Rocket Men

The Chron plays the Louisville card

Try as they might -- and they've been trying damn hard -- the folks at the Houston Chronicle just haven't been able to do as much as they'd like to help the Houston Rockets get a taxpayer-funded palace built.

They have hyped such supposedly earthshaking announcements as the fact that Enron chairman Ken Lay officially was going to do... ummm... something to help the arena. They have tried desperately to put pressure on negotiators for the city and county by insisting that Rockets owner Les Alexander was going to move the team any minute now if he didn't get everything he wanted.

So it was no doubt with a heavy, heavy heart that the Chron was forced to report June 13 that the quixotic effort by Louisville to woo the Rockets was at an end. (FYI: Louisville is a small city in Kentucky.)

The Chron had been pushing the Louisville card hard ever since voters rejected the arena proposal last November. We learned of threats by Rockets officials to visit Louisville; we learned of subsequent visits (front-of-the-Metro-section headline May 14: "Louisville's Leaders Meet with Rockets; Building of an Arena, Funding Not Discussed"); we learned that although the Kentucky city is only the nation's 48th-largest TV market, "there are a lot more people living around Louisville than there are living around San Antonio," according to one official.

It was with some surprise, then, that Chron readers discovered June 13 that there is apparently little to no chance that the Rockets will move to Kentucky. Citing the Louisville Courier-Journal, the Chron reported that key county officials had rejected a plan to publicly finance an arena. (Of course, the Chronicle then went on to get a quote from NBA commissioner David Stern that the Rockets would still leave Houston if they didn't get a new arena.)

Part of what has been most enjoyable about this crusade by Houston's Leading Information Source is wading through to the bottom of the stories, where the negative news nuggets are so begrudgingly included.

The Chron had regularly included a litany of possible suitors for the Rockets in its pre- and post-referendum stories. All of a sudden on April 26, in the 24th graf of a 24-graf story headlined "Rockets Listen to Lure of Louisville, Vegas," there was this: "Other cities mentioned in the past as possible contenders to attract the Rockets, such as New Orleans and Baltimore, are now unattractive, sources close to the team have said."

Oh.

And in the May 14 story about how officials from the Rockets and Kentucky had discussed everything but the arena, readers had to wade through reams of copy on how enthusiastic the locals were about landing an NBA team before hearing some skepticism from a state official. ("It's all been studied a hundred times, but I guess people hold out hope that it can be done," the anonymous but, as it turns out, prescient official said in the story's last graf.)

We're sure that the Chron will continue its fight to give Rockets brass some leverage in the negotiations, even though it has run out of cities to use as threats.

Sure, the Chron reported that the Rockets considered all other cities "unattractive"; the Courier-Journal reported, on the other hand, that the Rockets told local officials that the team "expects to have proposals from St. Louis, New Orleans and Baltimore by [June 9]."

Whenever the Rockets decide on what their new party line will be, we can expect Houston's Leading Information Source to parrot it.

Alternative Truth

In terms of radio promotions, it's not quite as lame as two tickets to the Boat and Outdoor Show for the third caller, but it's close.

KTBZ-FM, also known as the Buzz, also known as yet another corporate-programmed "alternative" rebel rock station (the Man can't bust our music! But, ummm, he can choose it for us), has been informing listeners that its days are numbered.

The station's Web site features -- in addition to lots of photos of silicone-laden women, as a service for lonely Buzz Web surfers everywhere -- an official memo from Thomas H. Seymour, director of operations for Clear Channel Houston.

"In spite of the tremendous outpouring of support for the Buzz I must restate our final and firm decision that the Buzz at 107.5 FM will cease operations on July 18th," he writes.

As first reported by the Houston Business Journal, the actual situation is lame: The Buzz is simply switching places on the dial with another Clear Channel station.

What's even lamer, though, is the station's response to listeners who have tried to playfully spoil the Buzz's pathetic ruse: When a few listeners posted a link to the HBJ story on the station's Web page, it took just two minutes for it to be deleted. And for them to be banned from any further Web page discussions.

We'd throw in some relevant lyric here about truth-telling from Matchbox Twenty or Blink-182, but we're not cool enough to know any offhand.

Corrections: A Miniseries

A caption in the Chron's business section June 10 read, in part, "A proposed requirement that injured workers wait six weeks before obtaining treatment from non-physicians is dangerous to workers, say chiropractors and osteopaths."

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