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

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

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USA TODAY

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

There were six teams deserving of reaching the College Football Playoff this season. But there were only four spots.

But what if there were more spots?

An expansion of the Playoff field to eight teams has seemed inevitable from the day the four-team system was announced. Four more Playoff games means oodles more TV viewers, which means oodles more dollars.

And then we wouldn't be having all these arguments, either — but that's nonsense because of course we would, trying to figure out who got snubbed from the expanded bracket.

But this season's emphasis on the conference-champion debate might kick the efforts to expand the Playoff into high gear. Just take it from NCAA president Mark Emmert.

Now, technically speaking, there are 10 FBS conferences, each of which crowns a champion at the end of every football season. Emmert is obviously referring to the Power Five conferences: the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, Pac-12 and SEC. He might want to pick his words a bit more carefully, considering he represents the other five conferences — the American, Conference USA, the MAC, the Mountain West and the Sun Belt — too, but his point remains understood.

This season has sparked a ton of controversy as the Playoff selection committee opted for the first time to include a team that did not win its conference, Ohio State, and it picked the Buckeyes over the Big Ten champs, Penn State. Plus, Big 12 champion Oklahoma was passed over in favor of non-champion Ohio State, too, actually falling behind another non-champion from the Big Ten, Michigan, in the final Playoff rankings.

With that decision brought the reasonable question of how much a conference championship should matter in getting a team into the final four and competing for a national championship.

The Playoff committee's mission is to pick the country's four best teams, and there aren't many people out there that will argue that Ohio State isn't one of the country's four best teams. But there's something to be said for winning a conference championship because if the Buckeyes can waltz into the Playoff without even playing in the Big Ten title game, why even have a conference championship game — besides, obviously, earning one more night of big-time TV money.

And so the call for an expanded Playoff bracket has reached perhaps its greatest volume in the short time the Playoff has existed. The obvious solution to Power Five conference champions continually being boxed out is to lock in five spots on the bracket for the five conference champions. Then, guarantee a spot for the highest-ranked team from the Group of Five conferences, and you're left with two "at-large" spots that this season would've gone to Ohio State and Michigan, two of the highest-profile programs in the country sure to drive TV viewership in battles against conference-champion Alabama, Clemson, Washington, Penn State and Oklahoma teams. And P.J. Fleck's undefeated Western Michigan squad takes the final slot.

That's quite the field. But if you think it would've solved all this year's problems, you're wrong. Still there would've been outcry that red-hot USC didn't make the field. The Trojans are playing so well that they could very well win the whole thing, despite their three early season losses. That debate over snubs will exist forever, no matter the size of the field, something we see play out each and every season in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Also, what a damper an expanded bracket would put on the final few weeks of the regular season. Ohio State's game against Michigan, the highest-rated game of the college football season with more than 16 million people watching, would've been effectively meaningless. No matter who won or lost, both teams would've made that eight-team field, right?

Additionally, another round of Playoff football would expand the season to 16 games for some teams. That means more physical demands on student-athletes and a season cutting deep into January, which would impact their educational and time demands.

But again, an expansion of the Playoff bracket has always seemed inevitable. There's too much money to be made, and at the same time fans seem to be all about that idea. People love the postseason for good reason, and the win-or-go-home nature of the NFL playoffs make those games the most-watched sporting events of the year.

Now the NCAA president is chiming in with hopes of an expanded field. So really isn't it just a matter of time?

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

CSN's Chris Boden and Tracey Myers have the latest on the Blackhawks in the Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda Dealers.

From an injury standpoint, it's been a tough few weeks for the Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks are down two key players in captain Jonathan Toews and goaltender Corey Crawford, and now may be without defenseman Brent Seabrook who sustained an upper-body injury in Tuesday's victory over the Arizona Coyotes.

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

While the Blackhawks haven't had much luck on the injury front, their upcoming two opponents are in the same boat.

"You look at the New York Rangers, a very talented team, but this is what every team goes through every season. Your depth gets tested," Myers said.

Check out what else Boden and Myers had to say about the team's upcoming matchups in this week's Honda Road Ahead