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When I left Russell at 6 am. yesterday morning, I had no idea it would be a day like it turned out to be.
The plan was after my time at Buffalo Wild Wings in Liberty, I would go over to Zona Rosa. I had no idea whether or not I would go to Buffalo Wild Wings there, or go immediately to Minsky’s.
I didn’t make it to Minsky’s.
Not because I didn’t want to go. I was feeling bad for not going over there to see Lindsay and Tara.
There were people who grabbed my attention–three of whom I had no earthly idea I would see yesterday.
I arrived at Buffalo Wild Wings Zona Rosa at 3:30. I asked Robb what his plans were, and he said he and Dawn would try to be there by 5:30. I told him I didn’t know how long I could hold on there before getting the itch to cross Barry Road.
I ate at Liberty, so I wasn’t eating at Zona Rosa. No Buffalo Wild Wings twice in a day. That’s a new rule for me. There were times where I’d eat twice at B-Dubs Zona Rosa the same day. Not anymore. The food isn’t that great. With Minsky’s and Outback right there, why bother with B-Dubs again?
Just before 5, I got a tap on my shoulder. It was Molly.
I knew she would be working tomorrow from 11 to 5, but her arrival was a pleasant surprise. I told Robb I would stay for awhile. I could see Lindsay and Tara later.
Robb and Dawn got there at 5:30. I thought we’d be there for an hour and half to two hours, then I’d cross Barry Road.
When Robb posted his high score in Countdown, he got a Facebook comment from an ex-Buffalo Wild Wings employee stating she and another ex-employee would be arriving around 8:30.
The ex-employee: Shannon Swanson. Her accomplice: Lisa Toebben.
Shannon was in town from Chicago. Lisa is trying to balance her 18-month old son, Liam, and prepare for her October wedding in St. Louis.
Robb and Dawn could not stay that long. They left at 8:30. I was still there, and I also ran into another trivia pal, Bob (ARROWHEAD), who has been going through a tough time as of late, following the death of his mother last month. His mother was 99 and lived a full life, something I can only hope for.
Shannon and Lisa didn’t arrive at 8:30. They weren’t there at 9. Morgan asked me why I was still there at that late hour, and I revealed it. She was quite surprised as well.
It wouldn’t be the first time I would see a former Buffalo Wild Wings sweetheart this month.
Elizabeth Psenski was in town last week. I saw her twice. Of course she had to hug me more than a few times. Now I have to go to Colorado Springs to see her.
Shannon and Lisa arrived at 9:30. They sat next to me at the bar and visited with Molly, Trey and all the employees they knew, plus a few guests they recognized. We talked about Liam, about a guy Shannon is seeing, and other things going on. I didn’t divulge much about myself, but I promised I would send a message about what’s been going on in my sessions with Crista.
Shannon and Lisa were the ones who pushed me to get help in late 2014. They kept on me about it. They were not going to put up with me the way I was going, which was straight down the toilet. And to be honest, they should not have put up with me in that state. Fortunately they prevailed upon me, and Dr. Custer got me referred, which led to me seeing Crista.
I hated leaving at 10:50, but I finally did. I used the excuse I was an “old man”, although I wasn’t fooling Lisa, since I’m sure Jeff has had many sleepless nights. Eleven and a half hours at two Buffalo Wild Wings. That was plenty. At least it was good.
After picking up a steak at Outback–I hadn’t eaten since 2:15–I stopped in at Minsky’s to say hello to Lindsay and Tara. I promised I’d be back later today.
The best thing other than seeing Larry, Robb, Dawn, Molly, Shannon and Lisa? My contacts did not irritate me, even though I wore them 19 hours.
It’s now a little after 1 a.m. I’m not yawning, but I am weary. A happy weary.
Today looks stormy. As long as I can get to Barry Road without much trouble. I’m sure it will be soaked when I drive from B-Dubs to Minsky’s, which makes me worry a bit about some maniac causing an accident.
I’ve seen more rain this year than I have since moving to Kansas. People can stop complaining about a drought. Then again, they’d better not waste water, because if the drought returns, there will be hell to pay.
I apologize for going Howard Hughes AGAIN. I swear I am alive. It’s just been some very rough patches as of late.
I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire. But that isn’t an excuse for not posting.
More to come…
We are less than an hour from the final game of the LSU-Kentucky baseball series. It’s a rubber game, as the teams split their doubleheader Friday, with the Wildcats winning the opener 12-5 and the Bayou Bengals the nightcap 4-3.
This is LSU’s final game at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The field has been here since 1969, but the stadium itself opened in 2002 as part of a renovation. The 2018 season will be the Wildcats’ last at Cliff Hagan, as they are moving into a new stadium off campus the next season. LSU and Kentucky probably will not play next year, but if they do, it will be in Baton Rouge. The next time LSU will come to Lexington will be either in 2020 or 2021.
Bill told me the likely SEC East road trips next year are Tennessee and Vanderbilt. The Tigers go to Auburn, Ole Miss and Texas A&M in the West. That leaves Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi State at home. plus Missouri and either Florida or Kentucky.
With no game yesterday, it was more like a typical Saturday I would spend in Kansas City. I treated Bill to lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings, then went about the rest of my day on the other side of town. I went to the other B-Dubs in Lexington and played three hours of trivia. I left at 7:30 and decided to call it a night.
It’s chilly in Lexington. The sun is not out, and the mercury is struggling to climb above 55 (13 Celsius). There’s a good wind blowing from left to right, which means the ball will carry very well to right field, which is already very short (310 down the line, 350 to the power alley).
Tonight is a working and packing night. Tomorrow I’m on Interstate 64 and Interstate 70 to Kansas City. If I’m there by 7 pm CT, I’ll be happy. Other than returning the rental car to KCI, it’s pretty much normal in KC (read: trivia at B-Dubs and maybe Minsky’s) until I have to go to Hays Thursday.
As Crystal Gayle and Gary Morris sang in the mid-1980s, I have made up for lost time.
I can safely say that I have now had more than my fill of Cliff Hagan Stadium after not traveling to Lexington during my years working with LSU’s baseball program.
Seven hours, 34 minutes of actual baseball, plus the hour before the game and the hour between games.
It isn’t the longest day I’ve spent in a college baseball stadium–the regionals at LSU far surpass that–but it’s one of the longest days I’ve spent in a facility during the regular season.
For the record, Kentucky won the first game 12-5, and LSU the second 4-3. The Bayou Bengals were down 3-0, but rallied with three in the fifth to tie, then scored the winning run in the eighth on an RBI single by Antoine Duplantis.
Tomorrow’s game is the last of the series, and the last for LSU at Cliff Hagan, period. LSU and Kentucky probably won’t play in 2018, and if they do, it would be at Baton Rouge. The Wildcats are opening a new stadium in 2019, the earliest LSU could return to Lexington, but I don’t look for that to happen until 2020 or 2021.
Finding an LSU road series to attend in 2018 will be difficult. Arkansas goes to Baton Rouge. If LSU plays Missouri, that will be in Baton Rouge too. Texas A&M is too far. So are Auburn, South Carolina and Georgia. Ole Miss? Maybe. Vanderbilt? Maybe. Tennessee? Less likely. However, I may be able to convince my dad to go to Nashville or Knoxville if my brother and his family could make it.
The games were the easy part of yesterday. The hard part, of course, was the flat tire on the Cadillac. The trade is going to work out better, since the Expedition has more room for my baggage to carry back to Kansas City. I’ll stow everything in the hotel room there and retrieve my Chevy at KCI for the drive back to Hays (I have an appointment with Crista Thursday at 10).
The bad part about the long, long, long games? Finding something to eat after.
There was good food in the press box at Cliff Hagan, but I was trying to be the good Catholic, so I passed on the entrees and stuck to chips, cookies and brownies. I did get a pretzel and a bag of peanuts at the concession stand, but passed on anything heavier, hoping the games would end before 11.
My body was acting like it was still on Central time. I’m convinced Central time is better than Eastern. TV shows come on not too late, but not too early. The news at 10 p.m. might be late for some, but it beats 11! Sunday NFL games kick off at noon. Perfect hour. Buffalo Wild Wings opens at 11, when college football games kick off on fall Saturdays.
By time I got back to my SUV parked behind the right center field fence, it was already 11:15. Then I got lost and went through downtown, right past Rupp Arena. I finally found my way back to Interstate 75, where I went to Man O’War Boulevard to look for a grocery store.
If you’ve never been to Lexington, you would do real well to have a map handy. Interstate 75 goes right past the northern edge of town and then turns southeast. The University of Kentucky, Keeneland race track, and the airport are all well south of the interstate. This is in stark contrast to Louisville, where Interstate 64 passes right by the KFC Yum! Center, the city’s main arena, and Louisville Slugger Field, home of the Triple-A Louisville Bats.
I’ve also seen interstates cut right into downtown Kansas City, St. Louis, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Atlanta and Birmingham, among other places. In Nebraska, Interstate 80 bypasses downtown Omaha to the south and Lincoln to the north, but both cities have spurs directly into downtown. And Interstate 49 has made Alexandria, Louisiana almost disappear from the map. If you stay on I-49, you’ll never know you went through Alexandria. By time you realize it, you may be in Shreveport (northbound) or Lafayette (southbound).
I found the supermarket, stocked up, then stopped at one of the few establishments open very late, Taco Bell. Since it was after midnight by this time, I didn’t feel so bad about eating meat.
By time I got back to the hotel–which is not in the best part of Lexington–it was 12:30.
Today is the off day. I now recall during the SEC tournament having an off day on the Friday after winning the first two games, then having a whole day to burn in Birmingham. Same thing in Omaha during the College World Series.
Time to jump in the shower.
It’s almost 7 a.m. in Lexington, meaning it’s almost 6 back in Kansas. Changing time zones can mess up your clock when you’re not used to it.
I’ve changed time zones a few times going the other way when I’ve gone to Goodland or Sharon Springs, which are on Mountain time. Goodland, Sharon Springs (Wallace County), Weskan, Tribune (Greeley County) and Syracuse high schools have to start games an hour earlier in most instances so their opponents don’t get home very late. For instance, if Hugoton played a football game at Goodland and it started at 7 p.m. Mountain instead of 6, the Eagles wouldn’t get home until 2 a.m. in all likelihood.
Anyway, there will be baseball and lots of it at Cliff Hagan Stadium today. LSU vs. Kentucky in a doubleheader starting at 2 ET/1 CT.
It turns out Kentucky needed a waiver from the Southeastern Conference to play a doubleheader today. SEC rules do not allow for a doubleheader on day one of a scheduled three-day series. Fortunately for LSU and Kentucky, Wildcats coach Nick Migione and athletic director Mitch Barnhart prevailed upon SEC commissioner Greg Sankey to allow the doubleheader today in light of the forecast for tomorrow, which calls for a 90 percent chance of rain, with rain of up to one inch falling.
Kentucky comes into the series 10-5 in the SEC, leading the East division by two games. LSU is 9-6 in the league, two games behind leader Arkansas, although the Bayou Bengals won two of three from the Razorbacks in Fayetteviile two weeks ago. There’s still a lot of baseball to be played, and a series win on the road against a strong team would do wonders for my alma mater.
UPDATE: Now 9:10 and I’m ready to roll. I won’t need to be at the park until a little after noon. But I’ve got things to do in town.
Mississippi State ended Connecticut’s 111-game women’s basketball winning streak late last night.
That’s the great news.
The bad news?
Now the Bulldogs must turn around and beat a Southeastern Conference foe which defeated them twice prior to the NCAA tournament.
State plays South Carolina tomorrow at 5 p.m. Central for the national championship.
Certainly, nobody will term the Bulldogs’ season a failure if the Gamecocks prevail.
However, it will undoubtedly be a little disappointing for Vic Scaheffer and his charges, especially daughter Blair, a junior guard.
There is precedent which should give State optimism.
I can recall three specific instances where a team had to come down from an impressive victory and do it again 48 hours later.
Three words: Miracle on Ice.
Anyone who knows a little bit about sports probably knows the story of the United States’ 4-3 victory over the powerful Soviet Union during the 1980 Winter Olympic ice hockey tournament.
Mike Eruzione’s goal with 10 minutes remaining against the Red Army turned out to be the game-winner.
However, it did NOT win the gold medal.
The Americans had to come back two days later, on a Sunday morning, and defeat Finland to win the gold.
If the Americans fell to the Finns, who were led by Jari Kurri, who would go on to be the Hall of Fame right winger on the Edmonton Oilers’ NHL dynasty of the 1980s, they might leave Lake Placid without a medal.
Sure enough, the Americans were down 2-1 through two periods.
According to Eruzione, coach Herb Brooks told his players if they lost, they “would take it to their graves. To their F***ING graves”.
Well, the Americans got the point, scored three goals in the third period, and won 4-2. As Al Michaels famously exclaimed, “This Impossible Dream comes true!”
There are two examples relevant to college basketball, too.
The more recent was in 1991.
UNLV came into the Final Four 34-0. The Runnin’ Rebels were the defending national champions, and the overwhelming favorite to repeat, led by Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and Greg Anthony.
The Rebels’ semifinal opponent was Duke, making its fifth trip to the Final Four in six seasons under Mike Krzyzewski.
Despite the Blue Devils’ success in the first four rounds of the tournament under Coach K, plus historical success under Bill Foster and Vic Bubas, Duke had zero national championships when it arrived in Indianapolis on Easter weekend.
In the 1990 championship game, UNLV eviscerated Duke 103-73, the largest margin in a title contest. That mark still stands as we sit six hours from the start of the 2017 Final Four.
Yet the Blue Devils gained their revenge, 79-77.
Some thought Duke would not be able to turn around and defeat a fine Kansas team coached by Roy Williams, but the Devils won 72-65. They repeated in 1992, and have added titles in 2001, 2010 and 2015.
Another Atlantic Coast Conference team was involved in the next example.
UCLA came into the 1974 Final Four seeking its eight consecutive national championship in what would be the final go-round for Bill Walton, who may be the greatest college basketball player ever. He certainly would be on my starting five, along with Lew Alcindor, Pete Maravich, Oscar Robertson and Bill Bradley.
The Bruins came into the 1973-74 season with a 75-game winning streak. It reached 88 before they lost 71-70 to Notre Dame in South Bend. UCLA later lost back-to-back games in Corvallis and Eugene to Oregon State and Oregon, but regrouped and easily made it to Greensboro.
In December of that season, the Bruins easily defeated North Carolina State 84-66 in St. Louis. The Wolfpack, who went 27-0 in 1972-73 but was on probation and thus could not play in the NCAA tournament, featured David Thompson, one of the ACC’s all-time greats; 7-foor-4 center Tom Burleson, a 1972 Olympian; and Monte Towe, who stood only 5-foot-7, but was one of the nation’s best point guards of 1973-74.
NC State almost missed the 1974 tournament, too.
The Wolfpack had to survive one of the greatest college basketball games ever played in the ACC tournament championship game vs. Maryland, which featured All-Americans Len Elmore, Tom McMillen and John Lucas.
In 1974, only the conference champion was eligible for the NCAA tournament. While almost every conference determined its representative through the regular season, the ACC held a tournament, which meant NC State would be out in the cold if it lost to the Terrapins.
The game was only televised in ACC country, meaning those in Los Angeles, Lawrence and Milwaukee, not to mention everywhere else, never saw it until ESPN Classic finally televised it in the late ’90s and again throughout the 2000s.
The Wolfpack prevailed in overtime, 103-100.
Exactly three weeks after that thriller, NC State returned to the site of the battle, the Greensboro Coliseum.
The Wolfpack did not have to leave the state during the 1974 NCAA tournament. The regional was in Raleigh at Reynolds Coliseum, and then NC State had to migrate only 80 miles west on Interstate 40 for the next step.
Only NC State and Marquette, which defeated Kansas in the first game of the 1974 Final Four, stood between the Bruins and tying the Boston Celtics for the most consecutive basketball championships in history.
The Wolfpack had other ideas.
The game went into a second overtime, and UCLA grabbed a seven-point lead. So long State, right?
In one of college basketball’s most stunning turnarounds, the Wolfpack outscored the Bruins 13-1 the rest of the second overtime and won 80-77.
Two nights later, the Wolfpack had little trouble defeating Marquette. Al McGuire would get his championship in 1977, when his Warriors defeated the Wolfpack’s archrival, the Tar Heels of Dean Smith, in the final in what would be McGuire’s last game as a coach.
As for the ladies from Starkville, the bad news is they have lost twice to South Carolina.
However, both games were in the Palmetto State, once at Columbia and once at Greenville in the SEC tournament final.
State should have the crowd on its side after the victory over UConn. Dak Prescott will be leading cheers for the cowbell crowd.
State and Carolina are all too familiar with a Goliath in their midst.
For the longest time, SEC women’s basketball was Tennessee and everyone else. Georgia had some good teams, LSU made five consecutive Final Fours, and Alabama, Arkansas and Vanderbilt all got to the big stage, but the Lady Volunteers were too good.
Pat Summitt, who won over 1,000 games and led the Lady Vols to eight national championships, had a lot to do with that. God rest her soul. She was taken from us too soon.
Tennessee also had some damn good players. Chamique Holdsclaw. Tamika Catchings. Candace Parker. Holly Warlick, who is now the Lady Vols’ coach. Not to mention the role players who were so crucial, including my all-time favorite, Abby Conklin.
Today, the SEC is much more competitive. The Gamecocks and Bulldogs are the upper crust of the league, but Tennessee is still there, Texas A&M has a championship banner in Reed Arena (albeit in the Big 12), and Kentucky’s women are much more than a time killer waiting for the next men’s game.
There’s one flaw with UConn: the American Athletic Conference is very weak beyond the Huskies. When Louisville and Notre Dame left the old Big East for the ACC, it became UConn and a bunch of nothing in the new AAC.
Tulane nearly beat the Huskies in New Orleans in February, but that was more a fluke than an indication the Green Wave are on their way to being a consistent winner.
As much as I would like to see Tulane succeed, the Wave will always be a distant second behind LSU in my homeland. On the other hand, Tulane has certainly passed Louisiana Tech for #2 in the Bayou State. Tech once was right up there with Tennessee and Stanford amongst the sport’s blue bloods, but without Sonja Hogg, Leon Barmore and Kim Mulkey, it hasn’t been nearly the same in Ruston.
I’m guessing Dawn Staley has scheduled everything so she and her team can watch the Gamecock men play Gonzaga at 5:10 tonight. But something tells me that there won’t be two celebrations in Columbia.
I don’t think there will be one.
State wins tomorrow.
I was WRONG.
If you read the blog post before this one, I stated the belief the Connecticut Huskies could not be stopped en route to their fifth consecutive national championship and 12th under Geno Auriemma.
Instead of a press conference and a closed practice to prepare for Sunday’s championship game vs. South Carolina, the Huskies will be on their way to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport later today to board a plane which will ferry them to Bradley International Airport near Hartford.
The queen is dead. UConn’s 111-game winning streak is history.
No parades through Hartford and Storrs.
Mississippi State 66, UConn 64.
Not only did the Bulldogs take down the seemingly unbeatable Huskies, they did so after an egregiously bad call.
With under 20 seconds remaining in overtime and State ahead 64-62, the Bulldogs were called for a flagrant foul.
If that was a flagrant foul, then Don Denkinger’s call in the ninth inning of Game 6 of the 1985 World Series was 1,000 percent correct.
Of course, the flagrant foul was nowhere near “flagrant”. It was only “flagrant” because it came in a game involving mighty UConn.
To nobody’s surprise, ESPN analyst Doris Burke said repeatedly the flagrant foul was the right call.
Come on, Doris. Anyone who knows anything about your background knows you harbor a secret crush on Geno. You live in New England and have lived and breathed UConn basketball (men too) for the last 30 years.
ESPN has shoved UConn down our throats for the last 22 years you want to vomit. Who’s their leading expert? REBECCA LOBO, who continues to be an unabashed shill for the Huskies. I’m sure Diana Taurasi has a job lined up at ESPN once she retires from the WNBA.
Katie Lou Samuelson, UConn’s unanimous All-American, sank two free throws to tie the game.
The Huskies got the ball back with the chance to win the game, but incredibly, they turned it over with 12.7 seconds left. Gabby Williams drove the lane, but she was cut off by Mogan William, State’s phenomenal 5-foot-5 point guard who scored 41 points in the regional final vs. Baylor. UConn wanted a foul, but incredibly, the officials swallowed their whistles and gave the ball to State.
State had trouble finding an open shot, but as time was about to expire, WIlliam pulled up from 15 feet just to the right of the lane.
Just like that, Mississippi State, the school with the lowest all-time winning percentage in the Southeastern Conference heading into the 2016-17 season, brought down Goliath.
This means two schools best known for baseball will be playing for the women’s basketball national championship Sunday. Not surprisingly, former baseball coaches are now the athletic directors at both schools: Ray Tanner at Carolina and John Cohen at State.
Sunday’s game will be the first All-SEC final since 1996, when Tennessee beat Georgia.
Friday’s shocker was UConn’s first loss to an SEC team in 10 years.
The last SEC team to beat UConn? LSU, in the 2007 West regional final in Fresno. What, UConn actually had to play in a regional outside the northeast? Unheard of today.
The Bayou Bengals’ coach the night of March 26, 2007? Bob Starkey, who was elevated to interim head coach following a scandal which forced LSU to fire Pokey Chatman in the week between the SEC and NCAA tournaments.
LSU beat UConn that night 73-50. In the Bayou Bengals’ next game, they set a Final Four record for futility by losing 58-35 to Rutgers.
Mississippi State is 1-0 in the women’s Final Four. LSU is 0-5. In fact, LSU has a dubious record: 0-11 in all Final Fours, men’s and women’s.
For all of the success State has enjoyed in baseball, it has never left Omaha as champion. Now, the Bulldogs can leave Dallas with a championship trophy on their first try Sunday.
If State wins Sunday, maybe the parade should stretch down Mississippi Highway 25 from Starkville to Jackson. Sure, the Ole Miss fans would bitch, but who cares?
State was not the biggest winner last night.
It was women’s basketball, period.
It had gotten to the point where the tournament was a mere formality, where 63 teams were basically playing for second place.
Now, other teams have hope. And not just Baylor, Stanford, Notre Dame and South Carolina. But the up and comers, too.
Starting in Starkville.
I slept way, way too late today. Bad move on my part.
I feel really bad about it, since I didn’t get to spend enough time with Molly at Buffalo Wild Wings. She only works on Saturdays, and I had not seen her since January 21.
Because I slept so late, I didn’t get to Buffalo Wild Wings until almost 2. Then I left just before 4 so I could get to Minsky’s before the Kansas-Oklahoma State men’s basketball game at 5. I figured if I stayed at Buffalo Wild Wings later, I would be stuck there until after 7, and then parking at Minsky’s would be difficult.
It was busy at Buffalo Wild Wings when I got there, but that was because Kansas State was playing Texas Tech. When the game ended (K-State won 61-48), the crowd thinned out rapidly. By 2:45, I was the only customer at the bar. And it stayed that way until I left. I had to promise Molly I would see her again before she and her fiancé, Jake, leave for Jamaica on March 27.
I figure it’s time to expand my horizons and not spend hours upon hours in one place like I have in the past at Buffalo Wild Wings. Also, I can only eat so many chicken wings, which I have totally swore off for Lent. No traditional wings until after Easter, and no more boneless wings, period.
Tara, the beautiful lady who took care of me the first time I came to Minsky’s, isn’t working tonight. She’s going to a concert with a friend. Glad she’s getting to enjoy herself. I saw her last night, which helped make my trip. The other part was seeing Robb and Dawn twice.
Computer is still holding up. Phew. I figure I’m going back tomorrow evening to get work done Monday and Tuesday. This is the last busy week until April. By Wednesday afternoon, I’ll be pretty much in the clear, save for a very few things from state basketball.
High school state basketball is screwy in Kansas. Too many sites, too many teams. It should be four teams, and everyone goes to a central site for the finals. I have long advocated it being Allen Fieldhouse, home of the Kansas Jayhawks, but that’s too idealistic. I would settle gladly for Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita. Or even Salina’s Bicentennial Center. But please, ONE SITE. Not eight.
And please, get away from the cramped, dingy pit that is White Auditorium in Emporia. No parking, cramped concourses, stage at one end. Is this an optimum setting for a high school basketball state tournament, even if it is Kansas’ messed up version? I always have strongly disliked going there. You have to get there very early to make sure you aren’t parked three miles away. If Emporia were smart, they would offer shuttle service from the parking lots to the arena entrance. Or maybe let fans park at Emporia State’s football stadium and then bus them to the auditorium.
Emporia is also a hard place to get to, unless you have easy access to Interstate 35 or the Kansas Turnpike. From western Kansas? Don’t get me started. From Russell and Hays, it’s either (a) drive to Salina, then to McPherson, and take two-lane roads east, or (b) drive to Topeka and double back on the Kansas Turnpike. I’ve usually opted for (b), simply because I don’t trust the two-lane roads.
Hotel selections in Emporia are also very few and far between, so I’ve usually stayed in Wichita or Overland Park. I’ve even stayed in Platte County, my usual destination when I’m in Kansas City, and driven down the Turnpike.
I shouldn’t say too much about Emporia. If I’m going to travel to watch Cailtyn play volleyball at Johnson County Community College, Coffeyville, Parsons, Independence, Fort Scott, Chanute and Iola would be on the docket. And if I thought Emporia is a hard place to get to, I haven’t seen anything like that. I went to Pittsburg once many years ago. Not fun.
Kansas City will be overrun with basketball fans two of the next three weekends. Sprint Center hosts the Big 12 men’s tournament Wednesday through next Saturday, then the NCAA Midwest Regional March 23 and 25. Too bad KC cannot host the Final Four anymore, since the NCAA limits it to facilities with 30,000 or more seats.
Three Super Bowls have been played previously February 3. Three teams I do not care much for won those three Super Bowls played: Patriots (vs. Rams, XXXVI), Giants (vs. Patriots, XLII, the game which denied New England its 19-0 season) and Ravens (vs. 49ers, XLVII).
Yet February 3 will also be remembered by some for the launch of one of the worst ideas in the history of sport.
I didn’t say it was the worst idea in the history of sport. The designated hitter and giving the league which wins Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game home field advantage in the World Series are and were far more ruinous. At least the latter of the above is no more.
But the XFL ranks right up there. Or should I say down there.
Yes, 16 years ago tonight, the XFL kicked off, with games in Las Vegas and Orlando.
The XFL was the brainchild of Dick Ebersol, Director of NBC Sports, and Vince McMahon, chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), which was then known as the World Wrestling Federation (WWF).
Ebersol, who created Saturday Night Live in 1975, was deseprate to show professional football on the Peacock after it lost the rights to the AFC to CBS following the 1997 season.
Ebersol did himself in on losing the NFL. He spent ridiculous amounts of money to acquire the Olympics, Summer and Winter, for what seems like forever, although somehow the NBC rights deal currently expires after the 2032 Summer games. If he would have been smart enough to realize ABC and CBS had no desire whatsoever to televise the Olympics at any price, and thus NBC could have had them for far cheaper, the Peacock would never have lost the NFL.
Yet Ebersol wasn’t smart enough to see this, thus overpaid grossly for the Olympics, as well as handing over a handsome sum for the NBA, which was horrendous due to the number of very, very bad teams, as well as the dominance of the Bulls and Michael Jordan. Why watch when you know what’s going to happen?
Vince McMahon badly wanted football. He tried to buy the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts, but failed. He had planned to re-expand the CFL into the United States, an experiment which failed miserably in 1994 and 1995. When McMahon’s bid to buy the Argos failed, he opted to form a new league.
He found a more than willing partner in Ebersol, who felt putting the XFL on NBC would be his network’s ticket to total dominance. Even with Seinfeld off the air (THANK GOD) by this time, NBC still had The West Wing, Friends, E.R. and Frasier as the bulwarks of its primetime lineup. Yet NBC was losing ground steadily to CBS, which of course had the NFL once again, plus ABC still had the biggest prize in sports, Monday Night Football.
The league’s launch was announced February 3, 2000. The first games would kick off EXACTLY one year later, February 3, 2001.
The XFL promoted itself as “real” football where “pansies” were not going to make it. It touted new tough-guy rules, such as no fair catches and allowing bump-and-run pass coverage all over the field, which was the rule in the NFL until 1978, and is still allowed in college football, just as long as all hits come from the front.
The other part the XFL liked to promote was wholly inappropriate for family viewing.
It promoted sex appeal.
The cheerleaders wore next to nothing. They were ENCOURAGED to date the players and other team personnel, a strict no-no in the NFL. And there was talk of putting cameras in the cheerleader locker rooms.
What was this, football or the Playboy Channel? I don’t know if Hugh Hefner could have come up with something so brazen.
The nicknames were stupid.
Two of them glorified the mob and organized crime: the Chicago Enforcers (a nod to Al Capone) and the New York-New Jersey Hitmen (ostensibly honoring John Gotti and the numerous mafia members in those states). PUKE.
The Memphis Maniax had a man with cyclone eyes, something akin to the Mr. Pibb logo with the crazy man head.
The Birmingham team was originally going to be called the “Blast”, but some felt that name was too graphic, given the 1963 church bombing which killed four black girls. The name became the Thunderbolts, shortened to Bolts.
Players were encouraged to wear nicknames.
And that created the league’s iconic player, Rod “He Hate Me” Smart of the Las Vegas Outlaws. Smart went on to play for the Panthers, including their Super Bowl XXXVIII team which lost to the Patriots.
Gerry DiNardo, the former LSU coach who coached the Bolts, forbid his players from wearing nicknames. DiNardo would go on to coach three (terrible) seasons at Indiana before he was fired there, too. He has not coached since. Today, he’s an analyst for the Big Ten Network, where DiNardo is simply fantastic.
I haven’t even gotten to the worst part of the XFL.
The football itself.
To say it was terrible would be understating the case just a wee bit.
It was beyond awful.
These were supposedly “professional” football players, being paid (not much, admittedly) to play the game. The winning teams would receive a bonus to be split amongst team members.
Yet the worst part of the football itself was not the games.
It happened before the game.
The scramble, the XFL’s version of the coin toss.
One player from each team would line up at the 20-yard line and sprint towards midfield on the referee’s whistle. The player which gained possession of the ball would have the option to kick or receive to begin the game, and would have the option to play offense or defense first if the game went to overtime (the XFL used a modified version of the college overtime, which I’ll explain below).
One of the first participants in the scramble, Hamad Shasmid-Deen of the Orlando Rage, suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. More than half the players who participated in the scramble were injured at some point, and many of those injuries were serious.
The referee in the first game at Las Vegas, Randy Christal, has officiated many high profile college games, including the 1996 and 2002 national championship games, and the Rose Bowl between USC and Northwestern following the ’95 season. Why Christal, who also was an umpire at many a College World Series during the 1980s and 1990s, would lower himself to the XFL is beyond me.
When Christal explained the scramble over the microphone in Las Vegas on opening night, I had a feeling he would have rather been in a dentist chair getting a root canal without anesthesia, even if it was 5 p.m.on a Saturday evening.
Teams could not kick an extra point in the XFL. It was a play from the 2-yard line, worth one point only. Later in the season, the XFL allowed teams to score two points if it was successful from the 5-yard line, and three points for a successful conversion from the 10-yard line.
Overtime was also very dumb.
It was the NCAA version, which I dislike, although not as much as the high school version (in most states; Massachusetts, Missouri, Texas and a few others excepted).
In the XFL, a team had four downs from the 25-yard line to score. However, if a team scored a touchdown in fewer than four downs, the other team had only that many downs to match the touchdown. A field goal could not be attempted until fourth down. And again, no kicking extra points.
Good idea, but of course, the whole concept of overtime in college and high school is very dumb to begin with, so no way.
I happened to watch part of the first XFL game on NBC, New York-New Jersey and Las Vegas. I only watched it because I was at Ivar’s when the game kicked off, and it was the only thing on. When I left Ivar’s, I wasn’t about to turn the game on at my apartment.
Not once did I tune in to an XFL game from my apartment (or hotel room in one case).
During the second week of the XFL, the game NBC was televising from Los Angeles was interrupted due to a power failure. Worse, NBC’s television trucks were totally shut down since there was no gas in the generators fueling the trucks. Not only that, the game went to double overtime, forcing a very late start to Saturday Night Live, which was hosted that night by Jennifer Lopez. Lorne Michaels, SNL’s Executive Producer, was all over Dick Ebersol worse than ugly on an ape. Most of that conversation is not printable.
After that fiasco, NBC forced the XFL to adopt speed-up rules to ensure no game would cut into SNL’s
When the XFL announced on May 10, 2001 that it was shutting down forever, I hardly shed a tear. Good riddance.
Last night, ESPN premiered a new 30 for 30 documentary on the XFL. It reminded me of just how bad it was.
I have an acronym for the XFL. eXtremely (expletive) up League.
I admit I watched McMahon’s wrestling in the 1980s. My brother and I were huge fans. We went with my dad to a few shows in New Orleans.
But McMahon’s football venture? I’m glad there wasn’t a team in New Orleans. It would have been tempting. I’m glad I watched (or didn’t) from a very safe distance.
No football today. Finally.
It has been overkill since December 17, the first day of bowl games. There was at least one live game EVERY DAY between that day and yesterday. That’s 17 consecutive days if you’re counting.
There can be too much of a good thing, and there was too much in this case. Forty-one bowl games and 47 NFL games is overkill. It is time for four days of finding other things to watch on television than football.
USC defeated Penn State 52-49 in the Rose Bowl. I hated it.
Joe Paterno must have flipped over in his grave, not so much over the Nittany Lions losing, but for the team giving up FIFTY TWO points in a bowl game. Heck, there were some seasons where Paterno’s charges didn’t give up 52 points in half a season. In one game? Holy crap.
USC may have been known as “Tailback U” when John McKay and John Robinson led the Trojans, but USC would not have won any national championships without stellar defense. Don’t forget that one of the NFL’s best defenders this millennium, Troy Polamalu, played at USC.
The college game is so heavily tilted to the offense it isn’t funny. Yes, Alabama wins big with defense, but the Crimson Tide has Nick Saban. All of the others playing at the highest level of college football–126, at least 50 too many–don’t.
Yes, Deshaun Watson, in my opinion the best quarterback in college football this season, plays for Clemson. But last I checked, Ohio State did not score vs. the Tigers. The first time Urban Meyer has ever been shut out. FIRST. TIME. EVER. So what about that Clemson defense, huh?
If LSU had a halfway decent offense, it would have been in the playoff. The Bayou Bengals’ defense suffocated Lamar Jackson, the unworthy Heisman Trophy winner, and Louisville, which averaged 533 yards per game in the regular season. LSU’s defense was on par with any in the nation, a step below Alabama, but certainly above at least 110 of the 126 others.
I’m sorry for all those fans who like shootouts, but that’s not a winning formula. Not if you don’t have a good defense.
I do not like high scoring football. If you want to score at will, go play a video game.
People complain about the rules in the NFL being heavily tilted to the offense. If that’s the case, then the rules are tilted to the offense in college at a 90-degree angle. The defense has no chance. And with the clock stopping after every first down to move the chains, the game drags on and on and on and on.
In 2006, the NCAA changed two timing rules to try and speed the game up. One, the clock started on a kickoff when the ball was kicked, not when it was touched in the field of play; and second, the clock would restart following every change of possession when the ball was spotted ready for play, not on the snap.
I didn’t agree with those rules. That’s a little too much in trying to speed the game up. But the clock does not need to stop to move the chains, except maybe in the last two minutes of each half if the NCAA wants to keep that option in the rules.
Another idea: two timeouts per half. It works in Canada.
Okay enough ranting. I’ve got things to get done.
Five days at Buffalo Wild Wings playing tons of trivia. My ears need the rest after all the screaming, mostly by Chiefs and Iowa Hawkeyes fans.