Neutral Zone combines UofL and UK stores

Quite the surprise, pulling into the parking lot in front of the Neutral Zone’s University of Louisville store on Blankenbaker Parkway. The doors are locked, the merchandise is gone and the store fixtures for sale.

Whoa. Not good news for UofL fans, who had almost taken for granted the luxury of having a Cardinal-dedicated store for about 15 years. Some can remember the bad old days when it was a challenge to find a decent UofL shirt at the old Bacon’s.

Apparently the hefty prices and the lulls between championship seasons have finally caught up with the Neutral Zone. That and all the competition from newer retail sources, including Cardinal Authentic, J.D. Becker, Fanwear, as well as GoCards.com.

IMG_2341So many places for Louisville fans to shop these day.

The company allowed the lease to expire on its 20,000-square-foot store and has moved all of its UofL merchandise to a store formerly devoted to University of Kentucky goods in the same shopping center.

The future of the former Kentucky-only store, which is now split between UofL and UK goods, is of short duration. An individual at the cash register explained that the lease on the UofL store expired first and that the Neutral Zone will leave the shopping center when the former UK store lease is up. He said they plan to locate elsewhere in Middletown.

All merchandise at the store has been discounted to 50% off and has been since May.

Happy Easter, and Kentucky is done

A beautiful Easter Sunday.

What a weekend in Louisville with the enormous fire at Appliance Park and all the flooding, the road closures and other damage throughout the community. It almost hit home Friday, Barbara shrieking from the basement about “flooding.”I had just tested the carpet with my feet a few minutes earlier and found nothing. Oh, no, as I go running down the steps.

Turns out to be a broken CVC connection, located above the sump pump, leading ground water into the basement on a non-carpeted area. Thankfully a slow trickle, the water emptying outside the sump pump basin. Quick trip to Lowe’s for a new elbow and some plumber’s putty, and the water is going back to the sump pump.

The area is completely dry a few hours later. Some do-it-yourself projects are actually easier than others. But there was still another concern.

The biggest sigh of relief would come the next day at around 11 p.m. after Wisconsin has eliminated Kentucky in the NCAA basketball tournament, immediately squelching all talk about pursuing perfection and a ninth national championship.

The UK fans were subdued, almost difficult to find in church Sunday morning. No UK flags on cars in the parking lot. The only trace of UK apparel to be found on a youngster about 7 years old. The guy sitting next to us wearing a Wisconsin sweatshirt, enjoying new levels of popularity with University of Louisville fans in the congregation.

No smug looks, or mentions of perfect seasons. Happy Easter weekend, indeed.

Denny Crum, Joe Hall want to continue radio show

A decade ago, the Joe B and Denny Show on WKRD Radio was a big hit with local sports fans, providing an opportunity for them to hear debate on issues. That, of course, was before ESPN-680 and a couple of other radio stations wised up to the ratings value.

Now University of Louisville fans can catch up on their favorite athletic program on different stations throughout the day. UK fans as well.

Denny Crum and Joe Hall
Denny Crum and Joe Hall

Twitter was abuzz Thursday evening with reports that the Joe B and Denny Show was coming to an end. Those reports may have been premature.

Joe Hall, the former University of Kentucky basketball coach, and Denny Crum, his counterpart at UofL, have been doing the show for 10 years. Hall broadcasting from WVLK in Lexington, and Crume behind the microphone at WKRD in Louisville. While their primary focus is on the state’s two leading programs, they also discussed a lot of other issues, and spend a lot of time talking about hunting and fishing. On Friday, they were discussing the deer and bear populations in Kentucky.

WKRD employees received an email from station management Thursday that the show would end next week because WVLK is changing formats and was terminating its arrangement with the coaches.

Kelly Carls, the controversial program manager for Clear Channel stations in Louisville, told the Courier-Journal’s Adam Himmelsbach that he wanted to continue the relationship. “We’ve got a 10-year relationship with the coaches now and loved every minute of it,” Carls said. “So it’s basically up to them how long they want to do the show.”

The coaches have said they want to continue the show, which is also broadcast on other stations in the state, including WKU Public Radio in Bowling Green. Lexington has two other AM stations and nine FM stations so there would appear to be some viable options in parts of the state that worship anything UK blue.

Hopefully the show will continue. Their folksy, down home approach is  at least an alternative to some of the biased and argumentative approaches of other shows.

 

UofL fan John Ramsey joins ESPN 680 lineup

John Ramsey
John Ramsey

John Ramsey, a longtime local radio personality and comedian, has joined the ESPN 680 radio lineup. He’s a staunch University of Louisville fan with the knowledge of the local sports scene to quickly become a force.

He’s going to provide a strong counter-punch to Matt Jones, the biased University of Kentucky fan, blogger and commentator, who delights as much in disparaging UofL athletics as he does in covering UK sports.

One difference is that Ramsey, a Ballard grad, actually played sports, including football and track. And he’s knowledgeable, with a quick wit and a wide assortment of skills

Ramsey strongly favors UofL even though he was once a member of UK’s track team. “What I didn’t like was the whole elitist thing with UK where they didn’t want to play UofL for so many years, like they were so far above us,” he said Monday on his 10 a.m. radio show. “It’s all about relationships with me. I got to know UofL coaches like Denny Crum, Howard Schnellenberger and other coaches over the years, and I’m a UofL fan.”

Among Ramsey’s considerable talents are his skills as an impressionist, often mimicking Howard Schnellenberger, Muhammad Ali and the late Howard Cosell. He had the hosts in stitches  on ESPN’s Early Birds show with a recent Schnelly call-in. Ramsey and Ali are, in fact, close friends. Watch for his exposure to quickly expand at ESPN.

He continues to host WAVE 3 Listens Live daily at noon on TV, and has worked for several local radio stations over the last 15 years.  He also is vice president of marketing and government affairs for the Ali Center and has worked in sports marketing at UofL. He also has performed at the Comedy Caravan.

Here’s a link to his version of the Big Blue Post Game Show.

Paul Rogers inducted into Ky Athletic Hall of Fame

Paul Rogers, the voice of the Louisville Cardinals, honored before a full house at the Crown Plaza.
Paul Rogers, voice of the Louisville Cardinals, honored before a full house at the Crown Plaza. (Photos by Jim Reed.)

Paul Rogers was already involved in sports broadcasting in his early twenties, his distinctive voice and love of sports making him a natural behind the microphone. More than 40 years later, he has been inducted into the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame.

The likable Louisville native, who was hired by WHAS Radio soon after graduating from college, has called hundreds of Churchill Downs racing events over the years, including several Kentucky Derby and Breeder’s Cup events, and numerous Kentucky State High School Basketball Tournaments. He is best known, however, as the Voice of the Louisville Cardinals, calling UofL football games since 1992 and UofL basketball since 1995.

Among Rogers many admirable qualities is that he is so down to earth, never resorting to the in-your-face approaches so typical of so many radio personalities these days. His emphasis, first and foremost, has always been on accuracy, respecting the coaches and athletes for their accomplishments, never diminishing individuals or teams he has been entrusted to cover. He’s very approachable, the notoriety never having gone to his head. A model for other sportscasters to emulate, respected for his humble attitude and his considerable abilities.

Paul's wife Barbara was there for the milestone.
Paul’s wife Barbara was there for the milestone.

“When I first learned I had been voted into the Hall of Fame, I had a mix of reactions,” he said in his acceptance speech Wednesday. “I was humbled, honored, overwhelmed, and mostly I felt supremely unqualified. I asked if they were adding a non-athletic section to the wall at the KFC Yum! Center. Not that I was a total klutz. I mean I did play several sports growing up, and was even good enough to be a part time starter on a high school basketball team (at Eastern) … I realized I was not an elite athlete, but I sure liked being around athletes and talking about sports. So I put those two things together and it was obvious…I would be a sportscaster”

Rogers was a sophomore at the University of Kentucky when Don Wheeler, who ran the student radio station, hired him to do a daily sports show and call UK football and basketball games. After graduating he was interviewed by Cawood Ledford at WHAS and hired Rogers the next day. “To come straight out of college and have the opportunity to work for, and with, a legendary man like Cawood, and at a station with the history, tradition and clout of WHAS was way more than I could have hoped for,” he said. “Van Vance was part of the sports department and he welcomed me with open arms, and guided and encouraged me, as did many others along the way.

Mary and Bob Rogers, Paul's mom and dad, are proud parents.
Mary and Bob Rogers are proud parents.

“That was nearly 41 years ago and here I still am…stuck in the same job. I just can’t seem to get a promotion,” he said. “Heck, how can you be promoted when you start at the top. While I have covered virtually every sport over the years, my primary circuit eventually evolved into University of Louisville football and basketball, and thoroughbred racing, mainly at Churchill Downs.

“This is what I always wanted to do, only it’s worked out even better than I could have imagined. I’m often asked which sport do I like best. And truthfully, the answer is, ‘whichever one is in season.’  I mean, you call a Sugar Bowl win over Florida and think how can it get better than that. Then a few months later you call a national championship basketball game, and think, how can it get better than that.

” Then a month later you’re hearing the crowd roar as you call the Kentucky Derby and you wonder how can it get better than that!  I shake my head in wonderment that I have been able to call Kentucky Derbies, and Breeders Cups, and to be along for the ride as the University of Louisville reached previously unimaginable heights in its athletic prowess.”

Other members of the 2014 class were Susan Bradley-Cox, Stan Hardin, the late Rudell Stitch, Bill Miller and Charles Redd Crabtree. The Valhalla Golf Club was also inducted as an institution.