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TOO CLOSE TO HOME
7/16/14

I never thought it would happen to my kid. That's what I keep telling myself. We speak in hushed whispers at the supermarket about these types of things happening to “bad” kids or “bad parents.” I just never thought I would be one --more importantly, I never thought I'd learn that my kid was one.

Let me back up and try to explain. Let me try to put into perspective the shame my family feels today. I grew up in a very strict household. We were not wealthy, but we never were left without. This upbringing, however, came at a price. There were certain land mines that you never touched in the family. There were certain things that were taboo.

Growing up, the most difficult years of my development were my middle school years. I never seemed to fit in with any crowd, yet the social conventions of peer pressure provided me no protections. I was challenged to try new things, some of them bad things. I had to learn to adapt and respond and say “no.” Most of us did. Some of us didn't. Those kids were quickly labeled the “bad” kids.

This past month, I noticed a change in my son. He just completed his fifth grade year and with that, all the confidence of being the king of elementary school. He had this inner swagger. But after school let out, I began to notice this darkening in his personality. He was changing. Maturing. You could see it in his friends, too. Even his online buddies seemed to be intent on pushing the envelope and testing limits.

I guess the job of a parent is simply to educate and prepare your son or daughter when they are faced with these inevitable choices - and as I look at my son preparing to embark on young adulthood, I thought I had done that. I thought I had gone through all the scenarios. But I guess I hadn't.

Late last week, I heard him from outside a closed door. He was talking with his friends, like he does many nights, on the XBox. Only his speech was different. Older? Warped? Something didn't sound right. I knocked on the door. I was greeted with only silence.

Concerned, I opened it and poked my head into the room. Awash with the glow of the television screen, I saw my son's once innocent face. His eyes were wide. He had a pained look on his face. I looked up to see a sight that no Midwestern “good” parent should ever see in his life. All the years of preparation. All the years of hoping your son would make good choices. All that time in the backyard playing catch and talking to your boy about the man he would become.

And there it was. On the television screen. Red handed.

My son was playing FIFA Soccer 2014 on the XBox.

He is the third generation of Kamler baseball boys. His grandfather has toiled in the baseball community for 40 years. His father, a 25 year baseball umpire. He himself, had been playing baseball since he was three. But I guess you never see it coming.

My son was playing a soccer game. He was convinced to start playing it by his “friends.” He had found the family landmine and jumped right on it.

I'm a horrible parent.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


SIGNS, SIGNS EVERYWHERE SIGNS
7/9/14

“And the sign said long haired freaky people need not apply.” --”Signs” Five Man Electrical Band

Oh, it must be political season here in Missouri. As reported on Facebook and in today's Landmark, vandals have struck some politicians' signs throughout the county in anticipation of the August elections. So far, signs for both Robert Boyer and Ron Schieber have been vandalized in the past couple of weeks. I saw the Boyer sign with a “NO” and a circle with a line through it and Ivan Foley reported similar vandalism to multiple Schieber signs. Boyer is running for county clerk as a Republican and Schieber is running for presiding commissioner, also as a Republican.

Solid job, you guys, with the graffiti. Once again proving that the best way to take part in the political process is to vandalize a yard sign. Oh sure, running yourself or sending a letter to the paper are all noble gestures. Heck, maybe even going door to door and stumping for your own candidate who believes in your own political ideals might be a good idea, too. But it doesn't hold a candle to taking a can of spray paint and sprawling “NO” to a yard sign.

I'm really excited to hear that you've graduated past taping the “KICK ME” sign to the back of the fat kid in middle school or writing WASH ME on the hatchback of your neighbor's Pinto. Solid effort.

According to Russ Wojtkiewicz, himself no stranger to political sign pranks, these yard signs could cost anywhere from $5 to $20 for smaller ones or up to $35 for the larger sized, plus the time the candidate is out hanging them and putting them in yards. We've also seen people going by and stealing signs out of yards in years past which is the equivalent of yelling “nanny nanny boo boo” from across the school yard.

When did politics get this way? Were people spray painting YOU SUCK underneath I LIKE IKE posters? Or overwriting WHAT A over the TRICKY on TRICKY DICK billboards? Or is this a new thing? Like something only the cool meth-users do when they're out tooling around in their muffler dragging two-doors?

Here's an idea for you. I'm just going to throw it out there. If you can write in and tell me exactly what a county clerk or a presiding commissioner actually does, I will BUY you your own yard sign and you can go ape nuts with all the spray paint, puffy paint or whatever clever sharpie markers you can find. Of course, you'll need to buy some of those supplies at Hobby Lobby, and they're off limits because Jesus won't let them wear condoms or something.

I'll admit, I'm not the most educated about politics on this page or in this community. But I have enough sense to leave my neighbor's yard signs alone - even if I disagree with them. I also try not to pee on my priest's rosebushes and I make every effort to not spit on cops when I drive by. But that's just me.

Do better, Platte County. Come up with something intelligent to show your disapproval of the political process and those brave enough to run for elected office. Maybe take a swipe at writing an angry letter to The Landmark or ask a pointed question at a town hall or even lobby your own presiding commissioner or legislator to have a bill passed. Or... the most time honored tradition in America... just shut up and vote.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


VIDEO KILLED THE RADIO STAR
7/2/14

As you read on the front page of today's Landmark, the Lifetouch Publishing plant near the airport will be ceasing operations in Kansas City in the coming months. I was proud to work there as their IT Network Administrator for four years through 2012 and was happy to help contribute to the article.

Technology is a funny thing. As we all become more and more addicted to our technology - imagine a world without your smartphone, for instance, or Netflix--we take as casualties of war the real-world cost of the technological advancements. Robots now build cars. Computers simulate operators when you dial “0” on a phone (if you use a phone at all). Currency is emailed around the world and there is talk of shutting down the Postal Service because email has been there and done that.

At one time, telephone company operators, car assemblymen and postal workers were considered the best blue collar jobs you could get. For decades, press operator was among those as well. The culture at Lifetouch was unique because the company was one of the largest employee-owned companies in the country. This also extended to an employee stock option program that was among the best in the industry. Press operators were often millionaires following their tenure at Lifetouch. If you've had a child in a school over the past 50 years, you've likely run across the Lifetouch brand either through a school photo or a yearbook. They once were the best in the business.

And then technology came. At first, it meant efficiencies in the speed of printing and the amount of books and photos you could print. This meant increased revenues and increased stock shares. And then those efficiencies started to really take hold. Entire departments of image manipulators and lightroom techs and manual press operators were let go. Yearbooks were created completely inside of computers and those computers even began to proofread and adjust their own pages.

And then, something Lifetouch didn't anticipate happened. People learned they can do a school photo with their smartphones, and yearbooks themselves with a website. If you've ever made a calendar or a book on Snapfish, you know exactly what I am talking about.

And Lifetouch refused to change. They did one thing better than anyone in the world -- make high quality school yearbooks -- only people didn't want them anymore. This resulted in the two yearbook plants Lifetouch operates consolidating into one and KC came up short. Hundreds of employees will lose their jobs--many friends and former coworkers of mine.

But in its prime, the plant was something to see on a late May afternoon rushing to get jobs out the back. If you've never toured a manufacturing facility like the Harley plant near the airport or the Boulevard Brewery near Crown Center, you really should. The energy of a motorcycle or a case of beer or a yearbook coming off of the assembly line is really something to see. A single product made out of the work of dozens, sometimes hundreds of people all putting their piece in. A sum greater than its parts.

I wish my Lifetouch family well -- and “family” is a word you will hear often when you speak to the men and women there. You don't spend six months locked in a giant printing plant without knowing the name of the guy next to you (and his kids' names and his wife's name and often what he had for lunch.) Good luck, guys and gals. I hope you all land on your feet and find a job that will be more future proof from technology. I'd steer clear of bank tellers, postal workers or other printing companies.

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


THE HATER'S GUIDE TO SOCCER
6/25/14

Every four years, our nation is divided. Every four years, those who “believe” are ostracized by those who “don't want it.” I'm not talking about the Olympics or a good episode of American Idol or even the Presidential Elections. I'm talking about the World Cup, or as us American's call it “not the Super Bowl.”

The World Cup is the month-long soccer tournament featuring the best and brightest soccer (or futbol) teams in the world. Soccer is the world's most popular sports, yet it still fails to strike the fancy of the majority of Americans. All you need do is take to the Facebook or the Twitters to see that a war is raging amongst those who have begun to embrace soccer, the Sporting Kansas City MLS Champions and the US Men's National Team and then those who not just dislike or ignore soccer, but hate it with a passion. THESE are the true Americans (in their minds) and they shall not allow a foreign sport to take quality time from their other cherished sports.

Here now, is a primer for you, Joe Six Pack, as you look to bolster your Twitter fights with those trying to push their soccer agendas onto you.

1) Soccer is anti-American. This is a good argument to use for anyone trying to say that soccer is a world's game. America isn't the world. We don't need your kind here. America is a melting pot where everyone is free to love what they love, so long as it's Honey Boo Boo, NASCAR and the Green Bay Packers. Keep your Communist Kick Ball on your side of the ocean.

2) Soccer is slow. Ignore the fact that soccer games come in roughly around two hours and a typical NFL game is stretching past three hours and a Major League Baseball game is categorized as a mini-series in some states. Soccer is soooooooooo boring and slow. You only score like one or two goals and there's a lot of non action (even though everyone is running for two hours.) BOOOOOORRRRRIIIIINNNGGG.

3) Soccer allows ties. Ties are un-American (see rule 1). There's only one winner of March Madness (even though we allow four teams to credit themselves with a Final Four appearance.) There's only one NASCAR winner past the checkered flag on Sunday's, and by God, there's only one Super Bowl champion. (Even though the NFL allows ties, the most recent of which was just last year.) You must determine a winner just as in heavyweight flights (which are commonly ruled a draw.)

4) Soccer doesn't have enough scoring. Americans need scoring. They need quick satisfaction and need to see the pinball machine light up. We don't have time to sit around for 2 hours to watch a 1-1 draw. We need our cheeseburgers in four minutes or less and we need our diet cokes 42 ounces or larger. <shoots air guns into the air> PEW!! PEW!! PEW!!

You'll see some variation of these four themes with soccer arguments the rest of the month. As for my own personal stance, I don't particularly care for soccer for the same reasons as above, but I don't openly argue with people. There's no right or wrong answer to the question “what's your favorite sport?” That's an opinion. We spend too much time arguing opinions and too little time dealing with facts. I can tell you that there is tremendous beauty and grace in many of these World Cup games, and if you spend too much time arguing your points, you'll probably miss it.

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


NICKEL AND DIME NONSENSE
6/18/14

My wife and I are preparing for a vacation. One of the things that you know about me in the first five minutes after you meet me is that I am a planner. It's what I do for a living and it's what I do when I'm not working. So a vacation with me is not a vacation, so much as it is an execution of a minute by minute master plan.

Tickets are purchased and printed. An itinerary is published in several drafts and the second I leave work the clock begins. But the planning starts weeks in advance and this week, I began the purchasing process for the events we will be doing.

I love the internet and all the conveniences it brings because it allows the OCD types like myself to have tickets in hand prior to arriving at the event. In the old days, you'd have to walk to a ticket window and interact with a human being. Forget that noise. The event could be sold out. You might not get tickets together or you might have to sit in the nosebleed seats.

The biggest downside of purchasing tickets to anything on the internet is the service charges and “convenience” fees that go along with it. We are going to Chicago for three days and each day we are planning one ticketed event. Friday night we are going to the famed Second City comedy club. Tickets to this event are a very reasonable $25 a person. On Saturday, we are going to a Cubs game. Tickets are less reasonable for this, but it's Wrigley Field, so let's say tickets are $50 for this event. Sunday we're going on an architecture tour because I heard they have beer there. So that's another $25 a person. Three events. Two people. $200. No problem, right? That's a decent vacation.

But no. It's not just $200. Stay with me.

The website for the $25 Second City tickets charged a $3.95 “Processing Fee” AND a $4 “Service Charge” PER TICKET. So that's $16 + $50. $66 for Second City.

The website for MLB.com ticketing is legalized robbery. It's absolutely ridiculous. $50 ticket + $12.95 “Print at home” fee (even though I'm printing the ticket on my own paper and using my own ink). THEN they charge you a $2 “service fee” which is supposed to make you feel better since you're not getting quite as bent over than the $13 fee. Regardless. That's another $15 per ticket. So, your $100 worth of tickets is now worth $132.

The Architecture Tour was $25 a person with a $4 “service fee” but at this point, I just wanted to be done, so it easily could've been $30. Fine. $58 for the tour.

When it's all said and done, by $200 worth of activities ends up costing me $256. That's a 28% markup just for buying tickets on the internet. This doesn't' begin to even include what I paid Southwest airlines for all the crap they start adding on from the base ticket price. Pretty soon they'll be charging you for peanuts and when you crank the little fan thing. Add to that our $100 a night room that'll be more like $140 when it's all said and done.

I get why they do it. They have to pay the credit card companies who have their hands in every transaction. They have taxes and visitors' fees and things to pay for the government and they do have some technology to pay for, such as the servers and the bandwidth that help run their financial systems. But still. Enough is enough.

Your nickels now cost seven cents and your dimes are now a quarter. We have now reached the stage where it's comical to do anything. At least the view from the shore is free. I think.

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


HANDICAPPING RNC 2016 HOST CITIES
6/11/14

Unless you've been living under a rock, or get all of your news from online video games, then you are aware that our fair city of Kansas City is one of the finalists to host the week-long celebration of democracy, peaceful protests, Jesus and guns called the 2016 Republican National Convention. KC is running against Cleveland, Dallas and Denver and already beaten out Las Vegas and Cincinnati.

Last week, members of the selection committee visited all four potential host cities to check out their facilities, infrastructure and likely see how close the convention center is to the nearest strip club (Hint: KC is two blocks!)

I could have saved the Republican National Committee and drivers along the Broadway Bridge a lot of money, time and trouble as I now present the handicapping odds for the 2016 RNC National Convention.

Let's start... with Cleveland, Ohio.

CLEVELAND, OHIO - Cleveland is the most populous city in Ohio which is like being the prettiest girl in Middle School. Nobody cares and we're going to make fun of you anyway. Your river once caught fire and you had to draft a miniature college player as your future quarterback. (Johnny Manziel.) You have as much of a chance to host the RNC 2016 as I do to be the 2016 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover Model.
ODDS - 100/1

DENVER, COLORADO - Denver already had a reputation as the second-most hippy-est city next to San Francisco. But now, weed is legal there, so look out Grateful Dead tribute bands and Jonah Hill movies because we have a new champion. WAY too liberal for the RNC, but very likely to host the 2016 X Games.
ODDS - 50/1

DALLAS, TEXAS - Now here we go. KC's main competition. While KC may hold the edge in BBQ and drive-by fatalities, Dallas for sure leads in belt buckle size, Big 12 Conference titles in football and egos. Dallas is known best for its oil money and J.R. Ewing but the biggest draw would be Jerry-World, the likely site of the RNC Convention. They call it officially <Corporate Sponsor> Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, but it is a massive barn and one that could fit the conventions of all three cities inside of it. The biggest drawback to Dallas other than its slack-jawed slang would be its heat. It will be hot for a summertime convention and there aren't enough sundresses in the world that could counterbalance a sweaty Karl Rove and Rush Limbaugh walking down a hot Texas street.
ODDS - 1/3

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - Our hometown looks to host its fourth major political convention, the first one being back in 1900 when KC hosted the Democratic National Convention and most recent in 1976 when the RNC put forth Bob Dole as its nominee for vice president. A lot has changed in KC since those days. For starters, KC is no longer the home base of the mafia and organized crime. That home has now moved to the Republican party itself. KC has the title of BBQ capital of the world and is one of the more progressive cities in social media, streetcars and sweeping urban blight under the rug. Look for it to go down to the wire with Dallas.
ODDS - 1/2 - FAVORITE

In the end, look for Dallas to edge out Kansas City, not because it is the better city, but because these selection committees LOVE to have their butts kissed and nobody greases a pig like a Texan.

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


FAMILY SECRET
6/4/14

Every family has a secret. For some it could be a stress in a marriage. For others, it could be potential financial windfalls or maybe they are secretly broke. One thing is certain, though...every family has a secret. Eventually, they all see the light of day, though. I'm about to tell you ours.
The year was 1993. A first-term Bill Clinton was busy rolling cigars and staining dresses. The Kansas City Royals were only eight short years removed from their last World Series appearance.

A young and handsome Chris Kamler had just enrolled at the University of Missouri - Kansas City after, um, releasing myself from the University of Missouri in Columbia. Beer might have been a contributing factor.

My parents, Edward and Donna, were reveling in the graduation from high school of their third child and that left only one more to go. It was a perfect time for a completely ludicrous decision like buying a hot rod car.

Now, my parents had a wonderfully good run of automobiles through my childhood. There was the Ford LTD - one of the largest four door sedans ever made. There was the white Cadillac - again, one of the largest cars in the history of cars. It might have actually come with an outboard motor. The cake topper in this list was the Cutlass Cruiser station wagon made by the Oldsmobile corporation. The Cutlass was so vast, so large, that every child had their own zip code inside AND you could put the newborn on the floorboard of the passenger seat in an age before BIG SEATBELT forced you to stop putting babies on the floorboards of cars.

My parents drove gigantic, American-made boats with wheels. So, naturally, their major purchase to celebrate the third of four children to graduate high school was a 1993 Ford Mustang convertible. It was a glorious machine. An amalgam of leather and power and speed and, dare I say, sex on wheels. It was a damn fine car. My wonderful sister Catherine, whom I love dearly, gave it a test drive. I also got to give it a test drive. It certainly was a step up from what I had been used to driving. I was happy with my 1981 GMC Sierra Pickup Truck with the stepside. It had replaced my F-150 Ford Truck with a three on the tree and enough rust that the rust had rust.

Water actually splashed my face when driving in the rain because of water coming up off of the front wheel into a hole in the floorboard directly up my nose - but I couldn't help seeing me behind the wheel of that powerful machine cruising up and down North Oak turning all the ladies heads.
My sister and I were both going to UMKC at the time, both commuting from home because we are horrible children and hadn't actually left home.

Now. Listen closely. Here is where the family secret comes in.

As mid-life crisis go, my mom and dad's one was pretty mild. They bought a fast car. But of COURSE that was a short lived decision and that beautiful car would trickle down to the child they secretly loved the most. Me. That car would be MINE.

And that's when my sister stepped in. I don't remember what kind of car she drove, but it suddenly started having “problems.” “Oh, that's okay, honey. Just drive the Mustang.”

I never had a chance. That car was stolen out from underneath me. It was rightfully mine and she STOLE it. She drove that car for years. She knows what she did. Just like the pending Ross Perot Presidency, it was plucked from me and I never had a chance.

NOW you know my family's secret. Anybody want to come visit for Thanksgiving?

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


OUTSMARTED
5/28/14

I guess it's a rite of passage for all fathers with their sons --the day the son finally bests the elder in some way. I just never thought it would come so early.

So let's back up here and let me explain a few things to start. Every year, the boy and I take a yearly “Mother's Day trip” which is code for “Boy's weekend away so Mom has a weekend to herself.”

The boy's weekend normally consists of a trip around Memorial Day weekend, eating junk food, pizza, soda pop, staying in hotels, swimming and watching lots of baseball. We've been to Omaha to see the AAA Stormchasers, we've been to Northwest Arkansas to see the AA Naturals and this year we chose Lexington, Kentucky to see the A league Lexington Legends.

As Brett, age 11, continues to mature, he enjoys the trips less and less. If given a choice, he'd probably enjoy a weekend locked in the basement playing video games. But he will look back on these vacations fondly someday and I absolutely love them. They are the weekend of the year as far as I am concerned.

Brett is growing up so quickly. This will be our final trip before he enters middle school. When I was his age, I hated middle school so I know he'll be in for some challenges. But these three or four days provide a great time to talk, laugh and did I mention eat junk food?

Anyway, we don't have a lot of rules on these trips - really only one - that we try something new every trip. Brett's not the most outgoing at first and he is a finicky eater. He's at the stage where everything on his plate needs to resemble a chicken McNugget AND not touch anything else on his plate. This morning, we went to a diner and ordered two eggs, bacon and a biscuit. We're in Kentucky, so everything was covered in gravy. His head about exploded.

To combat this, I made a rule several trips ago that he HAS to try something new every trip. And on this venture, I upped that number to THREE things. Over four days, this really only meant he'd have to take a bite of grits or a mushroom or, god forbid, a vegetable of some sort. He didn't get a vote, so off we went.

At dinner the first night, I was determined to get this “try something” form of torture a test right off the bat. I ordered crab stuffed mushrooms at the restaurant. Brett, ever the future lawyer or politician, said, “What if I got a veto for these?” This seemed logical, really. So I said, “How many do you want?” Brett had a wink in his eye and said “Three seems right. I'd like three vetoes.”

Okay, so we shook on it and I launched my first salvo knowing that I'd have many more opportunities. “Alright, crab stuffed mushrooms. First bite.”

“Veto.”

And then it hit me. I had three attempts to get him to attempt something new. I had then been tricked into giving him an equal amount of vetoes. I had been checkmated. By an 11-year-old.
I sat there slackjawed. Stupefied. How did he do that? How did I fall for it?

One thing is for certain, it probably won't be the last time I'm one-upped (or three vetoed) by my son. But the trip was still amazing.

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 

 


THE SLEEPY CUL-DE-SAC
5/21/14

The cul-de-sac at the end of Carridi Acres has been my home off-and-on for 30 years. It is often overlooked by the city. It's never plowed in the winter and hasn't been repaved in a decade. But in Spring, the cul-de-sac begins to show signs of life, as lawn mowers spray yard clippings into the street and we drive up and down to baseball games.

But even with Spring and baseball, we're still pretty much indoor creatures. Even when I was growing up, the cul-de-sac that I lived on didn't have many kids and had no sidewalks. Sure, there was playing outside, and that's mainly because that was an actual parenting technique ‘back in the day.’ “You kids go outside and don't come in until it gets dark.” That was an actual thing. If you came in for a glass of water or Kool-Aid you were chastised and chased back out of the house.

Today I live in the house next door to that one--at the end of the same sleepy cul-de-sac. Still without sidewalks and even fewer children on the block. There are fewer things for my son to just get up and do nowadays without us driving him to a friend's house or setting something up ahead of time.

The cul-de-sac is still mostly quiet and mostly safe, but this is 2014 when people get snatched out of Wal-Mart parking lots and millions of other stories come true that you only see on the news. So at any given time your security and safety are relative.

That being said, this past Saturday night was one that rivaled any in my 30 years at the end of the cul-de-sac. My sister and her two boys were up from Wichita, and my other sister's three boys were over as well. (There's a lot of boys in our family.) And the two girls from down the street came up. Their parents are moving next weekend because of the lack of things to do in our neighborhood.

The cul-de-sac suddenly sprung to life. Spider webbed whiffle balls and kickballs and footballs appeared from the bottoms of boxes and crates. A game of hide-and-seek formulated out of nowhere. Not one but TWO tricycles appeared. When was the last time we saw a tricycle?

Kickball gave way to some sort of game of catch with two kickballs and a football. And that game gave way to some sort of keep-away/chase/tag type of contest. I honestly lost track of the rules. Oh, and I was out there too, as were other moms and dads. In a modern twist on the “don't come back in until dark,” there still needs to be a grownup present outdoors, just because. But it's okay, at one point I think I became the “all time tagger.” Whatever that means.

The shadows grew longer and the games continued. Nobody went inside for water or Kool-Aid or video games or cookies. The sun finally set on the evening and the cul-de-sac again grew quiet.

The goal for the sleepy cul-de-sac at the end of Carridi Acres is now finding a way to make sure it doesn't remain quiet for long.

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


 

POWER FROM THE PEOPLE
5/14/14

Hey listen, I know how it is, I am a parent. I have a child. When he was little, he would want a box of cookies, or a banana or the rat poison from underneath the kitchen sink. It was my job to sift through his wants and needs and help determine what he should and should not get. I knew better because he was just a dumb, snot-nosed kid.

In many ways, government plays that role for us. We want lots of things and it's up to government to help sift through that list and determine what is do-able or impossible. But here's the key difference, government is supposed to do what the people want. We have a vote, and my little young son did not. He couldn't take his request to eat the rat poison to a sub-committee and put an initiative on a ballot then vote.

But lately, Kansas City government is acting more like my small son than allowing what the People want. We've seen it in the past weeks with two new ideas --both seem to be moving without the will of the people.

On the one hand, Lyft, a crowd-sourced ride-sharing program has been introduced to the area. The idea is that if you need a ride to the grocery store or to a concert and don't want to pay $30 for a cab, you can contact the Lyft service and if there's a registered driver near you, you can negotiate a price for a “lift.” The drivers are registered and go through background screenings and it is a new, unique way to make transportation easier. The downside is that it is unregulated, untaxed and potentially dangerous if the driver or passenger has impure intentions.

All of these issues, it would seem, could be sorted out by “The People.” If they use the service, great, if not, it goes away. However, the Kansas City government doesn't see it like that and is taking steps (in closed session) to stop Lyft's attempts to start in Kansas City. “The city believes Lyft's services were and are illegal both before and after this ordinance change,” Chris Hernandez, city spokesman, said in a statement.

So, the city went into private session and changed a law outlawing the way drivers are compensated. The city decided that you shouldn't have the cookie or the rat poison and changed the rules - despite your interest in the contrary.

On the other side, the city has also made another decision with your “best interest” in mind. This one will cost a little more than a $20 cab fare, though. This one could potentially cost over a billion dollars. This one includes the overwhelmingly unpopular reconstruction of KCI Airport to a single terminal.

This is a classic parental move by Kansas City's government saying “we know what's better for you, so we're shoving it through.” Oh, sorry, that's not a direct quote, rather, the direct quote from Mayor Sly James is that the new airport is NOT “being rammed down someone's throat.”

Oh. Thanks, Mayor. That clears it up.

In the meantime, committee after committee are making plans and moving forward with those plans for a single terminal airport. But they promise they'll take it to a vote. Someday. Soon.

In the meantime, your ability to decide when you want a cookie or that rat poison under the sink remains not your decision at all.

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


REASONS I RUN
5/7/14

Many times, special projects are “kicked off” with big fanfare and hoopla. The beginning of construction on a building is begun with dignitaries shoveling dirt with golden shovels. Projects begin with a “kickoff” meeting. A new iPhone comes out and is greeted with lines around the block.

I can't remember the exact moment I began the biggest project of my life--the project to begin running and losing weight. There was no fanfare, no strobe lights or fog machine--I don't even think there was music the first time. But it started, unceremoniously. It started.

It began with me walking the length of a straightaway at Macken Park. Approximately 200 yards. I remember that my 365 pound frame was sweaty and trembling afterwards. I remember my legs shaking and barely making it back to my car.

The next day, I did it again. Again feeling the same dread and pain and peril as the first day, but I did it again. I did it every day for a week. I felt no better after that week and I had lost no weight. But I did it. Alone. Just for me.

Nearly 75 lost pounds later, I still walk around Macken Park. Many days I will go around three times, or three miles. Sometimes I jog, sometimes I run. Most days I walk, however, just as I walked on that first day. My pace is much faster, but still not fast. My weight is much lower, but still very high. But I keep doing it because it is slowly making a difference.

This past weekend I ran in the Pancreatic Cancer Purple Stride 5K. My time was around 44 minutes. The weekend before, I ran for children with eye diseases. I have run for several types of cancers, testicular, breast, you name it. I've run for global orphans, leukemia, some sort of skin disease, domestic violence and once, because there was beer and a free concert at the end. I ran for all of these causes and all of these wonderful people gave me encouragement and inspiration and t-shirts. But I really only ran for me.

Count me among those who mocked runners in 5K's as they posted their photos in front of the finish line. I was the one typing things like “I couldn't run 5 feet if you paid me!” and “I'm just coming in from a night at the bars at 8 in the morning.” Yet here I am, five years later, chatting it up with real runners and understanding Landmark columnist Greg Hall's articles about running. I still can't run well and I don't run for endurance, yet I have increased my goals this summer to include running the Hospital Hill 5K and my first 10K this year. Runners, as I have found, are insane people.

I even bought underpants that don't make my legs chaff when they rub together while I’m running.

This month, the Platte County Health Department is holding a challenge for people to get active. I would encourage you to find out more information at plattecountyhealthdept.com. Give it a try. It might not mean you'll be a “runner” but you won't regret any minute you spend.

I've still got a lot of work to do, but I plan on keeping on it. Mile by mile. Step by step. And with little to no fanfare. Alone.

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com. He is active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. He is also the station director for the sports station at kansascity.ourcityradio.com)


THE GREATEST VS. THE GOOGLE GENERATION
4/30/14

The name Stanley Kijowski isn't a name that many of us have ever heard but was among those Americans they call “the Greatest Generation.” While that generation was great, and all, I'm certain that I can make an argument that I am also one of those greatest generation Americans 90 years later in 2014.

Stanley was born on Polish Hill in Kansas City, KS in 1924, yet his parents moved to Poland in 1933 just before the start of World War II.

While that might seem impressive and “worldly,” I currently live approximately 10 feet from the house I grew up in. Just because Stanley's apple fell far from the tree doesn't make it anything special.

Once war came to Poland, Kijowski was captured by the Germans more than once. He had incredible upper body strength and escaped Nazi concentration camps twice by climbing a utility pole and walking across the wires on his hands. Beaten repeatedly by the Nazi's, he also spent six months hiding in the forest on the lamb from the Germans. He returned to America after the war and THEN joined the Merchant Marines in 1949.

I suppose that's impressive and all, but I walked an extra 30 minutes on my treadmill this morning and broke a pretty healthy sweat. We'll call this one a push.

Stanley used that upper body strength for show as well. Reportedly, he proposed to his wife, Teresa Ziolo by climbing up the 15 steps outside her home - on his hands.

As for me, I had a pretty good tweet about the Royals the other day and it was retweeted 12 times. Art is subjective, but I'm pretty sure I win this one.

In the world of music, Kijowski played the accordion, banjo, harmonica, violin and trumpet. He played in “The Polka Dots” for decades and they played at the weddings of my parents, my wife and I and Sports Radio 810 personality Nate Bukaty and his wife.

I played tuba in college. Learning more than one instrument is just showing off.

Stanley was a father, a husband, a grandfather, and a community centerpiece. He loved dancing, bowling, soccer, golf and softball.

I have 8,000 followers on Twitter.

Kijowski passed away at the age of 91 this week in Abilene. In addition to the accomplishments above, he was also an author of several songs as well as a book about his experiences in Nazi Germany which also included a stay at Auschwitz.

I almost died when I was 40. Because of water.

Of course I am being completely facetious here. Kijowski was a dear family friend and relative on my mother's side. The Google generation takes pride in follower counts and what type of car they drive.

The Greatest generation lived their lives out of a challenge to live - and live life to the fullest - despite the greatest odds to ever be brought upon humanity.

Rest in peace Uncle Stash, there will, quite literally, never be anyone like you.

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com. He is active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. He also does a bunch of other stuff. And be sure to check out his weekly Royals feature, The K Replay, in The Landmark)

 


BREAK THE NEWS
4/23/14

Nearly one year ago to the day in this space, I ran a column criticizing CNN for their reporting of the Boston Marathon bombings. In the wake of their heavily erred reporting, CNN took responsibility. They promised to do better. A year later, they've become comically inept.

In a small dormitory in Columbia, Missouri in January of 1991, I sat huddled around a tiny television speckled with snow interference as I watched bombs rain down on palaces once occupied by Saddam Hussein in Iraq. These were dangerous times and the images of green anti-aircraft tracers shooting into the sky. The muffled voices of John Holliman and Peter Arnett described the carnage and the beginning of the first war I was old enough to remember. In the lower right-hand corner was CNN and a slide showing BREAKING NEWS.

This was CNN in its finest hour. This might have been television journalism in its finest hour.
Last week, CNN ran a headline under that same BREAKING NEWS moniker that read: “BREAKING NEWS: Titanic sank 102 years ago this evening.”

That was just the beginning as CNN was already embroiled in around-the-clock coverage of the lost flight of MH370, the Malaysia Airlines flight that disappeared over a month ago. CNN continues to relay every nugget of information under the BREAKING NEWS banner including dozens of false positives of pings and debris and rumors.

Those actual BREAKING NEWS headlines have included:

•BLACK BOX BATTERIES COULD RUN OUT IN 5 DAYS (Posted on Day 25)

•NEW OBJECT SPOTTED IN SEARCH AREA. (It was trash)

•WAITING FOR NEWS FROM SEARCH AREA (Breaking, indeed)

•THEORY: A “ZOMBIE PLANE”

•4 NEW OBJECTS “MOST PROMISING LEAD” (Also trash)

•BOEING 777 WILL STRUGGLE TO MAINTAIN ALTITUDE ONCE FUEL TANKS ARE EMPTY. (Translation: Planes need gas to fly)

CNN is in direct competition with the speed and real-time information of Twitter, yet CNN is constantly battling with whether news is news or just rumor. So they just seem to report all of it. The result is a comedy of inaccuracies, rumors and headlines describing things that are absolutely NOT “Breaking.”

The simple solution is that there's just no news breaking, right? Except that in the past month there have been a hundred, less sexy stories and dozens of them just in our own backyard. Yet CNN refuses to report anything except trash in the ocean. Stories you haven't seen on CNN:

MONKEY ESCAPES FROM ZOO, CONVINCES OTHER MONKEYS TO ESCAPE ALSO

SERIAL HIGHWAY SHOOTER CAPTURED DUE TO HONEST TO GOD POLICE WORK

RACIST SHOOTS UP JEWISH COMMUNITY CENTER - SHOOTS TWO METHODISTS AND A CATHOLIC

What CNN is doing on their slow march toward fiction is besmirch the legacy of those who reported the news when it actually was breaking and does a tremendous disservice to those men describing bombs falling from the sky back in January, 1991.

(Chris is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and also the station director for the sports station at kansascity.ourcityradio.com)

 


FAREWELL METRO NORTH
4/16/14

The year was 1979. I was in first grade at St. Patrick's Catholic School and everyone in Mrs. Hayes' class loaded onto a bus. It was my very first field trip and we were all very excited. My best friends Pablo and Tom and I all sat in one of the large, green, cushioned seats and took a trip for what seemed like hours. When we stepped off the bus, we walked into a building the size of the sun itself.

That building was Metro North Mall. We walked into the southwest entrance near where the jewelry store and the balloons were. I walked in and was greeted with gleaming diamonds and lights and shimmering jewels. Then I turned to my left and saw four soaring hot air balloons. Indoors! Their fire lanterns randomly firing lifting the balloons up to the air. Pablo, Tom and I sat on the steps and watched to see which one would go the highest. Could one of them hit the roof? No way, that roof is like a million feet high. Sure enough, the green and blue striped one with the red dots touched the roof.

Amazing!!

In the years that followed, I would return dozens, maybe hundreds of times to buy video games, clothes, jewelry for girlfriends, an engagement ring for my wife and more than a few cookies from one of two cookie stores. I saw The Empire Strikes Back there - three times, in fact. And my brother took one of the velvet rope posts in the eye on a summer evening requiring a number of stitches.

My weekends were filled, like I'm sure many of yours were, with looking at the dirty cards in the back of Spencers Gifts giggling when we saw the coffee mug shaped like a butt with “BOTTOMS UP” on it. We congregated around the arcade when a group of more than three kids could congregate in a place without the police being called. Our parents dropped us off at six, and picked us up at 9:30 before you had to fear being abducted or shot.

The waits for Santa were really long at Metro North. (Even though everyone knew the REAL Santa was at Antioch.)

Love was never more pure when walking hand in hand with your best girl down the long hallways and getting an Orange Julius. I had an Orange Julius the other day. For the first time in decades. It was terrible. How did we drink those? It's probably filled with gluten or carbs or something that you aren't allowed to eat anymore.

Our family would pull up in our station wagon, Mom and Dad would head in one direction, probably toward the boring Macy's. Cathy would head toward the fancy store with the expensive jeans. Angie would head for the record/CD store or ice cream. Bobby would head toward the store that sold painted mirrors and wood carvings emblazoned with “Life's a Bitch” painted on them. And I would head towars Babbages where they had all the best video games for my Commodore 64 or drop a few quarters in the arcade. We'd all reassemble at the balloons after 30 minutes and get Topsy's popcorn.

Nary a care in the world.

But back in 1979, we would lay on the steps and watch the balloons for hours. Never once did I check my phone for updates on Twitter - because Twitter and cell phones hadn't been invented yet. We learned the meaning of charity by throwing dimes and pennies into the fountain water at the base of the balloons. Sometimes, we'd roll quarters from the top step down to the water. Entertainment in the time before video games. Metro North was childhood. Metro North was those balloons.

Tuesday, Metro North closed its doors for the final time. For many years, the mall had been empty, the balloons long since taken away. A newer, smaller mall will take its place, but surely it won't have the same look and feel of Metro. The mall with the indoor hot air balloons has simply outgrown its place in the world.

(Chris is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and also the station director for the sports station at kansascity.ourcityradio.com)

 


FIFTEEN YEAR ITCH
4/9/14

Next week, my wife, Kara, and I will celebrate our 15 year wedding anniversary. There are three folks who sit near me at work that are either newlyweds or getting married in the next few weeks. They're driving me crazy.

They don't even know anything about marriage. Their lives are all “let's try that new restaurant around the corner” and “let's have sex before and after we try that new restaurant around the corner.” One of them came up to me the other day and asked me, “hey, you've been married for a long time, do you have any advice for us?”

Well yes, actually. I do.

Have you ever seen two really old married people at anything other than a wedding or a funeral? No.

Do you know why? It's because they've learned a word called “boundaries.” Think of it as a yellow stripe down the middle of the floor in a home. The truly great married couples respect that line. They also know when to cross it to do something together - like attend an event celebrating a friend's death. And when not to cross it - like when Dancing with the Stars is on and you would rather be alone with that Jennifer Lopez website your friend sent you the link for.

Marriage has very little to do with being together. In fact, marriage, in my experience, has more to do with understanding how to still be you while working inside of an “us” configuration.

It also has to do with learning and knowing every detail of your partner until death do you part. In the first year or so, those things are adorable - like when she sleeps, she makes this cute little fluttering sound. Until about year three, when that fluttering sound has kept you awake for the past four nights and you're starting to hallucinate the cast of Game of Thrones throwing her off of a cliff. It's a two-way street, of course. Like when you burn the toast for breakfast and your partner looks at you with the fire of a thousand suns.

Marriage doesn't just mean holding hands walking along the Plaza on a spring day. Marriage also means understanding what every stain on his underpants means and that he should probably ease up on the Indian food.

Marriage isn't about simply speaking vows in front of friends and relatives. It's about how strong those vows are. Over half of all marriages end in divorce, and I'm guessing a significant number of those have some sort of language in their final papers attributing cause to which way the toilet paper roll is supposed to go--over or under.

Marriage isn't about today. It's about tomorrow, and next year, and 15 years from now when you're trying to decide whether to put on a bra to pick up Carside to Go from Applebees because you're behind on laundry, but your husband is still bitching about eating something.

Marriage isn't just making love for hours on the kitchen table, it's also eating cereal on that same table years later wondering what you might have to sacrifice if you took that table and made it a sweet centerpiece for your podcast studio where you dissect every episode of Boy Meets World.

Marriage isn't about what you do, it's about doing it with someone - the same someone - every day - every hour - every minute for years. Fifteen years, to be exact. Choose wisely. I think I did.

(Chris is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and also the station director for the sports station at kansascity.ourcityradio.com)

 


KU'S TEAM COLORS CHANGING TO YELLOW
3/26/14

Basketball season is upon us. More specifically, college basketball season. The tight window between the Super Bowl and baseball season. “March Madness” it is called around the country, but the stars beam even more brightly here in the mecca of college basketball, Kansas City. And the biggest dog in the kennel around here is the University of Kansas. Justly deserved, as the billboard said last year, this is KANSAS City when it comes to basketball.

Say what you will about the second tier of hoops around here including Missouri, Wichita State and the incredible competitiveness of the NAIA Tournament which I had the privilege of calling for 810Varsity.com this past weekend, but KU rules the roost. However, they're being awfully stingy about keeping it that way.

Time and time again, Kansas has rejected invitations to play Wichita State and Missouri in basketball. These games could be epic windfalls for college basketball and also for Kansas City, since they would likely be hosted here, but KU's crimson and blue team colors turn to yellow when they are asked to play.

For Wichita State, the Missouri Valley upstart, their intentions are to knock down the tallest tree in the forest and finally beat the big brother. The past two years, the Shockers have impressed with their program which includes a Final Four appearance and a one-loss season this year, yet the Jayhawks won't take their calls.

For Missouri, the willingness to play KU once again is always festering just beneath the surface. After having moved to the SEC conference two years ago, the administration of Kansas vowed to never allow “Rock Chalk” to be uttered along side chants of MIZ... ZOU ever again. But the rivalry and hatred runs deep between these two Civil War rivals and the longer you wait, the longer KU looks like they're simply ducking.

Kansas and Bill Self know the best way to never lose at poker is to not play, and they have no interest in pulling up a chair and being dealt in. They've not nothing to gain by accepting the invitations. Any paydays couldn't possibly overshadow the risk of taking a single non-conference loss which could jeopardize a potential #1 or #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. And yet, Kansas didn't' make it past the first weekend anyway this year, so what would it have hurt?

The child that's hurting the most because of the three-way divorce of MU, KU and WSU? KC, as it has plenty of interest in seeing amazing college basketball. An earlier Kansas-Duke game this year was the highest rated television program in Kansas City. Every seat at Sprint Center would easily be filled, as well as most bars along the P&L District. Money from across the Midwest would pour into Hoop Town. The city would become electrified and KC is never more beautiful when lit up for center court.
Yet Kansas remains the super hot cheerleader who turns her nose up at the “nerd” when they ask her to prom. Kansas might be named after the fictional bird, Jayhawks, but this move is pure chicken.

(Chris is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and also the station director for the sports station at kansascity.ourcityradio.com)

 


BUSTING BRACKETS
3/19/14

Once again, it's bracket season and once again, The Landmark is offering the greatest bracket challenge in the history of the world. Beat our esteemed editor, Ivan Foley, and you win a one year subscription to the newspaper that is above all the rest - The Platte County Landmark. There's still time to get your bracket in. (But not much, Foley needs it by 11 a.m. Thursday--email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com or fax 816-858-2313).

There are over nine quintillion possible brackets (that's a nine with 18 zeros.) And for the first time ever, I'm going to give you the tools on how to win. But for all the possibilities, there are basically only three types of strategies for picking NCAA Brackets.

STRATEGY 1) Pick Chalk - Picking chalk is basically picking every higher seed and picking no upsets. This is a flawed strategy because there are always upsets and sports sucks that way. Games aren't played on paper for a reason. But there is some chalk. This is a terrible strategy.

FINAL FOUR PARTICIPANTS: Florida, Virginia, Wichita State and Arizona

STRATEGY 2) Pick Upsets - Picking upsets means mixing in about 40% upsets. A 12 always beats a 5. Usually one or two 1-seed falls before the Elite 8, that type of thing. This is a flawed strategy because there are an infinite number of possibilities. Usually only one 12-5 upset happens per tournament, so your chances are 25% right there. And then picking the weakest number one seed means that team might win it all. You're pretty screwed.

FINAL FOUR PARTICIPANTS: Wichita State, Oregon, Stephen F. Austin, Harvard.

STRATEGY 3) The Secretarial Pool - For the umteenth consecutive year, your secretary or the nerd in the IT department who wears sweatpants to work will win your bracket contest. This strategy has largely been hidden from the public, but today, for readers of this newspaper, we will unveil the strategy that has picked nearly every bracket correctly since the beginning of time. That strategy is a complicated formula including a mathematical median of:

•Team Colors +
•Team Mascot factored by how closely that mascot matches their grandma's pet cat +
•Fun Name -
•Stephen F. Austin because your secretary once went out with a guy named Stephen and he never called her back divided by
•Time to complete (the shorter the time, the more likely it is you will win)

FINAL FOUR PARTICIPANTS: Pittsburgh (because Ben Rothlisberger is hot and also, ew, Stephen F. Austin), Baylor (because neon uniforms and I like bears), Harvard (because Facebook was invented at Harvard), Wichita State (because my sister lives in Wichita and she bought me a nice present at Christmas).

There you go, Kansas City. Free money. Pick one of these strategies (or one of the other nine quintillion) and clean up. Also, you only have to beat Ivan Foley, so that's nearly as easy as a 2-seed beating a 15* (unless that 2 is Missouri in 2012).

(Chris is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and also the station director for the sports station at kansascity.ourcityradio.com)

 


THE VOICES IN MY HEAD
3/12/14

Do you hear that? Wait. You don't hear that? Must just be the voices in my head.

In what will surely be used at my commitment hearing, I will now submit the following article admitting to hearing voices in my head. It's actually more of a running dialogue. Some of it is fairly benign where you hear “I'm hungry,” or “Time to go poop!” But lately there's been more of an argumentative discussion going on, all between my ears.

I've started a number of personal projects that either haven't worked out or haven't gone according to plan. When I've explained the progress to others, I've used the phrase “well, it sounded like a good idea at the time.” The “sounded” portion of that was my inner self screaming, DO IT!! DO IT!!!

He's the same guy that used to tell me to have one more beer in college or to order the double cheeseburger at the fast food place, but go ahead and get the Diet Coke to balance it all out. I know his voice very well.

Since the invention of Twitter and Facebook, I've been able to give a tangible voice to my inner dialogue. Much of the stuff my Twitter account @TheFakeNed comes directly from that inner dialogue - which is Exhibit A on why my inner dialogue is a horrible, horrible human being and never to be trusted.

Yet, here we are, having a daily argument with my inner-self. Sometimes the voice wins, sometimes I win, but there is always that struggle.

This past month I've started on a “Do-et” which isn't really a “diet” so much as it is an adjustment of eating and exercise habits designed to just do better. Getting the grilled chicken sandwich instead of the double bacon cheeseburger, for example. Parking in the back row of the parking lot instead of right next to the door to get a few more steps in - that type of thing. My inner voice is not pleased. His idea of a good day is watching 18 hours of Doctor Who on Netflix while moving as little as possible - oh, and there are also a lot of Cheetos.

I also heard from him over the weekend as our family celebrated a big achievement by my son at Cascone's restaurant. I was trying to be good but still ate too much and THEN the voice ordered a bowl of 1200 calorie bread pudding - which he ate all of.

Maybe “normal” people don't have this inner dialogue. Maybe “normal” people are able to reason with their inner voice. There are days when the voice and I have a productive dialogue, but they are too few and too far between. Every morning, there he is, telling me to stay back in bed.

In the Bhuddist religion, the “inner monologue” is a thought process that improves our lives. In the Christian faith, the inner dialogue is attributed to the Holy Spirit designed to bring us closer to God.

I just think my inner self is an executive at Burger King trying to improve profits.

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and also the station director for the sports station at kansascity.ourcityradio.com)

 


THE WEATHER
3/5/14

Forty-two years I've lived in Kansas City. That's 42 Summers, Autumns, Falls and Winters.
Screw this. I don't want to see winter number 43. This one has done it. I'm done. I'm finished. This winter just won't end. I want to see green grass. I want to see baseball being played in my backyard. I want to see the SUMMER Olympics.

I don't want to see snow plows and Facebook photos of people's car thermometers reading -2 degrees and I certainly don't want to see any more news reporters sticking rulers in the ground telling you how much snow you got.

It's March. Let's go.

If I have to watch my son and my wife watch the same reruns of TV shows on the same couch one more night, I might scream. I want to walk the dog without putting on 45 minutes of clothes. I want to eat ice cream non-ironically.

But no. For the foreseeable future, we are stuck with forecasts of 23 inches of snow (that turns into 3”?? WTH??) and we're stuck with sleet and sub-zero temperatures. We are stuck with morning radio hosts telling us that it's colder here than in Nome, Alaska. And most of all, I'm stuck driving my wife's stupid ice skate car.

When it snows, Kara, bless her heart, can't drive in the snow. She tried it a few months ago and $300 and a new front end alignment later, we decided that I would drive the ice skate while she drove my giant, gas guzzling, American-made SUV.

So, for three or four days after a snow, I have to wedge my fat butt into her little car filled with empty water bottles and power bar wrappers and change all the presets to sports talk and drive to work.

Meanwhile, she is wrapped in the comfort and luxury of my car, all the while changing the rear view mirror and moving the seat around. Then I must drive that little curling puck out of a neighborhood that is literally the last on the list to be plowed by the city. It really is a recipe for destruction.

I want to be able to get out of bed in the morning instead of feel the vitamin D leaking out of my body with each gray, cloudy, sunless day.

I want sundresses to come back. Is that so much to ask? Sundress season?

Oh sure, there have been a few signs that Spring is near. The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, the NFL Combine and even the opening of Spring Training.

But I spent all day Sunday on the couch watching BBC America because my back was out from shoveling my driveway. My knees hit the steering wheel in my wife's car and I would absolutely murder someone for a properly grilled steak.

Forty-one winters. . . I have almost survived 42. Almost. Please get here soon, Spring.

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and also the station director for the sports station at kansascity.ourcityradio.com)

 


HONEST ANSWERS
2/26/14

Last week, I had a chance to go to a pitching clinic for elite high school pitchers. These pitchers aren't just your normal, garden variety varsity kids - these kids will be drafted by MLB teams or play at Division I NCAA programs. These are the cream of the crop.

I was invited there by an organization that wanted to help coach them on the soft skills of baseball. I was there to conduct mock media interviews. My challenge was simple - get an honest answer.

These kids were good. Many of them had already learned the art of the non-answer. “I faced a really tough opponent out there,” one told me. “Preparation and believing in yourself is key,” another told me.
Athlete interviews are among the worst interviews and rank right there among coaches interviews and politicians interviews. And there's a simple reason why - people are so starved for true honesty, we devour it and usually crush it.

So we settle for non-answers and platitudes. These kids reminded me of the scene in the movie Bull Durham where Crash Davis is coaching “Nuke” LaLoosh on how to answer the media. He instructed him to be charming, but never give a straight answer. So, we get “I'm playing it one game at a time” from our athletes and our coaches.

When we do get honesty, like a Jim Boeheim meltdown or a Hal McRae blow up, they are replayed on SportsCenter over and over again.

Just once I'd love to hear an athlete answer a question with “Well, I got in a huge fight with my girlfriend before the game after she found out I haven't left my wife yet. That was really going through my mind when I missed those free throws. Honestly, I just had a good cry at halftime.” The Internet might explode if that were to happen.

But then again, maybe honesty isn't always the best policy. Take Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. Here he comes out and admits that he smokes a little crack. No big deal. Just a little crack and he drinks a lot. And that sometimes impairs his ability to govern. Okay. Maybe too much honesty isn't always best.

But we've got to work to find a happy medium. My goal with those kids was to try to get an honest answer.

“Where are you committing to play college?”

“Well, I've got a lot of great choices out there and I hope to make the best decision when the time is right.”

“You buried a few curveballs there, was it a mental or mechanical issue?”

“I just got to keep working and keep grinding and those things will take care of themselves.”

“You seemed to lose focus during the middle innings there. What was going on?”

“Well, you see, I had a missed call from my girlfriend. And we had a huge fight last night. I think she's going to take that internship in Paris and I just love her so much... <sobbing>”

Okay... maybe we all have more to work on. But let's hope we can find a happy medium between TMI and honesty.

(Chris is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and also the station director for the sports station at kansascity.ourcityradio.com)

 


CURLING--THE SPORT OF KINGS
2/19/14

Like most of you, I've spent the past week watching the Winter Olympics from Sochi, Russia. Every two years, I say I'm not going to watch and then I am sucked in. It's not the ice dancing or the moguls or even the hockey. I can't get enough of curling.

I tend to be drawn to sports that I think that I, if not for a series of fitness choices on my part, could play at a high level. This doesn't leave me with a very large list. In fact, the list is only occupied by curling and competitive wing eating on Coney Island.

What's not to love about curling? It's shuffleboard...on ice... paired with housework. And it also looks like the kind of sport that's made for drinking beer while you do it. Oh, sure, you won't see the Olympic athletes drinking but I'll bet wherever curling is really popular, they have plenty of beer. Just like bowling and darts.

Of course I admire those athletes who do the speed skating and the triple salchow (yes, I had to look up how to spell it - why don't they just spell it SOW COW?) And it's always amusing to watch Bob Costas's eyes turn 14 shades of red, then pink, then purple. But my heart belongs to curling for the next two weeks.

The best part about it is that I don't know any of the rules! I could quote chapter and verse of the obstruction rule in the rules of Major League Baseball, or what constitutes a football move in the NFL. But I have absolutely no idea what a point is, what the strategy is or the level of skill behind curling - I just... can't... stop... watching.

So here, to the best of my ability, are the rules of Olympic Curling:

1) You get 10 innings and inside of those innings you get eight or nine or maybe 10 stones.

2) You take turns sliding your “stones” down the length of a sheet of ice to the bullseye thing at the end. Much like shuffleboard, you have to chug a beer if you get it in the center.

3) You can knock out the other team's stones, which is kind of a dick thing to do. You don't see ski jumping being interrupted by teams throwing rotten eggs at the skiers in mid-flight. But maybe that's why I like curling.

4) The sweeping. You have two people with brooms that look like lint brushes who will sweep the ice in front of the oncoming stone. These brooms either speed the stone up or slow the stone down or make the stone curl. I honestly have no idea. Oh, and the captain of the team SCREAMS at the top of his or her lungs “SWEEEEEEEEEEEEP!” It's intoxicating.

5) The team with the stone closest to the center of the bullseye wins... something... a point, maybe? Two points? A years supply of Turtle Wax? No clue. But they win, and then move onto the next inning.

That's it. That's curling. Try to not spend three hours on your couch watching it screaming at the television, “DAMMIT NORWAY!!! YOU DIDN'T SWEEP NOW YOUR STONE IS BLOCKED!!!!!” It starts to sound like you're getting a very painful prostate exam after a while.

So, thank you, curling. It's nice to see you every four years. Just think, in two years, I get to watch Olympic Trampoline. (Real sport.)

(Chris is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and also the station director for the sports station at kansascity.ourcityradio.com)

 


MISSOURI HANDSHAKE
2/12/14

There are days that the stupid rains down like the snow on a February morning here in Missouri. Last week, there was a blizzard.

Let's start with the bill introduced in the Missouri Legislature to make the “High 5” the official greeting of the State of Missouri. Congratulations, Rep. Courtney Allen Curtis, D-Berkeley. It takes a lot to get elected to the state legislature. It takes money. It takes intelligence and it also takes stones. But for you to spend your precious few years serving the people, offering to help them with funding for homes and businesses and roads and official greetings, well, you are a special, special man. (Note: Don't ever Google “Missouri Handshake.” Don't do it. I warned you. You have been warned.)

Nominee number two goes to Cynthia Newsome of KSHB TV-41 here in Kansas City for striking while the iron is hot. Late last week, parents were on edge when they were notified that Linden West Elementary School in Clay County was in lockdown. The lockdown was due to a man who had refused to surrender to police nearby the school and was a precaution. Newsome, the anchor of the 41 Action News 5 p.m. newscast, sent out the following tweet, “Linden West Elem on N. Wyandotte on lockdown after shots fired nearby. Tweet me if your child goes to Linden.”

Stay classy, Cynthia. How's about you let parents locate their parents and maybe help by tweeting them information instead of trolling for good bait for your newscast? This is now the second example in the past few months of reporters and journalists taking to Twitter effectively ambulance chasing for stories. Reporting comes from “to report” and not “to leach.”

Fittingly, she sent out this tweet later in the day clearing up the matter, but also raising one additional question. (sic) “Linden West students in Gladstone are reunited with their parents after a shooting and school lickdown.”

Finally, our third nominee is a group of folks associated with a basketball game played in Texas Tech against Oklahoma State. In that game, a fan said something that caught the attention of Oklahoma State player Marcus Smart. Smart alleged it was a racial comment, the fan denied it was racial. Anyway, Smart immediately confronted the fan and pushed him. Both the fan and the player were in the wrong, but this set off a firestorm of debate across the country about race. Naturally, my Twitter feed was filled with Kansas fans and Missouri fans hating on each other. Because anything can set those two fan bases off.

The only thing worse about ambulance chasing while reporting is reporting hearsay or something incorrectly. Enter the Twitter feed of WDAF Fox 4 in Kansas City. Nobody from Fox 4 was in Lubbock, Tx. and therefore didn't report on this event, however they still tweeted the following: “We haven't done the total CSI type analysis, but it appears this is what TTech superfan Jeff Orr says to Marcus Smart: “go back to -----”.” (Dashes added by Fox 4)

As Deadspin.com accurately pointed out, KC is 700 miles from Lubbock and Fox 4 did no interviews of anyone at the venue. They just guessed and it was then picked up as factual news by other outlets across the country. But nonetheless, Fox 4 is now credited with reporting something the man may or may not have said.

This all brings to light the dangerous power the media has in the Twitter age. One false move and you can easily insult worried parents or confuse idiot fans. But, you can rest assured that we'll be giving you a Missouri Handshake on the way down.

(Chris is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and also the station director for the sports station at kansascity.ourcityradio.com)


YOUR MAMA
2/5/14

We have crossed into dangerous times. No, it's not because of nuclear proliferation by North Korea or climate change. It's because my Mom was excited to Bruno Mars was supposed to belong to the young people. Halftime shows are supposed to belong to the young people. The older folks are supposed to complain about how the music is too loud and “why can't they have that wonderful young boy Frankie Avalon singing at halftime?”

Now it's over. Our relationship is broken now. Beyond repair.

And it's not just me. Moms are ruining America. Samsung made a claim earlier in the year that only old people own iPhones now. Mom's ruined the iPhone. Think of your friend. Now what kind of phone does he or her have? Is it an iPhone? Are they an old person? Case made.

The latest proof is that Princeton University researchers recently published a study predicting that Facebook will lose 80% of its user base over the next three years? Why? That's right. Moms have ruined Facebook.

Facebook used to be the place to go for college kids to pick up other college kids. Then it became the coolest place to post pictures of your drunken Friday nights. Do you remember when your Mom friended you on Facebook? It's probably right up there with the day the Space Shuttle crashed or the day you found out about Santa Claus. It's a moment you never forget. Forever changed.

After that, you started to get posts about making sure you eat your vegetables, and questions about who that blonde was in the picture from last weekend. It stopped being fun. So everybody went to Twitter. Mom is headed there next. Now people are ejecting off of Facebook faster than the Denver Broncos chance to win the Super Bowl.

It's not Mom's fault. She doesn't mean to buzzkill the party. She's only looking out for you. And it's not the first time. Remember your first boy-girl party when you were 14? Remember when she brought out the pictures of you in the bath tub? Remember your graduation party when she showed the video of you after you got your wisdom teeth pulled out and couldn't say “potato for an hour?” These things are adorable to Mom, but they're humiliating to you.

Moms even ruined blue jeans. Blue jeans used to be worn by James Dean and Elvis. Now “mom jeans” are an actual thing worn by Michelle Obama and... your mom.

Now Mom is going after Facebook and Bruno Mars. Something must be done. The line must be drawn here. You can have Bruno Mars, but leave me Daft Punk and Twitter.

(Chris Kamler is active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. He hosts baseball-themed radio shows. More importantly, he hosts the YouTube hit that is the Rambling Morons videocast. Reach him through his website, ramblingmorons.com)

 


IMAGINE
1/29/14

“You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.”
--John Lennon

There's a new billionaire out there, folks, and it's a 44-year-old woman. Her name is Sheryl Sandberg and she joins the roster of 1,426 billionaires worldwide, according to CNN.com. Only 138 of those are females.

Sandberg made her billion by becoming the chief operating officer of a little company called Facebook. Before that, she worked for another startup called Google. Both companies were born out of meager beginnings, by dreamers.

Dreaming is a tricky thing. For every one dream that becomes a reality of any success, thousands of dreams fail to net any substantial value. America prides herself on being a country that fosters dreamers. Land of the free. Home of the brave. McDonalds, Apple and Coca-Cola were all born by dreamers right here in America. But so was Paul Silvio's Pizza and Lemonhead's Attic.

Those two companies are, sadly, not common household names. Paul Silvio's was a pizza shop that gave me one of my first jobs. It was a small pizza place just off the I-35 ramp at Parvin Road. I was their first driver. The pizza was, simply, the best you've ever eaten. Light years ahead of Pizza Hut or Domino's, our primary competition. But we were the little guy, and never seemed to take hold in the neighborhood. It also didn't help that the owner went to jail for a short time, but I digress.

Paul Silvio's Pizza was a dream, and a damn good one. It just didn't take. Pizza Hut was the same dream, with different circumstances. This Sunday, when you'll be sitting down watching the Super Bowl, you'll likely be eating Pizza Hut and not Paul Silvios.

Lemonhead's Attic was an eBay business I started in the early 2000's. The company was named after my favorite candy, Lemonheads. And the idea was that I'd sell stuff from my house and also the “buy crap low, sell crap high” philosophy. Predictably, this company didn't take off and make me rich contrary, to the three books on eBay selling I read that made the respective authors rich. One guy bought pool tables because he knew a guy that sold pool tables, then sold them for a profit on eBay. Why couldn't I replicate the same success selling DVD's of Star Trek The Next Generation?

So, why was Lemonhead's Attic not the next Facebook? Why is Sheryl Sandberg a billionaire and Paul Silvio out of business? The truth of the matter is that most of it's luck. Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and Warren Buffett put their pants on the same way we do--by hiring servants to put them on for us--or something like that. There's not much different. Sure, they might have a little higher IQ, or been born into some pretty fortunate families, but the point of all of this is that I'm not going to stop trying to find that brass ring. I might not be a billionaire at age 44 like Mrs. Sandberg, but that doesn't mean that I'm going to quit.

First order of business... order some pizza.

(Chris Kamler is active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. He hosts basseball-related radio shows and the Rambling Morons podcast that you can find on YouTube. Reach him through his website, ramblingmorons.com)

 


I HEAR THAT TRAIN A COMIN'
1/22/14

It takes a lot to surprise me. And I'm not just talking about the occasional sports upset or getting a large fry when you ordered a medium kind of surprise. I mean genuine surprise. But this weekend it happened.

My son and I embarked on our yearly “let's leave Mom the hell alone - she's getting that look in her eyes that she might murder us” weekend and we headed up to Chicago for a guys’ weekend. Trying to be thrifty, we booked travel via the MegaBus. If you've never ridden the MegaBus, think Southwest Airlines mixed with a cattle car and throw in a couple of unknown odors that just randomly waft by. And repeat for 11 hours.

The MegaBus is not something you enjoy, but rather something you survive-like marriage or an IRS audit or testicle surgery. Though that's not the surprising part.
We enjoyed our guys weekend, taking turns farting, eating junk food, visiting landmarks and walking around the Windy City checking out the prostitutes on the sidewalks. (It was about 15 degrees, so we only saw about a dozen.) And we spent three days living like men - in that we ordered room service and left the door open when we took a crap.

The surprising part of our journey was the commute home. About three minutes after we left the MegaBus, I decided that there was no way in hell we were going home that way. Short of walking, I found a cheap ticket on Amtrak. Neither of us had taken the train before but it was recommended by a friend and the odor couldn't possibly have been as bad as the bus.

So, on Sunday we headed down to Union Station in Chicago and boarded the train. Riding the rails, we called it, as the conductor looked at us funny. Additionally, he didn't seem pleased when I asked to blow his train whistle. But I digress.

What followed was the most relaxing journey I never expected. I fly Southwest Airlines a lot and I sometimes have to drive my wife's dinky car - so I know about being cramped. The seats on Amtrak are like walking onto a boat. They fully recline. They had leg rests. It was heavenly. Where has this been my whole life?

There was an electric plug for my iPad and a lounge car with booze for my liver. I was in heaven for seven hours. Along the way, however, I started to get pretty angry that my parents loaded the four children into the station wagon every summer during my youth to drive to California or Nebraska or Florida. All of those fights, all of those “accidents,” all of the threats to turn around and go home from the front seat. Those could've all been swept away by riding on the cloud that is Amtrak.

But Amtrak is constantly in the news saying that they are near bankrupt and continue to drop offerings around the county. I'll tell you, after one ride, I'm hooked. I'm a train rider now. But Amtrak is doing nothing to help their own cause. They're really missing out on their target demographic - fat guys.

Those seats are so comfortable, all they'd have to do is install WiFi and a television and you'd get five million fat guys traveling from KC to Chicago in no time.

But the surprising thing about it is how much my son enjoyed it. “This was awesome, Dad.” And that, at the end of the day, is what it's all about.

(Chris Kamler is active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. He hosts baseball-themed radio shows. He also hosts The Rambling Morons podcast. Reach him through his website, ramblingmorons.com)


CHEATERS ALWAYS WIN
1/15/14

I've gotten it all wrong.

Thank you, Alex Rodriguez, Chris Christie, Lance Armstrong, and a host of others for reminding me about a valuable life lesson... Throw out that “liar, liar, pants on fire” nursery rhyme and let's go with “cheaters always prosper.”

Lying is in. Cheating is the new black. I think I'm ready to learn from my mistakes in the past and finally embrace the dishonest lifestyle that will put me on top.

Alex Rodriguez continues to remind us that cheating always pays off. Oh sure, he's facing a little bit of trouble in the way of a 162 game suspension from baseball for taking steroids, but that's a drop in the bucket compared to the $300 million he's made playing baseball over his career. All the while, denying he ever took any performance enhancing drugs even though evidence suggests the complete opposite. A-Rod even has folks coming out of the woodwork who admit to injecting him with things. No matter. Deny, deny, deny.

But Chris, you say that Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour De France titles. Yeah, but HE GOT TO HAVE SEX WITH SHERYL CROW. The man only had one testicle. Do you think he's going to bag a hottie like Sheryl Crow without some PED's? Another victory for cheating.

Jump ahead to politics--oh there's never any lying in politics. Let's look at the latest scandal, this one featuring New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who denies any involvement with creating traffic jams on the George Washington bridge. A bridge named after, ironically enough, a man who could not tell a lie. What does Christie do? Denies any involvement in the face of mounting evidence that he caused the problem. Christie might be the next President, hell, he might be elected King or Pope or something. Brilliant move, Governor!

Just think what I can accomplish with a new slate--one where I'm dishonest. I could start taking performance enhancing drugs, which, for a newspaper columnist, is really just black coffee and Red Bull. But those are two things I don't currently drink. Doesn't matter. I'm heading for newspaper glory.

Maybe I should just start copying columns out of The Pitch and turning them in. Oh boy, let the money start rolling in! All those “good” manners and traits my parents taught me like never telling a lie and respecting others -- garbage. Daddy needs him some moolah!

I can start lying. Oh boy, this is going to be great. Sure, Mr. Editor, I fact checked every one of my quotes, like the one where the mayor said that all police cars will soon be equipped with a stun gun that shoots Skittles at pedestrians. Nope, got the quote myself. Just print it. BOOM. COME ON PULITZER!!

I suppose I could continue to tell the truth and be kind to my elders and make complete stops at traffic lights. Naaahhhh... Look out world, you've got one lyin', cheatin', dopin', druggin' newspaper columnist about to raise some hell in 2014--A-Rod style.

Now, can somebody get me Sheryl Crow's number? I need a date to the Newspaper Awards.

(Chris Kamler is active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. He hosts some baseball-themed radio shows, as well as the Rambling Morons podcast, voted the Internet’s best podcast by The Landmark. Reach him through his website, ramblingmorons.com)



LOSERVILLE
1/8/14

Loserville. Welcome back to Loserville.

You thought winning a soccer trophy was the turning point? Nope. Kansas City, you are the pits.

It's our fault, really. Not the fault of the Chiefs defense, who gaked away a 28-point lead. This one is on us. We should've seen it coming. I mean, for goodness sakes, even our mascot spent the last two months in the hospital. Was it really any surprise that Jamaal Charles left the game injured five minutes in?

This one felt like a punch in the gut after about 25 kicks in the groin and dropped a city right back into the squalor that is Loserville: Population Kansas City and Cleveland. At least Cleveland has the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Every year we hope and we pray and we squint and we cheer and we invest money in shirts and hats - and what do we get out of it? A 28-point swing and a 45-44 loss to extend the Chiefs winless streak in the playoffs to 21 years. The last time the Chiefs won a playoff game, NBC's Friends was eight months away from airing its first episode and Joe Montana was the quarterback.

This one is on us. We absolutely should've seen it coming. Kansas City is the home of Andrews McMeal, the publisher of Peanuts. Peanuts is the famed comic strip by Charles Schultz and features a recurring gag where Lucy repeatedly convinces Charlie Brown to try to kick a football only to pull it away at the last second--over and over and over again. There is no more perfect metaphor for Kansas City sports fandom.
Kansas City tried to dye a frozen fountain at North Oak and Vivion to show its Chiefs pride prior to their first playoff appearance in a decade. The scene looked like something out of an episode of CSI or Dexter. Rivers of red dye painted the white ice unevenly, prompting the KC Parks Department to issue a statement saying it was the first time they tried it. Ya think? Well, at least we have that haunting reminder of failure to drive by every day until March when it thaws.

Why do we keep doing this to ourselves? If I offered you to be a Kansas City fan and repeatedly watch our teams puke in times of clutch for over 20 years, or, smack yourself in the face one time with a hammer and never be smacked again--wouldn't you take the hammer?

And yet, we'll line up again for tickets when they go on sale in a few months. We'll continue to buy Chiefs shirts as birthday presents and put Royals bumper stickers on our cars. We are Kansas City. We are Loserville.

At least we can put aside our pain over a 21-year playoff drought and focus on the upcoming Kansas City Royals season--a team with a 29-year playoff drought. I'm sure this will end up better. I can sense it.

I'm going to run out and buy my season tickets, right after I kick Lucy's football.

(Chris Kamler is active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. He hosts baseball-themed radio shows. And he hosts the award-winning Rambling Morons podcast. Reach him through his website, ramblingmorons.com)


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