Best Of 2003

As encouraging as this year's bumper crop of yoga spots has been for stretch-and-sweat enthusiasts (particularly the debuts of the Pilates Center of St. Louis in Dogtown and Lafayette Square's much-needed Marbles Yoga Studio, which shares its space with an art gallery), the Big Bend Yoga Center has set the local standard for close to a decade now. Big Bend's students are devoutly loyal, some driving an hour each way for an hour of class. Housed in a converted garage, the studio's layout and design rank it above the rest: floors are padded, and when the still-intact garage doors are opened to let the sunshine in, getting to that "circle of life" place becomes a spiritual pleasure, not just another task to scratch off today's to-do list. Though Big Bend's an old swami in yoga-studio years, they keep up with the latest Eastern-inspired trends, like Kundalini yoga and Feldenkrais classes. Om, mama!
Tapping Mizzou's sophomore phenom Brad Smith for this category is a big no-brainer. The Youngstown, Ohio, native is the finest player to grace Faurot Field since Kellen Frickin' Winslow -- a bona fide Heisman Trophy candidate (just ask the folks at ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated) who has his Tigers positioned squarely in the once-unthinkable stratosphere known as the Top 25 bubble. As a freshman Smith became only the second quarterback in NCAA Division I-A history to pass for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season. (And that was with an injured thumb that hampered him in the second half.) Notably, he didn't get flagged for a single delay-of-game penalty all season: This kid has brains to match his skills; he's the prototypical NFL quarterback.
Tapping Mizzou's sophomore phenom Brad Smith for this category is a big no-brainer. The Youngstown, Ohio, native is the finest player to grace Faurot Field since Kellen Frickin' Winslow -- a bona fide Heisman Trophy candidate (just ask the folks at ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated) who has his Tigers positioned squarely in the once-unthinkable stratosphere known as the Top 25 bubble. As a freshman Smith became only the second quarterback in NCAA Division I-A history to pass for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season. (And that was with an injured thumb that hampered him in the second half.) Notably, he didn't get flagged for a single delay-of-game penalty all season: This kid has brains to match his skills; he's the prototypical NFL quarterback.
Kevin Lisch may only be known for his prodigious basketball skills, but amid the laziness of summer, the six-foot-two guard is always looking for a game -- whether it be golf, wiffleball or 100-meter match sprints in his backyard with one of his sisters. Lisch is the most prominent male member of a dynastic local athletic family whose sire is ex-Notre Dame and St. Louis (football) Cardinal quarterback Rusty Lisch. Dad, who backed up the likes of Joe Montana and Neil Lomax in his journeyman pigskin career, is still considered one of the best middle-aged athletes in the region, but it's Kevin who gets most of the ink these days, riding his sweet jumper and bulldog physique to a reputation as the region's best backcourt baller. While Lisch cannot sign his letter of intent until after this, his junior, season, Rusty speculates that his son will attend college "within driving distance" of home. This bodes well for the likes of St. Louis University, whose practice floor the Lisch family has been known to hijack from time to time for family-on-family scrimmages. Confidential to East St. Louis swingman Tommie Liddell: you're the bomb, kiddo. The runner-up trophy in this category is yours. SLU's Brad Soderberg would be wise to prepare a spot in his stable for both of these would-be Billikens. Problem is, both will likely visit their fair share of comparably attractive barns. Let the scholastic bidding begin.
Kevin Lisch may only be known for his prodigious basketball skills, but amid the laziness of summer, the six-foot-two guard is always looking for a game -- whether it be golf, wiffleball or 100-meter match sprints in his backyard with one of his sisters. Lisch is the most prominent male member of a dynastic local athletic family whose sire is ex-Notre Dame and St. Louis (football) Cardinal quarterback Rusty Lisch. Dad, who backed up the likes of Joe Montana and Neil Lomax in his journeyman pigskin career, is still considered one of the best middle-aged athletes in the region, but it's Kevin who gets most of the ink these days, riding his sweet jumper and bulldog physique to a reputation as the region's best backcourt baller. While Lisch cannot sign his letter of intent until after this, his junior, season, Rusty speculates that his son will attend college "within driving distance" of home. This bodes well for the likes of St. Louis University, whose practice floor the Lisch family has been known to hijack from time to time for family-on-family scrimmages. Confidential to East St. Louis swingman Tommie Liddell: you're the bomb, kiddo. The runner-up trophy in this category is yours. SLU's Brad Soderberg would be wise to prepare a spot in his stable for both of these would-be Billikens. Problem is, both will likely visit their fair share of comparably attractive barns. Let the scholastic bidding begin.
Here's a full-season stat line for you: a .330 batting average, 14 home runs, 102 RBI, 49 doubles, 35 stolen bases and a slugging percentage of .484. Oh, yeah -- and the player is the top National League shortstop. With numbers like those (projected, as of mid-September, over the full season), how can Edgar Renteria not be this year's Best Cardinals Player? Albert Pujols, that's how. Pujols might not win the Triple Crown in his third year as a major leaguer, but he'll come close. And he darn well ought to snag the coveted National League Most Valuable Player honor, which he just missed last year, finishing second in the voting to San Francisco's Barry Bonds (and there'll be a ballot battle with Bonds again this year). Also last year, Pujols became the first player ever to bat .300, drive in 100 runs, score 100 runs and hit 30 home runs in each of his first two seasons. Um, time to make that his first three seasons.
Here's a full-season stat line for you: a .330 batting average, 14 home runs, 102 RBI, 49 doubles, 35 stolen bases and a slugging percentage of .484. Oh, yeah -- and the player is the top National League shortstop. With numbers like those (projected, as of mid-September, over the full season), how can Edgar Renteria not be this year's Best Cardinals Player? Albert Pujols, that's how. Pujols might not win the Triple Crown in his third year as a major leaguer, but he'll come close. And he darn well ought to snag the coveted National League Most Valuable Player honor, which he just missed last year, finishing second in the voting to San Francisco's Barry Bonds (and there'll be a ballot battle with Bonds again this year). Also last year, Pujols became the first player ever to bat .300, drive in 100 runs, score 100 runs and hit 30 home runs in each of his first two seasons. Um, time to make that his first three seasons.
Less than a year ago, rookie St. Louis University men's basketball coach Brad Soderberg found himself on the hot seat before he'd coached so much as one game. Perceived out of the chute as a ho-hum hire to replace the departed Lorenzo Romar, the former University of Wisconsin interim head coach was essentially judged guilty until proven innocent, and a crappy 6-6 start to the Billikens' 2002-03 season didn't help matters. Then came the startling February 12 upset of Rick Pitino's University of Louisville squad (ranked second in the nation at the time), which sent Bills fans pouring onto the Savvis Center floor and touched off a scintillating eight-game winning streak that propelled Soderberg's undersized Billikens to an 18-14 record and an unexpected post-season berth in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT). A mediocre coach would have struggled to win a dozen games with last year's Bills squad, yet Soderberg's emphasis on tenacious defense and a disciplined motion offense somehow managed to turn hardwood lemons into tasty lemonade. As if that weren't enough, Vashon High star point guard Dwayne Polk's oral commitment to Soderberg's Billikens may reopen a spigot of Public High League talent that hasn't flowed freely to the Jesuit institution since the Rich Grawer era. But beware: While Soderberg says he's perfectly content to stay at SLU, he's sure to be at the top of most major programs' lists, should a game of musical chairs similar to the Roy Williams (Kansas to North Carolina)-Bill Self (Illinois to Kansas)-Bruce Weber (Southern Illinois to Illinois) shuffle occur anytime in the near future. Enjoy him while you can.
Less than a year ago, rookie St. Louis University men's basketball coach Brad Soderberg found himself on the hot seat before he'd coached so much as one game. Perceived out of the chute as a ho-hum hire to replace the departed Lorenzo Romar, the former University of Wisconsin interim head coach was essentially judged guilty until proven innocent, and a crappy 6-6 start to the Billikens' 2002-03 season didn't help matters. Then came the startling February 12 upset of Rick Pitino's University of Louisville squad (ranked second in the nation at the time), which sent Bills fans pouring onto the Savvis Center floor and touched off a scintillating eight-game winning streak that propelled Soderberg's undersized Billikens to an 18-14 record and an unexpected post-season berth in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT). A mediocre coach would have struggled to win a dozen games with last year's Bills squad, yet Soderberg's emphasis on tenacious defense and a disciplined motion offense somehow managed to turn hardwood lemons into tasty lemonade. As if that weren't enough, Vashon High star point guard Dwayne Polk's oral commitment to Soderberg's Billikens may reopen a spigot of Public High League talent that hasn't flowed freely to the Jesuit institution since the Rich Grawer era. But beware: While Soderberg says he's perfectly content to stay at SLU, he's sure to be at the top of most major programs' lists, should a game of musical chairs similar to the Roy Williams (Kansas to North Carolina)-Bill Self (Illinois to Kansas)-Bruce Weber (Southern Illinois to Illinois) shuffle occur anytime in the near future. Enjoy him while you can.
The purest gauge of a sports bar's efficacy can be expressed thusly: "Can I get my game on?" If you can't, it probably means one of three things: 1) the sports bar doesn't have enough TV sets; 2) the waitstaff is inadequately trained or unwilling to navigate the satellite dish; or 3) the Cardinals, Blues or Rams are playing on all six sets, and switching just one to another game is non-negotiable. (This last, sad to say, is true of 95 percent of the bars in the St. Louis metropolitan area.) Which brings us to DB's, a nondescript, boxy bar next door to a union hall on the industrial side of Broadway in Soulard, comfortably distanced from the Mardi Gras-y hustle and bustle. While DB's is small, it has managed to fit a TV set into every conceivable nook and cranny, going so far as to stack set upon set where logistically and aesthetically permissible. This is one of the few local joints where Meathead the pro-wrestling fan can indulge his inner half nelson while Stretch in the corner booth ogles the LA Lakers' triangle offense. Bonus points for scantily clad waitresses and the Famous Gerber sandwich, an unlikely open-faced concoction that somehow manages to mask the culinary insult that is Provel cheese (see "Best Use of the Worst Cheese" in Food & Drink).
The purest gauge of a sports bar's efficacy can be expressed thusly: "Can I get my game on?" If you can't, it probably means one of three things: 1) the sports bar doesn't have enough TV sets; 2) the waitstaff is inadequately trained or unwilling to navigate the satellite dish; or 3) the Cardinals, Blues or Rams are playing on all six sets, and switching just one to another game is non-negotiable. (This last, sad to say, is true of 95 percent of the bars in the St. Louis metropolitan area.) Which brings us to DB's, a nondescript, boxy bar next door to a union hall on the industrial side of Broadway in Soulard, comfortably distanced from the Mardi Gras-y hustle and bustle. While DB's is small, it has managed to fit a TV set into every conceivable nook and cranny, going so far as to stack set upon set where logistically and aesthetically permissible. This is one of the few local joints where Meathead the pro-wrestling fan can indulge his inner half nelson while Stretch in the corner booth ogles the LA Lakers' triangle offense. Bonus points for scantily clad waitresses and the Famous Gerber sandwich, an unlikely open-faced concoction that somehow manages to mask the culinary insult that is Provel cheese (see "Best Use of the Worst Cheese" in Food & Drink).