A THREE STAR, NOT TWO OR FOUR STAR, KIND OF GUY
The best part of traveling is the hotels. No offense to Disney World, or Six Flags or Grandma's house in Oklahoma City. I enjoy traveling for the hotels.
It wasn't always this way. When we were young, my Dad used to put us up in a shoddy collection of motels, RV Parks (we never had an RV, mind you) and log cabins. These were hotels only in the purest sense of the term. They took your money and provided you a bed. If you left alive was never a concern. These were places that you had to walk on a narrow sidewalk, usually on the second floor, to find the one ice machine (that was working) and fill up that little tiny bucket of ice, which promptly melted by the time you got back to the room.
These were different times, of course, and Dad merely stopped when the sun fell and found the closest VACANCY sign. More often or not, Norman Bates would have envied these dives.
Today, my trips are much more structured. One of the fun parts of having a tiny bit of obsessive-compulsive disorder is planning out where you will stay. There's nothing quite like un-checking the TWO STARS box to filter out those places that Dad used to find. That usually filters out the Super 8's and the Motel 6's and for the most part, that leaves me with Holiday Inn's, Ramada's and an occasional Hilton or Marriott, if the rates are low that weekend.
With the help of modern technology, I can find the hotels that give me exactly what I want. Internet and free breakfast. Some families might search for a swimming pool, or pet-friendly, or close to attractions. I'll drive an extra 20 minutes if it's got free internet and those crappy rubber scrambled eggs and those tiny boxes of Corn Flakes as long as I don't have to pay extra for it. (This is the part of my Dad's personality that I DID retain.)
I'm a three-star guy. I don't ask for much. But I know my limits. This past weekend, I was in Omaha and found that just about every hotel room was booked for a state high school track meet. So I had to go higher and stay in a four-star hotel.
I hated it. First of all, there was this jacked up code I had to put in to get on the Internet. Then, when I checked in, I asked, “What time's breakfast?” and the lady handed me a menu. A MENU?? $8 for a bowl of Frosted Flakes? What is this, Beverly Hills 90210? I guess people that can afford $150 a night for a hotel room can also afford $25 for a crappy breakfast.
The last straw was when I sat down on my bed and they didn't have a guide near the TV to tell me what channel was ESPN. So that meant every time I turned on the TV, I had to sift through 42 commercials, 6 MTV Teen Pregnancy shows and 19 Weather Channels to finally find it. By the time I got back the next day, I'd forgotten what channel ESPN was and had to start all over again.
Part of growing up is realizing what lane you're in. Me? I'm in the tiny box of corn flakes, free wireless internet, no poodles next door, ESPN is channel 22 kind of guy.
(Chris Kamler, formerly known as @TheFakeNed, has changed his Twitter handle to @ChrisKamler. He hosts a baseball-themed radio show each Wednesday at 4 p.m. on ESPN 1510AM. Reach him through his web site, ramblingmorons.com)
DOUCHEBAGS, LIKE TYSON, FAMOUS FOR BEING FAMOUS
Just when you think you've seen it all, you see something else.
Let's turn on the Wayback Machine and dial it back to 1991. Operation Desert Storm began in Iraq that January night - back when CNN was still a reputable news source. The Kansas City Royals were only six years removed from their first World Championship and were looking to add a second under skipper John Wathan, shortstop Kurt Stillwell and left fielder Kirk Gibson. And Saturday morning television featured such programs as Back to the Future: The Animated Series and Super Mario World.
It was a simpler time. If you'll also recall, it was 1991 when professional boxer, and heavyweight champion, Mike Tyson was arrested for raping 18-year-old Desiree Washington. Tyson was found guilty in 1992 and went on to serve three years of a six year sentence in the Plainfield Correctional Facility in Indiana.
Since 1991, a lot has changed in the world. Reality television has become popular. The Royals are still looking for their second World Championship and Saturday morning cartoons are all but a thing of the past, being replaced by the Cartoon Network. The world in many ways became a much colder place after 9/11 and entertainment has, arguably, never been more un-entertaining.
Since Mike Tyson pinned Desiree Washington down on an Indianapolis hotel bed and raped her as she pleaded for him to stop, Tyson has returned to boxing. He has also completely rehabilitated his image to the point of exceeding his fame that he had in the 1980's when he pummeled all those who would come before him including Michael Spinks. In the past 10 years, Tyson has lived off of his name, appearing in movies like The Hangover Series, and How I Met Your Mother. “Famous for being famous.”
Tyson, who still has issues with rage (he said in a 2003 interview with Fox News on whether he raped Washington, “I really wish I did now. But now I really do want to rape her”) will star in an animated series, Mike Tyson Mysteries.
Here's a brief thumbnail of the series:
In the new animated comedy series Mike Tyson Mysteries, Mike Tyson is taking the fight from the boxing ring to the streets… by solving mysteries! Armed with a magical tattoo on his face and a trusty associate by his side — a talking pigeon — if you have a problem that needs solving, Iron Mike is in your corner. The series incorporates live-action appearances featuring Mighty Mike himself, and the gloves come off as the former heavyweight champ and his fowl-mouthed partner gear up for weekly adventures as they put unsolved mysteries — like how to defeat a super computer at chess or why a famous author/werewolf can't finish his novel — down for the count.
It's got a parrot! Admittedly, it's on the adult-themed “Adult Swim” which is the after-hours portion of Cartoon Network, but I'm still stumped at how this convicted felon just keeps getting nine more lives.
Tyson joins a long line of those who are “Famous for being famous” like the Kardashians and Paris Hilton. Television (and the world) would be better off if it didn't have them on it.
Mike Tyson is a douchebag. He deserves an animated cartoon just about as much as I do. Except I didn't rape anyone. Maybe if I had made poorer choices back in 1991, I'd find myself living in Vegas starring in movies and cartoons, too!
(Chris Kamler, formerly known as @TheFakeNed, has changed his Twitter handle to @ChrisKamler. He hosts a baseball-themed radio show each Wednesday at 4 p.m. on ESPN 1510 AM. Reach him through his website, ramblingmorons.com)
THE POLITICALLY CORRECT POLICE ARE IN YOUR MIND
Two weeks ago, Jason Collins, a player for the NBA Washington Wizards, announced that he was gay. This news was met with a flourish of praise for Collins' courage as well as more than a few jeers from those who don't agree with his lifestyle.
One interesting wrinkle to the story was from those who were upset that the news was announced at all. I got into an interesting conversation on Twitter with Brian Kubicki, my peer here at The Landmark's Award-Winning Opinion Page.
To briefly recap the conversation, a couple of knucklehead athletes had begun to tweet their displeasure of Jason Collins' announcement. My tweet was tongue in cheek, but held an air of truth, “Pro Tip: Homophobic professional athletes should probably just take the day off of twitter. Go golf. Go for a walk.”
Mr. Kubicki, who is admittedly much more intelligent than I am, retorted, “Why is questioning the relevance of a person's expression of sexual activity an indication of fear of said activity?”
Brian was confused by my use of the word “homophobic” and thought that any dissention of Collins' announcement should be considered “homophobic.” It shouldn't, and you can read the entire conversation on our twitter feeds @TheFakeNed and @BKParallax.
This raised a key concern of mine, however. Through the course of the conversation, and reading some of Brian's columns, he makes mention of the “Political Correctness Police.” I guess I'm confused as to who the PC Police are. Do they run around arresting people for political correctness? Are they brought before a court of law? Do they eat doughnuts?
Or, perhaps, Brian's definition of “political correctness” is different from mine. His seems to be a cold, dark lifestyle where everyone is forced to march to the same cadence devoid of color. And when ideas or announcements are made, they are brought before this “Political Correctness Police.”
The whole idea seems silly. Political Correctness, to me, seems to be a way to have an open conversation about issues and then let a community decide what the best course of action is.
Jason Collins' announcement that he is gay was just that. The lede in the SI article, written by Collins, read, simply, “I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay.” That's it. Yet, Brian apparently feels this is but a springboard for the “Political Correctness Police” to break into your house and take away Apple Pie.
What's wrong with the discussion? There's a ton of key things to talk about here and advance agendas and let others die out by natural selection. You've got the oppression of minorities of all types; bullying in sports; courageousness in making difficult announcements and even gay rights. It seems that others on this page may feel that even having these conversations means that this “PC Police” department has already won and that debate and discussion shouldn't ever happen.
Kinda sad, really. Because debate and discussion is what this country was founded on. And doughnuts.
(Chris Kamler is active on Twitter, where he is known as @TheFakeNed. He hosts a baseball themed radio show each Wednesday at 4 p.m. on ESPN 1510 AM. Reach him through his web site, ramblingmorons.com)
PUT THAT IN YOUR PIPE AND SMOKE IT
Friday, April 26 was an anniversary that had little fanfare for the Kansas City Royals. Oh sure, MLB celebrates Jackie Robinson Day by all players wearing the number “42”, they celebrate Memorial Day by wearing flags woven into their logos, they even celebrate Mother's Day by using pink bats. But April 26 is a date that goes unmentioned.
Not anymore. I hereby decree April 26 as National Bitch And Moan Day. It is because April 26, 1993 was the day that then-Royals Manager Hal McRae flipped his nuggets after being asked whether he considered pinch-hitting George Brett for Keith Miller in the 7th inning of an eventual 5-3 loss against the Detroit Tigers. What followed was the undisputed, undefeated, mother of all meltdowns which included nearly a dozen f-bombs, a bottle of vodka, challenges to reporters' manhoods a challenge to place “that in your pipe and smoke it,” and an assault with a telephone. Classic, classic stuff.
Before the phrase “viral video,” existed this rant went multi-platinum viral. Alan Eskew, sportswriter for the Topeka Capital-Journal and the one hit by the phone--told me this week that he still sees the video come up a few times a year. (Eskew also humbly refuses media requests to talk about the incident, just as he did 20 years ago.)
Following the profanity-laced tirade, McRae reportedly challenged reporters, bottle of vodka in hand, to “be a man...” whatever that means. We've seen some that have come close, see Knight, Bob or Gundy, Mike, but McRae's is the Mona Lisa.
A rant of that quality, with that depth and texture, may never be seen again. In the age of social media, people have become more reserved and are starting to realize that everything is recorded and will likely go on YouTube in minutes. “I've never seen anything like it,” Royals pitcher Aaron Crow said. Catcher George Kottaras agreed and said that he liked the old managers like Lou Pinella and Ozzie Guillen, “because it meant that they were standing up for their players.”
But McRae's eclipsed them all. This wasn't just kicking dirt on an umpire or yelling at a reporter, McRae THREW A FRIGGIN' PHONE AND HIT A GUY.
The major reason McRae's rant will never be seen again is that leadership positions now come with their own handlers whose job it is to make sure that person isn't the next viral sensation. The Royals now have Mike Swanson, the vice president of media relations. He's worked for 17 different managers in more than two decades in baseball. “I tell all my managers they have 10 minutes after the game [before they meet the press]. Blow up at me, but don't take it out in front of them.” Swanson's advice is wise. Just last month, video captured Rutgers' Basketball Coach Mike Rice during a videotaped practice throwing basketballs at players and shouting racial slurs. Rice is no longer employed by Rutgers University.
But on April 26th every year, we should pause, get liquored up (allegedly) and all take a page from Hal McRae.
So. April 26 is the day to let it go. Tell your boss to get out of your office. Tell the guy on that dumb conference call to “stop asking me these stupid f----- questions.” Throw a phone at that idiot in accounting. Let out everything that's been building for the other 364 days of the year. This is your moment. Put that in your pipe... and smoke it.
(Chris Kamler is active on Twitter, where he is known as @TheFakeNed. He hosts a baseball show every Wednesday at 4 p.m. on ESPN 1510 AM. Reach him through his website, ramblingmorons.com)
NEWS BECAME INTERACTIVE, LESS FORMAL, WRONG
We have crossed over into the surreal. Last week, we all watched in horror as events too impossible for a summer movie blockbuster played out on our television screens, our radios and our computers. The images were indelible and heartbreaking.
While we all had seen events such as these play out before - September 11th, Columbine, Aurora, Colorado and countless others - this one was different.
This event was more... interactive. News delivery changed that Monday in New England. Breaking news was broken on Twitter and Reddit, and reporters were seen glued to their phones for updates. These updates were being given by embedded reporters who didn't have journalism degrees, but rather had Skype accounts and webcams.
Websites like Reddit and 4chan "croudsourced" efforts to find "guys with backpacks" and help determine those who murdered and maimed.
News became interactive and locally gathered and less formal.
Only... we all got it wrong.
Reddit and 4chan targeted a number of suspects that turned out not having anything to do with the bombing. The actual bombers never showed up on their witch hunt. Noise and speculation on Twitter had multiple undetonated bombs all over Boston. During the manhunt for those killers, residents of Watertown, Mass craned webcams and cellphones out windows as firefights rang up and down their streets. Many brought compelling video, but I couldn't help think of the danger these folks put themselves in. For 20 seconds of video. Is that worth your life?
Boston police repeatedly urged citizens across the globe to stop tweeting police scanner traffic which was being broadcast over websites and video feeds dedicated to listening in on police communications. We were listening to police telling their partners which direction they were going to close in on the suspects - and it's possible they were hearing that and adjusting their directions.
I don't know the answer here. Reporting is being deputized down to normal Tom, Dick and Harrys but they don't have the benefit of double-sourcing and editor oversight that "real" reporters do. But then again, most of the news coverage didn't follow their own rules anyway. Everyone will remember CNN's giant blunder saying that a "dark-skinned" suspect had been arrested - nearly 3 days before two white kids actually were taken into custody.
If we're all going to become reporters, we should at least do ourselves a favor and learn a little more about maintaining safety and how broadcasting raw data over a police scanner is a bad idea when it jeopardizes the lives of first responders. If we want to participate in the coverage of news, we need to get better at it.
As we now know, the way we get our news changed last Monday. And we have to get a little smarter because of it.
(Chris Kamler is active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. He hosts a baseball show every Wednesday at 4 p.m. on ESPN 1510 AM. Reach him through his website, ramblingmorons.com)
42 EDUCATES MORE
THAN IT ENTERTAINS
So, last week, I was three feet away from Han Solo. We were, of course, under strict orders to not mention “Indiana Jones” or “Star Wars.” So, I had to come up with something else to ask the man who famously returned an “I love you” from Princess Leia with “I know.”
Left with little else, I asked him about his new movie “42” in which he is unrecognizable as Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey. “It's an important film. It's an incredible story about a critical step that was taken in confronting the issue of inequality. It was a moment when, ultimately, we shined.” Unfortunately, I couldn't slip any other questions about what it was like to be frozen in Carbonite, or whether the Lost Ark really melted that guy's face.
It is Ford's portrayal of Rickey that I will take away from this film. His realistic portrayal with a voice filled with gravel. Rickey's true intentions to integrate baseball and bring Negroes into the game was less than altruistic, and Ford channeled Rickey in saying that his intentions were “To make money.”
But there were some other outstanding performances in this movie. Chadwick Boseman made a realistic Robinson and his on-screen chemistry with Nicole Beharie, who played Rachel Robinson, was surprising and honest. You could really understand the special love these two had with each other, who often felt it was them against the world.
I particularly liked the performances of two smaller roles in the movie, Alan Tudyk, who steals just about every movie he's in. He plays the racist manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, Ben Chapman. Tudyk has a pivotal scene where he shouts racial epithets at Robinson, causing him to nearly break. And John C. McGinley, who you'll recall from Scrubs and Office Space. He plays famed play-by-play man Red Barber and whose voice you hear throughout the baseball sequences in the film. He did a great job capturing the unique voice of Barber.
In summary, I'll echo what Jarrod Dyson told me after the movie, it felt a little flat as an entertainment movie. It felt, at times, more like a History Channel movie. That doesn't mean you shouldn't go see it, because you should. The performances alone easily put this movie into the top 3 baseball movies and an important piece of history.
It also helps set a tone for introspection on those of us who watched it. While Robinson's integration into Baseball helped lead the way for the Civil Rights Amendment, you need look only to your local Facebook pages to see that there is still ignorance and racism in this world and in our community. The next front for human rights may be in the area of sexual preference, and yet this year, we may see a “Gay Jackie Robinson” as there are growing rumors of someone coming out of the closet in the National Football League. No matter the avenue, it's important to recognize and honor the sacrifice of Jackie Robinson, so that no others will have to suffer the same fate.
(Chris Kamler is active on Twitter, where he is known as @TheFakeNed. He hosts a weekly baseball show on ESPN 1510 AM Wednesdays at 4 p.m. Reach him through his web site, ramblingmorons.com)
THIS MIGHT BE A FUN YEAR TO BE A ROYALS FAN
Just got back from Opening Day at Kauffman today and have quite a few observations that won't fit in my “K Replay” article. (You ARE reading my K Replay inside The Landmark every week, right?).
Kauffman Stadium turned 40 years old this week. I also turned 40 this year. She looks a helluva lot better than I do. And it is the small changes, the little tweaks that have made her improve so much with age. One thing you'll notice are the huge TIDE ads missing from the giant wells in the upper deck. Those were tacky and simply unnecessary. There's a fine line between gaudy advertising and name recognition. I'm glad they're gone.
Kauffman Stadium remains my most favorite location on the planet. And it is the greatest gift I can pass along to my son. He and I went to Opening Day and to see him navigate the Kauffman crowd, enjoy the proper way to eat a hot dog (although we fight over ketchup or mustard) and show him the finer skills of checking out the hot ballpark girls without staring is something I'm most proud of.
The Crown Vision continues to be the most glorious piece of electronics I've ever seen. And the pregame festivities with the countdown, the fireworks off of the crown and the sound system are incredible. A team of about a dozen men and women come up with the content for this board and they do an incredible job.
I generally stay away from Kauffman beer since I don't want to take a second mortgage out on my house, but I did notice that there has been a change with the large sodas. We like to get the souvenir cups and those usually run $6 or $7. Well, this year, they are still $7, but they come with a sticker for a free refill on soda. This automatically will save us $20 each game.
On the downside, cellular service still is beyond terrible on games with more than 10,000 people there. I have AT&T service, and as soon as the first pitch happened, smartphone service went in the toilet. You can save me as much money as you want on Dr. Peppers, but if Daddy can't tweet, Daddy ain't comin' out to the game. Twitter has simply changed the way I (and many others) watch the game. We need it at all times. If that sounds co-dependent, it's because it is.
There was no B-2 Bomber flyover like there had been in years past. Blame Obama. That's the extent of my political commentary. Check the other 3 boxes on this page.
Turning to the product on the field, at least through seven games, you have to be impressed. Not necessarily because of the pitching, which has been inconsistent. Or the hitting, which has been inconsistent. Or even the defense and speed, which are improved, but inconsistent. It is how Ned Yost has managed to orchestrate these inconsistencies and clearly put forth a product with a “win now” mentality. He is learning to manage game-to-game rather than month-to-month like in years prior and you have to be impressed with the product so far.
The proof is in the pudding, but with such a beautiful stadium to play in, a re-energized fan base and a slogan that might actually match the team (#ComeToPlay), this might be a fun year to be a Royals fan.
(Chris Kamler is active on Twitter, where he is known as @TheFakeNed. He hosts a weekly baseball show on ESPN 1510 AM Wednesdays at 4 p.m. Reach him through his web site, ramblingmorons.com)
SILENCE FILLED WITH THE RIGHT TYPE OF NOISE
Every year, my son and I pick one weekend to go on a "Man-cation," with the added benefit of leaving my wife alone for a weekend that she doesn't have to cook and clean and do all of the other wonderful things that she does for us.
For my son and I, we look forward to this weekend every year as it is a great opportunity to bond, eat garbage, fart and make a few memories without repercussion. This year, we decided to be tourists in the St. Louis Area, see the Arch, walk around and just goof around.
Now, anyone who knows me, knows that I am constantly tapping away on my phone, and vacations are no different. This "quiet time" allows me to get caught up on articles, podcasts and just mindless Internet reading. I can catch up on a little work and still spend some great time with the kid.
But something odd happened this weekend - something shocking, really. My phone died. My lifeline to the outside world. The battery died around Saturday morning, my charger wouldn't work. My backup charger didn't work. It just wouldn't turn on.
After initial panic, I decided not to spend the rest of the weekend in the fetal position. We went on with our agenda of going to the St. Louis Science Center and seeing the Gateway Arch.
Initially, my surroundings were strange. I managed to make it to the Science Center without the aid of a GPS. We made it downtown by taking the subway without so much as a Foursquare Check-In.
When it was time to eat, we managed to find a nice restaurant - not by checking reviews on Yelp, but by walking around Lacledes Landing and checking out the menus outside the entrance.
And then... the most shocking thing on our vacation... the boy and I began to talk. And it wasn't just "Did you see this video on YouTube?" It was real talking. We talked about our dreams, our challenges and our lives. He asked questions about what he was like as a baby, and what he would be like when he grew up. And I told him stories about my successes and failures in life. We talked for hours - uninterrupted.
We have gone on a number of vacations like this in the past, and we will hopefully have dozens more before he reaches whatever age that he doesn't go on vacations with his father any longer. But one feature that will remain will be that they will be technology-free. You cannot appreciate the silence until that silence is filled with the right type of noise.
(Chris Kamler is active on Twitter, where he is known as @TheFakeNed. He hosts a baseball show Wednesday at 4 p.m. on ESPN 1510 AM. Reach him through his web site, ramblingmorons.com)
DOES GOD HATE KC?
There's a tongue in cheek saying you'll find on message boards and twitter surrounding the Kansas City Royals. It's “God Hates KC.” The idea is that God has something to do with the miserable, decades-long run of futility by the Royals. After every loss, after every missed pop fly, after every off-season failed move, you'll see a hashtag, #GodHatesKC pop up.
While I cannot speak for God, my guess is that it's not in God's pay grade to care about a Major League Baseball franchise. But then I got to wondering... maybe it is?
The Royals last winning season was 2003 - 10 years ago - under Tony Pena Jr. The past ten years have been miserable. This town has suffered through Brian Anderson and Emil Brown and Trey Hillman and Buddy Bell and Mike Sweeney's back problems and countless other examples of comical ineptness. #GodHatesKC
But this wasn't the beginning. You scroll back in time and be glad Twitter hadn't been around at the beginning of Major League Baseball in Kansas City. I'm reading a book called The Kansas City A's and the Wrong Half of the Yankees by Jeff Katz. It chronicles the first few years of Major League Baseball in this town and how the Kansas City A's were a mere MLB Farm Club to the New York Yankees. It tells how the Yankees controlled 1/4 of American League teams with the A's and could literally send players between the clubs at will with no oversight. #GodHatesKC
This led to the migration of those who could've been stars with KC on their cap. Instead they will forever be known as Yankees. Names such as Enos Slaughter, Bud Daley and Roger Maris. #GodHatesKC
Following the ownership reign of Arnold Johnson, the Kansas City club broke their ties (somewhat) with the Yankees and were under the control of Charlie 'O Finley. Finley was a classic meddler and controller. He undercut salaries. He was more flash than substance and he had a mean streak so infamous, he once cut Hawk Harrelson for calling him a “menace to baseball.” Hawk left thankfully and signed a deal with the Red Sox for more money. #GodHatesKC
Finley up and moved the team to Oakland and promptly won three consecutive championships. Those Kansas City teams had all the pieces with Reggie Jackson, Lew Krausse and Sal Bando - but the chemistry wasn't right and it took a move to Oakland for them to rattle off World Series in 1972-1974. #GodHatesKC
The City of Kansas City was awarded the Royals and you have to really step back and appreciate the decade of 1976 through 1985. Because it never happened before - and it may never happen again. Household names like Wilson, Howser, White and Brett gave way to Storm Davis and Avron Fogelman and Dan and David Glass. #GodHatesKC
It's beyond my scope to know what God does and doesn't hate. But my guess is that we'd better hope God has a hand in it - otherwise it's just a 60 year stretch of mostly dumb luck.
(Chris Kamler is active on Twitter, where he is known as @TheFakeNed. He hosts a baseball show every Wednesday at 4 p.m. on ESPN 1510 AM. Reach him through his website, ramblingmorons.com)
SWING AND A MISS
What a terrible day this is in Platte County. I thought you people had a sense of adventure.
Just over a year after its opening, the Shangri La of Sexy Time, the Bed and Breakfast of Boom Boom, the Romantic Getaway Today Inn in downtown Parkville has closed its doors, turned off its cameras and swung its sex swings for the last time.
Such a shame. I hope you’re happy with yourselves.
Not only did Parkvillians (heavy emphasis on the VILLAINS) not rush the doors of this Sin Temple, but some asked their government to change the laws to discourage this type of business from being successful. The local city council looked into passing a law potentially discouraging this type of business, according to Valerie Verkamp‘s article in last week’s Landmark.
If it were up to the Parkville City Council, you all would’ve never seen Elvis’s ‘68 Comeback Special. Madonna would’ve only been the name of the Mother of Jesus. And the Internet would’ve only been for getting pictures of cats on Facebook.
Where’s your sense of fun and excitement?
It is those of you who shut this place down that probably needed it the most. I’ll say it. You all need to get LAID. And here was the Romantic Getaway Today Inn just offering it up. Instead you focused your energies on passing laws allowing go-carts on city streets. Really. They don’t make Cialis commercials featuring go-carts. That’s all I’m saying.
Well, I wish the best for Janet Byers, the former owner of the B,B&B (that’s Bootie, Bed and Breakfast.) You’re welcome to come down here to Clay County. We’re dying for some excitement since they closed down Diamond Joe’s in an event that many of us red-blooded men around here still call “Black Friday.”
The good news is that most of the real estate down here in Clay County already has plush red velvet carpeting on the walls and mirrors on the ceiling. We know how to get down near downtown.
And for Parkville... Good luck, folks. You might want to stay away from the magazine rack at the local convenience stores. I heard Taylor Swift is wearing a knee-high skirt on the cover of Teen Beat. Oh, the humanity!!
Go ahead and keep thinking that KY is just an old radio station. And that “staying in the penthouse in Parkville” actually just means staying on the top floor of an old hotel. Let’s just hope Parkville never gets the Internet up on 45 Highway... the town elders will not be pleased.
Maybe the town could have tried a little harder to help a local business. Healthy businesses lead towards higher tax revenue, which leads toward more improvements which lead to better roads and sidewalks which lead to a better environment for your unsexy go-carts.
You broke the circle of life. I hope you’re happy. I’d give you a round of applause, but it seems that all I’m left with is the sound of one hand... um... clapping.
(Chris Kamler is active on Twitter, where he is known as @TheFakeNed. He hosts a baseball show on ESPN 1510 AM Wednesdays at 4 p.m. Reach him through his web site, ramblingmorons.com)
SHARE AND SHARE ALIKE
I was talking with a friend recently about everything that's wrong with social networking today. I think it's great that folks seem to have embraced the idea of technology. Just a few years ago, I would never have dreamed of my mother sharing pictures of her grandchildren on Facebook. Or the Star's Royals beat writer, Bob Dutton, interacting with fans of the team on Twitter--most of whom are half his age.
These incredible platforms connect old college roommates, allow politicians to talk with their constituents and pass along messages of hope and peace and love every day. One of my friends is very sick with cancer and she has said how much the messages of support and hope mean to her in her struggle.
This openness and proclivity toward sharing comes with a price. In addition to reconnecting with an old friend so you can share recipes for oatmeal raisin cookies, it also means that the moron you sat behind in 8th grade biology wants to tell you about his a-hole girlfriend. Or that co-worker from a job you had five years ago can talk to you about how Obama was born in Switzerland and how the CIA is coming after your guns. Or how the guy that runs the pizza parlor that you like spams you every two hours to come down for a slice.
Everyone has gotten so used to sharing. But we haven't yet developed that internal mute button that you'd typically use in other social situations. In fact, rather than muting our comments, we seem to feel empowered to amplify them. If you were at a Starbucks with 20 folks there, would you just get up and ask everyone to look at this rash on your inner thigh? Well, why is it that I saw that post last Friday on Facebook?
I once saw a mother carry out a full-on domestic argument with her 17-year-old daughter--completely in the open--on Facebook. While I was grabbing popcorn and watching each status update, a part of me did feel really bad for them.
If you were at a car dealership, looking to buy a car, would you expect to hear a 15-minute monologue from the salesman about why socialized medicine is the wave of the future? So why put it on your Twitter?
Listen, I get it. This is new for many of us. Digital communication is different than physical interaction with people. It's much more anonymous and impersonal. Except it's not. It's very personal--but people forget that.
A fair rule of thumb I think we all could go by is to use the same manners and tone as you would at a cocktail party. This assumes you're at a normal cocktail party and not one of the I Hate Abortion cocktail party. There, I guess your tone would be different.
The golden rule certainly applies on social networking, just as it does in life. Status Update to others as you would want Status Updated to you.
(Chris Kamler is active on Twitter, where he is known as @TheFakeNed. He hosts a baseball-themed radio show each Wednesdays at 4 p.m. on ESPN 1510 AM. Reach him through his web site, ramblingmorons.com)
ATHLETES FOR CHANGE
Dennis Rodman went to North Korea and met with Kim Jong Un last week. They took in a basketball game and reportedly talked politics and culture. There were also reports they “partied” together with Rodman saying upon his return about Jong Un, “he's really pretty awesome.”
We traditionally think of our Ambassadors being professional, formally educated men and women, but I think this is great and can open up a tremendous opportunity for diplomacy moving forward.
Just think about the Palestinians and Israelis at war for decades. Traditional diplomacy hasn't worked. What about sending Albert Pujols? I mean... what could it hurt? He could take everyone to a Cricket match, or hit fastballs off of the sacred mosques and things are bound to get better.
Flare-ups with the Sunni/Shia Muslims? I can't think of anyone better to send over there than 2012 Pro Bowling Tour points leader Jason Belmonte. I can see the news reports, “Pro Bowler Strikes Out War.” It would be a political windfall.
After all, a lot of these professional athletes have tons of time on their hands between workouts and playing their half-year sports. All that time is being wasted NOT solving the world's problems. What does Eric Hosmer do in the offseason? I'll bet you don't even know. Well, for starters, he negotiated a framework agreement in the Bangsamoro between the Philippine government and the Islamic militant group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
What's more, his corner infield mate Mike Moustakas helped with some State Department language for the Central American Free Trade Agreement that's up before Congress now. He added several key paragraphs about tariffs and how they should be calculated.
Professional athletes are commonly made fun of because of their intelligence. Former Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Terry Bradshaw once was made fun of by Cowboys linebacker Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson saying that he Bradshaw couldn't spell CAT if he spotted him the C and the A. What Henderson and millions of Americans didn't know at the time was that Bradshaw traveled during the off season to West Africa and was in secret negotiations over what would become the 1975 Treaty of Lagos. This treaty established the Economic Community of West African States. Bradshaw would later win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Rodman is just the latest in a long string of peace workers whose “day” job is simply to dunk a basketball or hit a homerun. In fact, he's not even the first of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls to find themselves at the center of International Politics. The team commonly referred to as “the greatest NBA team of all-time” has featured three other “National Basketball Association” players turned into “Not Bad Ambassadors.” Who can forget the drama of Steve Kerr and Luc Longley traveling to India to set up the first nuclear testing program. And Michael Jordan once bought and sold the entire continent of Australia.
So let's raise a glass to these players as they set their lineups for the world stage. Let's hope more professional athletes spend their time negotiating peace between countries. The world would be a better place.
(Chris Kamler is active on Twitter, where he is known as @TheFakeNed. He hosts a baseball-themed radio show Wednesdays at 4 p.m. on ESPN 1510 AM. Reach him through his website, ramblingmorons.com)
SLY JAMES IS THE MAYOR OF TWITTER
If you walk walk into any bookstore and head into the section on “Business Management,” you'll find hundreds of titles ranging from “Top Dog” to “7 Habits.” Millions of words and billions of dollars - all in the pursuit of becoming a good manager, a good leader.
But for some, these skills and traits just come naturally. Exhibit A is what's going on in Kansas City, Missouri right now with The Honorable Mayor Sly James. James has had quite a week with the gas explosion at JJ's Restaurant mixed with two major winter storms. Kansas City has never been known as a city with a perfect infrastructure, so commanding these resources is no small feat. And commanding this massive infrastructure has crippled past mayors in Kansas City.
Mark Funkhouser, KC's previous mayor, might have been the smartest guy in the room, but couldn't lead his way out of a wet paper bag. Mayor Kay Barnes had a level of popularity, and brought the Power & Light District and Sprint Center to town, but many years later we're stuck paying the bill.
Leadership is a tricky thing, but it's a lot like the definition of pornography, you know it when you see it. And Mayor James has been exhibiting some incredible leadership - mainly through new technologies such as the always present iPad in his hands and his major method of communication with his constituency - Twitter.
James is approachable, he is witty, he is bold and, most of all, he is engaging. He responds to citizen questions, problems, praises and criticism - all in 140 characters.
Over the past week, James has tweeted out pictures of his command center, pictures of the Plaza Fire and gave constant updates on the status of snow plows. He has also organized fundraising meals with local restaurants for victims of the JJ's fire. Additionally, he's implored citizens to send in their random acts of kindness with a hashtag of #LoveKC.
To me, 95% of leadership is communication. At the end of the day, leaders do very little. They must tell what's being done. Mayor James has managed to bypass the stodgy city council meetings and speeches and get to the real issues with real citizens.
Sample tweets from the mayor:
“I sent in your request. Crews are on their way.”
“Folks new snow coming S-Mon. Remember, if you live on N/S street, park on West side. If you live on E/W street, park on North side.”
“Great that they got your street plowed!!”
These small tokens of communication weigh huge for folks who need these basic services from their city. At the end of the day, all I ever hope for my government is that someone is in control. Mayor James is doing an incredible job at the helm and I look forward to seeing what he's able to do in the future -- one hundred forty characters at a time.
(Chris Kamler is active on Twitter, where he is known as @TheFakeNed. He hosts a weekly baseball show on ESPN 1510 AM Wednesdays at 4 p.m. Reach him through his web site, ramblingmorons.com)
THE CASE FOR LEGALIZING SPORTS BETTING
This weekend, I completed my taxes and mailed them off. The most depressing part of it was the screen that tells you how your taxes have changed over time. I've been lucky enough over the past 5 years to make more money each year than the one before. Blessed, even. Which means that the “taxes over time” screen lights up like a pinball machine. Furthermore, like many of you, when I got my first paycheck of 2013, I definitely noticed that there was more in that FICA box.
You can argue if the government is investing that money wisely, and those arguments are better laid out by others on this editorial page. My issue is that we're asking more and more from Mr. and Mrs. America and we seem to be falling more and more in debt.
And during this tax preparation session, my mind began to wander, as it often does, so I clicked over to my online poker game and wasted a couple of hours winning a couple of bucks. And it's something that I do a few hours a week, putting thousands of “fake” dollars in play. All for “entertainment” purposes.
Why not legalize sports betting and online poker?
Listen, I've seen both sides of gambling, having worked at a local casino for 5 years and being a degenerate gambler, myself. But hear me out. Last year, Nevada casinos took in $2.6 Billion (with a B) dollars on sports betting last year. Just imagine if Missouri could get a small piece of that for something people are doing anyway from their phones or computers or bookies. All that money is currently going to offshore casinos and the US government makes a total of $0 on it.
In fact, they make even less because they spend time trying convict these people for something the public is demanding. Online poker is a $6 billion dollar industry and all of THAT money is going elsewhere also. Why not try to take a piece of that?
The government is beyond broke. Taxes are getting higher and higher. Making betting for entertainment purposes only seems inevitable. The key is to manage it and count the money.
Many in the government are looking this way. Jason Grill, Democrat and formerly of the Missouri House of Representatives, introduced a resolution to repeal the Federal Professional And Amateur Sports Promotion Act of 1992 (PASPA) which legalizes sports gambling in only four states. What about the other 46?
Grill's bill would repeal that act in Missouri and allow gambling to take place electronically and at the casinos here in Missouri. Grill reminds in the bill that over half of all Americans have some sort of action on the Super Bowl and March Madness between office pools, brackets and a $5 bet between friends. This bill would allow a host of other alternatives and between websites and physical casinos, the entertainment of placing a $20 bet would be massive. And the state gets a piece of all of it. Right now, we're leaving all of those chips on the table.
It's only a suggestion. But I'm getting awfully tired seeing that year-by-year graph get higher and higher on my taxes every year.
(Chris Kamler is active on Twitter, where he is known as @TheFakeNed. He hosts a baseball-themed radio show Wednesdays at 4 p.m. on ESPN 1510 AM. Reach him through his web site, ramblingmorons.com)
PREDICTIONS: YOST GETS FIRED; TEAM FINISHES 80-82
Spring Training is here. No more talk of rushing yards or zone defenses. Talk now turns to “How does he look?” and “How fast is he pitching?” and “Oh, he's put on some muscle.”
For the next several weeks, the buzz of Spring Training will mean very little. You can listen to radio hosts, and podcasters and read sportswriters who will empty gallons of ink and shred gigabytes of hard drive space and all of it -- ALL of it -- means nothing. Arguments on Twitter focus on the fight for the fifth starter. Arguments on Facebook focus on if Chris Getz has what it takes to take the starting second base position. But it will all, likely, be whizzing in the wind after a few more weeks.
The season won't be won in the marketing room either. The new slogan “Come to Play” means very little, too. Unless you're a player driving down from Omaha and actually need to use those as instructions.
The key to baseball is very simple. But it's impossible to single out. It has been said that the hardest thing to do in sports is hit a round ball with a round bat squarely. And history proves that the heroes in baseball are most likely the underdogs and the never-heard-ofs. The Aaron Boone who has a nondescript career until he finds himself as a New York Yankee and hits one of the most historic home runs in the 11th inning of the 2003 ALCS to beat the hated Red Sox. Boone never again made much of an impact, but then again, he never had to.
Baseball is about screaming loud moments in a sea of quiet. Stories of Willie Aikens, a man who never made an All-Star Game and who would later be incarcerated for cocaine possession. Aikens hit two home runs in two games in the 1980 World Series, a series the Royals would lose, but not due to the lack of effort by Aikens, who was never again the same player. But only two players in MLB history have had multiple home run games in a World Series. The other being Chase Utley in the 2009 World Series. Something that names like Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson never did.
Success in baseball isn't in being the best, it's in being the most clutch. That's why George Brett's career was such an anomaly. Someone who consistently hit above .300, but was also at his most successful, when the game was on the line.
So during this Spring Training, don't pay attention to those who bark the loudest, or predict records, very little of that can be counted on. The success of this Royals club will likely be made in a weight room, or in a batting cage without the tens of thousands of fans looking on and cheering. Wins and losses in baseball are made in January, running hills in a sand dune, or doing that 1,000th sit-up. And you might not ever hear of the next hero for the team again, until that key moment on Opening Day, or game 163 when that key pitch or that key hit “Comes To Play.”
My prediction, that you should squarely ignore, is that the Royals will continue to struggle early and fire their manager by mid-May. The team will rebound due to Duffy and Paulino coming back at the All-Star Break and finish 80-82 and in second place in the division.
(Chris Kamler is active on Twitter, where he is known as @TheFakeNed. He hosts a weekly baseball-themed show on ESPN 1510 Wednesdays at 4 p.m. Reach him through his web site, ramblingmorons.com)
A TWEETALONG WITH PLATTE CITY POLICE
Over the past several months, the Kansas City Police Department has allowed Twitter-enabled citizens do "ride alongs" with them and describe the action that goes on in the patrol cars. These have been dubbed "tweetalongs" and they serve to increase exposure for the men and women who put their lives on the line, as well as show some of the action that happens.
Here in Platte County, things are a little bit slower, but that doesn't mean Platte City's Finest work any less hard. And those folks have had a rough last few months. I thought that the Platte City Police Department could use a similar PR boost, so I contacted the police chief and unfortunately, my requests were denied. But that's not going to stop me from providing a “virtual tweetalong” for the benefit of the Platte City Police. Here are some of the tweets from that night:
#PCTweetalong - PC Police stopping by Casey’s Gen Store. Just to check in. Got to see the "Murder free since 2013" sign.
Got to see the security camera room. Man, they have an excellent view of Foley's home. #Tweetalong
These officers are fantastic. They don't have a K-9 Unit here, but they did let me hold "Fluffy the Police Ferret." #PCTweetalong
RT: @PCPolice Janet Smith, your kid is blocking the television. Can you ask him to move? #Tweetalong
Went with officers down to Cabelas to stock up on more "Game Cameras." There's apparently someone dumping their egg shells in the dumpster. #Tweetalong #SmileUrOnCandidCamera
Asked cops how they're paying for the new cameras, both snickered and said "just add it to the radio system bill. What's a few more in taxes?" #Tweetalong
Patrol car stopped off Myers Drive to pull what the officers called the "Flaming Poo Bag" trick on house of D. Peck. We all laughed. #Tweetalong
Platte City Police checked in on the old man who carried a bunch of guns to a Platte City bank. The old man thanked the officers for their service at Pearl Harbor #Tweetalong
Speedtrap Time along 92 Highway. Only person caught was a high school principal rushing to a “rendezvous” near the airport. #Tweetalong
DWI test near the square. Man kept saying he was a newspaper editor and was “drinking on a deadline.” No ticket issued since man was pantsless riding a skateboard. #Tweetalong
RT: @ivanfoley Man, justpflb dodddged a bullet thar. Also: need pants.
I want to thank the police officers for allowing me to tweet from their patrol car. It was an enlightening experience and one that gave me a better appreciation for these men and women... and ferrets.
(Chris Kamler is active on Twitter, where he is known as @TheFakeNed. He hosts a baseball related radio show Wednesdays at 4 p.m. on ESPN 1510 AM. Reach him through his web site, ramblingmorons.com)
HEY IRAN, PARTY LIKE IT'S 1949
It was announced this week that Iran has sent its first monkey into space. The Iranian Ministry of Defense announced that a small grey monkey was strapped into a Kavoshgar rocket and blasted 75 miles into the air and landed safely to earth shortly thereafter.
Now, let's put aside the obvious fact that this now escalates Iran's status as a nuclear power. It should also remind the Western world that Iran is still approximately 60 years behind the rest of industrial society. No offense, Iran, but we were blasting Bubbles to the stars when you were still in diapers, mmmkay?
The first monkey in space was named Albert, a rhesus monkey, who rode 39 miles into the air and died of oxygen starvation during flight. That was June 11, 1948. The first US monkey to fly and live was June 14, 1949 and was Albert II. Well, when I say “live” I mean until he hit the ground because the parachutes didn't work. There were actually five Alberts and they all perished during flight and went to that big banana tree in the sky. But in September of 1951, Albert VI and a bunch of mice survived. (Well, he survived two hours. But still.)
These brave monkeys made their historic flights in the shadow of World War II, during the golden age of radio and the dawn of television. Russia flew monkeys in their space program during the '80's when hair was loud and during the age of Cyndi Lauper and when it was still called the WWF.
But welcome to the party, Iran. There's some dip over there from 1953. I don't think it's turned yet. It's made from a TANG base.
If we assume Iran is 50 to 60 years behind the time, what else have they yet to witness? When will Saturday Night Live come to Iran? Those wacky coneheads will crack them up. Just wait until they get reality television sometime in the mid 2040's. What will life be like for them the first time they see Survivor: Tehran or Iranian Idol?
There's a ton of technical inventions they've yet to witness. The dawn of computing. The Internet. Online porn. Wow. They have so much to look forward to. I envy them in a way. If I could go back in time and download my first naked picture (which took about two hours), I sure would.
And wait until 2064 when you guys get the iPhone. It will change your life. Well, your lives will already be changed because you'll be in your 90's, probably. But still. Check out the iPhone. There will probably be an app for Kenya or New Zealand to send a monkey to space by then.
Until then, Iran, keep up the solid work. Like Casey Casem used to say, “Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars.” Well, of course you don't know who Casey Casem is. You will in about 30 years.
(Chris Kamler is active on Twitter, where he is known as @TheFakeNed. And you can catch him hosting a baseball-themed radio show ever Wednesday at 4 p.m. on KCTE-1510 AM. Reach him through his web site, ramblingmorons.com)
IT MATTERS A GREAT DEAL
Millions of words are being written this week by columnists, bloggers, Facebookers and Tweeters about the two biggest sports stories in a decade. Mostly because they are sports stories only in the most ancillary sense. These stories, about Manti Te'o disappearing and/or dead and/or fake girlfriend alongside the stark confession from Lance Armstrong about his decades of deception, doping and dodging the truth.
While the two stories don't share actual facts, they both have made it to the pantheon of the white-hot glare of Viral Media. These are the "big" stories. Not just the ones that top SportsCenter, but the ones that top national news crawls and include names like "Oprah."
I remember the first time I was caught up in the all-consuming mass media machine on one of these stories. And it remains, for me, the biggest story ever -- It was the summer of 1995 and I was working nights at one of the local casinos. This left me all day to watch every second of the OJ Simpson case. To this day, I can still rattle off the names of random witnesses and remember the madhouse outside the courthouse daily. It didn't stop me from watching. And I certainly understand the fascination still today.
So, I'm not surprised that stories like the Armstrong and Te'o cases get the "wall to wall" coverage. I do tire of it a little bit, however. I have learned in the 25 years since OJ, that, while not all men are double-murderers, all men are flawed to their core.
I have admired athletes and celebrities only to see them fall to alcohol, or drugs, or countless other failings. I have looked up to people in my personal life that failed to maintain my admiration because of their antics. And if I see one more NRA post on my Facebook, I'm about to drop about a dozen clowns that won't shut up about it. But I digress.
Everybody has at least one fatal flaw. I am now absolutely convinced. For many, that flaw is suppressed deep down. For others, they wear it on their sleeve or fly it like a flag. But it remains the flaw that will be their undoing.
What I now watch for is how they choose to adapt. For Te'o, he appears to have steered directly into the lie and allow it to consume his personal truth. For Armstrong, hell, who knows how far down the rabbit hole he went. For OJ, he caught a lucky break, but then continued down the path to destruction and today he sits in a jail cell.
Many who are accused, or arrested, or just are caught choose to fight and defend in the face of the truth. In the face of their own weakness.
Just once, I'd like to see someone accept and adapt. Someone who goes to rehab and then doesn't celebrate their release by hitting a club. An abuser who doesn't say "I'm sorry" and then beat the snot out of the next girlfriend.
There's a line from an old episode of The West Wing that goes, "when the fall is all you have left, it matters a great deal." I suppose that's why people like watching the stars fall. Someday, I just want to see one rise again.
(Chris Kamler is active on Twitter, where he is known as @TheFakeNed. He hosts a baseball show on KCTE 1510 AM every Wednesday afternoon. Reach him through his web site, ramblingmorons.com)
THE FIRST STEP TOWARD RECOVERY
It begins about 8 p.m. every night. Just as I am whisking my kid off to his nightly bath. I give it a glance. Maybe shoot a witty update out there. Once he's done and I'm tucking him into bed, I'll just give it a brief once-over, just in case anyone has responded. As the child begins to fall fast asleep, I begin my nightly procedure.
I check Twitter first. Usually scan through about 200 tweets. It's important to stay up to date of any late-breaking news, like if a Kardashian is pregnant or a Kansas City Chief has yelled at a fan.
Following the Twitter update, I am usually done with my nightly “movement” and then put on my pajamas. Another quick check of Twitter, just in case anything has happened in the last few minutes.
Once I'm in bed, I break out the iPad, and then check if there's been any updates to Twitter in the time it took to move from the iPhone to the iPad. This step then frees me up to check Facebook for any updates since I left work a few hours ago. There's usually one in there from my wife that clues me in to whether she's in a good mood or not.
It's now 9:30, and I've been informed from a terse Facebook post that my wife has had a “frustrating!!!!!!!!” day at work, so a quick check of Twitter and I welcome her to bed. This is when she begins checking her Facebook and then playing 42 games of Words with Friends.
Disaster averted. She didn't want to “talk” about her day. Another check of Twitter. One more pass on Facebook.
By 9:45, I start in on Reddit. Reddit is tricky, because you're only one click away from a funny cat picture, and only three clicks away from murder crime scene pictures.
At 10:15, I've seen most of the crime scene photos so I give Twitter a quick checkup. After a few more passes, I realize I haven't yet written my column. That takes about 3 minutes, then I check Twitter again. Once more on Facebook. That friend I had in high school is having a bit of a meltdown tonight. I give it a “like” so I can keep tabs on it, and move back to Reddit. Oh, look a kitten who has climbed in the dishwasher. LOL!
By 10:45, that high school friend's daughter looks like she's going to get kicked out of boarding school. I give it the old “hang in there” just because I feel bad not saying anything. And then switch over to Twitter to give a “Can't believe my friend's daughter threw dog crap at the Dean's house #Awkward.”
It's now 11 pm. I wonder what's on Reddit. Wow. That crime scene is super gory. I better tell everybody on Twitter about this. Oh look, I got a couple replies to my dog crap post. So funny. Better read through all those. Yep. A check over on Facebook and that post has turned into a four-alarm dumpster fire. Looks like it will be providing joy for nights to come.
Twitter check. Nothing in the last couple minutes. Reddit? Nope. It's 11:30 now and sleep is starting to take hold of me. Reddit check? Not one additional LOLCat. I think it's finally time to turn off the iPad.
Maybe I have a bit of a social media problem. I can admit that. I guess the first step towards getting help is admitting....
Oh, crap! I haven't checked my Pinterest in a couple days!!
(Chris, aka @TheFakeNed, does a bunch of stuff when he isn’t writing a column or stalking social media outlets. He’s hosting another radio show Wednesdays on KCTE 1510 AM. He writes a blog at Ramblingmorons.com--and that’s where you can reach him)
THE FANS' VOICE IS GETTING STRONGER
For generations, the “fan” of a team has had some very minor duties - pay for admission and cheer for your team. In return, the expectation is that every team's ownership should take that money and invest it in a competitive club and/or spend it on hookers and booze. It's the owner's choice. Not the fans.
Thanks to one frustrated fan with a Twitter account and the power of social networks, the dynamics of the team owner/fan relationship may have permanently changed - at least here in Kansas City. That man is Marty McDonald and he is the one who opened @SaveOurChiefs, a Twitter account that through the course of this past football season has amassed over 95,000 followers on Twitter alone. Include their Facebook viewership and it immediately became a community that just this week saw 3.5 million hits on their Facebook page.
The movement began in a similar way that two guys at a bar would plan to open up that business they've been talking about. The thing is, however, this time, it worked. The account began raising money for banners, organizing blackouts and getting the attention of Chiefs ownership where it counted - in their wallet. The money they raised was more than enough to pay for planes to fly over Arrowhead and there was even some left over that will be donated to a local charity. All gained through grassroots efforts on blogs, Twitter, Reddit and Facebook.
McDonald also used transparency as to where the collected money was going - something important for online and somewhat anonymous projects such as this.
Best we can tell, it worked. Clark Hunt personally apologized to fans for the dumpster fire they were forced to witness this season and acted swiftly to hire new management and a new head coach in Andy Reid. McDonald was quoted in a KMBC story saying "I do have personal knowledge that the entire Hunt family saw the banners, they were embarrassed by them. They were frustrated.”
If this were a hostage negotiation, all demands were met. Except the big one left to be determined - winning. McDonald told me “For years, fans were only needed to support the team on game day. If you didn't like the product you didn't go to the game. Now, you don't go to the game but you can interact with team and like followers to make sure your voice is heard.”
It seems to me that this marks a sea change in the power and role of a sports fan. With social media comes organization. Just as it was for Arab Spring which was responsible for massive governmental reforms in the Middle East, those same philosophies are being used for smaller purposes. Safe Our Chiefs has managed to get the attention of an ownership that was believed to be bottom line focused and distant from the desire of the fans to win.
Will we see the same type of organization for Royals fans? For people tired of poor service at their favorite restaurant? For people fed up with high gas prices? McDonald told me his research indicated that “83% of sports fans use social media during a game.” The answer is “absolutely.” As people get more organized and familiar with the power of social media, the role of the consumer undergoes a tremendous paradigm shift. As long as it is captained by good stewards such as McDonald, I predict the era of the fan has begun.
(Chris Kamler is active on Twitter, where he is known as @TheFakeNed. He’ll be hosting another baseball-themed show on KCTE 1510. Contact him through his web site, ramblingmorons.com)
MR. GORBACHEV, TEAR DOWN THIS PAYWALL
Like many of you, I grew up with the Kansas City Star. But also like many of you, we likely grew up as less of a consumer of its content than our parents before us. For a point of reference, I can still remember getting both the Kansas City Times and the Star and my son has never picked up a paper at age 10, and does his current events homework on news.google.com.
I also am heavy consumer of online content which includes RSS feeds, news and sports apps on my phone and iPad in addition to whatever happens to be blinking on my computer at work or home. From time to time, though, I will still pick up a paper and remember back to when my father rushed home after work and read the entire Star cover to cover while watching the evening news. When I do read the paper, it’s 99% in online form.
Internet news has had a difficult time making any sort of money when much of that same content is offered free on blogs or a competitor’s website. Plus, the amount of news that Huffington Post or Tony’s Kansas City cranks out would fill five daily newspapers. Sum it all up and this means that the Kansas City Star is dying. You will see the final “Star” masthead roll off the presses in your lifetime.
This week, the Star took one more step toward its destiny. They erected a “paywall” they call Star+. It basically offers a couple of larger stories for free on their homepage, but if you want to read past the “front page” you need to pay a small fee. Some see this as the beginning of the end of not just the Kansas City Star, but the end of “free” journalism. The end of journalism then devolves to the end of government oversight, then the end of civilization in general.
I won’t go quite that far. I think it’s the beginning of the age of “hyper-local” news. If the KC Star would write MORE articles about Platte County and what’s going on in my neighborhood, I’ll give them my money. But if they won’t, I’ll get my national news from CNN and ESPN (which have had subtle and successful paywalls in place for years and can also offset those revenues through larger corporate advertising) and my local news from hyper-local journalists like this here Landmark. The Star is in the worst of all positions simply due to its size. Big enough that it is sinking to the bottom of the ocean, but not small enough to be ignored by the sharks. Unfortunately, this paywall means they’re filling their pockets with rocks in an effort to see how fast they can drown.
Furthermore, I see that Handsome Local Columnist X with a twitter account and a traditional subscriber model now has nearly the same level of influence as a Star Columnist X with a larger following but separated by a paywall. Regardless of whether he’s a better writer, more handsome and smells like flowers on a spring day. Good for Ned...er... Landmark Columnist X. Bad for The Star. I see it as a gross miscalculation. But if they were truly in a corner between closing the paper and making a last-ditch effort to balance the books, I guess one has to do what one has to do.
In the meantime, I encourage you to support the provider of news (and their advertisers) that best suits your needs and habits. If all you read is ESPN, sign up for their “Insider” account. If all you read is Tony’s KC Blog, then throw him a couple bucks. Same goes if you like the regional approach of the Kansas City Star. And if hyper-local news is your cup of tea... oversight of local school districts, city council meetings and high school sports, then consider buying a subscription (or two or three) to the Platte County Landmark. Maybe Ivan will take some of those dollars and improve the online offerings at plattecountylandmark.com - or maybe he’ll just use it to pay for other newspapers’ paywalls to keep up on the competition.
And you might also keep an eye out for when the last Kansas City Star rolls off the presses.
(Chris Kamler is active on Twitter, where he is known as @TheFakeNed. He'll soon be hosting a baseball-themed radio show on 1510 AM. Reach him through his web site, ramblingmorons.com)
For earlier columns, click here