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Motorcycles more important than a pandemic? Maybe in Missouri

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of a day Boston sports fans treasure…and St. Louis sports fans want to forget.

On Mothers’ Day 1970, the Bruins won the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1941 by completing a four-game sweep of the Blues in the Finals. Boston clinched the Cup when Bobby Orr, probably the greatest defenseman (defenceman for the Canadians) to ever lace up a pair of skates, scored 40 seconds into overtime of the fourth game.

The game-winning goal wrapped up a phenomenal season for the 22-year old, who became the first defenseman to win the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer (goals and assists), then took home the Norris (best defenseman), Hart (Most Valuable Player) and Conn Smythe (playoff MVP) trophies, becoming the first player to win four major awards in one season.

Orr’s backhand beat one of the game’s greatest goaltenders, Glenn Hall, but what was more memorable was the photo captured a split second after the goal. It shows Orr suspended in flight after he was tripped by the Blues’ Noel Picard. It is the most iconic photo in NHL history, and certainly one of the best-known photos in North American sport.

It took the Blues 49 years, one month and two days to even the score. Right now, the Blues should be defending the Cup in the playoffs, but of course, COVID-19 has put life as we know it on hold. If the NHL cannot complete the regular season and playoffs, will the Blues keep the Cup, or will the NHL require it go back to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto? The hope of commissioner Gary Bettman and every hockey player, coach and fan is the season is completed one way or another.

For once, I agree with Gary Bettman. Mark it down.

Speaking of St. Louis, your lazy blogger got up at 04:45 today and departed 1224 North Brooks at 05:30 for a trip to the far side of Missouri. This comes exactly three weeks after I left Russell for Kansas City.

My parents know nothing of where I am. They know I left this morning, but that’s it. Peggy knows where I am. Larry knows where I am after I just texted him. Crista will know tomorrow at 14:00.

After farting around in Kansas City for an hour filling up my gas tank, buying bread at Hen House in Leawood and purchasing treatment for scars left over from a grease burn at Target in Martin City, I was on my way to the opposite side of the Show-Me State.

One major difference between how Kansas and Missouri have responded to COVID-19 can be seen in the electronic road signs along Interstate 70.

In Kansas, all signs have now been targeted towards reducing the spread of the disease. Signs read “Wash Hands, Cover Mouth, Save Lives”; “If Fever Strikes, Stay Home” and other ominous messages.

Some of the signs say “Stay Home”, but I’m ignoring those. It has nothing to do with my parents. Seriously. It’s all me. They need a break from me every so often. EVERYONE needs a break from me every so often: Peggy, Caitlyn, Crista, Dr. Jones, Dr. Custer, Robb, Larry, Liz, Brenda…whomever. I can only be tolerated in small doses. It’s not their fault. They do their best to put up with me. All of them deserve sainthood.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly went too far too fast by calling off the remainder of the 2019-20 school year when she did. She could have waited a couple of weeks like most states, including the three which border Kansas. I’m surprised Kelly did not extend the stay-at-home order, which expired last Monday.

You would never know there’s a pandemic if you read the road signs on I-70 in Missouri, at least from Blue Springs to Wentzville.

None of this business about washing hands. None of this business about staying home. Instead, the Missouri Department of Transportation reminds drivers constantly to be alert for motorcycles and to share the road with Harleys and Kawasakis.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has been raked over the coals by the Kansas City Star and St. Louis Post-Dispatch for what they see as a lackadaisical response. The Star has praised Kelly while pounding Parson, and the same is true of the Post-Dispatch comparing Parson to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker., whose state is still under severe restrictions; however, if you took the Chicago area out of the equation, Illinois would be much closer to Kansas and Missouri in terms of cases and deaths.

Speaking of Illinois, it is forbidden for Kansans like myself, unless I want to quarantine for 14 days when I return to Russell. Believe me, there is absolutely nothing I want or need in Illinois, although it would have been nice to have the option to zip through on I-64 heading towards Louisville and Lexington.

If Kansas were still governed by Sam Brownback, or worse, Kris Kobach were governor, I can only imagine just how bad it might be in the Sunflower State. I’m guessing neither Brownback nor Kobach would have issued a stay-at-home order, and Kobach might have made it much worse by threatening to sue—or actually suing—the federal government. Notice I didn’t mention Jeff Colyer, who became governor after Brownback became an ambassador in 2017, because Colyer is far more level-headed than Brownback or Kobach and would have done something to head off the virus at the pass.

I don’t particularly like most of Kelly’s stances (I didn’t vote for any of the three major candidates for governor in 2018), and while I wish she would have waited a little longer to close schools—it probably would have happened regardless—her course was probably as balanced an approach as there could be.

The White Castle in Columbia provided a great caper.

I attempted to place an order for pickup before leaving Kansas City. However, I kept getting an error stating the restaurant would not be open at that hour. I was trying to place an order for shortly after noon. I used the app on both my phone and tablet, and then tried to order from the regular website as well, but nothing. I did, however, place a 16:45 order for the O’Fallon location.

I pulled off I-70 at a rest stop and e-mailed White Castle technical support, explaining I was getting a message that the location was closed. When I arrived in Columbia, there were numerous cars in the drive-thru lane at White Castle. I then called their customer support hotline to explain the online ordering snafu. I chose not to wait any longer, and instead got back on the road.

It turned out I was the one with the snafu.

The Columbia location—the farthest west in the United States as far as I know—is now closed on Monday and Tuesday. I received a reply from White Castle headquarters in Cincinnati which mentioned it, but gave no explanation.

I then shot back that there were cars in the drive-thru, but the representative told me the closure was true.

D’oh!

The good news? Wentzville was only 80 miles away. If I waited seven hours of driving (well, seven hours after leaving home; there was a lot of wasted time in Kansas City and at that rest stop 70 miles west of Columbia), I could make it 80 more miles.

Wentzville, a booming town in western St. Charles County 40 miles west of downtown St. Louis, provided me a good laugh or two.

The QuikTrip was one piece good news, two pieces bad.

The good: I could buy a fountain drink! I could not at any Kansas City location during my trip last month, nor could I purchase one today in Overland Park. However, I walked right up to the fountain like the pre-COVID-19 days in Wentzville. The differences: no styrofoam cups and no refills, so I had to buy a new cup and pour it into my black mug.

The bad…

First, the restroom was incredibly dirty. I have never seen a QuikTrip restroom that filthy. Never. And I have been frequenting QuikTrips for 14 years in Wichita, Kansas City, St. Louis, Omaha and (once) Tulsa.

Second, NOBODY was wearing a mask other than the boob from Russell. I’ve made the mistake of not wearing a mask at times, although when I nearly entered the QuikTrip in Overland Park, I caught myself and went back to my car to get it.

On to White Castle, and only the boob from Russell was wearing a mask. St. Charles County has greatly loosened its restrictions, so patrons can go into a restaurant to pick up food, although there is no seating. Six employees, no mask. Four other guests, no masks.

I put the maskless people behind me, because I was damn hungry. White Castle never tasted better.

The Schnucks in Lake St. Louis was almost the complete opposite of the QuikTrip and White Castle in Wentzville. Every employee had a mask on, and nearly every customer did, too. However, at the White Castle in O’Fallon, only the boob from Russell wore one, although no other customers entered during the 10 minutes I waited.

The outlet mall in Chesterfield is a ghost town. That’s because St. Louis County still hasn’t loosened its restrictions. But as long as White Castle, Schnucks and Dierberg’s are doing business, I’m a happy camper.

I’ve crossed the Missouri River on I-64 three times already. Over/under is 14 for this trip, which will go until at least Friday, maybe longer. My yellow rain slicker will get a workout. The weathermen and ladies are expecting a lot of rain in the Gateway City this week.

I’m not as tired as I could be after a long day. But it’s time for me to stop blogging for tonight.

Show Me champions and trouble

Missouri celebrated its second professional sports championship in eight months today in Kansas City, where an estimated crowd of more than 700,000 turned out to cheer on the Chiefs three days after its Super Bowl LIV victory.

In June, the celebration was at the other end of the Show-Me State, as the Blues brought the Stanley Cup to St. Louis for the first time.

Many in St. Louis have jumped on the Chiefs bandwagon since the Rams left in January 2016 to return to Los Angeles. That number has probably grown exponentially since Patrick Mahomes took over as starting quarterback in 2018.

There may be some Bears fans in and around St. Louis, but considering the hatred eastern Missouri, if not all of Missouri, has for the Cubs (and the White Sox among Royals fans), many probably hate the Monsters of the Midway just as well. The Bears played in the Cubs’ park from 1921-70, so there’s a natural tie for that hatred.

Indianapolis is not a long drive east on Interstate 70, but the Cardinals were in St. Louis for 24 seasons before Robert Irsay told the Mayflower vans to drive the Colts’ gear from Baltimore to Indiana. And I doubt any St. Louis football fans would root for another team which relocated.

The Chiefs probably had a sizable St. Louis base from 1988-94 between the Cardinals’ departure for Arizona and the Rams’ arrival. The Chiefs were 4-12 in 1988, the year before Marty Schottenheimer was hired by Kansas City. By 1993, the Chiefs had Joe Montana under center and reached the AFC Championship, where they lost to the Bills.

The Rams were putrid their first four seasons in St. Louis (1995-98). Then projected starting quarterback Trent Green blew out his knee in the Rams’ second exhibition game of 1999, forcing Dick Vermeil to plug in some nobody named Kurt Warner. The Greatest Show on Turf was born, and a little less than six months later, St. Louis had its first sports championship since the Cardinals won the 1982 World Series.

Baseball is currently the only sport where Missouri’s largest cities have a rivalry. The NHL had it for two years with the woebegone Scouts, aka the artists now known as the New Jersey Devils (and the Colorado Rockies in between). Each city had an NBA team, but not at the same time; the Hawks left St. Louis for Atlanta in 1968, four years before the Cincinnati Royals moved to Kansas City. Of course, slimeball Joe Axelson moved the Kings to Sacramento in flagrant violation of the Warriors’ territorial rights in 1985. Had the Warriors had strong ownership in the mid-1980s like they have with Joe Lacob, the Kings never make it to Sacramento. Does that mean the Kings would have stayed in Kansas City? Probably not, because David Stern didn’t mind teams hopscotching the way it was abhorred by Pete Rozelle, Paul Tagliabue, Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth.

Since 2011, the four professional franchises currently residing in Missouri have won a championship. The Cardinals’ most recent World Series win was in 2011 vs. the Rangers; the Royals got theirs four years later vs. teh Mets.

Missouri may have great sports teams and two wonderful metropolises at opposite ends of I-70, but I don’t know if I would want to live in the Show-Me State. I doubt it.

The biggest problem Missouri has is its nonchalant attitude towards regulating nicotine.

The sales tax on a pack of cancer sticks in Missouri is 17 cents. Repeating: SEVENTEEN CENTS.

That’s one dollar and seventy cents per carton. In Illinois, the tax on one pack of cancer sticks is $2.98. I think Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker is a tool and the political cronies in Chicago have ruined the rest of the state, but at least it has one thing right (well, Chicago-style hot dogs are awesome).

Kansas’ tobacco tax is a joke as well, although $1.19 per pack is a lot better than 17 fucking cents. I’m sorry I used that word, but I believe smoking cigarettes is the most vile habit a person can acquire, short of violent crime.

Missouri’s smoking laws are a joke, too.

The state does not have a law which bans smoking in all enclosed settings. Bars in many corners of the state allow smoking wherever, whenever.

Kansas City has an indoor smoking ban, but customers can go out to a patio and suck on their cancer sticks, fouling the air for the rest of us who value our lungs.

The Buffalo Wild Wings at Zona Rosa has a large patio, and upwards of 20 smokers have been known to populate it on a given spring day. If Liz and Lisa weren’t working there, I would have quit going many moons ago.

The patio at Buffalo Wild Wings Shoal Creek is smaller, but there are plenty of smokers there on nice days. For a while, a man named Bill, who was a dead ringer for Michael McDonald, played trivia and sucked down on cancer sticks between questions.

St. Louis and the two major counties which make up the metropolitan area on the Missouri side, St. Louis and St. Charles, have adopted some pretty weak smoking bans. The ban is stronger in the city of St. Louis.

The lack of a tough smoking ban in the St. Louis area is why I stuck to getting White Castle to go when I went to St. Louis last year.

Illinois doesn’t have that problem. Smoking is banned in all enclosed areas in the Land of Lincoln, same as Kansas. As much as I dislike many things about my father’s home state, at least it has a smoking ban.

Missouri’s alcohol laws are also troubling.

There is no open container law. Passengers in a car can drink freely except in the cities with a ban, the largest of which are Independence, Columbia and St. Charles.

Every time the Missouri Legislature debates an open container law, it is shot down by the lobbyists from Anheuser-Busch (InBev). By failing to pass an open container law, Missouri has lost out on hundreds of millions of federal highway funds. No wonder I-70 between Kansas City and St. Louis is a death trap–the state doesn’t have the funding because it is too stupid to pass a common-sense law.

That’s all I have the energy for tonight. I am beat.