonight." (battle)

Are you ge-ing where I'm coming from with this? When this kind of thing gets started, over a period of months/years/decades the population loses sight of what is correct pronunciation and what isn't. The language gets bastardized and the lowest-common-denominator street lingo somehow becomes acceptable.

Ladies and Gen-uhlmen, (oops) Please join with me to help put a stop to the dumbing down of our perfectly fine language into a collection of words that are misused and abused. I hope the next time you hear someone botching up a word or words in this way you will ask them to sit down in front of a playing of the recent movie Lincoln. Perhaps Daniel Day-Lewis and Mr. Lincoln's revisited speeches and stories can display what a precious tool, effective commodity, and lovely personality trait proper speech can be.

Thursday, March 07, 2013


I realize it's much more interesting to people who have an SIU connection, but the recent board of trustees controversy is giving me flashbacks. It was long, long ago...or maybe just yesterday...when I was a mass communications student at SIU-E. Either way, I vividly remember the on-going discussion between students, and some outspoken professors, about how the Edwardsville campus was always getting "second class-citizen"  treatment in most all decisions made at the board level.

"We need to be our own university", we would say.
"It's not fair, why should Carbondale get all the money", someone would add.
"How come they can play football there and we can't", another would chime in.
"It's all those Chicago politicians who have no idea about anything south of Joliet who are controlling things", was a popular thought. "Let's stage a protest...yeah that's it...a protest". Protests were big back then. We rarely actually had them, but it was always cool to suggest.

Whenever the discussion came around to the quality of education, faculty members, sports facilities, and a host of other things, it was generally thought that Edwardsville got short shrift because it was the "new kid on the block" and had many less students to be served. Carbondale was the jewel. Edwardsville was the coal. Whether it was justified or not, that's what many of us who were Cougars thought about the relationship with our Saluki brethren. In the months/decades (take your pick) since I was a student there, things have changed dramatically with E picking up momentum as to student population and C struggling to maintain it's customary numbers.

Now, because of politics, there is huge controversy as to the makeup of the board of trustees. Governor Pat Quinn, in what many see as a political vendetta, has dumped the three Metro-East board members and appointed three Carbondale grads to replace them. Read the full story here from StLToday's esteemed Pat Gauen. Whatever Quinn's reasons in his own mind, it's seen by many as a move to have a governor-friendly board president; one who will do what Quinn wants to do with the SIU system.

In any case, the move has sparked a couple of bills in Springfield that would require more equity on the board and assure Edwardsville's voice is heard. One of the bills, introduced by state Rep Jay Hoffman, rekindles the effort to separate the campuses into independent universities. With all of the bad will that the governor has managed to create for himself in the state capitol, maybe Edwardsville, "the growing and vibrant", will finally be autonomous of Carbondale, "the original, but not so vibrant". I think for most of us who were handed a Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville degree, we would say that it couldn't come soon enough.

Monday, March 04, 2013

When it's Your Time...

It's hard to imagine anything more unexpected or terrifying. When you are lying in bed and the earth suddenly opens up beneath your house and swallows you up, I guess  you were just meant to go. Unbelievable? Yes. But it happened to 36-year-old Jeff Bush in a Tampa suburb last Friday. And it could happen to someone near you.

I happen to live in the area of southern St. Clair County Illinois known as The Sinkhole Plain. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources knows all about it. And it has documented the phenomenon in this interesting little report. As I drive around the area where I live there are sinkholes everywhere. It's called karst terrain, and it's easy to see that's it's different than most of the land in southern Illinois and Missouri. Most of the sinkholes have been stable for hundreds of years, according to a geologist I ran into studying a creek near my home a few years ago. He said most of the sinkholes were formed back in the day when the Mississippi River was carving it's way through the middle of the continent and sucking all sorts of soil and rock downstream with it. The holes on top of the nearby limestone bluffs collapsed in places creating the sinkholes.

They say at any time the next big earthquake could come along and shake everything around the holes loose to the point where homes, and all sorts of nearby material could be pulled into one of these surface weaknesses and be lost into an underground cave or river.

No, I don't think about it very much. But it's definitely possible. And if you're going to get struck by lightning...or sucked up in a tornado...or get buried in a sinkhole,  I figure there's not much you can do about it and your time has just expired. Not many of us go out on our own terms anyway. So if my wife chooses to worry about such things, that's her choice. I think I won't.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Oscars Flub...Again

It seems to happen every year. The Oscars telecast stops for 10 minutes to honor and remember contributors to the movie business who have passed away since the last Oscars show. And it also happens annually that they screw it up...not so much the presentation as who is included.

Perhaps you have to have paid a certain amount of dues to some industry organization. Or maybe the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences only recognizes members in good standing...or those who have earned a certain amount in movies. Whatever the formula may be, it needs to be more transparent. Because the current method of choosing those to be remembered invariably ends up snubbing someone who is dear to the memory of most viewers.

This year several names pop to mind, including Andy Griffith. One of the biggest television stars of all time was a movie actor in his early years. Griffith starred in No Time for Sergeants, a huge comedy hit in 1958.

Phyllis Diller was no movie star. But she was a star. And she appeared in several movies. None of them were very good. But shouldn't someone's star status count for something?

Apparently Larry Hagman wasn't a big enough movie star to make this year's list either. He had a reasonable "supporting actor" career prior to becoming a TV star in I Dream of Jeannie and Dallas.

And then...if slighting those folks wasn't enough...they send mega-superstar Barbra Streisand out to sing The Way We Were to honor the memory of Marvin Hamlisch. Well sure, Hamlisch was an accomplished composer and musician, and a strong contributor to the movie business. But an over-the-top and attempted tear-jerking tribute to Marvin Hamlisch? I guess I don't see the priorities.

It would seem that the Academy should make some sort of announcement during the telecast as to what their criteria is for inclusion in the In Memoriam segment if they want to not look like they are either stupid or petty.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Boom Time?

Thoughts on the aging nature of the Baby Boom generation, its place in history, and the state of the union.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

To Name, or not to Name

There's an interesting battle taking place among meteorologists...of all people. These folks, some of whom are actual scientists and others who are television weather-people who call themselves meteorologists, are in a fight over whether to name winter storms like they do hurricanes.

By now, we're all familiar with the thing called Nemo that dropped some three feet of snow and/or ice, depending on the locale, on New England. Actually, the Nemo moniker doesn't come from any official governmental body or agency, it comes from the promotion-minded folks at The Weather Channel. And, many other people who make their living predicting the weather are not at all happy about it.

The Weather Channel decided to start naming winter storms late in 2012 feeling that it would give their viewers an easier time following the developments associated with the named system. Here's a short video they produced to explain their decision.

I'm reading that National Weather Service executives and other weather companies believe it to be a stunt and actually more confusing to the Average Joe. They say that hurricanes, and only hurricanes, should be named so that people don't confuse winter storms with the more potentially devastating effects of a hurricane.

Since The Weather Channel is owned by NBCUniversal, and since they also own the NBC network and provide programming to a sizable number of television stations across the country, it's likely that the policy will be embraced by those entities. It's also just as likely that any station or service not owned by or affiliated with NBCUniversal will dig in their heels against the naming policy. So much like the on-going stalemates on policy in Washington, it looks like this battle will be around for a while.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

What Does Kroenke Want?

After a panel of arbitrators ruled in favor of the Rams on Friday, the picture of professional football in St. Louis is once again a bit cloudy. Essentially, we don't know now if the Rams will make a concerted effort to stay in St. Louis. And we also don't know whether if they do, they will choose to push for an upgrade of the Edwards Jones Dome or put the pressure on local politicians to get an all-new open-air venue. Whatever the choice, the big question will be, "What does billionaire owner Stan Kroenke want?" Kroenke, known for his close-to-the-vest style of doing business, is hard to read in any circumstance. In this story-line  he likely will be even more difficult to judge.

Personally, I'm rooting for the new, open-air stadium option. As for the fans...and what they's a sampling of reaction to Friday's ruling gathered by KSDK-TV

History tells us that the Jones Dome was built with the dual-purpose of attracting the Rams to St. Louis from Los Angeles and also satisfying the taxpaying voters with the notion that the building would also serve as an attractive venue for conventions. In reality, the dome is not serving either purpose all that well. The Convention and Visitors Commission members would tell you that the Rams occupation of the dome on key weekends in the fall and winter prevents them from attracting some of the larger conventions, and the money they would bring.

Most Rams fans, and football watchers everywhere, would say the dome is a horrendous venue for the enjoyment, and television presentation, of the game of professional football. It seems more like a large warehouse where they happen to play sports than a facility designed for the purpose of the sport.

There is already apparently serious talk about three potential sites for a new stadium. The decision on Friday by the group of arbitrators to side with the Rams in the re-modeling dispute with the CVC pushes discussion of the new stadium option to the forefront. Elected officials in Missouri are already saying that they will do what they can to work with the Rams on the new stadium idea, if that's what the Rams want. And now, again, the big question will be..."What does Kroenke want?" Because he now has the hammer.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Stan's Challenge

Sunday evening at the Blues game I was asked to read a script accompanying a ceremonial puck-drop that was meant to honor the life of Stan Musial. Mr. Musial's grandson, and almost constant companion in the last several years, Brian Schwarze came to center ice to drop the puck between Blues captain David Backes and his Minnesota Wild counterpart Sakku Koivu.

These types of ceremonies are done occasionally by the Blues when a particularly historic event occurs, such as the passing of "Stan The Man", or if a famous person is in attendance whom they wish to recognize in some way. Members of the Cardinals, for instance, were on hand to drop a puck after their 2011 World Championship. It's a way for a hockey team to say "we are proud of you" or "we're glad you are here with us", something like that.

But this ceremony honoring Stan was quite different for me as public-address announcer. It was not just reading a script without messing it up. It was the one public opportunity for me to do my best to honor my hero. I wanted to make sure the words were right and my delivery was dead-on.

The script, in its original form, was adequate for the occasion. But I thought it could stand a little more in the way of poignancy. I re-worded a few things, presented the ideas to my supervisor, and approval for the revisions was gained. I was satisfied with the new script. It went like this:

Ladies and Gentlemen, over the weekend the St. Louis community laid to rest a sporting-world icon and the greatest St. Louis athlete of all time. Stan Musial was not only known for his record-setting accomplishments on the field, but was also a true civic treasure and example of what a true gentleman should be. 

We now direct your attention to center ice for this evening's ceremonial puck drop and ask you to welcome Stan's grandson Brian Schwarze, as he drops our ceremonial puck in honor of his grandfather Stan "The Man" Musial. 

Thank you Brian Schwarze...and thanks for the wonderful memories Stan "The Man" Musial. 

It was a simple tribute, to be sure. But also said exactly what needed to be said on behalf of some 18-thousand St. Louis sports fans to the Musial family. It turned out perfectly from my view.

Tributes have come from all directions in the days since Mr. Musial passed away on January 19th. One of my favorites was written by Dan O'Neill of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Dan is obviously much like me, a devoted and adoring Stan Musial fan his entire life. You can read his tribute here.

But what I hope people who loved Stan and his approach to life would see going forward is the challenge his legacy presents. How do we live up to his standard? How can we live our own lives as effectively and generously? Bernie Miklasz, also of the Post-Dispatch, asks himself these questions in this carefully thought-out column.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Social Media Changes Everything

Saturday night was supposed to be all about Blues opening night. It was supposed to be the start of a hope-filled season for St. Louis Blues fans. But at 5:45pm Saturday, January 19th Stan Musial passed away and the tone of the night could have dramatically changed at Scottrade Center.

Many Blues fans are also Cardinals fans. So a high percentage of the 20,035 hockey-starved patrons who showed up to watch their Blues take on the Detroit RedWings that night also had a soft spot in their hearts for "The Man". Those of us who work at the games also have that spot. We found out that Mr. Musial had died shortly before the introductions of the 2013 Blues team members were to take place prior to the start of the game. Because of social media, the fans found out around the same time.

Prior to the days when everyone carried a cellphone, I, being the public-address announcer at Blues games, would have had the duty of informing the crowd of the passing of St. Louis's number-one sports icon. It would have been a shocking moment in the evening for most. Some would have gone straight into a depression-like state. Some would have immediately sought more information. Some may have left the building. That would have likely killed the opening-night "buzz" in the arena, probably for the entire game.

As it was, a majority of the crowd likely learned of the passing of Mr. Musial not too long after our game presentation staff and the media did. So, our job in presenting "the show" Saturday became one of determining the best way to pay tribute to Stan-the-Man, and not one of breaking the news. We decided to put up a picture of Stan on the Jumbotron between the second and third periods and accompany it with some appropriate words.

The management entrusted me with composing the message. I delivered it. And the game and it's presentation weren't radically altered. People stood and applauded. And because of social media and the rapid spread of information about Mr. Musial's passing, the atmosphere in the building was preserved. In this instance, social media changed the game experience for the better without many realizing it.  

Monday, January 14, 2013

How Close Were We?

One has to wonder, after 113 days of life without NHL hockey, just how close we came to losing another entire season to labor strife. Not that long ago we went through an entire year without the puck dropping in St. Louis, and the rest of the hockey world. The comeback from that incident was painful, as the casual hockey fan had written off the sport as something they could live without. The Scottrade Center (then Savvis) was mostly empty for the next few seasons. Of course, the dismal state of the Blues roster in the post-Bill Laurie ownership period had a lot to do with that too.

As a part-time employee of the Blues, I had some inside indications that Commissioner Gary Bettman and the owners had no intention of losing the entire season. It's my belief that they felt that the fan base was secure enough to bargain hard with the players to get a deal that they wanted to live with long term. They were ready to lose around half of the season to do it, and they did. Now the business of repairing the damage has to begin. Good luck to new Blues owner Tom Stillman, and his local group of investors, in recapturing the love lost for The Note over the last few months. It's comforting to know that we won't have to go through this again for at least eight years.