Against the Odds

No betting shows on one sports-talk station

KILT-AM is the king of sports-talk radio in Houston. It airs all the Rockets and Texans games; it airs the Jim Rome show; it airs some of the most popular hosts in town.

One thing it doesn't air anymore: point-spread experts. With the college football season already started and NFL games around the corner, sports-radio airwaves across the country are filled with shows featuring guys reeling off stats to prove decisively such things as why you should take Notre Dame and the points against Pitt. But not on KILT.

Program director Bill Van Rysdam says such shows go against his religious faith. That is also why KILT will be broadcasting the Texans on tape delay Monday mornings, so as not to disturb the Lord's Day.

Actually, Van Rysdam says the decision isn't based on moral or ethical qualms. (And, apparently unconcerned about eternal damnation, he will actually air the Texans on Sundays.) He just finds the shows boring.

"I was uncomfortable with all the time spent on bookies saying stuff like 'My game of the week is Portland State versus Utah!' and then go into a long discussion of why," Van Rysdam says. "Unless you're a gambler, who the hell cares about that game?"

Each of KILT's local shows had its own expert. The afternoon show talked to Phil Steele, who puts out a respected college football publication; the morning guys had local Wooly B; and the evening featured Las Vegas's Garrett Bradford.

Now all those segments are gone. It's as if Rush Limbaugh decided he wasn't going to mention the Clintons anymore.

"I'm not anti-gambling, and it's not like I 'found the Lord,' " Van Rysdam says. "It's just a matter of what people are interested in and want to hear. I'm not going to dedicate an entire hour to the Big Sky Conference." Hosts can still talk about spreads, he says, as part of more general discussions.

At least some folks affiliated with KILT aren't happy with the move, which they feel was sparked by a few complaining letters. One grumbler, who didn't want his name used, questions the logic that the betting segments weren't drawing listeners.

"Come on, we're the station that broadcasts Comets games," he says, in a tone that equates the WNBA audience with that of radio backgammon. "Not to mention the Comets postgame show."

Junk Science

For a few weeks now, an abandoned, discolored Houston police car has been sitting in an overgrown empty lot at West Gray and Gillette.

It's there for a reason, and that reason is not, as some guess, to momentarily fool speeders into slowing down. Instead the junker is there to -- unlikely as it may seem -- discourage people from dumping garbage on the lot.

It's part of HPD's new crackdown on illegal dumping, and the department hopes eventually to have a fleet of 22 decoy cars in vacant lots across the city.

"They have over 150,000 miles, they don't run well, the air-conditioner's broken," assistant HPD chief Brian Lumpkin says of the cars. "I knew they were pretty much worthless, so I called the fleet and they said, 'Sure, we'll send you some cars.' Some had to be towed to the location."

Not everyone immediately sees the logic of the plan; Lumpkin says he's gotten calls from citizens who think an officer might be lying hurt in the vehicle. He insists, though, that the cars are an effective weapon against illegal dumpers.

"Now that we've gotten them more aware of it, when we move it the neighbors say, 'Why did you move our car? We really liked having the car back there,' " Lumpkin says. Because nothing beautifies a neighborhood so much as an abandoned car, apparently.

Lumpkin says having an HPD vehicle on a lot conveys a sense of "ownership or guardianship," and dumpers move elsewhere. He says it's working.

Somehow, that old quote about "We had to destroy the village in order to save it" keeps popping into our heads, but we're sure it will go away soon.

Office Politics

Selina Bellar worked for more than ten years as a civilian in the Pasadena police department. She got great employee reviews and everything seemed fine. Until this spring, when she put up a campaign sign in her front yard for the candidate challenging the incumbent mayor.

She says one Pasadena officer "told me that I should watch my back." Her supervisor, also an officer, told her, "You're biting the hand that feeds you."

She got transferred to a lesser position -- her supervisor told her she was "lucky to still have a job," she says -- one that involved picking up and delivering mail to the chief's office. Which proved difficult, as she also was told she was not allowed, "for any reason," to be on the same floor as the chief's office.

Things didn't improve even after the incumbent won the race. In a great display of law-enforcement humor, a grim officer approached Bellar at work by and told her to "drop what [she] was doing" and report to her supervisor's office. Stressing out, she asked why but got no response, and was ushered in to see two stern-looking supervisors, who let her stew in silence for several moments before…giving her a ten-year service pin. "It was just a joke!" one supervisor said, through what must have been gales of laughter.

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