Wednesday, March 28, 2018

On To The Next Window.....

The old saying goes that when God closes a door, He opens a window.

I'm currently checking for open windows around or near me, or, maybe you know of one I haven't seen yet.  :)

Late Tuesday night, after coming home from a wonderful premarital counseling session, I received the news I've been expecting for, frankly, close to two years.

The Herald-Progress, the community newspaper of Hanover County since 1881, and the home of my sportswriting since 2011, is no more. The parent company, Lakeway Publishers, is pulling the plug on it, along with The Caroline Progress. Two weekly newspapers with a combined 236 years of service are gone in an instant.

Such is life in the very fragile world of print journalism. That era of reporting and relating such reporting is dying. Realists like me know this, and this is why the news, while sudden last night, was in no way surprising. Advertising was always fighting an uphill battle, and, our primary competition produced a newspaper they were willing to give away in order to dwarf our circulation numbers, then start another free weekly to blanket the rest of the county. Add Google and Facebook sucking up digital dollars to the expense of many, thus, print and other legacy money shifting to digital, and you get the idea.

I have several people to thank, beginning with Greg Glassner, who asked me to write weekly on the football games I broadcast back in the 2011 season, which became a regular gig when football ended, which later prompted an idea about starting a Twitter, which, in turn, has completely changed my life.

My ability to help the RVA Sports Network grow has been thanks to the (meager) existence I earned while at the H-P. That's not a cut against them. If I didn't like it at any time, I could have left. But, especially after my 2013 heart attack, I've gained a sense of purpose and responsibility to chronicle the achievements of an army of student-athletes who will never get on "SportsCenter", but whose stories deserved to be known.

Thus, as I pivot to my next chapter, I plan to continue to do this for as long as possible. It could be six months or twenty-six years. We'll see how that goes.

My second thank you has to go to former editor Bec Metcalf, whose idea to "sponsor" the sports section saved my job, honestly, two years ago. Thus, big thanks to my dear friend Judy Gerber for getting Massey, Wood, and West to be our sponsor from July, 2016 to the very end. I so enjoyed working with Greg, Bec, Judy, Lee, Emily, Natalie, Julia, Janice, and everyone else. Last, but not least by far, thanks be to God for my long-time reunion with high school teacher, and friend, Nick Liberante, as we spent five years together, me Robin to his Caped Crusader. :


Now, I look forward. I'll take a few days to digest things. Certainly, I'm open to anyone who may want a middle-aged sportswriter and broadcaster who probably knows more about high school sports in Richmond than anyone else (and I say that with the greatest of humility, and with no chip on my shoulder). It's been my beat for years now, 24/7/365, football to field hockey and everything in between.

RVA Sports Network will continue, in fact, we're working on some things behind the scenes which I cannot discuss right now that will, hopefully, have us emerge stronger than ever this year and much, much closer to the original goal of this endeavor. The Game of The Week broadcast continues, as does our podcast, and we'll get to as many games as possible as usual.

Where we go and how much will depend on how is next for me when it comes to making sure my wife and I can do things like eat and buy medicine. :)

To all the AD's, coaches, parents, trainers, and especially student-athletes who have helped me in my time at the Herald-Progress, a big THANK YOU.

My flame burns bright and I look to the future now, excited as God unfolds the next chapter. I'm almost 51, and he hasn't dropped me yet. I don't expect Him to start now.

Onward and Forward!  :)


(Doing my thing, Atlee High School, November 1, 2017. Thanks Joel Klein!)

Thursday, December 07, 2017

The Future Of Media: The Revolution Continues.....

Radio shot itself in the foot with the Telecommunications Act of 1996. We've suffered through 21 years of Clear Channel/iHeart and others laying off countless talented radio professionals so one could pretend to be a local jock in numerous markets. Now you can be cold called into buying airtime from a faceless account executive you may never meet in person. One bookkeeper works 80 hours for a salary to balance the books for multiple markets. I could go on.

It's not just my former employer. Star 100.9 here in Richmond? Yes, they have and promote Bill and Shelly, two friends of mine, in the morning, and as usual, they're terrific. After that? It's a jukebox with no personality, no local content, and the same tired, overplayed songs from the 1970's and 1980's.

My wife's car came with six free months of Sirius/XM, my first opportunity to really listen to the satellite radio service. While I've heard music on there I haven't heard on terrestrial radio in decades, I wouldn't buy it. I already can tell the patterns of how they play music. In a category so vast as "Classic Rewind", with all the great rock songs of "the cassette era", I shouldn't hear "Abacab" by Genesis twice in under 24 hours. The terrestrial way of thinking hurts satellite.

Newspaper continues to be a victim of the digital age and the fatal mistake of allowing news and journalism to be digested online for free at the turn of the century, making millennials wonder why people in my generation love their paper with their morning coffee. I fully believe that one day, the generation behind me will regret not having a physical newspaper, when they start asking how they get a copy of the photo and article on their child's high school basketball game from "A" media outlet, not being able to just run to the convenience store and grab four newspapers for grandparents and friends.

Now, as I've said for years, local TV is next. We all know there simply isn't enough news in Richmond to fill six hours a day. That's why you see lots of stories recycled, and sometimes, you see "stories" that aren't stories, that have absolutely no business inside a newscast, presented to you as "alleged news". With all the controversy lately over fake news, I think the term "alleged news" is right on the mark, describing such things as, "...coming up, a preview of tonight's Dancing With The Stars that you'll see right here on ABC27....". That's a station promo masked as packaged "news" content.

Now, for your assignment.

The article below explains how recent changes and proposed changes are going to make us have to reinvent how we cover local news across all platforms. Not just with what's covered in this story, but due to other changing events, I'm changing how RVA Sports Network covers sports, even within the digital realm. If you were a popular digital platform in 2004, chances are you won't be in my arsenal soon, or, if you are, you'll serve a much different purpose.

All of my colleagues in these various industries, this is a good read. Be ready. Click here.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Rob's Fearless (And Usually Wrong) 2017 NFL Predictions!

Life's been different lately. Having no bedroom for over a month has thrown the whole house, and the whole routine, out of kilter. So, for the first time in 21 years, I don't have a fantasy football team, much less running a league. Maybe a year off will be good. We're about to find out.

I watched as many Rams games as possible trying to see how they'd utilize Sam Rogers (the answer was not much, and the practice squad), covered the Redskins in Richmond, and that's about it. I've got field hockey and volleyball to cover!  :)

So, with a pitiful handful of information and a lot of opinion (one of the rare times I give a few "hot takes"), here are my predictions on the road to Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis. Now, if this were Little League, the Vikings would already be guaranteed a playoff berth, but we digress....



1) Dallas Cowboys (9-7): I don't see another team doing better in this division than Dallas, even without Ezekiel Elliott (maybe) for six games. I actually think Dak Prescott is good. He won't replicate last year, but they'll win enough in the division to take it, somewhat by default (note the final record). A first place schedule hurts, so does a rebuilt secondary, but they have enough offense to have a winning season.

2) New York Giants (8-8): The G-Men will be in the race until they lose in Arizona at Christmas. It gives the Cowboys the division, and they'll rest their starters, again, in another loss to Philadelphia. I don't get all the hype about Brandon Marshall. He's made some beast plays. I applaud his public stance on his dealings with mental illness (trust me, I REALLY understand that), but there aren't enough footballs to satisfy him and Odell Beckham, who I still think is overrated. Top ten wideout, yes. Top five? No. And, does anyone know who will run the football? And we haven't even touched the lines, which are always the key to a Giants Super Bowl run.

3) Philadelphia Eagles (6-10): New shiny wide receivers to try to throw to, but I'm not sold on Carson Wentz. Alshon Jeffrey is known to check out on occasion, too. Their defense is improved, so 20-17 and 17-9 final scores not in the favor of Philly won't be a surprise.

4) Washington Redskins (5-11): Suddenly, Kirk Cousins is available for 2018, but, after this season, teams might rather trade for a high draft pick and grab their future savior from the college ranks. This will be Cousins' last payday, because, I don't think he returns after a subpar season, I think injuries play a role in the season. This team, to me, looked like a group of players practicing when here in Richmond. Not a team. This plays out over the season. Christmas Eve might see more Denver fans in FedEx Field than Redskins fans.


1) Green Bay Packers (12-4): Of course, there's Aaron Rodgers But give me Ty Montgomery, who looks like a beast almost every time he touches the football. He could finish in the top five in the league in rushing, which would be a godsend for the Packers, who better not rely on 34-for-51, 364 yards and two touchdowns from #12 every week. They downgraded at tight end, losing Jared Cook to my Raiders. The defense is still suspect, but the Packers get two over the Bears, likely sweep the Lions, and maybe split with the Vikings, and they get the AFC North in a down year.

2) Minnesota Vikings (8-8): Can Dalvin Cook supply the rushing yards they need? Can Sam Bradford replicate (or improve on) his performance of last year, and, if he does, what do you do when Teddy Bridgewater is finally ready? How good (or bad) is the Viking secondary? They face Rodgers twice, Matthew Stafford twice, Big Ben, Joe Flacco, Andy, they have to go to Green Bay December 23, no help in a playoff race. The defensive front seven, and consistent work from their offensive line, they are the keys for Minnesota. Oh, and nice new stadium!

3) Detroit Lions (6-10): Matthew Stafford has his big payday, and zero playoff wins. This will continue in 2017. No one has discussed how big a loss Anquan Boldin is. He came up big for this team last year when they needed a Calvin Johnson play, on many occasions. It felt like every week I watched him score a touchdown on NFL Red Zone (I know he didn't, but it felt that way). For the 20th straight year, we have no idea who really leads the running game in Detroit. The mediocrity continues....

4) Chicago Bears (4-12): I don't think this year is a complete disaster for Chicago. They can split with Detroit, maybe get a home win over Minnesota, and they play San Francisco and Cleveland. I can see four wins. I can also see a coaching change, which isn't fair to John Fox, considering what little he's had to work with since arriving in the Windy City


1) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5): In making predictions, you need to step on the ledge a few times. Now, I know this ledge is crowded as Tampa Bay is a "trendy" pick, but I really like what I see here, even with Desean Jackson only available for say, five games due to hamstring issues. Mike Evans is ready to become a Top 5 receiver, Jameis Winston is ready to take a huge step forward, and the defense, while it won't look like 2002, should be really good. In their division is an Atlanta team that will step up, a Saints team about to collapse, and a Carolina team in flux. This is the year for them to get it done.

2) Atlanta Falcons (9-7): Of course, there will be a Super Bowl historic collapse hangover. It's inevitable, no matter what Gatorade tries to tell us in their commercial. There's tons of talent here, but I think the team simply struggles under the weight of "28-3", the weight of wanting to erase that, a brand new stadium, and crazy fan expectations (which they deserve to have). Julio Jones is good for at least four wins right off the bat. Jake Matthews has Matt Ryan protected, so expect another big statistical year for Ryan.

3) Carolina Panthers (7-9): You have Cam Newton, Greg Olsen, a returning GM, and a lot of other questions. This team has inconsistency written all over it: win games you shouldn't, lose games you should win. Allowing Newton to be more like Newton would help. He can't keep standing in the pocket and getting pounded. Trust his ability to run and avoid most hits. Russell Wilson has done it. So can Cam.

4) New Orleans Saints (4-12): The first 21st century quarterback to hit "the cliff" will be Drew Brees. No 5,000 yards this year, in fact, he may not finish the season as he's overdue for some sort of injury issue. Brandin Cooks is gone, Coby Fleener is a disappointment, and I'm not sold on AP being a huge solution in the backfield. It's time to look to the future in New Orleans.


1) Seattle Seahawks (13-3): I see people picking Arizona here. I can't see that. Yes, they have some dysfunction, but a Pete Carroll team always has some level of it. Wilson has his best season as a pro, Jimmy Graham finally pays off the dividends the Seahawks have been dying for, and Richard Sherman will play with a serious chip on his shoulder. They'll lead the league in interceptions, and, between Bennett and now Sheldon Richardson, they'll be trouble up front defensively. The Road to Minneapolis/St. Paul runs through the 12th Man.

2) Arizona Cardinals (10-6): I do like Arizona making a final playoff push in their current incarnation. It's nearing the end for both Carson Palmer and the great Larry Fitzgerald, and Arizona is one David Johnson injury away from a lost season. This team, maybe more than any, must avoid the injury bug. If they do, the Cards get back to the postseason and would be a tough out for anybody, the team you "don't want to see" in early January.

3) San Francisco 49ers (4-12): The biggest problem coming out of San Francisco this year is that they actually have enough talent to win some games and take themselves out of the running for a top two draft pick to grab a future quarterback. I think they sweep the Rams and they could grab two road wins in Indianapolis and Washington. Brian Hoyer healthy? History says no, so you better get 1,600 yards from Carlos Hyde and some defensive touchdowns. There are enough playmakers on that side of the ball, though young, where they can keep them in a few games. But the Seahawks/49ers "rivalry" is no more.

4) Los Angeles Rams (2-14): Jared Goff is not the answer. I don't think Todd Gurley is, either. Sean McVay, at 31, will feel like he's 51 by late December after the brutal regular season the Rams are about to endure. Aaron Donald hasn't helped matters, and Greg Zuerlein looks human now that he has to kick outdoors most of the time. This season will not help with needed ticket sales for that new stadium come 2020.



1) New England Patriots (13-3): A trip to Tampa Bay could be tricky, to Pittsburgh in mid-December a challenge, and they have to go to Denver. Otherwise, smooth sailing for the defending Super Bowl champions, as Tom Brady is still two years away from "The Cliff", and he welcomes Brandin Cooks to the offense. Hogan is going to take care of the loss of Julian Edelman. Who runs the football? Does it matter? Bill Belichick is historically found someone to do enough. The defense is sold, the secondary filthy. Let the next march to the Super Bowl begin (yes, they sweep the division....)

2) Miami Dolphins (8-8): I actually don't think having Jay Cutler at quarterback at the last minute is a bad thing, considering his positive history with head coach Adam Gase. They must get 14-15 games from Jay Ajayi and improved defense, but the Fins should sweep both Buffalo and the Jets. Enough to sneak in as a sixth seed?

3) Buffalo Bills (4-12): Let's help Tyrod Taylor by trading Sammy Watkins. Now, I know Taylor is used to not having him thanks to injuries, but LeSean McCoy will get injured again, and, after that, how they generate offense is beyond me. I feel so bad for Buffalo fans, they deserve so much better.

4) New York Jets (1-15): Oh. My. Word. Todd Bowles is out, possibly before the game after the regular season. Any quarterback named McCown gets hurt, usually sooner than later. Man, I'm not even sure where they'll grab the win (at home against Buffalo??), but they'll avoid 0-16, and Cleveland will be so happy to know they're no longer the worst team in the NFL.


1) Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4): An inflated record for a very good team in a down division. How much longer does Big Ben want to play? If he can fire for 4,500 yards and tons of connections with Antonio Brown, it could rekindle his fire. The defense is younger, and, I think, a little better. They can go 6-0 in the division. Intangibles are playing in Pittsburgh's favor for this season. They better take advantage of them.

2) Cincinnati Bengals (7-9): Andy and A.J. are there. Joe Mixon may be good enough to contend for Rookie of The Year honors. But the offensive line has to be better than last year and Whitworth is gone. The defense is as suspect as last year. So, a second year outside the playoffs and, maybe, finally, a coaching change? My daughter is a Bengals fan, so I root for them a lot, too (just like my son's 49ers). How long can Cincinnati fans continue to accept a "decent" coach who gets you to the playoffs some, but can never win?

3) Baltimore Ravens (6-10): Joe Flacco will be fine. They can start 3-0 (at Cincinnati, home to Cleveland and Jacksonville). Then they host Pittsburgh, go to Oakland, and host the Bears. 4-2 after six, but tougher work on the back end, especially for a defense that doesn't look impressive. Maybe Danny Woodhead has something left in the tank and can pull off a Justin Forsett surprise like a couple of years ago. Would John Harbaugh be in trouble after this?

4) Cleveland Browns (3-13): The Browns might, MIGHT go 2-4 in their division. Kudos to Cleveland for going ahead and finding out whether DeShone Kizer is actually the answer by playing him. They don't expect to be hunting for a playoff bid in late December, but they do expect to know whether they have a QB for the future, or if they've got to look to the 2018 Draft. Myles Garrett and Jabrill Peppers will be fun to watch as the defensive rebuild begins.


1) Tennessee Titans (11-5): This is the year for Tennessee to seize this normally mediocre division since the departure of Peyton Manning from Indy. Marcus Mariota will be fine, they hope Derrick Henry is ready to be the man in the backfield, and they might have some wide receiver production. The defense is key here, could be the most underrated in football. It's time for the Titans to take over the South.

2) Houston Texans (9-7): Most of Houston's wins come defensively (Pick Six or game-ending sack, and a few safeties). They'll have to win ugly until either Watson emerges at QB, or they finally find one. The team will also have to deal with the emotions of representing a region rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey. At least they have their home to return to. The Saints, in 2005, after Katrina, spent the season on the road and it was a disaster. But Drew Brees arrived a year later, and the Lombardi Trophy followed in 2009. Imagine Houston's trajectory with a Brees, or Winston, or Mariota under center.....

3) Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10): It makes perfect sense, for Jacksonville at least, after being a darling pick for the playoffs last year, to be no one's darling this year. No playoff pick here, but I think Leonard Fournette is the other candidate for Rookie of The Year, this team will realize ball control and savvy defense is their current formula. No Jacksonville quarterback, whether a Bortles or Henne, should pass more than 30 times per game. If they're winging it 50 times, chalk up more "L's".

4) Indianapolis Colts (5-11): This team is in trouble. When does Andrew Luck return? Will he be the same when he does? How old is Frank Gore now? Who helps T.Y. Hilton? Who mans the defense? Remember 2012 when Luck was drafted and Manning was expendable? Remember the Colts a step away from the Super Bowl three seasons ago? The mighty have fallen. Chuck Pagano may fall, too.


1) Kansas City Chiefs (11-5): Sweeping the Raiders will give the Chiefs the division crown. They start 0-1 tonight, which won't bother them (remember the 11 straight wins two years ago?). Alex Smith has to prove himself all over again, and will. They need 16 starts from Travis Kelce, and there are a few holes defensively for the first time in a few years. They can go 5-1 in the division. In fact, they need to.

2) Oakland Raiders (11-5): Well, my Raiders finally turned the corner last season. I thought we'd be one and done in the postseason even with Derek Carr, so this year, it's time to get that win, and more. We always lose at Arrowhead, the Tennessee opener is tricky. We need to win in Denver, and we can. Marshawn Lynch won't produce a whole lot, but he's there to keep Oakland fans engaged in the first season of "lame duck" status before the move to Las Vegas. The secondary should be a little better, but it's not improved enough to be a Super Bowl contender this year.

3) Denver Broncos (7-9): Denver could beat New England at home and still finish under .500. No real quarterback to speak of, the beginning of a change on the defense with T.J. Ward's departure, and I'm not seeing a lot of points scored out of this offense. This will be the NFL definition of an "average team" this season.

4) Los Angeles Chargers (5-11): Will the back end of Philip Rivers' career, and Hall of Fame potential, be negatively affected by the team's recent performance? It shouldn't be, if anything, it should show just how impressive he is when he has to learn his wide receiver's name on Tuesday before throwing to him on Sunday. Injuries must not drown the Chargers again like they have in recent seasons, and we're not even sure if Mike Williams will make an impact this season.

NFC Division Winners: Dallas, Green Bay, Tampa Bay, Seattle
NFC Wild Cards: Arizona, Atlanta
NFC Byes: Seattle, Green Bay

Wild Card Weekend: Tampa Bay d. Atlanta, Arizona d. Dallas
Divisional Round: Seattle d. Arizona, Tampa Bay d. Green Bay
NFC Championship: Seattle d. Tampa Bay

AFC Division Winners: New England, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Kansas City
AFC Wild Cards: Oakland, Houston
AFC Byes: New England, Pittsburgh

Wild Card Weekend: Oakland d. Tennessee, Houston d. Kansas City
Divisional Round: New England d. Houston, Pittsburgh d. Oakland
AFC Championship: New England d. Pittsburgh

SUPER BOWL LII: Seattle 23, New England 17: Richard Sherman gets a late interception of Tom Brady, and doesn't yell at him on the field post-game. Russell Wilson grabs his second Lombardi and Brady's Super Bowl record falls to 5-3.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

First Look And Thoughts, Regarding Publix

Yeah, I did it.

But, in actuality, the title is a bit of a misnomer.

Today, I took my first trip to Publix in Virginia on the first day anyone could walk into a Publix in Virginia. But about two weeks ago, I visited the Publix that recently opened near my brother's house in New Bern, North Carolina.

Now, admittedly, both were quick trips, the first cut short by weather, the second by the desire to get just what we needed and get out of the sea of humanity that, of course, was drawn to the new store because, if you want to get Richmonders riled up about something that isn't politics or The Civil War, just mention a grocery store.

The Lukhards, Siegel's, A&P's, Safeways, Farm Fresh's, Big Star's, Food Fair's and, yes, Ukrop's, of the past are just that, in the past. With Lidl on the horizon in just days, Aldi continuing to expand, Food Lion remodeling everywhere and Martin's bidding adieu, just what will Publix do in a market now headed up by, of all places, (ugh) Walmart?

A few thoughts from a guy fascinated by the grocery business from the outside.....

1) Publix is going after Wegmans. Now, I expect their Staples Mill location, which opens July 29 replacing a Martin's (which replaced a Ukrop's), to have to go after Kroger just down the road, thus, I expect to see some lower regular prices on some items. I expect Publix to have the same price, especially sale prices seen in circulars, at all locations like everybody else. But a cursory look at some regular prices at Publix, at both stores, tell me they will struggle with getting people like me who shop almost completely with sales and have no problem going to four stores to do so. Publix will rely a lot on building loyalty. That can take a generation in Richmond.

2) Publix is the closest thing you'll see to a Ukrop's. When Martin's arrived, they painted the walls, hung signs with their font, put on green shirts, and moved the shopping carts outside. It all went downhill from there. At Publix, they're happy to carry your groceries to your car, their prepared area reminds you of Ukrop's (only it is bigger), but the back of the store is surprisingly crowded. The back aisle is small. I'm sure it'll be easier to navigate in a few weeks when half of the 23060 zip code isn't there trying to buy dinner.

3) Wegmans isn't Ukrop's. To me, Wegmans is a strange combination, now that I've seen two, of Publix and Sam's Club. Huge, wooden, meant for families of six or more. Need 48 rolls of toilet paper or five pounds of ground beef at a place where you'll get status points in your neighborhood by being seen there? Wegmans is your jam. They won't make a huge dent in Richmond market share until they build at least two more locations. They need to be in Hanover (301 makes sense, 360 is, sadly, more likely) and they'd be smart to build somewhere along 295 where they'd get weekly shoppers from the Tri-Cities, Sandston, Varina, and Chester. They'll probably end up somewhere way west on Hull Street instead.

I plan to get back to Publix and really comparison shop one day before the month ends, and I found a few good deals, and didn't mind the fact that I wasn't asked for a Valued Customer Card (I had to explain to Rachel today that we have Ukrop's to thank for that phenomenon). The bagger in our lane is actually from South Carolina, up for awhile to help with the opening. That was impressive. Publix seems very committed to the area.

So, in closing, my thoughts about who stays and who goes in Richmond?  We will have way too many grocery stores for a market this size to support.....

Well, we won't know for probably three years. That gives Publix and Lidl time to be sampled and settled and Food World time to give us a couple of annual reports on market share to see if they make a splash, and whether anyone established (aka Wegmans) can really challenge the top three.

Currently, the market share looks like this (according to Food World in its 2017 report in June):

1) Walmart (16.06%, 21 stores, including Neighborhood Markets)
2) Kroger (15.71%, 18 stores)
3) Food Lion (14.21%, 49 stores)
4) CVS (7.04%, 65 stores)
5) Martin's (6.61%, 12 stores)
6) Wawa (5.80%, 28 stores)
7) Target (4.19%, 12 stores)
8) Walgreens (3.94%, 27 stores)
9) 7-Eleven (3.30%, 83 stores)
10) Sam's Club (3.10%, 4 stores)
11) Wegmans (2.94%, 2 stores)

Aldi is currently 15th, 1.65% with ten locations. Fresh Market is 17th.

The total amount of food sales in the last 12 month period measured by the publication? $3.71 billion dollars.

That's a lot of plastic bags. BTW, PSA, I like taking bags to the store. :)

Drugs, general merchandise, tobacco sales are all included.

Martin's lost over half its market share (13.92% in 2016's report) as they get ready to leave RVA. CVS jumped .65% in part due to entering Target stores. Walmart actually sold $700,000 less in groceries, yet gained market share by .23%, while Kroger sold $48.4 million more and gained 1.54% share.

I'm excited about our Lidl opening soon (I bet August) down Staples Mill at Hermitage and may venture to the (ugh) Short Pump store when it opens, just to get a peek.

Right now, though, for me, it's still, show me the sales, and I'll be there, with Kroger getting most of my grocery business, followed up by Aldi, then Food Lion if I have to.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Song #1: "Fire On High"--Electric Light Orchestra (1975)

My first recollection of this song (which, in its edited form contains all of three words, the title, sung during the build-up to the finish) is when it was used by CBS Sports as the theme to "CBS Sports Spectacular" from 1976 to 1978. That show was their answer to ABC's more popular "Wide World of Sports".

Then, in 1978, ELO places the song as the B-side of the 45 to 'Sweet Talkin' Woman", and suddenly, I had my own copy, and it grew on me. I played it quite a bit, in fact, much more than the "A" side. :)

Then, early in the 1980's, my second favorite radio station ever, K-94 from Tidewater, used it for the most awesome Legal ID, in my view, in radio history, back in the day when you did a longer ID, usually around midnight, if you were on-air 24 hours, otherwise it was used as a sign-off or sign-on. You can listen to the K-94 package below.

"Fire On High" continued to be a staple on AOR radio stations, and my love continued to grow for the song over the years.

But it wouldn't overtake "My Sharona" by The Knack as my all-time favorite song until an unforgettable day in January, 2007. I took the day off from work, got up early, and headed down to North Carolina to attend my niece's wedding. That seems simple enough, right?

Except that I had not been out of the Commonwealth of Virginia by that point in three and one half years. It was, on many Sundays, everything I could do to travel the 45 miles down to the church I pastored at the time in Prince George County. As part of my severe depression, and severe grieving over the passing of my Mama late in 2002, I developed an outrageous, and unhealthy desire to be as close to home as humanly possible.

I was taking a huge chance that day, going by myself and out of state all at the same time. Heading through the final miles of Southern Virginia, today's song came on the radio. Moments later when I passed the state line, I called my wife, crying, to give her the good news that I had made it into The Tar Heel State.

Later that day, the song was played again. Now, catching this song once on a random day in 2007 on the radio was a treat, but twice? It was a sign from God. That part of my depression began to fade away after that day, and the song took on a much deeper meaning.

And, after discovering years later it had an "opening" edited off of the radio/record version, I believe that, while listening to the entire piece, it pretty much explains my first fifty years.

--The opening to the song (which some of you may never have heard) is an opera of the battle for the mind. In one moment, someone speaks backwards while music plays backwards, and, moments later, the heavenly choir sings "Hallelujah!" from Handel's Messiah. It's the perfect microcosm of my life as a sufferer and survivor of sudden onset obsessive compulsive disorder. Some days, that's how my mind sounds on the inside. I think I hide that very well.

--The song has two great "build-ups" in lieu of verses to get to the chorus, and I look at one with all the milestones of childhood, the second with the milestones of adulthood.

In the end, all of it crescendos together for a final build-up, including the aforementioned three-word lyrics of the song, before ending with a finish like no other.

It's totally fitting that I've chosen, essentially, an instrumental, as my favorite song. They've always been a big part of my musical life. So has ELO. If the Moody Blues couldn't occupy the top slot, I'm glad it's ELO.

My deepest thanks to everyone who have put up with this journey over the past 500 days. I will post a full list of the Top 500 as soon as possible. Now, my question for you: What's your number one song?

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Song #2: "My Sharona"--The Knack (1979)

For a long time, this was my all-time favorite song.

Around the beginning of August in 1979, I did on a typical Friday what every other preteen or teenager did by picking up that evening's edition of The Richmond News Leader and immediately going to the "Young Virginians" section.

Yep, once a week, the now defunct evening paper would spend a few pages with articles and features for the generation that's now 40 to 64 years old. There was the advice column for teens, "Ask Beth", and, my favorite part, the Billboard Top 10 Singles Chart.

They posted a few charts, but the first one was what I focused on, future radio programmer that I was at the time.

One Friday, I looked, and there was a song listed that, well, I had never heard before.

What's is "My Sharona by The Knack"??  I distinctly remember asking myself that question, mispronouncing "Sharona" in the process. Not too many days later, I got my answer, hearing the song for the very first time.

(NOTE: "My Sharona" was #45 on the Hot 100 the week of July 14th, then went to #34, #18, then #6 the week of August 4th)

In my first fifty years, NO other song has ever made me obsessed from the first listen like this one did. Immediately, my daily hope in the waning weeks before seventh grade began at Beaverdam Elementary was to hear the song, hear it again, get it on tape, and play said cassette to death.

To this day, when I hear it, I am immediately transported back to August, 1979, in my brother's Chevrolet Monza, listening to it as high as the volume for that little car radio would allow, absolutely and totally enthralled. And I smile. And I crank it up again.

The beat, the riffs, the drums, the bridge, the vocals. It's everything wrapped into one incredibly perfect piece of music, and perfect for late summer, 1979, a summer we've saluted here many times.

I eventually bought the album, "Get The Knack", and I, along with many others, thought we had the second coming of Beatlemania on our hands. That is, until early 1980, when, fatefully, The Knack released an album obviously rushed to completion to capitalize on the massive, monster success of today's song.

It was a flop. And, as quickly as they stormed the charts, sadly, The Knack disappeared from them. But I'm still a fan, as shown by the fact that several of their songs made the Top 500, a few others came close.

I salute and thank The Knack for providing me the most musically charged moment of my life: the first time I heard today's song, and knew, beyond reasonable doubt, what "My Sharona" was.

In a word? Life-changing.

Or is that two words.... :)

What eventually supplanted "My Sharona" from the #1 spot? There's a major story, in parts, behind its ascension. See you tomorrow.  :)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Song #3: "Sausalito Summernight"--Diesel (1981)

We've talked about the year in music 1981 extensively over the past sixteen months, a year that allowed for so much musical variety in the Top 40, our generation simply wouldn't believe it.

Among those who made their mark 36 years ago was the Dutch group "Diesel". Formed three years earlier, their album, "Watts In A Tank" first debuted in their homeland in 1980, then Regency Records released it in America the following year.

Sometime, I believe, in the Summer of 1981, today's song debuted, first on the cool AOR radio stations like XL102 in Richmond, K94 near the coast, and 3WV up in Charlottesville. And, as I mentioned yesterday, when I first heard the song, especially its opening, on the airwaves, time stood still.

"What IS this song??", I asked. The funky opening and driving beat were absolutely mesmerizing.

And back then, you couldn't do The Google and go find out with a few keywords of lyrics. You know, "Google, can't afford to blow it 'cuz we haven't got a spare."

You hoped the DJ back sold the song, and that it wasn't in the middle of "ten songs in a row commercial-free!", because to find a new group's name and song title was not exactly simple back in the day.

This is one of the reasons why, and I've never understood this, many people thought The Steve Miller Band recorded and released this song. No way, Miller's vocal range was far too low.

Did I buy "Watts In A Tank"? You betcha. I liked the second single, "Going Back To China", too. But, in the Summer of 1981, THE song that made everything stop, the song I had to have a recording of off the radio before I could get the album, and the song I prayed would come every time I was in a car, was today's song.

So, drop a quarter in the meter, hit the sidewalk for awhile, and have a burger and a root beer!