As I wrote a couple of days ago here, “Sporting News” recently published its Best Sports Cities edition and Wichita came in at No. 145 of 402 cities. Not good enough, as far as I’m concerned.
Recognizing that the list is highly subjective, I’m still pained to see that Wichita ranks as low as it does, although I really don’t have a strong argument for why our fair city should be listed higher.
Wichita has sports issues, no doubt about it. We’re a college basketball/baseball town, but Wichita State’s haven’t been consistently good enough of late to allow us to identify ourselves as such nationally. We dabble in minor league professional sports, but not to a degree that’s gotten any notice.
Our high school sports are OK, better than that in basketball. But football – outside of Heights and Bishop Carroll – hasn’t done much.
Omaha (No. 134, far too low in my opinion) has the College World Series, a defining event, and an arena that is drawing big events to town. Oklahoma City has the NBA’s Thunder, which has created a huge buzz and helped vault that city all the way to No. 31 in the “Sporting News” rankings. Tulsa (No. 108) has a new arena and a new WNBA franchise. Springfield, Mo., which ranks one spot ahead of Wichita, has a busting Double-A baseball franchise.
Wichita lacks a sports identity. It’s a Shocker town, which is great. But I contend it can be more.
So here are five ways Wichita can become a more-respected sports city and inch its way up the annual “Sporting News” list.
Wichita State basketball has always been the most important sports entity in this town. The Shockers should always be in contention for an NCAA Tournament bid and consistently be at the top of the Missouri Valley Conference standings. It has the most loyal following in the Valley and the best facilities. Gregg Marshall is getting the team back to being among the best. The trick is to stay there, year after year.
* Lawrence-Dumont Stadium is on one of the city’s greatest resources. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like city leaders understand its importance. It’s a historic ballpark, but past its prime. Yearly upgrades are nice, but eventually L-D needs to be replaced with a new, modern facility that will bring fans back. It’s as simple as that. It needs to seat around 10,000 people and have all the amenities fans are looking for. L-D is in a perfect location, so nobody needs to get the notion that a new stadium needs to be built somewhere else in the city. A new stadium needs to be built where the existing stadium stands.
* Minor league baseball wasn’t successful here in the past. But a new ballpark and several seasons of independent baseball (the Wingnuts) could make affiliated minor league baseball attractive again. Wichita should be able to support a Double-A, or even a Triple-A franchise. But first, the venue has to be upgraded. Then the right owner or ownership group must be found. Let’s not give up on minor league baseball just yet.
* Intrust Bank Arena has to attract the men’s NCAA basketball tournament. I think that will happen, but I’m worried that planners didn’t put enough seats in the IBA to compete with other, bigger arenas. The NCAA requires 12,000 seats for its postseason basketball tournament, and IBA comfortably meets that. I think Wichita will eventually get the tournament, but it makes me slightly nervous.
* The Wichita sports commission needs to continue to work to bring variety to Wichita. Last year, an NBA exhibition game was played at Koch Arena. Why can’t that be an annual occurrence? Is a higher brand of indoor football an option. I’d love to see the sports commission propose a 20-year plan for the city.
What about Wichita State football, you ask? Well, I’m not opposed to football returning to WSU. I just don’t see how it’s going to happen, especially in this economic climate. I’m also not sure Wichitans would support a lower-level of football, which is what they would have to do, at least initially. I was hesitant to even mention Shocker football, because I don’t see it as an integral part of a master plan. But I’m sure some of you do.
* Is it Saturday yet? That’s the night of one of the best postseason pitching match-ups I can remember: Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay against San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum in San Fran.
How good is that?
Well, consider that in his postseason debut, the 33-year-old Halladay pitched a no-hitter in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds.
And that in his postseason debut, Lincecum, winner of the last two Cy Young Awards in the National League, blanked the Atlanta Braves on two hits.
Their collective pitching line: 18 IP, 2 hits, 0 runs, 0 earned runs, two walks, 22 strikeouts.
This is the match-up I was hoping for and the one that made Bobby Cox’s exit from managing the Atlanta Braves palatable. If the Braves had beaten the Giants on Monday night, Lincecum would have pitched in Wednesday night’s Game 5.
Lincecum vs. Halladay is baseball’s postseason dream and it’s come true. Can’t wait.
* My fantasy football team lost by six points this week. I’m not made for this. Far too competitive. And now, at 1-4, on the verge of being out of the race, though I lead my league in overall points. Isn’t there something unjust about that?
* I don’t think I’m watching one new network television show this season. I have a couple of episodes of “The Event” on my DVR, but haven’t watched yet. TV used to be a stress reducer, but that’s not the case now. With so many choices, I feel apprehensive about what I’m not watching rather than satisfied by what I am. This is a real problem, people. Stop laughing.
Who is the Opinion Line contributor?
Yes, it’s time for that Tuesday blog staple, in which I divulge the identify of a person who takes the time to state on opinion – anonymously, of course – in The Eagle’s Opinion Line, printed every day on the Op/Ed page.
I think everyone who voted for Barack Obama should apologize to at least five other Americans?
Wait, this person believes Americans actually voted for Obama and that it wasn’t some Muslim conspiracy? This is progress, folks. Anyway, this person is 67, a man and the owner of a four-door automobile. That’s the picture I’m getting. It’s a silver car and it emits too much exhaust. He has a wife and grown children, who moved several states away because, he believes, of job opportunities. That’s what they told him, at least. His wife is an American and neither he nor her have been apologized to yet by anyone who voted for Obama. That angers him. Initially, he was hoping Obama voters would apologize to 10 Americans, but ultimately settled on five after checking out his fingers and noticing he had five of them.
Is it possible for a person to mind his own business, but still be very aware of what is going on around him in case he needs to be a witness?
Huh? I think I’m going to pass on this one.