Happy Birthday, Ernie Banks by kentsterling
January 31, 2010, 2:01 pm
Filed under: Chicago Cubs, Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Mr. Cub turns 79 today, which is almost inconceivable to me.  I’m just old enough to remember Ernie Banks playing.  He hit a home run in the first Cubs game to which my Dad took me on April 12, 1968, and he became my favorite Cub.

I grew up in Lake Bluff, Illinois – a suburb of Chicago on the shore of Lake Michigan.  It was a great place to grow up.  The people were friendly and smart.  The schools were excellent.  The beach was within walking distance.  White’s had all of the baseball cards and candy a kid could ever want.  And you could count the number of black who lived in Lake Bluff on no hands.  There weren’t any.

My only exposure to blacks were via Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, and Gale Sayers.  Today, that seems ludicrous.  Then, it just was.  Ernie was always smiling, signed autographs forever, and even at age 37, was really a good ballplayer.  I think it was his attitude that won kids over.  The only black person I saw in person on a regular basis was a guy named Alphonse who worked at the Janowitz grocery store in Lake Forest.  He was an elderly gentleman who bagged groceries, and would always invite me to a meeting at the First National Bank .  I always said I would be there.  He would laugh, which confused me.  Sure I was five, and didn’t have any idea why a man would invite me to a bank meeting, but I always felt guilty when Dad refused to take me.

That was the extent of my interracial connectivity – Ernie, Billy, Fergie, and Alphonse, with Ernie as the most important.  Martin Luther King was killed a week prior to my first Cubs game, and I didn’t understand it at all.  Killing a man because he was like Ernie Banks sounded like the stupidest thing in the world to a five-year-old Cubs fan.  A lot of people would say that my five-year-old notion of race relations was naïve.  I would call it wise.  Judging people based upon the color of the skin, and violently acting on that judgment is sheer idiocy.  Chicago was thrown into turmoil, as Mayor Richard J. Daley gave the “shoot to kill” order during the riots that followed King’s assassination.  Later that summer, Daley was again in the middle of the trouble during the Democratic National Convention.  The city was embroiled in more riots, although these weren’t necessarily racially charged.  In the middle of it all, Ernie Banks smiled and went about his business of leading the Cubs into first place, albeit briefly at the end of May.

Dad always told me, “There are plenty of reasons to hate people before you get to their color.”  That’s quite a statement.  He said things for effect quite a bit, and this was the kind of comment that was right up Dad’s alley.  The thought he expressed had some validity, but the phasing brought an Archie Bunker type of wrong-headedness. 

Ernie Banks impact on the kids of Chicago underscores two very important truths about African-Americans in sports; kids can get a very positive first look at a group that otherwise existed on the fringes of their communities, and that athletes – whether Charles Barkley likes it or not – are role models.  They can bitch about it privately all they like, but anyone who families invite into their homes either personally or through television or the computer is a role model.

Ernie Banks was a great role model for me.  I learned that when you smile at work, good things happen; and that color doesn’t matter.  With all of his home runs and heroism on the field in a Cubs uniform, his greatest legacy lies in the hearts of the thousands of Chicago kids who grew up not giving a damn about color because of Ernie Banks’ behavior.

Happy birthday, Ernie.

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Kent Sterling Fired as Emmis Indy Program Director – Part Three by kentsterling
January 31, 2010, 11:34 am
Filed under: Kent Sterling Fired | Tags:

Being told to leave a place filled with people you care about is interesting.  The work was relentless and the concern unending, but the people made all the sacrifice worthwhile, at least to the day I was canned.  Had my wife taken a powder, as she was considering, that would have been an attention getter and I would have been challenged to change my obsession with helping the stations succeed.

My initial feeling was guilt over not being smart enough to get my bosses to allow me to continue to help WIBC and The Fan succeed.  Yeah, I know that’s crazy.  I dream about trying to help.  I’m at work, hiding in the shadows trying not to get caught working.  Very odd.  The staff knows I don’t work there anymore, and they all tell me things will be okay.  I know that, and tell them I’m fine.  My concern in the dream is for them. 

In real life, my focus is different.  When I’m awake, I’m trying to figure out three business things, and how to live a little bit better balanced a life.  Being responsible for the success or failure of a product that employs 50 people requires a best effort.  Being a good husband and father also requires a best effort.  That is the definition of a conundrum.  The loser in my case was to choose away from where I was most secure. 

All of that was good when Tom Severino was the boss.  Tom, from my perspective, was the master of balance.  He encouraged all of us to spend time with family and friends.  When Tom died in July, those at Emmis he left behind tried to serve two masters.  The first was to try to continue as Tom encouraged us to.  Follow the righteous path of building strong and profitable radio brands while maintaining our humanity and a sense of fun.  The other was to try to keep our jobs in a tough economy.  For me, those two focuses were proven mutually exclusive.

Now, I get to do things I like, and build them the way I want to with the people I like and respect.  And I get to spend time with my wife where I’m actually there, listening to what she has to say about things.  A good program director spends a lot of time trying to get the hosts and producers mentally right, so that when they walk into the studio, they feel good about their performance.  Talking into a microphone for three or four hours at a time without any feedback from the people you’re talking to is an unnatural act.  At the end of the day, I was about up to my eyes in listening – my daily quota for external input had been exceeded by the time I got home.

Now, I get to listen.  I look forward to seeing Julie and hearing about her day.  This is the way life is supposed to be, I think.  While I still feel terrible about no longer being allowed to help at the stations, I’m very happy that I get to try to move into a balanced life. 

I hope that my friends at Emmis get to continue to work toward the success we all know is possible there.  The Fall Rating Book was great for both WIBC and The Fan, and hopefully the best is yet to come from a ratings and revenue perspective.  What I genuinely hope for them is a little peace and balance.  The last two-and-a-half years have been filled with changes that have put people there in a state of discomfort.  We have said goodbye to a number of friends who were fired, quit, or died.  And the work continues regardless.  A talk radio station is a beast that requires feeding 24/7, and it never stops.

That cycle makes balance hard for everyone involved.  Shows are either being performed or prepared – all the time.  Add the chaos of change, and the people in that building are uniquely passionate or they would have turned their backs on the medium years ago.  Emmis is a passionate company that attracts passionate people. 

There is a life outside of radio.  It’s good out here, and the lessons I’m learning everyday out here will be helpful should I ever decide to get back in.

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“Legion” Sucks; “Edge of Darkness” Pretty Good by kentsterling
January 30, 2010, 8:59 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

My wife went through a brief phase over the past 48-hours where she wanted to see movies – any movie.  I chose yesterday’s feature – “Edge of DarKness” with Mel Gibson.  Good movie.  Kind of a thriller/crime drama.  Gibson is always good as the morally superior loner, who does the right thing regardless of the cost.  He’s in his element here as his daughter is murdered, and he searches for the killer.  Gibson’s character is a Boston cop, so he knows a little bit about what he’s doing.  The story is smart, but not too smart.  The foreshadowing is apparent, but not overdone.

There are a few moments that were sincerely jarring, as in the kind of sudden action that would be priceless when we dated in high school.  You knew the girl would grab something.  For me, it was usually the upper arm.  Not ideal, but you take whatever you can get.  Gibson’s daughter was into some shit she shouldn’t have been at her employer’s, but just like old Mel she was determined to right a wrong. 

This is Gibson’s first movie in seven years, and it works.  Not great, but worth the bargain matinée price.  It might not be the splash it needs to be to get him another big part, after all he insulted the culture of the people who run the studios and unless he makes them a lot of money, those insults will have a half-life approaching Uranium 235.

Today’s movie was Julie’s choice.  She picked “Legion”.  Oh boy.  She thought aliens came to earth to attack Americans in this movie.  The truth was different.  A large group of rogue zombies attack a diner/service station run by Dennis Quaid in the desert.  The zombies are the emissaries of the Lord God, who is miffed at people for not living up to their potential. 

An angel comes down to help stave off the invasion.  Some of the action is fun, but this movie shares a flaw with “Edge of Darkness” in that it was not satisfied being the movie it was meant to be.  It tries to be more.  “Edge” is a thriller that tries to deliver a message about the fragility of life.  “Legion” would have been good in the hands of a director like Quentin Tarentino.  It would have more over the top and funny, without the secondary religious connotations that only serve to burden it.  Implants of morality that were commonplace in “Star Trek” seem ridiculous in a film with countless cutaways of shell casings piling up on the floor as machine guns cut down zombies.

“Legion” starts with promise as an old lady customer of the diner strings together obscenities and uses the “C” word, then scampers across the ceiling.  That’s fun.  She limped into the restaurant with the help of a walker, but when challenged, eats a chunk of a guy’s neck, and sprints up the wall.

Go see “Edge”, but don’t even rent “Legion”.

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Shorting the Colts After this Super Bowl? by kentsterling

The Indianapolis Colts are at the zenith of the football world for the next eight days, and if they beat the New Orleans Saints next Sunday, they will enter some rarified air as a team that has won the Lombardi Trophy twice in the last four seasons.  The teams who’ve done that are historic franchises – the Packers of Lombardi, the Steelers under Noll, the 49ers under Walsh, Jimmy Johnson’s Cowboys, and Belichick’s Patriots.

The Colts of the past decade won more regular season games that any team in NFL history, and have at quarterback a player who will very likely own every record for his position.  Peyton Manning will retire as the popular choice as the greatest QB ever to play football.  His combination of physical attributes, mental acumen, toughness, and the advantage of playing in one system behind consistently good offensive lines have help Manning reach a pinnacle of consistent excellence we have never witnessed.

Manning is 33-years old, and because of the few hits he has absorbed and his enormous appetite for preparation he might be able to stretch his career for another six seasons.  No one can know for sure when his body will start to show signs of aging.  At some point, the recovery from a Sunday blow won’t even begin until Wednesday.  It might occur to him that football is a silly game and that as his youth begins to dwindle, precious time is better invested out of the film room.  There are a lot of variables that can remove the edge that allows comparative excellence to blossom, and any one of them might shade Manning toward the ordinary.

When that day comes, and it comes for all athletes, the level of success that the Colts have enjoyed for so long will also erode.  As #18 goes, so go the Colts.  When #18 really goes, God knows what will become of this team.  With every passing game, the window becomes tighter because there is an expiration date stamped on each athlete.  All football fans would love (except those rooting for AFC South opponents) to see Manning play forever and lead the Colts franchise to continued routine 12-4 seasons, and periodic trips to the Super Bowl.  That isn’t the way football works.

Once Dan Marino, Troy Aikman, and Steve Young retired, their franchises began the long trek down the slope to mediocrity and then irrelevance.  The quarterback being the most important player on the team works very well for the Colts because they have the best who’s ever laced up a pair of cleats.  Once Manning’s gifts decline, Colts fans will start to wish that the free safety or punter was the most important.  The odds of the Colts quickly finding a suitable replacement for Manning are exceptionally long.  Johnny Unitas left the Colts after the 1972 season, they went through nine starters (QBs who led the team in passing during a season, not started individual games) before grabbing Manning in the first round of the 1998 NFL Draft.  They were Marty Domres, Bert Jones, Bill Troup, Greg Landry, Mike Pagel, Jack Trudeau, Chris Chandler, Jeff George, and Jim Harbaugh. 

I plan to enjoy every game, audible, throw, and single second that Manning has left in the tank because there are a helluva lot more Jay Cutlers in the NFL than Peyton Mannings.  The Chicago Bears really thought they did something good when they traded two first-round picks, a third-rounder, and Kyle Orton to get a franchise quarterback, (the Bears also got a fifth-round pick).  Jerry Angelo was pleased that the Bears would not have to worry about the QB spot for another few years.  Really?

That’s how rare a guy like Manning is.  GMs will delude themselves into believing that a marginally good QB is a potential franchise guy, and deal the team’s future for him.  Manning is that guy – the Holy Grail for GMs, the real deal, the face, culture, and arm of the franchise. 

How fortunate are the Colts fans to have a quarterback with talent and drive so unique that he has become the face, culture, and arm of the entire league.  If Manning plays another six years through 2015 – until he’s 39, Colts fans need to prepare for another long winter of mediocrity.  That preparation should begin next Sunday as you revel in every moment of excellence Manning delivers.

Enjoy the moment because this too shall pass.  Shorting the Colts will be the right move – in five years.  Until that day, enjoy the ride.

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Harry on Sports – Saturday, January 30, 2010 by kentsterling
January 30, 2010, 11:43 am
Filed under: Uncategorized


Dear Colts Fans by jshowal2
January 29, 2010, 9:39 pm
Filed under: Indianapolis Colts

Dear Colts Fans,

I spent a considerable amount of my 41 years in Connersville, Indiana. One advantage to living in Connersville was that we had access to both Indianapolis and Cincinnati feeds for local television. I grew up watching Ken Anderson, Isaac Curtis, Ken Riley, Anthony Munoz and a cast of hundreds of other Bengals.  My name is Jeff and I am a Bengals fan! I remember when the Colts played in Baltimore so when the Colts moved to Indy, I was happy, but my allegiance stayed with the Bengals. Being a Bengal fan has been, for the most part, a downer for the past 20 years. I was a an IU junior when Jim Breech gave the Bengals a 16-13 lead in SB 23. I looked to my friends and said “they scored too soon, they are going to lose”.  Sure enough, Joe Montana took the 49ers 92 yards and broke my heart.  I remember how depressed I was but I believed that Boomer, James Brooks, Ickey Woods and the gang would help them get back to another title game.  Colts fans, I am still waiting! I have seen 2 playoff games since that Super Bowl loss and both were terrible losses. First Carson Palmer shreds his knee on the first offensive play on a completed bomb to Chris Henry as the Bengals lost to the hated Steelers.  This year Palmer, imitating Danny Wuerful, led the Bengals to a defeat to the Jets.  Bengals fans understand pain and suffering. They have an owner that thinks he is a GM but all Mike Brown really does is save money by doing it himself. They have a small scouting staff and no indoor practice facility. I am convinced the Bengals will never have consistent success as long as he is alive. Sad but true.

Colts fans, you have been on a tremendous ride. When Jim Irsay hired Bill Polian, a chain of successes was launched that would make a gambler blush. Manning, James,  Dungy, Brackett, Wayne, Sanders, Rhodes and on and on.  The Indianapolis Colts are the best run franchise in the NFL and possibly all of professional sports. Twelve win seasons are the norm. You get to COMPLAIN about playoff losses in games most teams would just love to get the opportunity to play in.  Colts fans are spoiled.

I root for the Colts.  I have to. Most seasons my beloved Bengals are an afterthought by November 1st so at least I have a team to root for the last half of the season. This year I got to leave my 18 jersey in the closet all season, and wore my Bengal 85’s around town, but a week from Sunday, I’ll be wearing my 18, yelling at my TV about holding calls, missed tackles and incomplete passes. The Colts are one win from a second Super Bow trophy in four years. Pretty amazing when you remember how many years the Colts struggled. Colts fans, enjoy this next week and the rest of the time on top of the football world, one day it will end, but not anytime soon.  Bengals fans that are jealous. Trust me!

Jeff Showalter

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Closing Schools and Offices Day After Super Bowl Is Crazy by kentsterling
January 29, 2010, 2:28 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

What the hell is going on with schools in Indianapolis and New Orleans?  Both cities are seriously considering closing school the day after the Super Bowl.  In Indy, the schools operated by the Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis have already announce they will close Monday, February 8.  A spokesman for the Indianapolis Public Schools say they are considering closing because in 2007 after the Colts won Super Bowl XLI, hundreds of bus drivers called in sick.

The Colts and Saints playing in the Super Bowl is a great coagulator for people in both cities.  Everyone wears their jerseys, smiles at each other a little more, and common courtesy rules because of the common bond fans feel.  That’s wonderful, but to call off school or work is an insane leap into corrupting the priorities of kids and businesses.  No one likes the Monday morning after the Super Bowl, but learning how to play hurt when the bell rings is a fact of life.  People pay for their indulgences.  That’s how we learn to avoid them.

The government stepping into our lives to shield up from the consequences of our behaviors is enabling at a level with which I am wholly uncomfortable.  There are two debates in which America’s sports cognoscente is engaged.  The first is that the Super Bowl needs to move to Saturday.  Many people are in favor of this plan because it would make life a little bit easier and turn Super Bowl Saturday into some kind of national party night.  The only people who will squawk are the most important voices in the debate – those of the TV networks who are all acutely aware that Sunday night is the time when the most viewers are available.  Even with the Super Bowl on, Saturday is a night for movies, going out to dinner, the theater, concerts, etc…  On Sunday, what the hell else are people going to do?  Saturday is TV’s worst

The other discussion is to change the day President’s Day falls on to the Monday following the Super Bowl.  Honestly?  America will change the day we set aside to honor presidents to fit our schedule for watching a sporting event?  The adjustment would be one week, but the message is that these holidays are simply days off, and nothing more.  At least the Indianapolis 500 had the good taste and foresight to schedule the event on (and then adjust it to the day before) Memorial Day.  Oddly, I believe this second idea is the more likely of the

Let’s all agree that the Super Bowl is a great event.  The NFL is a machine.  While other professional sports fight for market share and a balance between the power of the league and its players union, the NFL has been a harmonious profit machine for 23 years.  The strike on 1987 was the last piece of ugliness, and when players crossed the picket line to get back on the field, it set the table for incredible growth and wealth.  It’s popularity is monolithic.  Baseball, basketball, NASCAR, and hockey are so far behind the NFL they can no longer see the back of Commissioner Roger Goodell’s head.

Let’s put the brakes on adjusting holiday schedules or handing out days off because of a sporting event.  We need to find a way to revel in the success of a team the entire city is staunchly behind, but the line should be drawn at allowing schools to excuse the behavior of employees not committed enough to their jobs to even show up.  Granted, driving a school bus is not a position that engenders tremendous passion among those who do it, but that doesn’t mean those who display indifference should be accommodated.

Let’s all support the Colts or Saints next Sunday night.  America will get one hell of a show as the two unquestioned best teams in pro football knock heads and earn their pay checks.  And then, let’s earn our own by dragging our asses out of bed, getting dressed, squirting a couple of drops of Visine into our eyes, and earning our own paychecks.

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