Drunk on America

When I first heard that A-B InBev was renaming its flagship brand, Budweiser to America for the summer and right on through to the election in November, I thought it was a joke.

I honestly can’t believe that here I am blogging again about Budweiser. Just a few posts ago, I was writing about how angry their ads had gotten, taking an in-your-face attitude to new extremes.

Now, this Belgian-owned company is doing the ultimate act of American commercialism, jumping on the patriotic bandwagon in their effort to sell more beer.

America beer.

Talk about a brand that has lost its way.

You can’t say that the folks at A-B-InBev are doing this to get us all to rally ’round the flag. Putting the Star Spangled banner on a can isn’t exactly a fitting tribute to Francis Scott Key. Sadly, in this day and age, I’ll bet the majority of Americans don’t even know what “E Pluribus Unum” even means or where it originated. Perhaps a few bar conversations might elicit the answer but I’m betting it doesn’t begin a new age of enlightenment about American history.

It’s all about selling beer and Budweiser, or, starting May 23rd, America, is fighting a losing battle. According to Market Watch, “In 1988, Budweiser sold 50 million barrels on its own, making up 25% of all beer sold in the U.S. It has lost more than 70% of its sales since that time and, back in 2011, was knocked into third place among beer brands by Coors Light. It now accounts for just 7% of the U.S. market.”

Donald Trump says he wants to make America great again – but this brand of America is on the decline, getting kicked around by the same craft beers that Budweiser has bashed in recent commercials.

I don’t think the in-your-face attitude is going to fly in their efforts to sell America. Instead, I’m expecting some syrupy, idyllic slice-of-life showing the great times had by all consuming America at backyard bar-b-ques, 4th of July celebrations and sporting events from baseball games to the Olympics. All in an effort to sell more beer.

Maybe they’re hoping that everyone will buy a six pack of America just so we can sit it on the shelf as a collector’s item and shake our heads at the audacity that Carlos Brito is now allowing to be launched from sea to shining sea.

First he does a hostile takeover of Anheuser-Busch. Then he comes in, cuts costs, jobs and puts pressure on suppliers – from rice grain to beechwood to the printing and packaging industry, forcing companies to accept 90-day and in some cases 120-day payments for services rendered. Ah, that’s the American way.

No, it’s not.

I know a lot of people who still work for the brewery. I know a lot of other people who have lost a lot of business ever since the Belgian takeover took place.

Maybe America will be a marketing success.

I’m sure it’s been focus group tested and when quizzed, people still respond that they love America.

I just find it wrong for a company that is now foreign-owned to try and sell beer by putting our country’s name, founding thoughts, and heritage onto a label.

When Chevrolet did it with their, “America loves baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet” it was kind of cute and iconic. When other brands salute the Olympics and play on Americana, it’s to be expected – particularly since many of those companies are helping through sponsorships. But no company (especially a foreign-owned one) has ever done anything quite as blatant as this.

America. I’m not buying it.

 

 

 

 

 

The Cubs, The Blues and Hell freezing over

It’s been a very strange sports year so far for St. Louis.

It started with the Rams moving (though that actually started years ago).

The St. Louis Blues had what has become somewhat of a normal regular season for them, once again, amassing more than 100 points which is truly outstanding considering the injury-plagued season they endured. But points only get you to the playoffs and though finishing second in a brutal division could be considered an accomplishment, the only thing that helped ensure was home ice against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks.

When the Blues somehow managed to take the lead in the pivotal seventh game, I imagine that any St. Louisan tuned to the game was fully expecting a fluke tying goal to send it to overtime.

But it didn’t happen. The Blues beat the nemesis Blackhawks and moved on to the next round where last night they actually got to enjoy somewhat of a respite from playoff insanity by drubbing the Dallas Stars, taking a 2-1 lead in the process.

Could this be the year?

Granted, there’s a long, long way to go, even in this series. Right now, that Stanley Cup is about as near as …

the Cubs winning the World Series.

Yes, the Cubs are for real. They have hitting. They have great pitching. They have an improved defense. They have a fun, funky manager who has been to the World Series as a manager (though didn’t win).

Currently, they are steamrolling other teams, looking like they’re well on their way to a 100+ victory season.

Baseball pundits across the board picked the Cubs to go all the way. They’re playing loose, having fun and even all those day games at Wrigley may not slow them down. It’s enough to make any loyal Cardinals fan downright envious.

If the Blues do go on to win the Stanley Cup, there will be a seismic shift in the Universe. That just might unlock the key to the Cubs winning it all.

And if the Cubs do win it all, we all better start brushing up on the Book of Revelations.

The end is surely near.

No need to repent quite yet.

In the meantime, Let’s Go Blues!

 

 

 

Let’s go, Mets!

Ugh!I’m not bitter about the Cardinals loss to the Cubs. They were the better team in virtually every category. And the better team deserves to win.

But they’ve already gone far enough.

Okay, let them win one or two games in the upcoming NLDS. But please, no further than that.

Even though Marty McFly saw the hologram about the Cubs winning the 2015 World Series, I just can’t envision a future where the Cubs are World Champions.

It’s not supposed to happen in my lifetime – or anyone’s lifetime, for that matter. The Northsiders have such a long-standing tradition of losing that winning might just turn the whole world upside down. If the Cubs can win a World Series, pigs can fly, former Presidents can become First Gentlemen, the Mississippi can switch directions and who knows what other kinds of mayhem might ensue.

They’re going to have their Ace Arieta ready for Game 1 which means he’ll get a minimum of two starts. The planets are aligning. Jupiter and Mars are wondering what in the world is going on and all I can hope is that somehow the Mets find their mojo, beat the Dodgers in LA and then send the Cubs back where they belong in October – home to their families where they can regroup and say, “There’s always next year.”

That is my hope.

The Cubs are a fun team to like – and to dislike. Pedro Strop wears his hat to the side. That’s irritating. Trevor Cahill was washed up with the Braves until he landed with the Cubs. I didn’t even know Fernando Rodney had made his way to the Cubs and he comes in and shuts down the Birds’ bats. (Well, kind of.) I like Bryant and Rizzo and Castro. And Kyle Schwarber? He reminds me of Matt Adams back when Matt Adams could hit.

So like a car slowing down to see what the wreck is all about on the side of the highway, I will stop to watch the upcoming series, whether it’s against the Dodgers or the Mets.

The Dodgers have great pitching but they’re another team that I just flat out don’t like.

So let it be the Mets that sends the Cubs packing.

And if they somehow get to the World Series, start wearing a hat – you don’t want to get hit by pig splatter.

Bryan Burwell kept his story under wraps

I was stunned to hear the news that Bryan Burwell died of cancer yesterday morning.

It was only then that I realized I hadn’t read any recent articles by the gifted St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports columnist. And when I thought about it, it sank in that I hadn’t heard his laughing voice over the radio airwaves all that recently, either.

But it seemed like I had. His laugh was easily recognizable. And he liked to laugh, loved to poke fun – at himself and others.

I never knew Bryan Burwell.

But I felt like I did.

Turns out his last column for the Post-Dispatch was about the plans for a new Rams stadium. This morning in the paper, I read that silent Stan actually reached out to Bryan during his illness and offered to help however he could.

Money can’t do a thing about pancreatic cancer.

Still, I’m sure that Stan’s offer was genuine.

And so was Bryan.

I enjoyed reading his columns even though I often disagreed with his point-of-view. He wasn’t just a good writer. He was a great writer – able to capture a story and make you think, make you mad, make you smile, make you something – his words had power.

Bryan wasn’t an African American sports columnist. He was a sports columnist who happened to be African American.

I read every word I could about him in this morning’s sports page and I tuned to the radio today to hear if there would be more tributes to this man.

His words, his actions and the way he lived his life touched people across the sports world of America.

From everything I read about him, he lived his life full of energy, always positive, always ready for the next kickoff or tip-off or the first pitch of the game.

He loved sports and he loved life.

And that’s probably the reason he didn’t want the news of his illness to be known. It would be a distraction from the games.

I never knew Bryan Burwell.

But I miss him already.

RIP, Bryan.

Your Central Division Champion St. Louis Cardinals

This had to have been one of the strangest St. Louis Cardinals seasons I’ve ever seen – and I’ve seen quite a few of them.

They were bad. They were good. They couldn’t hit. It was a rare occasion when Mobil on the Run had to pay out in the form of the slush-slush.

They were hurt. They made some trades that didn’t pan out. Or maybe they will.

I miss Joe Kelly. Our whole family misses Joe Kelly. We are not attached to John Lackey and he can return to Boston and the American League as soon as the season is over. I doubt if Justin Masterson is even on the playoff roster.

Shelby was awful and it seemed that every time we went to a game, he was on the mound and he would take the loss. But then all of sudden he was lights out. Now, who knows?

And who knows about Michael Wacha, either? I doubt if even Michael knows if he’s got it or not. I sure hope so. Maybe he could be our closer. Well, probably not. Trevor, you’re still the man – at least, we think you are.

Lance Lynn was strong all year. And the Cardinals still seem to hit when he’s on the mound. Too bad he’s not on the mound more often.

The offense is anemic. But it will surprise you.

Oscar Taveras is a huge disappointment. So far.

Randall Grichuk is the best hitting .245 batter I’ve seen in a while. He’s fast. But not as fast as Peter Bourjos – who apparently is not a very good base stealer – even though he’s fast. Sometimes, he’s going so fast that he slides right over the bag and they tag him out. Lou Brock, please give poor Peter some tips.

Matt Holliday failed to bat .300 and failed to reach 100 RBIs. Yet he was clutch. And he’s normally not clutch. Matt was fierce on the basepaths. He has an enormous will to win – almost bigger than his forearms. If the Cardinals are smart, they’ll trade a pitching prospect or two and maybe a not so great younger left fielder next year for a proven hitter. Maybe Allen Craig.

Matt Carpenter had an off year, a funky year. Yet he still has an uncanny ability to get on base. As Matt goes, so go the Cardinals.

Then there was our pleasant surprise at shortstop. Jhonny had the most home runs of any Cardinals shortstop ever. And his glove was much better than advertised. The ball jhumps off of Jhonny’s bat – (at least when he hits it).

Yadi was Yadi. When he was gone, we treaded water. When he returned, things got better.

So now, here we go into the postseason facing Clayton Kershaw in LA where he’s almost unhittable.

I have very low expectations. In fact, I have virtually no expectations.

But I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see the Cardinals facing off against Albert and David in a few weeks.

Throw the predictions out the window and Go Cardinals!

 

Going out as an All Star

Michael Blood took the mound on Monday night, one of several players from his Easton Tigers summer baseball team selected to play in the 18U All Star game. His inning lasted maybe 5 minutes tops as he quickly shut his opponents down and that was it. The end of his high school baseball playing days.

Michael may go on to pitch in club baseball down at Mizzou or perhaps play in another summer league. That’s still TBD. But for now, it’s a wrap.

What a fun ride it’s been.

Michael’s always had a love affair with baseball. And I’ve had the opportunity and privilege to be a part of it.

He’s had a glove and a bat in his hand (golf clubs, too) since he was old enough to walk. Even when it was coach pitch in those early days of CYC ball he could flat out hit and we had many a backyard session where we threw the ball around, eventually ending up with me calling balls and strikes for a couple of innings worth of pitches.

When Tom Jr. was going into 5th grade, he expressed a desire to pitch and we began getting lessons from a guy named Mike Killian. Michael got in on the action as well, learning the basics of the windup and throwing motion from a guy who once pitched in the Reds organization. The lessons took place in some empty warehouse in Fenton. I can still remember a few wild pitches bouncing off the aluminum siding walls with a clang.

But they both got better.

I coached Michael’s team from second grade through eighth grade and was always thrilled to have that opportunity. We had a great group of kids as well as parents and the majority of the team that we had in second grade were still on the team when we finished up in eighth. We went to the playoffs every year, finishing first or second in our league, capped off by our appearance in the City-County playoffs where we lost a heart-breaker to a St. Monica team that went on to win it all.

Michael was on the mound for a lot of those games but CYC wasn’t quite enough for him so he played on a team in the Kirkwood Athletic Association called the Redbirds and that was a whole different set of players, personalities and fun.

Thanks to Brad Bakula, the Redbirds took a trip to Cooperstown where we stayed in their Ballpark Village and endured a lot of rain but had a lot of fun, too. Michael quickly learned that there’s always someone out there trying to be better than him and that you had to work hard to succeed. The Redbirds won a lot of games but they lost quite a few, too – and that was a good thing. It teaches you that it’s just a game – and that there’s always another one waiting to be played so keep trying and keep on getting better.

By the time Michael made it to high school, competition had gotten tough and Michael’s growth curve was still waiting to begin. But he could still pitch. His form is great, thanks in large part to Matt Whiteside at All Star Performance. Michael had been going to Matt since 5th grade, beginning lessons every winter, always leading right up to the first week of practice.

In Michael’s freshman year, he made SLUH’s C team and pitched well. Next year he was on the B team and he did even better. But his junior year, there was an abundance of strong senior pitchers and Michael got cut from the Varsity. Rather than quit baseball altogether, he joined a summer league. He worked out regularly and beefed up. His fastball was in the mid 80s. His curve was wicked and his changeup could make batters look silly. When he went out for SLUH’s Varsity his senior year, he was the only player to try out who hadn’t been on the team the year prior.

He made the team and though I think he was underutilized, he still had a few shining moments and it was fun watching SLUH’s team win their district before being eliminated by Francis Howell in a state quarterfinal. This summer, he rejoined his Easton Tigers team from last year and became their number one guy, leading the team in wins, innings pitched and ERA and got a well-deserved nod to the league All Star game.

The game took place at TR Hughes ball park last night, home of the River City Rascals.

When the inning he pitched was over, I stood up, walked over to his coach and thanked him.

You’re an All Star, Michael Blood.

Now it’s on to bigger things.

 

Cards can’t catch a break

When Yadier Molina slid into third with his thumb bent in a way that thumbs aren’t supposed to go, the Cardinals season may have just officially tanked.

I’ve been accused of being a pessimist when it comes to teams I follow. This year, I think I’m simply being a realist with the future of the Cardinals.

Joe Kelly came back to pitch tonight. We’ve missed him. Too bad he couldn’t get one more start down at AAA because he got knocked around with no real out pitch and his breaking ball was breaking right over the heart of the plate.

That comes on the heels of another Shelby Miller disappointment. We went to the game last night and knew before the first pitch was thrown that the Cardinals were in trouble. Shelby has been downright miserable recently. Maybe it’s those back spasms or an inconsistent delivery. Whatever it was, he was on the mound and that was strike one. The Redbirds were going for a four-game sweep – that happens maybe once a season. Strike two.  Then there was no Yadi. Strike three before a pitch was even thrown.

I didn’t hear the news about Yadi’s thumb until I got to the ballpark. Like Bernie Miklasz said in this morning’s Post-Dispatch, “there’s no way to find any positives with this one.”

When McCutcheon stole second and followed it up by stealing third, it was a signal that the stop sign has been removed when there are runners on base against the Cardinals. It happened again tonight with a double steal in the first inning.

This could get real ugly after the All-Star break is over.

It looked to me like Oscar Taveras was running hurt after his last at bat last night. I think he injured himself going after a ball that he could have caught but didn’t.

I think Allen Craig has been playing hurt – his swing simply isn’t the same as last year. Holliday may get hot and his home run swing might return but that seems doubtful.

This is a team that seems to have no spark plug. At the beginning of the year it seemed like we had the best lineup in the majors pitching and hitting wise. But now that the season is more than half in the books, it’s a different story.

Maybe Mozeliak will find that spark plug when he’s searching for a catcher or a right fielder or another starting pitcher.

Maybe the ship will right itself – after all, we’re only two games back.

I hope I’m all wrong and that I’m completely off-base.

Problem is, Yadi’s not there to pick me off.

Let’s sell some beer

Remember the days when Bud Light used to roll out commercials that would make you laugh? And then two or three weeks later, they’d roll out another one?

Now we get Ian, the guy who gets kidnapped and taken on an adventure that’s broken up into about five parts that’s played over and over and over again.

The first time I saw Arnold playing ping-pong it was surprising. Not so much on the 17th viewing.

Here’s a link to some classic Bud Light commercials ttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSGySgH411A

Spend a few minutes watching them and you’ll long for the days when there was humor in TV commercials. I’m not sure what the current market share is for Bud Light. I wonder how many people are bothering to buy the bottle with the twist off cap. That commercial airs about six or seven times on every Cardinals telecast. All it does for me is make me think that if the beer isn’t good enough to drink in one setting, why would I want to bother to cap it off and drink it later?

Budweiser commercials seem to have knocked Bud Light to the back seat – at least from production levels. The recent Bud spot promoting the World Cup is extremely well done – but it might as well have been for Adidas because there’s very little correlation to World Cup soccer and Budweiser, especially in this commercial.

Budweiser Black Crown? I have yet to attend a party where everyone wears all black and dances on a 40-foot long table. I know I’m no longer in the right demographic but I’m not real sure what the demographic is for that Bud brand.

I do like the Bud commercial with the Major League baseball tie-in. The scene at the end of the commercial where the guy is walking into the stadium and we see it’s Busch Stadium is well done. I hope they’ve done that version of the spot for every ball park. If they have, that’s smart marketing. A toast to that one.

Other than that, I think A-B InBev has gotten way off track. They continue to try and introduce spin-offs or variations versus sticking to the tried and true.

Maybe their market research says the tried and true doesn’t work anymore. Or maybe TV advertising is simply no longer where it’s at when it comes to selling beer and everything needs to be experiential – sponsor major parties, do giveaways, generate trial. I know that all needs to be part of the equation and today it probably plays a larger role than ever before.

The Super Bowl is great for launching major campaigns and breaking out the Clydesdales and TV is a major star that can’t be beat in that regard. But when it comes down to what do you run on a Tuesday night for a local Cardinals Fox Sports telecast, we get to see a cap twisting off a bottle multiple times.

Sorry, but I’m not buying it.

Please A-B InBev – refresh thy brands.

 

 

Don’t hand the Cardinals the Division pennant just yet

Fresh off today’s 1-0 win over the Redlegs, Redbird Nation was all aglow with the prospects for this upcoming baseball Cardinals season.

Just like four out of four ESPN bracketologists picked Michigan State to beat Louisville in the upcoming NCAA final, it’s a bit early to rush to judgment.

True, the Cardinals team on paper should easily win the Division, move on to the playoffs, knock off the Dodgers followed by whoever is next in line and move on to yet another World Series where they rightfully claim their 13th World Series title that eluded the team last year.

Keep in mind, though, there are still 161 more games to be played and we don’t have the Astros to kick around quite as much anymore.

Mike Shannon used to say (and perhaps he still does), that great teams need a bopper and a stopper. We’ve got a couple of stoppers, of that there is no doubt. The bopper part, I’m not totally convinced.

Maybe Matt Adams will step up and hit 25-30 home runs. Matt Holliday can probably be counted on for 20 more and maybe Torty, Yadi and a few others can make up for the rest. I hope so.

And I hope all of these golden arms can stay healthy throughout the season. That’s really the key to the Cardinals’ future success.

Our starting rotation is deep. So deep that Mr. Martinez found himself in the bullpen and it turns out that was a great spot for him to be on this opening day.

Motte hopefully will be back soon. Who knows, Jaime Garcia might even return. It’s a pitching staff that virtually any Major League team would gladly do a wholesales swap and be happy with the results.

But we’ve got a long way to go.

Best thing to do is enjoy the present and not look too far down the line.

Right now, we’re in a 3-way tie for first and the Cubbies are only a game back.

That’s probably as close as they’ll come all season.

Go Cardinals!

 

 

 

Grey Day in St. Louis

  It was a grey day today for sports fans in St. Louis.

The Rams lost a game they should have won. The Cardinals lost their last game of the year played at Busch and now have to win two in a row in Beantown and that seems about as likely as the Rams beating the Seahawks did last night. The Tigers are re-grouping in Columbia, a homecoming weekend spoiled by a kick that went off the goalpost. The Blues won another game, teasing us once again with a fast start – but Lord Stanley is so far in the future and the NHL playoffs invite so many teams to the dance that it’s hard to give them any more attention than a page-3 story in the Post-Dispatch.

It was a weekend full of promise. Perfect fall weather, ideal for getting out and enjoying the turning of the leaves before they all end up on our respective front lawns.

Then things went south. Driving in to work today was a bleak ride, grey skies and rain in the forecast and nothing but gloom from the local sports talk radio chatter. This weekend, we fall back, re-setting the clocks so that darkness envelops us on the way home.

But all is not as grey as it seems.

We are in the World Series. Last time we played Boston, we couldn’t say that after the fourth game. We’ve got Michael Wacha on the mound tomorrow and the hope that the Cardinals bats will awaken from their weekend slumber.

The Rams aren’t totally without hope. I was at the game last night and thoroughly enjoyed the defensive performance put on by the team. The defense gave it everything they had and for the most part, so did the offense. I had very little hope once they got down inside the 10-yard line at the end of the game that they would somehow manage to score a touchdown. When Greg the Leg missed his fourth field goal of the night, the writing was on the wall. Had he made it, I was confident the Rams would win. Once he missed, I fully expected them to lose in a goal line stand with an inept final play of the game that can only leave you shaking your head.

It’s okay. Jeff Fisher is a career below .500 coach. We’re going to win this Sunday to put the Rams one game below .500. That’s about right where they belong and one of these days, Stan is going to make a decision to either pull up stakes and take his toy elsewhere or he’ll commit to St. Louis and maybe even build his own version of Cowboys Stadium – but don’t hold your breath.

Today was a good day for getting back to work.

St. Louis probably needed a day off, a chance to re-focus and get back to business.

We’ve had a great recent run of sports. But sports are merely a diversion – though they sure do a  pretty good job of being all-consuming, wrapping you up and tieing your stomach in knots only to hope for the exhilaration that comes with a game-winning home run (obstruction calls simply aren’t very exhilarating) kind of diversion.

I enjoyed the little respite and will be happy to go to sleep tonight without replaying the game I just saw in my head.

Wacha-mania resumes tomorrow night.

Enjoy.

(BTW – the painting shown is one of my favorite ones I’ve ever done and reminds me that it’s time to pick up the brush again and see what might come out on canvas once I put my mind to it.)