Author Archives: David

Cutting the cord with college football

One of my earliest memories of college football was falling asleep watching the LSU-Tulane game on Thanksgiving night 1983. The game was moved from the Saturday before Thanksgiving to the holiday itself in order for the game to be televised by TBS.

The game kicked off at 1930 (7:30 pm) in New Orleans, and of course, my bed time wasn’t nearly as late when I was seven as it is today. I woke up the next morning to find out LSU won 20-7, but it was not enough to save the job of Bayou Bengals coach Jerry Stovall, who was fired eight days after the game in the Superdome.

Almost 35 years later, I am done with college football.

No mas.

I have decided college football is not worth wasting my time and energy on. I have beat myself up enough over the performance of 18- to 22-year old boys and the overgrown, overpaid boys who coach them.

Urban Meyer is going to keep his job at Ohio State despite covering up for Zach Smith, a monster who consistently abused his then-wife, including when she was pregnant. D.J. Durkin has yet to be fired at Maryland despite a player dying of heatstroke on his watch.

I thought about going to the LSU-Georgia game in Baton Rouge on my birthday, October 13. Not anymore. I don’t want to drive all that way to deal with 102,000 crazy fans in Tiger Stadium, plus tens of thousands more who will do nothing but loiter around campus and drink themselves into a stupor. Besides, I can find a lot better ways to burn the money that would go into gas, hotels, food and tickets.

Do I have good memories of watching college football, both on TV and in person? Sure. But after careful consideration, I can think of many better and more productive ways to spend my Saturdays instead of being glued to a television set from 1100 to 2300.

Kansas college football is a big reason why I can’t stand it.

I am sick of hearing about the greatness of Bill Snyder. He’s done a lot of it against cupcake non-conference schedules. Kansas State proved it isn’t an elite program when it choked so brutally in the 1998 Big 12 championship game against Texas A&M, then let Drew Brees and Purdue tear it apart in the Alamo Bowl. There was that massive choke job against Baylor in 2012 when anyone in Kansas, save a few Jayhawk fans, were touting Collin

Snyder has turned arguably the worst major college program into a winner. However, Kansas State is going to relapse into pitifulness once Snyder dies (we all know he can’t retire again). K-State will be where Kansas is now.

Speaking of the Jayhawks, David Beatty is a nice guy, but not a head football coach. No way. He reminds me of Curley Hallman, who was so brutally pathetic at LSU from 1991-94. At least Beatty is not a grade-A turd like Hallman. However, let’s face it–Kansas is only in the Big 12 because of its basketball program.

The other college football in Kansas–four Division II schools and eight junior colleges–doesn’t interest me. I watched season three of Last Chance U from Independence Community College and I was totally repulsed. To say coach Jason Brown has a foul mouth would be a gross understatement.

Right now, I don’t want to hear about college football. I certainly don’t want to read about it, so I’ve made sure my mobile devices do not get any information on the sport, and I will no longer read The Advocate, the newspaper I once wrote for, nor any other paper’s college football reporting. I have to be careful on the Kansas City Star page not to click college football.

Somehow, I think my Saturdays will become more fulfilling without being a slave to the boob tube watching a bunch of 18- to 22-year old boys full of testosterone collide with one another.

Tiger won! Not really, but some would have you believe otherwise

Did Brooks Koepka win the PGA Championship? I couldn’t tell. By the homepage of ESPN.com, CBSSports.com, and many newspapers, Tiger Woods won, even though the scoreboard I checked showed Woods two shots behind Koepka.

The drooling love affair with Eldrick Woods has gone on since the weekend of April 10-13, 1997, when he won The Masters, the first of his 14 major championships. When Tiger was forced off the course by injury following the 2008 U.S. Open, and again by various injuries earlier this decade, fans on message boards bitched and moaned and said they would not watch golf until Tiger was playing again.

It’s not as if golf is going to die without Eldrick Woods. Koepka has won three of the last six majors. Jordan Spieth is only a PGA away from the career grand slam, and Rory McIlroy will wrap it up if he wins The Masters. Dustin Johnson is the top ranked player in the world, with Justin Thomas a close second. Phil Mickelson is still chasing the career slam, needing the U.S. Open.

There are a lot more marketable players out there today than there were 50 years ago, when it was Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and a whole lot of good but not great players who really didn’t move the needle. Lee Trevino took Palmer’s place among the big names in the late 1960s, and once Player and Nicklaus passed their prime, it was wide open, even though nobody had the star power that the Golden Bear and Arnie had.

People were scalping tickets for as much as $2,000 in St. Louis for Sunday’s final round at the PGA. That’s enough to buy season tickets for the Cardinals or Blues. Kopeka and Adam Scott were the final pairing, and both played with far smaller galleries than what Woods and Gary Woodland did.

Eldrick is part of a cadre of athletes American media drools over. The others are Serena Williams, LeBron and Tom Brady. Baseball doesn’t have a specific athlete, but the Red Sox and Yankees get all the headlines, with the Cubs getting them to a lesser extent. The NHL has not had that problem as much, although the national media couldn’t stop peeing in their pants about the Vega$ Golden Knight$.

I don’t watch very much golf, simply because I’ve had enough of Mr. Woods. I don’t watch any tennis. Haven’t since the late 1980s. I’m sick of the Williams sisters on the women’s side, and the men’s side is the same people over and over and over: Federer, Nadal, Djokovic. The NFL holds little appeal these days, at least the AFC does. And don’t get me started on the NBA.

In sports I actually watch, Liverpool flexed its muscles Sunday by thrashing West Ham 4-0 at Anfield. The Reds appear to be well-positioned to be Manchester City’s chief challenger for the Premier League championship. City opened with a 2-0 victory at Arsenal, ruining Unai Emery’s first match as manager of the Gunners. I didn’t watch the Liverpool match, simply because I knew West Ham had zero chance. I instead streamed Southampton-Burnley, which ended 0-0 at St. Mary’s.

Now there are no Premier League matches until Saturday morning. I’m stuck between bad MLB and NFL exhibitions until then if I want to watch live sports. Of course, there’s the Little League World Series, which I absolutely refuse to watch because of the “mandatory play” rule.

I’m now on to season three of The O.C. UGH. I hated season three, simply because there were so many characters whom I despised: Dean Hess, Charlotte Morgan, Taylor Townsend (the evil version; she makes a 180 in season four), Veronica Townsend (god I love Paula Trickey, but Veronica was downright mean, which shows Trickey is a tremendous actress), the scuzzy loan sharks who beat up Jimmy Cooper, Johnny Harper, Casey, Seung-Ho (the sexually obsessive boyfriend of the equally sexually obsessive Taylor) , the “Harbor  Heckler” (an unnamed character who is so cruel to Seth and Taylor that I want to climb through the screen and squeeze his testicles until they pop, then go Lorena Bobbitt on his penis) and of course, Kevin Volchok and all of the lowlife scum associated with him, particularly Heather, the evil bitch who does all she can to make Marissa’s life a living hell at Newport Union.

Then again, I wish Volchok would have found the heckler and beat the living crap out of him. If it were possible to hate a character more than Volchok and Oliver Trask, the heckler was that character. He and Felix Tagarro from One Tree Hill always make me extremely nauseous.

The only bright spot I could think of that season was Dawn Atwood (Daphne Ashbrook) putting her life back together. Josh Schwartz and the rest of The O.C.‘s production staff should have brought Dawn back in season four so she could rescue Ryan from his deep depression caused by Marissa’s murder.

Not to say season three was 100 percent bad. Just saw the scene where Seth scratches his face with his middle finger, flipping off Taylor. Priceless.

English football fever

The third day of the 2018-19 Premier League campaign is only hours away.

Liverpool hosts West Ham and Burnley visits Southampton at 0730 Central (1330 British Summer time), while Manchester City kicks off its title defense at Arsenal, which plays its first match under new manager Unai Emery. That fixture starts at 1000 Central (1600 BST).

Very few surprises the first two days. The only draw was an exciting 2-2 fixture at Molineux between Wolverhampton, playing its first Premier League match in six years, and Everton, which had to play the final 50 minutes down a man after Phil Jagielka was shown a red card, the first of the new campaign.

I didn’t wake up early enough to catch the Newcastle-Tottenham match. Spurs won 2-1. I watched the Huddersfield-Chelsea match until the Blues scored the first goal; at that point, I figured the Terriers were toast. Indeed, Chelsea rolled 3-0.

I bought the NBC Sports Gold package so I can watch all the Premier League matches which are not televised. My first online match was Bournemouth hosting Cardiff City, with the Cherries winning 2-0 at home over the newly promoted Welsh side.

The other 0900 Central matches were also 2-0. Crystal Palace won at London rival Fulham, spoiling the Cottagers’ return to the top flight after a four-year absence, while Watford, whom I pegged for relegation in my predictions, bested Brighton & Hove Albion 2-0 at Vicarage Road.

Manchester United bested my Leicester City Foxes 2-1 at Old Trafford Friday evening (in Britain; late afternoon here in Kansas). The Foxes were done in by a very early handball (three minutes in) which gave the Red Devils a penalty kick that was converted by Paul Pogba, who played for France’s World Cup championship team earlier this summer. Jamie Vardy did put Leicester on the board in second half stoppage time, but it couldn’t prevent Leicester from falling to 2-7-16 all-time vs. United.

I did two B-52 shots this evening. I don’t have anywhere to be tomorrow.

There are only two “exhibition games” taking place tonight in the NFL, Minnesota at Denver and the Los Angeles Chargers at Arizona. Don’t ask me who’s winning. I don’t care. Remember, the 2008 Lions and 2017 Browns each went undefeated in exhibition games…and winless in games which counted.

The epic showdown between the Orioles and Royals in Kansas City is on the horizon. Baltimore may already have 100 losses.

I’m watching The O.C. all over again. Last Sunday marked the 15th anniversary of its premiere. Right now I’m finishing the episode where there was a rainstorm (“The Rainy Day Women”), where Seth (Adam Brody) gets hung up on the roof attempting to fix the satellite dish at the Cohen mansion; Summer (Rachel Bilson) comes looking for him and they kiss. It’s the final appearance of Lindsay Gardner (Shannon Lucio) and Rebecca Bloom (Kim Delaney), and the beginning of the end of the relationship between Marissa (Mischa Barton) and Alex (Olivia Wilde).

The 15th anniversary of the debut of One Tree Hill is Sept. 23. I will probably have to go through that series all over again, but it will take a lot longer. I will need some valium, or at least four B-52 shots, to get through the episodes with that piece of fecal matter Felix.

As Genesis sang in 1983, that’s all.

Are you ready for some football?

The first full weekend of National Football League exhibition games, aka scrimmages with teams in uniform, began tonight. The Chiefs are hosting the Texans, the Saints are in Jacksonville, and Baker Mayfield made his unofficial debut with the Browns vs. the Giants in New Jersey.

I am not watching any exhibition gridiron football. Wake me up the evening of September 6, when the Falcons and Eagles play for real in Philadelphia.

Besides, the REAL football season kicks off in about 18 hours.

That’s when Manchester United welcomes Leicester City to Old Trafford to kick off the 2018-19 Premier League campaign. Most teams start their seasons Saturday, while a few play Sunday, including Arsenal and Manchester City at London’s Emirates Stadium.

The 20 teams of the Premier League, from Newcastle in the North East of England to Bournemouth, Brighton and Hove Albion and Southampton on the South Coast, plus 16 teams from points in between, will do battle through Mother’s Day.

It’s simple. Teams play 38 total matches, 19 home and 19 away, facing each opponent twice. No playoffs. The winner of the league is determined solely upon the season. The top four teams in the Premier League qualify for the UEFA Champions League of 2019-20, while the bottom three will be relegated to the English Football League Championship, the second tier of English football. The top two teams in the Championship will take their place in the Premier League in 2019-20, while the third through sixth place teams in the Championship face a playoff, with the survivor earning the golden ticket to the top.

Manchester City is the defending champion. Pep Guardiola’s club was thoroughly dominant throughout 2017-18, going 30-7-1 (draws are listed before losses in association football) and becoming the first team since the formation of the Premier League in 1992-93 to finish with 100 points. City earned points 99 and 100 with a goal in the final minute of stoppage time on the final day of the season at Southampton to secure a 1-0 victory.

Manchester United finished second, but 19 points behind its archrival. Tottenham Hotspur held off hard-charging Liverpool for third, 77 points to 75.

Swansea City (33), Stoke City (33) and West Bromwich Albion (31) were relegated to the Championship. Taking their place are Wolverhampton, which won the Championship; Championship runner-up Cardiff City; and Fulham, which defeated Aston Villa in the playoff final.

I don’t consider myself an expert on association football, but I’m going to give it my best shot as to the order of finish:

  1. Manchester City–There’s no reason Pep’s men can’t continue their dominance. Maybe not to the tune of 100 points, but still clearly head and shoulders above the rest.
  2. Liverpool–Jurgen Klopp will have the Reds in contention all season. Momentum from strong transfers and UEFA Champions League final appearance.
  3. Tottenham–Mauricio Pochettino will keep Spurs high up the chart, but still searching for breakthrough.
  4. Manchester United–Jose Mourinhino will feel heat, especially if City comes anywhere close to duplicating last year’s success.
  5. Chelsea–Blues have bounced back and forth between the top and less than impressive finishes. That trend won’t continue. New manager Mauricio Sarri will find the grind of the Europa League and the Premier League to be brutal.
  6. Arsenal–Ditto for Unai Emery, who succeeds the legendary Arsene Wenger in North London. The Gunners should be able to avoid dropping too far, but the Champions League is probably out of reach this year.
  7. Crystal Palace–The Eagles’ obituaries were flowing last September after they lost their first seven games and did not even score a goal. Roy Hogsdon took over and had Palace playing the best football in the Prem outside of Manchester City and Liverpool. Europe is definitely within reach. No relegation worries this year at Selhurst.
  8. West Ham–Manuel Pellegrini’s club will enjoy its best season since moving to London Stadium. The Hammers need to avoid the dreadful starts of the previous two seasons; if they can, European football is a possibility.
  9. Wolverhampton–The Wolves have the best chance of the three promoted sides to succeed. Lots of fun at Molineux on the way.
  10. Leicester City–The Foxes need to stop living off their fairy tale 2015-16 season. It may never happen again, but there’s no reason Leicester should be near the bottom of the table, either, as its has been at points during the previous two campaigns.
  11. Everton–Wayne Rooney is gone. So is Sam Allardyce. Marco Silva is in charge of the Toffees. Goodison
  12. Newcastle–The Magpies somehow finished 10th a year ago, a credit to Rafa Bentiez’s managerial acumen. A similar mid-table finish is likely.
  13. Fulham–Shahid Khan has poured enough money into the Cottagers, just like he has done with the Jaguars, to make Fulham competitive in its first year back in the top flight.
  14. Bournemouth–Eddie Howe is a genius. By all rights, the Cherries should be doomed simply because Dean Court (aka Vitality Stadium) seats less than 12,000, but lo and behold, Bournemouth hasn’t been seriously threatened with relegation the last two years. Impressive.
  15. Burnley–The Clarets qualified for the Europa League by finishing seventh last season, but was it because Burnley was so good or there was a ton of mediocrity mid-table? The latter is probably right. The Clarets will stay up, but it will be a hairy season at Turf Moor.
  16. Southampton–The Saints were fortunate to escape the drop. It will be a close call again. Buckle up at St. Mary’s.
  17. Brighton–Same goes at the AMEX Stadium, where the Seagulls must score more and tighten their back line.
  18. Watford–The Hornets were a sieve last year, yielding 64 goals. Only Stoke (68) gave up more. New manager Javi Garcia faces a long road to hoe at Vicarage Road. Watford may be on borrowed time at the top.
  19. Huddersfield–The Terriers had trouble scoring (28 goals) and stopping the other team from scoring (58), yet somehow did just enough to stay up in their first season in the top flight since Edward Heath was Prime Minister. I don’t see Huddersfield making it to a third year.
  20. Cardiff City–The Bluebirds’ only Premier League season, 2013-14, saw them finish dead last and return immediately to the Championship. History will repeat itself. Neil Warnock performed a miracle in guiding Cardiff to second in the Championship last year, but it is weaker than some of the teams in the second tier, and probably the weakest by far in the Prem. Cardiff shouldn’t approach Derby County’s woeful 2007-08 season which saw it go 1-8-29 and finish with 11 points and a minus-69 goal differential, but it could be close.

We’ll revisit this post throughout the season to see how (badly) I’m doing.

Remember, 1400 CDT (2000 British Summer Time) tomorrow at Old Trafford. Football is back!

Extra day in KC for a good reason

I returned to Russell yesterday a little after noon, one day later than originally  planned.

Thank you, Jason Malasovich.

I’ve known Jason for over 30 years, longer than almost anyone else who does not share my last name. In fact, only two of my current friends list on Facebook has known me longer, Rosemarie Renz (Huguet) and Lisa Syrdal (Clague), both of whom I attended kindergarten through fourth grade with at St. Robert Bellarmine Elementary school.

Jason and I were teammates as 10-year olds playing basketball for Carolyn Park, the playground adjacent to what was St. Robert Bellarmine, which was flooded by Hurricane Katrina and again by Hurricane Rita and was not rebuilt. The same complex was brand new when it was destroyed by Hurricane Betsy in 1965 but rebuilt in that case.

Carolyn Park did not have a gym, so we practiced at Arabi Park Middle School on the northwestern edge of St. Bernard Parish, less than half a mile from the city limits of New Orleans. The year we played together as 10-year olds, Arabi Park was in its last year as an all-girls school. Jason went to fifth grade at Chalmette Middle, which was all-boys. In the fall of 1987, Arabi Park and Chalmette Middle both admitted the opposite gender, and since Jason lived in Arabi, close to Judge Perez Drive, the main thoroughfare of St. Bernard, he changed schools.

I attended St. Robert’s in the fifth grade, but I had a terrible time, so my parents pulled me out. They sent me to a school which I don’t want to talk about for the first quarter of my sixth grade year, one where stupid stuff (I would like to use another word, but won’t) was allowed and not discouraged. Finally, they decided to send me to Arabi Park.

Jason and Rosemarie were the only people there I knew for the first month and a half. I wasn’t in any classes with them except physical education until mid-December, when I was transferred into all the same classes as them and began to know the people I would be in class with until my departure for Brother Martin at the end of my seventh grade year.

The Arabi Park group split into three groups: one which went to Chalmette High, notably Jason and Shawn O’Neil; one which went to Archbishop Hannan, a co-educational Catholic school further east of Chalmette High, the group Rosemarie was in; and a third which went to Andrew Jackson, at the time a magnet high school which did not play football, basketball, baseball and softball. The notable ones among this group were Stacie Dauterive (now Seube) and her younger sister, Andree, who was two years younger (although their younger brother, Rene, ended up at Holy Cross, largely because he was a very good baseball player). I was the outlier going to Brother Martin, and was one of the very few who was accepted from a public middle school.

Hannan flooded during Katrina and relocated to Madisonville on the west side of St. Tammany Parish, closer to Hammond than Slidell.

Jason and I played basketball again together when we were 12 and in the seventh grade. Jason was pretty good and made the parish all-star team, as did Shawn and Michael Marques, a classmate of mine at Brother Martin who started for two years for the Crusaders’ varsity. I wasn’t too good, but there was one game where I did score 10 points in the first half and 14 total despite battling a bad cold.

When he was at Chalmette High, Jason played for the Owls baseball team and started at second base for two years. One night I went to a Chalmette game but I was cheering for the Owls’ opponent, Shaw, since I knew a few people coaching at Shaw, a couple of whom, including longtime football coach Hank Tierney, were in attendance. I also knew Shaw’s baseball coach, Pat O’Shea, who sadly passed away from prostate cancer last month at 67.

The last time I saw Jason in Louisiana was in September 1995. He was in the Golden Band from Tigerland, and my dad and I went to the LSU-Auburn football game and noticed him as the band was preparing for its pregame show.

I lost touch with everyone from Arabi Park quickly after I went to Brother Martin. I attempted to reconnect with Stacie in the summer of 2005, but Katrina interrupted those plans.

Facebook finally brought me back into their orbit. Go back to almost the beginning of this blog and you can see what happened.

I hoped and prayed that Rosemarie and I would connect when I was in Baton Rouge earlier this year, but it didn’t happen. I was sad about that, but seeing Brenda, Dorinda, Dan, Lisette and the others from LSU more than made up for it. I still miss you, Rosie, and hope we’ll meet very soon.

Jason commented on a picture I posted on Facebook last week. It was me with my very short haircut, thanks to Ashley at Sport Clips, who will be my only stylist for the near future with the lovely Amber Desario out on maternity leave to take care of her new baby boy. He asked me how far I was from Kansas City, assuming I was back in Russell and not knowing I was a lot closer than he thought.

I told him Saturday morning I was in town and would be available Sunday and Monday (I didn’t want to tell him I had blocked out trivia time Saturday at Buffalo Wild Wings AND Minsky’s LOL). So we made plans to meet last Sunday in Lee’s Summit, an area of Kansas City I don’t usually venture to.

These days, I don’t go east of Interstate 435 often, if at all, save for going to Liberty. About the only times I venture east of 435 and south of the river are when I absolutely have to do something in Independence or Blue Springs, or else I’m blowing past those communities to go to Columbia, St. Louis and outside Missouri.

Jason asked me if we wanted to meet halfway, but I told him no, I was one person vs. seven for him, since he had his wife, Melissa, daughter Olivia and son Carson with him, in addition to three members of Melissa’s family with him. I wasn’t about to make them waste that gas. Since I had nothing to do Sunday, I figured I had all the time in the world to drive from Clay County to the southeast corner of the metro.

Their choice for a late lunch Sunday was Jack Stack barbecue in Lee’s Summit. I ate at the Overland Park location last month and was througoughly impressed. This time, I did not order nearly as much food as July. Burnt ends and potato salad. Delicious.

When we were eating, Jason told me he was taking his family to the Royals game vs. the Cubs the next night. I was planning on going back to Russell Monday, but I decided to go to the game, my first in four years.

I saw tickets were very expensive, and there wasn’t a ticket to be found in section 232, where they were sitting. At that point, I thought seriously about going home Monday and telling them I couldn’t make it, making up a white lie. Later, though, I was able to find a ticket in the same section as them, only one row lower. After purchasing the ticket–$98 plus fees and tax–I felt better and committed to Monday in Kansas City.

I splurged on reserved parking. Good thing I did. It was a much shorter walk in the heat from the car to the stadium, and it really came in handy after the game as you’ll see. I waited the 45 minutes in line for the gates to open, but met a very nice family of Cubs fans to talk to, so the time passed fast.

I originally bought a general parking pass, but I forwarded it to Jason and they used it. Saved them $15 (it cost $12 online).

Jason bought two giant hot dogs and asked me to split them with him. I resisted at first but then changed my mind. After all, he bought the dogs (I bought Melissa and the kids popcorn), so I said why not. The Chicago dog with tomatoes, sport peppers and relish was delicious. I wish Sonic still had them. The Kansas City dog had barbecue brisket and coleslaw, and it was also good. I didn’t even notice the slaw, and I don’t eat slaw.

It rained twice during the game, which the Cubs won 3-1 on the strength of a home run and RBI double by Javier Baez. The contest was delayed for 22 minutes in the top of the fourth; it rained harder in the ninth. However, since there was no lightning during the latter storm, umpire crew chief Joe West, the senior umpire in MLB, decided to let the game conclude, which it did with a 1-2-3 frame by Cubs closer Pedro Strop.

We had to wait out the rain about 15 minutes before we finally left. They drove home yesterday through Arkansas and north Louisiana, while I ventured west on Interstate 70.

What I wouldn’t give to see more of my old friends from Louisiana. Rosemarie and Stacie are near the very top of the list, as are Tiffany Peperone, Janine Koenig and Wendy Wall. Brenda was above all of them, but that was fulfilled in April. So was Dan.

I’m still a bit heartbroken over not seeing Liz and Lisa anymore in Kansas City, but that heartbreak was eclipsed by losing Dawn, who is loving it back in Florida. I don’t blame her. But life is empty without her and the others.

If Peggy and Caitlyn were to exit…oh boy.

FYI, the Cubs won 5-0 last night behind one-time Royals farmhand Mike Montgomery. The series finale is tonight, then the Cardinals come to Kansas City over the weekend.

I’m less than 90 minutes away from my next session with Crista, whose importance to my life outranks everyone I’ve mentioned, short of my own family and Dr. Custer.

KC, I’m out (for now)

Going to make this short because I have a date with a long stretch of concrete known as Interstate 70.

Cubs defeated the Royals 3-1 last night. Javier Baez was the star for the Chicagoans, launching a 420-foot home run just to the right of dead center field in the sixth inning to put his team ahead to stay. Baez added an insurance run with an RBI double in the eighth.

It wasn’t a complete sellout at Kauffman Stadium (about 5,500 short of capacity), but it was the Royals’ best crowd on a Monday in at least three years. I would say it was at least a 65-35 split crowd in favor of the Cubs. Considering (a) the Cubs have one of the largest fan bases of any team in North American professional sports, (b) the Royals are terrible and (c) the Cubs are here for the first time in seven years and won’t return until at least 2021, I was totally expecting it.

The Kansas City Police Department had me all turned around leaving the stadium. I’ll go into detail later.

That’s all for now. Time to make that long and painful drive west, but it won’t be nearly as painful this time because Peggy wants to meet me in Hays this afternoon.

Moose out (forever?), me in (for one night)

For the first time since June 9, 2011, the Kansas City Royals will play a home game without Mike Moustakas on the roster, not counting games in which he was on the disabled list.

The Royals host the Cubs for the opener of a three-game series. This is the Cubs’ first visit to Kansas City since June 2011, and will be the last until at least 2021, maybe 2024, due to the interleague rotation between divisions.

FYI, only the Cardinals come to Kansas City every year. In years in which the AL Central and NL Central are paired for interleague, there are six games between the teams, three on each side of Missouri. In the other years of the rotation, that number is cut to four, two at each site.

Your intrepid blogger will be in attendance tonight, my first visit to Kauffman Stadium since June 2014.  I wouldn’t have touched this game with a ten-foot pole, but a friend from my distant past changed my mind. I’ll explain later.

Moustakas started at third base for the last Royals-Cubs game in Kansas City, a 6-3 Royals victory on June 26, 2011, giving Kansas City a 2-1 series victory. NOBODY playing for the Cubs that Sunday will be in the lineup this evening for Joe Maddon, nor will star third baseman Kris Bryant, on the DL with an inflamed left shoulder.

Meanwhile, two Royals who were in the lineup, Alex Gordon (left field) and Alcides Escobar (shortstop), probably will be penciled in by Ned Yost tonight, although Yost may sit Gordon since the Cubs are starting recently acquired Cole Hamels, and Gordon does not hit left-handed pitchers well.

The batting orders from that day:

  • Cubs–Koskie Fukudome (RF), Starlin Castro (SS), Aramis Ramirez (DH), Carlos Pena (1B), Reed Johnson (CF), Blake DeWitt (3B), Alfonso Soriano (LF), Geovany Soto (C), D.J. LeMahieu (2B)
  • Royals–Melky Cabrera (CF), Eric Hosmer (1B), Billy Butler (DH), Gordon, Jeff Francoeur (RF), Moustakas, Matt Treanor (aka Mr. Misty May) (C), Escobar, Chris Getz (2B)

Other notables:

  • The starting pitchers were Randy Wells for Chicago and Luke Hochevar for Kansas City.
  • James Russell and Chris Carpenter (the one nobody has heard of, not the one who was once the ace of the Cardinals’ starting rotation) relieved for the Cubs, who were managed by Mike Quade.
  • Louis Coleman, Tim Collins, Aaron Crow and Joakim Soria all pitched in relief for the Royals, in their first full season under Yost. In fact, I was in attendance at the last game for Yost’s predecessor, Trey Hillman. Hillman’s Royals defeated the Indians 6-4 on a Thursday afternoon, but were still 12-23. By time I returned to my hotel an hour later, Hillman had been fired and Yost hired.

I might be the only person in attendance who won’t give a damn who wins, save umpires and media members. I can’t stand the Royals (at least since Ewing Kauffman died in July 1993), and I can’t stand the Cubs (I’m a Brewers fan, and two of my favorite people on earth, Larry and Lisa, are Cardinals die-hards).

One of my dear friends from my LSU days, Laurie Cannon (Moll), is a huge Cubs fan now living in Chicago with her family, so I would lean to the Cubs this series.

I paid for reserved parking tonight. It’s going to be a zoo, and I expect the Cubs to have more fans than the Royals for this series. Same over the weekend when the Cardinals visit.

My time in Kansas City is almost up, at least this time. I’ll be in session with Crista in 48 hours, so I have to get back to the west soon. This has been a lot of fun, though.

Cajun chicanery

Forty-five years ago today, the National Collegiate Athletic Association had one of its shining moments.

At a special meeting at Chicago’s world-famous Palmer House hotel, Walter Byers’ association shut down the dirtiest college basketball program of the time, and one of the dirtiest to ever disgrace the NCAA.

The University of Southwestern Louisiana, now known as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, saw its basketball program (only the men were sanctioned by the NCAA at this time; the NCAA did not sanction women’s programs until 1981-82) given the death penalty (the term wasn’t used until Southern Methodist’s football program was shut down in February 1987 for one season; the Mustangs self-imposed another season of dormancy before returning in 1989) for two seasons, the only time the NCAA has ever shut down a sport at a member school for more than one season.

The Cajuns were Louisiana’s top college basketball team following Pete Maravich’s departure from LSU in March 1970. Maravich gave LSU respectability for his three seasons on the varsity, scoring 3,667 points, a record which stands 48 years later despite freshmen being ineligible to play in Division I until 1972-73, and the introduction of the shot clock (1985-86) and 3-point field goal (1986-87).

Once Pete went to the Atlanta Hawks, daddy Press had two poor seasons before being fired in March 1972, opening the door for an unknown North Dakota native, Dale Brown, to take over.

Meanwhile, 60 miles to the west, Beryl Shipley had built a powerhouse in relative obscurity. The Ragin Cajuns didn’t even compete in the NCAA until the 1967-68 season, but before that, Shipley recruited blacks to USL, something that was strictly forbidden at the time at LSU. Shipley played blacks in 1966-67, five seasons before Kentwood’s Collis Temple Jr. became the Bayou Bengals’ first black varsity athlete in any sport.

In 1967, the Cajuns reached the quarterfinals of the NAIA tournament. However, the next season, USL’s first in the NCAA, the program was placed on two years’ probation (1968-69 and 1969-70) for payments from an outside organization to players, including the black ones.

Even though USL was on probation in 1968-69, Shipley hit the mother lode by plucking a transformational player from Ohio State’s backyard.

Dwight “Bo” Lamar went on to score nearly 3,500 points in four seasons (freshmen were eligible in Division II, where USL played in its first four seasons in the NCAA) and took over the spotlight Maravich vacated, becoming Louisiana’s best college basketball player, and by extension, the best basketball player in Louisiana, since the NBA wouldn’t come around until 1974.

If many in Columbus, including legendary Buckeye coach Fred Taylor, who coached Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek when Ohio State won the 1961 national championship, were wondering how one of there own could go to a tiny school in the south, they weren’t alone.

Lamar had plenty of better options if he wanted to play in the south. Louisville and Kentucky were just across the Ohio River. Tennessee had a great program under Ray Mears, and Roy Skinner had built a strong unit at Vanderbilt. Heck, even Alabama, now led by former Olympic gold medalist C.M. Newton, was proving to be more than a idle distraction during Tuscaloosa winters.

By all rigbts, Lamar should have been a Buckeye. That he ended up a Cajun had to raise a red flag.

In 1971, Lamar earned Division II All-America honors and helped the Cajuns finish third nationally. The next year, the Cajuns moved up to Division I and joined the Southland Conference, where they dominated and won the league’s automatic bid to the Big Dance.

USL won its first tournament game in 1972 over Marshall before losing in the regional semifinals to Louisville and their rookie coach, Denny Crum. One year later, USL knocked out Guy Lewis’ Houston Cougars before losing again in the regional semis, this time to Jack Hartman’s Kansas State Wildcats.

In between his junior and senior seasons, Lamar played for the United States Olympic team in Munich, the one which had the gold medal stolen from them by a corrupt Hungarian referee, who helped the Soviet Union hand the Americans their first-ever loss in Olympic basketball.

If they thought the communists were cheating, they had nothing on what was going on in Lafayette.

The NCAA had a fatter dossier on USL than the CIA could ever have hoped for. USL was going to be banned from the postseason in 1972-73, but the Cajuns won an injunction in the federal court for the Western District of Louisiana to continue to be eligible for the postseason. The case was eventually dismissed by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals due to lack of jurisdiction.

The NCAA had the goods to put USL out of business, namely more than 120 violations of its rules.

Cash payments to players, players borrowing the cars of Shipley and boosters, buying clothes and other material things for players was bad, but USL certainly wasn’t the only program which engaged in this.

However, there was something much more damning.

Academic fraud.

Shipley and his assistants were doctoring transcripts to make them appear eligible when they really weren’t. In some cases, assistant coaches were forging the signatures of principals. Boosters were arranging for surrogates, namely honor students who were classmates of recruits, to take entrance exams.

With the court case dismissed, the NCAA was free to act.

And boy did it act.

Not only was USL handed a two-year death penalty, but NCAA Committee on Infractions wanted to take a step further and expel the university from the NCAA.

The Cajuns were spared that fate, but USL was banned from competing for conference championships in all sports for the length of the death penalty against the basketball team. Also, USL could not vote at the annual NCAA convention for three years.

Some in Lafayette blamed the new coach at LSU for ratting out USL. However, I have not seen anything to remotely suggest Dale Brown did this. Of course, in 1986, when Brown testified before the NCAA at its headquarters in Kansas City, USL supporters went nuclear when they found out LSU would not be penalized for violations which may have occurred during Bob Brodhead’s tenure as LSU athletic director from 1982-86.

USL was the second school at the time to receive a death penalty. The first was Kentucky, where Adolph Rupp’s program was shuttered in 1952-53 for a point shaving scandal which involved All-Americans Ralph Beard and Alex Groza.

USL would not be the last Louisiana college basketball program to run afoul of the NCAA.

Centenary in Shreveport was hammered by the NCAA when it was discovered superstar Robert Parish, who prepped at the city’s Woodlawn High, had not taken the proper standardized college entrance exam. Instead, Parish and several teammates took another test and had their scores converted to the NCAA scale.

Centenary claimed the test scores were valid, the NCAA said otherwise and ruled Parish and four teammates ineligible to play for the Gentlemen (yes, that is Centenary’s nickname). The NCAA would allow the five players to transfer and resume their careers after sitting out one season, but all refused.

Instead of handing Centenary the death penalty, the NCAA did something even more esoteric.

It basically wiped Centenary off the map. The Gentlemen disappeared into a black hole as far as the NCAA was concerned, banning any of its players from appearing in its statistical records.

Parish, who of course went on to be one of the greatest centers in NBA history, dominated the competition and supposedly led the nation in rebounding and blocked shots his senior season. However, nobody could tell, simply because Centenary was not allowed to report its statistics to the NCAA.

In the 1980s, Tulane found itself embroiled in a point shaving scandal which landed numerous players in front of a grand jury. John “Hot Rod” Williams, probably the best player to ever suit up for the Green Wave, was acquitted, but the resulting bad press prompted Tulane president Dr. Eamon Kelly to shutter the men’s basketball team in April 1985.

Not only was men’s basketball gone at Tulane, but the Green Wave was soon expelled from the Metro Conference, a move which severely hurt Tulane’s strong baseball program. Not long after that, the football program. which had recently hired Mack Brown as coach, was nearly shut down, too, but it was spared the ax.

Kelly wanted to make the ban permanent, but he finally relented and allowed its return in 1989-90.

Many of the same issues which led to USL’s death penalty cropped up again when SMU’s football program was banished 13 1/2 years later.

However, no other Division I team has faced the death penalty, although several programs came very close (Kansas men’s basketball, 1988; Kentucky men’s basketball, 1989; Ole Miss football, 1994; Alabama football, 2002; Penn State football, 2012).

USL got what it so richly deserved in 1973. Too bad the NCAA lacks the guts to do it now.

Saban a Buckeye? Don’t laugh

Urban Meyer should not coach the Ohio State Buckeyes football team again, if there is any justice and morality in this world. He knew one of his golden boys, Zach Smith, was a woman abuser and covered it up. Meyer must not be allowed to roam the sidelines at Ohio Stadium, or any other college football field, again. He’s certainly not going to go poor in retirement.

Obviously, if the Ohio State job comes open, there will be a free-for-all as to who will be Meyer’s replacement. If I am OSU president Michael Drake, there is one name I put at the top of my list.

His name is Nicholas Lou Saban.

Yes, I did not stutter.

THAT Nick Saban, the one who has built Alabama so grandiose it has eclipsed that of Bear Bryant in the minds of many Crimson Tide fans and college football experts. That’s another debate for another post.

If Saban’s Crimson Tide wins the national championship this season, it will be six in 10 seasons, matching the total Bryant won in 19 seasons (1961-79), although two of Bryant’s (’73 and ’78) were split, and the ’73 title, along with ’64, saw Alabama lose its bowl game after being crowned national champion when a selector (or selectors) did not take another poll following the bowl games. Saban’s five so far are undisputed, including two in the College Football Playoff era.

Saban is the highest paid coach in college football, making at least $11 million per season, but he isn’t lacking for money. His kids are grown, and he and Terry now have grandchildren they can spoil. Saban, who turns 67 this Halloween, has surprised many by staying so long in Tuscaloosa after being so nomadic during the first 34 years of his coaching career, never staying more than five seasons in any place.

This will be Saban’s 12th season in Tuscaloosa. Why would he want to leave now?

In my opinion, the Ohio State position is the only one Saban should ever consider leaving Alabama for. Some thought he was considering Texas when it forced Mack Brown into retirement a few years ago, but it turns out those were only pipe dreams by the Longhorn faithful, many of whom have deeper pockets than anyone could dream of having.

As much of a monolith Alabama has become under Saban, and was under Bryant, Ohio State matches the Crimson Tide in many areas, and in some, the Buckeyes are superior.

First, there are many more people in Ohio than Alabama. The population of the Buckeye state according to a 2016 estimate was 11.67 million, compared to 4.88 million for Alabama.

Ohio is a gold mine for high school football players. The vast majority of the greatest Buckeyes prepped in their home state before making their way to Columbus to play for Woody Hayes, Jim Tressel, Meyer and some of the less successful coaches (Earle Bruce, John Cooper). The dream of most Ohio boys who play football is to don the scarlet and gray and come out of the tunnel at “The Horseshoe”. There may be pockets of Michigan fans near Toledo, and some who are loyal to the smaller schools in the state (Cincinnati, Toledo, Miami, et al), but Ohio State is THE school in the Buckeye State.

Alabama doesn’t have that luxury. It has to contend with another SEC power, Auburn, on the other side of the state. And Mobile is so close to Florida State, Florida and LSU that it routinely gets picked clean and the Crimson Tide can’t get all of the top talent there.

Second, academics.

The Big Ten is considered the far superior conference academically among the Power Five. Northwestern is one of the most prestigious private schools in the United States. Michigan is considered a “Public Ivy”. Wisconsin has a strong academic reputation. So do Ohio State, Maryland, Rutgers and Penn State, although there’s still damage control going on in State College in the wake of Jerry Sandusky.

The SEC’s strongest academic schools are Vanderbilt and Florida. Alabama has seen an explosion in enrollment in recent years and is now the second most selective school of the 14 members of the conference, only behind Vandy, but the Mississippi schools really can’t raise their academic profiles as much as they’d like, given how poor the state is and how bad the education system is there.

Money is not an issue. Ohio State’s football budget is on par, if not more, than Alabama’s. The revenues produced by the Big Ten’s TV rights deals are equal, if not more than those in the SEC. The Big Ten Network is in more homes than the SEC Network, where many cable operators outside the SEC geographical footprint have refused to carry another ESPN owned network due to the high fees ESPN charges cable companies to carry it.

Actually, I think Saban has it easier in the SEC West than he would in the Big Ten East. I just don’t see Gus Malzahn sustaining the level of success at Auburn he enjoyed last year and in 2013, when it almost won the national championship. LSU has struggled badly against Alabama, and unfortunately for me, that doesn’t look like it will change any time soon. Arkansas and Mississippi State don’t have the resources to consistently win big. Ole Miss is going to have to rebuild after probation, and

The only potential challenger to Alabama’s iron grip on the SEC West (where the Tide and Auburn should not be, but that’s another blog post) is Texas A&M under Jimbo Fisher. However, Fisher has to deal with Texas in his own backyard, and TCU isn’t going anywhere as long as Gary Patterson is in charge. And what if Houston were to go to a Power Five conference?

In the Big Ten East, Michigan has been nothing but a big winner for the most part since Bo Schembechler’s day. Michigan State has been mostly good to very good under Mark Dantonio. Penn State appears to be on the straight and narrow again under James Franklin. Then again, the bottom of the Big Ten East–Indiana, Maryland, Rutgers–is pretty bad. Most of the West, Wisconsin excepted, can’t get its act together.

Again, I don’t think Saban is leaving Tuscaloosa.

The reason: the lady Nick Saban has been married to for almost 47 years.

Terry Saban is one of the most beloved women in the state’s history, right up there with Bryant’s wife, Mary Harmon; Lurleen Wallace, George’s wife who served briefly as governor when her husband could not run in the mid 1960s; Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird, and of course, Helen Keller.

It is well known Terry Saban loves Tuscaloosa. She loves being the city’s queen bee. She loves living in close-knit college towns, and even though Tuscaloosa isn’t exactly Manhattan (the one in Kansas), Starkville or Stillwater, it still is a far cry from Columbus, which is now Ohio’s largest city and also has the state government. In that regard, Columbus is Baton Rouge (or Lincoln) on steroids. I don’t think Terry would enjoy Columbus as much, and that’s the biggest reason why Nick wouldn’t go to Ohio State.

On the other hand, Nick and Terry still have plenty of family in their native West Virginia, and Columbus is a lot closer to them than Tuscaloosa.

That said, Michael Drake should do all he can to try and lure Saban to Columbus. Drake should force Nick Saban to look him in the eye and say thanks but no thanks. It can’t hurt and would show Ohio State is committed to doing whatever it takes to keep Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State at bay.

First, Dr. Drake had better get it right and send Urban Meyer packing. That”s the biggest hurdle. If Meyer is allowed to return, then it shows Drake and Ohio State are in the football business for two reasons, money and titles, and not for truly educating young men, which would be a damn shame.

Of course, if Saban wants a REAL challenge, he could go to Ohio…back to his alma mater, Kent State.

Shot slightly off the mark

I consumed my first shot in my hotel room last night.

It tasted good. But I got an ingredient wrong.

I tried to make a B-52, which is Kahlua on the bottom, Irish creme in the middle, and orange liqueur on the top.

Kahlua? Check.

Irish creme? Check. Bailey’s pumpkin spice. I highly recommend it.

However, I got the last part wrong.

I had Patron orange liqueur instead of the recommended triple sec, which meant the layering didn’t work as well. The orange liqueur tasted fine, though, but it didn’t have the desired layering effect. I did make a second shot, though.

Oh well. The orange liqueur can go to use in my pop and coffee. Or maybe I try it with amaretto when I get back to Russell.

I’ve been guzzling iced coffee like it’s going out of style. This morning I had coffee and chicory with unsweetened almond and cashew milk. Dr. Custer would approve since the milk is sugar free and has only 25 calories per 1/4 liter (8 fluid ounces). I got enough sweetness by adding two packets of Sweet and Low.

I’m on my way to Liberty. I can look for alcohol in the grocery store since Missouri law is much less restrictive than Kansas. Louisiana is even less restrictive than Missouri; in fact, liquor stores are almost non-existent in my native state, since they are unnecessary.

But that’s what makes America great–it’s not a unitary state, but instead a federal republic of 50 individual states and several territories. It’s a great system. Still the best out there even if the political machinery is so broken and gummed up it can’t be fixed.