Monthly Archives: December 2010

Merry Christmas

I hope to spend Christmas in a relaxed state. My goal is to go to a half dozen or so movies over the holidays, to catch up on some reading and to spread festive cheer. And maybe a nip or two of eggnog somewhere along the way.

It’s been a great year for me, personally. And I believe 2011 will be even better. I’m very fortunate to have a job I love and great teams to cover. The basketball scene in Kansas is incredible right now and I can’t wait until Kansas, Kansas State and Wichita State get into the midst of conference play.

Kansas is such a talented team. A tad bit immature, yet, but I like Bill Self’s team a lot. I think the Jayhawks will continue to get better as freshman Josh Selby acclimates himself to KU’s style.

As I wrote in the blog yesterday, I’m not sure what’s going on at Kansas State. But whatever it is isn’t good. We’ll see if Frank Martin and his team can get on the same page.

And Wichita State is doing just exactly what I thought Wichita State would be doing. While I have the Shockers on my mind, I still say the game against Tulsa on Tuesday night at Intrust Bank Arena was a huge smash, all the way around. I know some WSU fans are still complaining about their seats, about how chilly it was inside the building, about this and that. My response? Get over it. It was a fantastic night and I’m sure the necessary tweaks to the process will get taken care of.

* I just received my new issue of “Sports Illustrated,” in which the magazine pays respects to those sports figures who died in 2010.

Santee

Santee

Kansan Wes Santee, from Ashland, is one of those honored. He was 78 when he passed away last month.

I talked to Santee a few times over the years, but I never wrote a column about him. And I’m still kicking myself.

Santee set a world record in the mile in 1954, with a time of 4:04.9. At the time, a group of runners were approaching a four-minute mile and Santee was considered one of the most likely to break the barrier.

But three months later, England’s Roger Bannister became the first to run a sub-four-minute mile and Santee went on to set a world outdoor record in the 1,500 meter with a 3:42.8 in 1956. His fastest mile time was 4:00.5. So close.

I wonder how much, if any, it bothered Santee over the years that he had come so close to cracking the four-minute barrier but hadn’t done so? It would have made for a fascinating column, I think, because Santee was such a thoughtful subject. Missing out is something I regret.

* OK, I watched the Rex Ryan and wife foot fetish video just now on You Tube. One word: Weird.

What else is there to say, really?

I guess the Jets will never look at fourth and a foot the same way again.

Cheap joke, I know.

I’m really not sure what all the fuss is about. Aren’t foot fetishes kind of common, as far as fetishes go? I’ve done a little reading about them today and they just don’t seem like that big of a deal. But feet don’t really do it for me.

It is strange, though, that Ryan (allegedly) made the video tape of his wife’s feet that appears now on You Tube. I don’t really get it. And the whole thing has spawned a great series of one-liners. I can’t wait to see the headlines in the New York newspapers tomorrow morning. Otherwise, ho hum.

A sports writer’s memories

I was young once. Really. There’s proof on the Internet.

Kriwiel with his 1981 Kapaun team

Kriwiel with his 1981 Kapaun team

Anyway, as a young reporter, I was sometimes intimidated by the task at hand. The first time I covered a Kapaun Mount Carmel football game, for instance.

Eddie Kriwiel was already a legend from his years at West High during the 1960s and from his time building a winning program at Kapaun. And, believe it or not, I had written something Coach Kriwiel didn’t like. So I walked on egg shells as I approached him for a post-game interview after a game in, oh, probably 1975.

I never heard Kriwiel raise his voice. I never even saw him give a dirty look.

But that night, he questioned me about something I had written. It was 35 years ago, so I don’t remember what it was about. I do remember stumbling on my words and being very nervous. But then something kicked in. I talked back. As Coach Kriwiel made a point, I made a counterpoint. I defended what I had written. We went back and forth for a few minutes, right there in the middle of the playing field. It was uncomfortable. I was 20 at the time and Kriwiel was, as I mentioned, a legend.

He didn’t back down and even though I was probably sweating profusely at the time, neither did I. I figured that if I was going to gain any credibility with the coaches I had been assigned to cover as a young reporter, I had to stand my ground. Plus, it’s kind of my nature anyway.

As he aged and I gained experience, our relationship improved. He was a class act and the greatest high school football coach I was ever around. In the years since, I came to know his wife, Mary, and their large family. When Ed passed away three years ago, I talked to all seven of his kids for a column I wrote.

I remember one of my most intimate times when Coach Kriwiel. It was later on, long after he had stopped coaching football at Kapaun. But he was still coaching girls golf. I met his team at Braeburn Golf Course and I decided it would be fun to play a few holes with the girls I was writing about. But I didn’t have my clubs. Ed let me borrow his, and I think I had pars on the two holes I played.

We had a really good time that day.

* A note to you great blog readers: There will be no blog until Monday, Jan. 3. I’m taking some time off next week to re-charge the batteries, see some movies and adjust to married life, although there’s really no adjustment to be made. I just like reminding myself that I’m married. Hopefully, the blog will return better than ever in 2011. I’ve really had a lot of fun doing this and, after a couple of halting starts and stops, I think this blog is here to stay. I appreciate all of you and have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Meltdown in Manhattan

What’s going on with Kansas State’s basketball team?

It’s a question I’m starting to hear more and more and one that exploded Tuesday night with the announcement that seniors Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly had been declared ineligible by the school for receiving impermissible benefits on the purchase of clothing from a Manhattan department story.

This is Pullen and Kelly we’re talking about. Seniors. Supposedly, leaders. For a team that was expected to be in the hunt for a national championship this season.

But after a loss to UNLV on Tuesday night at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, the Wildcats’ only hunt is for their own identity.

It’s been a tumultuous season for Kansas State from the get-go starting with the early suspension of Kelly, who was K-State’s best interior player last season. Kelly seemed prime for a monster senior season. It’s not happening.

Pullen, a preseason All-American, isn’t shooting well and looks like he misses being Denis Clemente’s sidekick. He has not adjusted well to his bigger role and appears to be trying too hard.

I wonder if this team is tuning out Coach Frank Martin. He’s not an easy guy to tune out, but his persistent emotional approach to

Martin has a word or two for Will Spradling during Tuesday's loss to UNLV

Martin has a word or two for Will Spradling during Tuesday's loss to UNLV

coaching has to be difficult for players at  times.

I’ve been critical of Martin’s coaching tactics, and especially of his frequent use of profanity on the bench. But I’ve gotten to know him a little better over the past couple of seasons and there is no doubt he has the best intentions. I’m just not sure his players know how to differentiate between Good Frank and Bad Frank.

It was Bad Frank who addressed the media after Tuesday night’s loss. If you haven’t seen it, you haven’t been watching ESPN because his post-game news conference has been showing there regularly. It’s not good.

Martin lashes out at some media people who dare ask him about the Pullen/Kelly ineligibility, commenting that he only wanted to talk about the players who were on the floor. Fine. But there was no need for the confrontational tone or for the menacing look Martin was projecting. He looked more like a guy awaiting a prison sentencing than he did a basketball coach. And, like it or not, he did nothing to quell his national image as somewhat of a loose cannon.

Martin stands for maturity and leadership, but he didn’t possess either quality Tuesday night. He sees himself as a teacher, as well as a coach, but sometimes his lesson gets lost in translation.

He’ll never have a better or more challenging teaching experience than he’s facing now, but rather than embrace the opportunity he instead chose fighting words.

Kansas State still has a chance to be the kind of basketball team we all thought it would be. The Wildcats haven’t even started Big 12 play yet, so Martin has time to pull his team together.

But it won’t be easy. And it will be nearly impossible if the mood around the Kansas State program becomes dour and frantic. We’ll learn a lot more about Martin and his team in the next few weeks.

My Facebook Friend

Cammie Bobo

Cammie and Brian Bobo

Cammie and Brian Bobo

I don’t really know Cammie. She reminded me that she once worked in the media relations department at Wichita State, so I’m sure our paths crossed then. Cammie seems like someone who would be fun to know. She’s a rabid sports fan and a former athlete. She loves her Oklahoma State Cowbows. She’s really active and I can tell she’s one of those Type As. So, yeah, I’m happy Cammie is my Facebook friend. She told me she read about my wedding here on the blog, which is cool. Here’s more from Cammie:

Congrats on your weekend…your blog truly choked me up this morning. I can say I am about a once a week reader, but happened to visit this morning as a mutual friend commented, and I of course followed the link on Facebook.
I am reminded of the beauty of weddings and remembering that during the scurry and hurry of December we lose focus on the beauty of things. I have been married to a fantastic man for 12 years and would not trade our two kids (well maybe the 7 year old daughter on some given days, but I digress…) or our busy life for anything. Your blog and your karaoke for that matter just gave me a moment to smile and slow down a bit…
ALL WAS RIGHT WITH THE WORLD UNTIL…you posted a picture of Bob Stoops’ new home on your blog…how could you?? My husband played football at Oklahoma State, and coached before moving here to run a dealership for Davis-Moore and we don’t speak those words you know…*whispering* Bob Stoops, Boomer Sooner, or OU…(in fact I almost threw up typing them.) We go to church with Brent Kemnitz, and he might (I use the term lightly) be the only Sooner fan that we can tolerate…only because I adore his wife and girls. We brainwash our children and dress them always in orange or gold…(wow that is horrible!! ) :)
As far as being your friend on Facebook, I am not sure if you remember or not, but I was a walk-on basketball player at Wichita State under Linda Hargrove after transferring from Newman University and playing soccer and basketball. (very uninteresting, so I would not blame you for not remembering any of that…). I was also a student assistant for a while for Scott Schumacher and Larry Rankin in the SID office as my work study back in the day.  I am on a couple of committees now including the Gregg Marshall Men’s Golf Tournament Fundraiser and I think that might be where we were reintroduced. My aunt, Jan Bogle, is the men’s basketball secretary as well, and has been there forever!
About me…always 100 miles an hour, and love meeting new people. I am a female sports junkie!  I am the proud mommy of a son Braxton who is 10, and a daughter,  Brityn who is 7 going on 15. I have been married to Brian for 12 years. I graduated from Wichita State with a Liberal Arts degree. I am an Associate Manager/Insurance Agent for Farm Bureau Financial Services and have been here since 2007.  In my spare time (what is that???) I volunteer, teach Sunday School, design jewelry, sew, paint, workout, coach basketball and attend Wichita State and Oklahoma State sports and watch a lot of sports!! Anyone that know me, knows that I am chatty, and that my friends and my family are my life! Relationships are what people with remember you for…
Bob, I hope you and your new bride have a fantastic holiday! Thanks for taking that time to find out about your Facebook “friend”.

Rotations, rotations, rotations

It’s been another interesting and exciting offseason in MLB, hasn’t it. The rich get richer, except for the Yankees. And when is the last time you could say that?

Lee

Lee

Philadelphia adds Cliff Lee. The Dodgers bolster their rotation. The Brewers go out and pull in a couple of good arms to help a pitching staff that has been woeful of late. The Giants are loaded with arms. The Cardinals have a strong staff. It goes on and on.

So, on the blog today, I’m going to give you the top 10 starting rotations in baseball as of this second. I’m not going to bore you with statistical analysis, I’m just going to throw the rotations out there and you can mull it over. Please get back to me with your thoughts because I love hearing from readers. Civil readers, at least.

1) Philadelphia Phillies. Duh. They’ve added Cliff Lee to what was already one of the strongest rotations in the game, one that included Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. Joe Blanton, if he isn’t traded, isn’t a bad No. 5. It has a chance to be one of the best rotations in history, forget about just 2011. But only Hamels is under 30, so if you’re anti-Phillies you can logically hope for an injury meltdown. But that’s not being very nice.

2) San Francisco Giants. Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain are stars. Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner have the ability to be stars. Barry Zito is a former star. This is, in my estimation, a constellation rotation, full of stars. It wasn’t the Giants’ hitting that won the team a World Series in 2010, remember?

3) St. Louis Cardinals. Am I being a homer? I don’t think so. The Cardinals have two guys – Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter – who can stand toe to toe with Lee and Halladay in Philly. After that, it gets a little iffy. But Jaime Garcia had an outstanding rookie season and Jake Westbrook is a proven 15-game winner. The fifth starter, Kyle Lohse, has been down and out for a couple of seasons because of injuries. If he bounces back, St. Louis has the pitching to win big.

4) Boston Red Sox. Boston has made a splash this offseason by adding the bats of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. The Red Sox didn’t need to add starting pitching, because they have enough. Yes, Boston needs Josh Beckett to pitch like the Beckett of old. But in Jon Lester, John Lackey and Clay Buchholz, the Sox have three horses. The fifth starter, Daisuke Matsuzaka, has No. 1 or No. 2 stuff, but can’t stay on the field.

5) Los Angeles Dodgers. You watch. Young left-hander Clayton Kershaw is going to explode in 2011 to become a serious Cy Young

Kershaw

Kershaw

Award candidate. He’ll be just 23 on Opening Day and last season was 13-10 with a 2.91 ERA. In 204.1 innings, he gave up only 160 hits and struck out 212. He’s scary good and the Dodgers have surrounded him with dependable veterans like Chad Billingsley, Jon Garland, Ted Lilly and Hiroki Kuroda.

6) Tampa Bay Rays. Yes, Tampa has lost Crawford and first baseman Carlos Pena, not to mention closer Rafael Soriano. And, reportedly, starting pitcher Matt Garza is on the block. But it’s pitching that will keep Tampa Bay respectable in the American League East, led by lefty David Price, who will likely be joined in the rotation by James Shields, Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis and Jeremy Hellickson, provided Garza is dealt.

7) Oakland Athletics. You don’t think much about Oakland, do you? But the A’s do have a good, young pitching staff led by 23-year-old right-hander Trevor Cahill, who was 18-8 with a 2.97 ERA in 2010. He’s joined by Gio Gonzalez (15-9, 3.23), Dallas Braden (perfect game Dallas) and 22-year-old Brett Anderson. The fifth starter could be newcomer Brandon McCarthy, who last pitched for Texas in 2009, or another of the A’s youngsters, Vin Mazzaro.

8) San Diego Padres. Another team you don’t think about much, the Padres were in contention in the National League West until the final day of the season. Why? Pitching. Their rotation is led by another star-in-the-making, Mat Latos, who is joined by Chris Richard, Tim Stauffer, Cory Leubke and Wade LeBlanc. There’s not a household name among them, probably even in San Diego households. Right-hander Aaron Harang has been brought over from Cincinnati to provide depth and a veteran presence.

9) Atlanta Braves. The ATL has a nice mix of young pitchers with high ceilings and veterans who are trying to stay at a high level. Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe are the latter; Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson are the young guys. The No. 5 starter could be Mike Minor, who is highly regarded after coming up through Atlanta’s system.

10) Milwaukee Brewers. I hate the Brewers. I know the Cubs are supposed to be the Cardinals’ biggest rival, and they probably still

Greinke meets the Milwaukee media

Greinke meets the Milwaukee media

are, but Milwaukee rubs me wrong. Have to admit, though, general manager Doug Melvin has addressed a weakness by adding Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum to the rotation, where they’ll join Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson. Greinke, Marcum and Gallardo were Opening Day starters last season. Milwaukee has gotten better on the mound and will be much better situated, thanks to one of the best offenses in the National League, to make a bid for the postseason.

What do you notice about this list? Well, I would think it might be that seven of the 10 teams listed are from the National League, which has added Lee and Greinke, among others, in the past week or so. The Florida Marlins just missed making the list, as did the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers from the American League. No Yankees. Isn’t that great?

Who is the Opinion Line contributor?

Let’s get right to it. These are from actual posts in The Wichita Eagle’s Opinion Line. My gift is to tell you, generally, who they come from:

It is strange that our kids always have time for us to help them, but never have time to help us.

Whoa boy, family crisis. And one big enough to make it to the Opinion Line. Yes, this is nasty. This is a woman, definitely a woman, who has kids from multiple marriages. In fact, she’s not always sure which kids are from which marriage. But she knows they should be doing more for her because, after all, she raised them. Or at least she’s pretty sure she did. Having kids, she believes, is an entitlement to being taken care of. I’m guessing one of her kids asked to borrow money, then wouldn’t change the oil in her car. She’s in her 50s, lives in the Seneca and 31st Street area and isn’t putting many presents under her Christmas tree.

I heard Christmas may be canceled this year because Rudolph has a bad alternator.

OK, I’m missing something here. Is there an inside joke? Is there a big alternator story out there that I haven’t heard about? Because, if not, this makes no sense. And if there’s one thing I know about the Opinion Line, it’s that it always makes sense. Otherwise, if this is just a random post with no “inside joke,” it’s just plain dumb. And it was probably submitted by the same woman who doesn’t think her kids do enough for her.

Nuptials and more

I know you want to know how the wedding went Saturday night. Well, if I say so myself, it was fantastic from start to finish.

Yes, I was nervous, even though I’ve done this before. Yes, I stumbled on some words during my vows to Debbie. Yes, I got through it.

weddingA couple of Don Henley songs – “For My Wedding” and “Everything Is Different Now” – were key parts of the ceremony. We had two pianists because that’s what big-time weddings have, right? We had a great preacher, Bill Allan, who Debbie knows from her days at Friends University. Pastor Mike (O’Donnell) did a great job paying tribute to our families.

Debbie has a great family and they were so happy for her. Not because she was getting married to me, necessarily, but because she was getting married for the first time. I feel very fortunate that I am the one to snag her. Wait, that doesn’t sound right. But I think you know what I mean.

We had a great wedding photographer, Fernando Salazar, who works at The Eagle. We had tremendous guests and our reception, at the Wichita Boathouse, was one for the ages. It included karaoke – you can hear a short snippet of me and Debbie singing “I Got You Babe” on my Facebook page.

My son, Jeff, who turns 28 tomorrow, brought me to tears with his toast. I love me some Jeff.

All in all, it was a night I’ll never forget, the best night of my life. I will post a few pictures on the blog as soon as Fernando gets them to me. For now, enjoy the one of Debbie and me I have included as we saunter toward the sunset on the beautiful beach near the Boathouse.

* Now, on to sports. Although I gotta admit, I haven’t paid attention the way I normally do.

I did see most of Josh Selby’s debut with the Kansas Jayhawks on Saturday, when KU eked out a win over Southern California thanks to his late three-pointer.

That guy is smooth. And the pressure didn’t seem to affect him at all. He never hesitated on the shot and looked like he was made to take the biggest shots of a game. Very impressive and Selby is only going to get better.

Wichita State survived a real scare against a mediocre LSU team that the Shockers should have beaten by double digits. I’m still waiting to see the real WSU basketball team. Maybe it’ll show itself Tuesday night against Tulsa at the Intrust Bank Arena. I’m really looking forward to that game, mostly because of the venue but also because of the Shockers’ long-standing rivalry with Tulsa that really isn’t a rivalry anymore but does conjure up some nice memories.

As for Kansas State’s basketball team, I have no answers. I just know I haven’t liked the chemistry with the Wildcats from the very outset of the season. Something seems to be wrong in Manhattan.

* I just received an e-mail with a picture of Bob Stoops’ new house, being built near Norman, Okla., where Stoops coaches football. You might have heard of him.

stoops houseAnyway, the house, as you can see, is pretty large. Not quite as big as mine, but close. Stoops is doing pretty well, as are a lot of college football and basketball coaches at the highest levels of their sport.

My first reaction to seeing this photo was, “Wow, that’s an amazing crib.” Then I started thinking about the worth of coaches in our society and how out of balance it all appears to be. I guarantee you there is not another employee at the University of Oklahoma who lives in a house like this. Not the head of the science department or the dean of students or the president of the university.

On the flip side, I know how much revenue football brings into the coffers at Oklahoma and how important it is to those who support the university. I know Stoops’ success trickles down to all facets of OU, and that he’s under a lot more pressure than the head of the science department or anyone else associated with the university.

College football is big business, so on one level it makes sense that the coaches should live like kings. I suppose. But seeing the picture did get me to thinking. And wondering how we can justify a house like this for a coach when we give so little to the athletes who make this house possible. Yes, they get a free education in many circumstances. And that’s value. But, for me, Stoops’ house represents a disconnect in the way college athletics operates. Maybe I’m making too much of this. Maybe I’m just jealous.

My Facebook Friend

Mark Triplett

Mark and his daughter

Mark and his daughter

Mark is one of the most loyal followers of the LLC (Lutz Live Chat), a Tuesday staple at Kansas.com on Tuesdays from 1:30-2:30 p.m. We have a lot of fun there; you should jump aboard sometime. He’s a fellow St. Louis Cardinals fan, which means he’s a right-thinking American. Mark is a real sports follower, the kind of guy who pays attention to everything. He asks a lot of questions during the LLC and some of them are even good ones. Just kidding, Mark, you’re an LLC legend.

Anyway, here’s Mark on Mark and our Facebook relationship:

I’m married, two children (3 and 1- yr old-daughters). I enjoy spending time in the outdoors (fishing, hunting etc), and all sports in general. I grew up in Wichita – I’m a Heights alum (2000) was the Sports Editor of both my high school and college newspapers, but received my BBA in Accounting from Oklahoma Christian University. I have been a tax analyst in Wichita for the past 6 years. I just finished my MBA at Wichita State this semester. I grew up attending WSU baseball and basketball games, and still actively support them.
I suppose we are “friends” because I’m such an avid sports fan and listen to “Sports Daily” – daily – but the main reason I guess is that I’m also a St. Louis Cardinals fan, from birth. Both my dad and grandpa are Cardinals fans, so I grew up listening and going to games whenever we got the chance. Plus, having a friend like you makes me feel better about myself somehow. :)
I enjoyed playing in the Sports Daily Golf Tournament this year, and following the infamous LLC. My bucket list would include meeting Albert Pujols in person, attending a Cardinals World Series game, traveling more with my family, and living in Colorado someday.

Division names create division

Do the right thing, Jim, and scrap your plans to name the two divisions of the new Big Ten conference the Legends and Leaders divisions starting next year.

What do Legends and Leaders that mean, anyway? They sound like something out of Little League.

Jim Delany, the commissioner of the Big 10, sounds as if he’s going to get rid of the names after his office has been deluged with calls from people who think the names of the conferences are ridiculous. Or something worse.

According to an ESPN.com story, Delany said during an interview with WGN AM-720 in Chicago on Thursday that the names Legends and Leaders were picked to highlight the conference’s rich history, and that “to a great extent it’s fallen on deaf ears.”

The league, with newcomer Nebraska, will be split into two divisions next year.

“We want to breathe a little,” Delany said during his radio interview. “I don’t think you make a judgment in 48 hours or 72 hours. Eventually, we’re going to have to address the issue of whether or not it’s sustainable, but I don’t think that’s an issue for today.”

Jim, it is an issue for today. These conference nicknames are nonsensical. They have no meaning. At least East, West, North, South have meanings. They’re not exciting, but they have meanings.

“I think we have enough experience with names, and expansion and development of divisions to know what you never, rarely, get 90 percent approval rating,” Delany said. “But to get a 90 percent non-approval rating was, you know, really surprising.”

Not really.

Shock Talk

Ben Smith I Men’s basketball I Jr.

Smith

Smith

The 6-foot-5 Smith, from Oklahoma City, averaged 21.4 points and 11.4 rebounds during his sophomore season at Northern Oklahoma Community College in Enid before transferring to Wichita State. He has started slowly, but has the look of a player whose contribution should grow. I think Smith is a wild-card for the Shockers.

So far, he’s averaging only 5.1 points and 1.9 rebounds while playing about 15 minutes per game. But he has a legitimate shooting stroke. Here’s part of the conversation I had with Smith today:

So, I understand you like movies. What kind do you like the most?

Oh, I go to movies a lot. I just went to see the new Harry Potter movie (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”). I’ve seen all the Harry Potters, but I didn’t read the books. Everybody always tell me the books are better than the movies, but I don’t want to see the movies and be disappointed, so I don’t read the books. I’ve seen so many movies, different types. I usually go to the movies at the theater with my girlfriend. She likes the chick flicks and I like my kind of movies.

You’ve only been in Wichita  short time. What do you like best about the city?

Well, everywhere I go it seems like people know me. Normally, that’s not the case. It’s a fun town and there seems like there’s a lot of stuff to do. I haven’t gotten all out there yet to see everything. It does surprise me how popular Shocker basketball is here. My teammates told me about it, they were like ‘Everybody loves you.’ I’m from Oklahoma City and I didn’t get that kind of recognition there except from my friends and other people who played basketball.

So, you’re on Facebook. How many friends?

Oh, I don’t even know. Probably like 800 (836, actually). I probably get on there every day, but for only about 10 minutes. Not a long time. And I’m not on Twitter. I just haven’t gotten to that.

My Facebook Friend

Mike Ross

Ross

Ross

It’s a special edition of “My Facebook Friend,” a feature that normally runs on Mondays and Wednesdays. Why the special edition? Because I felt like it. That’s why.

Mike is a dandy. I came to know him, I believe, when he was an intern with the National Baseball Congress in the late 1990s, when he worked the NBC World Series. He thinks differently, that we didn’t meet until he had taken a sports information job at Wichita State. Oh well, whose memory are you gonna trust?

Mike is a tireless worker and all-around good guy. He left the media relations department a year ago and is now a teacher in the Department of Sport Management at WSU. Here is Mike on Mike and our Facebook friendship:

I teach Sport Law, Sport Public Relations and Sport Marketing for the Department of Sport Management at Wichita State. I moved there in January this year after spending almost nine years in the athletic department at WSU in media relations, which is how I know Bob, from sitting on press row down the way from him for all the Shocker games. It was my job to help make Bob look like a genius when it came to Shocker sports. Well, I tried. Just kidding Bob. Now I am helping train the next generation of sport managers.

I met Bob at the 2001 MVC Baseball Championship at Eck Stadium. I was a bright-eyed bushy-tailed 26-year old student working his first major event and Bob introduced himself with the question, “Who the hell are you?” My favorite memory of Bob was the tireless fight to try to convince this community that INTRUST Bank Arena needed to be built. It may not seem like it sometimes, but Bob loves this town and honestly wants what is best for it. In fact, I think I may name my next bulldog “Lutzy” in honor of him.

I grew up in Texas, and went to Texas A&M for two years before moving here and finishing at WSU. I love the Aggies and are thrilled they are in the Cotton Bowl (sorry Mizzou fans, who’s laughing now?). I’m also a Texans fan (yes, I screamed at the television last Monday night). It’s been a weird year, the Ags started slow and have really come on lately. The Texans started well and have gone downhill as of late. So I feel like its been the best, and worst, season ever. I also love the Astros, much to the dismay of all the Cardinals fans (good luck with Berkman next year, I’m sure he will hit .700 against Houston).

I’ve been married for 10 years to my wife Tonya, who I think is the most beautiful woman on the planet. I have one of the coolest 9-year olds in my son Trent, a couple of teenage daughters who both like scary movies in Kelsey and Bailey, and we are foster parents and have had nearly 10 kids in and out of our home since last year. Never a dull moment.

Everyone should leave a comment congratulating Bob on his wedding. We’ve all had the chance to see the softer side of Mr. Lutz over these last few weeks. Its amazing what the holidays and love will do to your perspective. Enjoy it Bob!

You can’t UConn me

Why, Christine Brennan asks in her “USA Today” column, isn’t the Connecticut women’s basketball team getting major media play for being about ready to tie and then pass the UCLA men’s streak of 88 consecutive victories, which came to an end in 1974 after a nearly three-year run?

Christine, got a few minutes?

uconn womenFirst of all, it’s women’s basketball. And whether you like it or not, women’s college basketball just isn’t a very big deal in this country. Consumers don’t much buy it. So even if UConn goes on to win 188 straight games, it’s not going to be a major story. That’s just the way it is.

Am I being sexist? No, and don’t you dare tell me I am. I am 100 percent for women receiving the same opportunities as men in every walk of life, including sports. That said, it’s not my responsibility to follow women’s sports. It’s up to the sport to capture me, and college women’s basketball just doesn’t.

When Lynette Woodard played at Kansas in the late 1970s/early 1980s, I followed women’s college basketball fairly closely. When Jackie Stiles played at Missouri State in the late 1990s, I was a fan. They are two Kansans and two pioneers in women’s basketball.

But the trail they blazed turned cold. And while UConn’s accomplishment is an incredible one, it hasn’t captured our imagination the way the UCLA men’s streak did.

That streak lived through players like Bill Walton, Keith Wilkes and Marques Johnson. John Wooden, the greatest coach ever, was on the bench. UCLA’s dynasty went far beyond winning 88 straight games; the Bruins were in the midst of an incredible national championship run.

Competition for attention was almost non-existent. Basketball season meant a lot of UCLA and not much of anyone else. The Bruins ruled the hoops world in those pre-ESPN days, when a televised game was an event. And almost all of the events involved UCLA.

The UConn women are, without a doubt, the most successful women’s basketball program of the past 10 years. Their coach, Geno Auriemma, has a record of 739-122 in 26 seasons.

I like to think of myself as an avid sports fan, but I’m going to admit something here: I don’t know much about the UConn women. I can name a few of their players and I could pick Auriemma out of a crowd. But I haven’t zoned in and I don’t know anyone who has.

Is that an indictment on women’s sports? I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s an indictment on anyone or anything. I think it’s just a matter of the marketplace dictating interest.

It says something that UConn’s game against Ohio State on Sunday, in which the Huskies could tie UCLA’s streak with a victory, is being televised on ESPNU. Clearly, the TV honchos aren’t lathered up about this particularly streak. And how many people are going to watch a women’s basketball game that competes with the NFL?

Brennan is an outstanding columnist, but I don’t understand her fight in this instance. Her major point seems to be that the mainstream media is ignoring this story when, if it involved a men’s team, it would be the biggest story in the country.

She’s right, of course. If Duke and Mike Krzyzewski and Duke were about to tie and break UCLA’s record, the ESPN folks would be falling all over themselves getting the story on the air. There would be endless analysis and countless interviews with Bruins players from that era, asking them how they feel about their streak being threatened.

Nobody is calling up Walton or another UCLA player to ask them what they think about the UConn streak. That’s because they’re two completely different things. The UCLA streak is the UCLA streak, one of the most amazing accomplishments in sports history. The UConn streak doesn’t rise to that level. Not because it’s not impressive, but because women’s basketball doesn’t compare to the men’s sport.

Another factor is the one-sided nature of the UConn streak. The Huskies eked out a one-point victory over Baylor on Nov. 16 to run their winning streak to 80 games. Guess how many other single-digit wins UConn has had during its streak? One, a six-point victory over Stanford in last season’s national championship game.

The average margin of victory during UConn’s streak is 33.1 points. Even if you did tune in to watch a game, you’d be tuning out before the first half of the first half, in most cases. The Huskies have won almost as many games by 40 or more points (26) as they have by 25 or fewer (29).

My impression of women’s basketball is that it suffers greatly from competitive imbalance. Again, I don’t pay enough attention to know that for sure.

As for UCLA’s 88-game winning streak, the Bruins won their games by an average of 22.9 points. The majority of those wins were of the blowout variety, but did have 16 single-digit wins before finally falling to Notre Dame, 71-70, on Jan. 19, 1974.

I remember where I was when the streak ended and, of course, I was watching.

I won’t be watching UConn play on Sunday no matter how guilty Christine Brennan attempts to make me feel. I’m just not that interested. And that’s my right as an American.

A sports writer’s memory

Speaking of Jackie Stiles, I went to Claflin to interview her for a story in about 1997 or so (gosh, I’m going completely off of dull memory here) and hung out with her during some of her workouts. I covered one of her games in the 1A state tournament along about then, when Claflin lost to Little River in the state championship game. Then I covered probably six or seven of her games when she played at Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State).

Perhaps I’m writing about this to convince people that I really have nothing against women’s basketball. But whatever the motive, watching Stiles play was always a major treat.

She was such a competitor and she brought so much talent to the floor. It’s not a surprise to me, given the way she played, that injuries eventually cut short her career in the WNBA.

Before Stiles, Woodard caught my attention during her high school career at Wichita North. She was the first truly great women’s high school player in Kansas and I believe she’s still the best ever.

I was pretty full of myself in those days and decided that I would beat her in a game of one-on-one in 1977, when Woodard was a senior at North. Wasn’t no girl gonna beat me. I think, in fact, those were my exact words.

I should have known better.

When I was worked at the “Derby Daily Reporter” in my pre-Eagle years, I challenged a girls tennis player, Julie Woodman, to a match. Now I had never played much tennis, but I figured I could beat her. How hard could it be?

I’m not sure I returned one of her serves. My most vivid memory of that match is of Julie laughing hysterically.

Basketball, though, was another matter. I could play basketball. In my mind, Lynette Woodard was in trouble.

No, not really.

She beat me, 30-16. She ran circles around me. When it was over, I shook Lynette’s hand and started searching for oxygen. She was the best player I’d ever played against, man or woman.

Things I’ve learned

Today’s post is a blatant rip-off from Esquire magazine’s “Things I’ve Learned” issue, which arrived in my mailbox yesterday.

I love Esquire, a real man’s magazine. And the “Things I’ve Learned” interviews they conduct with celebrities and other important people are fascinating. I’m not suggesting I’m a celebrity of even important, but I thought it would be fun to do my own “Things I’ve Learned” for the blog. And, hey, if you’re not interested in the things I’ve learned, you certainly don’t have to read.

But I’d really appreciate it if you did.

Anyway, here goes:

I’ve learned that a career, even when you’re doing something you love, is a long time. And that there are ups and downs. And that it’s not always easy. But regardless of the situation, it’s important to keep working.

I’ve learned that my mother had a tremendous influence on my life, even though I didn’t want her to. She was a mercurial person and I often found myself trying to steer clear of her path. But she was also brilliant and funny and everything you wouldn’t expect a person with an eighth-grade education to be. In some very strange way, I’m who I am because of her.

I’ve learned that you never stop missing a deceased parent. I keep thinking that nearly 25 years after my father’s death, I’ll be able to move on at some point. So far, it hasn’t happened.

I’ve learned that it’s great to make friends along the way, but that the friends you make early in life are the ones who mean the most. I still have five or six friends I’ve known since my early days in grade school and we still get together often. Yes, we tell the same stories over and over again. But when you can relate to the stories, it always seems like they’re fresh and funny.

I’ve learned that it’s important to cultivate an ego. Having an ego is not a bad thing. Egos get a bad rap. But as long as egos are kept in perspective, they’re as important to a person’s success as hard work and knowledge. Just don’t let it carry you away.

I’ve learned that, thanks to Debbie, it’s never too late to meet the right person. I’ve created quite a mess in relationships during my life, but now I know it’s because I wasn’t with the right person. No fault of theirs because they weren’t with the right person, either. Now I’m with the right person and it’s incredible how relaxing that is.

I’ve learned that having a child is the most profound experience of anyone’s life. Many have learned this, I know. But I just have one and he’s precious to me. Don’t get me wrong, the gray in my hair is a direct result of raising my son, a never-ending process FYI. But nothing defines me more than being a father.

I’ve learned that I don’t really fit into any category. My beliefs are my own and it’s not important to me that they be shared by others. I respect anybody’s opinion, even though it might seem like I don’t. That’s the curse of being a columnist; we mostly come across as all-knowing. None of us are.

I’ve learned that few believe me when I tell them I don’t have an agenda. So I’ve stopped telling people I don’t have an agenda. It’s not worth the trouble.

I’ve learned that I never get tired of seeing my byline in the newspaper. I wake up every morning excited to see my name. Not for the reason you probably think, though.

I’ve learned that I can cope in a solitary existence. I know how to not be around people. I’m not a “the more the merrier” kind of guy.

I’ve learned that my love for baseball grows with age. I absolutely adore the game of baseball. And if there’s a bigger St. Louis Cardinals fan on the planet, I haven’t met him.

I’ve learned that being on radio is one of the most liberating experiences of my life. It allows me to be me. No interference except for good judgment.

I’ve learned that fate is real and miracles do happen. I wasn’t necessarily a believer before the past couple of years. I don’t know where fate and miracles come from, but I can’t deny their existence.

I’ve learned that I love having a nice lawn.

I’ve learned that not being a math whiz in high school did me no harm. So there all you math teachers who told me I would never amount to anything without learning your subject.

I’ve learned that I still prefer bubble gum to any other kind of gum. My dentist appreciates that fact.

I’ve learned that my will power for exercise comes and goes. I hate that. It’s a shame human beings aren’t born with innate will power.

I’ve learned that the best story ideas/tips come from readers. I can’t tell you how many times a reader has tipped me off to a story or column. It happens frequently.

I’ve learned that the best thing about aging is perspective. Things that would have bothered me 20 years ago roll off my back now. But I’m not all the way there yet. I still need to let some things go.

I’ve learned that I’ll never stop missing my former co-worker, Steve Harper, who died almost 11 years ago. Can it be that long? Steve saw the world exactly the way I see the world. I’ve never met anyone else who I can say that about.

I’ve learned that we’ll never get it right as Americans until we figure out that the most desperate among us define us as a society. There has to be a better way.

I’ve learned that I feel fortunate to have blue eyes.

I’ve learned that three Dons – Henley, Rickles and Knotts – have provided me with countless hours of entertainment.

I’ve learned that I’m attracted to blondes.

I’ve learned that watching television is a major part of my life. Always has been.

I’ve learned that when my son is asked about his father in years to come, he’ll probably say I drank too much.

I’ve learned that fish scare the heck out of me. I can’t touch them. It’s bizarre.

I’ve learned that finding tolerance is an ongoing struggle.

I’ve learned that I’ve learned a lot. And forgotten much of it.

My Facebook Friend

Larry Rankin

Larry (far right) and his family

Larry (far right) and his family

Larry is Wichita State’s assistant athletics director in charge of media relations. Which means I see him a lot and that we get along sometimes. Just kidding. Larry is a great guy and very easy to work with. You ask Larry to do something and he gets it done. You might need to ask a dozen times or more, but eventually he gets it done. Again, just joshing Larry, who came to WSU from Oklahoma State a long time ago. Here’s what Mr. Rankin had to say about the whole Facebook thing:

I’ve known Bob for 18 years now (before he was a radio star and since I started working in the Wichita State athletics media relations office in 1992), but I am sure I met him when he came down to Oklahoma State to cover Barry Sanders for the Eagle in 1988. At the very least I had the responsibility of putting down his name card as a student-assistant in the Cowboys’ media relations office so he would know where to sit in the press box.

The funny thing is 20 years later I am still putting down his name card so he knows where to sit at Shocker Basketball games.

Here are a few facts worth noting:

-I guess I am Bob’s Facebook friend because everyone else in town is, or that I use his philosophy of life to guide my decisions (WWBLD-What Would Bob Lutz Do).

-I am sorry I have to miss his wedding because we will be in Louisiana playing the Tigers. I heard on Facebook that the dinner will be expensive.

-I have always enjoyed his hate-hate relationship with Shocker fans, but he is able to keep it in perspective some of the time.

-I spent many hours in the Eck Stadium press box when he was the beat writer listening to his banter with Ted Woodward. Those two together can bring tears to your eyes.

-I reside in the same town (Derby) that Bob grew up. My wife, Denise, teaches Kindergarten; my son, Garrett is a freshman; my daughter Bailey, is in the fifth grade; and my son, Wyatt, will be three in February.

Not my cup of tea

I’m always amazed by the loyalty of Wichita State basketball fans.

Last night, the Shockers played Alabama A&M. And they drew more than 10,100 fans, just a few hundred short of a sellout.

It was a dull game, marked by an uninspired first half, a raucous halftime talk by WSU coach Gregg Marshall and a spirited second-half effort that resulted in a 30-point win.

I didn’t go to the game. It’s my little way of protesting the kind of buy-in games that offer nothing except a night out. And this isn’t an indictment on WSU or Marshall for scheduling Alabama A&M games and others like it. I understand that in today’s world of college basketball, that’s the way it’s done.

Just don’t ask me to participate.

Unfortunately, season-ticket holders have to participate, at least financially. To get tickets for the good games, you have to buy tickets for the bad games. I would think that a bunch of the 10,000-plus at Monday night’s game had to swallow hard before getting out in the cold and heading for Koch Arena.

Maybe not. Shocker basketball is an event, and perhaps I’m dead wrong about this. Maybe everybody in the building was juiced to be there for Alabama A&M. I just know I wasn’t.

Fortunately, the buy-in games are a thing of the past now. The Shockers have no more patsies on the schedule, unless you count some of the bottom feeders in the Missouri Valley Conference. After a game against LSU in Shreveport on Saturday night, Wichita State returns home to play Tulsa at the Intrust Bank Arena a week from tonight.

I’m really looking forward to that game for a variety of reasons: The renewed rivalry game with the Golden Hurricane; a game being played so close to Christmas and a game being played at the IBA, which will have about 15,000 fans inside. All of whom, I’m sure, will want to be there.

* Cliff Lee to the Phillies. Didn’t see that coming.

Now Philadelphia can roll out Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels in a four-game series. Yowzer!

Wowzer!

So is it a done deal in the National League? Are the Phillies a lock for the World Series?

Not so fast.

Sure, if you believe starting pitching is the most important facet of a team then yes, the Phillies are a step up on everyone else.

But Philly wasn’t an offensive machine last season, despite having some lethal weapons in the lineup. And many of those weapons are getting older; only one projected Philly starter is less than 30 years old.

And look at how left-handed the Phillies’ lineup projects: Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Raul Ibanez are left-handed hitters. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins and center fielder Shane Victorino are switch-hitters. Youngster Dominic Brown, who could be the guy who replaces the departed Jayson Werth in right field, is a left-handed hitter. Werth, who was probably the most valuable Philadelphia offensive player in 2010, is a right-handed hitter who’ll be plying his trade in Washington this season.

So the Phillies have a few question marks. None of them, though, are about starting pitching. Which makes them a heavy favorite in the National League.

Quick hits

  • I’m headed to North tonight to watch sensational sophomore Conner Frankamp play for the Redskins against Bishop Carroll. I don’t remember a player providing this kind of early-season City League fireworks before. Will I provide the Frankamp jinx?
  • I am absolutely hooked on “The History Channel” show “Pawn Stars.” I can’t get enough. I record as many episodes as I can and watch them ’til the cows come home.
  • I recently switched from DirecTV back to Cox, a move that made me uncharacteristically nervous. It was weird. I actually went back and forth a few times before making the final call. And I’m still not sure I did the right thing. It’s odd for me to behave like this.
  • On a day the Phillies signed Cliff Lee, the Cardinals signed back-up catcher Gerald Laird. Couldn’t the Cardinals have waited a day to make that move? Jeez.
  • I enjoy doing “Sports Daily” every day, but it’s even more fun when Brent Kemnitz joins the show on Tuesday. Many people are confused about the relationship I have with Kemnitz, the Wichita State pitching coach considering how we argue on the radio show. Don’t worry, we’re all good. Brent is one of the best guys I’ve known in this business and someone I consider to be a close friend.
  • Now Haertl, that’s a different story.
  • I am so excited right now I could pluck a rooster.
  • I love the week between Christmas and New Year’s. I’ll especially love it this year.

Who is the Opinion Line contributor?

Yes, it’s Tuesday again. Which means I’ve perused The Eagle’s Opinion Line and come up with some dandies. Better yet, I’ll tell you, generally, who is responsible for these OL posts. Ready? Here we go:

I agree that the Wichita water department is not run efficiently. I have experienced busy signals and 45-minute wait times. It needs to be put in order before services are added.

First of all, I want it documented that there are 45-minute wait times when people call the water department. Really? Who would hang on the line 45 minutes to talk to someone from the water department? Anyway, this person is a woman because I can tell you from experience no man would wait on a phone line for 45 minutes. I don’t know of a man who has that amount of patience. This woman cooks a lot, so water is very important to her. She has a family of five, so water is also precious to her. She loathes anyone who wastes it. In her neighborhood, she is referred to as “The Water Lady.”

And across town lives her polar opposite, who wrote the following in the Opinion Line:

I have always found the customer service at the Wichita water department to be nothing but helpful.

Obviously, this woman works for the water department. That’s about all I know about her.

Brady: Up to his old tricks

In 2007, the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady had probably the best season ever for a quarterback. He passed for 50 touchdowns, threw only eight interceptions and had a 117.2 passer rating while throwing for 4,806 yards.

That was the season that New England went undefeated all the way to the Super Bowl before losing to the New York Giants, of course.

Now Brady is at it again, putting together the kind of season that rivals ’07 and doing so without as strong a team around him. At least not on paper.

Brady and Belichick celebrating, which they do often

Brady and Belichick celebrating, which they do often

After tearing up the Chicago Bears on Sunday, Brady, through 11 games, has passed for 3,398 yards, thrown for 29 touchdowns and had just four passes intercepted. That’s four of 425 attempts. He has a 109.9 quarterback rating and San Diego’s Philip Rivers (103.1) is the only other quarterback in the NFL over 100.

Bradley is throwing only 32.7 passes per game, which seems like a lot but isn’t when you consider 17 quarterbacks are throwing more often. Yet, he has the most touchdown passes and the fewest interceptions. Speaking of picks, he has thrown 268 passes without one.

Now, let’s examine the Patriots team around him briefly.

Brady’s No. 1 receiver is the diminutive Wes Welker, but he ranks only No. 20 in the NFL in receiving yardage. He has combined with Patriots re-tread Deion Branch to catch 137 passes for 1,547 yards and 13 touchdowns. And Bradley uses tight ends better than anyone in the business.

New England’s top running back, BenJarvis Green-Ellis, ranks No. 17 among rushers with 786 yards. He has scored 11 touchdowns.

The Patriots’ defense ranks 27th among the 32 NFL teams, allowing 375.1 yards per game.

Lately, though, everything has come together. The offense and defense are clicking and New England clearly looks like the best team in the league.

It’s mostly about Brady and Bill Belichick, the Pats’ coach, who designs a roster like no other coach in the league. Belichick doesn’t need the flashiest players around; he just needs players who fit his system. And when he has them, as has been the case more often than not during his 12 seasons in New England, the success rate is phenomenal.

Belichick is 123-50 with the Pats, who are about to win their eighth AFC East championship under his guidance. Since his second season in New England – which just happens to be when Brady became the starting quarterback – Belichick is 118-39. They are also 14-4 in the playoffs.

It’s been a historic coach-quarterback run and it’s not over yet. Not even close.

* All fans of Missouri Valley Conference basketball should be concerned. What fans there are left, that is.

Not only is the Valley off to a rough start in the pre-conference season, people are staying away. Outside of Wichita State, where basketball is king and the Shockers are on the cusp of the national rankings, attendance is down everywhere. In some cases, frightfully down.

Creighton is still averaging 14,764 per game in the luxurious Qwest Center, so no worries there. First-year coach Greg McDermott is solid and the young Bluejays are figuring things out.

Bradley’s average attendance is 8,077 in a building that seats just more than 11,000, the Peoria Civic Center.

Missouri State, maybe the Valley’s No. 2 team, is averaging only 6,313 fans in its new JQH Arena, which seats 11,000. Not good.

Evansville’s 6,033 is about half the capacity of its home arena, Roberts Stadium, which is in its final year.

Indiana State’s Hulman Center seats 10,200; the Sycamores are averaging 5,621.

Northern Iowa, coming off a Sweet 16 run that included an upset of Kansas, is averaging 4,610 fans’ per home game in a nice arena that seats 7,017. That’s nonsense.

Southern Illinois has a refurbished arena, finally, but is averaging only 4,165 fans, less than half of capacity.

Drake is terrible and that’s not going unnoticed in Des Moines, where the Bulldogs are pulling in 3,564 fans per game to the Knapp Center, which seats 7,002.

And finally, there’s Illinois State. Redbird Arena, now one of the oldest in the Valley, seats 10,200. Illinois State’s average attendance is 4,441. That says a lot.

Attendance says a lot about the plight of the Valley, which just five seasons ago was praised as the best “mid-major” basketball conference in the country and sent four teams to the NCAA Tournament.

* Attendance in the Valley reflects the quality of play, I’m afraid to say.

I looked through some MVC team statistics today and was alarmed at some of the numbers:

Bradley is shooting 38.1 percent from the field.

Northern Iowa (29.3 percent); Southern Illinois (28.5) and Illinois State (28.3) are below 30 percent from the three-point line.

Northern Iowa averages only 10.5 assists per game and has just 12 blocked shots in eight games.

Drake’s rebounding margin is -8.1 per game.

Southern Illinois has 115 assists and 165 turnovers.

* Are you keeping an eye on the New York Knicks?

They’re 16-9 and play a big game against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. It’s been a while since the Knicks have played big December games, but this has the look of a team that’s going to be around for a while.

Amare Stoudemire is proving to be a huge acquisition, especially since he brought 26.2 points and 9.1 rebounds per game with him as a free agent from Phoenix.

Point guard Raymond Felton is coming into his own, averaging 18.4 points and 8.7 assists. Wilson Chandler contributes 17.3 points and six rebounds. Italian guard Danilo Gallinari averages 15.3 points. And rookie forward Landry Ellis, from Stanford, averages 10.6 points and 7.6 rebounds.

The Knicks are enjoying Coach Mike D’Antoni’s fast-paced style and after nine miserable seasons, which resulted in an overall record of 279-459 (37.8 winning percentage), New York looks like a playoff team. The Knicks, by the way, last won a playoff series after the 1999-2000 season, which capped a run of 14 consecutive seasons in the playoffs.

My Facebook Friend

R.J. Dickens

Dickens

Dickens

I remember R.J. from the early days, when I was just getting my feet wet at The Eagle and he was working at the Manhattan Mercury. Our paths haven’t crossed in years, until Facebook. Everybody’s paths cross on Facebook, of course. R.J. was kind enough to volunteer for this every-Monday feature here on the blog and here’s what he had to say about himself and about our beautiful FB relationship:

You were there at the beginning of my journalistic career, 35 years ago when I started out as a sports writer at the Manhattan Mercury.
The most fun times were covering sports with the likes of (the Topeka Capital-Journal’s) Rick Dean, Jim Ramberg, the late Pete Goering, and you. Hard to believe you’re the last one remaining on the sports beat.
I drifted away from journalism, first to real estate, then to insurance, and then to politics as the 1990 Democratic candidate for Secretary of State before landing here in Wichita and writing a weekly column for the Prospector for 14 years.
I’ve been at KCTU-TV for 16 years now, where I’m currently the news director and creative services manager. I get to dip my toe back in sports now and then doing color on an occasional high school football game, or being pressed in to play-by-play duty at an overtime East-Southeast game at Koch Arena a few years ago.
Congratulations on your upcoming marriage. I’ll be joining you in about 18 months… and 18,000 miles.
It’s been great to reconnect with you… even if we don’t agree on the significance of Tex Winter in Kansas sports history.

(Ed. note): OK, it’s not really an editor’s note, it’s Bob. But I believe Tex Winter is one of the most significant figures in Kansas sports history, so I’m not really sure where R.J. is coming from here. And I don’t understand his reference to 18,000 miles; perhaps he’ll clear that up for us here with a comment. Thanks, R.J.

Stop the clock

I don’t mind saying I’m a City League honk. I can’t help it. It goes back to my roots here at The Eagle, when I broke in covering high school sports, heavy on the City League. I was unbiased then; but now I’m not hesitant to express my feelings.

And City League basketball, especially, has a place in my heart. My father took me to triple-headers at the Roundhouse during the 1960s and early 1970s, at a time when the league was flourishing. Come to think of it, when hasn’t the CL flourished.

I was dismayed this morning when I read Joanna Chadwick’s piece about the adoption of a running clock during the fourth quarter of scoreboardgames in which a team leads by 30 or more points. In the piece, she quoted Heights girls coach Kip Pulliam, whose program is one of the best in the state, and West coach Sandy Nixon, whose program isn’t.

It’s not hard to determine which of those two coaches was in favor of a running clock and which coach wasn’t.

Well, I’m not in favor. I’m adamantly against a running clock in any quarter of any game regardless of the score. What does this teach? And isn’t high school athletics at least partially about education.

A running clock isn’t good sportsmanship. It symbolizes surrender. It tells young athletes that in the face of adversity, just hurry up and get it over with. Accept your fate. And move on.

I can’t help but think this is a rule designed specifically to help the girls teams in the City League who often are on the wrong end of blowout games to Heights and, sometimes, Bishop Carroll. The City League girls race often boils down to a chase between those two teams and there’s no question that teams like West suffer.

So, make it a running clock a rule for girls games only. Not ideal, but at least it addresses the problem the rule is designed to address. Why bring the boys on board with this weak rule?

Imagine the embarrassment when a boys City League team has to endure a running clock in the fourth quarter. Imagine the ribbing from players on the other team. Imagine, basically, quitting, which is really what a running clock symbolizes.

If league officials are concerned that blowout losses result in some kind of emotional harm, why play the fourth quarter in the first place?

I haven’t had a chance to talk to any of the City League boys coaches about the adoption of the running clock, but I’m guessing that to a man they’re against it. It’s a fluffy, soft rule designed to protect the weak. And nobody – whether down by 30 points or not – wants to admit they’re weak.

* I was thrilled to see “USA Today’s” cover photo of St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford in today’s edition.

Bradford

Bradford

Love Bradford. Starting to love the Rams, although I’m going slow. I’m on about a third date with the Rams and there hasn’t been any hanky-panky yet. It’s better to be cautious.

But I do like 6-6 for a team that had won six of its previous 48 games going into this season. And I’ll give a nice chunk of the credit to Bradford, who has steadily improved as the 2010 season has gone on. I think Bradford can be a big NFL star and it’s impressive to me that, as a rookie, he’s been able to lift his team.

Bradford has passed for 17 touchdowns with only 10 interceptions. He is averaging just more than 221 passing yards per game. Those aren’t Hall of Fame numbers, but they’re outstanding for a rookie who inherited a bad team.

When the NFL draft was held in April, I thought the Rams should have taken Nebraska nose tackle Ndamukong Suh with the first pick and waited until the top of the second round to take a quarterback. Someone like Colt McCoy or Jimmy Clausen.

I was wrong.

I love the Bradford pick now and I didn’t hate it then. I always thought he was going to be a big deal. And the Rams used their second-round pick to take offensive tackle Rodger Saffold out of Indiana. Saffold has moved into the all-important left tackle position and has given up only two sacks. He’s a keeper, too.

The Rams play at New Orleans on Sunday. And I’m just crazy enough to think they’ll put up a decent fight against the Super Bowl champs.

Shock Talk

Kevin Hall I Jr. I Outfielder

Hall

Hall

I don’t think it’s unrealistic to think Hall is one of the wild cards for Wichita State’s baseball team in 2011. After making a big splash during the late part of the 2008 season, when he was a freshman, Hall has fallen on tough times. He missed most of the 2009 season because of an injury and was red-shirted. And last year, while playing in 56 games, hall batted only .243 with an on-base percentage of .303. Those are not the numbers he wants. Hall did steal 20 bases last season, but it makes you wonder how much damage he could do on the bases if he reached them more often.

“I really think this is going to be my breakthrough year,” Hall said. “I’ve had a lot of experiences now, through all the springs and summer ball. I’ve been at high points and I’ve been at low points. So now I know how to handle each. Staying on an even keel is going to be a lot easier for me than it has been in the past.”

Here’s more from our conversation:

Q: So, you’re obsessed with the “USA Today” crossword puzzle?

A: Yes, every morning. I think it might be (ex-Shocker) Clinton McKeever who got me started. Me and him had some classes together. I don’t know if I saw him doing it one day, but I just got hooked. Then it became a competition between the two of us to see who had finished it or who had gotten the most done. Consistently, he did better than I did but he’s got the age factor on me. It’s not an easy puzzle. I would say it’s pretty comparable to the “New York Times” crossword.

Q: Which is your favorite MLB team?

A: The Atlanta Braves. I grew up watching them on TBS and they were always winning. I pitched in high school (in Springfield, Ill.), so (Greg) Maddux and (Tom) Glavine were at the top of the pedestal for me. I pitched all the way through the summer after my senior year, right up until I got to college.

Q: What’s your favorite part of a Wichita State practice?

A: Probably batting practice, but not when I’m hitting. It’s when I’m out in center field. I get to stand out there and the pitchers kind of fade away from that spot and give me the space to work. So it’s just me tracking down balls, which is what I love to do.