Highlighting a Pre-Pre Derby Week at Churchill, Library, Freedom Hall and a Racquetball Lesson Sunday, Apr 20 2014
Business and Churchill Downs and Claudia Coffey and Culture and Darren Rogers and Education and Events and Freedom Hall and I Was There and Insider Louisville and Jaylen Johnson and Jill Bell and Joe Arnold and Kentucky Derby Festival and Kevin Flanery and Louisville and Louisville Free Public Library and LoUnique and Matt Taibbi and media and Parenting and Politics and Quentin Synder and Rick and Sport 11:05 am
With a couple of days left still until the frenzy of Derby Week, I warmed up with an active schedule of interesting activities available only in Louisville, Kentucky.
First, you can listen to my conversation with Darren Rogers, the big man on campus (at least as far as 2,000 media members are concerned) at the new and improved Churchill Downs. Here’s a link to our show, which also includes Kentucky Derby Festival board member Jill Bell.
The biggest improvement is the massive new scoreboard you’ve probably heard about on the backside. Of course, the infield has changed a lot since I ended my eight-year stretch of consecutive Infield experiences in 1989. And I’m not a fan of most of the changes (all that concrete), but the new scoreboard is a big improvement no matter what your vantage point. Pull out all your synonyms for “big” to describe it. I can’t wait to see it in action.
And a new area of the track that Darren showed me, with an elevated view of the Derby starting gate, will be an awesome place to watch. It reminds me of the area above the South End Zone at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. The new facade facing Central transforms the look of the place. It’s in a spot where Rogers told me Downs president and South End resident Kevin Flanery used to cut the fence and charge a reduced entry fee to his friends.
I think all my liberal progressive friends and Bill Maher fans showed up at the Library Wednesday to hear from journalist Matt Taibbi. He spoke for 90 minutes about injustices in the American justice system, specifically contrasting how white collar financial criminals manage to avoid jail time while committing crimes that affect millions versus the minor offenses that put the less-privileged behind bars. His book, The Divide, is high on my reading list.
On Firday, I took my son Luke out to a basketball game at Freedom Hall, where we marveled at how old and out-of-date the place seemed, having experienced the Yum! Center on a regular basis. The game was the Kentucky Derby Festival Basketball Classic, and featured three U of L recruits. It’s the oldest of these all-star games in the country. The highlight may have been U of L recruit Jaylen Johnson taking a feed from his Mom in the Dunk Contest, but we were also impressed by Ballard recruit Quentin Snyder’s court presence.
For those of you who follow local media, I had two interesting stories at Insider Louisville. Check out my piece on the new political show on WHAS-TV, hosted by Joe Arnold. And I had the only local story on the sudden departure of Claudia Coffey from the WHAS-TV anchor desk. Both have been guests on the Rusty Satellite Show.
So all in all it was a great week, not including playing golf with my girlfriend Paula on Saturday. And one more thing I never expected. I walked into the Westport LAC for my regular racquetball game Friday afternoon. I noticed the guy on the court, by himself, looked like he was pretty good, but I couldn’t see him clearly. So I got dressed in the locker room, thinking maybe I’d challenge this stranger.
But when I got over to the court I recognized that it was none other than Kane Waselenchuk. Now that may not mean much to you, but Kane is the best player in the world. See for yourself in this New York Times profile.
He hasn’t lost a professional match in four years, and has been #1 since 2009. He’s married to a Louisville girl, Kim Russell, a champion on the court herself. I used to play her Dad, Rick, in the 1980s at the YMCA. I compared it to Tiger Woods hitting balls at Seneca, or maybe LeBron James showing up unannounced at a U of L basketball practice to get some work in. But neither superstar dominates his sport the way Kane does.
There were only three of us by the courts, and Kane, who’s a really cool guy, agreed to play my friend Travis in a game that was as lopsided as you might expect. I asked Kim why they were here, and her answer tells you a lot about how someone can become a dominant force in any sport. They were in town to visit her family, and when she asked Kane what he wanted to do, he said he wanted to practice. And that’s how the #1 player in the world ended up hitting balls at my club.
No Fear, Fire Up The Thunder Thursday, Apr 10 2014
Business and Compassionate Louisville and Crime and Culture and Education and Events and I Was There and Kentucky Derby Festival and Louisville and LoUnique and media and music, and Politics and Rick and Thunder Over Louisville and Tom Williams and Wayne Hettinger and YNO 9:18 pm
OK. I’m a little bit worried.
I keep running into people, coming across social media posts, that indicates to me a lot of people are staying home for Thunder Saturday. The message I’d like the community to send is that we’re not giving up our riverfront, Waterfront Park or downtown to criminals.
In the last few days, it’s become known that youth gangs were responsible for the March 22 violence, and that the culture that exists within that culture isn’t extinguished by putting more cops on the street or having meetings in the West End. This memo, written by an FBI agent, claims a gang known as YNO is behind the problem. Here’s the scariest part — as part of the group’s initiation, members may be “required to assault someone” and that assault may or may not be random in nature.
I think the only citizens who don’t have a little fear are the ones who haven’t read the memo. No one wants to risk running into a young gang member on a mission to hurt somebody. People are talking about it, and the media is quick to highlight citizen fear in news stories. We’re used to fear tactics from the media related to weather, but this is something entirely different.
That all this is happening now is tragic for the city. There’s a perfect Thunder forecast for the 25th anniversary. It will/should be a perfect day to mark the opening of the Derby Festival. I’m hopeful it will be, but no one can be sure there won’t be problems.
So there’s the 25th anniversary of Thunder. I talked to Wayne Hettinger for this week’s Rusty Satellite Show, and it’s worth listening to, especially if you want to get a little fired up for the show. Wayne does not lack for enthusiasm, and I’m anxious just to hear the soundtrack of songs — one from each of the 24 previous Thunders.
My other guest is Tom Williams, who is the point man for another extremely positive movement in town — the one for compassion. So download the show and let me know what you think.
Cultural Differences, and Plentiful Options, in the ‘Ville Monday, Mar 24 2014
actors theatre and Billy Joel and Business and Comfy Cow and Culture and Dave Barry and Education and Elvis Costello and Events and Health and I Was There and Joe Sonka and JRA Architects and LEO weekly and Louisville and LoUnique and Lyle Lovett and Mark Coomes and Matt Taibbi and media and Mitch McConnell and music, and Nick Hornby and Politics and Rick and Rusty Satellite Show and Sarah Palin and Sport and Steve Wiser and The Wire and Tim Koons-McGee 7:00 pm
Among the reasons I really enjoy doing the Rusty Satellite Show is the opportunity to learn a little about a lot of things from the rich roster of guests I have been able to convince to spend 15 minutes talking about themselves. In every case, I learn something form the conversation, and I hope you do too.
It would be hard not to get something worthwhile from my talks this time with Tim Koons McGee and Steve Wiser. Koons McGee’s ambitious plans for the four-year-old Comfy Cow, which include becoming a national brand, was news to me. I just called him because I wanted to know about the new store at Eastern Parkway and Bardstown Road, and maybe get a free scoop of ice cream. I also got a relevant opinion on same-sex marriage from someone actually affected by the much-debated topic.
Wiser is one of those guys with a vast amount of local knowledge, which made 12 minutes really insufficient to get all my questions answered about local architecture. But if you listen you’ll find out about the renovation of a long-anticipated restoration project and what could really be a cool change to downtown.
And I got to talk about seeing one of my cultural heroes, the hilarious Dave Barry, at the downtown library last week. It motivated me to check out his book “Lunatics” and recall how much fun I still have with my son Josh talking about the movie “Big Trouble” based on Dave’s hilarious first novel.
Which got me to thinking about the culture available around here, like seeing Barry (or Matt Taibbi, coming soon) at the library, a rich resource where I’ve built my music collection and keep finding books I want to read (Nick Hornby’s “Slam“). Maybe I’m just itching to get out, but it’s great I have options like the upcoming shows by Lyle Lovett and (just announced) Elvis Costello. Not to mention events I’ve actually bought tickets for, including Billy Joel at the Yum! Center and the Book of Mormon at the Kentucky Center. I’ve written about how great the Humana Festival is.
There is certainly a lot to choose from to keep your mind occupied. I mentioned a few media stories on the show last week — how Mitch McConnell dissed a LEO reporter, how the University of Louisville is paying hush money to former employees, how a court sided with newspapers in a battle with the state over releasing records to the public. So it was fitting that I finally got to the end of a memorable binge watch — five seasons of the HBO series “The Wire.” which concluded with a long piece about the media’s effects on life in a big city. I highly recommend it, even if it’s already dated (pagers).
Something for everyone, of course. But everyone around here is talking about a basketball game scheduled for this Friday in Indianapolis. I can handle respectful differences of opinion, even if I don’t agree with your point of view (like if you agree with Sarah Palin, who thinks the missing Malaysian jet may have been snatched up into heaven by God, according to fake news reports).
As for the game, I think we should all take a deep breath, turn off talk radio and stop reading our Facebook news feeds. Let’s use the game as an excuse to have a beer with our friends. Let’s not surround ourselves with the negative energy we’re feeling toward people who think the 20-year-olds they’re cheering for in a basketball game are superior to the 20-year-olds in different uniforms you’re cheering for. If you only read one piece on the game, read this one by former Rusty guest Mark Coomes. And if our team loses, let’s become the best fans of our home state team, even if we can’t stand the behavior of some of their fans.