Enough of the eclipse!

I’m in Kansas City right now, where I have been since 4 p.m. Wednesday.

I am ready to get the hell out of dodge and return to the prairie.

The eclipse is now scheduled to arrive in Missouri in less than 21 hours. The hype machine has been in full gear for months, but it has been in turbo since the beginning of August.

Many in the area turned their attention away from the ecliipse for three hours last night when the Chiefs played the Bengals in an exhibition game. When the game ended shortly after 9 p.m., it was time for many to drop everything and worry about the weather for tomorrow.

It would be very funny to me if clouds blocked out the eclipse. It would really be too bad for those who spent hundreds of dollars on a hotel room for one night, thinking they would see a total eclipse. I can’t wait to see how the people react if there are clouds obscuring the sun. You know what? It’s the weather. You know what you’re getting yourself into. If you’re dumb enough to lay out exorbitant amounts of money to witness an eclipse, it’s your own fault.

If you’re spending $500 to $700 for a hotel room for one night, you have tons of money to burn AND you need to find something better to burn that money on. For $700, you should be able to take your family to a Chiefs game and still have money left over for a meal after the game.

I gave brief thought to staying over and watching with Robb and Dawn, but they’ve got too many issues in their lives. Good. Now that I think about it, I’m making the right move going home. In fact, I’m going to stay up through the night so I am fast asleep at 1 pm when the eclipse is supposed to be over the region.

Beatlemania paled in comparison to the hype for the eclipse. The Beatles were not bigger than Jesus, as John once claimed. But they were well worth the money spent on tickets. I can’t say the same about the money wasted to try to see an eclipse, which will last less than THREE MINUTES.

I will be so happy by Tuesday afternoon. The eclipse will be over, and the media will have to focus on something else.

Mandatory and play do not go together, Little League

The Little League World Series began Thursday and continues through next Sunday.

I refuse to watch, unless it happens to be on at a sports bar, where I don’t have control of the televisions. But usually I have enough to distract me, including trivia and other sporting events.

I refuse to watch for one primary reason.

Mandatory play.

In most levels governed by Little League International, including the 12-year old level, which is the age group for teams in the LLWS, everyone who is listed on a lineup card must get into the game for meaningful action.

If a team has 13 or more players on its lineup card, every player must (a) bat at least once, or (b) play three consecutive outs on defense. And three consecutive outs means just that; a fielder can drop three fly balls or let three balls go through his legs, but he has to stay out there until three outs are recorded.

If a team has fewer than 13 players on its roster, then everyone must either bat once or play SIX consecutive outs.

A coach who violates this rule is subjected to severe penalties, and the player(s) who did not get into that game must start the team’s next game.

It happened in a regional game in Connecticut this summer. The coach of the New Hampshire state champion refused to insert the one player on his team who had yet to play. The commissioner of the New England region ruled if the coach violated the rule, he would be suspended for his team’s next two games.

What made this ridiculous is New Hampshire trailed 7-5 in the bottom of the sixth–the last inning–with runners on the corners.

The coach refused.

Good for him.

Let me see: I’m going to bat someone who has yet to play just to satisfy a stupid rule when he represents the winning run. Okay then.

The mandatory play rule is asinine. I don’t care if the kids are 12 years old.

It’s a fact of life some kids are just not as talented as the others. It may be some kids hit their growth spurt earlier, it may be a kid is just not naturally talented, whatever.

If the greatest heartbreak in a kid’s life is not getting into a Litlte League game, then that kid has a great life.

How many Little League players are going to make their high school varsity? I would say less than one third.

How many of those who make their high school varsity are going to play in college? Less than five percent.

And how many players in college (or high school) are going to play professionally (and by professionally, I mean the minor leagues)? Less than one percent. And very, very, VERY few are going to make it all the way to Major League Baseball.

Starting in high school, NOBODY has a right to play. NOBODY. There are tens of thousands of high school varsity players across the United States who see little or no action in their careers. It’s not anything against them. It’s a fact of life.

Mandatory play in Little League is another symptom of the participation trophy culture of the United States. Just like parents complaining their son or daughter didn’t play.

I think mandatory play should be abolished, period. But if Little Leasgue insists on keepig it, it should be outlawed for use in state, regional and World Series play. Teams should be able to use their best players at all times when their seasons are on the line. And coaches who refuse to abide by it need to be applauded, not punished, for upholding the spirit of the National Pastime.

I wasn’t good enough to play baseball when I was very young. I tried, but it was futile. I gave it up. It’s not good to quit, but I knew I wasn’t coordinated enough. It’s simply a fact of life I deal with.

No kid should be discouraged if he doesn’t play. It’s all about the team.

Kansas doesn’t have to worry about it anyway. No team from the Sunflower State has ever played in the LLWS. The only area with teams sanctioned by LIttle League are in the southeast corner, and those are grossly overmatched in the Midwest regoinal.

Is there an immunization for eclipse fever? Sign me up!

Eclipse fever has overtaken Kansas City.

Check that, eclipse fever overtook Kansas City months ago. Eclipse fever is now raging throughout much of Missouri, especially along the western edge of the state from Kansas City to the far corner where the state borders Iowa and Nebraska.

You cannot turn on any of the four local network stations and not hear something about the eclipse, which occurs Monday. Most of northern Missouri is in the path of totality, with St. Joseph scheduled to be in totality for two minutes, 38 seconds.

There are estimates of over one million people flocking to Kansas City, St. Joseph and countless small towns in the far northern reaches of the state to view the eclipse, which is dangerous for the human eye unless proper eclipse glasses are worn. Regular sunglasses won’t work. And certainly do not try taking picutres or videos of the eclipse. Anyone who does will go blind and not know it.

In Kansas City, only areas north of the Missouri River–Platte and Clay counties–will have totality, and it won’t be as long as it will be farther north. I’m guessing there will be gigantic traffic jams on Interstate 29 with people stopping to watch. I’ve suggested Missouri Western State University, where the Chiefs hold training camp, open its stadium to let people watch.

Elaine Mercer, one of my supervisors at work, is going to watch from Carrollton, where she and Frank used to live (and still own the newspaper, the Carrollton Democrat). Carrollton is scheduled to have totality for two and a half minutes, too.

The only place in Kansas in the path of totality will be Doniphan County, the farthest county northeast in the state. Russell and Hays will be in the 93 percent range. I’m not watching. NO.

I don’t see what the big fuss is. I saw an eclipse in 1984 when I was finishing second grade. I want to be able to see, even if I’m blind without my contact lenses or glasses.

It reminds me of all those who went crazy over Haley’s Comet being visible in early 1986. It’s not that big a deal to me. I’m not into astronomy. I only know what I learned in school (and playing Buzztime trivia). That’s it. I don’t own a telescope, I don’t look at the horoscope, and I never got attached to watching the space shuttle launch and land, except when I watched it in school. The only time I can remember watching a shuttle launch was in seventh grade at Arabi Park Middle, mostly because it was the first one after the Challenger explosion.

Hotels in Kansas City and St. Joseph are absolutely gouging people who are coming to the area to view the eclipse.

If you thought hotel rates in the area were outrageous for the two NASCAR weekends at Kansas Speedway, you haven’t looked at the rates for this Sunday night.

The “budget” hotels in the area are charging at least $250. Some of the classier hotels downtwon are charging up to $750.

Seven hundred fifty bucks. And that’s not for a hotel in the path of totality.

Someone who is paying over $800 to stay in a hotel and then go watch an eclipse has money to burn. Still, it’s a gigantic waste of money. That person would be better off buying Chiefs tickets.

I’ll be so happy Tuesday when the eclipse is over and people have to start talking about something else.

How cheap can you be?

This fucking sucks. I was writing a nice post on the most overrated 12-1 college football team in the history of the sport, the 2007 Kansas Jayahwks, and the stupid WordPress app on my iPad crashed, taking all the work with it. SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT.

Maybe I’d be better off doing the KU football one on my computer. That way it will autosave. Besides, I’ve still got time for that one.

I am having a terrible, terrible time of it. I had hell to go through yesteday at the driver’s license bureau in Hays. I didn’t have the proper documents. The REAL ID law, which took effect for Kansas driver’s licenses August 1, is complicated. I had to go to Hays because in Russell, you can only take care of your driver’s license EVERY OTHER WEDNESDAY. That’s it. Thank you, Sam Brownback, for being such a tight-fisted asshole that rural residents either have to drive long distances to renew their licenses, or have to do it on a particular day, which may or may not be convenient for them.

Kansas is also cheap because it won’t give you a new license immediately. You have to get a temprorary one on a thermal sheet of paper and it is mailed to you two weeks later. What is this, a 1990 fax machine? Kansas is too cheap to purchase laminating machines to do it then and there? In Louisiana, I walked out with my new license card a few minutes after filling out hte paperwork and taking a new picture.

I don’t know if Brownback belongs on the Mount Rushmore of cheapskates, but he certainly is in the running.

I would definitely have include Charles O. Finley, the former owner of the Athletics who screwed his players royally by serverely underpaying them, which in turn led to pitiful teams, save for the teams which won three consecutive World Series from 1972-74, and that was only because most of the players came up through the team’s farm system. When it came time to pay Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, Vida Blue, Rollie Fingers and the others, they all bolted, knowing Finleey was a cheap bastard.

Another person who would be etched in granite on the Mount Rushmore of cheap bastards is Joe Dean, LSU’s athletic director from 1987-2000. His penny pinching ways fucked LSU fans over good, giving them football coaches Curley Hallman and Gerry DiNardo, and men’s basketball coach John Brady. Thank God for Mark Emmert. Emmert, who became LSU’s chancellor in 1999, told Dean in no uncertain terms he was conduing the search for the coach to replace DiNardo, which led to Nick Saban leaving Michigan State for Baton Rouge and LSU’s program returning to college football’s upper crust. Had Dean been allowed to hire DiNardo’s replacement, who knows what would have happened.

I’d have to seriously consider Royals owner David Glass, who ran the team like a Walmart store. Walmart is known for cheap shit, and the Royals were pretty much the same until recently.

At least I have a few weeks to take care of the driver’s license. It’s aggravating nonetheless.

Alive–but certainly not kicking

Reports of my demise, while not exaggerated, are premature–at least for now.

I am well aware I haven't posted for over a month. However, there hasn't been anything worth reporting in July, at least outside of the first 40 hours of the month.

I have barely left Russell the last three and a half weeks. I have no desire to fight the scorching heat which has gripped Kansas for much of the month. It's really bad when 95 is considered a decent day. It has been over 100 half the days of the month, and as high as 110 a couple of days. Next summer I'll plan a return to Louisiana so I can escape the heat.

Today is not supposed to get to 90, which calls for a parka. Seriously, I cannot wait for fall. This summer has been downright brutal.

Kansas City is in a lather over the Royals, who take an eight-game winning streak into this weekend's series with the Red Sox at Fenway. Royals fans are saying "bring on the Dodgers" and "Kershaw is no Bumgarner" already. Sorry to be the wet blanket, but the Royals have won all eight of those games against the Tigers and White Sox, who are putrid. The White Sox are easily the worst team in the American League, and while the Tigers don't have the second worst record in the Junior Circuit, they are paying just as badly as the White Sox.

When I lived in Louisiana, I took pity on the Royals after they fell into the abyss. Since Louisiana doesn't have an MLB team and it never will, the pipe dreams of some idiots in the 1970s notwithstanding, there really wasn't a team to root for, although the Astros were popular in many parts, and the Rangers had a few followers in the northwest corner of the state. I was, of course, rooting for the Brewers, and then the Royals, because I heard it from some people about how bad they were, knowing I had roots in Kansas.

Royals fans have become quite insufferable since going to back-to-back World Series in 2014 and 2015, winning the latter. It's like 1986 through 2013 were an alternate universe, and the 2014 and 2015 teams have direct lineage to the 1985 World Series winning team, and the 1970s squads which won three consecutive AL West championships. Losing 100 games in four of five seasons between 2002 and 2006? Didn't happen. Trey Hillman as manager? Nope, not real. Emil Brown, Mark Grudzielanek, Mark Teahan, Yuniesky Betancourt? Who were they?

Nope, the Royals history goes straight from October 27, 1985, the night they won Game 7 vs. the Cardinals, to 2014. At least, that's what die-hard Royals fans will tell you. Ned Yost is the second coming of Tony LaRussa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre, if not John McGraw and Casey Stengel. Eric Hosmer is the best first baseman who ever lived. Danny Duffy is better than Sandy Koufax.

Keep drinking the Flavor-Aid, Royals fans. When your team is watching the postseason, don't say I didn't tell you so. And then get ready for what's to come in 2018 and beyond. You can party like it's 1999 (or 2002 or 2004 or 2005 or 2006).

As for the other team occupying the Truman Sports Complex, the Chiefs are starting training camp in St. Joseph. WHY St. Joseph?

This is something that should have ended when Todd Haley and Scott Pioli were fired. It was their brilliant idea to move training camp from Wisconsin, where a more temperate climate allowed for more work outdoors, to a Division II college only 50 miles from their training complex. WHY?

If the Chiefs are going to go away from home for camp, do it a long way from home. If there was a Division II school to use, it would have been Northwest Missouri in Maryville, the dominant Division II program of the 21st cenutry. I understand the idea of drawing fans from Kansas City, but if that's the idea, then hold practices at the high school fields in Lee's Summit, Blue Springs, Olathe and Overland Park.

Missouri Western State University got a sweet deal out of it, not only getting the publicity of having the Chiefs, but massive upgrades to its facilities. MWSU had fallen far behind Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) rivals Northwest Missouri and Pittsburg State as far as facilities. Now that the NFL and the state of Missouri have ponied up, the Griffins have palatial digs, at least for Divison II.

Last I checked, training camp is for the players and coaches to get ready for the season, not for the fans to mingle. The Chiefs would be better off holding practices at their complex and televising them instead of letting fans in. The fans would be able to watch from the comfort of their air-conditioned living room (or sports bar if they so desire).

The Cardinals used to hold training camp at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. In the state, but far enough away from the training facility in Tempe. Also, the Cardinals trained at elevation (7,200 feet), so their stamina was built up. That's the perfect idea of going away for camp.

Holding camp at Division I colleges isn't going to work, now that the season starts before Labor Day. It wasn't that way until the 11th game was added by the NCAA in the early 1970s. Now it wouldn't work if the Chiefs went to Columbia to train at Mizzou. Same for the Saints going to LSU. Or the Cardinals using the University of Arizona.

It poured in Kansas City overnight. Two of the television stations are reporting two people are trapped in a restaurant in south KCMO near the state line.

Half-hearted rivalries 

In this morning’s Kansas City Star, there was an article with comments from former University of Missouri president R. Bowen Loftin about the possibility of the Tigers resuming their athletic series with the University of Kansas. 

Kansas and Missouri began their football series in 1891, only 30 years after Kansas became the 34th state. The Tigers and Jayhaks played 120 times, making it the oldest NCAA Division I rivalry west of the Mississippi River. FYI, the oldest NCAA football series is Lehigh vs. Lafayette, which bgan in 1884.

Loftin stated only one reason why Mizzou and Kansas have not played since the Tigers left the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference in 2012.

Bill Self.

Loftin blamed Self, the Jayhawks’ men’s basketball coach who will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame later this year, for not wanting to play Mizzou, at least in football and men’s basketball. In recent years, Mizzou has reached out numerous times to Kansas about playing football games at Arrowhead Stadium and basketball games at Sprint Center, but each time, the Jyayhawks have said no way. 

Self, of course, denied Loftin’s premise. He emphatically stated he had nothingt to do with football scheduling. 

Loftin speaks from experience about dormant rivalries. In 2012, he was president at Texas A&M when the Aggies joined Mizzou in leaving the Big 12 for the SEC. A&M wanted to continue its rivalry with Texas, but the Longhorns refused. 

In his comments, Loftin believed the Longhorns and Aggies would continue their rivalry before the Tigers and Jayhawks do. 

I know about in-state rivlaries going dormant, but Louisiana really isn’t comparable to Texas, or to Missouri-Kansas, either. Tulane has never really been at LSU’s level, and the gulf has continually widened since the Green Wave dropped out of the SEC in 1966. LSU discontinued its annual rivalry with Tulane on the gridiron after the 1994 season; the teams played four consecutive years from 2006-2009, but LSU then bought out the remaining six games on the contract. In men’s basketball, Dale Brown dropped Tulane in 1981 because he felt the Greenies were non-competitive. Tulane dropped its program for three years in the 1980s due to a point shaving scandal, but the Tigers refused to play Tulane until 2003, seven seasons after Brown retired. LSU and Tulane only compete in women’s basketball and baseball, as well as a few minor sports. 

As much as I’d like to see LSU and Tulane play every year in football, Tulane must shoulder a lot of the blame. Why not play in Baton Rouge every year, or four out of every five years? The Greenies are going to make far more in Tiger Stadium than they ever will at Tulsa, SMU, East Carolina or another American Athletic Conference school, and certainly much, much more than playing at UL Lafayette or Louisiana Tech. As for LSU, it would be much more financially prudent to play Tulane than to pay Troy or Chattanooga an exorbitant sum to come to Death Valley as it is doing this season. It would have been much better in 2017 becuase LSU has only six home games, since the Florida game was switched to Gainesville after last season’s Hurricane Matthew flap. 

On the flip side, if Tulane wants LSU to come to New Orleans, it is going to (a) have to give LSU a larger cut of the gate and (b) play in the Superdome. Yulman Stadium only seats 30,000. I understand the idea of playing on campus, but in this case, it would be unreasonable for LSU to do so. If Tulane is worried about LSU fans overrunning the Superdome, then that’s too bad.

LSU has tried to make too many other SEC schools their “rival”, but the other school would not reciprocate. The series with Ole Miss has largely been irrelvant since Johnny Vaught retired as Rebel coach in 1970 (save for a brief return in 1973). Alabama could care less about beating LSU unless the Tigers are at or near the top of the polls. As Bear Bryant put it, “I’d rather beat the cow college (Auburn) once than Notre Dame ten times”. Nick Saban has turned this so-called rivalry into a laugher. Auburn and LSU didn’t play every year in football until 1992, and Auburn might be going to the Eastern Division anyway. 

LSU has played Arkansas for the Golden Boot since 1996, but the Tigers resisted it with every fiber of their being until then-SEC Commissioner Roy Kramer finally prevailed upon LSU to play along.  The game has always meant much more in Fayetteville than in Baton Rouge.

Back to the Border War. 
Kansas’ non-conference football schedule this season is an out and out JOKE. Southeast Missouri, Central Michigan, Ohio University. The game vs. the Bobcats is in Athens, Ohio, which is a coup by Ohio coach Frank Solic in getting a Power Five school to travel to Athens and play a Mid-America Conference school. 

The trip to Ohio begs the question: why not play Missouri at Arrowhead and get a huge gate? It would be mutually beneficial. It would allow Mizzou to fulfill the SEC requirement to play a Power Five opponent in non-conference, and Kansas would not have to embarrass itself playing a lower level team like SEMO. 

I cannot say for sure Self is personally responsible for Kansas not wanting to play Mizzou. But the Jayhawks are wrong on this one. Why would Kansas pass up a chance to play in Kansas City, only 45 minutes from its campus, to go to places like Ohio U and Memphis? 

The Texas-Texas A&M series is not something I’m really worried about. Texas has enough in-state rivals (Baylor, Texas Tech, TCU) in the Big 12, and A&M is content making Arkansas and LSU its big rivalry games. 

In the grand scheme, it’s only college sports. It could be worse. The fact the Jets and Giants play only once every four years in the regular season is sad. The NFL is missing the boat. 

The end (of June 2017) is in sight

Yesterday was a very long day. Woke up at 6:30–the alarm started crowing. Then Crista. Then Dr. Jones to get my eyes checked. Small area of concern in the left eye, something she hopes will clear up as my blood sugar improves. I’m sure she will report to Dr. Custer, whom I see again in September.

I drove half-bllind from Hays to Topeka. My eyes were dilated so Dr. Jones could examine them. I wore my old prescription sunglasses, and I was having a devil of a time seeing the car radio. I was fine to drive, but reading small print was a hassle. I finally inserted my contcts at Topeka so I could wear my Oakley sunglasses, which are much darker than my prescription lenses. Got to Kansas City and Buffalo Wild Wings at 3:30.

Around 6:30, a man accosted me at the bar and asked me if I was using my iPad to take pictures. My first instinct would have been to yell at him and call him a few unprintable words. Instead, I was focused on the TV screen with trivia. I let him stand there for a few minutes before he got the point. He complained to management. I showed Jarrod, the general manager, my iPad that it had no picutres of anything in the restaurant except the screen with trivia. I stayed until 8:30, which was leaving time anyway. 

I was offended at the accusation. Why would I risk going to jail in a place 250 miles from home? And certainly why would I risk trouble at a place I have been going for four years and want to keep going to? I told Robb and he was not happy to hear. He and his brother, Tim, came to play with me for a little while in the late afternoon. 

I am staying at the KCI Hilton this time. I rarely stay at Hilton properties. I am angry Hilton has not made all of its hotels, which also include Hampton Inn, Embassy Suites and Doubletree, smoke-free like Marriott has. Fortunatelly, the KCI Hilton went smoke-free earlier this year after seeing non-smoking customers bleed away to the Marriott and Four Points near the airport. 

I had trouble getting the luggage cart in the door, but for the first time when staying by myself, I did not have to stop by the front desk for a key.

The KCI Hilton offers a digital key. It is sent to your smartphone, and using Bluetooth, it sends a signal to the phone when you are near your room or any other space which requires a key to access. All I had to do was hit a button on my phone when I got to the room, and voila! Open sesame. 

I have not forgotten my key in a long time; I always put one in my wallet immediately after check-in and use the other when I need to leave the room but not leave the property. This morning, no key to forget! 

The room is very nice. The TV selection isn’t as good as the Farifield at KCI, which has DirecTV, but the bed was plush and there’s enough electrical outlets. There is room service, but it would cost more for a 10-ounce strip than it does for the 22-ounce bone-in ribeye at Outback. Speaking of Outback, the regular ribeye I had last night was superb. Charred outside, but nice and red inside. 

It poured AGAIN last night. Severe storm rolled in at 9:45 and blew through in 30 minutes. Over three inches of rain at KCI. In Carrollton, where Frank and Elaine Mercer lived before moving to Russell–they still own and publish the Carrollton Democrat–there was at least seven inches. This is the fourth time I have witnessed severe weasther in Kansas City this month. The rain is probably done until Monday. I’m planning on leaving Sunday night, but that could change. 

Getting the oil changed at McCarthy-Morse Chevrolet this morning. May be the last time here. My dad is talking about how his dad won’t be able to drive much longer and I’ll inherit his Buick LeSabre. 

I’m supposed to meet Larry (Mizzou) at Buffalo Wild Wings in Liberty for some trivia later. I also need to hit Minsky’s. 25 percent off through Tuesday! 

I’m eating 7-11 hot dogs for breakfast. It is a much better option than doughnuts for a diabetic, and I wasn’t in the mood to fight McDonald’s or another fast food place. Besides, it’s less expensive and I got a free Super Big Gulp. 

I ordered four movies from the 1980s on Blu-Ray on Amazon yesterday. They’ll arrive Monday. One of them I’ll discus in an upcoming post.

Another NCAA season in the books

The 2017 Division I college baseball season, and the entire 2016-17 NCAA athletic calendar for that matter, ended at 10:26 p.m. Central Daylight Time last night when Florida recorded the final out of its 6-1 victory over LSU in the second game of the College World Series championship series. 

The Gators won their first baseball national championship, joining a very select list of schools which have won national championships in football, men’s basketball and baseball. 

Only four have done it since the Associated Press began its major college football poll in 1936. Two of the four are Big Ten Conference archrivals Michigan and Ohio State. UCLA, which has one championship each in football and baseball and 11 in men’s basketball,  was the third until Florida. Two of UCLA’s Pacific-12 Conference rivals, California and Stanford, each claim national championships, but those were retroactively awarded by math formulas or other polls. 

Florida, Michigan and UCLA have also won national championships in softball. 

LSU, which won national championships in 1991, ’93, ’96, ’97, 2000 and 2009, came up short for the first time when making the CWS final round. The end of the CWS in the full double-elimination era (1950-87) depended upon how many teams were left after 12 games. The series could end in 14 games if one team went undefeated, or 15 if nobody did. In 1988, the format was changed to a single championship game contested between the winners of two four-team brackets. The best-of-3 series began in 2003. 

The Bayou Bengals were left for dead in Omaha after losing 13-1 to Oregon State June 19. The Beavers improved to 56-4 and won their 23rd consecutive game. LSU defeated Florida State to stay alive, but then would have to beat Oregon State twice to reach the championship series. 

Not only did LSU end Oregon State’s winning streak with a 3-1 decision last Friday, it completed the comeback the next day, 6-1. The Beavers collected only five hits over two games. FIVE. Thus Oregon State finished the year with a .903 winning percentage, but did not even play for the title.

LSU did this before. 

In 1989, LSU was in the regional at College Station, where Texas A&M entered the tournament 55-5. The Aggies, who smashed the Southwest Conference that year, outscored their first three regional foes (Jackson State, BYU and South Alabama) 65-13. LSU lost its second game to South Alabama, and thus had to defeat UNLV and the Jaguars on day three to advance to the final round,  where it would need to defeat A&M twice.

The Bayou Bengals pulled it off somehow. They won the first game 13-5 behind Golden Spikes Award winner Ben McDonald. In the winner take all game, McDonald came on in relief in the 10th inning and earned the win as LSU prevailed 5-4. 

LSU didn’t win the championship this year, but the season was far from a failure. Quite the opposite.

When Bill Franques and I parted company at 5 p.m. ET in Lexington the afternoon of April 23, neither of us had much confidence LSU would be one of the eight to make it to Omaha. LSU was 27-15 overall and 10-8 in the SEC after dropping two to Kentucky and needing an eighth-inning rally to pick up the one win it got. Some projections had LSU going on the road for a regional, and its chances of hosting a super regional were slim and none. 

Yet LSU steamrolled its way through the rest of the regular season (winning a share of the SEC championship) and the SEC tournament to earn the #4 national seed, one spot below Florida. The Bayou Bengals went 5-0 at home and were on their way to Omaha for the 18th time. 

I didn’t get emotional over the CWS this year. There were times in the past where I would get upset that I wasn’t in Omaha. I would let jealousy get the best of me, because people I knew were there and I wasn’t.

This year, I felt fine with being at home. I did not want to pay exorbitant prices for hotels (a halfway decent hotel costs over $200 per night during the CWS, and if you want to stay close to TD Ameritrade Park, you can expect to pay at least $350 a night), fight all the crowds and the heat just to sit in the bleachers. Reserved tickets on the secondary market for LSU games ran anywhere from $150 to $700. LSU games were twice as much as other games. The only other school I can see driving ticket prices that high is Nebraska. Of course, the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau doesn’t like the Cornhuskers in the CWS, because their fans will commute back and forth from Lincoln. 

If I ever go again, I’ll probably have to stay in Kansas City or St. Joseph and commute the 2 1/2 hours up Interstate 29. But I don’t see it happening.

Here’s the good news for LSU: if history repeats tself, it will win it all in 2018.

Since winning their first title in 1991, the Bayou Bengals have won every nine years. They did it in 2000 and 2009, so 2018 is ripe. 

Need a break from college sports. Football hype is too much for me to take in late June. It’s only going to get worse. 

Louisiana comes to Kansas City

If you’re in Kansas City today, I have two words for you: AIR CONDITIONING. And lots of it.

There is an excessive heat warning in effect for the Kansas City area, which extends south on Interstate 49 to the Arkansas state line, and then into Kansas and Oklahoma. There is a heat advisory as far west as Salina and far east as Columbia. Summer is here in case you didn’t know it. Yes, summer does not officially start until Wednesday, but it was here on Memorial Day, and it is now unleashing its fully fury. 

The heat indicies they’re talking about in Kansas City today are common in Louisiana this time of year. Yes, I realize Kansas City gets hot and the humidity is worse than it is in Russell and points west, but this is oppressive. I hate to think how bad it gets in St. Louis. 

It stormed again last night. I went to bed a few minutes after midnight, just when it was getting cranked up. It didn’t prevent me from falling asleep. I finally got up at 9–there was no reason to really get up early–and made my way to Buffalo Wild Wings for a Saturday of trivia. I’ll eventually cross Barry Road and go to Minsky’s, where I went for an hour and a half yesterday. I was looking to go back in the evening, but when I went at 7, the parking lot was completely full. So I went back to Buffalo Wild Wings and played more trivia with Robb and Dawn, leaving at 8:30. 

I ate lunch with Peggy and Caitlyn yesterday at Yard House in the Legends shopping plaza, where the Kansas Speedway and Children’s Mercy Park, home of Sporting KC of Major League Soccer, are located. I really wanted to go for a steak or a big piece of fish, but I opted to just get the sashimi. Peggy paid, and I didn’t want to take advantage of her generosity. I hadn’t seen either of them since early May, and this was the first extended time I spent with them since the end of the basketball season in late February. 

The U.S. Open gollf tournmaent is in the thrid round in Wisconsin. Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day all missed the cut. Jordan Spieth is well off the lead. Phil Mickelson didn’t even play, choosing to attend his daughter’s high school graduation in San Diego. Eldrick Woods? WHO CARES? Rickie Fowler is the biggest name in contention, trailing by one stroke at 8-under. He shot 71 yesterday after a 65 Thursday, which tied for the best opening round in U.S. Open history. 

Johnson will not be able to repeat as U.S. Open champion. It hasn’t been done since Curtis Strange did it in 1988 and ’89. This is the second consecutive major in which the defending champion has missed the cut; it happened to Danny Willett at The Masters. Willett has basically fallen off the face of the earth since winning at Augusta National 14 months ago. Sergio Garcia made the cut, but he’s probably too far back to make a run. 

People have complained about Erin Hills, the course hosting the tournament for the first time. Many do not like new courses thrown into the mix of the traditional sites, which include Oakmont, Winged Foot, Shinnecock Hills, Baltusrol, Pebble Beach, Congressional, Lower Merion and Bethpage Black. Those players may have a point.
The College World Series starts in one hour. Cal State Fullerton and Oregon State, which has won 21 consecutive games and is the top ranked team in every poll, as well as the #1 national seed, open the festivities in Omaha. Then it’s LSU and Florida State at 7.  LSU is aiming for its seventh national championship and its second under Paul Mainieri, who led the Bayou Bengals to the title in 2009 at Rosenblatt Stadium, the penultimate year the CWS was played there. It moved to TD Ameritrade Park in downtown Omaha in 2011. LSU has not fared well there, going 1-4 in two appearances, including an 0-2 trip (coloquially referred to as “Two and Barbecue” in college baseball lingo) in 2013 when LSU entered 57-9 and the #1 national seed. 

I went to Omaha in 1998 and 2003. Great experiences, but I am not big on the crowds. I certainly do not want to be in the heat, and not in the general admission seats in the outfield, where if you leave your seat, you might as well leave the park, because someone will swipe it. General admission seating is a terrible idea for college and professional sports. TERRIBLE. The NCAA should outlaw that for the CWS and other Division I events. 

LSU has won 15 consecutive games, and is 21-2 since I saw the series at Kentucky. Bill Franques, who is attending his 16th CWS as LSU’s baseball publicity director, told me as we departed April 23 he didn’t see LSU making it to Omaha, and he was worried LSU would have to travel for a REGIONAL. LSU has played in a regional away from Baton Rouge only once since 1990, in 2010 at UCLA, when it lost twice to UC Irvine. LSU did not make the NCAA tournament in 2006, 2007 and 2011. 

LSU’s prospects in a road super regional would have been very iffy, considering it is 1-6 all-time in super regionals away from Alex Box Stadium (old and new): 0-2 at Alabama in 1999, 1-2 at Tulane in 2001, and 0-2 at Rice in 2002. The 2002 super regional saw LSU get shut out in both games, the only time that’s happened. 

The other bracket tomorrow has Louisville playing Texas A&M and Florida battling TCU. TCU beat LSU twice in the 2015 CWS. The Horned Frogs are in Omaha for the fourth consecutive year under former Tulane assistant Jim Schlossnagle, doing something LSU has never done. LSU made it three straight years from 1989-91 and again from 1996-98, but never four. 

UGH. Some employee at Buffalo Wild Wings is playing nothing but horrendous hip-hop. I’m already getting nauseous. 

Scalise still critical

In the early minutes of Thursday morning, at least in the Central Time Zone, U.S. Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the House Majority Whip, is still in critical condition. The bullet entered his left hip and damaged internal organs.

Yikes.

If the bullet hit the bowels, Scalise is as good as gone. If the bowels are perforated, fecal matter will enter the body cavity and poison the vital organs–heart, liver, colon, what have you–and cause septic shock.

Even if he pulls through, Scalise faces a very difficult road back. I would think his left hip would have to be totally replaced, and doctors will probably do the right one as a precaution. Although he wasn’t hit in the head like Gabby Giffords was in the 2011 Tucson shooting, Scalise’s future in Congress is very, very uncertain.

The deceased shooter, James Hodgkinson, spewed plenty of anti-Trump, anti-Republican and anti-conservative rhetoric, at one point calling president Trump an “a-hole”.

It’s one thing to swear about the president’s policies. It’s another to get personal, and that’s crossing the line. I admit I have been guilty of it far, far, far, far too often. I can’t count the number of times I’ve crossed the line when I shouldn’t have. I regret each and every time I did.

Major League Baseball umpires have said repeatedly through the years that managers and players can say they made a bad call (using the expletive for horse manure), and they do not risk ejection. However, if the player or manager calls the umpire (horse manure), he’s ejecting himself.

The same goes here. You can say Trump’s policies are horrible. You can say Obama’s policies were horrible. However, to say Trump is an a-hole or to call Obama the n-word? Totally unacceptable.

I’ve had it with all the rancor. I don’t want to listen to the political channels on SiriusXM when I’m driving. I’ll play my iPod, the music channels or SiriusXM, or find sports talk. In Kansas City, that’s easy, since two stations (KCSP 610 AM and WHB 810 AM) are all sports, all the time. Here in Russell, it’s harder. ESPN Radio has to do in that regard.

I was hoping WWL AM in New Orleans would have coverage of the shooting and updates on Scalise’s condition. Instead, the 9 p.m. hour was all about LSU baseball and their first game in the College World Series Saturday vs. Florida State. I’m looking very much forward to that. I’ll be watching at Minsky’s Pizza. I’m sure Lindsay will make me swear to behave myself.

Okay enough gloom and doom. Time for me to hit the sack. Crista and I visit in less than nine hours.

Pray for Steve Scalise, his family and the citizens of Louisiana, all of them, not just those who live in Scalise’s district. My native state needs him on Capitol Hill.