Saturday, May 06, 2006

FIRST CAPITOL NEWS SPORTS - Mike McMurran Sports Editor

The older I get, the more the phrase “it’s all relative,” seems to apply to most every setting.

Recently someone asked me how I could work for a newspaper that was so “anti-cop.” The question really threw me for a loop, as I was unaware of such. I know Tony is an excop, and his office is almost a Shrine to various police departments. No, Brockmeyer may be a lot of things, but anti-cop is not one of them.

And me? Well, have I ever shared with you my boyhood idol was a St. Louis City cop? Sure was, Sergeant Maurice “Tom” Francis O’Neill, 4th District. Tom was the father of one of my closest boyhood friends, Mike O’Neill. As dysfunctional families typically go, I was closer to Sarge than my own father, and Mike was probably closer to my dad than his own. In the end it all worked out though; both our dads are dead.

To this day I take to heart the lessons Tom taught me: how to fight, how to chase women, and how to drink. Although 51 years old I still fight against what I think is an injustice (hence my gig with this fine weekly), I take pride in chasing my lovely wife of almost 14 years, and as anyone who knows me can attest, when I die, sell your Budweiser stock. Possibly the most important lesson was this: Never lie to a cop, never. He went on to explain to me once a cop catches you in a lie, it makes them mad and they will check every small detail of your story. I can without reservation say I have never lied to a police officer, from any venue – and doubt that I ever will.

On the other side of the coin I had someone approach me and wonder how I could possibly hang out with all those snobs from ASH. Interesting, I thought. From my perspective the parents from Academy of the Sacred Heart are anything but snobs. Granted, many of them have lots and lots of money, but they don’t flaunt it. O.K., most don’t. Those who pay $10,000 for the annual 8th grade quilt, and this Saturday someone will, might have a tad too much discretionary income. Other than that, the overwhelming majority of parents I have met from ASH are some of the most caring and thoughtful people I have met. There certainly would be varying degrees of closeness to various families – but there seems to be one common bond: All value education very highly. This is not to say those who do not send their children to ASH do not value education very highly – its all a matter of priorities, or, if you will, its all relative.

My apologies to Phyllis, Tony and regular readers of the Sports Section. For the past few months, since January to be exact, I have been involved in a tutoring program for some disadvantaged children. My responsibilities included the supervision of some 10 tutors and some 100 students. It also required that I remain on the tutoring site until almost 7 p.m. daily – hence the lack of high school coverage. My weekends have been saturated with Tony Glavin Soccer (Joe and Dee) as well as Academy of the Sacred Heart Soccer (Maggie and Joe). Since late March I have been managing the world famous Titan baseball team, which practiced on Fridays after school. For those interested, and I know some of you are, the Titans are presently sitting on a 2-2 record.

Most of the correspondence I receive regarding my column goes something like this: We never know what you are going to write about, sports or your family. I’ve had a number of women contact me (Thanks Tom O’Neill) explaining that they have never read a sports column in their life, until mine that is. They go on to explain that they enjoy watching Maggie, Joe and Dee grow up right in front of their eyes, thanks to the First Capitol News. Even if it means they have to stumble through an occasional sports story, it is well worth the time.

A special thank you to Louis Launier who picked up some of my slack. Those paying attention will note that Louis informed you of the demise of the Missouri River Otters days before any other publication. Great job Louis. On a related note, Louis is working on another investigative story that should interest anyone who pays taxes in St. Charles County.

Next week we will continue with the high school athlete of the week, which will continue till the end of the school year. Following that we will have the “Carpenter’s Union/First Capitol News Team of the Week.”

“Kids’ Fishing Day set for May 20 at Meramec Spring Park”

The Missouri Department of Conservation, the Meramec Spring Trout Fishermen’s Association and The James Foundation proudly present Kids’ Fishing Day May 20 at Meramec Spring Park, about six miles east of St. James. Kids fish free and there will be no parking fee for cars with kids ages 15 and under inside! The park opens at 5:30 a.m., with fishing to begin at 6:30 a.m. and continuing to 8:15 p.m.

The entire upper half of the spring branch will be reserved for kids ages 15 and younger. Rainbow trout will be stocked throughout the day to help ensure fishing success. Members of the Meramec Spring Trout Fishermen’s Association and MDC staff will be on hand to assist kids with fishing. Kids will need to bring their own fishing poles.

The fishermen’s association will sponsor fishing contests from 6:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. A casting contest will be held at 11 a.m., with 11 trophies to be awarded. Free hotdog's and soda will be provided throughout the day. Prizes to be distributed all day long include bicycles, 50 fishing rods and reels, fishing equipment, savings bonds and more! Many attendance prizes also will be awarded.

Fish print tee shirts, critter stamping, a stream table, taxidermy, photographs, aquatic entomology and games are among the activities, contests and exhibits that will be available from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. in the area around the registration tent. Fly fishing demonstrations and classes will be held on the stream. The Missouri State Highway Patrol will demonstrate their “Seatbelt Simulator.”

New this year is the MDC’s Show-me Missouri Fish Mobile Aquarium. At 40 feet long and containing 3200 gallons of water, the aquarium is utilized for fishing demonstrations and aquatic education seminars around the state. With up to 25 different species of native fish on display, the exhibit provides onlookers the opportunity to learn more about Missouri’s fascinating aquatic life.

Kids who want to fish must pick up a free fishing tag at the Millfield Shelter located next to the fishing area. Included with the free tag is a “goodie bag” containing a variety of free items. The first 1500 kids to arrive will receive a special “Kids’ Fishing Sports Bottle.”

Come enjoy beautiful Meramec Spring Park and let the youngsters catch a fish. This event will be held rain or shine. For more information, call (573) 265-7801 or send an email to Paul Spurgeon at

Meramec Spring Park, owned and operated by The James Foundation, is located on Highway 8 about 6 miles east of St. James.


By Mike Thompson

It’s Fun!
It’s Free!
It’s JPD!!

The players, their parents and their coaches love it. It’s a great way for young football players in all different age groups to learn the game of football, and develop the life skills that will give them a head start in the most important game of all. It’s the Junior Player Development program, offered in NFL cities across the country, and the RiverCity Rage is proud to be a part of it here in the St. Louis area.

The program is coordinated by Rage Administrative Assistant Kathy Koehler and Mike Yarbrough, the Manager of Community Outreach and Player Development for the St. Louis Rams. And it was in high gear this past Wednesday afternoon when players from around the metro area gathered with area coaches, including Rage coaches and players, to get a good two hours of football, sportsmanship and inspiration. Parents watched from the bleachers at the Northwest Middle School in St. Louis as Rage players Terrell Washington, Jerry Brooks, Anthony Fisher and Marquis Hayes, along with coaches Sven Hack, Mark Wilson, Charles Edmunds and Jeff Hunt put players through various one on one and skill type drills at two opposite ends of the field. Also on hand for one of the two-day sessions was veteran NFL coach Carl Hargrave, now the tight ends coach of the Arizona Cardinals. Rage line coach Sven Hack was impressed with what he saw. “The season for these youngsters begins in July, but from the looks of things right now, most wish it started tomorrow. These programs are great because it teaches players from different areas to come together, work as a team, learning to trust and respect each other both on and off the field, and practice diversity. It’s all about football and life skills and it’s a big boost for the Rage to be involved in it.”

Coach Hargrave, a member of the RiverCity Rage Advisory Board and a former coach at Lindenwood in St. Charles, also had a high-five for the JPD. “The NFL, along with Riddell, sponsors the program and for the league to lend it’s endorsement is indication of the way it’s importance is perceived in the community. I’m impressed with not only the effort on the field by these guys, but also I’ve noticed they really want to learn the game. If it’s coming from me, a Rage coach, or any of the coaches working year round with the JPD, I’ve notices the kids are eager to learn, attentive, and most important of all, respectful. That tells me the program is working.”

Mike Yarbrough says the programs “primarily focus on the underserved areas of the community, and it’s a challenge sometimes to get the players and their parents involved. But once they do come on board, they see the advantage of participation and embrace the opportunity.” Looking out over the field as players blocked, tackled and ran, Yarbrough offered up why he is instrumental in assisting the NFL in this program. “We’re using sports, football in this case, to show youngsters the positive side of growing up. There were no programs offered in the middle schools, and this one is a great start. We have one scheduled for Roosevelt Middle School in late May, and others later in the summer, closer to the regular season. The fact that the Rams and the Rage can lend a hand, and be an influence is a big treat for these kids. It’s a very positive program.”

Players came from as far away as Pacific, Missouri to take part in the program. Bob Slape is a coach for the Pacific Junior League team, and says his players really look forward to the clinics. “I’ve got thirteen players with me, and every one is thrilled to be here. It’s a chance to find out before the season begins in July if football is the game for them, and it gives them an opportunity to meet high quality, pro players and coaches. We saw the info on the Rage website and wanted to take advantage of it. My guys will be talking about this for days to come.”

Kim Crawford assists with the program, and told me of the activity that goes on off the field regarding the program. “We utilize a lot of high school students during the course of the year. They hand out flyers with our JPD information, they talk to parents and players, getting the word out that the program is available, and free.” When asked about the advantages of the JPD, she didn’t hesitate. “It’s a sports program, and a life program all in one. It’s great for these kids to be able to relate one on one with sports stars and coaches and the encouragement offered them goes a lot further than a hundred yards up and down the football field. They’re able to take some confidence into the classroom, into their dealings with other kids, it teaches them respect for themselves and for others. It’s very positive.”

After an exhausting, but fun, two hours of football, players gathered in a huge semi-circle and listened to coaches offer words of encouragement and praise. Then it was time to ‘pull the cards.’ A player, maybe a coach, will pull one card from a deck of about 50, with cards divided into the categories of Smart Moves, Responsibility, Teamwork, and Sportsmanship. The card is drawn, the topic read out loud, then players and coaches take a minute or two to go over the topic, explain and understand how it exemplifies life both on and off the football field. Coach Charles Edmunds of the Rage was impressed with this aspect most of all. “There are a lot of fine athletes on this field tonight, maybe one, two, perhaps more will one day play in the NIFL or the NFL. Then again, it could be that none will make it that far. But I’ll guarantee this, with programs like the JPD in place, they’ll all be given a huge chance to make it where things really matter.”

For more information on the Junior Player Development program (JPD) contact Kathy Koehler at