Monthly Archives: April 2012

Friday musings

* Went to the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers show last night. What a concert. Petty was so gracious and so complimentary of the Intrust Bank Arena crowd. In all honesty, I have nothing against country music. I’m not a big follower, but I think it has its place. I just don’t want its place to be so pervasive in Wichita’s music scene. I’m a fan of diversity and especially of rock and roll. More rock and roll shows, please.

* The highlights of the Petty show for me were: “You Wreck Me” and “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” my two favorite Petty songs; Mike Campbell’s guitar work, especially on “It’s Good to Be King”; the keyboard work of Benmont Tench, who just happens to have one of the best names in the history of names; the lighting of the stage, which was fantastic; Petty’s vocals, which were spot on all night long; Scott Thurston’s work as guitar player, harmonica player and back-up singer. Thurston stood behind keyboards all night but, as far as I could tell, never played them; Regina Spektor as the warm-up act. She was really good; my wife, Debbie, dancing in her own special way during many of Petty’s songs; the silly people who lit up joints during the show, surely knowing they were going to get caught; Petty’s facial hair, which does him well.

* The Washington Nationals, already the biggest surprise team in baseball, are calling up 19-year-old outfielder Bryce Harper this weekend. Harper is the most intriguing talent to come to the majors since Stephen Strasburg came to the Nationals in 2010. Suddenly, Washington is one of the most must-see teams in the bigs. I’m just glad the St. Louis Cardinals don’t play them until September.

* As I write this, it’s less than an hour before ESPN’s coverage of the second and third rounds of the NFL draft. I’m excited because the St. Louis Rams have three picks in the second round and the first pick of the third round. I eat this draft stuff up. I can’t wait. My hands are trembling.

* Great news for Carl Hall and Wichita State that Hall has been granted another year of hardship eligibility by the NCAA to return for his senior season of basketball. Losing Hall would have been a real blow, given the level of inexperience on the Shockers’ front line for next season. Hall is a big key. You don’t get these statements of the obvious anywhere else.

* Here’s where I give some “American Idol” thoughts. If you don’t want my “AI” thoughts, then you can skip ahead to the next bullet point. But I’m a singing contest guy and I don’t apologize for that. I think this is one of the best groups of singers there has been on this show ever. I predict big things for Elise Testone, even though she was eliminated last night; Joshua Ledet; Jessica Sanchez and Skylar Laine. I also think Phillip Phillips has a chance, although I’m not as high on him as many are. I think recently-eliminated Colton Dixon might be a bigger star than Rivers. What about my wife’s favorite, Hollie Cavanagh. I’m not sure. I love her voice but she has to learn to perform. She’s 50-50 for me.

* Welcome back, those of you who wanted nothing of my “American Idol” thoughts. I am looking forward to the NBA Playoffs, which start Saturday. I think there are some potentially fascinating match-ups, the best of which might by the LA Clippers vs. the Memphis Grizzlies in the West. I’m all over that one. I also like the Denver-LA Lakers series and while I expect Oklahoma City to beat Dallas, the Mavericks won’t be an easy out as they try and defend their NBA championship.

* In the East, the most intriguing series is New York against Miami, a 7-seed against a 2-seed. The Knicks have had an amazing season, both good and bad. But they’ve been going good under Mike Woodson, who since taking over as coach as led New York to a 17-6 record. I think New York can push Miami deep into this series.

* The Charlotte Bobcats finished the season 7-59. It’s the worst winning percentage in NBA history. Michael Jordan isn’t exactly working out as an owner, is he?

* I’m just glancing at the sports section and I see that Heath Myers, a person I do not know, had a hole-in-one on the No. 9 hole at Cedar Pines in Andover. The thing that makes this interesting is that the hole is 290 yards in distance. Now that’s a hole-in-one.

* Loving the new season at “Mad Men.” The revelation has been the work of Jessica Pare as Don Draper’s young wife. I wondered how that relationship would be portrayed and so far it’s been great. Pare, who plays the role of Megan Draper, is her husband’s match in every way. Pare deserves an Emmy nomination. I like writing things like that because it makes me feel important, as if I know anything at all about who deserves an Emmy nomination. But in this case, I really think she does.

* If minor-league professional teams like the Wichita Wild of the Indoor Football League want to attract an audience, they have to win in this market. No ifs, ands or buts. And a 2-5 record isn’t going to get it done.

* Pretty happy with the St. Louis Cardinals so far. It’s going to be nice to get Lance Berkman back in the lineup in a week and for center fielder John Jay to return. But you can’t argue with 12-7, even though those two walk-off losses to the Chicago Cubs last week made my head hurt.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Have a wonderful weekend.

 

My life on Facebook

People don’t believe me when I tell them I enjoy Facebook. People don’t believe me when I tell them a lot of things, but that’s another story.

Truth is, I like Facebook a lot. Many of my stodgy friends, who are about the same age, don’t relate at all to Facebook. Their belief is that we’re too old and too set in our ways to adapt to something on the cutting edge. I try to tell them we’re not that old, but they just look at me. At least I think they’re looking at me. They’re so old I can’t really tell.

Anyway, I spend a good amount of time on Facebook. Why?

Good question. I could say it’s because I like to keep up with my family, but I only have the one wife and the one kid. Good thing on the one wife thing, by the way.

My wife, though, has a large family and I do follow them as much as I can on Facebook.

I like the spontaneity of Facebook. Being that I’m one who is long past the point of caring what people think, for the most part, I enjoy posting what I deem to be slightly humorous stuff and then reading the responses from my Facebook “friends.” That entertains me.

What are Facebook “friends,” by the way?

Again, good question.

Most of the people who are my Facebook “friends,” are people I’ve never met. Yet I am interested in them. Some of them, at least. Sorry, but not everyone who is my “friend” on Facebook interests me that much. And I’m sure I don’t interest many of my “friends,” that much, either.

So in that regard, Facebook is a peculiar place. When I read a post from someone I don’t know who says they’re going to have a knee replaced, I wonder if that’s really information that I need. It’s not, yet it’s something I learn from reading Facebook posts. But reading posts like that creates a dilemma: Should I “like” that status, should I respond to that status or should I simply ignore that status?

Most times I ignore, being that I have very little to add to the statement of the conversation the statement elicits. But sometimes, out of the blue, I respond to a complete and total stranger. There are some people on Facebook, people I wouldn’t know if they tapped me on the shoulder, with whom I establish a mild connection.

I worry, though, that I’m ignoring my real friends for my Internet friends. Real friends offer more, such as: Real conversation, facial expressions, high fives, a twinkle in the eyes, laughter, groaning, anger, resentment and all of the wonderful things that come with true friendship.

What do you get on Facebook? A few words here and there, most of which don’t amount to anything of meaning.

Yet I’m hooked. When I was in Branson, Mo., last week, it was difficult for me not to use my phone to get on Facebook. For three days, I did my very best. And I’m proud to say that I only reached out to my Facebook “friends” one time. And the sun always came up the next morning.

Another bothersome thing about Facebook is that many of my friends aren’t even people. They’re business, disguised as people. Yet I accept their friend requests because – this is shameful to admit – I want to have as many friends as Anita Cochran and Larry Hatteberg.

I never see Hatteberg posting much of anything on Facebook, yet the guy has a zillion friends. And I’m jealous. So when Mike’s Bail Bonds sends me a “friend” request, I jump on it like I haven’t seen Mike or sought bail bond money for decades.

Meanwhile, there are some people on Facebook who I have known for many, many years. And some with whom I have rekindled a long-ago friendship. Those are the biggest attributes of Facebook, I believe. Because of Facebook, nobody should have to wonder about “whatever happened to . . . ” again.

All in all, Facebook has improved my life. It’s probably much too pervasive, but that’s my problem. I could just turn the computer off. But when I do, I wonder what I’m missing. And when that happens, I usually find out that I’m not missing anything. But the notion that I think I might be missing out draws me back.

I hope your Facebook adventures are satisfying. Or perhaps you’re as mystified by this social media craze as I am. I’m all in, don’t get me wrong. I’m just not always sure why.

 

Slow start in Kansas City

I apologize for the lengthy absence. When basketball season ends, I wind down. Feeling sufficiently wound down, I’m ready for a lively couple of weeks here on the blog, after which I’ll be taking some vacation.

Kansas City left fielder Alex Gordon had a breakthrough season in 2011, but has started the 2012 slowly with a .190 batting average.

Yes, for me it’s hit and miss during the less-busy months of the year.

Today, I want to reach out to the fans of the Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins, Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Angels, Houston Astros, Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres and, finally, Kansas City Royals.

Those eight teams are a combined 40-87 and, collectively, 42 1/2 games out of first place.

There’s nothing quite as aggravating as a slow start to the MLB season, especially when there was initially some promise. Royals fans, I’m talking to you here.

More specifically, I’m talking to the Royals’ public relations staff, which hailed this season as “Our Time,” before it even started.

Well, “Our Time” is riding a 10-game losing streak and hasn’t won at home in nine tries going into tonight’s finale of a four-game series against Toronto. The Royals, at 3-12, have the worst record in baseball. We’ve been down this road before.

Fortunately for Kansas City, no team in the American League Central has lapped the field to start the season, so they’re only – “only” – 6 1/2 games behind first-place Detroit. That doesn’t sound so bad except when you consider we’re only 15 or 16 games into the season.

Fast starts have been few and far between for the Royals in the past decade-plus. Makes sense, because Kansas City has been mostly awful during that stretch and years before.

I was interested today to read that Kansas City has had at least one losing streak of six games or more before May 15 in each of the past nine seasons. Think about that for a moment. It’s an incredible number and it got me to looking at the best and worst starts for the Royals going back to 2000.

Finding good starts is difficult. In fact, there has been only one that stood out, a 24-15 record in 2004 when Kansas City found itself in first place by 3 1/2 games on May 15. The Royals finished 83-79 that season, only five games behind the Central Division-winning Minnesota Twins. By KC standards, it was a championship season.

Otherwise, only two other Royals teams since 2000 have been above .500: the 2011 team was 20-19 while the 2009 team was 19-17. Only one other time has a Kansas City team been in first place on May 15 during that span; the 2009 team was tied for the division lead.

Otherwise, May 15 has offered little hope to the Royals, who since 2000 are 189-276 in pre-May 15 games and have been at least five games out of first place in nine of those 13 years. From 2004 through 2007, Kansas City was 10 1/2, 16, 13 1/2 and 12 games out of first place on May 15, with two weeks of school still remaining in most places.

Bad starts defuse a fan base and you can already feel it happening with the Royals. It’s bad enough to lose 10 games in a row at any time during a season. But when you lose the first nine home games on your schedule, even the strongest fan starts to disassociate.

The Royals have disappointed in every facet so far. Outside of a few guys, nobody is off to a good start. Starting pitchers aren’t logging as many innings as they should, so the bullpen is being worn down early. And after tonight, Kansas City plays 14 of its next 21 games on the road, with the only home games coming against the Yankees and Red Sox. OK, so maybe the Red Sox aren’t so scary, but you can see where the Royals are headed here.

Sure, there is time for a good team to turn things around. You would expect the Red Sox and Angels to eventually figure things out. Same goes for the 7-9 Philadelphia Phillies in the National League. Those are good teams (we think) that are scuffling early on, and every team goes through scuffles during the course of a long season.

With the Royals, though, it’s more than a scuffle. It’s a trend, alarming because of the lack of success inside Kauffman Stadium. Some slow starts can be reversed but when it comes to the Royals, I have my doubts.

 

 

Does KU have a chance?

The answer to the question posted in this blog headline is a resounding “no.” With another four-letter word in front of it, referring to a place none of us ever want to be.

As I was getting in the elevator at the hotel today to come over to the Superdome, ESPN analyst Fran

Any team that has Thomas Robinson - and Kansas has him - has a chance to win. At least that's what I think.

Franschilla was riding, too. Fran and I are close and I, as you can tell, love to drop names.

Anyway, I’m one – one of the few – who believes Kansas has a chance in tonight’s national championship game against Kentucky. So I asked Franschilla if he was with me.

And he wasn’t. He obviously thinks this is Kentucky’s game and he’s not alone. Not only are most of the “experts” picking the Wildcats, but they’re picking them by a lot. And some are saying a KU win would be epic, like North Carolina State’s victory over the Phi Slamma Jamma Houston team in 1983 or Villanova’s upset of Georgetown two years later.

What?

I’m obviously missing something here, and it’s not respect for Kentucky. I do regard the Wildcats as a big-time team with unbelievable talent. I know six Kentucky players will be involved in the NBA draft in a couple of months and that a couple of them could be lottery picks.

Center Anthony Davis is listed at 6-foot-10 but there has to be a typo. I’m almost sure he’s 7-10. Davis is a game changer.

But Kansas isn’t coming into this game with chopped liver. Or liver and onions, that I know of.

KU is good. And it’s a veteran team with a central piece, 6-10 junior Thomas Robinson, who is as focused as any player in the tournament.

Robinson and guards Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson could actually win their one-on-one matchups against Kentucky’s Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague and Doron Lamb. It’s not out of the realm.

But how will KU 7-footer Jeff Withey hold up against Davis? Three months ago, I would have said Davis would steamroll Withey into surrender. Now I think the KU junior might be able to hold his own. That’s not saying Withey wins the match-up or that Withey is a better player than Davis. He’s not. But he’s capable of at least competing with Davis, isn’t he?

The other problematic match-up for Kansas is Travis Releford vs. Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. But am I completely loony in believing Releford is physical enough and smart enough to create some doubt in Kidd-Gilchrist, who is just a freshman after all. And Releford played better in his semifinal game against Ohio State than Gilchrist did in his against Louisville, when he had nine points and four rebounds.

Kentucky has a big edge off the bench with senior Darius Miller. Wait, Kentucky has a senior? Yes, and Miller is a good one who is capable of being the Wildcats’ best player in a given game.

But try as I might, I cannot see the huge Kentucky advantage in this game that everybody else – many of whose opinions I value – are seeing.

I know Kansas has struggled mightily to score in the NCAA Tournament; the Jayhawks just aren’t shooting well. And Kentucky doesn’t play defense like a bunch of freshmen and sophomores with one foot out the door for the NBA. The Wildcats are a fantastic defensive team with one of the best shot blockers in college basketball history in Davis.

But KU’s defense is special, too. And the Jayhawks are playing like a charmed team, able to overcome even themselves to win games.

Do I think Kansas can beat Kentucky? Yes I do. Do I think the Jayhawks will?

I could be really bold and pick KU. But I don’t think I can do that, even though I’m tempted. I will pick this to be a close game. And an epic game. It will be in doubt from start to finish before Kentucky eeks out a 70-68 win.

That’s my prediction and I’m sticking to it. Have fun watching the game everyone.