St. Louis: The best and worst of the Gateway City

By Jerry Palm - March 26, 2007

Here are some of the best and worst things I encountered during my four days on the banks of the Mississippi.

Best Player: Taurean Green

JP's All-Regional team: Green, Lee Humphrey, Aaron Brooks, Al Horford, Malik Hairston

JP All-Regional honorable mention: Tajuan Porter, who may have had the best individual performance of the tournament so far against UNLV.

Best Cheerleaders/Dancers: Oregon - not even close. They brought the biggest and most polished group.

Best Band: Oregon - again, not even close. Better style and variety and that' s not even considering the fact that they have 9 saxes.

Best Fans: Butler - biggest contingent and while they were the closest to St. Louis, they were also the smallest school in this group. Many were still around on Sunday.

Best Coach: Todd Lickliter of Butler. Had a great game plan against Florida and almost pulled it off. While his team lost, he never lost perspective; never lost his good humor.

Best Food: Ice cream and pulled pork in the media room.

Best Drink: Beer in the frozen fish bowl at Rigazzi's on the Hill in St. Louis. It is more like an aquarium than a fish bowl. I was hoping Jaws wouldn't jump out of it. ("But, oshifer, I only had two beers (holding up three fingers).")

Worst fans: Nike poobah (it says that on his business card) Phil Knight and posse, who showed up at the postgame press conference (who credentialed these guys?) and applauded as Oregon took the podium. Bad form, but when you have more money than God, you don't care about decorum.

Worst food: Stale pretzels in media room

Worst part of downtown: Since I was last here for the NCAAs, which was two years ago for the Final Four, an entire downtown mall has closed and Lacledes Landing is half boarded up. The southern part of downtown around Busch Stadium has some places to go and things to do, but the north end by the dome is basically hotels, the clubs left at Lacledes, and not much else.

Worst engineering idea: Let's take the part of town where all the night clubs are (Lacledes) and make the sidewalks and streets out of uneven brick, so when people come stumbling out drunk at the end of the night, they have an even tougher time staying on their feet. It's hard enough to stay on your feet sober down there.

Worst question Saturday (to Oregon's Bryce Taylor): "Bryce, you guys are the champion of one of the BCS conferences. You've been in the Top 20 pretty much from January on. And yet you are the lowest seed left in the tournament. I was just wondering, do you guys feel like this year's George Mason?"

In nearly every interview I did this season, I was asked who would be this year's George Mason. The answer - from November on - was that there wouldn't be one. That kind of thing happens once every 20 years or so. That's why it's interesting. Nonetheless, people kept looking for them. Once we got three days into the tournament, any potential "George Mason" was already gone, and yet, we still have one guy looking for them. I suppose they'll ask UCLA next. Sheesh.

Worst question, Sunday (to Lee Humphrey): "Late in the first half, you actually broke the twine. Did you have any special spin on that shot?"

Humphrey: "Actually, I stuck a razor blade in the ball before I shot. We needed a timeout."

No, I made that up. I wish he'd said that. I forget what he said, but it was much more polite than it should have been.

You know, I'm still new to this whole ask questions in a press conference thing, but if I ever ask a question like either of those, I do hope someone jabs their elbows into my ribs so I remember never to do that again.

Worst question II, Sunday (to me): "Can I see your id?" Are you very bad word kidding me?? My drivers' license is old enough to drink. Look at that picture over there --->. Does that look like an 18-year-old?

Worst concept of "hospitality": The NCAA media hospitality room. Often at tournaments, the organizers will have a hospitality room for the media, usually in the media hotel. The Big Ten's is pretty good. The Valley's is terrific, and not surprisingly, it was packed every night. The Big East didn't have one at all, so far as I know. The NCAA's is open for three hours beginning with the end of the game on game nights. That's fine, but there's hardly ever anyone there. Among the biggest reasons for that is that most writers are still working then. It would seem that if they are going to go to the effort to do that, they ought to do it when people can go.

Best Landmark: The Gateway Arch. It's smaller in person than it looks like in pictures, but it's still pretty cool.

Worst Landmark: The huge Amoco sign. There's a BP station on the western edge of town that has an enormous Amoco sign on top of the building. It's so big that I don't know how the building supports it. It must be 150 feet across. And it's in this nice, older neighborhood. It couldn't look more out of place.

That's it from St. Louis. I'll see you in Atlanta next week.

Posted by Jerry Palm at 12:49 AM on March 26, 2007

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