Monthly Archives: February 2016

Just another (leap) day

There are only a few hours left in the last February 29 until 2020. For the record, I was born in a leap year (1976), but I didn’t experience my first February 29 until 1980, which happened to be seven days after the United States defeated the Soviet Union in the Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, better known as the Miracle on Ice. 

What nobody remembers about the victory over the Soviets is that if the Americans lost two days later to Finland, they would have not won any medal. As coach Herb Brooks told his team during the second intermission, “If you lose this game, you’ll take it to your F***ING GRAVES”. 

Kansas held its high school wrestling state tournaments over the past weekend. For the first time since moving to Kansas during the 2005-06 school year, it was the first time I was not in Hays for the 3-2-1A tournament. I thought I would miss it, but I really didn’t. I followed it on Track Wrestilng and watched some televised matches on Smoky Hills Public TV, but otherwise, it wasn’t a big deal not to be there. 

Norton won the 3-2-1A championship for the fourth consecutive season. A lot of people in eastern Kansas were hoping Rossville could win and end the west’s dominance, but it wasn’t to be. The Bluejays also had three individual champions, although they won the 2015 championship without one. 

It’s basketball’s turn to move into the spotlight tonight. Sub-state competition begins in the lower classifications. The higher classifications get stared Wednesday, with 4A holding out until Thursday. I have never been a fan of Kasnas’ structure, where eight teams qualify for each of eight state tournaments (six classifications, with two divisions in 1A and 4A). Eight is too many. Four would allow the semifinals and championship games to be played at a single location. Then again, we’re talking about the Kansas State HIgh SChool Activities Association, which apparently does not mind paying lots of facility rental fees. 

Hill City, I missed ye 

For the first time during this high school basketball season, I’m watching a game in a gym in a town other than Norton, Kansas. Granted, this is only the fourth high school date I have attended, but I have generally tried to avoid places other than Norton this season.

To get to where I am tonight, I followed most of the same route I take to Norton: Interstate 70 from Russell to WaKeeney, then north on US 283. 

Only this time, I stopped when I got to the junction of 283 and US 24. Hill City. 

It’s Norton and Hill City tonight. This is the regular season finale for the Bluejays. It was supposed to be the Ringnecks’ regular season finale, too, but they have a game Thursday at Ness City which was postponed when a blizzard blew through on Groundhog Day. 

The people in Hill City are nothing short of fantastic. I have a very warm relationship with both basketball coaches, Linda Nighswonger with the girls and Keith Riley with the boys. 

Linda has been here since 2006-07, and she has enjoyed great success, taking Hill City to the state tournament twice, including a Class 2A runner-up finish in 2010. She was a very accomplished coach at Logan before coming to Graham County. The Ringnecks had been foundering in the years prior to Linda’s arrival, but now they are flourishing, as they did during the 1970s when they won a state championship. 

Keith Riley has been at Hill City longer than I have been living. He is truly an ageless wonder. The man looks 15 years younger than his true age, which means he keeps in great shape. He has a very structured system, but he can adapt to his talent, no matter if the Ringnecks are more suited to play an up-tempo game, or a slower pace. No wonder he’s won close to 800 games and three state championships. 

The good news for Linda and Keith is they have outstanding support from the administration. 

Alan Stein, Hill City’s principal, was a highly decorated volleyball coach with the Ringnecks before he became principal, and he also served as President of the Kansas State High School Activities Association Executive Board. The man cares about school activities, he cares about his students, and he cares about the association. 

There were a few in Hill City not too long ago who wanted Superintendent Jim Hickel out, but fortunately, he’s still around. I hardly have been to a HIll City event where I have not seen him and/or Alan in attendance.

Norton has good people, too. It was very sad to see Superintendent Greg Mann leave at the end of the 20141-5 school year, but the district is in very good hands with Phil Wilson, who won multiple state championships as a football coach at Stockton before becoming principal at Washington County. 

Rudy Perez is an outstanding principal, and he had a very tough act to follow, as he succeeded Lary Stull, who served Norton with distinction for 28 years before retiring in 2006. 

I’ve known three athletic directors at Norton–Larry Mills, Jeff Wallingford and Dustin McEwen–and all have been very good to me. As have coaches like Kevin Jilka, George Rossi, Jason Jones, Bill Johnson, Lucas Melvin, and last but not least, my dear friend Peggy. 

Hill City and Norton are two school districts which get it. Hopefully they can remain strong in the coming years. 

Aimless Tuesday

Sorry for going off radar after I left Kansas City last Friday. It was a very good stay. I wish I could have extended it a day, but with the temperatures plunging towards zero Friday night and Saturday morning, I figured it was best I didn’t punish my car by keeping it in the elements. 

I saw everyone I wanted to at Buffalo Wild Wings, and there was no trouble, so it was a spectacular success. I’m hoping to go back sooner rather than later, hopefully sometime in March. 

I did ZERO once I got back Friday evening, save for doing my writing. Did not leave the house for anything. Not even zipping to Sonic for a drink. I did my best to stay off social media on Sunday, Valentine’s Day. However, I did get a Happy Valentine’s Day wish from Liz at 11:35 p.m., which made it great. 

I finally got my butt and my car out of the house this afternoon for another drive to Norton. Bluejays host Hoxie tonight. The Indian girls had their state record 107-game winning streak snapped three weeks ago by Hill City, but it may have been a blessing in disguise. Now there’s no pressure to keep the streak going, and Hoxie can focus on winning its fifth consecutive state championship. 

My schedule for the week was altered yesterday afternoon. My appointment with Crista was supposed to be Thursday morning, but I got a call from her office yesterday at 2:30 saying she had to go out of town Thursday. I was worried I would not get another appointment before my next one March 3, but luckily, I was able to squeeze in tomorrow at 2. 

It actually works out better. Once my work is done for the Russell paper, I can go to Hays and take my time afterward, and Thursday is now totally free. Part of me wants to go to Nebraska to visit places I can’t in Kansas City or Wichita, part of me wants to just go to Topeka and Salina, part of me wants to make a surprise trip to KC to see Dawn and Robb, Stephanie Suggs and the others. Hmmm. 

Right now? Basketball. And visiting with Peggy. 

Fourth and final day

Today is my fourth and final day at Bufaflo Wild Wings. I go back to Russell tomorrow. I will miss this place when I go back this time. It’s been a very good visit without any drama. 

Stephanie Suggs is working the early shift after working late Tuesday and Wednesday. I hope she gets some sleep. Braidey Howe is also working this afternoon. Wondering who I’ll see tonight. I know Dawn and Robb Amos will be coming in sometime around 4.  

Today is boneless wing day, and Thursday is the only week I will do boneless, since it is discounted. Otherwise, I’m all about the traditional. 

It hasn’t been too busy in here each of the last three nights. I watched all of the LSU-South Carolina basketball game here last night. Not good for the Bayou Bengals. I also can’t stand Gamecocks coach Frank Martin, who loves to scream so much you would think he invented the screaming coach. He’s been known to use language which would make Bobby Knight blush. 

LSU has got to get it together if it wants to make the NCAA tournament. Test, it is tied atop the SEC with South Carolina and Kentucky, but it’s overall record is terrible (15-9) for a major conference team leading the league. If there’s any doubt amongst the selection committee, I say the Bayou Bengals are out, even with Ben Simmons and Craig Victor. At least LSU fans can watch three NIT games at home if the situation is right. 

Right now is not a good time to be a sports fan if you don’t like basketball. And I do NOT like basketball. I’m reduced to watching hockey and English football until baseball starts. At least college baseball gets cranked up later this month, and there will be games on the SEC Network and streaming on the SEC Network Plus. 

March Madness is way too overblown. Too many teams. Too many teams with no chance to win one game, much less the championship. And I do NOT like the idea of these nothing schools in the field. Does anybody really want to see Texas Southern, Maryland-Eastern Shore, St. Peter’s and Campbell? Not me. 

Okay rough of the soapbox for now. 

Not the average hump day

I spent over 10 hours at Buffalo Wild Wings yesterday. I was just having too much fun. I felt bad for leaving Stephanie Suggs early–she was bartending and was there until close at 1 a.m.–but I had things to do this morning, which I got done. 

Lisa Toebben came yesterday for two hours. She brought adorable Liam, her six week old baby boy. He is going to look like his father, Jeff Daniels. I’m sure that if Lisa has a daughter, she will look like her. 

Lisa and I discussed all of the people who have departed Buffalo Wild Wings since I started going there in May 2013, and since she was working from the start of 2014 thorugh June 2015. I miss Liz and Lisa more than anyone, but there are many more. Now Tori Webber left to take a job at a restaurant in Overland Park. I know time marches on, and restaurant jobs like these are not forever. 

It was the same way at Ivar’s, my hangout in Baton Rouge. Over the nine years I went there, I saw so many different faces. I got attached to a few, especially Camille and Shawn, but I knew the march of time would change the faces. 

Robb and Dawn Amos showed up at 4 and stayed for a couple of hours. Great time as always. I wish I could see them more often. Right now, I’d have to say they’re my two closest adult friends. 

I actually found two king cakes at Hy-Vee Monday night. I bought them both. One I kept in my hotel room, and the other I brought to Buffalo Wild Wings. That was a good move.

Stephanie LOVED the king cake. I also gave pieces to Robb and Dawn, Shannon Swanson and Alex Mullinax, who showed up later in the evening. When I told Stephanie that they make king cakes filled with fruit and cream cheese, she was so excited. I have to order one for March or April. 

Since today is Ash Wednesday, I cannot eat wings at Buffalo Wild Wings. I will manage. I’m not a big religious person, but I believe Catholics today have it too easy. My mother could not eat meat on Fridays any time of the year when she grew up. My father and grandfather were Lutheran, but my father’s stepmother was Catholic, and she always fixed pancakes on Fridays. I wouldn’t mind going back to no meat on all Fridays. Then again, I was glad you can now eat meat on non-Lenten Fridays. It made some of those SEC baseball trips a little easier, although there were many tough times for the March and early April trips. Try finding good seafood in Mississippi or Alabama. Not happening unless you can eat fried catfish all the time. 

Time to play Buzztime Coutndown. The fun begins.

Come back, Comus

Six hours are left in Mardi Gras 2016. 

Sadly, Mardi Gras has been missing something since 1992, something which goes back to before the Civil War. 

It’s the Mistick Krewe of Comus, the first organization to organize a street parade in New Orleans.

Comus first paraded in 1857, four years before the first shot was fired at Fort Sumter. The Krewe was made up of Anglo-Saxon Protestants who had largely been excluded from Mardi Gras until then.

Since Carnvial is a Catholic tradition in Rio de Janeiro, it stands to reason that the Catholics started Mardi Gras in New Orleans. They celebrated Carnival with parties in the French Quarter, but never had anyone thought to organize a parade until Comus. 

Comus was interrupted by the Civil War, but returned during Reconstruction. 

In 1872, a new Krewe, Rex, formed. Rex would soon eclipse Comus and become the “King of Carnvial”. Proteus came along in 1882, and Mardi Gras as we knew it would blossom in the 20th Century.

Comus is one of the most secretive organizations on earth. Good luck trying to become a member. The Manning family has no chance to join. Drew Brees? Not a prayer. Bill Gates could not buy his way in. 

In 1991, an evil New Orleans city councilwoman named Dorothy Mae Taylor had to ruin Mardi Gras by demanding all Krewes open up their membership to all races and both genders. Not only dod Comus, Rex, Proteus and other Krewes protest loudly, but so did the African-American Krewe of Zulu, which did not want women in their club, either. 

In response to the ordinance, Comus and another old-line Krewe, the Knights of Momus, immediately canceled their 1992 parades and have not returned to the streets. Proteus held its 1992 parade, but canceled in 1993, and stayed out until 2000. Rex and Zulu continued to parade, opening up their ranks to men of other races, but never to women. 

The ordinance was eventually ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. District Court in New Orleans a violation of the right of free association. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the City of New Orleans’ request for a rehearing. The city decided not to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

I never went to Comus. I have heard horror stories about rampant crime along the parade route. But it should come back. It’s long overdue.

And Dorothy Mae Taylor, I hope you’re rotting in hell. Shame on you. 

Mardi Gras, or just another Tuesday

It’s Mardi Gras in my native city. It’s just another Tuesday in Kansas City and just about most of the rest of the country. To liven up the mood here at Buffalo Wild Wings, I played “Go to the Mardi Gras” by Professor Longhair. 

The song mentions you will “see the Zulu King at St. Claude and Dumaine”, although the parade hasn’t passed by that point since the 1950s. Today, Zulu started at the corner of Jackson Avenue and Claiborne and proceeded south to St. Charles and then towards downtown and Treme, the neighborhood made famous by the HBO series. I wish Kim Dickens were still on TV. 

Not that I cared about Mardi Gras much during my later years in Louisiana. The last time I went to a parade on Fat Tuesday was 1992, when my family went to watch Rex on Napoleon Avenue near the parade’s starting point. The last parade I attended was Thoth in 1994, only because I had several friends riding, including Herb Vincent, who was then an associate athletic director at LSU and now is an associate commissioner of the Southeastern Conference in Birmingham. Many of the men I knew riding in Thoth–Ray Maher, Bruce Civello, Joe Scheuermann, Scott and Bryan Bairnsfather, Jeff Wooton–have lost touch, and sadly, Ray “Bigun” Jeanfreau passed away in 2012 at 49. 

Thoth is the longest parade on the Mardi GRas calendar. Instead of starting on Napoleon and heading to St. Charles, the parade starts farther west, now at the corner of State and Tchoupitoulas (CHOP-it-too-las), proceeds to Henry Clas Avenue, north to Magazine Street, east to Napoloeon, then north to St. Charles. Thoth passes by several medical homes for the developmentally disabled and Children’s Hospital, one of the nation’s best pediatric facilities. When I went to the parade from 1992 through ’94, it started at Henry Clay and Magazine, proceeded south to Tchoupitoulas, then east to State and north to Magazine. 

The day before Thoth in 1994, I went to Endymion for the last time. I’ll never forget asking Ray to order a Coke for me at a local watering hole, and then tasting it and discovering bourbon mixed in. It was funny then and it’s funny now. 

Endymion, Thoth and Zulu are the three parades which deviate significantly from the standard route, which begins on Napoleon and heads either north or south towards St. Charles. Most parades start south of St. Charles, but Rex and a couple of others come from the other direction. 

Endymion starts at the corner of City Park Avenue and Orleans Avneue near Delgado Community College and Tad Gormley Stadium. It heads down Orleans to North Carrollton, from CArrollton to Canal Street, and then down to St. Charles, where it turns west towards Poydras. From Poydras it heads to the Mercedes-Benz Supderome for the krewe’s “Extravaganza”, which is open to the public, unlike most carnival balls, which are by invitation only. 

If Mardi Gras fell late, I was usually knee deep in LSU baseball or covering the high school basketball playoffs for The Advocate. So I didn’t mind missing it at all. 

For those of you in Norton, Phillipsburg and Smith Center wondering if one of these parades could motor down US 36, forget it. The floats are way too wide, and there would be no room whatsoever on the sides of the road. Maybe along US 281 in Russell. 

It’s brutally cold in Kansas City. Again. At least it isn’t snowing. 

The day after

Super Bowl 50 is in the books, and so is another National Football League season. The game was disjointed and sloppy, but nobody can doubt Denver’s defense played one of the best games in Super Bowl history, totally throttling the NFL’s highest scoring offense and its Most Valuable Player.

Cam Newton is a front-runner. He wants all the glory and adulation when he wins, but when he loses, he turns tail and runs. He showed his true colors by ending his press conference after three minutes and answering questions with mostly one or two word answers. A leader stands in there and answers the tough questions during adverse times. Newton should take a page from his teammate, linebacker Luke Kuechly, who stood at the podium and answered all of the media’s queries. 

The media didn’t ask Newton any hard questions. Yet Cam wanted to be a petulant child. 

I never liked the Panthers to begin with, and I certainly cannot stand them now with Newton. Their arrogance this season knew no bounds, and they got their just desserts last night in Santa Clara. 

This is the worst time of the year for sports fans if you don’t like basketball. And I am not a fan of basketball. At least I can watch the NHL and English football. 

Up and driving

My car had another problem yesterday, although nothing compared to what I went through last Friday in Salina. 

One of my headlights was not working. I discovered this as I sat down in the barber chair for a haircut before going to Hays for my appointment with Crista. I figured I might as well do it yesterday, especially if I wanted to go to Norton today.

The appointment with Crista went well, and we ended early, simply because there was no drama to really discuss this time. 

Got the headlight fixed, and it turned out I needed an oil change and a new air filter. Glad it all got done. 

I saw lots and lots of snow piled up along the US 283 between WaKeeney and Norton. At least the highway was clear, but when I turned off US 36 in Norton to get to the school, it was horrible. I went 6 MPH down the street. It’s going to be awhile before the residential streets here are totally clear. 

It’s now 49 hours and counting to Super Bowl 50. As much as I like the NFL, I’ve done my best to avoid the hype and the talking heads. I don’t need to know anything more about Cam Newton than I already do. I don’t care if he’s black. What gets me is the arrogance and the bad things he did at Florida, stealing a laptop and cheating. 

I hope Denver wins. However, I’ve got my doubts. Some think the Broncos could get beat worse this time than they were by Seattle two years ago. God I hope not. Lord knows I’ve seen some really bad Super Bowls in my lifetime. Four of them involved the Broncos. 

Denver is the only franchise to lose five Super Bowls. No loss has been closer by 17 points, and three have been by 32 or more. To be fair, Denver was a major underdog in three of its losses (Dallas in XII, Giants in XXI and 49ers in XXIV), and the Seattle game was a toss-up. 

Only in Super Bowl XXII vs. Washington was Denver favored, and that was largely because the Broncos had John Elway, who was the NFL’s MVP in 1987, and the Redskions had indecision at quarterback, with Joe Gibbs vacillating between Jay Schroeder and Doug Williams. Good thing Gibbs picked Williams as his starter. 

Yet as bad as this Super Bowl might be, nothing will be worse for me than Super Bowl XXIX. Not only did the 49ers eviscerate the Chargers, but (a) we had to listen to Kathie Lee Gifford sing the national anthem, which was bad, but not the worst, and (b) I was in personal hell throughout 1995. Not to mention the O.J. trial was going on, and the MLB strike was still going on at that time. The worst year ever. 

Dennis menaces an official

Overshadowed by all of the news coming from the Super Bowl and college football’s national singing day was a lengthy suspension handed down by the National Hockey League.

Calgary Flames defenseman (or defeceman for those you in Canada) Dennis Wideman was suspended 20 games by Commissioner Gary Bettman for cross checking linesman Don Henderson during a January 27 game vs. the Nashville Predators. Wideman was knocked off balance along the boards, then as he was about to come off for a line change, he plowed into Henderson.

Wideman claims he was woozy from earlier hits and that he did not barrel into Henderson on purpose. He claims it was an accident, which is what Flames president Brian Burke argued to the league in hoping the suspension would not be as severe.

I saw the replay several times. Wideman is lying.

Cross checking is a penalty if it is done by one player to another. It’s lifting the stick off the ice with both hands, turning it sideways and clubbing a player, usually in the face or neck. A cross checking penalty is a minimum of two minutes, but many are ruled major penalties, leading to five minutes in the penalty box for the offender. And if the penalty is a major, the team must play short-handed for the full five minutes. On a minor penalty, the player can come back if the opponent scores on the power play.

You cannot tell me Wideman “accidentally” picked up his stick with both hands and “accidentally” jammed it into Henderson. This was an intentional act, and as far as I’m concerned, Wideman may have gotten off light with a 20-game suspension. He’ll forfeit almost $565,000 (CDN$777,250) in salary.

I’ve seen my fair share of horrible officiating in high schoool, college and professional sports. However, it does an athlete, coach or spectator the license to physically assault an official.

The Flames repeatedly have stressed Wideman had never been previously disciplined by the NHL. He has never been penalized more than 83 minutes in a given season, so the statistics back up Calgary’s boast. However, this incident was way too severe, way too ugly to overlook. It’s the same as if someone with no criminal record goes out and kills another person, whether it be drunk driving or shooting. It must be punished.

I recall in October 1983, Tom Lysiak of the Chicago Black Hawks (yes, I know it’s spelled Blackhawks, but back then, it was spelled Black Hawks; that’s another discussion for another day) intentionally tripped linesman Ron Foyt during a game vs. Hartford. Lysiak had been ejected from the faceoff circle, and after the puck was dropped, Lysiak ignored the Whalers’ Sylvain Turgeon and immediately went for Foyt, pulling his feet out from under him with his stick. Referee Dave Newell immediately handed down a 20-game suspension to Lysiak (at that time, NHL referees had the power to hand out discipline without consent of then-president John Ziegler), which was appealed by Lysiak and the Hawks, who took the case to federal court before losing.

Lysiak had not been known as a dirty player before the incident, and was a solid player for the Atlanta Flames throughout the 1970s. However, the incident could not go unpunished, even with Lysiak’s previously exemplary record.

I do not like Gary Bettman. I hate what he has done to the NHL. I despise the man for putting teams in Miami, Tampa, Atlanta and Nashville, and allowing teams to leave hockey hotbeds Quebec City, Winnipeg and Hartford, especially considering the Jets moved to Arizona and the Whalers to Raliegh-Durham. Hockey does not belong anywhere south of Interstate 70, except for ONE team in Los Angeles. Canada could support 15 teams if need be.

I understand Denver getting a team, but I would have preferred it not be the Nordiques, the team I rooted for most when I started watching the NHL over 30 years ago.

In this case, Bettman showed backbone, backbone which has been seriously lacking from his office. Now, Gary, just bring back hockey to Quebec City and some may be forgiven.