Day One of Our Columnist Auditions
Starting today and going through Friday, four gentlemen---outside of this particular gentleman---will post columns in this section.
This is the public portion of the hiring process for our insideSTL columnist. I let them know that all I want is a column on something current from the local or national sports world, political world, or pop culture world.
Just stimulate the insideSTL audience in either a thought-provoking way or amusing way.
Those were the guidelines. After all, one of the “toughest” parts of writing a column is coming up with an idea…so I wasn’t going to give them any direction. They came up with the topics…and they put it all together.
From dozens of applicants, we are now down to our final four.
And, each day each of the final four will submit a column for your judgment.
I’m sincerely seeking your feedback on who/what you like and why. Personal attacks behind anonymous names allowing one to take out their personal and/or professional frustrations are incredibly sweet, but for the purpose of this, it’d be appreciated if your criticism is constructive.
Having read these guys’ submissions over the last couple of weeks, I’m looking forward to reading what they bring to the table over the next few days.
It’s all subjective…so there are no stats that will be used to determine who gets the job. But, your feedback will help play a role in whose work you’ll see (close to) daily on insideSTL.com.
So…with that…here’s Day One of our auditions with a column from each of our four finalists.
Dear NHL: Let’s Not Do This Again
By: Chris Reed
Quietly, a storm has been gathering over the National Hockey League, and the first crack of thunder may come this week. The NHL Players Association—led by former Major League Baseball PA iron-fist Donald Fehr—and the league’s ownership group appear to be meeting for the first time, officially, on Friday to begin negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement. The current agreement expires on September 15.
While not imminent or even mentioned as a likely option by either side, the threat of a lockout or strike is still very real. That would total three of the four major professional sports to experience a work stoppage in the last year or so, and the second stoppage in the NHL in less than a decade (the league cancelled the entire 2004-2005 season over a CBA impasse). Throw around all the “millionaires fighting with billionaires” rhetoric you want; another significant work stoppage in the NHL could be absolutely devastating to a league already considered fourth of the four major sports. In the long term, questions about the league’s viability are certainly valid. In the short term, anything and everything teams have put together once again becomes in flux at best.
And St. Louis Blues fans should be especially concerned.
Circumstances are a lot different now than they were after 04-05. The Blues were a team on the brink a few years before the lockout, but never could quite finish the job. They won the President’s Trophy. They went to the Conference Finals. They owned the long postseason appearance streak. But they had an ownership group in charge that really didn’t give a damn. The team’s balance sheet was shaky at best, so they sold off everything. By the time Dave Checketts and his group took over post-lockout, the St. Louis Blues were a shell of a franchise that basically had to be rebuilt from the ground up. But this time, Tom Stillman and his ownership group took possession before any impending lockout. They paid little, but they bought high. The deal is done—t’s crossed and i’s dotted. But the problem for the Blues in another lockout may be more on the ice than off, and I’m not just talking about the obvious effect of “no hockey.” The Blues may just be in the middle of their best chance to win the Stanley Cup, and a lengthy work stoppage could yank the rug out from under one of the most frustrated franchises in professional sports. Again.
Didn’t we just do this? It’s almost to the point where this fate, this card game where the Blues get dealt crap hand after crap hand…it’s just not fair.
I’m not talking about wins and losses—every team deals with that. If they don’t learn as much from their losses as their wins, the Blues aren’t ready to win a Stanley Cup Final. But stuff that shouldn’t happen to any team seems to always happen to the Blues: giving up playoff game-winning goals from the blue line…losing an all-time goaltender early in the playoffs…Wayne Gretzky, of all people, turning the puck over resulting in a series loss…Brett Hull winning a Cup anywhere but St. Louis…Chris Pronger traded for a broken stick and a bag of pucks…dagger after dagger, right into the gut and twisted for good measure. The NHL having a work stoppage right at the same time as the St. Louis Blues finally resolve their sketchy ownership situation and finish the previous season with one of the best records in the whole league? Yep…par for the course.
The big sticking point in this CBA will be money. St. Louis Cardinal Lance Berkman said it best while trying to get his latest deal with the Redbirds done, and this is an axiom that should be taught in schools at every level around the country: “It’s always about the money.” Last time around, the NHLPA agreed to substantial concessions; they aren’t likely to want to take any less. The NHL, for its part, reported record revenues over the past season, but the owners are still likely to ask the players to take less money. The whole thing reeks of a stalemate. So pretend you’re Tom Stillman. You finally fulfilled your dream of majority ownership of the team you root for, and now you’re faced with the possibility of a work stoppage. No hockey means no revenue, and this is business we’re talking about. If the talks take a turn for the worse, why bother re-signing restricted free agents like David Perron or TJ Oshie? Why explore the market for flashy (read: pricey) free agents? Doom and gloom and bad memories abound.
There is one silver lining; it’s possible that league operations could go on like normal under the rules of the previous CBA while the new one is still being worked out. The two sides just have to keep negotiating. And we are talking about roughly three months until the current CBA expires, so maybe I’m unnecessarily paranoid about the whole thing. But it still stands to reason that the uncertainty around it all causes a familiar queasiness, and I suspect I won’t be the only Blues fan reaching for the Tums if the CBA talks go badly.
The People Have Spoken And They Are Clueless: Take Away All Star Voting From The Fans
By Andy Portico
Since 1970, Major League Baseball fans have been given the opportunity to vote on eight starting position players for the All-Star Game and time and time again, they have demonstrated they aren’t intelligent enough to handle such a simple task. The problem is the fans and their player selections are shittier than a toilet in a Soulard bar at closing time and I’m going to give you the reasons why:
-Voting in injured players: Too many times the fans vote in players that don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of playing in the game because they are injured for a significant amount of time. This year is no different. You’ve got our own Lance Berkman as the 2nd leading vote getter at first base behind Joey Votto. Last year, this wouldn’t have been a problem as Berkman was putting up a monster year after recovering from a bum knee. As of June 27th 2012, Berkman has played a grand total of 13 games. Why do you vote for a guy when he has played in 17 percent of his team’s games? It makes about as much sense as voting for a dead guy to be your state’s governor.
-Voting for your favorite player regardless of skill set: I see this way too many times at Busch Stadium and I can guarantee you that Cardinals fans aren’t the only ones guilty of this sin. They are the ones who will write in Daniel Descalso’s name 875 times through 35 various e-mail accounts on mlb.com. The suspect is always the same: a large middle aged man with knee high socks, the vintage Mark McGwire cut off t-shirt that hasn’t been washed in ten years, the headphones in his ears so he can listen to game while he’s filling out his scorecard, and he’s donning the Cardinals trucker hat that has been signed by Bo Hart and Skip Schumaker. This is also the guy who will stand outside the stadium for 5 hours before game time so he can wave at Adam Wainwright as he pulls into the player’s parking lot in his vehicle. He will then relay to his friends that he talked to Wainwright even though all Wainwright said was “hi fellas.”
-Voting for “sexy” name players over more deserving players: Time and time again, the fans cannot abstain from voting for a player based on past accomplishments instead of looking at the now. For instance, Mike Napoli of the Rangers had a fine season in 2011. This year, he’s hitting .245 with 12 home runs and 30 RBIs and he’s leading all AL catchers in votes. You’ve got A.J. Pierzynski who is batting .284 with 12 home runs and 41 RBIs. Hell, I would even vote for Joe Mauer and his Selsun Blue shampoo or whatever the hell the hair product is he’s been hawking for the past couple of years. In the National League, Dan Uggla is leading all second basemen in votes. Uggla is all home runs and all RBIs. After that, he brings nothing to the table. If you remember the 2008 All-Star Game, Uggla’s glove was about as dependable as a broken condom as he proceeded to make three errors in the game to set an All-Star Game record. The guy who should be leading the pack is Houston’s Jose Altuve. He has the highest batting average of any second bagger in the Major Leagues this season. He has more hits, doubles, triples, multi-hit games, and stolen bases than Uggla.
My solution to this problem is simple. Bud Selig needs to do what former commissioner Ford Frick did and give the voting back to the players. In 1957, Cincinnati Reds fans stuffed the ballot box and elected a starter at every position with the exception of first base. Frick actually removed two Reds from the game. After that, players, coaches, and managers voted for the players until 1970. If Bud Selig says this game “counts” as much as he says it does, then do the right thing and allow the baseball fraternity to decide who makes it and who doesn’t. Besides, who has more expertise? The guy who actually plays or played the game as opposed to the guy in the stands who takes pictures of himself with Fredbird and posts them on Facebook? I rest my case your honor.
Stuck on the “Shoulder” of the Comeback Road
Despite the unbelievably witty pun usage in the title and the entire 19-seconds I put into coming up with it, you may have trouble believing that I never even went to journalism school. Nope, the only “J”-school I ever attended was taught by an older buddy and involved great finger dexterity, some Zig-Zags and the back of a Pink Floyd CD.
Nevertheless, by way of dick jokes, the gift of controversy (read “asshole-edness”) and the shared juvenile sense of humor by the CEO of this okay company, I find myself pecking away for your approval and the chance to offend a possibly new demographic of cyberspace. I’ll try not to disappoint.
The easy go-to at this point would be the Cardinals’ 5-game winning streak and the regained life in their lineup, anchored by a red-hot Yadier Molina. I’ll leave that slam dunk to the other 3-folks vying for this glorious position and pontificate on the pun at the top of the page. Like my scout leader in 1981, I prefer things hard.
The “shoulder” I so cleverly refer to would be that of postseason stud and longtime Ace of the St. Louis pitching staff, Chris Carpenter. Given his age, workload and bulldog approach to his craft, it was hardly a “2-in the pink, 1-in the stink” that shoulder soreness would be a factor before Spring Training even got underway. No, the true “shocker” is the very real possibility that this could be the last we see of our veteran warrior.
For his entire tenure here, Carpenter has been the consummate leader of this ballclub. Whether he is publicly dressing down Brendan Ryan for his childish fucktard antics, clearly voicing midgame 4-lettered displeasure for any open microphone to hear or being right in the middle of a team melee with the Cincinnati Reds, their piece of shit 2nd-baseman and wannabe soccer-homo of a pitcher kicking away at his back like Rodney fucking King, Carp not only leads by example, but will put his money where his mouth is when the shit hits the fan.
Sure, Albert Pujols was the superstar and undeniably produced on the field. But, unless you were brown in the locker room or rode into Jerusalem on an ass, he wasn’t exchanging pleasantries or jumping into the fray in your honor. Furthermore, as he’d go on to prove, he actually put his mouth where the money was, firmly on the teat of the Los Angeles Angels of the Anaheim District of Southern California, USA.
As much as his pitching arsenal and unparalleled competitiveness have been missed on the mound, it’s this fire, leadership and “there’s no ‘I’ in team but there’s a big ‘fuck you’ in messing with mine” attitude in the clubhouse that has been the real absence in my book. Yes, the Cardinals have gotten themselves back into the Central race after a very rough stretch, and yes, it’s mainly due to playing in a mediocre division that you can read about ad nauseam as the “go-to” column for every jackhole in town with a computer and every afternoon radio host with a big mouth shtick, “passed over” chip on his shoulder and mute button. But give me Chris Carpenter’s presence in that dugout alone and I’d venture to say they never would’ve been in that position.
I really hope I’m not writing his professional baseball eulogy and I really hope, by some miracle (make a call, Albert), that he could be taking the ball every fifth day again sometime shortly after the All-Star break. However, given the record of this less than forthright medical staff and yet another setback, it’s not looking good, my fuckers. After all, the last time a “carpenter” was injured for this long, he didn’t “return” until Easter, and that won’t be here again until 2013. If that didn’t send what was left of you scattering, congratulations, you’re close to as twisted as I am.
You may have dug this, cringed, laughed ‘til your balls dropped or cursed my very ability to type while praying for my soul, or the death thereof. But, if you made it this far, you read and were moved to some sort of emotion – and that is the goal. My lack of a journalism education has obviously resulted in the unneeded and overuse of quotation marks, dashes, commas and smut, but my “J”-school education has resulted in me not giving 2-shits either way. Besides, maybe I’m playing to the “Fifty Shades” closet-whore housewife contingent.
Feed the monster, piss off St. Louis and make your love, or absolute fucking hatred, of this column known to the powers that be…KMFP-out!
Random Thoughts by Andrew Ahr
Yesterday the St. Louis Cardinals announced the name of their first tenant for the $100 million phase one of Ballpark Village. Ballpark Village is the much controversial and long overdue commercial and residential development that the Cardinals promised when lobbying the State for funds to construct the new Busch Stadium. It should not come as a shock or surprise to anyone that the tenant is Anheuser-Busch. I won’t bore you with the long and storied history between these two St. Louis icons, you should know it already. Anheuser-Busch’s contribution to Ballpark Village will be a German themed restaurant, bearing the Budweiser name, offering a Beer Garden, upper level seating that will allow you to look into Busch Stadium and watch Cardinals games, over 100 beers on tap and will be owned by the Cardinals organization. Along with this restaurant there will also be a 30,000 square-foot “Cardinals Nation” restaurant, museum and hall of fame to anchor another part of phase one.
I am not an economist. I am not a local business owner. I am not a politician. I cannot break down what all went into financing Busch Stadium and Ballpark Village. I cannot regale you with charts and graphs that explain the economic impact that Ballpark Village will have on the local economy and local businesses. I cannot give you inside scoop on how the St. Louis Aldermanic committee will receive the Cardinals’ plan when the two meet today. All I can do is wonder what this all means for St. Louis. Will a completed Ballpark Village fall along the wayside like past failures such as St. Louis Centre and Union Station? Or will a completed Ballpark Village help vault St. Louis into contention for big time, big ticket events like a Super Bowl or NCAA Men’s Final Four, and a consistent flow of national conventions. The first two examples are luxuries while the last is, in my mind, a necessity for economic stability and growth for downtown St. Louis. By now you all know the cliché “If you build it they will come.” And by now you all know that that only works if you are turning a corn field into a baseball field in Iowa. It hasn’t proven out too well for multi-million dollar developments and pipe dream projects across the country. Will Ballpark Village provide a sustainable revenue stream for the Cardinals and provide the city with substantial tax income? It has been reported that 80% of the two block area has been leased already, definitely a good sign. The Cardinals are banking on the premise that monies made from phase one will help later with phases two and three. When phases two and three will come to fruition is anyone’s guess. Phase one is not expected to be ready until 2014, a full three years after the initial target date set by the Cardinals.
Another question to ask is what will be the impact on local bars and restaurants near Busch Stadium? Essentially what’s going to happen is that both the Cardinals and Anheuser-Busch will be directly competing with small businesses that support them. Anheuser-Busch is barred from actually owning the restaurant, but still, their beautiful brand new venue adorned with the “Budweiser” name will surely siphon off customers from other, smaller bars and restaurants in the area. If you own one of those places south of Busch Stadium on Broadway or 7th Street how good are you feeling right about now? But hey let’s face it, those establishments have been able to thrive because of the Cardinals and the foot traffic they provide on game days. I have always believed that if the success of your business is directly dependent upon the success of another business, then you cannot complain if that other business decides to compete against you.
Let’s take a step back from economics and I’ll ask you a general question. When was the last time you were downtown on a weekend afternoon when the Cardinals were not playing at home? I go there sometimes on Sundays when the weather is nice and I want to walk around and I have to tell you that the place is a freaking ghost town. Want to get some lunch? Here are your options: TGI Fridays, Hooters, Hardees, Hard Rock Café, Laundry’s, the Union Station food court and parts of Washington Avenue. Other than that forgotten wasteland known as The Landing, that is pretty much it. No wait, there is also that guy who parks his old fire truck at City Garden and sells ice cream, Gus’ Pretzels and some really, really great fresh-squeezed lemonade. Because of this fact alone I will welcome the addition of Ballpark Village to downtown. It will be somewhere to go and something to do both during the day and night and it will showcase to tourists the two things that St. Louis is known for – the Cardinals and Budweiser. I know we sort of beat those two to death in this town, but until insideSTL.com becomes the next Facebook with Tim McKernan playing the role of Mark Zuckerberg, it’s all we really have at the moment.
Ultimately I believe that Ballpark Village will be great for not just the Cardinals but also downtown St. Louis in general and nearby businesses, including bars and restaurants, specifically. Convention goers will have another option besides just Washington Avenue and the rundown Landing to visit and spend their money. I also believe that if it is done correctly, Ballpark Village will elevate St. Louis’ image as a viable location for those big time events we so desperately crave. With Ballpark Village, a new company taking control of Union Station and all that is going in over at The Mercantile Exchange, things are looking up for the downtown area. Hopefully things work out. If not, then at least we still have the world’s most expensive softball field with an accompanying surface parking lot to enjoy.
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