Disabled, but absolutely able

I found myself crying twice this Sunday morning, completely overwhelmed while watching a track meet that the majority of St. Louis had no idea was even taking place.

The event was the 2013 Gateway Games, put on by the Disabled Athlete Sports Association. (http://www.dasasports.org)

My reason for attending was that I volunteered my time as a mentor for a group called Ready & Willing that pairs St. Louis advertising and marketing talent with local charities in need of advertising and marketing support. I chose DASA and our client contacts told us that the Gateway Games would be a great way to see what the organization is all about.

So while most of St. Louis was still waking up in the morning, I headed out to St. Charles West High School, not knowing exactly what to expect.

I met up with another member of our group who brought along her mother to see the activities and we arrived just as a 100-yard dash was getting ready to begin for the 18-and-under age group.

There were a range of participants, mostly way younger than 18. I immediately noticed a little girl who looked to be about 7 who was all excited about the race. I’m not 100% sure, but I believe she was an amputee below the knee with an artificial leg and foot. Off to the side, I saw a girl who I think had Cerebral Palsy struggling to figure out how to adjust her starting block. Then I noticed another girl who looked extremely fit, helping a girl line up and get in a starting position for the race. A few seconds later, I realized the one girl was blind and the other would be her guide.

The starter was totally professional, explaining the rules and how the race would be run. Then they were all in their starting blocks and they were off – at a wide variety of speeds. The blind girl won and the times varied – but they all crossed the finish line and the day was underway.

We decided to head down to the finish line to get a better view of the races as they unfolded. There were wheel chair races and a variety of foot races – from the 60-yard dash to 800 meters.

I was amazed at the speed of some of the wheel chair racers, most of whom have specially made racing chairs that I have no idea what they might cost. One guy was clearly in a class of his own and when I inquired about him, I was told that he had won several national competitions.

Then there was this guy named John – who appeared to be about 70 – he wore a jersey proclaiming he was a disabled Veteran and he had this pointy-looking racing helmet that I’m sure could have taken seconds off his time with the aerodynamics – but he was in an ordinary wheelchair and struggled to keep it rolling. He didn’t care. His head was down and determination fueled him across the finish line and you could see the triumph and sense of accomplishment in his eyes upon completing the race. You could also tell that John was quite the character and thrilled to be in on the games.

One kid got to me, though.

His name was Jackson and he absolutely made my heart melt and brought on a wave of emotion that completely took me by surprise. One second I was watching these kids race and all of a sudden all these thoughts came flooding into my head. I thanked the Lord for all I’ve been blessed with – my own health and the health of my family, all while hearing the cheering of the fans in the stands as I watched this young boy who struggled with every step he took – but there was just some inner resolve in him that made him go on. And I thought, here I am standing on the sidelines of a racetrack in St. Charles on a Sunday morning and most people have absolutely no idea this is even happening and all the struggles this child will face and the many obstacles his family will have to overcome to guide him into adulthood were all right there in front of me – and when he crossed that finish line, I was crying.

He got me again later in the morning.

Jackson had run almost all the races, and was in the back of the pack in most of them. Then they announced they were having the 800 meter race. Two laps around the track. Before the race began, I overheard his mother mention that he had never run 800 meters before but wanted to give it a shot. And he did. One determined little boy, running the best he could. As he was on the far side of the track, he looked so small. I could hear the shouts of encouragement pushing him on and then that wave of emotion hit me again.

In the grand scheme of things, that race means nothing. But it meant everything to him. He finished. He triumphed. And I was thrilled I got to see that little victory.

I’ll be writing more about the Disabled Athlete Sports Association over the next few months. What they do is bring out the abilities in those with disabilities.

And they reminded me that just because someone is disabled, they are still absolutely able – to compete, to struggle and to enjoy the satisfaction of finishing.

Count your blessings. Overcome the obstacles that lay before you. Never give up.

I’ll cut the cliches now and I wish you all a great work week ahead.

No wonder print media is dying

We used to subscribe to Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone and Adweek. Not anymore. Print media is dying. But by no means have people lost interest – it’s just that the way we consume media continues to evolve.

Recently, I have had the privilege of working on a project where we’re converting collateral brochures into online apps that can be viewed on tablets like the Ipad and whatever else is out there. My eyes have truly been opened to the new powers of persuasion.

Magazines or brochures can give you facts and information. With strong copywriting and great art direction, you can tell a powerful story. But it simply can’t compete when your layouts can feature live video links. Or your type flies on the page and then explodes off of it. Or your photos can feature 360 degree pans or you can zoom in to the photo to take a closer look. Infographics can magically form. Hyperlinks can take you to more content. The page can expand to deliver more of your story or call-out buttons can feature pop-up graphics and summaries.

It’s a strange new world and it’s exciting to be in on what I consider to be close to the ground floor. While early adopters were working out all the kinks associated with making all this interactivity functional, the magazine industry has been climbing aboard the digital format, knowing that people will stay pay for their favorite magazines – only now, they’re phasing out the printed versions. Newsstands will soon become a thing of the past as the number of Americans who jump on the tablet and smartphone bandwagon continues to rise.

I’ve seen firsthand what this has done to a number of local printers as well as several design firms that used to thrive on creating annual reports, calendars, catalogs and company brochures. They’ve had to evolve or they suffered the consequences.

Likewise, today’s art directors and designers have had to expand their knowledge base far beyond the printed page. I’m amazed at the many talents of today’s designers – yet it also seems to me that many are more involved in the flash of the presentation versus the fundamental idea that still needs to be present no matter what media you’re working in at the time. Writers have had to adapt as well. Long form content isn’t exactly in demand these days. But you better be well-versed in knowing how to write in this brave new world of interactivity.

I’ve said before that I still enjoy shuffling out of our house to get the morning paper and then sitting down to devour its contents. I know those days are numbered. Our mailbox no longer contains the magazines it once did and it’s only a matter of time before the St. Louis Post-Dispatch pulls the plug on its daily edition.

The writing is on the wall. Or rather, the writing is in the tablet, the laptop and the smartphone which before we know it, will all be merged into one.

Keep reading.

And keep evolving.



The Man, The Woman and the downfall of talk radio

I don’t think I’ve ever blogged about talk radio in St. Louis before but now that KFNS AM-590 has abandoned its sports talk format and replaced it with The Man and their sister station AM-1380 has become The Woman, I feel the need to speak out on the matter.

I am completely and utterly unimpressed. And I’m a fan of talk radio. I listen to it in the car and when I’m out in the yard doing whatever the season demands needs to be done. I listen in the morning, on weekends and on occasion, late at night.

I remember as a teenager when Jim “The Big Bopper” White used to be on KMOX. Even though I was far from the ideal target market, I used to really enjoy listening to his rants.

I know I’m an old school guy. I’ve mentioned before how I enjoy the morning paper. I know I can get my news via the internet – CNN is my home page and I give it a quick scan every morning when I pull my mac from its sleep. I have Fox News saved as a favorite, along with Bloomberg, the New York Post, StLToday and a variety of other sources. But to me, nothing beats the morning newspaper and I dread the day when they take the whole thing online. But I know it’s coming.

I’m the same way with radio. Sure, I’ve got my ipod and the ability to plug it into my car and just listen to my favorite tunes all day and I’m ancient enough that I still actually buy CDs and play them on my car’s CD player. Most times though, I opt for the radio and it’s not to hear today’s hottest music. I get that during car pool duty bringing Catherine and her friends home from Nerinx.

Since I’m kind of a sports junky, I loved the fact that there were multiple radio stations that focused on sports. I miss Kevin Slaten (but not that much). I love D’Marco Farr and Randy Karraker and I’m even growing to like Chris Duncan.  They all reside on the afternoon drive on 101.1 FM.

Apparently, I’m going to be listening to them a lot more in the near future.

Because KFNS is now The Man. Tim McKernan, Jimmy “The Cat” Hayes and Doug Vaughn will soon depart from 590 – but I’m sure they’ll show up somewhere else. They have to. Because I just don’t know if anyone’s going to be able to handle listening to The Man. New management is taking that mighty 2% market share and hoping to shake up the market with bold new programming. Good luck.

I’ve tried listening to the new Man at different points of the day. I don’t think I’ve made it past five minutes without switching the dial or just turning the radio off altogether. Sports are meant to be talked about. Politics are meant to be talked about. Beyond that, the subject matter gets tough to hold anyone’s interest for too long. I don’t want to hear about cars. I don’t want to hear about gardening or home repair. For a while maybe, but in general? Sorry, not interested. Shock jocks don’t do much for me, either. I just don’t know if the world really needs another Howard Stern.

Just to hear the opposite side of the equation, I’ve tried listening to The Woman as well.

I told Chris about the new station format yesterday and we tuned it in on our way to celebrating our 20th anniversary day with a little golf, gambling and dining – all in the Alton area with the tri-fecta of Spencer T. Olin golf course, the Alton Belle Casino and Fast Eddies. So we tried listening to The Woman about 9:15 am and heard some show called “The Body Shop” or something like that and the topic of the day was some doctor talking about performing operations on unborn babies with quite graphic explanations of operating procedures. The day before, during a different hour of the day, I tuned in and heard a discussion about the ideal base for applying makeup and I questioned my sanity as I actually listened to some overly chirpy female positively gushing about her favorite application method.

I know this is a new format for talk radio that is still working out some major kinks. But from what I’ve heard so far, that 2% market share KFNS was pulling in is soon going to seem like a market leader compared to the numbers these new attempts are bound to draw.

Maybe The Man will get better with time. Maybe I just don’t understand The Woman.

But I don’t think either station is ever destined to become the talk of the town.

Time to refresh my CD lineup.




In praise of Bill McClellan

Bill McClellan is a great writer. He has that rare ability to make the most insignificant of things seem significant – or at least interesting enough to read about from the first sentence right on down to his wrap-up statement.

Today’s column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was classic Bill. It was like a Seinfeld episode contained in about 20 total inches of space. In it, he managed to tie together an Eagles song, his vacation to Arizona, a song from My Fair Lady and Fleishman-Hillard’s removal of their hypen from their company name. I have no idea what Al Fleishman or Bob Hillard would have to say about their names being scrunched together, but I’m sure they would gladly accept the ink and the postings that their new company name is generating. (After all, any publicity is good publicity).

What really amazed me about Bill’s column today was its total insignificance. It really was a column about nothing. That was the brilliance behind Seinfeld and it’s one of the major reasons I love to wake up in the morning, slip on the nearest pair of shoes and shuffle out to my driveway to get the morning newspaper. The Sports section always comes first, particularly on mornings that follow epic games like the Steen wraparound goal in the overtime Blues win last night. That commanded my immediate attention while I was downing my morning bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios.

But I always save time to savor Bill. The fun thing about his column is you never know what is going to grab his attention. I can’t say I’m always enamored with his down on their luck stories of people who’ve been shafted in one way or another but he does manage to always find some irony or some terrible wrong-doing that needs righting. But it’s his columns where he more or less just rambles about whatever is on his mind at the moment that always seem to stick with me.

I read all about FleishmanHillard’s (my spell check says that this is now a typo so I guess they’ll have to fix that somehow on the macs and pcs in Fleishman land) name change in last week’s paper and I like their new logo which neatly links the F and the H into one mark. But I didn’t give any thought whatsoever to the removal of the hyphen. Bill did and because of it, I now will think just a bit every time I see that scrunched together name and wonder, “Was that really necessary?”

Kind of like this post.