Monthly Archives: December 2012

Friday musings

* Wichita State basketball fans have proven themselves over the decades. They have always shown up in good – and mostly very good – numbers to support the Shockers. It was interesting that WSU basketball coach Gregg Marshall sounded luke warm about the home cooking after Thursday night’s win at Koch Arena over Charleston Southern, saying the energy in the building was lacking.

* First of all – and I’m becoming a real stickler on this point – look at the non-conference home games these fans have been given. The list includes: North Carolina-Central, Western Carolina, Howard, Tulsa, Northern Colorado and Charleston Southern. Who on that list excites you? Sure, Tulsa is a quality opponent, but the Golden Hurricane is rebuilding under first-year coach Danny Manning. The rest of that non-conference schedule is excitement free.

* Wichita State isn’t alone in playing a less-than-exhilarating home non-conference schedule. It’s done now all around the country. A high percentage of the best games are played on neutral floors or in tournaments because nobody wants to go on the road and risk a loss. It’s becoming more and more of an issue, I believe.

* College basketball fans are consumers and, as such, should demand more from their respective teams. There is no obligation on the part of the fans to enthusiastically support games that don’t entice them. Just because Wichita State or any other school plays a home basketball game doesn’t mean fans have to be juiced. Or even fake being juiced. You want energy in a building, play someone that entices the fan base. Seems simple to me.

* Tickets reportedly are going slow for the Shockers’ Saturday night game against Southern Mississippi at Intrust Bank Arena. And I use the word “slow” in a relative sense. I’m expecting at least 10,000 to show up three days before Christmas against another team that hardly carries a big name. Southern Miss is a good team from Conference USA, but this is the third consecutive Conference USA opponent that the Shockers will have played downtown at IBA. Tulsa was the first two seasons ago and UAB came to the downtown arena last season.

* I hope Wichita State demands more from the promoter who has set up the three games at the Intrust Bank Arena.

* We talked on radio this morning about potential opponents for the IBA game and came up with an interesting list of possibilities. Missouri was one of the schools mentioned. Wouldn’t it be interesting if the next game the Tigers played on Kansas soil was in Wichita at the downtown arena? I voted for former Missouri Valley Conference member Cincinnati, which was a forced in the league during the 1950s and early 1960s and formed an incredible rivalry at the time with Wichita State. Both teams were among the best in the country at the time and it would be fun to re-visit that rivalry all these years later.

* A disclaimer. I’m not the one who has to schedule basketball games for Wichita State or any other school. I’ve been told how difficult it can be, and I believe that to be the case and respect the hard work that goes into finding games, especially home games. That said, I just have to believe WSU can do better.

* Charlie Weis is putting a lot of eggs in the junior college recruiting basketball at Kansas. Interesting strategy, but one that makes some sense given the overall lack of talent on the Jayhawks’ roster. This influx of juco players needs to work for Weis to take that next step and turn more heavily toward high school recruits. Kansas is getting some highly-touted junior college players, that’s for sure. And so many. It will be fascinating to see how Weis and his assistants mix in the players from this junior college-heavy recruiting class.

* I was hoping the St. Louis Cardinals could figure out some way to bring Mike Pelfrey aboard as a starting pitcher for 2013. But it didn’t happen. Instead, the former Wichita Heights and WSU standout signed a one-year, $4 million contract with the Minnesota Twins, with another $1.5 million available in incentives. Pelfrey, who had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in May, has been throwing well, he says, while recuperating. The Twins are shutting him down until after the new year, though. He’s facing a big 2013 season, one in which he can increase his value dramatically by pitching well.

* The Cardinals have added right-handed hitting Ty Wigginton for their bench and left-hander Randy Choate for their bullpen. Hooray. Actually, both moves were needed and I’m kind of excited about Choate. Wait, did I just type that? “Excited about Choate?” Obviously, I need a baseball fix soon.

* We (Debbie and me) saw “Life of Pi” a couple of nights ago as we continue to try and see as many of the best movies of the year. The movie was a sight to behold as Ang Lee obviously went all out to make the screen sizzle. But the story was lacking for me. It seems like Lee was going hard for spirituality in the film, but he fell short in that department because of all the special tricks with the camera. I’m not sure how I was supposed to feel after watching the movie, but what I thought about most was how amazing the cinematography was. I expected the story to carry the film, but it didn’t. At least not for me.

* “Lincoln” is the best movie we’ve seen so far, but I also can’t stop thinking about “Flight,” which stars Denzel Washington as a troubled and gifted airline pilot.

* I’ll say it again: Jack Black deserves an Oscar nomination for his performance in “Bernie.”

* I thought the finales of both “Dexter” and “Homeland” on Showtime were outstanding. I was surprised to read that “Dexter” had 400,000 more viewers than “Homeland” for their final episodes of the season.

* My son, Jeff, turns 30 today. I have a 30-year-old son. Pardon me, I need a moment.

* I’m not much of a New Year’s resolution guy, but I really need to cut back on my Facebook-ing. But can I do it? I have little faith in myself. Stay tuned, we’ll see how it goes.

* Oh my gosh, just after I typed that last note I got on my phone and checked Facebook. I need help.

* I went to a party Thursday with a bunch of my old Derby friends. I’m talking about guys I’ve known for 50 years and longer. It’s pretty amazing to keep those kind of connections over this much time and that’s one of the things I’m most thankful for and one of the best reasons to stay near your hometown, as far as I’m concerned.

* I am also thankful for everyone who has read my columns, listened to our radio show and kept up with my blogging here at Kansas.com. And I wish you all a Merry Christmas as we trudge forward in this sometimes-difficult-to-understand-world of ours. Keep doing your individual best to make it a better place.

 

George Riley update

A friend of mine notified me of the current whereabouts of George Riley, who I wrote about earlier today in my blog. Here’s the information on the former big league pitcher, who is facing some rough times. Let’s all hope Riley gets better soon.

 

Memories of a sportswriter

I’ve covered a lot of minor-league baseball in my career at The Eagle, three seasons of the Wichita Aeros in the late-1970s and early-1980s and four seasons of the Wichita Pilots/Wranglers in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Most of it was fun. I got to know a lot of different players and managers and among my fondest memories are the long talks I would

Former Cubs left-hander George Riley readies to throw a pitch as he poses for his baseball card photograph. Chances are, the pitch he was about to throw was a ball, given his remarkable lack of control. Yes, I’m still petty after all these years.

have with then-Aeros outfielder Jim Tracy, who most recently managed the Colorado Rockies last season. Tracy was one of the best guys I’ve ever covered, regardless of the sport or the level.

But as I was thinking of the good times I had talking to Tracy and others (former Pilots first baseman Brad Pounders was another fantastic guy), I remembered an ugly incident inside the Aeros’ clubhouse following a game in probably 1979 or 1980 when I was threatened by left-handed pitcher George Riley.

Riley, who would pitch in the big leagues for the Cubs, Giants and Expos, didn’t like something I had written. It wasn’t unusual for a player to say something, but usually that player would pull me aside and speak privately. For the most part, I got along well with players, ticklish as their egos might be.

Riley was a basket case of a pitcher who could never find the plate. He pitched in parts of four seasons for the Aeros and walked 103 in 170 innings, a horrible ratio. Riley couldn’t find the plate in the majors, either, walking 41 while striking out only 40 in 87 innings. His ERA’s in Wichita were 4.85, 7.25, 6.08 and 4.40, which begs the question why he ever got called up to the big leagues in the first place.

Maybe that’s what I wrote at the time, I don’t remember.

Anyway, Riley was not a happy camper after one of the games and he called me out in front of the rest of the team. It’s the only time I can remember being physically threatened while on the job. If I had pushed the matter – and given my personality it probably required some restraint to keep from doing so – we probably would have gone to blows right there in the middle of the clubhouse. I wonder how enthusiastically Riley’s teammates would have supported him in such a skirmish?

Anyway, it didn’t come to that. My foggy recollection is that I attempted to reason with Riley and provide a context for what I had written. I just know that he didn’t want to hear anything I was saying at first. Ultimately, though, cooler heads prevailed and I left with mind still attached to my body.

Knowing what I now know, I suspect Riley was simply mad at the world. His baseball career wasn’t going that well, as evidenced by his towering ERAs. But the Cubs, the Aeros’ parent team at the time, stuck with him because he was left-handed and because they had spent a fourth-round draft pick on the Philadelphia native in the 1974 draft.

Riley did have a good arm, but he never was able to stick. He pitched professionally until 1986, when he failed in a few cameo appearances for Montreal before being released in early May.

I’m not sure where Riley is these days. Maybe he’s back home in Philly. I looked on Facebook for Riley, to no avail. I couldn’t find him on Twitter. By the way, if you’re not on Facebook or Twitter, are you anywhere? Anyway, it’s not like I would have reached out to Riley if he had been involved in social media. Nor is it likely he would even remember who I am.

But it’s interesting that whenever I recall my years of coverage minor league baseball in Wichita, that incident inside the clubhouse always comes to my mind. It was a bit dicey for a bit. I’m sure I was able to charm myself out of potential ugliness, though. I am a charmer.

 

Chiefs quarterback issue, Part 2

For the second day in a rowon  the blog, we’re going to discuss the Chiefs and their desperate situation at the quarterback position.

A wise old man once told me that without a quarterback, you haven’t spent a dollar. Or something like that. I wasn’t really listening. But we all know that a quality NFL team is one with a quality, top-level quarterback. And the Chiefs don’t have one, nor is their one in the pipeline.

The Chiefs could pursue a trade for San Francisco back-up quarterback Alex Smith.

These are desperate times for the Chiefs as they are busy contemplating where to go in 2013 and beyond. And your friendly neighborhood blogger/columnist is here to offer some free advice. Because it’s Christmas.

I have three directions the Chiefs could take as they approach this fork in the road. I’m curious which you like best.

1) Sign a free agent - Sounds like a decent way to go, until you realize how thin the free-agent quarterback crop looks. Outside of Baltimore’s Joe Flacco, there’s not much there. I suppose Jason Campbell and Matt Moore could entice some teams, but mostly as back-ups. Some regard Flacco as one of the top five to 10 quarterbacks in the NFL. Others believe he has been fortunate to play on such a good defensive team in Baltimore for all of these years and that when he’s relied upon to produce big-time offense he often comes up short. I think Flacco would be a great fit in Kansas City, but the price could be exorbitant and I do not expect the Chiefs to be players for Flacco, whom I suspect will wind up back with the Ravens either with a new contract or with the franchise tag.

2) Make a trade – How much would the Chiefs have to give up to acquire, say, Alex Smith from the San Francisco 49ers? Or Kirk Cousins, the exciting rookie from the Washington Redskins? A willingness to make a deal would open up some potential avenues for the Chiefs in their pursuit of a quarterback, but it’s always difficult to give up what would be necessary to acquire a potential quarterback. Perhaps Smith could be had for less than a king’s ransom, though. He’s clearly on the way out in San Francisco. But there is probably some doubt in the mind’s of potential Smith suitors, including the Chiefs. Would he wind up being another version of Cassel? Smith had a very good season in 2012, leading the Niners to a sparkling record and to the NFC championship game. But if he was really a guy, why did San Fran coach Jim Harbaugh give up on him and hand the job to Colin Kaepernick a few weeks ago? I suppose Kansas City could lower its sights and go after Seattle back-up Matt Flynn, who was supposed to be the starter before the Seahawks drafted Russell Wilson. Are there other quarterbacks you think the Chiefs should pursue in a trade?

3) Draft a quarterback. It was telling to me as I was looking through the past five NFL drafts Monday that of the 59 quarterbacks

Even with a player such as Alex Smith, Kansas City could be well-served by drafting West Virginia QB Geno Smith in the first round.

selected in the draft during that time frame, only one (Stanzi) was taken by the Chiefs. What’s going on here? Kansas City’s history with quarterback development has been sketchy, at best. But to virtually ignore the position in the draft makes no sense, especially considering the mostly shaky nature of the team in the past several seasons. But 2013 will present another chance for the Chiefs to pick a quarterback high in the draft. There’s just one problem – last year’s draft was the time to pick a quarterback. This time, the pickings are slim. USC quarterback Matt Barkley has dropped out of the first round on most of the draft boards, leaving West Virginia’s Geno Smith as the top QB prospect. There are evaluators who love Smith and others who believe he’s a bust waiting to happen. I’m with those who see good things for the Mountaineers’ quarterback, who has had a sensational senior season that has been somewhat overlooked because of West Virginia’s disappointment season void of defense.

So what would I do?

I’d take Geno Smith with the first-round choice, even if it’s No. 1, and I’d pursue a trade for Alex Smith because I think he’s the most expendable quarterback who could be on the market. Bring the Smith boys to camp in July and let them battle it out. Suddenly, the Chiefs have a quarterback who has taken a team to a conference championship game and a young, exciting quarterback who could develop into a special player. Geno Smith, though, has the feel of a quarterback who needs some time to develop. If the Chiefs could get a strong season or two out of Alex Smith during a rebuilding process, perhaps his understudy would be ready to take over.

There is some pie-in-the-sky to all of this, to be sure. But the Chiefs have to do something to address a glaring weakness. And they can’t really go anywhere until they do so.

It’s past time for Kansas City to find some answers at the quarterback position. The team’s fan base is fed up.

 

 

Chiefs could already have their QB

As you may have heard – and aswas made apparent in the Chiefs’ 15-0 loss to Oakland on Sunday afternoon – Kansas City needs a quarterback.

Matt Cassel didn’t cut it. Brady Quinn isn’t cutting it. Ricky Stanzi isn’t even getting a chance to cut it. The Chiefs are desperate because not much can improve around Arrowhead Stadium until they find someone to take the snaps and lead them.

Russell Wilson of the Seahawks lasted until the third round of the 2012 draft. He was there for the Chiefs’ taking, but the Chiefs failed to take.

Quarterbacks are such a precious commodity, but the Chiefs haven’t exactly treated them as such. In the past five NFL drafts, 59 quarterbacks have been chosen. How many of those have the in-need Chiefs grabbed? Exactly one – Stanzi out of Iowa with a fifth-round choice in 2011.

Kansas City has spent its first-round draft picks the past five years on defensive lineman Dontari Poe (11th overall) in 2012; wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin (26) in 2011; safety Eric Berry (5) in 2010; defensive lineman Tyson Jackson (3) in 2009 and defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey (5) in 2008.

The return on those picks has been sketchy. Yes, Berry looks like he will develop into a defensive mainstay. BUT THE CHIEFS NEED A QUARTERBACK!!!! Defensive mainstays are fine, but until this team can score points it would need a brick wall defensively to win games.

It’s not like the Chiefs haven’t had opportunities to fill their quarterback void. No, they weren’t able to draft the likes of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, Matt Stafford or Matt Ryan, all first-rounders chosen before the Chiefs were on the clock in the past five drafts.

But Kansas City could have chosen Peyton Manning’s back-up, Brock Osweiler, who lasted until the second round in the 2012 draft. They could have had either Seattle starter Russell Wilson or Philadelphia starter Nick Foles, who weren’t chosen until the third round in 2012. And they could have plucked Kirk Cousins out of Michigan State. Instead, he went in the fourth round to the Washington Redskins and has been impressive the past two weeks while subbing for RG3.

How good would Russell Wilson look in a Chiefs uniform?

But Kansas City, like so many other NFL teams, thought Wilson was too small to play quarterback in the NFL. Instead of thinking outside of the box, the Chiefs made three picks before Wilson went off the board.

In 2011, the Chiefs could have passed up Baldwin, who has done virtually nothing as a receiver, and gone with quarterback Andy Dalton out of TCU, who wasn’t chosen until three picks into the second round by the Cincinnati Bengals. Dalton has made a huge difference for Cincinnati.

A quarterback by the name of Colin Kaepernick was also available to the Chiefs in the first round; he wasn’t chosen until the San Francisco 49ers made him a second-round choice in 2011. Former Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, who is Tom Brady’s lonely back-up in New England, went in the third round. Finally, the Chiefs did pick up Stanzi in the fifth round.

Although 13 quarterbacks were taken in the 2010 draft, seven are already out of the league and none are starters.

But instead of taking Jackson with their first-round pick in 2009, the Chiefs could have gone with either Mark Sanchez or Josh Freeman, a pair of first-round picks taken after Jackson and starting for their respective teams, the New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

And finally, in 2008, Joe Flacco and Chad Henne, starters in Baltimore and Jacksonville, were on the board when the Chiefs took Dorsey with the fifth pick.

So, to recap, the Chiefs, whose recent drafts have hardly been spectacular, have bypassed Osweiler, Foles, Wilson, Cousins, Dalton, Kaepernick, Mallett, Sanchez, Freeman, Flacco and Henne, quarterbacks who to one degree or another could have helped the Chiefs in their position of most need.

Instead, Kansas City was fooled into thinking Cassel was its long-term answer at quarterback only to find out that he wasn’t thanks to a combination of deteriorating talent, coaching changes and negative atmosphere.

It’s difficult to feel bad for the Chiefs, given the ineptitude of their scouting department. I don’t know what Kansas City is going to do after this horrendous season ends, but the place to start is to take a look at the people responsible for evaluating talent. And that starts with general manager Scott Pioli, who has done nothing to distinguish himself after arriving from the New England Patriots’ front office with such high hopes.

Blame this season on Cassel or coach Romeo Crennel if you must, but the biggest problem in Kansas City involves personnel. It’s embarrassing for an NFL team to have zero options at quarterback, yet that’s exactly the situation that faces the Chiefs. And it didn’t have to be that way. Somebody has botched this thing up to almost immeasurable proportions.

 

The NBA’s 10 greatest players

It’s always such a challenge trying topick the best ever in a particular sport because of that clock on the wall.

It keeps moving. Generations change, games change, players change. Drawing comparisons over the course of 10 years, let along 50 or 75, is difficult to impossible.

But sports fans are not deterred by these sands of the hourglass issues. We love the argument.

Most of us can agree that Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player ever. Right? But what about the rest of the Top 10?

This morning on “Mike and Mike,” ESPN’s first-thing-out-of-the-chute radio show, the hosts argued about the top five NBA players.

Bruce Haertl and I did the same thing on our radio show, “Sports Daily.”

These debates are infectious. There is no end to them.

Most, of course, are based on personal preference. Anyone who feels strongly enough to enter a Top 5 or Top 10 discussion has a personal agenda, which is the reason they want to be in the discussion. I’m not interested in talking about the top 10 piano players of all time because I don’t have the sufficient knowledge to do so.

But I know me some basketball, so this debate is in my comfort zone. Of course, I do come to the argument with personal preferences – namely Larry Bird. Since he is my favorite player of all-time, I’m going to present every imaginable piece of evidence to support my argument. And if that doesn’t work, I’m going to raise my voice. And if I’m still dissatisfied, I’ll pout.

Those are the lengths to which I’m willing to go in support of my guy.

Michael Jordan is where the best-of-all-time discussion in basketball begins and ends. If the question is: Who is the best player in NBA history?; the answer is: Michael Jordan. Right? I’m sure some would dispute that, but not enough to overturn the verdict.

So, essentially, we’re starting with No. 2 here. And I have 21 names written down for these next nine spots. This is where it gets interesting.

Before I go with the No. 2 player on my list, here is a trivia question: Who are the only two players in NBA history who rank in the Top 50 all-time in scoring, rebounding and assists? (This is your time now to think for a bit).

The answer: Karl Malone (second in points, sixth in rebounds, 46th in assists) and Larry Bird (29th in points, 45th in rebounds and 34th in assists).

Interesting, isn’t it?

OK, who is No. 2?

I’m going with Wilt Chamberlain. Some would argue for Bill Russell here; others for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. What can I say; I’m for Wilt. The guy could do everything – score, rebound and pass. And he blocked shots, of course.

So we have Jordan and Chamberlain 1-2. Now for the rest of my personal Top 10.

3. Oscar Robertson. Look him up if he was before your time. You’re looking at a combination of Jordan, Bird and Magic Johnson rolled into one player. And I’ll even sprinkle in a little LeBron James for good measure.

4. Larry Bird. You knew he was coming, and here he is.

5. Magic Johnson. The best point guard in NBA history, bar none. A 6-foot-9 point guard with the mad skillz (that’s how the kids spell “skills”).

6. Bill Russell. The best defensive player in NBA history, bar none. End of discussion. And all of that hardware. If I didn’t love Bird so much, Russell would be in the Top 5.

7. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. I suppose anyone who ranks first all-time in scoring, third in rebounding and won championships with two teams deserves a spot. Of course,  K A-J is worthy.

8. Karl Malone. I know, no championships. Give me another flaw. You can’t, can you?

9. LeBron James. Yes, he’s that good. Already.

10. Hakeem Olajuwon. Titles, numbers, class. He has it all.

Apologies to Jerry West, John Havlicek, Elvin Hayes, Shaquille O’Neal, Moses Malone, Dominique Wilkins, Elgin Baylor, Tim Duncan (especially, he’s No. 11), Charles Barkley and all of the others who might have a Top 10 case. The problem with a Top 10 is that only 10 can be on it.

Have a good night, everyone.

 

Memories of a sportswriter

My love for sports wasfueled by my father. How many sons can say the same thing? Probably every son who grew to love sports, right?

My dad was into sports in a big way. His first love, you will not be surprised to hear, was the St. Louis Cardinals. He listened to their games on the radio, so I listened to their games on the radio. It was our way of bonding.

My father didn’t sit me down and have those father-son chats so many dads are famous for. He never told me about the birds and the bees or explained to me the details of the Cold War. But he had me at Bob Gibson, so a discussion of “father and son things” was never that important to me.

We shared a passion for sports. And that provided enough for our relationship to be strong.

My father, Ray, took me to innumerable games. We spent our summers at the National Baseball Congress World Series, our falls at Veterans Field to watch Wichita State’s football team and our winters at the Roundhouse as huge fans of Shocker basketball.

There are pictures of me as a 5-year-old holding one of those small, plastic balls in my hand with a coffee can, its bottom removed, hanging on a wall to resemble a basket. I gleaned hours of entertainment from that cheap ball and that empty can of coffee.

Later, my dad put up a basketball goal in our backyard. It wasn’t anything fancy; just a rim attached to a backboard made from several boards that my dad nailed to together. I played so much that the bouncing of the ball and the movement of my feet created a giant dead spot in our back yard where otherwise grass would have grown.

I spent hours playing imaginary games, doing my own play-by-play radio broadcast. The neighbors must have thought I was a kid in need of some help, but those games gave me more enjoyment than almost anything else during my youth.

I was always the Wichita State Shockers playing against some other team. And in my games, the Shockers always won. So to this day when I hear from a reader or a WSU fan about a perception that I have something against Wichita State basketball, I think back to those times as a kid when I was a much bigger fan, I’m sure,than they are now. Let me tell you something, people, I absolutely loved Shocker basketball as a kid. You might love now as much as I did then, but you don’t love it more.

I became a pretty good shooter in my back yard games. And I was able to beat most of my friends in a game of one-on-one because of a tremendous home-court advantage.

As much basketball as I played as a kid, I might have even played more baseball.

Now, of course, it was harder to get up a game of baseball just because of the number of kids it took. But we managed to pull it off on most summer days, when we would play games at Pleasantview Elementary, just down the street from where I grew up in Derby.

The baseball day started just after breakfast, though, when a group of us would gather on our street and start to warm up for the game that was to be played around noon. We played catch, swung bats, played some “500″ and had imaginary bullpen sessions, during which that day’s starting pitcher got loose. We probably threw about 100 pitches each, so “getting loose” wasn’t really an apt description.

Our days – especially our summer days when we were out of school – revolved around sports. We were consumed.

Is it like that any more for kids? Have organized sports become so prevalent that unorganized sports – the best kind, in my opinion – have mostly disappeared?

I fear I know the answers to those questions.

I get asked a lot where I got my passion for sports, and I cannot point to a specific time or day. Nor can I remember a time when I wasn’t knee deep in sports.

One of my earliest sports memories is watching some of the 1960 World Series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Yankees on a small black and white television while I ate lunch after my morning Kindergarten class. I remember being entertained by Bill Mazeroski’s name (he was the Pirates’ second baseman who became the hero of that World Series).

One of the first Shocker basketball players whose name I remember is Wayne (Bull) Durham. I was probably drawn to Durham’s nickname; he played during the early 1960s. My dad and I started going to games in 1961, I think it was.

Sports have always been important to me. As I approach 60, they still are. And I’m happy to say that I have passed down my love for sports – if not for the St. Louis Cardinals – to my soon-to-be-30 son, Jeff. I hope he has similar recollections about his father’s role in his love for sports that I have for my dad.

 

This blog is my blog

This is my 400th blog post. Do I win a prize?

I didn’t think so.

People always ask me what I think of this new social media age as it relates to newspapers. And I always reply that it’s tough to teach a new dog old tricks, or an old dog new tricks. Honestly, it’s just difficult to teach a dog tricks. Have you tried?

But I, on the other hand, don’t mind new tricks. This blog, for instance, is considered to be kind of a hip thing, right? I never knew what a blog was until a few years ago and I’m still not completely sure. But those in the know tell me what I do here is “blogging” and who am I to argue?

If blogging is considered new age, then I’m doing well in the digital world, I suppose. I enjoy doing the blog because it allows me to be me. Not that my columns aren’t me, or that they’re ghost-written. I would never confess to anything like that even if they were. Which they’re not. At least as far as you know.

Today, for instance, I’m lacking strong opinions. I did a Lutz Live Chat (LLC) this afternoon and those things always wear me out. Live chats are also new to me, pretty much, and something I enjoy. I like the immediate interaction with readers, believe it or not. I’m not always the Scrooge I am made out to be, although I have my moments.

Most who come to the LLC understand its content. There are moments of seriousness, but most of the time the chat is a place for levity, barbs, insults and name-calling. All in the name of fun.

The thing I enjoy most about my job, still, is writing. Blogging is, I would say, considered writing. Live chats probably not so much. The most comfortable thing I do is writing my column because that’s something I have done for years. Opinions are never far beneath the surface with me. And I have conviction to them, as any of my friends will tell you.

I was just thinking today, in fact, that I don’t admit to being wrong enough. There are, of course, potentially two reasons for that. One is that I’m at egotistical jerk, unable to admit to myself or to anyone else that something I think or say could be erroneous. Two is that I’m rarely wrong.

Opinion writing isn’t for everyone. It didn’t used to be for me. I was reluctant to face the scrutiny that columnists encounter. Basically, all I’m doing is having the same debates about sports that I’ve had with my friends for years and years. But when I put my name in print, for some reason, my opinions become ammunition and readers often feel the need to fire back. There is often heat in the kitchen.

And that’s something I don’t mind. It took me a few years to get used to slings and arrows that are so often aimed directly at me. But the more you do a job like this, the more you understand that even if a criticism sounds like a personal attack, it’s not necessarily a personal attack. Just because you disagree with me at times doesn’t mean you hate me. You might be angry with me. You might question my intelligence. But you probably don’t hate me.

At least that’s what I tell myself to get through the day. So if it’s different, please don’t enlighten me. This is the way I prefer to go about my business.

* On another note, I’m headed out to the Kansas State-Wichita State women’s basketball game this evening. Kudos to K-State for playing here. Kind of a neat idea, isn’t it? Wonder whether Bruce Weber might follow Deb Patterson’s lead at some point.

Have a great rest of your Tuesday. I’ll be back on the blog tomorrow. I have an idea about a new feature here in which I ask my Facebook friends to post questions and I’ll answer some of them on the blog. What do you think?

 

Remembering Lyndon’s Nick Dawson

* Some Monday thoughts, including my memories of former Lyndon High basketball coach Nick Dawson, who died today after suffering a stroke.

Dawson, who was 77, was honored Friday night when the Lyndon gym, where he accumulated many of his 542 career victories, was named in his honor. His signature is engraved on the court and during the ceremony he received a standing ovation from the crowd that was there mostly to see him.

After the ceremony, Dawson started walking to the spot near mid-court where he normally sits for games, according to his son-in-law, Dan Harty, who is a Wichita police officer.

Within minutes, Harty wrote in an e-mail, Dawson suffered a stroke and was taken to a hospital in Topeka, where he died Monday morning.

“It was a magical night for him,” Harty said.

I got to know Dawson over the  years when I covered high school sports, and wrote a feature about him for The Eagle in 1996, when he was in his 33rd season at Lyndon, which is about 25 miles south of Topeka.

Dawson began his coaching career at Dennison and his son, Nick, is a former Eagle All-State player. Dawson told me 16 years ago that he had plenty of offers over the years to leave Lyndon, but never came close to doing so.

“When I’d have those (job) interviews years ago, I’d get to thinking about it and realize I had a pretty good team coming back here the next year,” Dawson said. “I had a lot of friends in town, things like that. Pretty soon the decades go by, not the years, and you think, ‘Well, you know, this isn’t a bad little place.’ ”

* Such a tragic story out of Kansas City over the weekend. I was too torn by the events to really develop much of an opinion on whether Sunday’s Chiefs game against Carolina should have been played or moved to another day. If pushed, I would have preferred the game be played tonight. But if the Chiefs’ players and coaches were OK with playing the game as scheduled at noon on Sunday, just more than 24 hours after the incident, then who I am to argue?

* I caught a lot of flak from Kansas State fans about my Saturday column, in which I wrote that I was leaning toward voting for Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel for the Heisman Trophy. Many K-Staters brought up the character issue, citing Manziel’s arrest last summer after an incident outside of a bar in College Station, Texas. Manziel was charged with three misdemeanors, one of which was carrying a false ID. Do K-Staters remember 1998 when their quarterback at the time, Michael Bishop, was arrested in a similar incident in Manhattan? Bishop never faced charges. Neither was a big deal, in my opinion. Bishop finished second in the Heisman voting in ’98 to Texas running back Ricky Williams and I suspect most Heisman voters aren’t holding the “character issue” against Manziel. Nor should they.

* I quickly went through all 35 college football bowl games and decided I’m going to watch four. Maybe five. I hate the college football postseason. I truly do. Kansas State should be playing for something more than a Fiesta Bowl championship. You can’t convince me the Wildcats and at least five other teams aren’t worthy of being in a playoff to decide a true national championship. This boils me.

* And on that note, I’ll sign off. I’ll just say one more time that I respect coaches like Lyndon’s Dawson, who find their happiness in small towns. I’ve been to a lot of small towns in Kansas and always come across folks who love where they are and wouldn’t trade places with anyone. It’s sad that Dawson is gone, but uplifting that he carried his spirit and his love for Lyndon long after he finished coaching.

 

 

That’s a great quote, and a life lesson, from a fantastic basketball coach who was happy in his little neck of the woods.