Category Archives: Sports

WuShock is unusual, but is it creepy?

wushockmascotWichita State University’s WuShock was named “the creepiest mascot” in a New York Post article this week. “Who knew a shock of wheat could be this angry?” the article asked. No. 2 on the list was the old Burger King mascot, with its leering plastic grin. OK, that one really was creepy. WSU wasn’t the only Missouri Valley Conference school to make the ranking. Little Egypt, the Egyptian hunting dog mascot of Southern Illinois University, was ranked the sixth creepiest. “Why not be more honest and call this one ‘Angry Mullet Head’?” the paper asked.

Pro-con: Is soccer winning over Americans?

APTOPIX South Africa Soccer WCup US AlgeriaUnbelievably, World Cup soccer has become the topic of conversation around the watercooler at work. In recent weeks television ratings for the sport have soared, with games involving Team USA equaling the recent NBA finals and surpassing baseball’s World Series. Watch parties drew tens of thousands nationwide and huge crowds at AT&T Stadium in Dallas and Soldier Field in Chicago. This time around America embraced the “beautiful game” of stunning goals and incomprehensible offsides, joyous nationalism and comic-looking flops. For decades, kids in this country, as in the rest of the world, have grown up playing soccer. Drive through suburbia on the weekends, and you’ll see fields upon fields of tykes chasing a speckled ball. Until now, that’s where the infatuation has ended. Once kids stopped playing the game, they fell into the more traditional viewing habits of college football on Saturdays, the National Football League on Sundays, with a baseball and college basketball game when there was more at stake. Yet this time around more Americans checked out the World Cup than ever before, and they often enjoyed what they saw. For once you give the beautiful game a long look, as the rest of the world knows, it’s difficult to turn away. – Tim Wendel, Johns Hopkins University

Soccer is easy to mock. In what other sport can we compile a scorecard of the number of ersatz “injuries” or the time the supposedly injured players spent writhing on the ground? But I am not here to mock. I’ve tried to like soccer. It seemed like the open-minded thing to do. Let me set the stage: It is the summer of 1994 and I am a graduate student living in London. The dormitory in which I lived had a summertime influx of Italian students who, in a gratifying example of international outreach, insisted that I watch the World Cup with them. I did so, game in and game out, as an ambassador of sportsmanship and goodwill. And, to the joy of my newfound compatriots, Italy progressed all the way to the final against mighty Brazil. And so we watched what I was told would be the pinnacle of sporting endeavor. For 90 minutes we watched. And no one scored. We watched through extra time. And still no one scored. At last the game was settled through a shootout, in which the goalie guesses at which side of the goal the opposing player will kick the ball and dives in that general direction. Italy’s goalie guessed wrong and Brazil walked off the World Cup champions. A coin flip might have been slightly less dramatic, but the effect was pretty much the same. This helps explain why soccer may be the world’s sport, but not yet America’s. – Andrew G. Biggs, American Enterprise Institute

Nonprofit plan for NBC World Series looks promising

nbctourneyThe city of Wichita seems to be moving the National Baseball Congress World Series toward a secure future via the nonprofit NBC Baseball Foundation. There is even talk of trying to get a TV deal for Championship Week, which would be great for the players, teams and city. In any case, the tournament will need an engaged, hardworking board and a lot of help from community donors, sponsors and volunteers. But the NBC World Series’ rich history is wedded to that of the city and Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. The plan also should be better for the Wichita Wingnuts, which had been overseeing the NBC.

Fallon’s Wichita joke exemplified image problem

arkriverNot all the attention generated by the Shockers’ 34-0 run has been flattering, regrettably. For example, Jimmy Fallon’s monologue on “The Tonight Show” Monday included this: “This is cool. Wichita State will become the first undefeated team in 23 years to enter the NCAA Tournament. When asked how they remained so focused on winning, they said, ‘We play in Wichita. Not many distractions here.’” Though the joke wasn’t cited as the City Council voted the next morning to set up a tourism business improvement district, it certainly exemplified why Wichita needs to improve its image with more and better marketing. The TBID is expected to generate $3 million a year for that purpose.

Lawmaker Huelskamp snarky about lawbreaking

huelskamp,timUPDATED: U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, shouldn’t have decided to raffle off NCAA tickets to campaign donors without understanding that state law, according to Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson, considers that an illegal lottery. And Huelskamp should have done better than this snarky response to Branson’s rebuke: “As a lifelong Kansas State fan, I refuse to be intimidated by a Lawrence attorney likely still reeling from the 31-10 football blowout this fall and the 85-82 overtime victory by the Wildcats just last month.” Huelskamp, who dropped the donation requirement Tuesday, later accused Branson of “prosecutorial misconduct”; the campaign said Branson told the media of his investigation before telling the campaign.

Wichita common denominator in some Statehouse nuttiness

wichitaopenthread“The bill stems from an active anti-fluoride movement in Wichita, where fluoride is not added to the water.” “Wichita-based tea party group Kansans for Liberty is launching an e-mail campaign to try to resurrect a bill that would allow government workers and businesses to deny service to gay couples.” “A Democrat from Wichita says she wants to allow up to 10 strikes of the hand and that could leave redness and bruising.” It’s frustrating that Wichita is the common denominator in some of the recent Statehouse nuttiness. At least the No. 2-ranked Wichita State University men’s basketball team is putting a nice shine on the reputation and pride of the state’s largest city.

Elected officials aren’t the highest-paid employees

moneyfallingGovernors and other elected officials make a good living, but they aren’t the highest-paid public employees. In 41 states, including Kansas, the highest-paid public employees are college football or basketball coaches, the website reported. In the remaining states, college presidents and college medical school or law school deans or professors are paid the most. Though college coaches make much more than elected officials, most of their salaries are paid with outside revenues, not directly with state funds.

Nonprofit move makes sense for NBC

The National Baseball Congress World Series is as much a cultural treasure in Wichita as it is a sporting event, so the city’s recent move to incorporate it as a nonprofit foundation makes some sense. The tournament still will need to find the funds to pay teams and otherwise sustain its operations, but it could benefit from the leadership and oversight of a nonprofit board of directors dedicated to its mission and long-term success. As City Manager Robert Layton said, nonprofit status adds tax deductibility to the reasons for businesses to help the NBC. As the important next steps are taken, it can’t hurt that the revamped 2013 tournament saw bigger attendance and good reviews from participants.

No justifying ‘Redskins’ as mascot

“Fans of franchises bearing Indian names often resist changing them out of sentiment,” columnist Leonard Pitts (in photo) wrote. But that’s shortsighted. “Whether we choose to acknowledge it, or never do, doesn’t change the fact: ‘Redskins’ is a curse word,” Pitts wrote. Wichita North High School periodically debates whether to change its mascot, but its teams remain the Redskins.

Kansas’ best ambassador is 3 feet tall

There is no bigger Kansan at the moment than 2-year-old Titus Ashby, the Derby tot whose YouTube trick shots landed him a running “Clash of the Titus” gig with Jimmy Kimmel on ABC. “I’ve never been nervous in my life, but this kid makes me nervous,” said Metta World Peace, moments before Titus bested the Los Angeles Laker 11 baskets to six on Thursday. On earlier shows, Titus tied Laker Kobe Bryant and skunked legend Shaquille O’Neal, and Titus’ original trick-shot video has nearly 12 million views on YouTube.

UPDATE: Titus’ father, Joseph Ashby, hosts a local radio talk show and also appeared on the Kimmel programs (and produced the YouTube video). He has behind-the-scene photos of the Kimmel appearances on his radio show’s Facebook page.

NBC Tournament changes good for teams, fans

Changes to the National Baseball Congress’ annual tournament announced last week by city and NBC officials sound promising, both for teams and fans. Reducing downtime between games and providing hotel and meal discounts will make the tournament more affordable for visiting teams. Lower ticket prices and more buyout nights and promotions also should draw more fans. The NBC World Series has struggled in recent years. It is encouraging to see city leaders engaged and committed to restoring the tournament’s prestige.

Shocker women bowlers deserve cheering, too

The Wichita State University men’s basketball team appropriately received a lot of attention for its Final Four appearance. But don’t overlook the Shocker women’s bowling team, which will compete in the national championships April 18-20 in Lincoln, Neb. The women are nine-time national champions and are currently ranked No. 1. The team also has three players in the running for the 2013 collegiate player of the year award. Unfortunately, the Shocker men’s bowling team didn’t advance to the national championships this year, the first time the men have failed to qualify in 28 years.

Good luck, Shockers

Good luck to the WSU Shockers as they compete in the NCAA semifinals tonight. Top-ranked Louisville has a great team, but as Gonzaga and Ohio State found out, the Shockers aren’t intimidated. Even the freshmen don’t seem fazed about taking three-point shots when the game is on the line. These are no Cinderellas. Or if they are, they’re angry ones.

‘We’re all Shocker fans now’

Some of the state’s newspapers have joined The Wichita Eagle in celebrating the Wichita State University Shockers’ unexpected run to the Final Four. The Garden City Telegram urged all Kansans to get behind the Shockers, also calling for regular WSU games against the University of Kansas and Kansas State University. Dubbing WSU “the little Kansas team that could,” the Salina Journal editorialized: “With KU and K-State falling by the wayside – K-State a one-and-done and KU kicking away a huge lead against a frantic Michigan team in the Sweet 16 – we’re all Shocker fans now, or should be.” The Hays Daily News said: “The school with fewer than 15,000 students is more renowned for its bowling teams. The men and women pinstrikers have won 19 national titles since 1975. This year’s basketball team will change that reputation.”

Don’t go to war with the Shockers

Congratulations to the WSU Shockers on their impressive win Thursday night and their first trip to the NCAA Elite Eight since 1981. They dominated La Salle, particularly during the first half. The Shockers play Ohio State on Saturday night. KU plays Michigan tonight, which could be a big challenge. And the KU women play their Sweet 16 game Sunday against Notre Dame. It would be great if our state could get multiple teams in the final eight or, better yet, the Final Four.

Silver dislikes chances for a WSU or KU championship

Nate Silver, the New York Times statistical wizard known for his accurate predictions in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, gives Wichita State University a 24 percent chance of reaching the Final Four but only a 1.2 percent chance of winning the championship. “Wichita State has had as favorable a tournament as any team in the country so far,” Silver wrote. “Its win against No. 1-seeded Gonzaga on Saturday got lots of attention, but the team also crushed No. 8-seeded Pittsburgh in its first game, a team that the computer rankings regarded highly. As their reward, the Shockers will face an overachieving La Salle team in the Round of 16. Their next game, against Ohio State or Arizona, would be much tougher.” Silver put the odds of another University of Kansas championship at 4.5 percent, down from 7.9 percent. “The decline in Kansas’ winning odds might seem a bit punitive,” he wrote, “but the Jayhawks played three underwhelming halves of basketball before finally turning it on against North Carolina late on Sunday. Kansas will have much less margin for error against No. 4 seed Michigan, its opponent on Friday, and then in a potential matchup against Florida over the weekend, two teams that are well-regarded by the model.” Silver sees Louisville as the most likely winner, with a 32.4 percent chance.

Kansans like coaches more than state’s politicians

In addition to asking political questions, a new Public Policy Polling survey asked Kansans about some of their college coaches. University of Kansas men’s basketball coach Bill Self (in photo) had the highest favorability rating, with 62 percent of those surveyed having a favorable opinion of him. He was closely followed by Kansas State University football coach Bill Snyder (58 percent favorable), then KSU basketball coach Bruce Weber (34 percent) and KU football coach Charlie Weis (28 percent). Former KU basketball coach Roy Williams still had a 48 percent favorability rating. As the survey noted, Williams was more well-liked than the state’s politicians (though not former Sen. Bob Dole, who had a 69 percent favorability rating).

It will be great to welcome back women bowlers

Congratulations and thanks to the city of Wichita, Go Wichita, the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission and the Great Plains USBC Association for landing the 2019 United States Bowling Congress women’s tournament. It will bring more than 30,000 bowlers to Wichita during a three-month period and mean an $14 million economic impact for the city. As the community learned when it hosted their 2004 tournament, the women bowlers are hard to miss and a pleasure to have around – eager to have a good time and, not surprisingly, spend money while finding out what there is to do in Wichita. What’s more, the scheduling coup seems to signal that all is forgiven at the USBC over the 2011 men’s tournament, which Wichita won the right to host but later lost over a contract dispute. Let’s hope the 2019 women’s tournament leads to many more such events for Wichita.

Stop citing Iowa as example for basketball mandate

The bill filed in the Kansas Legislature to require the University of Kansas and Kansas State University to play Wichita State University in men’s basketball followed KU coach Bill Self’s statement to ESPN that “Iowa plays Northern Iowa because the state Legislature says you have to.” But “there is no such legislation in the state of Iowa in regard to scheduling for men’s basketball or football. It has been widely reported through the years, but has never been the case,” Colin McDonough, assistant athletic director at the University of Northern Iowa, told The Eagle editorial board. Legislative pressure did play a role in reaching an agreement to restart Iowa-Iowa State football games in the 1970s after a 43-year hiatus. Meanwhile, a member of the Texas House has filed a bill that would require an annual football game between Texas and Texas A&M.

Why doesn’t KU play Wichita State?

Andy Katz of ESPN asked University of Kansas men’s basketball coach Bill Self the question that many Wichitans have: Why doesn’t KU play Wichita State University? “You schedule to benefit your own school, not to benefit others,” Self said, adding that “from a financial standpoint, it’s hard to play games away from Allen Fieldhouse since that’s our main source of budget every year.” Self noted that the University of Iowa plays Northern Iowa University because the Iowa Legislature mandated it. “If someone were to come and say something that it’s law, then we would have to,” Self said. KU should play WSU, but the Kansas Legislature doesn’t need to get involved.

Public supporting city’s golf courses by playing them

Wichitans spoke loudly last year about their opposition to selling or closing one of the city’s public golf courses. As great as that support was, it’s even better that so many more golfers have played the five courses this year – driving up revenues 16 percent and rounds 14 percent – and that they seem newly satisfied with customer service. Projected net income for the year is almost $800,000, more than double the $325,945 of 2011. The debt on the Auburn Hills course remains a challenge, and one good summer doesn’t guarantee more. But city leaders now can view privatization as one option, rather than the system’s only hope.

Don’t give up on Intrust Bank Arena’s NCAA dream

It was baffling and frustrating to see Intrust Bank Arena again fail to make the list of sites for early rounds of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, forcing the community dream to be deferred until 2016 at the earliest. Didn’t the strong attendance and fine hospitality Wichita showed for the 2011 NCAA women’s tournament make a favorable enough impression? Perhaps the selection team missed the electricity and record-setting house of the recent NBA preseason game – which prompted Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks to say, “There aren’t many non-NBA arenas as nice as this building.” Didn’t the NCAA at least hear about the big, enthusiastic crowds that have been drawn to the arena by the Wichita State University and Kansas State University men’s basketball games? Whatever the reason for the latest snub, arena officials and Wichita leaders must keep after the goal of hosting part of the big dance, which was part of what inspired the community eight years ago to build a downtown arena.

Farewell to Frank; glad Marshall’s staying

Kansans can wish Kansas State University men’s basketball coach Frank Martin well in his new endeavor of trying to pull South Carolina out of the SEC basement, and cheer on KSU president Kirk Schulz and athletic director John Currie as they seek a new coach who’ll be a positive and lasting asset for the Wildcats, the state and the Big 12. Seeing Martin ditch KSU after five seasons, four NCAA Tournaments and a 117-54 record, it’s fair to wonder whether there’s any loyalty these days between coaches and colleges. But Wichita State University fans just saw proof of its existence in the announcement that men’s basketball coach Gregg Marshall (in photo) plans to stay and build on his five seasons and 109-61 record, which have included a Missouri Valley Conference title and NCAA Tournament bid this season and the NIT Championship last year. Marshall said: “Wichita State is a special place, with great resources, from facilities to academics to people.” And a great men’s basketball team, thanks in large part to Marshall.

KU wins social media, academic March Madness

The University of Kansas’ come-from-behind win Sunday kept its hopes alive for another NCAA men’s basketball championship. If the tournament were decided based on which school’s fans are most tuned in to social media, KU would have already won, the social media site reported. That determination was made by the communications agency Schwartz MSL and was based on a formula that combined followers of a school’s team on Facebook and Twitter, then divided that number by total student body population. KU scored a “Social Media Power Ranking” of 5.2 – based on 18,000 Twitter followers and 137,000 Facebook fans – just ahead of Duke University. KU would also win the national title if it were based on academics. The website Inside Higher Ed rated KU first for the classroom performance of its athletes.

Offensive chant fit a pattern in Mississippi

A blogger for the Nation thought the Southern Mississippi band’s chanting of “Where’s your green card?” at Kansas State guard Angel Rodriguez last week had “about as much in common with normal rowdy fan behavior as a glee club has with a lynch mob.” Dave Zirin continued: “The chant, first and foremost, was both racist and stupid, given that Rodriguez is actually from Puerto Rico, and therefore has citizenship. But given that the state of Mississippi’s Republican electorate just voted for Rick Santorum, who recently said that Puerto Rico could only be a state if everyone learned and spoke English, their actions should anger but not surprise.” He also noted that the game was played on the same day the Mississippi House passed a “deeply punitive, racial-profiling anti-immigration” bill championed by Gov. Phil Bryant.