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5 Questions with...US99's Ramblin' Ray Stevens

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5 Questions with...US99's Ramblin' Ray Stevens

By Jeff Nuich
CSN Chicago Senior Director of Communications
CSNChicago.com Contributor

December 2, 2009

Want to know more about your favorite Chicago media celebrities? CSNChicago.com has your fix as we put the citys most popular personalities on the spot with a new weekly feature entitled 5 Questions with...

Every Wednesday exclusively on CSNChicago.com, its our turn to grill the local media and other local VIPs with five random sports and non-sports related questions that will definitely be of interest to old and new fans alike.

This weekone of the biggest personalities in country music radio history who has made his home on Chicagos WUSN 99.5 FM (US99) for close to two decadeshe co-hosts the Lisa Dent & Ramblin Ray morning show weekdays from 5:30-10:00 AMhere are 5 Questions withRAMBLIN RAY STEVENS!

BIO (from the words of Ramblin Ray himself): I love Radio! I come from a family of construction workers. I knew as a young man working on the big buildings of Chicago on the hottest of the hot and the coldest of the cold days, that when I graduated college there had to be a better way!

I found it in radio! I found it on CBS Radios US99.5 in Chicago. WUSN has been my radio home since 1990. Thats an eternity in this business. (OK, there was a brief respite in 2001 when I was given an extended vacation.)

Currently, I'm co-hosting mornings with Lisa Dent from 5:30 to 10:00 every morning.

I also host the nationally syndicated Country's Cutting Edge on the Westwood One Radio Network. Its a show that profiles new songs by country music's new stars. I have been the host since 1998.

Working in Chicago, for what I think is the crown jewel of CBS country stations, I have formed great relationships with the listeners, and the stars that make our format the best. One minute on our show in the morning you can hear regular hard working people of Chicago, the next it could be the Governor or it could be Keith Urban!

Outside of radio, I enjoy my family (Gina is the boss and I have 3 smaller versions of my wife and me).

I'm really into working out and riding my bike. Last year at 42 I did my first Triathlon! I also ran in a 200 mile marathon from Madison, Wisconsin through Milwaukee and back to Chicago. I think to survive a schedule that has you getting up at 3 am you need to take care of yourself.

My other hobbies include water skiing, anything outdoors, and snowmobiles. I restore and collect vintage sleds and this year I return to racing!

On various Chicagoland weekends you can find me and my media buddies helping out various charities. We do runs, bike rides and kayak races. We mostly work on the behalf of children's charities.

For more information and to read my blog, you can log on @ Ramblinray.com.

1) CSNChicago.com: Ramblin Ray, the sport of NASCAR on an overall national level is extremely popular with sports enthusiasts across the country, especially in the south as we know. As a huge NASCAR enthusiast and supporter living a huge metropolis like Chicago, are you disappointed that NASCAR isnt a bigger sport in major cities such as ours, New York, LA, etc. and what do you think needs to happen for auto racing to gain acceptance in larger urban markets in general?

Stevens: I think NASCAR is one of the coolest things in sports. There will always be those that say its not a sport. Go to a race and witness what the guys in the pits do and you will quickly change your mind! In the south, NASCAR, or NECKCAR as its called, is almost a birth rite. When youre born in North Carolina, your legal name has to have either Dale, Jr., or Sr. as part of your name or your parents will be arrested for treason. Honestly, NASCAR should be bigger in Chicago.

We have a great local race scene and some of the best drivers around. Names like Hoffman and Sontag should be on the national level. We do have Eric Darnell who's from Chicago and is making a name for himself at NASCARs premiere series.

Bottom Line: Chicago is a great ball and stick town. We grow up here worshiping the Bears and our baseball teams, the Hawks and the Bulls. They are all sports that we play as kids. NASCAR has its work cut out in this town. Its hard in a recession to watch drivers who couldn't drive the Stevenson during rush hour make 800,000 a race just to finish 24th (thats the deal they have with the owners, not sponsorship or race winnings). NASCAR will be just fine, but it will never be the 85 Bears.

2) CSNChicago.com: Youve been our link to the country music scene for close to 20 years now. You were also at the recent CMAs in Nashville and witnessed Entertainer of the Year and teen sensation Taylor Swifts opening number of her hit Forever & Always, which was panned by critics nationwide. Was she really that bad and, a follow-up question, do the think the hype of Swift and her pop music crossover success is good for the county music industry?
Stevens: I was at the show with my 15 year old daughtersaying anything bad about Taylor would be like telling a Bears fan that Walter Payton was a mediocre running back. It would be blasphemy. Actually, a lot gets lost on the show. In the audience, she sounded good. I guess over TV it was a little rough. Taylor's talent goes far beyond what we here on the radio or see on TV. She is to country what Ditka was to the Bears.

As far as her crossing over? Anything that brings country music to a larger audience is good for our format. Country music is cool. It provides us with great stories and the best players anywhere. Brad Paisley and Keith Urban play a guitar good enough to make Eddie Van Halen blush.

As far as our station goes, we need to be careful to not play her songs every 15 minutes. Not too many of the guys I hang with listen to Taylor, but to witness what she means to young ladies, such as my 15 year old, is awesome. She's a good role model.

3) CSNChicago.com: With the winter season fast approaching, tell us about your passion of snowmobiling and how you got started, plus any suggestions you can tell CSNChicago.com readers on where to go snowmobiling in our area this upcoming season?
Stevens: I'm a Snowmobile freak! It never ends for me. All year long I restore old snowmobiles. I currently have over 26 sleds, mostly rare sleds I have found and restored. I also have a pretty good race history. I was what they call a cross-country racer in my 20's and 30's. This year, I return to the ice to race a vintage Moto Ski on the Pro Vintage race circuit. I hope to do well as Danica Patrick s dad TJ, who is helping me in the pits. I'm also rolling with Goodwin performance out of Zion, home to Gregg Goodwin, the 91 world champ. I hope to not embarrass myself either. Any winnings go to the kids at St Jude Hospital in Memphis TN.

As far as just going out for a ride, go rent a sled in Wisconsin and be careful! Please pay attention and don't drink and ride. Sleds are fun, but you have to understand that its an extreme sport. If you have kids or if youre a newcomer, a snowmobile safety course from the Illinois DNR is a good plan!

4) CSNChicago.com: Oprah recently announced she is ending production of her show in Chicago. We lost our bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics Games. Major conventions are leaving our city as well. Whats going on around here lately?

Stevens: Chicago is a great city. Remember who we had before the Op? Wally Phillips, Steve Dahl, Brant Miller, oh and this guy named Phil Donahue. I highly doubt we will ever see anything like Oprah again, she is awesome. What she has done for people is amazing, but if Oprah and Mike Ditka were in a room, I would rather sit down with Da Coach and talk football, that's just the way I roll, I'm sure to my wife it would be Oprah, but different strokes

This is a city that has witnessed a Super Bowl recently, a World Series winner and enough NBA rings to make Elizabeth Taylor jealous. I guess what Im saying is this: with or without the Olympic games, this city will be fine. To an outsider, this town is riddled with corruption and greed. To someone that lives here, its kind of normal. But think about how we come across in the International community? Our county board president inherits a job from his father? Friend and family contracts? Thats not exactly the Olympic sprit, but to give it to Rio? Wow, good luck with that. If you attend the games, I have a vest you can wear!

Chicago is a great town. Not one person leaving will have any long term effect, although I'm still not over Phil Jackson, Jordan, Pippen....on second thought, don't go Oprah!

5) CSNChicago.com: Any hints on what you plan on giving your morning show co-host Lisa Dent and producer Lisa Kosty for Christmas this year? We promise we wont tell.
Stevens: What can you possibly give two women who have it all? This year, all I'm giving them is my love.

BONUS QUESTIONCSNChicago.com: Anything you want to promote Ray? Please share it with us

Stevens: Well, every December we have our Country Cares for St. Jude Kids Radiothon. All money raised goes to the kids at St. Jude Hospital who fight a courageous battle with cancer everyday. The good news at St. Jude is the research they do there is shared all over the world and helps kids right here at Chicago hospitals as well.

I'm also involved in planning next years bike ride for Breast cancer research (www.pinkribbonriders.org). Every year I ride from Chicago to Eagle River, Wisconsin to raise awareness. Next year, we ride from Sister Bay back down to Chicago. The ride breaks down to just over 400 miles in four days. Chicago Bear Greg Olsen has also agreed to participate at some level. The following year (2011) there is some talk of a ride across the country to raise money. Its just a matter of CBSUS99 giving me 40 days to do it!

This year, I also return to snowmobile racing. You can follow details at RamblinRay.com. Any sponsorship money or winnings will go to the Comprehensive Cancers research center at Rush University Hospital.

Have a great Holiday season. For me, its Merry Christmas, whatever it is for you, I hope its all you ever wanted!

Ramblin Ray LINKS:

Ramblin Ray Stevens official website

US99Lisa Dent & Ramblin Ray page

Ramblin Rays official blog

Ramblin Ray on Facebook

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' overtime loss to Lightning: Missed opportunities and one too many penalties

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' overtime loss to Lightning: Missed opportunities and one too many penalties

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night:
 
1. One too many penalties.

The Blackhawks flirted with danger in the first period when they handed the Lightning three straight continuous power plays, a four-minute double minor high-sticking penalty from John Hayden and a Jonathan Toews hooking call that resulted in a 5-on-3 opportunity for Tampa Bay for 43 seconds. 

The penalty kill unit that ranked fourth in the league entering the matchup, however, killed off all three of those penalties against the NHL's top-ranked power play, and did so in commanding fashion.

The Blackhawks went 5-for-5 on the penalty kill in regulation, but couldn't stop the sixth one — a questionable slashing call on Nick Schmaltz —  in overtime when Brayden Point buried the winner on a 4-on-3 opportunity.

It was also interesting that Jon Cooper elected to go with four forwards (Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov, Point and Steven Stamkos) and zero defensemen during that man advantage, putting all of his offensive weapons out on the ice. It's something more teams should do in that situation.

2. Patrick Kane gets going.

After scoring just one goal in his previous 10 games, Kane found the back of the net twice in the opening frame against Tampa Bay and stayed hot against a team he historically plays well against. And he nearly netted a hat trick in overtime but couldn't cash in on a breakaway opportunity.

Kane has 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 14 career regular-season games against the Lightning, and extended his point streak to five games. He has three goals and four assists over that stretch.

We wrote about how important it is for the Blackhawks' superstars to get going again with the offensive contributions mainly coming from role players as of late, and Kane getting into a groove is a perfect step in that direction.

3. How about that goaltending battle?

Corey Crawford and Andrei Vasilevskiy showed us exactly why they belong in the Vezina Trophy discussion, and as of this moment, it's hard not to include both of them as finalists. They put on a goaltending clinic, seemingly topping the other as the game went on.

The two teams combined for 71 scoring chances, and Crawford and Vasilevskiy came up big when their teams need them the most.

Crawford finished with 35 saves on 38 shots (.921 save percentage) in the loss while Vasilevskiy stopped 29 of 31 (.935 save percentage), and improved to 15-2-1 on the season. 

4. Missed opportunities.

You couldn't have asked for a better start for the Blackhawks. They scored the first goal 3:49 into the game and the second on the power play at 15:54, killed off three penalties, including a 5-on-3, had 24 shot attempts (13 on goal) compared to the Lightning's 16 attempts (11 on goal) and led in even-strength scoring chances 9-6.

It was a different story the rest of the way.

The Blackhawks took their foot off the gas pedal a bit and let the Lightning back in the game by getting away from what they do best, and that's control the puck. Obviously, you expected the league's best offense to push back and it's certainly not an easy task to keep them off the scoresheet all together. 

But the Blackhawks had their chances to stay in front or retake the lead and just couldn't bury them. Tampa Bay had 50 shot attempts from the second period on while the Blackhawks had only 32, and finished with 44 scoring chances compared to Chicago's 27.

5. Richard Panik in the doghouse?

Joel Quenneville didn't go to his line blender in this one, but he did shorten some leashes. Panik, most notably, had a season-low 12:28 of ice time in the loss and had 15 shifts, which was second-fewest only to Ryan Hartman (13) on the team.

Panik had a prime chance to break a 2-2 tie in the third period but was denied by Vasilevskiy, who made a remarkable left-pad save. Instead, Panik extended his goal drought to 12 games and didn't get a shift in overtime.

He's certainly better and will get his scoring chances when playing on the top line with Toews and Brandon Saad, but the missed opportunities are magnified in tight losses. It doesn't look like a move down in the lineup is coming given the success of Alex DeBrincat, who gives the Blackhawks an offensive weapon on the third line, but perhaps it should be considered.

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

On the second (turkey) leg of a back-to-back, the Bulls didn't bring much energy in a 110-80 loss to the Utah Jazz. 

Instead of diving into the nitty-gritty of the uninspiring effort, though, we decided to just serve you up a Thanksgiving meal of highlights. Here are the top blocks from Wednesday's game: 

5. Derrick Favors is no Rudy Gobert -- that we know -- but imitation is the highest form of flattery. 

4. Are Bobby Portis chase down blocks the new LeBron James chase down blocks? Let's not get carried away... yet. We'll chalk it up to just a real nice hustle play by Bobby. 

3 and 2. Speaking of hustle plays... Jonas Jerebko isn't exactly known as a dominant defender. He sure made it hard for the Bulls on what should of been an easy fast-break bucket in the third quarter, though. First, he silenced Kris Dunn's reverse. Then, he met Lauri Markkanen at the rim and sent the rookie packing. The Baby Bulls 2.0 can blame it on fatigue, but they just handed Jerebko a highlight tape for years to come.   

1. In fairness, Jerian Grant had to get up a shot as the quarter was coming to a close. It is as vicious as it looks, though.