Monthly Archives: November 2014

Back to it

I did it again. I negelcted yet another blog. Going ten days without a post is totally unacceptable.

On the other hand, there just hasn’t been much happy news to report. I’ve been mostly miserable, save for the football games I’ve had to cover. If it had not been for those football games, plus a trip to Topeka last Thursday, it would have been pure hell.

Going all the way back to the day of my last post, the Phillipsburg-Oakley game was the coldest sporting event I’ve ever covered. The temperature was 27 degrees at kickoff, and a biting south wind dropped the wind chill into the mid-teens. I could not wear gloves because I was trying to take pictures and write down each play as it went, and my fingers paid a heavy price.

As bad as it was with the cold, I nearly made it much worse. There four space heaters on Oakley’s sidleline–I did not go to Phillipsburg’s side because I wanted to avoid certain people from a rival paper–and I attempted to warm up my frozen hands by sticking one in front of the heater.

Terrible idea. It got so hot I had to pull the hand away immediately. I was afraid I had damaged nerves in my hand, but that wasn’t the case. My hands were still frozen, though, and I was fearing any longer in this weather would cause frostbite. Coincidentally, I was thumbing through an e-book about the Ice Bowl, the 1967 NFL championship game between the Cowboys and Packers in Green Bay where the temperature was 13 degrees below zero at kickoff, with a wind chill of 38 below. Quite a few players who played in the Ice Bowl received permanent frostbite from that day.

At halftime, I went to my car to warm up. Fortunately, I was parked right across the street from the entrance to the stadium, so I didn’t have to walk but a few feet. I ditched my camera for the second half and just took notes. At least I was able to put a hand in my pockets in between plays.

I stayed home the weekend after that game due to a forecast of snow. There was no snow, at least in Russell, and I didn’t have the best weekend. LSU got shut out by Arkansas, and all I wanted to do Sunday is sleep after eating my mother’s pasta.

It all began to go downhill a week ago Monday. It was the first day of practice for basketball and wrestling at high schools across Kansas, and I was asked to go take some pictures at Russell High. I really didn’t want to do it, because it was in the low 20s outside and I really didn’t feel like practice pictures could make that much of a difference, but they insisted.

I was very upset. I threatened to quit. I threatened worse. I began to send out desperate e-mails to people about how sad I was. I went out and got the pictures, but I still was not a happy camper.

The next morning, I went to visit my primary care physician, Dr. Shanon Custer, in Hays. We discussed my depression, and she said she would refer me to High Plains Mental Health in Hays. I agreed to go, and I ended up going the next day.

The visit to High Plains–where I was a patient many years ago–was routine and just was designed to get me back into the system. I have my first appointment with my counselor on Dec. 11.

Thursday was another trip to Topeka, this time to pick up a hand warmer at Dick’s Sporting Goods. That was a great idea, as I would find out the next night.

I wore my hand warmer at the Phillipsburg-Ell-Saline semifinal football game at Phillipsburg. I would put a hand inside the warmer, and it would immediately feel much better. No worries about frostbite this time.

The host Panthers dropped a 22-21 heartbreaker. They had the ball at the Ell-Saline 1-yard line with 17 seconds remaining, but a fumbled snap ended their hopes. The Cardinals earned a berth in the Class 2-1A state championship game this Saturday vs. Olpe.

I had to leave Russell before dawn Saturday to go to Newton for the 8-man Division Ii state championship game Saturday at 11 a.m. It was foggy the whole drive down, and the fog did not lift until late in the game.

Victoria easily defeated Attica/Argonia 52-8. The Knights led 36-0 at halftime and allowed the Titans, who scored 751 points in their first 12 games, just 163 yards.

I’ve been at the Wichita Marriott since Saturday’s game. I spent most of Sunday sleeping. I’ve got work to get done today and tomorrow. Back to Russell Wednesday.

Done with the Dome

Little did I know it at the time, but ten years ago today marked the last time I have set foot in the Superdome, the giant saucer on Poydras Street in New Orleans’ Central Business District which has been home to the Saints of the National Football League since 1975.

On November 14, 2004, my dad and I went to the Saints’ game vs. the Kansas City Chiefs at what was then known as the Louisiana Superdome. It was the Chiefs’ first visit to New Orleans since 1994, when Joe Montana was Kansas City’s starting quarterback. The matchup was not particularly appetizing. Both the Chiefs and Saints were also-rans in 2004, a battle of two 3-5 teams whose playoff hopes were slim to none.

My dad was a Chiefs and Saints fan dating way back to the 1960s. He attended the Saints’ first regular season game at Tulane Stadium in 1967. John Gilliam returned the opening kickoff vs. the Rams 94 yards for a touchdown, but my dad missed it. He was at a concession stand buying beer.

He attended a Chiefs game in 1968 at Municipal Stadium, driving over 24 hours round trip in the space of less than 36 hours. in that game, Hank Stram put Kansas City in the full house T-formation and ran the ball on nearly every play. The Chiefs beat the Raiders 24-10, Oakland’s only regular season loss that season.

My father’s company, Air Products and Chemicals, had two season ticket accounts. One of these accounts had four seats in one of the most prestigious sections of the building: section 312, row 8. Or in layman’s terms, club level, 50-yard line on the east (visitors’) side. At the time, those seats cost $135 per game. Today, they are $400 per game. That’s not only the price of admission, but the right to mingle in the giant club rooms behind the concourses. The clubs featured upscale food and giant televisions where patrons could watch all of the other games and take a break from the noisy seating areas.

Just as important, the season ticket account included reserved parking in the northwest parking garage under the Superdome. No walking long distances from a parking lot to the stadium.

I was able to use the tickets on more than one occasion to treat friends from LSU to the exclusive seats, including a 2000 game vs. the Broncos when I met Bill Franques, Todd Politz and Shelby Holmes. They were impressed.

My dad usually got the tickets for one game per year. I preferred to go to games when the Saints played an AFC team, since those teams came to New Orleans only once every eight years. The exception to that rule was when the Saints played the Cardinals, my favorite team. That didn’t work so well in 1997, when the Saints won 27-10.

The Chiefs should have beaten the Saints on November 14, 2004. Priest Holmes, the Chiefs’ All-Pro running back, did not play, but reserve Derrick Blaylock enjoyed the best game of his NFL career, rushing for 186 yards. Trent Green threw for 311, and the Chiefs ended the game with 497.

However, Green threw two interceptions, and Kansas City also lost two fumbles, contributing to its downfall. The Saints won the game on a 42-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Brooks to Joe Horn, a former Chief, with 5:35 to play. When Green was intercepted by Orlando Ruff with 1:16 to go, I told dad let’s get out of here. We beat the traffic. Final: Saints 27, Chiefs 20.

I thought I would be back in the Superdome the second weekend of December for the Louisiana High School Athletic Association state football championships. Not only did I not attend those games, I almost wasn’t alive to see December 10 and 11. That story is coming later this week.

Out in the cold

I finally got out of the house yesterday. I went to Topeka and Manhattan to go to the bank–Bank of America’s closest locations are now in Topeka and Wichita for me–and do shopping, mostly groceries at the Hy-Vee stores in both locations. I don’t like Dillon’s. I find their prices are too high and their selection is lacking, at least in western Kansas. And I am not the biggest fan of Wal-Mart, although the location in Hays has had self-checkout lanes since late 2012, which is a big improvement over the past. I used to avoid Wal-Mart in Hays whenever I could prior to the addition of the self-checkout lanes. I am not a huge fan of human cashiers.

Bank of America’s Hays branch was taken over by a local bank from Hoisington in July. Since then, I’ve done my banking on trips to Kansas City, since there are locations on both sides of the state line. However, with the snow coming in Saturday, I had to get it done yesterday. I didn’t change banks because it would have been inconvenient for online bill payment.

Despite getting away from Russell for a few hours yesterday, it’s mostly been misery.

I found out Wednesday I was banned for a year by a local school district. Apparently, they were very upset with what I was writing about their school’s teams.

That made me feel like a turd. Actually, worse than a turd. More like a protozoan. I must really be a shithead. I don’t know why I still have a job. I should have been fired a long, long time ago. I have wanted to quit at least 750 times but I don’t have the guts to follow through.

I guess since I haven’t quit, and I haven’t been fired, I’m going to Oakley tonight for the Plainsmen’s football playoff game with Phillipsburg. It’s going to be the coldest football game I’ve covered. Two of the coldest games I’ve previously covered were also in locales west of US Highway 283, Victoria at Sharon Springs in 2006 and Ellis at Meade in 2008. The 8-man Division I state championship game between Osborne and Hodgeman County game at Newton last year was also frigid.

I usually wear three layers under my parka for cold football games, but I think I’m going with four tonight. Plus thermal underwear.

Hopefully I can get back to Russell before the snow hits. The heaviest November snow since I moved to Kansas came in my first year here, the last Sunday of the month in 2005. I had to go out and take a few pictures for the paper the next day on US 281. It wasn’t fun.


I’m going stir crazy at home. I have not left my house since I returned from Doge City Monday afternoon. I have had work to do for the newspapers, but other than that, it’s been supremely boring.

Then again, I’m going to be begging for time off come January and February when I’m constantly covering basketball games and wrestling tournaments, and also writing all the time.

I am not particularly looking forward to football Friday. It will be bitterly cold, and if the wind is howling, it will be much worse. On the other hand, at least it will get me out of the house.

Getting the heck out of Dodge (City)

My time in Dodge CIty is about to end. I will have to check out by noon and get on the road back to Russell.

The weather is going to turn very nasty tonight. A powerful cold front will sweep through and drop the temperatures below freezing, and the mercury will struggle to get above the freezing mark the rest of the week. No significant snow is forecast, thankfully, but I am dreading Friday’s football game at Oakley. It will be bitterly cold, and if the wind is blowing, heaven help me.

Coincidentally, the coldest football game I’ve ever covered in Kansas was also on Nov. 14. It was Ellis at Meade in 2008, and as I recall, the temperatures were in the mid-20s with a wind chill near 10. All I wanted to do was survive and get out of there. Meade won 20-8.

I was back in Meade the next Friday when the Buffaloes hosted Smith Center. The Redmen won that won 60-14 en route to their fifth consecutive Class 2-1A state championship.

I probably won’t venture far from home until Friday. I don’t have that much work to do this week, but I have to get it done. But I will have a lot of time to catch up on sleep.

Time to shut down the computer and get ready to go. Next post will be from the basement at 1224 North Brooks.

Sunday rewind

It turned out the drive from Russell to Dodge City yesterday was more than twice as long as the football game in Minneola lasted.

Victoria wasted no time in putting away the home team. The Knights scored 28 points in the first quarter and kept pouring it on in the second, crushing the Wildcats 64-12. The game was terminated at halftime by the 45-point mercy rule, which applies to most 8-man games in Kansas. Under the “slaughter rule”, a game ends immediately at halftime or any point in the second half when one team gains a lead of 45 points or more. The 11-man playoffs, except for championship games,

Knights quarterback Brady Dinkel was 5 of 7 for 146 yards. All five of those completions were for touchdowns, and none of them were gimmes, either: they covered 42, 15, 31, 39 and 19 yards. Dinkel also had two touchdown runs, the first a 47-yard scamper just 2:03 into the game. Victoria’s defense also scored twice, a fumble return of 25 yards by Eric McAlonan in the first quarter and a 55-yard interception return by Noah Dreilling with 37 seconds left which made sure the game would end by the mercy rule.

Victoria now hosts Wallace County (11-0) from Sharon Springs in the semifinals Friday. Someone else will have to cover, since I’m already committed to going to Phillipsburg at Oakley.

LSU lost in overtime last night to Alabama. The Tigers took a 13-10 lead with under two minutes to go on a field goal, but the ensuing kickoff went out of bounds, allowing the Crimson Tide to start from its own 35. Indeed, Alabama drove down and kicked a field goal to tie the game. The Tide got the ball first in overtime and scored a touchdown. LSU could not, and once again, the Bayou Bengals came up short against their former coach, Nick Saban.

Taking today to relax and catch up on work in Dodge City. Back to Russell tomorrow. And then the cold front comes in, and it will be brutally cold come Friday night.

Three states away

While Kansas’ high school football playoffs are underway, Louisiana is playing the final week of its high school football regular season this weekend. It actually ends today with a few games in the New Orleans area, including my alma mater, Brother Martin, playing Archbishop Rummel at East Jefferson High School’s Joe Yenni Stadium.

Saturday high school football games in the Big Easy are common, especially for Catholic high schools. There are many more schools than available stadiums in the New Orleans metropolitan area, and teams must participate in a lottery for dates they want to host. The prime slot, obviously, is Friday night, but more often than not, schools must opt to play Thursday night, or Saturday, whether it be in the afternoon or evening.

Brother Martin is one of those schools which often plays on Saturday. The Crusaders use one of two stadiums located in New Orleans’ City Park, Tad Gormley and Pan American, as their home field, and thus must jockey with other schools for available dates. Last week, the Crusaders hosted Jesuit at Tad Gormley on Saturday.

The two Catholic high schools in Jefferson Parsih, Archbishop Rummel in Metairie and Archbishop Shaw in Marrero, NEVER get to use the stadiums at East Jefferson and West Jefferson, respectively, on Friday nights, save for the playoffs when the Jefferson Parish public school teams are either out of the playoffs or on the road.

Rummel has the land to build its own stadium, but instead makes the 10-minute drive on West Metairie Avenue to Joe Yenni, which has seating for nearly 10,000 and a Field Turf playing surface. Shaw has its own baseball field but has opted against building a football stadium around its existing practice field, instead driving through the Harvey Tunnel to West Jeff’s Hoss Memtsas Stadium, which is an exact copy of Joe Yenni.

Both Joe Yenni and Hoss Memtsas have spectacular press box views. At Yenni, you can see the Huey P. Long Bridge across the Mississippi River to the south, and at Memtsas, you can see traffic on the West Bank Expressway to the south, and downtown New Orleans to the northwest.


For the second time in the past three Saturdays, I left Russell early to go south and west to cover a high school sporting event.

The first part of the journey, I-70 from Russell to WaKeeney and then US 283 from WaKeeney to Ness City, was exactly the same as it was two weeks ago. I made a stop at Wal-Mart in Hays and found my favorite Ghardelli chocolate. I need to load up at Hy-Vee the next time I’m in Kansas City, although I bet the one in Topeka will have it too.

In case you’re curious, every November and December, Ghardelli of San Francisco puts out the best chocolate I’ve ever tasted. Peppermint bark, which is white choclate flecked with peppermint over milk or dark chocolate; pumpkin spice, milk chocolate with caramel in the middle; and the best of all, egg nog. I am so tempted to pay $180 to buy a case of the egg nog chocolate squares.

I guess I shouldn’t be buying Ghardelli in Kansas City, given the Giants beat the Royals in the World Series. I’m also being disloyal to Russell Stover, the candy giant which is headquartered in Kansas City, has a giant distribution factory in Abilene, and was founded by a man born in Alton, a microscopic village in western Osborne County.

The second half of this trip was much different than the one two weeks ago. Instead of heading west on Kansas Highway 96 through Dighton and on to Scott City, I kept on trucking down US 283 all the way to Dodge City.

There was a big rig hauling large pipes which I passed just south of WaKeeney. He stayed on my tail all the way to Jetmore-65 miles south of WaKeeney–before he had to slow down through the city limits of the Hodgeman County seat. There were a few cars I had to pass between Jetmore and the junction with US 50/56 north of Dodge City, but it was otherwise a very smooth drive south.

I actually bypassed the heart of Dodge City to the north on US 50, realizing that the TownePlace Suites was on the west edge of Wyatt Earp Boulevard, the main business street of Dodge City. Very fitting that the main street in Dodge City is named for Earp, the famous law man who helped found the city in 1872.

The room at the TownePlace is the same as the one I had in Garden City two weeks ago, so I am not complaining one bit. It provides easy access to return to US 283 south and go to Minneola this evening, and also a convenient return to US 50 to get out of here whenever I choose to leave, whether it be Monday or Tuesday.

I have to leave the hotel no later than 3. I usually like to get to the field two hours before kickoff, but maybe I’ll wait this time, since a lot of Victoria fans probably won’t get there until 4 or later. I got to Victoria at 5:55 Tuesday, much later than usual, and parking was not an issue.

Minneola is 25 miles south of Dodge City on US 283. I passed through the town once, in 2008, on my way to Meade. As it turned out, I took the wrong way that time; I learned better when I went back to Meade in 2013, going southwest on US 56 to Kansas Highway 23, which took me right into Meade. When I went in 2008, I went 283 south to Minneola, then turned west on US 54 and had to go through Fowler, the hometown of U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp.

Jack Krier told me yesterday I probably didn’t have to go, but I felt a sense of duty–and adventure–to go. What happens if Victoria loses today?

I like Victoria to win today. Minneola has had a fine season, but the Knights have been in this position time and again. They have not been to the semifinals since 2009, the title game since 2008, and haven’t won a title since 2006, which has to seem like an eternity to Victoria’s fans. If Victoria wins, it will host either Ingalls or Wallace County next week in the semifinals.

I won’t be at Victoria’s semifinal game. I’m going to Phillipsburg at Oakley Friday. I’ve also committed to go to Norton’s game Saturday if it defeats Scott City today. The Bluejays would host Wichita Collegiate or travel to Hesston in the quarterfinals. Peggy Cox is hoping Norton plays Collegiate, so she can invite me to her house for dinner. I might feel a bit uncomfortable in that role, but I hope Norton wins, because (a) it’s in the Mid-Continent League and (b) I know so many people there.

If Victoria wins, I’ll be covering them two weeks from today in the championship game at Newton.

Panthers pull through

Phillipsburg didn’t look pretty last night, but the Panthers got the job done vs. Sacred Heart, prevailing 22-15 in double overtime in the first round of the Kansas State High School Activities Association Class 2-1A football state playoffs.

The Panthers came in 8-1, and some media sources had them ranked first in Class 2-1A. Sacred Heart was 4-4, and got in because it finished second in a district which included three teams with losing records. Nobody gave the Knights much of a chance, even though Sacred Heart and Phillipsburg played a close game in the 3A playoffs a year ago, with the Panthers prevailing 27-20 on a rainy night in Salina.

Nobody should have taken Sacred Heart lightly. It played a difficult schedule which included 3A playoff teams Beloit, Minneapolis and Southeast of Saline, and the Knights are coached by Bruce Graber, who enjoyed tremendous success during his 12-year tenure at Norton from 1994 through 2005. Most importantly, his Bluejay teams lost only once to Phillipsburg, and that was Graber’s last season.

Phillipsburg scored on the game’s first play from scrimmage when Stuart Lennemann swept right end and raced 60 yards to paydirt.

At least, appeared to score.

The touchdown was wiped out when a Panther was detected holding near the line of scrimmage. It would not be the last time Lennemann would have touchdown called back.

Neither team did much until late in the first half, when Phillipsburg drove to the game’s first touchdown, a 7-yard run by Lennemann with 1:18 to go before halftime.

Sacred Heart tied the game in the third quarter on a 3-yard touchdown by Cedric Salas.

In the fourth quarter, Phillipsburg appeared to regain the upper hand when Lennemann caught a pass from Sam Sage in the left flat and romped 13 yards to the end zone, but again, the score was wiped out by an illegal block in the back. The Panthers were stopped at the 4-yard line following the score, and neither side threatened for the remainder of regulation.

In 1971, Kansas was the first state to implement overtime for high school football. It consists of each team receiving a series from the 10-yard line. It continues back and forth in this manner until one team is ahead after each team has had an equal number of possessions. The defense can NOT score on a turnover.

I do not like the format, period. I especially do not like the idea of starting from the 10-yard line. It’s too tilted towards the offense. I’m not a fan of the NCAA format, either, which is basically the same as high school, with a few differences: the possessions start at the 25, the defense can score on a turnover, and starting with the third overtime, a team must attempt a 2-point conversion after scoring a touchdown. Some states, including Louisiana and Oregon, have adopted the 2-point conversion rule for overtime in their states.

Massachusetts and Texas use the college overtime format since those states largely play by NCAA rules, with a few modifications.

Prior to the implementation of overtime, ties were broken in all sorts of zany ways. That’s another post for another time.

Sacred Heart got the ball first in the first overtime, and it scored on second down on a 7-yard run by Salas. The Knights lined up as if they would kick the extra point, but instead,, the holder threw to Salas for the 2-point conversion.

The pressure was now on Phillipsburg. Not only did the Panthers have to score a touchdown, they had to add the 2-point conversion–a kick would do no good–and that would only get the game to a second overtime.

Lennemann was stuffed for a loss on first down. On second, Sage rolled right and found Nate Prewitt at the 4. Prewitt broke two tackles and powered his way into the end zone to set up the crucial conversion.

Sage kept right on the conversion and dove over a defender at the pylon. Conversion good. Second overtime ahead.

It took Phillipsburg one play to score. Lennemann took an option pitch around right end to paydirt. Jaron Kellerman kicked the extra point.

Sacred Heart’s Justin McCartney threw incomplete on first down of the Knights’ possessoin. The next play turned out to be their last of 2014.

Sage stepped in front of McCartney’s intended receiver to not only end the game, but post his third interception of the night. Phillipsburg 22, Sacred Heart 15.

The Panthers travel to Oakley Friday for the quarterfinals.

I’m out of here. Gotta get ready for the long trip to Minneola for Victoria’s game in Clark County.

Missing post

I don’t know what in the heck happened to the post I made Monday afternoon from Morse-McCarthy Chevrolet in Overland Park when I was getting my car worked on. I find it’s just vanished. Technology.

Was it really that important? Probably not. In the grand scheme of things, it really wasn’t. But I guess now there’s a gap which has to be explained.