What I’ve Learned So Far in St. Louis by kentsterling

by Kent Sterling

For seven weeks, I’ve been a St. Louisan as the program director of 101 ESPN – one of the best sportstalk radio stations in America.  This is the first move my family has made in 18 years, and the first time as bona fide adults.  There is a lot to know, and I’m picking up as much as I can as quickly as I can, and it’s a challenge.

Here is a list – a bit of a primer – of the lessons for those considering a similar change in course:

Selling a house is not cheap, and it’s not easy – All those accommodations home owners make to the age of their home are exposed and corrections must be made.  We replaced or updated a long list of items that had been petty annoyances for years.  There is a feeling for us that we want those who trust us enough to buy our home to be very happy with their choice.  We owe it to the buyer to make sure everything is right, so we replaced faucets, carpeting, and shower doors.  Julie and Ryan worked their asses off to make the backyard the wonderful getaway that we always wanted it to be.  I wish we had done it years ago, so we could have enjoyed it more.

The best part of the house not selling in the first two weeks it has been listed is that we have absolutely no idea where we want to live in St. Louis.  City?  Country?  Near work?  Near golf?  In the woods?  In a town?  Julie, Ryan, and I have no idea where to land.

Driving 280 miles each way every weekend isn’t that tough – The drive between Indianapolis and St. Louis isn’t a bother at all.  I enjoy a little solitude now and then, and the almost four-hour drive is a simple and mindless jaunt without a metropolitan area in between.  101 ESPN has a huge signal – I can hear it almost all the way to Terre Haute – so listening uninterrupted is easy and because the product is high quality, very enjoyable.

With family in Indy, working is all there is to do in St. Louis – People always say that there is no such thing as work if you love what you do, and that’s true.  Maybe that’s why I don’t mind being in the office from before eight to after seven most days.  It also helps that my option is another night alone in my hotel room at the Doubletree.  Nothing against the Doubletree, but all things being equal, I’d rather be in the office.  When Julie and/or Ryan move out here, that will change a little bit as the discipline to devote time for family is every bit as important as the discipline of working hard.  I learned that while working in Indianapolis – accepting more and more responsibility as a manager’s faith.

Meeting new people can be joyful – I’ve never been a gregarious guy with new people.  It has always taken me a significant period of time to feel comfortable with strangers, but that seemed more a choice than a psychological disorder, so I told myself to ignore the impulse to dip my toe in the water before easing into the social pool.  I jumped in, and continue to get lunch with people as though they will be future friends rather than longtime strangers.  Let’s face it, I’m not George Clooney or Sam Bradford, so people aren’t going to tolerate my social reticence because in the end it will be worth it.  Fortunately, St. Louisans are a welcoming bunch, so I’m having a great time introducing myself to people I haven’t met.

St. Louis is a cool city (not in climate) – The people in St. Louis tend to stay in St. Louis, so there aren’t a huge number of ambassadors running around the midwest extolling the many virtues of the ‘Gateway to the West’.  That might be how St. Louisans like it.  The city is like some secret along the Mississippi that some very lucky outsiders occasionally wander into.  Getting around town is a challenge, but well worth it.  It ever a midwestern city was built for GPS, it’s St. Louis, but the rewards of a meal on ‘The Hill’, a trip to Rams Park for practice, or a game at Busch Stadium has all been more than worth it.  There are an endless series of suburban towns – some of which are forest filled and rural, while others are very typical.  The people, as I mentioned earlier, are very friendly.  People told me when we decided to move to St. Louis that its people are “very provincial”.  If they meant people are proud of their hometown, they were right.  But I got the impression that they meant the people were cold to outsiders.  I have found that purely false.

In a related thought, heat is relative.  It’s been really hot and humid since I got to St. Louis, but it no longer bothers me at all.  It’s not a dry heat, but it’s a heat that is easy to ignore.

St. Louis is a great golf town – I like golf.  Rather than a good walk spoiled, I see golf as a great hike enhanced.  St. Louis has beautiful and affordable courses.  The grasses are very hearty, so the divots are small.  My shoulders and elbows throb a bit after a round in Indy.  The turf is so loose that I can get a little deep with divots, and the shock of the impact causes some aches and pains.  In St. Louis, no such worries.

Baseball is good for sportstalk – During summers in Indianapolis, the only major league – and I realize I’m stretching the definition of the term ‘major league’ – is the WNBA.  That’s right, from the end of the Pacers season through the opening of Colts camp, the Indiana Fever are the only game in town.  St. Louis, with the Cardinals, Rams, and Blues, is a 365 day sports town.  People love all three teams, and all are committed to bringing in high character guys.  I love it.

The Cards are great – I know that as a lifelong Cubs fan, I’m supposed to somehow hate the Cardinals, but they play the game the right way.  Despite the Cubs current run of seven straight wins, they continue to run the bases like tools, miss cutoff men, and swing at pitches outside the strike zone.  Rooting for the Cubs, where no culture of winning exists, is a brutal exercise in futility.  The only culture is of unearned exorbitance.  The Cards are completely unlike the Cubs.  They play baseball the right way.  I have long thought that Albert Pujols is the best hitter I have ever seen, but watching him night after night it’s clear that his excellence extends beyond what he does with the bat.  While not fast, he might be the smartest baserunner I’ve seen since Roberto Clemente.  He wins games by taking the extra base, and that surprised me.  Maybe he is just on a great run of luck not getting thrown out, but over the last seven weeks, I’ve been stunned by his smart aggression.

All NFL teams are not run like the Colts – There is no denying the consistent excellence of the Colts over the last decade, but there is also no denying that their treatment of the media is more than a little off-putting and unnecessarily paranoid.  The Rams are the opposite.  I stood next to Rams GM Kevin Demoff for a half-hour the other night talking about all kinds of things, and it struck me more than once that doing the same with a member of the Colts front office would be almost unthinkable.  At one point with Kevin, I excused myself because practice was ongoing.  He said, “No, no, stick around.”  I have great respect for Bill and Chris Polian (and like both), but it’s nice to know there is more than one way to skin a cat when it comes to dealing with the media.

It’s hard to argue with the success the Colts have achieved, but I believe the same results (or better) might be gained by relaxing a little bit and enjoying the company of people who want nothing more than to help build the popularity of the franchise.

Working and writing are not compatible – I would love to write more often, but it’s impossible.  To those of you who enjoy this website, I apologize for not being more active here, but as I get more and more settled, hopefully I can find the time and energy to write things worth reading.

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Kravitz & Eddie Talk Notre Dame Football and Whether Brian Kelly Is the Right Guy by kentsterling
September 23, 2010, 9:00 am
Filed under: College Football, Kent Sterling, Media | Tags: , ,

by Kent Sterling

Kravitz & Eddie at this time is not available as a daily product for sports fans, but I still like listening, so I got them together to talk sports and talk about a variety of things – in this case Fighting Irish football.

Eddie is an unabashed fan of ND, having worked there for a few years in media relations.  Kravitz is an impartial and canny observer of sports as a columnist for the Indianapolis Star.  Together on 1070 – The Fan for more than two years, they became the best liked and disliked sportstalk show in Indianapolis.

Polarity is a good thing in media.  Being disliked is meaningless as long as enough people like the host(s).  Hate from listeners, viewers, and readers is not the enemy of the media.  Indifference is.  Love them or hate them, few were indifferent about Kravitz & Eddie.

Six months after their last show during their initial run ended, Kravitz & Eddie are still generating a tremendous amount of passion among sports fans.  The question I’m first asked when people find out that I used to run the programming on 1070 The Fan is why Kravitz & Eddie are no longer on.

Here is their take on Notre Dame.  It begins with me asking Eddie why he’s so quiet.  Usually, Eddie has plenty to say.  During the previous answers to my questions, Eddie was downright deferential to Kravitz.  That happens about as often as a total solar eclipse.

With the Irish at 1-2, the optimism of Irish fans and the believe in Kelly is fascinating.  Having tolerated two decades of mediocre reigns from Bob Davie, Tyrone Willingham, and Charlie Weis, maybe Irish fans are just tired of negativity.  Maybe they are overwhelmed by Kelly’s behavior, which is a stark and welcome contrast from what Weis displayed during his run.  Arrogance accompanied by failure gives birth to discontent followed quickly by rage, and that so when Kelly replaced Weis, there was a wide collective smile across St. Joe County.

To this point – three whole games into his run as the Notre Dame football coach – Kelly has been even-handed, pleasant, accommodating, and organized.  He’s going to get a pass based upon his personality for this season.  At some point soon, they need to pile up wins and return to a BCS bowl.



Interview With the Ohio Mascot Who Tackled Brutus by kentsterling

by Kent Sterling

That video makes me laugh hard every time I watch it.

He’s been all over ESPN for a couple of days now as the Ohio mascot “Rufus” who made a mad dash from the sidelines and tackled the Ohio State mascot.  Now, the kid in the Rufus suit, Brandon Hanning, talks to us about his decision to do something both brave and pointless in a measure worthy of a Delta House pledge in “Animal House”.

Kent: How much work is involved in being the Ohio University mascot?
Brandon: It wasn’t much, I just had to occasionally go to games through out the year.
Kent:  Were you fired?

Brandon:  I was going to quit after the Ohio state game, but if wasn’t going to, then yes I would be fired.

Kent: If you were fired, did they tell you specifically why?

Brandon:  They did call and tell me that they didn’t appreciate me not informing them that I was no longer a student, and to never come to another athletic event. Never told specifically why

Kent:  Was there any hesitation as you started your sprint toward Brutus?
Brandon:  No. I knew I’d be mad at myself if I didn’t do it, and there was no stopping half way into it.
Kent:  Did you ever pause and think, this might not be my best idea (why or why not)?
Brandon:  No. I had done this before in buffalo, and had not received any warnings then. I figured case scenario would be being arrested for assault, which o thought was highly unlikely to happen.
Kent:  What turned you so far against Brutus that you would dedicate so much time and effort to your one shining moment in the middle of the Horseshoe?
Brandon:  I never had anything against Brutus. I just thought it would be funny and I would get the most attention if I did it to Ohio state. I didn’t spend every waking moment of the year planning this either, I just came just came up with the idea a year ago, and it happened to fall through.
Kent:  What has been the most fun aspect of your fifteen minutes of national fame?

Brandon:  Probably watching (ESPN’s) Sportsnation vote me a hero over a jerk

What a kid.  In front of 100,000+ people who he knew would boo his ass, Brandon charged the obnoxious and sanctimonious Brutus.  He missed on the first effort because Brutus was being supported by some do-gooder male cheerleader, but kept after it and finally wrestled him to the ground in a flourish that we don’t get to see much outside of old Warner Brothers cartoons like “Foghorn Leghorn” and “Road Runner”.  Brandon is like a real-life Yosemite Sam.  He’s a rootin’ tootin’ fearless doer of daring deeds in the name of all the little guys out there who are sick of the Buckeyes and their high and mighty traditions.  Or he’s a nut who wanted some pub.  Either way, job well done.

Nice that Ohio University gave him another opportunity – this time as a former student – to sack a mascot after he had done this at Buffalo last year.



WRTV Traffic Guy Goes Out With a Bang by kentsterling
September 21, 2010, 5:30 pm
Filed under: Kent Sterling, Media | Tags: , ,

by Kent Sterling

Working at a TV station these days is a tough gig.  Jobs are eliminated or shifted, and people are displaced on an almost daily basis.  Management at some stations treat the employees like cattle, and because people don’t like to be treated like cattle, occasionally the behavior they save for private moments with co-workers in the corners of hallways spills into their performance.

This is the best explanation available for how Tom Davis signed off on his last traffic report for WRTV-6 in Indianapolis last Friday.  While I find the way many are being treated by members of the broadcasting management fraternity to be short-sighted and mindless, this clip of Davis’ final report is hilarious:

This is where media is today.  “That’ll do pig!”  Adios.  Another career broken, and another dream shattered.  Another manager gets a bonus for doing it.  As soon as the accountants were allowed in the room where decisions are made regarding strategy, cutting costs to success became an applauded practice.  Management no longer shares information with the staff, and they are left swinging in the wind without any clue whether this will be their last week.

I don’t know Tom Davis, but he obvious had enough of whatever was being served him by WRTV, and just as is always the case, there was a replacement yesterday doing the same job – excited about the opportunity, for now.



www.kentsterling.com Continues Run of Beating Indianapolis Media Sites by kentsterling
September 20, 2010, 9:23 am
Filed under: Kent Sterling, Media | Tags: ,

by Kent Sterling

Chronic masturbators will tell you that blowing your own horn is no less satisfying than having it blown by others, but I disagree.  The only reason to blow it yourself is because you can’t find anyone else to do it.  Just as we create all the content here, we are also the only people in media willing to blow ourselves.

This website, created out of whole cloth and without any external marketing whatsoever, again beat the better funded (meaning at all), better exposed in mainstream media (meaning at all), and better sold (meaning at all) sports websites based in Indianapolis in the two audience measurement metrics available at http://www.compete.com.

For the second time in three months, http://www.kentsterling.com attracted more unique visitors than 1070thefan.com, indysportsnation.com, and wnde.com.  We beat all of those sites in visits, except 1070thefan.com, who narrowly won that race.

This site isn’t resting on its laurels, pleased with its victories in online audience.  A redesign of the site is complete, and will be launched this week.  It will make navigating the unique information and perspective simpler and more rewarding.  The bureau being launched at Indiana University by Kyle Miller will give IU students and fans a voice and portal on the site for all things Hoosiers.  The quality and quantity of the writing is growing, and the exclusive daily video gives the site an ability to show the personalities of those who play and coach the games.

Here are the raw numbers:

Unique Visitors

kentsterling.com – 14,397

indysportsnation.com – 12,880

1070thefan.com – 11,135

wnde.com – 4,185

Visits

1070thefan.com – 21,644

kentsterling.com – 16,422

indysportsnation.com – 13,753

wnde.com – 4,449

Building a brand takes two years, and we continue down that road.  There will be more exciting news regarding the kentsterling.com’s growth both financially and in terms of marketing, but for the immediate future the focus will be providing users the best content possible.

This site is a boutique.  There are others that are part of larger networks, and use content from other larger providers, but this is created by people who love to create and post unique information and perspective.

Thanks to all of you who check the site regularly.  I hope you find it half as much fun to view as we do in creating the content.



DirecTV – Offers a Massive Number of Choices for Loyal Customers by kentsterling
September 18, 2010, 5:34 pm
Filed under: Media | Tags: , , , , ,

by Kent Sterling

Watching the IU vs. Western Kentucky game, which is thus far wildly disappointing, I am missing the fare available on no less than 41 movie channels.

The options are dizzying as the Hoosiers miss a field goal attempt with 4:35 remaining in the first quarter to stay scoreless and on the business end of a 7-0 game. “Mr. Holland’s Opus”, “Flirting with Disaster”, “Taken”, “Powder”, “Entourage”, “St. Elmo’s Fire” and even “Xanadu” are calling my name.

Late tonight, Cinemax will be worth a flip through with “Life on Top” (given the network and title, I can guess there is little in the way of scintillating dialogue) and Co-Ed Confidential on the docket.

No point in writing publicly about the entirely legal and above board process I used in being allowed this wide menu of choices for a greatly reduced rate, but I can tell you that an enlightening conversation with a DirecTV representative at a retail outlet got the ball rolling.

I explained the programming package I enjoyed until last night and showed him the price I pay. He called me an idiot, and said that if I didn’t switch immediately to Comcact or Dish that I was a moron. He said that DirecTV’s new subscriber get lots of great stuff for free, but current customers are “shit out of luck.”

Knowing the amount of money programming providers spend per customer to attract new customers, I thought a call to DirecTV to explain my decision to provide them one more chance to retain a formerly satisfied customer. They had to be a little compassionate as they caused my frustration themselves by offering a much better deal to customers who have never written them a single check, while they have been reaching into my pocket each month since 1998.

After two hours and six minutes of being bounced from one “CSR” – customer service representative, as I learned during my electronic travels last night – to another, finally a guy with the power to get aggressive on my behalf came on the line.

This was after the first guy promised to raise my monthly bill for five months, and give my a service I did not want. I hung up exhausted, and explained the outcome to my wife, who predictably and correctly asked if I had lost my goddamned mind. I checked to make sure the guy had at least delivered on his promise, and in fact we had been stripped of ESPN, CNN, A&E, and all of our local channels. I made the second call with a surprisingly calm demeanor, and 68 minutes later, we were in business.

The moral for Customers of any business is that companies who rely upon a customer base of subscribers understand that getting new customers is more expensive than keeping the new ones. They are generally willing to play ball, and the key is to outlast them during the renegotiation.

As with all successful negotiations, state your position, be willing to walk away, and let your adversary do the talking. Never resound positively until they say something that makes you happy.

Now all I have to do is find an extra 60 hours a day to watch it all, but need to wait to get started with my trilogy of brothers programming – “The Blues Brothers”, “Step Brothers”, and “Band of Brothers” – until the Hoosiers finish their dispatching of the Hilltoppers in Bowling Green, KY, on the Big Ten Network – now tied at seven with 7:10 to play in the first half.



Easy A Goes Old School and Scores by kentsterling

by Kent Sterling

“Easy A” is part tribute to the genre of films that so successfully made huge money exploring high school angst, and a clever film itself about high school angst.

The DVD version should come with a guide to the tips of the cap to the teen movies it relentlessly honors either visually, as with Emma Stone’s character wearing the Ray-Bay Wayfarers that Tom Cruise brought back into vogue in “Risky Business” and in dialogue, like when Thomas Haden Church’s character tells Stone’s character to “Stay golden”, just like Ralph Macchio tells Pony Boy in “The Outsiders”.

That kind of clever can become cute and then cloying, but the filmmakers here were subtle enough that the current teens who see “Easy A” won’t have any idea what the people in their 40s are laughing at.

And before parents of teens dismiss this movie as for teenagers, it’s not – at least not exclusively. Shit, we all went to high school and found it ridiculous and angst-filled. Searching for an identity independent of the image others hung on you is painful, especially when it’s incorrect, but of your own creation.

That’s the conceit here anyway. Olive is the central character of the film, and she is going through high school asanonymously as possible. She lies to a friend about losing her virginity, is overheard by a religious kook, and soon the whole school believes she’s a slut. Olive digs being in the limelight, but not for long. There are complications, and finally a bit of an awakening (otherwise, why make a movie?), but none of it smells contrived or bludgeons the audience with obvious cliches.

If you thought “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” sucked, you’ll hate this, but who thought Ferris sucked? One nice change is that Olive’s parents are droll and funny instead of myopic and simple fools as in Ferris or any of the rest of the John Hughes canon of films.

Emma Stone is really quite good as the high school girl who embraces her inner and fraudulent slut. She played the object of Jonah Hill’s affection in “Super Bad”, and carries this movie very well. She is easy to empathize with, and is very funny. She’s the girl who was a little bit too on the ball to date in high school – the “shit, she’s funnier than me” girl.

Wiseacre girls have a tough time getting guys, which is silly, but that’s the rule. High school guys are weird that way.

Given all the silly schlock I’ve over the past few weeks (“Piranha 3D” and “Machete” among them), it was a pleasure to sit and watch a movie so cleverly presented. Rarely is a movie paying homage to other movies of its genre good at both that and successfully extending the genre, but “Easy A” does it.

Teenagers who watch “Sixteen Candles” and enjoy it will love this movie from the first quote from Ferris Bueller” to the “Say Anything” finale.

No nudity or violence, but this is one of the rare films that wouldn’t be enhanced by either.