I, too, am delighted the Courier-Journal hired a rebel as its new sports columnist.
(Of course, in San Diego, you can be considered “a rebel” if you don’t rake the sand trap after your shot.)
But personally, I feel that losing Jody Demling is a bigger loss than gaining Tim Sullivan – and, in fact, a bigger loss than either Eric Crawford or Rick Bozich.
Here’s why in one word: Stewart’s Dry Goods.
So how does Stewart’s, a long-defunct department store, have anything to do with Jody Demling?
(And, by the way, Terry, this too is a media-business post, not a “sports” story.)
The newspaper business and the department store business have risen and fallen in almost parallel arches.
At one time, each was the go-to establishment for Louisvillians’ needs – the Courier-Journal for news, opinions, scores and movie schedules; the department store for confirmation dresses and Bar Mitzvah suits, mattresses and home appliances, books and stationery, watches and jewelry, neckties and purses, furniture and perfume.
But they were more than purveyors. They were part of the city’s heart and soul, with emotional ties that extended beyond simply how you kept in touch or where you took your college-bound son for outfitting.
Stewart’s was founded in 1846 by Louisvillians and opened on Fourth and Walnut in 1907. Bacon’s was founded in 1845; its St. Matthews store, which opened in 1951, was the city’s first suburban department store. The Bon Ton operated on Fourth and Liberty from 1916 to 1951. The memorable Byck’s was founded in 1902 and had a downtown presence until 1988. Kaufman-Straus was opened in 1879 and lived on South Fourth Street until 1969.
And every Louisvillian knows all about, and seems to have strong opinions about, the Bingham family. But pro or con, no one can refute that they once ran one of the country’s premier daily newspapers until they sold it to Gannett Co. Inc. in 1984.
Each institution has been undone by cultural, sociological and technological forces beyond its control.
Department stores lost the fight to the suburbs, the malls and the “category killers” – discounters that made up in volume what they lost by undercutting department store prices.
Appliance stores, consumer electronics stores for TV sets and music equipment, computer stores, bookstores, housewares stores, toy stores, on and on: They all sold one line of good, but with a breadth and depth of merchandise the department stores just couldn’t match.
So the department stores closed their downtown flagship emporiums – not just in Louisville, but in every city in which I’ve lived: Chicago, Buffalo, Brooklyn, New York, Newark, Atlanta, Cincinnati. It’s all Macy’s all the time now.
Macy’s is a good solid department store operator, but in trying to manage a national chain it has lost the personal touch with the local shopper. Ask any Chicagoan how she feels about Macy’s taking over the beloved Marshall Field’s store on State Street. Macy’s is a place to shop. Field’s was a part of her life.
Now back to Demling.
What has killed newspapers began with radio in the 1930s, and then extended over the decades to TV, cable TV and the Internet.
“The paper” no longer became the best, most efficient place to get your news. I used to stop at the newsstand on my way home from school and get the afternoon Chicago Daily News, so when my father got home he could see what the Cubs had done that day, the closing market prices and any news events since his morning paper. Now he can get that in his car while waiting for the light to change.
You go online during the day, and watch the cable blabathons at night. What do you need a newspaper for? Well, you can’t wrap fish in a smart phone.
Also, newspapers still give you what CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and the Huffington Post don’t give you. The local angle. Oh, you can get the Cards’ score on your iPhone, or on ESPN if you don’t mind waiting for 50 other scores to crawl across the screen.
But did Calipari get that high school phenom from Texas? What did Charlie Strong say about Saturday’s win over Syracuse? Who has Trinity lost from last year’s squad? This is a city with enormous local sports identification. We have no national franchises, no Yankees or Braves or Bears or Knicks. We live for the doings of our two great college sports programs and all our high schools.
Jody Demling knew this. He knew what we wanted to know and he knew how to get that information for us.
With all due respect to the sports columnists who feel and reflect our rage and pride, Crawford and Bozich were smart and amusing, and I liked reading their stuff. But Kyle Tucker told me the Wildcats news and Jody Demling kept me up to date on the Wildcats’ prospects.
I’m afraid you won’t get that from any San Diego rebel, certainly not at first. And you won’t get that from ESPN, even with all its boo-yah.
Welcome to Kentucky, son – but first switch from white wine to Basil Hayden, accept that it’s no sin to eat pork, and for God’s sake, learn how to pronounce Louisville! (It’s two and a half syllables and your tongue does not move.)
Then begin building the credibility to tell me what I need to know about how Nerlens Noel will react the first time Peyton Siva drives the lane.
Then, slowly, over time, maybe I’ll learn to trust you to tell me how Cal and Rick did on their recent scouting trips.