Posts Tagged ‘St. Louis’

Will we see moving vans hauling Rams equipment out of STL? Will we care?

Will we see moving vans hauling Rams equipment out of STL? Will we care?

Let me preface this entire piece by saying that my point of view may be slightly off, as I’m a St. Louis transplant residing four hours away, so I’m not in the middle of the pulse of the city on a regular basis.

Having said that…

The ongoing saga of the Los Angeles Rams of St. Louis is akin to watching a tennis match between two competitors who you aren’t really familiar with, and therefore lose interest the longer it goes on.

And both sides are to blame.

First, you have the guy with the second-worst hair in the National Football League (top honor goes to Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis), Stan Kroenke. He’s the proverbial Darth Vader of St. Louis. The all-mighty and powerful man with a plan, the money to back it all up, and seemingly has zero (cares) to give.

His intentions are well-known: be the financial supplier for a state-of-the-art facility in Inglewood (Los Angeles) and move the Rams back out west. The Los Angeles market has become that hot new girlfriend that has his eye, while St. Louis at this point is the old ball-and-chain that he’s grown tired of being with, and can’t be bothered to return her phone calls.

Now, I’ll call this as I see it. Moving the Rams from St. Louis to Los Angeles, at least short-term, would be a major financial gain for a guy who is, after all, a businessman first and foremost. By going out into that market, the overall value of your franchise will immediately go up. Couple that with a brand new stadium and entertainment complex that would demand unquestionable attention from the masses – at least for the first year or so. After that, it’s up the Kroenke to put a product on the field that will actually encourage fans to buy tickets and come out to support. Fans who could easily be distracted by other, much cheaper options, such as the beach. I’ll give credit where it’s due to Rams fans, who in spite of this team’s future hanging in extreme limbo, and continuing to be a disappointment in terms of success, still showed reasonable attendance numbers through the 2014 season.

St. Louis stadium task force leaders Dave Peacock and Bob Blitz put together a pretty good presentation for a new, open-air stadium. Even after various tweaks and modifications made to the plan due to logistics, it still looks pretty impressive. Couple that with the agreement struck with the labor unions to approve around-the-clock shifts that would cut overall costs plus reduce the construction time, and things look promising for having a new home for a team set to stay in St. Louis, right?

Not so much.

The cold reality of the situation is that Stan Kroenke is a man with what, for lack of a better term, has F-YOU money. Sure, he’d be faced with the NFL by-laws of ownership voting to approve or deny a relocation of the Rams organization. However, we’re talking about a guy who could could easily sustain any fine thrown at him by the league for moving without permission, and losing no sleep over it. If he truly wants to go, he’s going to go, and who’s going to stop him?

And will we ultimately even care?

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I’ve wanted to pen something on the whole Ferguson, Missouri situation for months. Days after the fatal shooting on August 9th, I wanted to take a point/counterpoint approach, and try to play Devil’s Advocate on/against both sides of the debate.

Alas, writer’s block is a SOB, and that piece never got written. Here we are now, three months later, and it’s been a fluid situation ever since. While the core of violence/rioting was more or less contained to the first week after the incident, protests have carried on regularly. Some civil and peaceful. Some far from. I’ve been keeping as close an eye on the landscape as possible from four hours away. The epicenter of this, after all, is less than 20 miles from my roots.

As a whole, the past three months have been a massive black eye on Ferguson, as the fallout ultimately paints the entire St. Louis area in a negative light. That hostility, anger and frustration extends far beyond Ferguson, and understandably so. The writing I wanted to do three months ago cannot be done today, even if I still wanted to take that approach. The evidence that has been presented since then simply makes it impossible. Prior to that evidence, it would’ve been easy for me to take the side of Michael Brown. With the forensic evidence found within the interior of Officer Wilson’s patrol vehicle, it removes any doubt that there was a physical struggle between him and Michael Brown.

I’ve spent enough time with and around law enforcement to know that, in the event of an altercation/struggle, you are to respond not with equal force, but with the next step above. If a tazer is available and can be used on an unarmed suspect, that would be an acceptable less-lethal response. If the officer is not equipped with a tazer, or if it were to be unaccessable, then you escalate to the next level of defense, which would most likely be the gun.

As I write this, the jury is still out regarding certain evidence, including the events that transpired between the shots fired while Michael Brown was at/in the police vehicle, and the spot of where he fell to the ground and died. One fact that is unquestionable is that, yes, Michael Brown is dead at the hands of officer Darren Wilson. Was it justified? Based on the evidence presented, if I were forced to make the call, it would be difficult to say that it wasn’t. I’m not blind to facts, nor to evidence, and the evidence revealed thus far has been pretty condemning to Michael Brown.

We now stand by and wait for the pending announcement from a grand jury, which will determine whether or not there will be an arraignment and charges filed against Darren Wilson. If I were a betting man, my life savings would be put on the wager that Wilson walks free. The negative to this, is that there are hundreds of protestors who seemingly have remained blind to evidence, and will simply not accept any sort of exoneration of officer Wilson.

The protests, riots, and overall violence of the initial week following Michael Brown’s death were not pretty. I realistically fear that if officer Wilson is not charged in this incident, that what we saw in that first week will pale in comparison to what may take place following the grand jury announcement. In my head, I picture a repeat of April 29, 1992. That was the date that police officers were acquitted in the videotaped beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles. The core of violence from those riots lasted nearly a week. We’re two decades beyond then, and the landscape for a similar situation is greatly advanced. There was no social media in 1992; all gathering of rioters were grass-roots. These days, it’s infinitely easier for forces to organize and strategize. The tensions are already high, including the publicized “list of demands” put towards the police force.

I love my home city. I haven’t lived there in 14 years, but it’s still home to me, and always will be. I’m embarassed at what the image of St. Louis, as a whole (as noted earlier, this is much bigger than just within Ferguson city limits), has been since early August. I wish I could say that the embarassment will fade away, but I project it getting infinitely worse before it gets better. It’s a no-win situation.

Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. And if you’re of that belief, prayers for peace might not be such a bad thing.

With 2013 coming to a (very quick, to me) end, it’s time to sit back and reflect on what the last 365 days have brought me. Some good, some bad, some elation, some heartbreak. Lots of lessons learned, and lots of new friends and acquaintances made. Here are a handful of the year’s highlights…

I don’t go out to concerts nearly as much these days as I did during my single/non-family days, but I did get the opportunity to catch two shows this year that were both monumental to me. In April Amy and I took in a performance by the living legend of St. Louis, Chuck Berry, at the legendary Blueberry Hill. Even at age 86 (87 now), the man still handles his business, and sounds as good as ever. That was a bucket list item for me. The opener for that show was the Andy Timmons Band (Timmons, formerly of Danger Danger, has done a multitude of studio sessions with great musicians, and his solo work is stellar).

The other concert for me this year was, also at Blueberry Hill, the 25th anniversary tour of the “Vivid” album from Living Colour. I’ve been a fan for years, and that album in particular is one that I hold in high regard within the category of “No-skips”.  I can let it play from the opening second of track 1 to the closing seconds of track 11, and not feel the need to skip over anything inbetween. An added plus was the opening act, the Steve Ewing Band (side project of the lead singer from The Urge).

I further submerged myself in the mix of St. Louis radio this year, in due part to several gentlemen. After a station/format rebrand, I (re) familarized myself with the group of Brian McKenna, Jeff Burton (formerly of 105.7 The Point), and John Edwards as Midday Mayhem on 590 The Man. Meanwhile, over on the internet radio broadcast side of things, a 3-man operation consisting of Ron Godier, Wade Trent, and Joe Cochran on TalkSTL.com created general shenanigans on their (scheduled) daily broadcast of WTF. In late June, they took their show on the road, for two days of broadcasts in Topeka KS at the Equality House (directly across the street from the Westboro Baptist Church). After joining them for both days, I left with a greater understanding and appreciation for everything the Equality House & Planting Peace Peace do, along with having made a number of new friends and contacts. Wade is out of radio now, having had his work as a musician really take off in the past few months, and Godier & Cochran are now on nights on 920AM along with the incomparable Brad Mulholland as The Daily Wrap.

My passion for mixed martial arts (MMA) grew by leaps and bounds this year, largely in part to the long-awaited and much-deserved UFC debut of Kansas City’s own “The” James Krause. He parlayed his success in the octagon this year into success with his business ventures, and bought into co-ownership of his gym, GrindHouse MMA, in Lee’s Summit (Jennah and I went out to visit the gym early last month; their setup is simplistic, yet phenomenal). I’ve also been able to familiarize myself with a number of other local/regional fighters, both professional and amateur.

The year brought a fair amount of success for various sports teams I follow.

– The St. Louis Blues returned to the playoffs for the 2012/2013 season, although they made a quiet and relatively uneventful exit. Prior to today’s game vs Minnesota, the Blues already have accumulated 26 wins on the 2013/2014 season – the first time in franchise history that they’d have more than 25 wins at the end of the calendar year.

– The Kansas City Chiefs rebounded from a forgettable 2012 season (both in terms of schedule/standings, and the stigma of a player murder/suicide) with a successful 2013, earning themselves a solid wild card slot, and travel to Indianapolis for playoffs this weekend.

– The New Orleans Saints will also return to the playoffs, clinching a wild card position this past weekend, and will visit Philadelphia to face the Eagles.

– The St. Louis Rams… well, they ALMOST finished with an 8-8 record.

– The St. Louis Cardinals returned to the World Series, and were two games away from being 12-time champions.

– The Kansas City Royals finished 5 games over .500 (their best season finish since 1989), and look to be in reasonably good shape going into the 2014 season.

– The Florida State Seminoles (my dad’s alma mater) returns to the national championship picture, undefeated, slated to go against Auburn next week.

The best of the best in my sports world, for 2013, was Sporting Kansas City. If you haven’t known me for a long time, this statement won’t ring as true to you as it will with those who have known me for years or grew up with me, but my passion for Sporting parallels that for the Cardinals (I can probably go three weeks without repeating a single Cardinals shirt or jersey – I’m quickly catching up with SKC gear). As the Kansas City Wizards, they came a long way from a team that nearly moved out of Kansas City a decade ago, to a team in 2010 who pulled off a huge upset victory in a friendly against EPL powerhouse Manchester United. 2011 marked the debut of the franchise rebrand, now known as Sporting Kansas City, along with their new stadium. They’ve made playoffs in all three seasons since then, culminating 2013 with winning their second MLS Cup.

2013 was not without its personal losses.  March brought the passing of my aunt Gail, who finally was overwhelmed in her battle with cancer. Although anticipated, especially with her final weeks being spent in home hospice, her death still hit me hard. I’m beyond appreciative of my daughter, for she was my rock during a very difficult time. She embraced and carried around the stuffed sheep my parents bought her to keep her occupied during the visitation, and she gave much-needed hugs and cuddles. She held my hand at the graveside service, only being momentarily distracted upon hearing a train passing by a little less than a mile away.

At the end of November, my parents faced the difficult (but correct) decision of putting one of their two cats down after he suffered multiple seizures, the later of which Phenobarbital was unable to control. Of the two (Simon and Garfunkel), Garf was the shy one, but would love you unconditionally once he got to know you. The first time I visited back home after their adoption, I didn’t see Garf for the better part of the first two days. Over time, and future visits, he warmed up to me and would remember me each time I came back home to visit, and was a total softy. I/we don’t have any scheduled trips back home to St. Louis anytime soon, but I face the fact that sometime between now and that next trip, I need to find a way to somehow explain to Jennah that her play buddy won’t be around anymore.

On a lighter, but still hard-hitting note, my car died earlier in the year. Coming home from work and daycare in early February, and the engine blew while on the highway. We were fortunate enough to be on a downhill portion of the highway at the time, and not only coasted down the offramp that was about a half-mile ahead, but lucked out with no traffic at the bottom of the ramp, allowing me to coast the car onto the street and into the parking lot of a gas station/truck stop uninterrupted, bringing the car to a stop in their lot. The process of getting the ol’ Punker back up and going again was long, stressful, and not cheap, but did get a smile out of knowing that the replacement engine that is in there now came to me from a shop along Route 66 in Illinois.

It would seem fitting that the end of the year would end up being the brightest to me, personally. Jennah is now 3 years old (3 and a half in February), and while she wasn’t quite at the age to really understand everything with Christmas last year, she was all about it this year. Helping out with decorations. Making sure the tree was on every day after daycare. Looking around for Christmas lights along the drives. No help needed from momma or daddy, she handled the unwrapping of presents all on her own this year. And I know that for as much as she enjoyed it this year (and subsequently made ME enjoy Christmas that much more), it’ll only get better next year.

I now await the conclusion of this year in its final few hours, and look forward to what 2014 brings. Here’s hoping that you (yes, you) will be a part of it.

Oh, and my New Year’s resolution? 1280 x 1024. Now you know.

Cheers.

Having grown up in St. Louis until I was 21, it’s all too easy to predict that my preference in this year’s World Series would be the Cardinals. You would obviously be correct. However, allow me to break down four reasons why I’m rooting for the Birds-On-Bat, removing the “homer” aspect from the equation.

DURABILITY: At the conclusion of the 2011 season and the winning of the franchise’s 11th championship, the Cardinals lost three major components of their foundation. Legendary manager Tony LaRussa and pitching coach Dave Duncan departed the team, with perhaps the biggest shock wave around the city being felt by Cardinal Nation’s second son, Albert Pujols, taking his talents to the west coast. There were other members of the 2011 Cardinals who would not return to the team for 2012, but none bigger than the above-mentioned. They played out the 2012 season without those key elements, and still came within one game of playing in the World Series. The Cardinals have remained consistent througout 2013 even while suffering through various injuries, which takes me to keypoint #2…

ROOKIES: This team would not have come anywhere close to the accomplishments and the success they’ve had this year without a slew of rookies – especially within the pitching staff. Guys like Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist, Tyler Lyons, Michael Blazek, Seth Maness, and the NLCS MVP Michael Wacha. The number of innings this group has accumulated is impressive. Miller put up a 15-9 record during the regular season. Wacha was one out away from a no-hitter, and took another no-hitter deep into the 7th inning. Rosenthal has stepped up big in the closer scenario that was previously being worked by Edward Mujica (who had filled in for the injured Jason Motte). Without this group, the Cardinals are nowhere close to a wild card spot, much less winning the division.

MR. OCTOBER: The greatest player to shine in the postseason without ever having had the chance to shine in the big one goes by the name of Carlos Beltran. This is a big kicker here around the Kansas City baseball and sports market, as Beltran established his early career here before departing for greener pastures (as the Royals have a history of allowing). He is still revered in this city, as he receives reliable applause anytime the Cardinals come to town to play against the Royals and Carlos is announced for an at-bat. In his four League Championship Series appearances, his lowest batting average is .286, and that’s in the series that St. Louis just wrapped up against the Dodgers, where he was in high contention for series MVP (which went to rookie pitcher Michael Wacha). The 8-time All Star, 3-time Gold Glove winner, and 2-time Silver Slugger winner finally gets his opportunity to have the spotlight on him on baseball’s grandest stage. If St. Louis should go on to win this World Series, I would not be surprised one bit to hear Beltran announce his retirement from the game after nearly a decade and a half in the majors. A World Series ring is really the only accomplishment he hasn’t yet achieved.

SPIRIT: The Cardinals had their gimmicks for their two prior World Series appearances. In 2006 it was the Scott Spiezio red soul patches (on a side note, I miss Spiezio, and I hope he has his life together). In 2011 it was the Rally Squirrel. There are no cheesy gimmicks for 2013’s team. If anything, they’re playing for a spirit. This is the first season, and subsequently the first postseason appearance and first World Series appearance, since the passing of the franchise’s icon, Stan Musial. His number has adorned center field at Busch Stadium, and has been worn prominently on the team’s jerseys this year. If the team is playing for any sort of a higher purpose, it’s to honor “The Man”.

My prediction: Much like ESPN’s Jayson Stark, I’m going for St. Louis in 6 games. 6 is a serious number.

spiritday

(the post from the St. Louis Cardinals Facebook page as a part of Major League Baseball’s support of GLAAD Spirit Day, along with my response as one of the top comments based on likes)

If you’re connected with me on either Twitter or Facebook, you’ve already seen posts from me referencing today, October 17th, as Spirit Day. It’s the initiative by GLAAD to bring awareness to bullying against LGBT youth. Let me first state, for the record, that I am against bullying of ANYONE, regardless of their sexual orientation, race, gender, ethnicity, etc. Statistics show that there is an unreasonably high rate of bullying against those of the LGBT community. I don’t stand for one sexual orientation over another. I stand for equality, and I stand for integrity.

With that said, I saw the Facebook post earlier this morning from the St. Louis Cardinals team page, and it lit a fire in me. Not the post itself, but many of the replies. Keep in mind, this post was not initiated by the Cardinals organization itself. Support of GLAAD’s Spirit Day is across the entire board of Major League Baseball, which means that this type of post will be shared by each of MLB’s 30 teams.

I’ll maintain my focus to the Cardinals team thread specifically. The replies to this post were overridden with intolerance. Criticizing the Cardinals organization for getting political. For jumping on a trending topic in order to get attention and hits on the page. For not focusing on baseball.  HOW DARE YOU NOT STAY FOCUSED ON THE FACT THAT WE’RE IN THE PLAYOFFS?

It’s apples to oranges, but I’ll draw comparison to Chick-Fil-A. I know many people who refuse to give them their business because of CFA’s stance against homosexuality. That’s fine – it’s your choice, and you have plenty of other options. In this thread – I kid you not – there were responses from individuals stating that they were DONE with the Cardinals, and would go find another team to support. Apparently the point was lost on them that all teams in MLB are involved in this. Again, apples to oranges.

The battle cry of the opposition is POLITICS and RELIGION. Well, if your political affiliation or religion urge you to not have the best interests in mind for the subject at hand (LGBT youth being bullied, with the most unfortunate of situations leading them towards suicide), then perhaps you should reevaluate where you stand. For a fanbase that is frequently labeled as the “Best Fans In Baseball” (I’m referencing the label; I’m not calling the fanbase that on my own), there is so much hate and vitriol that only serves as a black eye to the rest of said fanbase. It’s an outright embarrassment.

I’d like to also point out that this is the same organization that features home game dates during the season centered around both the LGBT community, as well as the Christian religion, respectively. They’re not playing favorites, and I’d put money on your having a difficult time attending the LGBT-centered game and finding conversations condemning heterosexuals for the way they live their lives, and how their lifestyle infringes on everyone else’s. It’s 2013, open your eyes. Being closed-minded and making your judgments on someone’s sexual preference based on an old book is like going on vacation and using a 2000+ year old map.

On the positive side, there was a response from someone stating that while being a Reds fan, she was impressed with the Cardinals’ post/stance. Unfortunately, she probably also ended up reading many of the ugly replies to the post. On behalf of Cardinal Nation, I apologize for the closed-minded intolerance and insensitivity strewn about.

With that said, I – along with my purple t-shirt – conclude this soapbox blog. Go Cards. Go Equality.

(Blues chairman Tom Stillman (left) and President of Business Operations Bruce Affleck (right) reintroduce Brett Hull to familiar colors/numbers at last Monday’s press conference inside Scottrade Center)

One week ago today, the St. Louis Blues held a press conference to announce what had become a very badly-kept secret – NHL Hall of Fame member (and 11+ season Blues member) Brett Hull had been hired by the organization as their Executive Vice President.

I cannot begin to express to you how giddy this makes me as a longtime fan of the Blues. Take away the fact that Hull will likely not be directly involved with player personnel, as his primary function will be in marketing and sales of tickets and sponsorships for the team. The mere fact that Brett Hull is once again associated with the Blues is a pretty big deal. The man’s jersey number is retired, and hangs high among an elite list of players’ numbers within Scottrade (it’ll always be Kiel to me) Center. The street out in front of the venue boasts his name. For over a decade, Hull cemented himself as the unquestioned face of the franchise.

I’ve been a Blues fan for as long as I can recall, having gone to various games with my dad at the old St. Louis Arena prior to its closure and implosion (my in-person account of the implosion event is suitable for another blog in itself). While being a fan of the team as a whole, there were a handful of specific players who lured me in and got/kept me hooked. Guys like Brendan Shanahan. Geoff Courtnall. Craig Janney. Curtis Joseph. Adam Oates. Kelly Chase and Tony Twist (two of the most impressive enforcers I’ve ever witnessed play the game). Above all of them, Brett Hull was THE guy with the spotlight on him. A great assist guy, master of the one-timer, and fearless captain for multiple seasons. He was an opposing goaltender’s nightmare.

To this day, I still hold a fair amount of disdain towards Mike Keenan for his less-than-stellar relationship with Hull during his time as Blues head coach. Unfortunately, even after Keenan was out of the picture, I still saw my favorite player leave my team – and all because of the refusal of management/ownership to provide a no-trade clause in his contract in 1998. While it pained me to see him end up in Dallas, it really burned to see him ultimately end up with rival Detroit (and to win the Stanley Cup with both teams). I was happy for his success, but admittedly bitter that he wasn’t able to have that success with St. Louis.

Would the Blues have been able to go on and win a cup had they held onto Hull? We’ll never know. What I do know, is this: the return of my childhood favorite to my hockey team managed to take my already die-hard loyalty to the St. Louis Blues and elevate it even higher. Preseason games are already underway, with the season/home opener a mere 17 days away. My grumblings over the lackluster playoff performance earlier this year is behind me, and I’m ready for 2013/2014. The passion of my inner child has been reignited, and that fire burns brighter than ever now.

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(Blue Note shoulder/upper arm tattoo – not in the best location to take a self-shot)

WTF’s “Straight To Equality” 2013 tour banner for the Thurs (6/27) and Fri (6/28) broadcasts on TalkSTL.com

A quick look back at the two days spent at Equality House in Topeka KS during TalkSTL‘s “Straight To Equality” 2013 tour, these are a few of the things I took away from the experience.

– I cannot say enough positive things about the individuals within Equality House. I spoke the most with Davis Hammet and Aaron Jackson, but everyone there is so pleasant and easy to talk to. The amount of information that they shared with us about their various missions was mind-blowing, and it opens your eyes to the fact that while the house itself is painted in the PRIDE colors, there is so much more that they work with than just LGBTQ issues.

– Until you’re actually there, you really have no idea exactly how close the Equality House and the Westboro Baptist Church really are to each other. Only a narrow street separates the two, and the church extends almost all the way out to the sidewalk.

– Sitting on the lawn with everyone and listening to the audio of the interview with WBC spokesman Steve Drain was pretty intense at times. Based on the few clips of video from the interview, it should be a very interesting watch when everything is said and done.

– In the time that we were there, it was impressive to see the number of people who stopped by to visit the Equality House, take pictures, and speak with Davis and Aaron. Some came from across town, some from across the country, and there was a family in from South America who made a point of seeing the house.

– In addition to those who parked and came onto the property to visit, the sheer number of people who honked and waved as they passed by along 12th Street was amazing.

– Prior to the broadcasts, I/we wondered to what degree, if any, Westboro Baptist Church would make their presence known. Sadly, the most extreme interaction we had with them was seeing Shirley Phelps-Roper and one of the kids fire up the lawn mowers and mow the same two stretches of grass over and over to try and make enough noise to interfere with the radio broadcast.

– Say what you will about WBC, but their property is pretty sweet. They have their own pool (although not visible at all from the street), and their own tennis and basketball court setups. For having that on-property, you’d think the kids would be pretty good at their basketball skills. Based on their time on the court Thursday afternoon, I assure you they have plenty of room to grow. If I had my own court, you’d have to carry me off of it daily. I’m just saying.

– Talk is already underway between TalkSTL and Equality House for a return project in the autumn (yes, the guys from WTF were invited for a return trip). Godier joked with me about me being the show and station’s Kansas City intern, as my dedication to them and the use of social media to help spread the word of STE2013 didn’t go unnoticed. He, along with everyone else with the show, know that I’ll do everything I can to help them out when/how I can.

– The WTF crew have enough footage from the Topeka trip, including the 52 minute interview with Steve Drain, to where they’re in the process of putting together a mini-documentary. The trailer went up on TalkSTL’s Facebook page earlier this afternoon. I’ll have a follow-up on here when all is said and done.

In closing, thank you to Ron Godier, Wade Trent, Joe “Massive” Cochran, and Tony “Mule” Mueller for allowing me to be a part of their time in what they’ve described as the most fulfilling thing they’ve done with the show so far. Thank you to Aaron, Davis, and everyone with Equality House for being such incredible hosts for everyone. It was a pleasure and an honor to visit. And, in a weird way, thank you to WBC – without your closed-minded bigotry, none of this unity would have happened the way that it has.

With Aaron Jackson (left) and Davis Hammet (right), our backs turned to the hatred and closed-minded mentality that sits yards away across the street at Westboro Baptist Church