Monthly Archives: March 2016

Embarrassing, ESPN

While the NCAA men’s basketball tournament has produced a record number of lower-seeded teams winning in the first round, the chalk, as expected, is dominating the women’s tournament, which began yesterday.

The only wins for lower seeds, not counting the 8-vs-9 matchups, which are tossups anyway? St. Bonaventure, a No. 10, over Oklahoma State (7), and Albany, a No. 12, over Florida (5).

ESPN normally covers the first and second round games of the tournament in “whip-around” fashion, meaning it will cut from game to game to game to show the most competitive game to the largest audience. An exception to the whip-around is if a local team is playing in your area, then that game is protected, meaning ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU will not cut away from that game. For instance, when Missouri plays BYU this evening, the entire states of Missouri and Utah, plus the Kansas portion of the Kansas City metro, will see the Tigers and Cougars from start to finish.

One team, however, is immune to whip-around coverage for the first two rounds.

Of course, it can only be ESPN’s darlings, the Connecticut Huskies.

ESPN went to UConn and asked them to start today’s game vs. woefully outmanned Robert Morris at 11 a.m. Eastern (10 a.m. Central, 9 Mountain, 8 Pacific) so it could be shown to everyone before the other 15 games today tip off at Noon Central.

Geno Auriemma, who never met a spotlight he didn’t aim at himself, jumped at the idea.

Of course, the good people of the Nutmeg State aren’t going to complain about being able to showcase their Husky women to everyone else, either.

What is going on right now in Storrs is beyond atrocious. It is utterly embarrassing to everyone associated with Robert Morris University, a small, private liberal arts college near Pittsburgh.

At the end of the first quarter–the women now play in quarters, not halves like the men–it is UConn 41, Robert Morris 4.

That’s right. FORTY-ONE TO FOUR.

Shame on you, ESPN. Shame on you for foisting this “game” upon us. UConn would have been better served scrimmaging a Connecticut girls high school All-Star team. It would have been better off scrimmaging a UConn alumni team of Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Rebecca Lobo, Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi. Heck, let former UConn All-American Shea Ralph, now an assistant to Auriemma, suit up again. Where’s Svetlana Abrosimova? Aisha Jones? Jennifer Rizzotti? Kara Wolters?

ESPN has shoved the UConn women down our throats for over 20 years. We have been led to believe women’s college basketball, at least as long as it’s coming to us from Storrs, Hartford, or wherever the Huskies are playing, is on par with the men’s game.

Only at UConn could a men’s team which has won four national championships since 1999 be relegated to second-class status. And I wonder what football coach Bob Diaco thinks about having a smaller budget than the women’s basketball team. No wonder Randy Edsall flew straight to Maryland after losing the Fiesta Bowl to Oklahoma on New Year’s Day 2011.

Until there are more women’s basketball teams who can actually challenge UConn consistently, why bother watching?

ESPN executives, game announcers Dave O’Brien and Doris Burke, and Lobo (Mrs. Steve Rushin), an ESPN studio analyst, should go hat in hand to Robert Morris’ campus and apologize to all associated with the university for shaming these young ladies on national television. I’m sure the Robert Morris players and coaches are handling this far better than I. Good for them. That’s more class than Geno Auriemma will ever know.

I’ll get off the soapbox. Wichita State and Miami tip off the men’s tournament in 35 minutes.

Early action on St. Paddy’s Day

I got back from Salina at 10:15 last night. I had to stop and get gas in my car so I didn’t have to do it this morning. I’m almost packed; then I’ll shower and shave and be ready to head to Hays for my next visit with Crista, session #34 by my count.

I had a good time at Buffalo Wild Wings. The jukebox stopped playing early in my visit, and I thought it was because the staff did not like my music choices. I immediately sent in feedback on the website, upset because the music had been cut off. It has very rarely happened at Zona Rosa.

It turns out the jukebox software was updating. The general manager came by and apologized and I said everything was just fine, which it was. I had a good night playing trivia, and I really enjoyed my food. The potato stack, which had brisket, tomatoes, chives and queso over a bed of the kettle chips, was awesome. I have to get it at least once in Kansas City. Not tomorrow, of course, because Lent still has a few more days to run.

At 12:45 this morning, I got a direct message on Twitter. What happened over the next two hours will be something I will be sure to discuss with Crista. And that’s a GOOD thing.

Following the visit with Crista, it’s off to Kansas City. Hoping to be there by 2:30, since Kansas’ game with Austin Peay is scheduled to tip at 3, although it will likely be a few minutes after.

Trip before the trip

The night before I go on a trip to Kansas City, I usually like to pack and get my laundry done so I’m ready to go the next morning, even if I’m not totally refreshed. 

Tonight, I changed my routine. 

Instead of sitting in the basement in Russell, I ventured to Salina to Buffalo Wild Wings. I stopped at Dillon’s on Ohio Street–the same Dillon’s where my car wouldn’t start the afternoon of January 29–for some stuff I can’t get in Russell or Hays, then headed to South Ninth Street. 

I’m staying until at least 8:30, so I can play ma favorite Buzztime game, Six, which is Wednesday and Thursday from 7:30 to 8:30. I’ll be in Kansas City tomorrow to play it. 

I can’t leave for Kansas City until my appointment with Crista is done tomorrow morning. That starts at 9, so I figure to be out of Hays by 10:15. It will be 30-45 minutes longer, but I can’t miss an appointment with Crista, even if things are going well. 

It will be my last trip to Kansas City for this month, probably a little longer. Next weekend is Easter, and the day after Easter, my parents are leaving for Nashville, where my sister-in-law will be giving birth. 

I didn’t do a blessed thing after getting home from Kansas City Sunday morning. I watched the NCAA tournament selection show Sunday evening, although I did not watch much of either First Four game last night. Then again, neither game was particularly competitive. Florida Gulf Coast demolished Farleigh Dickinson 96-65, and Wichita State easily ousted Vanderbilt 70-50.

The Commodores’ loss leaves TWO Southeastern Conference schools, Texas A&M and Kentucky, amongst the remaining 66 teams. Three teams in the NCAA tournament for a power conference is pitiful, espeically in the 68-team era, which began in 2011. I can remember more SEC teams in the field in 1989 (five), when the SEC had only 10 teams. 

The SEC has long had a reputation in basketball of Kentucky and nothing but weak sisters, and this year has proved the axiom true, save for Texas A&M, which won a share of its first conference championship since 1987 when it is was in the now-defunct Southwest Conference. 

Two more First Four games tonight: Holy Cross vs. Southern (yes, the one in Baton Rouge), and Michigan vs. Tulsa, which doesn’t deserve to be anywhere near the NCAA field. If the Wolverines choke this game, then they should be forced to walk up Interstate 75 from Dayton to Detroit, then west on I-96 back to Ann Arbor. Tulsa is a joke. A JOKE. 

Jayhawks rocking

It’s getting loud at Buffalo Wild Wings. Kansas now leads West Virgina 48-39, forcing Bob Huggins to call a timeout. Looks like the Jayhawks will not only win the Big 12 tournament, but wrap up the #1 overall seed. KU would be in the Midwest regional if that happened, with the first and second round games likely in Des Moines. 

LSU was beyond putrid today. It was excruciating to watch. It must have been much worse to have been in Nashville. I’m sure Jim Hawthorne, who is retiring as LSU’s play-by-play announcer as soon as the basketball season concludes, wishes he were somewhere else today. 

In case you don’t know, Texas A&M beat the pee out of LSU, 71-38. The Aggies are having one of their best basketball seasons ever, and if they can knock off Kentucky tomorrow in the tournament final, it will get that much better. 

How can you not average a point a minute with a 30-second shot clock? That is unfathomable. I could have understood before the shot clock, but in 2016? I thought I had watched the last of those pitiful LSU performances many years ago, but I’m wrong. 

John Brady had two horrible teams at the beginning of his LSU tenure (1997-98 and 1998-99), but could they have been that bad? Dale Brown’s next-to-last team gave up 86 points to Kentucky in the first half in 1996, but (a) LSU scored 42 in the half and finished with 97 (the Wildcats scored 129), and (b) that was one of the most loaded teams in the history of a program with loaded teams. 

March Madness will proceed without LSU. Not that I’m not used to it by now. Hard to believe the Bayou Bengals went to 10 consecutive NCAA tournaments from 1984 through 1993. Since 1994, they will have missed the NCAA tournament 16 times out of 23. Yeesh. 

I’m not staying nearly as late at Buffalo Wild Wings tonight. I am driving home in the morning, and also, the stupid time change is tonight, so it will feel like 8 am when it’s really 9 am. And I want to be home for noon to eat. 

Last day at B-Dubs–at least for this week

Another nine hours at Buffalo Wild Wings yesterday. This time, it was a little more boisterous than Thursday. 

Today is my last day in Kansas City, at least this time around. I go home tomorrow, becuase my mother is cooking roast for lunch, and also I have work to get done Monday and Tuesday. I come back to town Thursday after my appointment with Crista. 

Tori Weber, the longtime bartender who left last month to take a job at another restaurant in Overland Park, came by with her boyfriend, Micah yesterday. Then Robb and Dawn showed up, and it got really interesting. 

Some Kansas Jayhawks fans behind us were giving Robb a hard time, since he doesn’t care much for KU. He was pulling hard for Baylor to knock off the Jayhawks, but to no avail. 

I gave Robb three six-packs of Abita beer for his birthday, which is today. Happy birthday Robb! 

Abita is a microbrewery in Louisiana, about 40 miles north of New Orleans and 55 miles east of Baton Rouge. It’s in a small community in western St. Tammany Parish, which is across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans. I knew about Abita Springs as a little boy because my dad’s company, Air Products and Chemicals, held its company picnic every June in a park in Abita Springs. 

Abita Springs has been bottling spring water for a very long time, and in the 1990s, it began brewing beer and root beer. The Purple Haze, which has a raspberry taste, is very popular. I got Robb that, Turbodog (chocolate) and Golden lager. I think he’ll like it. I got some for Lisa and Liz in the past, and they liked it a lot.

Right now, LSU is getting totally whipped by Texas A&M in the first semifinal of the SEC tournament. The Bayou Bengals are almost certainly headed to the NIT, if they want to go, that is. Maybe it’s time to just hang it up and let Ben Simmons go to the NBA. 

Besides, how many people in Baton Rouge care about basketball right now? It’s all about baseball and spring football. And all the rain that has been falling this week. 

It’s pretty nasty outside in Kansas City. Chilly with mist. It is a very good day for staying inside, playing trivia and watching basketball. Even if LSU stinks. 

Top-notch Thursday

I am off to a flying start in my latest excursion to Kansas City.

I took a page out of the NASCAR playbook yesterday on the drive over, running my gas tank almost to completely empty. I had less than half a tank when I left Russell, so I knew I would have to stop for gas somewhere. I passed Salina and Abilene, figuring I still had Junction City.

When I looked at my gauge at Chapman, which is between Abilene and Junction City, it showed I had about 100 kilometers (60 miles) of gas left. If the calculations were accurate, I would be able to make it to the gas station at Maple Hill, approximately 15 miles west of the I-470 exit in Topeka, where I get off I-70 to head to the Kansas Turnpike.

I was sweating it out for the last 30 miles. I knew I was very low. I just hoped I could get to that gas station with a drop or two to spare so I didn’t have the embarrassment of having to contact AAA or hit the OnStar button on my rear view mirror and tell them I foolishly thought I could make it to a gas station and drive 45 miles with the “Low Fuel” warning on my dashboard.

I made it. Barely. Another 4-5 miles, and I would have been out.

I arrived in Kansas City at 12:15 and went straight to Buffalo Wild Wings, knowing it would get crowded by 1:30, the scheduled tipoff for the Kansas State-Kansas basketball game in the Big 12 Conference tournament, which is being played in downtown Kansas City at the Sprint Center.

There was seating available throughout the game, which KU won easily 85-63. Actually, it was more crowded for the final game yesterday, Iowa State-Oklahoma. A lot of Cyclone fans in the building. But they’ll be heading north on I-35 following a 79-76 Sooner victory.

I had a lot of fun playing trivia for nine hours yesterday. Robb and Dawn came by in the late afternoon. I thought they might not show up, but they did. They’re supposed to be coming tomorrow. I also saw Tori Weber’s parents, which was also very nice.

More of the same today. Trivia and basketball. My good life.

No statements for me

Kansas’ 2016 high school basketball state tournaments began yesterday.The Sunflower State likes to think of itself as a hoops hotbed, given James Naismith, the inventor of the sport, coached the Kansas Jayhawks, and later Phog Allen, Larry Brown and Bill Self all brought national championships to Lawrence, but the high school tournaments leave a lot to be desired.

First, it is utterly ridiculous a state with less than three million people needs EIGHT divisions for basketball. Six base classifications is beyond stupid, but then classes 1A and 4A decided that it was too hard to win championships with just one division, so they split into two. The 1A split took effect in 2011, and the 4A split in 2014.

Second, why do Kansas’ state tournaments need EIGHT teams each? This is an antiquated holdover to the very, very, very old days, when college basketball was mostly an afterthought in places not named Lawrence, Lexington and Chapel Hill, plus a few other selected places. The term “Final Four” was not used at all by the NCAA nor fans of the teams advancing. It was termed the “national semifinals” for the four teams which won their respective regional tournaments.

Also, until the late 1950s, the NIT was considered to be the more prestigious tournament. And until 1977, the NIT invited all of its teams to play at Madison Square Garden in New York. That’s the model Kansas followed.

When the Final Four mushroomed in popularity in the 1970s, that would have been the perfect time for Kansas to reform its state tournaments and go down to four teams per tournament instead of eight. It would save a lot of money, since the KSHSAA would not need nearly as many sites, it would not need to rent the facilities for as long, and it would not need to pay officials for nearly as many games.

The problem is, glaciers move faster than the KSHSAA. It is not the fault of Executive Director Gary Musselman or anyone on his staff, but rather the intransigence of school administrators, who refuse to change anything.

That’s why it has the mess of having to conduct eight state tournaments. Too many superintendents, principals, athletic directors, coaches, parents and student-athletes have adopted the lame attitude that we all must get something.

It’s high school sports. And if someone cannot learn that you aren’t going to get your way most of the time in something as insignificant as a game, then what does that say for the person’s prospects when he or she is out in the real world, trying to provide for his or her family?

I’m sorry, but I am not missing state tournament week. There are way, way, way too many. And many teams who have no business playing for a state championship. I understand those who like the Cinderella factor, but is it right to reward a team which gets hot for three games instead of those who are consistent throughout a long season? NO.

Five classes for basketball are plenty. Four teams per state tournament. All semifinals and finals played at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence or Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan. Not that hard. Then again, “KSHSAA” and “not that hard” are often mutually exclusive terms.

Norton, round 3

I’m about to leave for Norton for my third trip there this week. The girls semifinals of the basketball sub-state the Bluejays are hosting tip at 6 p.m. with Russell playing TMP-Marian. The second game is Norton vs. Beloit.

Last night was a long, long one, both physically and emotionally. The TMP-Beloit game went int double overtime–the Monarchs won 55-51 after trailing for most of the last two and a half quarters of regulation–forcing a late start to the Ellsworth-Norton game. There were a lot of fouls called in that game, with the Bluejays winning an ugly contest 48-44. So it’s Norton and TMP for the third time for the sub-state championship tomorrow night.

I got upset by something on Facebook which had nothing to do with the game, nor anything to do with the one person who has been tormenting me for the past eight months. It really upset me. I was to the point where I didn’t think I would be able to drive back to Russell. I begged Peggy to ride with me to WaKeeney, and then Clark could pick her up at Trego High. She agreed, and then offered to drive down US 283.

Lucky for them, and for me, I recovered enough after the game to the point where I could make it. I messaged Peggy after passing Hill City and WaKeeney, and then again when I got back to Russell.

It was so hot in the gym last night that I’m wearing shorts tonight, something I never do for basketball games. I do it all the time for volleyball, since it’s during the late summer and early fall, but basketball? Sometimes you have to change.

Getting ready to saddle up and head west, then north.