So long, Paulie

So long, Paulie

Celebratory endings of careers are a somewhat new thing. It’s rare that a beloved player goes out in a way in which you know precisely what his last day will be ahead of time. And I’ve been an outspoken “hater” when it comes to the coverage of certain other player’s farewell tours. But like this video, and Paul Konerko’s career, his farewell has been quiet.

I was lucky enough to witness his goodbye ceremony in my home town of Kansas City. Forget the kayaks and ridiculous over the top gifts.  The Royals gave him a donation to his charity, a framed picture of him at his final All-Star game1, a chair from the club house during that game, and a selection of KC barbecue sauces. And of course, a nice round of applause from a fan base that barely knows him, because of his quiet workman like attitude.

No need for a memorial patch for a player that not only hasn’t died, but is still on the team. No demands to play every day when everyone knows the career is winding down and it’s time to pass on the wisdom, and lineup spot, to younger players. No commercial campaign. No ridiculous hashtags. Just a guy that’s gone out and done his job every day he could for 18 years2.

He may never be inducted in the Hall of Fame, but he’ll always be one of the all time great Chicago White Sox.

 

_______________

Notes:
  1. a 2012 appearance that I was lucky enough to witness in KC
  2. 16 of which were with the Chicago White Sox
Hey Soccer, It’s Not Me, It’s You.

Hey Soccer, It’s Not Me, It’s You.

USA v Germany: Group G - 2014 FIFA World Cup BrazilThe World Cup is on.

Meh, you knew that. You knew it even if you’re not paying any attention to it, because it’s impossible to ignore. Not only is Twitter blowing up with people talking about, but Twitter itself is even sending email updates despite the fact that I specifically checked the box telling them that I don’t care.  Google is constantly alerting me of scores that I only care about to see if my random guessing in the pick’em league might be right1. You can’t miss it. If nothing else you can’t miss the constant shaming of people who aren’t interested.

But I’m not afraid, and I don’t feel guilty. I’ll shout it from the rooftops…

I DON’T LIKE SOCCER!

Now that we have that clear…

I’ve tried. I really have. I’ve gone to games, even ones that were a pretty big deal, in hopes of discovering what the cult of soccer enjoyment is all about2. In a couple tries I had the exact same experience: during the first half I looked at the clock knowing that it had to be close to halftime only to find that the game had only been going for 5 minutes. It’s like the place where time stands still.

Sure, the sport itself has plenty to not like. The constant flopping. The tie games. The fact that you can advance by winning just 1/3 of your games in the preliminary round. That once you’re done with ties, the overtime games are decided by what is essentially a flip of a coin. And yes, you can compare that to things in other sports. Some of your comparisons are valid, and some are just silly… but doing so only assumes that I’ve decided that the way everything is done in all other sports is perfect. And that’s simply not true3.

So I don’t like it. To me, it’s just boring. I get what comes next in this argument. If you’re reading this because you love soccer, you’re about to skip ahead to the comments to tell me that baseball is boring. That football constantly stops. That I just don’t understand it. That the final scores are similar to hockey4. I’m too stupid to get it. That the rest of the world loves it, so I should too. And frankly, if it wasn’t for you, I might be willing to give it a few more shots and see if I can figure out why anyone can stand to watch a game… but your constant defensiveness and belittling of people who don’t like it are more off-putting than the sport itself5.

So even for all that bores me in a game, the biggest turnoff to soccer, is soccer fans. Watch social media anytime there’s something everyone is talking about, be it football, baseball, basketball, or hockey, or whatever it may be and people will be there pointing out that they don’t like it. People will make jokes about it. People will complain about the coverage. And it just doesn’t matter. I don’t feel the need to convince them otherwise. But suddenly all of that is off limits with soccer. Each day I make a few jokes about soccer, and I watch soccer fans unfollow me on Twitter, or berate me, or attempt to convert me. If you say you don’t like baseball or hockey, those of us who do say, “OK.”  If we say we don’t like soccer, the fans go into evangelism mode. Every stereotypical argument comes out. Columns are written explaining why we need to love it.

 

Tomorrow, when the US plays, I’ll watch. And I’ll cheer for America. And I hope we win. In the mean time, write all you want, but I’m unconvinced… and frankly, it’s your fault.

capture

_______________

Notes:
  1. It’s not. Thinking of instituting a new strategy of picking based on which country has better food.
  2. To be fair, I haven’t tried wearing a scarf on a 90 degree day. Maybe that’s more essential than it seems.
  3. “But Oklahoma lost in 2003 and then played for a national title!” Shut up. No one ever said the BCS was good!
  4. This one pisses me off every time. Sure, both games might have a 3-1 final score, but hockey will have 40 shots on goal in the process. Soccer? Nope.
  5. Oh, and by the way, it’s a game played on a field by players wearing uniforms and shoes, and it sure isn’t football. If you want to use other terminology, that’s fine, but you can’t make me do it.
A Theologically Accurate Post-Game Speech

A Theologically Accurate Post-Game Speech

“Because if God is for us, no one can be against us.” -Ray Lewis

Ray Lewis is the subject of plenty of jokes.  And I made a few of my own throughout the game as well.  But after the game we got yet another form of the traditional post-game “we did this because God wanted us to win” speech.  And of course the natural next step to that is that if God wanted Ray Lewis and the Ravens to win the Superbowl that would also mean that He has something against Collin Kaepernick and the 49ers.  God sure is cruel, isn’t He?

So it got me thinking about what would happen if someone were to give a more theologically accurate post-game speech:

“I’d like to thank my teammates for working hard and accomplishing this goal.  We won because we didn’t get called for a holding call in the end zone that may have given San Francisco a chance at the end, and overall we just outplayed the 49ers.

“I’d like to thank God for being my guide.  He sent his Son, Jesus, to shows us the way.  He taught us to love our enemies (which based on the fights we saw on the field today, we could still learn from).  He taught us to stay humble and learn to put others ahead of ourselves.  He taught us that blessed are the poor in spirit, the meek, those who mourn, and those who thirst for hunger and righteousness.  He said blessed are the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted.  He may not care much about who wins a football game, but He cares what we do with our lives off the field. Let’s make the world a better place.”

It’s just so much harder to say that before Jim Nantz pulls the microphone away.

2012 Football Contests. Bring it.

2012 Football Contests. Bring it.

It’s time!

Last year we had 3 of these contests going, we’re kicking it up a notch. Just not all the way to 11, because that might get a bit excessive. So let’s do this. Join one or join them all.  But hey, don’t be a weenie.  Join them all.

 

Survival Football

The easiest and hardest all at the same time.  Pick one NFL game each week. If they win you move on, if they lsoe you’re out. You can only use each team once.

Join now

Group ID:  5974
Password:  gobears

 

 College Pick’em

This one is just like it sounds. Pick the college football games each week.  All games will be picked against the spread.  Why?  Because anyone can pick that kU is going to lose each week, but do you know if they’re going to lose by more or less than 44 point?  That’s where the real prognostication comes in. Your lowest weekly score gets dropped from the overall standings.

Each week in this league we’ll be picking all the games involoving Big XII teams, all games involving an AP Top 25 team, as well as an occasional other interesting game as deemed by Yahoo.  Cause Yahoo likes interesting games.

Join now

Group ID: 4912
Password: gostate

 

 

NFL Pick’em

No spreads for the NFL Pick’em.  Instead it’s all about the confidence points. You pick the winner of every game each week. But then you assign points based on your confidence level. If you know for sure the Bears will beat the Chiefs (cause, duh), then give that pick 16 points. If you don’t have a clue who will win between the Cardinals and the Packers, cause it turns out they both really suck, then give it 1 point. Less to lose that way.

Join now

Group ID:  13278
Password: gobears

Salary Cap Football

New this year! This is like fantasy football, except that we can all have the same team if we want, so there are an unlimited amount of players.  Each player has a value that changes each week. Buy low, and keep their salary low. You can change as much as you want, you just have to have a full roster, and you have to stay under the salary cap.

Join now

GroupID:  1134
Password: gostate

 

The Ambiguity of Heroism and Villany

The Ambiguity of Heroism and Villany

Two years ago LeBron James was a hero to everyone1. He seemed like the ultimate good guy and everyone wanted him on their team. The problem, of course was that 29 teams couldn’t have him. Only one could, and as all know, he took his talents to South Beach.  And just like that, he became the villain2.

The next two seasons have seen millions root against the Heat. Why root for the team of superstars that realized they couldn’t handle leading a team on their own, and had to all come together with the expectation of dominating the league for years.  But that didn’t happen the first year, and while they finished with the championship in year two, it was anything but dominant.  They didn’t even finish with the top seed in their conference, instead losing out to the injury plagued Bulls3.

But now LeBron has a ring, and suddenly the media wants to throw the “Now is he the next Michael Jordan?” question at us again. Anyone who understands sports knows that there can’t be a comparison between the two. Comparing players from different eras is next to impossible.

But is it really a question of the best player, or is it a question of the biggest hero? We live in a world where if you’re good, people inevitably root against you.  It’s why the Yankees and Duke basketball are the most hated teams in sports. If you’re good for that long, everyone will hate you4.  But no one hated Michael Jordan. Even his biggest rivals could only marvel at what he did. He was a hero.
But Jordan was far from perfect5. There were stories of gambling problems, affairs, treating those around him pretty terribly, and some of the things villains are made of.  And Lebron’s biggest crime? Taking a job in another town6. The line between hero and villain is certainly a thin one.  And which is which?
But that’s where we just can’t make a call anymore. The game has changed to the point where it’s nearly impossible to compare Jordan and James. They do different things under a different set of rules. Lebron just isn’t the hero that Jordan was. But is it because of who Lebron is, or is it because the world doesn’t look at heroes the same way anymore.  We can n0 longer define good and evil. You don’t have to look past the movie we’re all waiting for this summer. There was a time when Batman was pure good, and now we want our heroes to have a balance between good and evil.  We have no time for the purely good.
So will Lebron be the next Michael Jordan?  No, we’ll never let him be. But is he really a hero or a villain?
Yes.

_______________

Notes:
  1. We almost forget how much everyone totally loved for him and rooted for the Cavs
  2. I don’t know if he would have been that much of a villain had he gone to Chicago or somewhere else, but running off to be with Wade and Bosh to create their own super power certainly did it
  3. Had Rose & Noah not been hurt in the playoffs, I feel pretty confident we’d still be talking about how they couldn’t get it done
  4. I fully endorse hating the Yankees. They are pure evil. But I gave up on hating Duke a long time ago. They run a class program and Coach K is pretty freaking awesome
  5. Please note, this is coming from a life long Bulls fan who can’t stand the Heat. So don’t accuse me of trying to paint a pretty picture of LeBron. I say keep hating him
  6. Albeit in a completely arrogant and ridiculous manner
I Know a Spot that I Love Full Well…

I Know a Spot that I Love Full Well…

…’Tis not in forest, nor yet in dell.

There is a political climate in this nation that is currently broken and divided, and seemingly beyond repair.1  To what degree we can get away from it depends on where we can go to be unified. Throughout my life there has been one place where that seems possible…

Ever it holds me with magic spell…

There’s something about the love that comes from a place where you spend four of the best years of your life. Walking on campus always brings back memories of a time where things couldn’t have seemed more difficult, but couldn’t have been more simple.  You walk by the dorms,2 apartments, and houses you once lived in and remember the fun. The wild. The disappointment. The hope. The promise. The friends.  You remember everything that could have been, and everything that was.3

If you’re a sports fan that only becomes intensified as you remember the wins,4 the losses,5 the tailgates, and different versions of every emotion that you’ve spent in your life. Every football, basketball, baseball, and volleyball game gives you the chance to transport back to that time, even if it’s just for a few hours.

I think of thee, alma mater.

And that’s what brings us together. For 3 hours we may disagree on what play should be run,6 whether we should be in a man or a zone, or how long the pitcher should stay in.  Some want the traditional football uniforms7 and others love the grey new style of basketball uniforms.8 And you can’t do it without carrying a passion for everything that a place like Kansas State University means to you. And while we may passionately disagree, we’re all wearing purple.

K! S! U! We’ll carry the banner high.

And we wear purple through a dark time. We wear purple as a coach we loved, and who we thought loved us, leaves us. When you love someone and they hurt you, you don’t want to believe they could possibly have hurt you.  There has to be someone to blame, and it can’t be them. So we blame the athletic director. We blame the president. We blame the NCAA.  We blame everyone we can except the person who was the one who actually made the decision to pack up and walk away, and leave us staring into an unknown future.9

But we still wear purple.

K! S! U! Long, long may the colors fly.

Like our divided nation, the fan base is divided as well.  No one wanted Frank to leave, but how we react to it makes up who we are. Most fans understand the flaws and the problems. It’s not difficult to see things from all sides of what has happened at K-State as a boss and an employee couldn’t come together, and the relationship couldn’t be salvaged.  And here we are.10

There’s a small, but extremely vocal minority of fans who have chosen to take a very dark side. They want to win at all costs. They want to thumb their nose at the rules, invent crazy conspiracy theories, and harass anyone who thinks any different. They believe they’re the only true fans, and they’re determined to make sure that everyone knows.  Rationality and ethics mean nothing. Only the conclusions that they’ve arrived at long before any information could be addressed.

But they’re small. As small in size as in decency.

Loyal to thee thy children will swell the cry…

It’s a dark time, indeed. But it doesn’t have to be. The rest of K-State can move forward. The rest of us can see that K-State doesn’t revolve around one man, but instead everyone that wears purple from the freshman in the dorms to the players on the field. From the professors in the classrooms to the coaches on the sidelines.  From the administration in Anderson Hall to the alumni around the world.

We are K-State.

And we go on.

And we all wear purple.

Hail! Hail! Hail! Alma mater.

_______________

Notes:
  1. The good news is that nothing is beyond repair, it’s certainly not as broken as it was during the Civil War
  2. 4 Years in Goodnow Hall for me. Loved every second of it. I’ll never forget walking into that tiny cell of a room the first day, or sneaking on the roof to smoke cigars on my last night… and a million things in between.
  3. and maybe even a few things that weren’t
  4. Nebraska. November 14, 1998. Best day of my life.
  5. A&M. Big XII Championship. Worst day of my life.
  6. I still don’t get why Klein didn’t run it in at Oklahoma State.
  7. Thank you, Bill, never change
  8. My least favorite. Love the white ones and the purple ones. The black ones are ok… but I can do without the grey.
  9. Let’s face it… Frank is at least 50% of the blame here. You can’t rationalize with someone who can’t possibly believe they could be wrong… and you can’t placate them forever either.
  10. Better than we were post Wooldridge. K-State is a good job, and it’s now about continuing something, not building something from scratch.
Bracket Time

Bracket Time

We all know what time of year it is.  Bracket time is back.  I don’t care what all you Christmas, summer, or other time of year lovers say, starting this week we’re in the most wonderful time of the year. It’s March, baby!

So my yearly bracket contest is back. As always it’s just for fun, no money involved, but the winner will get a prize direct from the Final Four in New Orleans. It’s never a great prize, but it’s something you can’t get anywhere else. Well, except maybe on Ebay.

So here goes, all you have to do is click here to sign up.

Also, this year, for the first time, I’m doing a women’s one. I’m not going to be at the Women’s Final Four, so no prize, but if you’re feeling adventerous, give it a shot as well.  You can enter it by clicking here.

Bring.

It.

On.

 

Buck-A-Board

If you’re reading this you probably know that I’m the co-host of The Salute, a fan podcast1 about K-State sports2 on CollegeSportsVision.com.  We don’t do it for money, or really any other reason than to amuse ourselves, but Cory and I thought we could try and do it for something just a bit more, at least this once… so we’ve decided to try to organize some support for The Global Orphan Project.

What we’d like to do is ask you to come along side us in pledging $1 per rebound3 during the K-State vs. KU game on this Monday, February 13th.  As of today K-State is averaging 38.7 rebounds a game, so a buck a board would come out to about $40. If that’s too much to do, then consider pledging $1 per offensive rebound.  That’ll likely be about $15.  But if you’re a KU fan, we want you to be able to join in as well. When you pledge you’ll be able to select to go by KU’s rebounds as well. The point isn’t who you’re rooting for, but the difference it can make.   If you have some other amount that you want to pledge, there’s a spot for “other” and you can fill in whatever you want.  Everything will help.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Make your pledge now by clicking here.
  2. The day after the game you’ll get an email reminding you of your pledge amount and a link to TheGlobalOrphanProject.org .
  3. Head to The Global Orphan Project’s website to make your payment by credit or debit card, or mail the donation to their organization. Mike & Cory will never touch your money.

That’s it. Oh… and one more thing: Our sponsor, Tallgrass Brewing Company,4  has agreed to donate a prize pack for one lucky winner. We’ll randomly5 draw the name of one person who pledges and they’ll send you some awesome Tallgrass swag6. As if helping change the world wasn’t awesome enough.

So thanks for taking part, and K-State fans7… we salute you!

_______________

Notes:
  1. Which of course you can always listen to at http://kan.st/6a or subscribe to at http://kan.st/6b. You can even find it on Stitcher.
  2. Also well known as the longest running podcast in the history of K-State sports
  3. Don’t worry, we won’t touch your money, we’ll just trust you to donate it directly to them
  4. The official beer of The Salute podcast
  5. Trust me, I’m a giant nerd. I’ll use a random number generator and everything
  6. Sorry, no beer, though. That probably gets into some crazy legal issue that none of us want to deal with
  7. And I guess, KU fans, too… in this one instance, but only if you’re pledging

Cheer Loud, K-State

Back in December K-State played West Virginia and the big conversation was whether or not Bob Huggins should have been cheered or booed. There were plenty of great points on both sides. Those who cheered pointed out that Huggins gave the Cats the jump start they needed to be a top 25 type program again. Those who booed pointed out that he’s not generally thought of as someone of high character, and that after being given his second chance at K-State he left after only 1 season in the Little Apple.  All the hype was there for the match-up, and when it came time the cheers far out numbered the boos, even if I didn’t agree with it at the time1. But Huggins isn’t the only former coach we’ll be facing this season.

There’s no need to point out that I’m referring to Lon Kruger. Every K-State fan should know that not only is his number 12 hanging in the rafters as a player, but that he spent 4 years at Kansas State as the head coach who followed the legend, Jack Hartman.  I, like many who will read this, wasn’t around for Kruger’s time at K-State2, so it’s time for just a bit of a refresher.

Lon Kruger was a true home state Kansan. He grew up just down the road from Manhattan in Silver Lake, Kansas and went on to a great career at K-State including 3 letters, 2 Big 8 player of the year awards, and 1,063 points. There’s a reason that his number 12 hangs in the rafters in the Octagon. But as good as he was as a player, his numbers as a coach are even more impressive.

Kruger spent 4 seasons at Kansas State as the head coach and is still the only coach to take the Wildcats to 4 straight NCAA tournaments3, including an Elite 8 run in 19884.   He also was the first coach at K-State to lead the team to a 20 win season in his first year5.

So sure, Lon left after 4 years to head to Florida. And sure, Lon, after stops at Illinois, the Atlanta Hawks6,  and UNLV he came back his home conference7, to face off against his alma mater. But there hasn’t been any serious questioning as to whether or not we should cheer Lon on Saturday when his Oklahoma Sooners come to the Little Apple. Boo his team all you want, but when they announce, “Coaching for the Oklahoma Sooners, Lon Kruger,” even if just for this first trip back, let’s make certain we blow the roof off of the place.

Welcome back, Coach.

_______________

Notes:
  1. Ok, let’s face it… I still don’t agree with it.
  2. As many readers know, I grew up in Iowa and moved to Kansas while I was in high school. Before about 1993 I had no clue that Kansas State ever existed, so I didn’t grow up watching Kruger play or coach, but I love sports history, and I love K-State, so I appreciate him just as though I had
  3. Frank is looking at getting K-State to their 3rd straight this year, and appears to be on pace to match Lon in this feat
  4. Also a feat that Frank has matched… 20 years later
  5. You guessed it, Frank did too.
  6. The only stop in his coaching career where he was not successful.
  7. Which of course, is now the Big 12, but contains only 2 more teams than the Big 8 that he left

On Joe Paterno

When Joe Paterno was fired it was one of the biggest stories of 2011. Everyone was talking about it whether they were fans of college football or not. The Sandusky cover up, the scandal… it was too much to believe. Paterno took the fall for his failure to act.  At the time at which he was fired I said on multiple occasions that I thought he would be dead within a year. I’m very sad that prediction has come to pass.

I don’t know what to believe about the scandal. There’s no question that the power Paterno wielded, that he could have done more. But I’m so far from the situation that I can’t understand or know what he knew, or what he thought he had accomplished with any action he had taken.  Maybe I’m a sucker, but I tend to assume the best in people, and I want to believe that he did what he thought was right, and thought the problem had been taken care of. For years it had been said that he was too old and was somewhat of a figurehead in the program and didn’t know what was going on. That was applied to his coaching, but that view was never given in this situation. I don’t know what he knew, or what he tried to accomplish to stop it. But I do know one thing… he wasn’t the one who did it.

There is never a time to celebrate one’s death. And yet right now I see a split between those who want to celebrate, and the people who want to tribute a coach who spent 46 years roaming the sidelines of Penn State University’s football field and collecting a record 409 wins. He was a man that by all other accounts was seen as a good and honorable man. The mistake we learned of in the last few months of his life was a big one, by all accounts. And perhaps we all have moments that define a lifetime. No one can pretend that these past few months aren’t a major part of the story, but should it be the story? I just pray that my worst moments don’t end up defining my lifetime.

Joe Frazier

“Smokin'” Joe Frazier
January 12, 1944 – November 7, 2011

You can map out a fight plan or a life plan, but when the action starts, it may not go the way you planned, and you’re down to your reflexes – that means your [preparation:]. That’s where your roadwork shows. If you cheated on that in the dark of the morning, well, you’re going to get found out now, under the bright lights.

-Smokin’ Joe Frazier

 

They Call Him “Sweetness”

I was 7 years old when the ’85 Bears captivates the nation and became the true America’s team for a year.  No one could resist the charms of  this incredible cast of characters, from the Punky QB known as McMahon, The Fridge (The Rookie), Samurai Mike, and our man Dent.1  But no one was more bigger than life than the ultimate good guy, and arguably the greatest running back to ever play the game… Walter Payton.

Sweetness.

When deciding which Bears jersey to buy I had more options than seemingly possible.  Ditka’s 89,  Butkus’ 51, Urlacher’s 54, Dent’s 95, Singletary’s 50… but there was no question which jersey I had to buy.

With the new book coming out about Payton comes new revelations.  He was depressed.  His marriage was falling apart. He used drugs to cope with it.  In an age in which we know far too much about our athletic heroes,2 Payton left this world long before that could happen.  We had no idea that 12 years later suddenly we’d start to have some new revelations.  But without a doubt, it doesn’t matter.

Walter Payton is still Sweetness to me.  When he died I was in college and it was the first time I ever cried thinking about someone’s death whom I had never met.  I still remember that day, sitting in my dorm room and learning about the loss of a childhood hero by way of SportsCenter.3  But I don’t remember him as the sick man who died far too young.  And I don’t remember him with the sad, dark side of his life that we now know about.  I remember him now, and always, as Sweetness.  One of the best to ever play the game.

 

 

_______________

Notes:
  1. I assume you caught that each of those descriptions come directly from the greatest rap song ever written.
  2. Twitter has created unprecedented access to athletes, and with it has come the sad reality that they aren’t the amazing people we want them to be.  I follow them for the nuggets of interesting stuff, and spend the majority of the time often disappointed in who they are off the court or field.  In Payton’s day this simply didn’t exist, and so to me he’ll always be the guy diving over the pile for the touchdown.
  3. Even that would be different today. I’d have known instantly on Twitter if it happened today.