Monthly Archives: October 2010

Let’s sort this out

Columnists have a responsibility to be fair and thoughtful and not to rush to judgment. The case of the Notre Dame camera operator who fell to his death this week after strong wind gusts toppled the lift on which he was working, has sparked a lot of finger pointing. And I think it’s too soon for finger pointing.

One columnist, Jason Whitlock of Fox Sports, called for the immediate firing of Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly, writing that everything that happens on the football practice field and beyond is his responsibility. Kelly is in his first season as Notre Dame’s

Kelly

Kelly

coach.

I think Whitlock has gone too far. I can’t imagine how bad Kelly feels in the aftermath of this tragedy. And, yes, he is the head coach and thus responsible for how the Irish conduct a football practice.

Obviously, it was too windy for 20-year-old Declon Sullivan to be on the lift’s platform filming practice. Gusts reportedly were hitting 50 mph and Sullivan made a couple of tweets that reflected a concern for his safety. It’s heartbreaking to think that Sullivan had no other recourse but to stay up on the lift and continue to film.

Ultimately, blame will be cast. But it’s far too simplistic and much too quick to lay this at the feet of Kelly, I think. Let’s get more details before any rash penalties are handed down. It’s human nature to want to lash out after something like this happens. But it does not good for anyone to start pointing fingers and laying blame this quickly.

More information is needed. Details of Notre Dame’s practice procedures are warranted.

I’m not saying Kelly is innocent in all of this. If he was aware of the danger that Sullivan was facing then by all means he should be held accountable. How accountable?

We just don’t know yet.

Meanwhile, Kelly coached the Irish in Saturday’s game against Tulsa. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for him, and for the Irish players. This is a terrible tragedy, one that shouldn’t have happened. But to write that a coach should immediately lose his job is irresponsible. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Not yet.

*Cartier Martin scored a team-high 17 points for the Washington Bullets in their season-opening blowout loss to the Orlando Magic the other night.

This is newsworthy for a couple of reasons: 1) Martin was the leading scorer for an NBA team; and, 2) I had no idea Martin was with the Wizards, even though he played in eight games with them last season, in which he also appeared in 10 games with the Golden State Warriors.

Martin

Martin

The 6-foot-7 Martin is one of many NBA players looking for a place to stick. He was an undrafted free agent after the 2006-07 season and played professionally in Turkey for a season. He then went to the NBA Development League and played parts of the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons with Iowa.

In 2009, he signed a 10-day contract with the Charlotte Bobcats and went on to play 33 games with Charlotte. Last season, he got chances with the Warriors and Wizards and this season went to training camp with Washington.

Against Orlando, Martin played 24 minutes – minutes he’s not likely to get in closer games. But he came through, making 5 of 9 field-goal attempts and all six of his free throws. Worth keeping an eye on.

Some NFL picks for tomorrow’s games

Dallas 24, Jacksonville 14

Washington 27, Detroit 24

Kansas City 30, Buffalo 23

New York Jets 20, Green Bay 17

Oakland 27, Seattle 14

New England 21, Minnesota 14

Pittsburgh 20, New Orleans 17

Indianapolis 27, Houston 20

My Facebook Friend

Ann Fowler Turgeon

Ann is a coach’s wife and most coach’s wives don’t like me. They think I write negatively about their husbands and his teams and a lot of times they are right. But occasionally, a coach’s wife understands the job of a sports columnist and accepts that not everything written is going to be glowing. Ann, the wife of former Wichita State coach Mark Turgeon, always understood. Then

Ann

Ann

again, how much negative was there to write about Turgeon’s years as the Shockers’ coach. He did an outstanding job and got WSU to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 in 2006, then left for Texas A&M after the 2006-07 season. Ann is one of the good ones and here’s what she had to say about herself and our Facebook friendship:

“I met Bob Lutz about nine years ago at Koch Arena. We had been living in Wichita for about two years and I kept asking my husband, ‘Who is this Bob Lutz guy?’ ” My husband was the Wichita State basketball coach at the time and Bob loved to write “thought provoking” articles about the basketball program. I actually loved Bob’s articles – he knew what he was talking about and his sarcastic and dry sense of humor was always quite entertaining. He interviewed me two or three times, which I DID NOT LIKE. It made me extremely nervous.

“I grew up north of Chicago and always LOVED basketball.  I played basketball in high school and watched Michael Jordan come to town and change the world of NBA basketball.  I went to the University of Kansas and met my husband my sophomore year when I was hired as the first female manager of the basketball team.  Mark left for the University of Oregon right before my senior year in college and we were married the following September.

“I lived in Wichita for seven years from 2000-2007.  Mark and I had two of our three kids in Wichita and it was home.  Most of Mark’s family lives down the road in Topeka,  we had moved my parents to Wichita and we both went to college at KU. My Dad passed away in Wichita four years ago after a six-year battle with Alzheimers.  We moved to College Station, Texas 3 1/2 years ago when my husband took the job at Texas A & M University.  College Station is a true college town – a wonderful place to raise our family. Our kids are now 11, 7 and 5 and we love our new home and the AGGIES!  This season our seniors have been coached by Mark all four years and hold a very special place in my heart – they chose to come to A&M even with a new coach taking over the program. We still follow the Shockers and keep up with so many of our former players and friends from Wichita.

“As we start our fourth season in College Station – Mark’s 13th as a head coach – I cannot believe how time flies and all of the places we have been: Eugene, OR; Philadelphia; Jacksonville, AL; Wichita; College Station, and the amazing people/friends we have met at each stop on this adventure?

“Happy Hoops season!”

Bats by the bay

Television ratings for the World Series are predictably down. Unfortunately, the first two games haven’t been much to watch as the San Francisco Giants – the light-hitting Giants – have scored 20 runs and are up 2-0 over the Texas Rangers as the Series shifts to Arlington on Saturday.

Who would have thought that the Giants, a team that batted a meager .257 and averaged 4.3 runs per game during the regular season, would be batting .314 and averaging 10 runs per game so far against Texas and its starters, Cliff Lee and C.J. Wilson?

Man, that was a long-winded question. But for blog purposes, it works. If this was in the newspaper, I’d work with that sentence a little bit.

The Giants are one of only two teams in World Series history to score 20 runs in the first two games. The only other team to do it was the 1960 New York Yankees, who lost Game 1 to the Pittsburgh Pirates, 6-4, but rallied to win the second game, 16-3.

Yes, the Giants, a team whose bats nobody feared.

But thanks to journeymen players like Juan Uribe, Freddy Sanchez, Cody Ross and Edgar Renteria, the Giants’ bats have come alive when they needed them most.

As a Cardinals fan, I think I would be thrilled for St. Louis to pick up Sanchez or Uribe to play second base next season. Both guys

Renteria

Renteria

are tough outs and outstanding defensive players.

Renteria is one of my favorite Cardinals ever, a soft-spoken shortstop who I thought was once a threat to get to 3,000 hits. That’s probably not going to happen. Renteria, who turned 34 in August, isn’t the offensive force he used to be. But he was in Game 2 of the World Series and he still has plenty of glove to play shortstop.

Renteria played in St. Louis from 1999-2004 after being acquired from the Florida Marlins in a trade for Braden Looper. In St. Louis, Renteria had six outstanding seasons. His best was in 2003, when he batted .330 with 13 homers, 100 RBI, 47 doubles and 34 stolen bases. He was, for a time, the most productive shortstop in the National League.

Renteria signed as a free agent with the Boston Red Sox in 2005 and has been with the Atlanta Braves and now the Giants since. It’s good to see him playing well.

I’ve told people that Debbie and I are dog-sitting a wolf this weekend and gotten a lot of disbelieving looks.

Well, it’s the truth. The wolf, Cheyenne, belongs to Debbie’s great nephew, Michael, and his wife, Samantha. She is visiting her in-laws this weekend in Wichita and there isn’t room for both of the dogs she brought with her, so we inherited Chey, as she likes to be called. And if a wolf has a preference for what it wants to be called, I’m all for calling it that.

Cheyenne the wolf

Cheyenne the wolf

So far (and I emphasize, SO FAR) the wolf has been docile and enjoyable. She likes to be rubbed. And when she’s excited, she talks. Not real words, mind you, unless you speak wolf. But a lot of quasi-barking and howling and some slight whimpering. I have taken it all to mean that she really enjoys being around me, although I have not checked for a full moon.

Last night, Cheyenne was in her cage all night and didn’t wake us up once. I have to say, it’s been an enjoyable experience. But we have her for four more days, so check back with me later.

And for those who still don’t believe, I included the lovely picture of Cheyenne you see to the left. She’s a good girl.

It’s another big week of college football, with lots more BCS havoc to wreak.

I look for another couple of unbeatens – and perhaps three – to lose this weekend. Of course, my goal is for Boise State and either TCU or Utah to be the nation’s only remaining unbeaten teams when it comes time to pick the contenders for the national championship game.

Here are some Saturday picks:

Oregon 33, USC 28 (Come on Trojans)

Iowa 28, Michigan State 24 (If the Spartans win here, they have a great chance of running the table)

Nebraska 27, Missouri 21 (I don’t feel that comfortable with this pick. But is Mizzou capable of another huge win?)

Baylor 32, Texas 24

Oklahoma State 38, Kansas State 28

Iowa State 40, Kansas 7

Shock Talk

Tim Kelley I Senior I Right-handed pitcher

Kelley

Kelley

Kelley has been a strong pitcher during his Wichita State career, but took it to a new level last season when he was 11-2 with a 3.94 ERA and made the All-Missouri Valley Conference first team.

Kelley, from Bishop Kelly High in Tulsa, has pitched for the Santa Barbara (Calif.) Foresters the past two summers and will enter the 2011 season as the Shockers’ No. 1 pitcher. I asked him a few questions Friday.

Who is your favorite MLB player, past or present?

Probably (former Atlanta Braves and Toronto Blue Jays first baseman) Fred McGriff. My uncle, Charlie O’Brien, played for the Braves and when they won the World Series (in 1995), that’s when I became a Braves fan. I liked McGriff’s nickname, ‘Crime Dog.’ He was a left-handed hitter and I was a switch-hitter at the time, so I became a fan.

You were a switch-hitter all through high school. How much do you miss hitting?
I don’t think about it as much, but I did miss it quite a bit. I had a couple of at-bats this fall in scrimmages; I put myself in the lineup. I went 1 for 2 with two walks. The hit was a line drive up the middle and I struck out against Cale Elam, a freshman.

Describe the feeling you had after the 2010 MLB draft had come and gone and you weren’t chosen.

I guess you could say I was let down. I felt like I could have gotten a chance. I didn’t necessarily think I was going to sign, but I thought somebody would take a chance on drafting me. When I wasn’t drafted, I was kind of surprised. But not being drafted motivates me. Once it was over, there was really nothing I could do about it.

Who are your two favorite artists on your iPod?

I’d have to say . . . that’s a tough one. Sam Adams is one of them. Probably Jeremih is the other. My favorite Sam Adams song is “Coast to Coast.” With Jeremih, it’s “My Ride.”

Frank being Frank

We had Frank Martin on the radio show today. I don’t recall ever going from one extreme to the other with someone I covered and wrote about the way I have with Martin.

My first impression, when he was an assistant coach at Kansas State under Bob Huggins for one season, was that Martin was out of his mind. He was a man man on the bench.

frank 1Well, he still is. Only now he’s the head coach, starting his fourth season. He’s 72-32 overall, 30-18 in Big 12 games and led the Wildcats to the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight last season where they lost to eventual national runner-up Butler.

Martin has won me over. One reason is that I’ve gotten to know him better. He’s a much deeper, more complicated man than the raging lunatic he sometimes appears to be on the court. Away from the competition, Martin is a bright, thoughtful man who frank 2deeply cares about the players he coaches. And, for the most part, those players respond to him – even when they’re being chastised.

Martin chooses to come on our radio show – “Sports Daily” – every couple of weeks during the basketball season. He’s engaging and honest and it’s one of the most popular segments we have on the show. Kansas State fans love Martin the way they have never loved a coach, in my opinion. Sure, they’re crazy about football coach Bill Snyder. But Snyder does not have Martin’s charisma. Few do.

I’m excited that Kansas State is having success in basketball again. The Wildcats went far too long playing second fiddle to Kansas and that rivalry is back and as good as ever. Most of the experts expect Kansas State to be better than the Jayhawks this season; the Wildcats are ranked No. 3 in both major preseason polls.

Martin told us Thursday that the Wildcats are a long way from being any good. Of course, every coach in the country is going to say that about his team at this point in the season. Kansas State, trust me, will be good. However, it won’t be easy to replace guard frank 3Denis Clemente, the team’s quarterback and emotional leader last season. Clemente was one of the most exciting players in the country. Neither will it be easy to replace forward Dominique Sutton, who decided to leave the program after the 2009-10 season and transfer to North Carolina Central to be closer to his family.

Sutton was one of those garbage players, willing to do the little things – which are really big things.

Still, Martin has loads of talent. Curtis Kelly, Jamar Samuels and Wally Judge will forge what could be an outstanding front line. Jacob Pullen will be one of the country’s best guards, again, and probably be joined in the starting backcourt by sophomore Rodney McGruder, destined to be a star before his Wildcats career ends.

You’ll see I’ve posted some pictures of Martin here. I went looking for some emotional shots, knowing I would find a lot in his game action. Thing is, that’s all I could find in his game action. Martin has to be one of the most-photographed coaches in college basketball, but I couldn’t find anything of him sitting calmly on the bench or talking in hushed tones to his players. That’s not the Martin shot anybody is looking for, apparently.

* Tonight’s Bishop Carroll-Hutchinson game, to be played in Hutch, should have an unbelievably big-time feel.Both teams have lost only once; Hutch to Kansas City Rockhurst and Carroll to Wichita Heights in season-opening games. They’re two of the top teams in Class 5A playing for a district championship. Big, big stuff.

Except there’s a good chance the two teams will meet again in the 5A playoffs since both have already qualified. And that’s the game everybody would love to see.

It’s another of the fallacies with the playoff system in Kansas. The Kansas State High School Activities Association has tinkered with the system several times since implementing playoffs in 1969. I still don’t think the KSHSAA has gotten it right.

There are positives and negatives with two teams out of each district, most of them comprised of four teams, getting into the playoffs. But sometimes it just doesn’t lend itself to a lot of drama.

I suppose another reason that Carroll-Hutch doesn’t rise to the level of a must-see game for me is that I expect the Salt Hawks to win fairly easily. Hutchinson is just that much better than anybody else in the state. Carroll, as good as it is, will probably be lucky to stay within 20 points Friday night.

* Did you catch Blake Griffin’s act on ESPN on Wednesday night?

Griffin

Griffin

I know, the Los Angeles Clippers lost to Portland and the game wasn’t that close. But Griffin, making his LA debut after sitting out all of last season with an injury, was something to watch.

That guy has a lethal combination of quickness and strength. I had almost forgotten how good he is. But the former Oklahoma All-American, who had 20 points and 14 rebounds in his first NBA regular-season game, looks like a player who will make an impact on the NBA. Can he legitimize the Clippers? Can anybody legitimize the Clippers?

* Right fielders everywhere, past and present, pleaded with Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington not to play Vladimir Guerrero in tonight’s Game 2 of the World Series.

They were relieved when Washington announced earlier today that David Murphy, not Guerrero, would get the start in right after the horrible eighth-inning performance of Guerrero in right during Wednesday night’s Game 1.

That was a butcher in action, folks. Guerrero still has a dangerous bat and his arm has great life, but the man can barely run and apparently cannot bend over. His two attempts at fielding plays in the eighth inning both resulted in errors. And not just errors, embarrassing errors.

It hurts Texas not to have Vlad’s bat in the lineup. But with the DH in use in National League parks, Washington really had no choice but to go with Murphy tonight.

A sports writer’s memories

I’ve been thinking  a lot lately about my early days at The Eagle, back in late 1974 and 1975, because of the recent death of Reid Hanley, who was at the paper when I started. Reid became one of my very good friends, even though he left Wichita in 1977 to work for the Chicago Tribune. Notice, by the way, that I’ve never left Wichita to work for the Chicago Tribune. What does that say about me? It probably says I was never offered a job by the Chicago Tribune.

Anyway, those early years were incredible. The newspaper was churning and busy and there were lots of people in the newsroom. Lots of characters.

One was Bill Hodge. I grew up reading Bill’s “In This Corner” column and to actually be working with him – well, alongside him would be a more accurate description – was pretty daunting.

Bill was probably in his mid- to late-50s by the time I came along and let’s just say he wasn’t much impressed by some new kid on the block. I worked the phone crew for those first few months, answering calls and taking down box scores, so I’m sure Bill didn’t even notice me.

But after a while, he couldn’t help but see me around. I was hired full-time in the summer of 1975 and had my own desk, which happened to be next to his. I’ll always remember Bill being there, at his desk, every morning when I got to work. He arrived early and he was no-nonsense. I certainly wasn’t going to bother him.

Over time, though, he became less intimidating. We actually started talking to one another. He was gruff and sassy, much like I am now, but also interesting and full of Wichita’s sports history. He had been there, done that and it was fascinating to hear him talk about covering all the things he had covered.

We eventually became golf partners, along with John Murphy, another close Eagle friend back in the day. Bill turned out to be a really good guy. He died a few years ago, but those of us who worked with Bill – and those of you who read him – will never forget.

What’s the right thing?

Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon, one of the nation’s elite offensive weapons, will address the media after Oklahoma State’s practice today. He’ll be joined by OSU coach Mike Gundy, who has to decide whether to suspend Blackmon for Saturday’s important Big 12 game at Kansas State.

Blackmon (81)

Blackmon (81)

I’m not sure why Blackmon feels the need to address the media, but in so doing it feels as if the Cowboys are trying to smooth over the situation that got him arrested for DUI in a Dallas suburb Monday night and make the case that he should not be suspended.
This isn’t an easy call for Gundy. Then again, it is.
Suspending Blackmon, which is the right thing to do, would take away one of the team’s biggest threats before what could be a defining road game against the Wildcats.
Does OSU have a better chance to beat Kansas State with Blackmon? Of course, that’s a no-brainer.
Can OSU still beat K-State without Blackmon? That’s one of the questions Gundy is undoubtedly asking himself as he mulls this thing over.
There are mitigating circumstances here, none of which bode well for Blackmon.
He was pulled over at 3:45 a.m. on a school night. He was driving 92 mph in a 60 mph zone. And the officer who pulled him over thought he smelled alcohol, which is enough to make an arrest in Texas.
Gundy said Tuesday he was waiting for more facts before making a decision on Blackmon’s punishment, if indeed there is any.
But aren’t there already enough facts even without knowing everything about Blackmon’s alcohol consumption or lack thereof?
He was going 32 miles per hour over the speed limit at almost 4 a.m. after going to the Dallas Cowboys-New York Giants game, which had ended more than five hours earlier. If I’m forced to make a guess and what he and his buddies were doing in that interim time, I’m going to guess they were up to no good.
Blackmon pulled a real bonehead move here. OSU, even after a 10-point loss to Nebraska on Saturday in Stillwater, is still in position to win the Big 12 South. That’s a good football team in Stillwater with a multitude of offensive weapons.
To win the South, though, OSU can’t afford many more missteps. Kansas State provides a huge challenge.
Gundy probably will make his decision known later today. It sounds like he’s looking for a way to keep Blackmon in the game when the right move – for the player and the program – would be to make him watch Saturday’s game on his television.

* If it’s Brett Favre, there must be drama. And the latest involves his injured ankle which may or may not cause him to miss Sunday’s game at New England.

Bosom buddies

Bosom buddies

Don’t you think that in private moments the Minnesota Vikings are wishing they had never brought Favre back for the 2010 season?
Already, he and Minnesota coach Brad Childress are clashing. Childress had the audacity to make some negative comments about Favre’s decision making after he threw three interceptions in the Vikings’ loss at Green Bay on Sunday night.
Childress has been chided in some corners for making public comments that shed a bad light on Favre, but I say more power to him. Favre did make some bad decisions in that game. Childress is the coach. On most teams, there is a pecking order in which the head coach has more clout that the quarterback.
But the Vikings are not most teams.
I think Childress would be well-served to play Tavaris Jackson at quarterback Sunday and give Favre some time to heal. Maybe Jackson would give the Vikings the kind of jolt they haven’t yet gotten from Favre. Face it, he hasn’t been close to the same quarterback he was a year ago, when he helped Minnesota reach the NFC championship game. At some point, the athlete of a professional athlete breaks down. That point could well be now for Favre.

* The highly-anticipated season opener of the Miami Heat against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night did not live up to its hype.
It never had a chance.
The Heat looked like a bunch of individuals; the Celtics played like a team. Makes sense, since Boston’s core players have been together for a while now and the Heat’s newcomers, LeBron James and Chris Bosh specifically, are still learning how to play with one another.
I enjoyed watching Miami struggle and perhaps the Heat isn’t as much of a lock to win the Eastern Conference championship as I thought. But it’s just one game. They’ll figure things out. Trust me, Miami will be heard from.

* Cliff Lee has been invincible in the postseason, which is why most of the experts are picking the Texas Rangers to beat the San Francisco Giants in the World Series.
I can’t begrudge that; the Rangers are a very good team and Lee is on a different level than every other pitcher right now.
Since this Series is so close to call, and because I view the Rangers and Giants as evenly-matched, I’m relying on a gut feeling to make my prediction as to which team wins the Series.
I’m taking the Giants because of their overall pitching – starting and bullpen – and because they get the first two games at home.
I think San Francisco and two-time defending National League Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum beat Lee and the Rangers tonight. Lee can’t win every postseason game he pitches, can he?

Lincecum's locks

Lincecum's locks

Lincecum is more than a worthy opponent, although I sure would like the guy a lot more if he’d get his hair cut. I mean, who likes that hair? I was in my 20s once and I’m sure old guys like me asked the same question. It sure seems like it has more relevance now, though.

I like the Giants to score a couple of runs against Lee in the first two or three innings, get seven strong innings from Lincecum and turn things over to a solid bullpen to win tonight and eventually win the Series in seven games.

My Facebook Friend

Flossie Alexander

I don’t know Flossie, but I don’t know most of my Facebook friends. Which is one of the great things about Facebook. Friends are most often not friends and sometimes even not acquaintances. But I’m impressed with anyone who can lose 165 pounds and go on

Flossie

Flossie

to help others in their battles against weight, which is what Flossie Alexander has done. Here’s what she had to say about our Facebook relationship:

“I am a pretty big sports fan from high school all the way up to professional sports, so I read your column regularly but I don’t always agree with what it says, which is what brought us to be Facebook friends.  At the end of high school football season last year, you had some interestingly negative things to say about high school football which I thought was totally off base and I looked you up on Faceboook and THERE YOU WERE! So, I friended you and told you what I thought about it.  I never got a reply from it, though. (I usually reply, honest-BL)

“I am a nationally recognized weight loss coach living here in Wichita.  I travel to all parts of the country doing healthy-living lifestyle motivational speaking seminars.  I have been on the cover of FIRST for Women Magazine, in the Wichita Eagle several times, on national radio, local TV, and have appeared in a national weight loss book.   I recently was on “It’s All Good” with Sierra Scott and will be doing a spot on an Atlanta radio station in November.

“My website is http://www.youcannowcoaching.com where you can find a bio on me as well.”

A Giant(s) advantage

The World Series match-up between the San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers is no match when it comes to history.

The Giants, who have been around as a franchise since 1883, have a clear edge. Their .538 winning percentage is second in baseball history to the New York Yankees’ .568 percentage.

giants logoSince moving to San Francisco before the 1958 seasons, the Giants have played in only three World Series and lost them all.

But while in New York, the Giants played in 14 World Series and won six times. From 1921-37, the heyday of the franchise, the Giants made it to the World Series seven times.

Texas, meanwhile, is in the World Series for the first time in the franchise’s 50-year history, which goes back to some bleak time in Washington as the Senators. Those, folks, weren’t the days.

The Rangers’ winning percentage of .471 is the third worst in baseball history. Only San Diego (.464) and Tampa Bay (.438) have been worse and both of those franchises have played in a World Series.

So when I set about to pick all-time teams for the Giants and Rangers, it was much easier (or harder) to settle on the best of the best for the Giants because of all the choices. You might not recognize some of the names for the Giants, but go back and look them up. You’ll be surprised.

Of the 14 Giants on my list, 10 are in the Hall of Fame and one – Bonds – is the game’s all-time home run leader.

There are no Hall of Famers on my all-time Rangers team. Yet. Surely catcher Ivan Rodriguez and shortstop Alex Rodriguez will get to Cooperstown someday.

San Francisco Giants

1B – Willie McCovey

2B – Jeff Kent

3B – Freddie Lindstrom

SS – George Davis

LF – Barry Bonds

CF – Willie Mays

Ott

Ott

RF – Mel Ott

C – Ernie Lombardi

SP – Christy Mathewson

SP – Juan Marichal

SP – Carl Hubbell

SP – Rube Marquard

SP – Tim Lincecum

RP – Robb Nen

Manager – John McGraw

Texas Rangers

1B – Rafael Palmeiro

2B – Michael Young

3B – Buddy Bell

SS – Alex Rodriguez

LF – Rusty Greer

CF – Josh Hamilton

RF – Juan Gonzalez

Howard

Howard

DH – Frank Howard (in honor of the old Washington Senators)

SP – Charlie Hough

SP – Kenny Rogers

SP – Ferguson Jenkins

SP – Bobby Witt

SP – Kevin Brown

RP – John Wetteland

Manager – Ron Washington (he got this team to a World Series. Enough said.)

* The danger when I get on the website baseballreference.com is that I’ll spend the whole day there, mesmerized by the endless statistics and history of the site. It’s an amazing place for a baseball guy like me.

While I was researching the all-time teams for the Giants and Rangers, my eyes wandered. I noticed some amazing pitching seasons by guys who were in the big leagues in the early 1900s. I found four I wanted to highlight here. Which do you think is the best?

Mordecai Brown, Chicago Cubs, 1906

Brown was 26-6 with a 1.04 ERA. In 277.1 innings, he allowed only 198 hits and gave up just one home run.

Christy Mathewson, New York Giants, 1908

Went 37-11 with a 1.43 ERA. In 390.2 innings, Mathewson struck out 259 and walked only 42. He had a 1.43 ERA.

Jack Coombs, Philadelphia Athletics, 1910

Coombs had 13 shutouts and a 31-9 record to go with a 1.30 ERA. In 353 innings, he allowed only 248 hits, though he did walk 115.

Walter Johnson, Washington Senators, 1913

Johnson

Johnson

The Big Train, who spent his childhood years in Humboldt, was 36-7 with a 1.14 ERA and allowed only 232 hits in 346 innings.

I think I’d have to go with Johnson, who, as a 22-year-old in 1909 won 25 games, the beginning of a stretch of 10 seasons in which he would win 20 or more.

Johnson, like many pitchers of that generation, just didn’t give up home-run balls. The dead-ball era helped pitchers, no doubt. Still, it’s incredible that Johnson allowed only 97 home runs in 591.1 innings, which computes to one home run every 61 innings pitched.

* I struggled to come up with an all-time catcher for the Giants before finally settling on Ernie Lombardi, who spent five seasons with New York, from 1943-47. Lombardi, who was with the Cincinnati Reds for 10 years before moving to the Giants, is a Hall of Famer. His numbers: .306 average, 1,706 hits, 190 homers, 990 RBI, 601 runs. Good, for sure.

But Lombardi, to me, is just another catcher who is in the Hall when former St. Louis Cardinals (and Milwaukee Brewers, and Atlanta Braves) catcher Ted Simmons should be.

Simmons

Simmons

Simmons, who caught in the big leagues during the 1970s and 1980s, just doesn’t get his due. During his 21-year career, he batted .285 with 2,472 hits, 248 homers, 1,389 RBIs and 1,074 runs. Those offensive numbers are superior to those of Lombardi.

Defensively, it looks to be a wash. Lombardi had a .979 fielding percentage; Simmons .987.

Anyway, I’ve been on the “Simmons for the Hall of Fame” bandwagon for a while now. I don’t seem to ever get anywhere.

Who is the Opinion Line contributor?

This is an actual Wichita Eagle Opinion Line offering from the past week:

If the president captured Public Enemy No. 1 in a large Nebraska town, would the headline read something like “Obama nabs Osama in Omaha?”

Who is it?

Middle-aged male who dreadfully misses Johnny Carson. Talks to his pets, which is not that abnormal. Thinks they talk back, which is. Once went to the “Loony Bin” on East 21st Street and thought to himself: “I can do that.” When he breaks into his stand-up routine at family gatherings, most just smile. His daughters, though, run for the bathroom.

Keeping a watchful eye

With apologies to Oklahoma football fans, I was elated to see the Sooners lose Saturday night at Missouri.

Nothing against OU, but everything against the BCS. Powerless to do anything about college football’s ridiculous system for determining’ its national-championship contenders, I instead hope the worst-case BCS scenario to emerge, one that will leave the bcspowers-that-be in college football no choice but to blow up the BCS and instill a playoff system that should have been instilled years ago.

As we stand today, Oct. 25, the BCS top 10 are as follows: 1) Auburn; 2) Oregon; 3) Boise State; 4) TCU; 5. Michigan State; 6. Missouri; 7) Alabama; 8) Utah; 9) Oklahoma; 10) Wisconsin.

Auburn, Oregon, Boise State, TCU, Michigan State, Missouri and Utah are the only unbeatens.

It would be great to have as many of those teams as possible finish unbeaten, although if that’s the case then it’s almost a done deal that Auburn would face Oregon in the national championship game. So, throw that scenario out.

The best thing for those of us in the anti-BCS crowd would be for Boise State and either TCU or Utah, who play in a Mountain West match-up in a few weeks, to finish without a loss. And for everybody else to have at least one defeat. Then what?

Imagine the uproar if Boise and TCU/Utah, proven commodities who have shown they can hang with the big boys, were shut out of the title game and two one-loss teams from power conferences played instead.

Auburn should breeze through its next three games before meeting Alabama in Tuscaloosa on the day after Thanksgiving. I think the Tigers lose that one. An Alabama win there, and another in the SEC championship game, puts the Tide squarely in the national championship picture.

Michigan State has a huge game Saturday at Iowa. After that, the Spartans are at home against Minnesota and Purdue before finishing the regular season at Penn State.

Oregon goes to Southern California on Saturday, then plays at Cal, is at home against Arizona and finishes up at Oregon State.

Missouri, after going to Nebraska this week, has another road game against Texas Tech. Then comes a home game against K-State, a road game at Iowa State and an Arrowhead Stadium meeting with Kansas.

Are you prepared for an Oregon-Michigan State national championship game? Because that’s certainly a possibility. Then again, Alabama is lurking. And what about a one-loss Tide edging out Boise State, TCU and either Oregon or Michigan State for a national championship spot?

Stay tuned. The mess is just starting to be made.

* Dave Duncan is returning to the St. Louis Cardinals as pitching coach, through at least 2012, and that makes me happy. I think Duncan is the best pitching coach in the game. It sounds as if Mark McGwire will be back as the hitting coach, too. And I’m OK with that, although I really wonder how much a hitting coach does, especially in StL, where Tony La Russa pretty much takes charge of the offense.

Anyway, nice to have ‘Dunc back. Yeah, I call him “Dunc.

* Is it just me, or did Brett Favre look like he wanted to be back on his spread in Mississippi after Sunday night’s Minnesota loss to Green Bay.

He’s hobbling around, throwing ill-timed interceptions, staring at an NFL investigation that sounds as if it’s not going to go well for him. His Vikings are 2-4. He looks 61, not 41. This isn’t a good time to be Brett Favre, who, it was revealed Monday, has two small fractures in his left ankle. His status for this week’s game at New England is questionable. More drama for the NFL’s all-time drama queen.

* I think Texas and San Francisco will put on a great World Series. And I don’t care what anyone says, I’m looking forward to this match-up as much as I’ve looked forward to one in a while.

* The Wichita Wild Indoor Football League franchise put out a news release Monday afternoon that made it sound like the Oklahoma Yard Dawgz franchise of Arena Football League had decided to leave that league for the IFL. Not’ true. OKC folded its AFL franchise and a new ownership group in Oklahoma City is putting a team in the IFL, where it will be a natural rival for Wichita.

It’s good news to have an Oklahoma City team in the IFL. But it’s playing loose with the facts to intimate that OKC’s IFL franchise will be anything like the city’s AFL team. Completely different animal.

* Could things be going any worse for the Wichita Thunder, which is off to an 0-4 start after winning nine games all of last season? The Thunder better put things together or the team’s use of the Intrust Bank Arena will start to be questioned because of lagging attendance. What a great opportunity this Central Hockey League has had to catch on and become a big downtown attraction only to put an inferior squad on the ice. Sad.

* I get a Heisman vote and I tell you that only because it makes me feel better about myself.

Anyway, I’m starting to crunch the numbers more seriously as the season swings into November and here are my current top five:

1) Cam Newton, jr., QB, Auburn – Equally dangerous as a passer and a runner. Absolute stud.

Moore

Moore

2) Kellen Moore, jr., QB, Boise State – The nation’s top-rated quarterback has 16 touchdown passes and only one interception.

3) Denard Robinson, soph., QB, Michigan – The team has cooled, but Robinson averages 156 rushing yards per game.

4) LaMichael James, soph., RB, Oregon – I’ve gotta get a running back on this list somewhere and James is the country’s best.

5) Taylor Martinez, fr., QB, Michigan – He had a serious hiccup against Texas, but recovered nicely against Oklahoma State.

Darkhorse: Robert Griffin, QB, Baylor. He’s passed for 2,373 yards and completed 67 percent of his attempts. He’s a dangerous runner, too. And Baylor is ranked for the first time since the discovery of fire.

* How cool would it have been to be in the audience for the Buffalo Springfield reunion at Neil Young’s Bridge School benefit in Mountain View, Calif., over the weekend? Very cool, I say.

The original band

The original band

Young, Stephen Stills and Richie Furay – three of the five BS original members – played about 10 songs together, then jammed with Pearl Jam, Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams and Jackson Browne.

The other two original members of Buffalo Springfield, Bruce Palmer and Dewey Martin, are deceased.

The empire goes bust

I hate to pick on the New York Yankees when they’re down. Oh, no I don’t. Who am I kidding?

I hate the Yankees, now more than ever. I hate everything they stand for. And when their fans tell me their $206,738,389 payroll is a result of the team’s success and market, I hate them, too.

Watching Texas, with its $55,168,114 payroll, dismantle the Yankees in the American League Championship Series was the best entertainment of the week. Not until it was happening did I realize how much enjoyment it would provide me.

I thought, after the Rangers blew a lead in Game 1, that the series was over. But then the resolve of the Rangers started to become apparent. And the more of the Rangers I watched, the more I liked.

But it was just as much about watching the Yankees go down.

One problem: New York has an endless supply of money and will be throwing it around during the winter. The Yankees, motivated by their postseason failure, will go all in. They won’t blink an eye at the prospect of a $240 million payroll, perhaps beyond.

And the player they’ll most want, left-handed pitcher Cliff Lee, will be trying to lead the Texas Rangers to a world championship.

Lee, who makes just less than $10 million per season, will be the free-agent prize of the offseason. He’ll command perhaps twice as much as he’s now making and there are only a handful of teams with the need and the deep pockets to make a pitch like that.

Hopefully, the Rangers will pursue Lee, too. Isn’t it more fun to beat the Yankees than it is to help them beat someone else? Texas owner Nolan Ryan will certainly increase payroll and the Rangers will have some hefty salaries coming off the books. Lee, surely, loved his time in Texas. But I’m not naive; I know it’s all about the money with major league players, whose career longevity is never guaranteed. If the Yankees offer the 31-year-old Lee five years and $110 million, he’ll be hard-pressed to turn it down.

Crawford

Crawford

The Yankees also need help in the outfield and will probably be major players for Carl Crawford, a free-agent-to-be from the Tampa Bay Rays. Crawford is the best position player on the free-agent market.

New York has to deal with a couple of big free agents of its own, shortstop Derek Jeter and closer Mariano Rivera. Other teams might have to let players like that go because of economics. Not the Yankees. Of course, not the Yankees. Whatever it takes.

The Yankees’ best player now is second baseman Robinson Cano, who is signed to a four-year deal that runs through 2011, with team options in 2012 and ’13. He’s a relative bargain; signed for $10 million next season and to $14.5 million and $15 million in his option years.

Left-hander C.C. Sabathia is signed through 2015. First baseman Mark Teixeira is signed through 2016. Alex Rodriguez is signed through 2017. They were of the four highest-paid players in baseball this season. The other: Jeter, of course.

Ten Yankees made more than $10 million in 2010:

Rodriguez $33,000,000

Sabathia $24,285,714

Jeter $22,600,000

Teixeira $20,625,000

A.J. Burnett $16,500,000

Rivera $15,000,000

Lance Berkman $14,500,000 (most of this salary was paid by Houston)

Jorge Posada $13,100,000

Andy Pettitte $11,750,000 (the Brett Favre of baseball might retire, but he might not)

Kerry Wood $10,500,00

* I have to admit, it’s kind of fun wondering what to expect from the Kansas Jayhawks today in their 6 p.m. game against Texas A&M at Memorial Stadium.

KU is a 13 1/2-point underdog. At home. To a really questionable team. That speaks volumes.

I can’t imagine the Kansas team I’ve seen in its past two games can beat even a sub-par A&M team. So while the betting line seems exorbitant, it’s probably pretty close.

* I see where the Miami Heat has lost small forward Mike Miller, a threat with his outside shooting, for three months. It’s not going to be as easy as everybody thinks for the Heat. Miller’s loss is key because with three superstars, role players are a necessity. Miami will have one fewer until after the new year.

* Some NFL picks for the Sunday and Monday games:

Atlanta 24, Cincinnati 21

Chicago 21, Washington 17

Kansas City 30, Jacksonville 14

Pittsburgh 24, Miami 20

Tennessee 20, Philadelphia 17

St. Louis 24, Tampa Bay 17

New England 27, San Diego 21

Green Bay 27, Minnesota 21

New York Giants 20, Dallas 17

My Facebook Friend

Kenny Mossman

Mossman

Mossman

I first came across Kenny when he was a basketball player at Winfield High in 1977. The Vikings were playing Wichita Heights in Winfield and I was there to cover the game. I don’t remember Kenny, per se, but I remember the game. Heights, as usual, dominated. Kenny, I came to learn later, had been matched up against Darnell Valentine and he didn’t get the better of that situation. Anyway, later in life, Kenny became a friend. He is a former sports information director at Kansas State and . . . well, I’ll just let Kenny explain.

“I’m the Senior Associate AD for Communications at Oklahoma. Also did stints at Kansas State and Illinois State in athletics media relations before coming here. I’m originally from Winfield and proud of my degree from Southwestern and my roots in South Central Kansas. First got to know you by reading the Eagle as an avid sports fans and have always loved the irony of the fact that you covered some of my HS games (Heights at Winfield for one). But we’re FB friends because of our work association and friendship through the years. I have always looked forward to the times we can chat and just hang out.”

* Last Wednesday’s Facebook Friend was Dave Phillips, a former sports radio talk-show host in Wichita, general manager of dave and michaelthe Wichita Wings and one of the strangest faces ever put on television in the local market for KAKE. Anyway, Dave complained to me afterward that I didn’t include a picture of him on the blog. I thought I was doing him a favor. But nonetheless, I felt bad. Dave’s ego is delicate, like that of most people who have been or are currently on television. So, today I’m going to include a picture of Dave, with his son, Michael, at a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. I hate the Cubs, but I don’t hate Dave. So here’s the picture.

Get ready eyes

* What a Saturday this is shaping up to be. I need a few more televisions, a few more DVRs or a few more of both.

Here’s how my day shapes up:

Wake up. I find that my day is infinitely better when I wake up. Believe me, there have been days when I didn’t wake up and they have almost always been bad days.

11 a.m. – Man comes to winterize sprinkler system. Also, Michigan State and Northwestern play on ESPN. That game intrigues me. Michigan State is in the national championship picture, folks. It’s true.

2:30 p.m. – Here we go. Hold on now, because this is going to be a wild ride.

I definitely want to see the Giants-Phillies NLCS game on Fox. No-brainer. But I also want to see the Nebraska-Oklahoma State college football game on KAKE, the LSU-Auburn game on KWCH and the Wisconsin-Iowa game on ESPN. I’ll need a radio nearby to listen to Kansas State-Baylor, which for some ridiculous reason isn’t being televised. Wish me luck from 2:30 until about 6.

6 – Come up for air. Talk to Debbie about HGTV or mums or wedding plans, perhaps, but not for long. Because the day has only just begun. Kansas and Texas A&M get going on Fox Sports Kansas City, so Debbie will have to be brief.

mizzoui fb7 – Take a deep breath. Tune back to KAKE for the Oklahoma-Missouri game. I’m picking a Tigers upset. But if the Yankees and Rangers are playing a Game 7 in Arlington, with Cliff Lee pitching for Texas, I have to watch. Also, Air Force and TCU are playing, with deserves a look. And junior college powers Butler (No. 1) and Hutchinson (No. 2) are playing in El Dorado. It”ll be on radio.

9 – With everything  else that is going on, I’m going to try and watch my first UFC match as Brock Lesnar takes on unbeaten Cain Velasquez for the heavyweight title. To do so will mean going out to “Sidepockets,” because I don’t want to lay down the $44.95 to watch at home. We’ll see. I might actually do this.

* I received my “Sports Illustrated” NBA preview issue in the mail Thursday and read it cover to cover. That’s unusual for me, thunderto read a magazine so quickly. I usually enjoy savoring it for a few days. I’m not sure why I read this particular issue so quickly. Could it mean that I’m looking forward to this NBA season like I haven’t looked forward to one in a while. I suppose so.

* I’ve had almost a week to think about it, and I’m just not thrilled with the season finale of “Mad Men” last week on AMC. Don Draper is a cad, yes. But is he really this much of a cad? Is he stupid? I’ll be interested to see what happens in early episodes next season to see if this marriage has even a remote chance of sticking.

* “Paranormal Activity” was a very good, scary movie. It sounds as if “Paranormal Activity 2″ will be even more intense. Debbie and I will be at the theater sometime next week, checking it out for ourselves. At least I think I can talk her into going.

* You know you love it, you know you’ve been waiting for it. So here is my personal list of Top 10 sitcoms from the 2000s. One thing I’ve noticed when putting together these lists is that I’ve gotten progressively less impressed with sitcoms over the years. It was hard to find 10 from the 2000s without dipping into a couple of choices I made yesterday in my 1990s list.

10) My Name Is Earl (2005-09) Just OK. Jason Lee was funny, but just OK.

9) The New Adventures of Old Christine (2006-10) Truth be told, I didn’t watch this show that much. But when I did, I liked it.

8) Scrubs (2001-10) Probably my son’s all-time favorite. I wasn’t a consistent watcher.

7) Two and a Half Men (2003-10) Again, not bad. But I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

6) Parks and Recreation (2008-present) By the way, what happened to this show. “Outsourced” is better? This is a very, very funny show. Where is it?

5) Everybody Loves Raymond (1996-2005) This was on my ’90s list, too.

4) 30 Rock (2006-present) Alec Baldwin. enough said.

Bowen

Bowen

3) Modern Family (2009-present) It’s on the fast track of not just my all-time favorite sitcoms, but all time favorite TV shows. Eric Stonestreet is fast becoming one of my favorite funny guys. And Julie Bowen – well, she’s Julie Bowen.

2) King of Queens (1998-2007) This was my favorite sitcom from the ’90s, even though it was on only two years during that decade. Makes sense it would rank high on my 2000s list, too.

1) The Office (2005-present) I watch episodes over and over again. I can’t get enough. Even a bad episode makes me laugh. Just the sight of Steve Carrel cracks me up. As much as I love the other characters on this show, there’s no way it can go on without Carrel.

Some college football picks:

Baylor 30, Kansas State 21

Texas A&M 31, Kansas 17

Missouri 24, Oklahoma 23

Auburn 41, LSU 31

Wisconsin 24, Iowa 20

Oklahoma State 27, Nebraska 21

Michigan State 30, Northwestern 14

Shock Talk

P.J. Couisnard I Men’s Basketball I 2003-08

Normally in this Friday space, I’ll be visiting with a current Wichita State student-athlete (a term the NCAA mandates that I use, otherwise something bad might happen). But today, I went with a former Shocker and one of my favorite Shockers, P.J. Couisnard,

Couisnard

Couisnard

who is playing basketball overseas but is currently back in the U.S. He gets to Wichita every now and again.

I e-mailed P.J. some questions and here is our give and take:

Who was your favorite teammate during your years at Wichita State?
P.J.: All my teammates were great, from Randy Burns to Derek Brown. Wendell Preadom was great. J.T. (Durley), Ramon Clemente, Lance Harris – Adam Liberty was in my wedding.
What are some of the best places you’ve been to while playing professional basketball?
P.J.: I’ve visited Budapest, Vienna, Moscow, the Czech Republic and Poland. But I’ve only played in Hungary.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
P.J.: In 10 years I see myself coaching my son or on one of my former teammates’ staff. To this day, I try and keep up with the current players and staff. I loved playing for Coach (Gregg) Marshall.”

Confessions of a Rangers fan

* I know a lot of people, I think, but I only know one Texas Rangers fan. I’m sure there are three or four others out there, but I only know one.

And he’s a wreck.

The Rangers are on the brink of playing in their first World Series, leading the New York Yankees 3-2 in their best-of-seven American League Championship Series. Texas returns home to play NY in Game 6 on Friday night. If there’s a Game 7, ace left-hander Cliff Lee, nearly unhittable in the postseason, will be ready.

texas logoYou’d think my friend the Rangers fan would be feeling pretty good about now.

Nooooo.

“This is actually more miserable than when they’re losing,’’ Duane Frazier told me. “When they’re losing, it’s like ‘Well, of course they’re losing. They always lose.’ Now that they’re actually doing something, I’m just waiting for them to crush my hopes even more.’’

There are factors at work here. Duane has been a Rangers fan for 33 years, so misery is his best friend. Texas has never played in a World Series, joining the Seattle Mariners and the Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos as the only current franchises never to reach the Fall Classic.

Duane has found comfort in Texas’ futility.

“Usually by July I’m on to other things,’’ he said. “Heck, by May I’m on to other things.’’

Duane thought he could wash his hands of the series after the Yankees came back from a 5-0 deficit to win Game 1. Those were the Rangers, he thought, that he’d grown to love. The series loss would be harmless.

But then Texas ripped off three wins in a row before losing Game 5 in the Bronx on Wednesday. This is a different Rangers team. Most of us can see that. Duane is reluctant to buy in, although he’s glued to this series.

“I’m totally into it and not enjoying a minute of it,’’ he said. “I’ll be watching Game 6 tomorrow night, at home, preferably by myself.’’

Duane is a Celtics fan and a Raiders fan, back when the Raiders were winning championships. He’s felt the thrill of watching his team go all the way.

“But this is different from anything else,’’ he said. “This is bizarre. It’s not that they’ve never won, it’s that they always lose. Saying they’ve never won almost sounds optimistic.’’

He loves this team – Cliff Lee, Josh Hamilton, etc. He’s totally into this, when he’s not burying his head in a pillow.

“It’s so different from Rangers baseball,’’ Duane said. “They’re actually taking chances instead of just making dumb plays. I love the way they run the bases.’’

I’m hoping for the best for my friend. But I’m not sure what the best is. Can Duane handle a World Series? Here’s hoping he gets the chance.

* Now for my favorite sitcoms from the 1990s. My faves from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s are listed on earlier blogs. The 90s were a great decade for laughter, but you’ll be surprised that perhaps the sitcom of all sitcoms, Seinfeld, is listed only at No. 5 for me. I have to admit, I wasn’t much into Seinfeld when it was on the air; I’ve watched a lot of episodes in syndication, though.

10) Evening Shade (1990-94) A good Burt Reynolds vehicle.

9) Murphy Brown (1988-98) Do you know I’m having trouble remembering who else was on this show besides Candice Bergen? Oh, Faith Ford. And some guys.

8) Home Improvement (1991-99) Cute concept that got old to me after a while. I wasn’t crazy about the kids.

7) Ellen (1994-98) Ahead of its time. Funny show. Love Ellen.

6) The Drew Carey Show (1995-2004) Silly, occasionally stupid. But usually pretty darn funny.

5) Seinfeld (1989-98) I like it more now that I know more about Larry David. His Curb Your Enthusiasm will be high on my 2000s list.

4) Roseanne (1988-97) Great social commentary made funny. She might be out there, but Roseanne had her day.

3) Friends (1994-04) Where did these people work? What did they do when they weren’t in their apartments or the coffee shop? Who cares? They all made me laugh, especially Joey (Matt LeBlanc).

Pierce and Grammer

Pierce and Grammer

2) Frazier (1993-2004) What a great combination Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce were. John Mahoney wasn’t  bad as their father, either.

1) The King of Queens (1998-2007) This actually could be ranked among among the best sitcoms of the 00s, and it will be. But I want it here, too. Kevin James makes me laugh like few others have.

A sports writer’s memories

You can’t succeed in anything you do, in my opinion, without some failure and some difficult times. I always though of myself as a hard worker and someone who wanted to get better as a writer and reporter. Being trained while covering high school sports is a challenge, because the job is always so hectic. I remember in the early days, when we had an afternoon newspaper (The Beacon) as well as The Eagle, covering events and having to write stories for both papers. So after writing a game story for The Eagle at night, I’d get up early the next morning and try to find a new angle for a next-day story. That was especially difficult to do when I covered the Wichita Aeros in the late 1970s.

In 1980, I was promoted from the high school beat to the Wichita State beat. I was elated, of course. The WSU beat has always been a big one at the paper because of this community’s love affair with Shocker athletics. However, I didn’t even last two years. The sports editor at the time thought I was too young and too inexperienced for the beat, and looking back I probably agree. But it was devastating because I was assigned to the desk to edit copy, write headlines and help produce the paper on a nightly basis.

Some people fit perfectly on the desk. I wasn’t one of them. It was a tough year before I returned to covering high schools, then moved to the news side for a little more than two years. Upon my return to sports in 1987, I was a more experienced and well-rounded reporter and writer. I covered high school sports until 1991, when I was given another chance to cover Wichita State. I covered the Shockers for four years; the baseball team made it to the College World Series three times.

Beat reporting is the essence of a newspaper and I’ve always admired the people who do it well. It’s not easy and you’re always worried about missing something. But when you beat other news outlets for a story, or your reporting is spot on when others are mistaken, it’s a great feeling.

An improving Coffman

* Carson Coffman came a long way as a quarterback last week during Kansas State’s 59-7 win over Kansas. Or did he?

Coffman’s numbers were outstanding. He was cool-headed in the pocket and his passes were accurate. He ran and he passed with effectiveness.

Coffman

Coffman

But now comes another test, one that will show us just how far Coffman has come. The Wildcats play at Baylor on Saturday, and the Bears are a bear at home. They aren’t the best defensive team in the country, but they do have speed and they will put more pressure on Coffman than he got against KU.

I’m intrigued by Coffman. I’m looking forward to seeing how far he has come – or hasn’t – against Baylor. This is a guy who has been much-maligned during his K-State career, losing the starting job early last season to Grant Gregory. Some Kansas State fans were aghast – rightly so – that Coach Bill Snyder didn’t bring in a quarterback with more upside for the 2010 season.

But Snyder has a way of making average quarterbacks better than average, and his magic might be working with Coffman. He’s getting more and more comfortable in the K-State system and more and more comfortable with his group of receivers, none of whom were around much last season.

K-State is 5-1 with Coffman, remember. A win at Baylor sets up consecutive home games against Oklahoma State and Texas and also makes the Wildcats bowl eligible. It’s an interesting stretch of games for Kansas State, which recovered nicely after being blown out at home by Nebraska.

* Thanks, ESPN, for showing Brett Favre’s regularly-scheduled Wednesday news conference live. I just don’t get enough of Brett, so anything you can do to give him more exposure – maybe the wrong word there – is much appreciated.

* It sure feels like the NFL jumped the gun in mandating harsher penalties for hits that are deemed potentially harmful to the head and neck areas of those players who take them.

Defensive players all around the league are lashing out. Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison, who was fined $75,000 for a hit he made against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, is threatening to retire, saying he doesn’t know if he can play anymore because of the stricter guidelines.

Please, James, shut up and get back to work.

His point, however, deserves some discussion. I don’t believe anybody is totally clear on what the NFL deems to be a violent hit. Defining one is difficult. There’s plenty of subjectivity in the equation.

By reacting so quickly, and with such an iron fist, the NFL has put itself in a difficult position. It will be nearly impossible now for the league to back off its stance, but I’m not even sure the NFL understands what its stance is.

Stay tuned. There is a lot left in this story.

* Don’t count me among those who claim not to want a Texas Rangers-San Francisco Giants World Series. I’d be perfectly satisfied with that match-up. The Rangers, to me, are the most intriguing team in the postseason.

* I’m getting great feedback on my best sitcoms of the decade list, which today reaches the 1980s. It was a rather think comedy decade on television, what with series like Too Close for Comfort, Webster, Who’s the Boss, ALF, Benson and Mr. Belevedere on the landscape. I did enjoy Bob Uecker in Mr. Belevedere, however.

Here’s my 1980s Top 10:

10) Alice (1976-85). I liked Mel, what can I say?

9) The Love Boat (1977-86). Lauren Tewes, who played Julie McCoy, sailed my boat.

8) Kate and Allie (1984-89). I was fascinated by Susan Saint James, who starred in a previous series, McMillan and Wife, with Rock Hudson.

7) Night Court (1984-92). I’m a big Markie Post fan.

Smithers

Smithers

6) WKRP in Cincinnati (1978-82). It was clearly about the chicks, Loni Anderson and Jan Smithers.

5) Cosby (1984-92). A ground-breaking series. And a legendary star. Who doesn’t love the Coz?

4) Golden Girls (1985-92). I still watch this show today. A lot. Estelle Getty does it for me.

3) Family Ties (1982-89). Michael J. Fox in the role of a lifetime.

2) Newhart (1982-90). Bob Newhart = funny. Always has, always will. And the supporting cast was right with him.

1) Cheers (1982-93). The best ensemble cast in sitcom history as far as I’m concerned. Loved them all. Especially George Wendt (Norm).

My Facebook Friend

Dave Phillips

I’ve known Dave for a long time. He’s a former general manager of the Wichita Wings, a former television anchor and reporter at KAKE (Ch. 10) and a former outspoken sports radio talk show host in Wichita. Currently, he works for Carlos O’Kelly’s in some big-wig capacity. Anyway, here’s what he had to say about our Facebook friend status:

“I’m Facebook Friends with Bob Lutz because he dares to tell the truth in his newspaper column. Sure I’m tired of having to defend him to all my neighbors.Last Sunday morning, I’m in the driveway, going to church, my buddy is on his way to church, and he yells, “Lutz is an idiot.” He was referencing Bob’s insight into the debacle that is Turner Gill. I, as I have to do almost daily, stood up for Bob. If it’s that bad on Sunday mornings, when we’re in a good church-going-mood, you can imagine the venom they pour on poor Bob Mon-Sat. But I enjoy him. Plus, he and Bruce are dynamite on the radio.

“Oh, as far as Facebook? Yeah, there’s never anything of interest on his wall.”