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Another jinx vanquished

There will be no World Cup matches today, fitting since today is the 242nd anniversary of the independence of a nation which cannot fight its way out of a wet paper bag in association football, at least when it counts the most.

It’s even more fitting the World Cup is off today, because  the country celebrating the 242nd anniversary of its independence gained said independence from the country which birthed “the beautiful game”.

One of the constituent countries of the nation where association football (soccer for those snooty Americans) is still alive in the World Cup, thanks to ending a curse which had long haunted it.

England advanced by winning a shootout (kicks from the penalty mark) yesterday over Colombia.

Repeating: England advanced by winning a shootout.

Let that sink in for a few seconds.

It’s the first time The Three Lions have won a shootout in the World Cup since it was introduced to team sports’ greatest spectacle in 1978 (but not put into practice until 1982).

Previously, England had been eliminated in 1990 (semifinals vs. West Germany), 1998 (round of 16 vs. Argentina in a match which saw David Beckham draw a straight red card two minutes into the second half; that England was able to hold Argentina scoreless for 73-plus minutes was amazing) and 2006 (vs. Portugal, with Cristiano Ronaldo burying the winner).

England appeared as if it would win in normal time 1-0, with Harry Kane burying a penalty kick in the 57th mniute after he was taken down in the box rather aggressively.

Colombia played borderline dirty all match, with the manager giving an English player a hard shoulder as they exited the pitch at halftime, and another Colombian player getting away with a headbutt as they jostled in the box on a free kick.

However, Colombia’s Yerry Mina scored the equalizer only seconds from full time, and the match continued. The half-hour of extra time was scoreless, and the groans went up from Newcastle and Sunderland in the North East to Bournemouth and Southampton on the south coast, and all points in between.

The tension had to be most palpable in Sunderland and Liverpool.

English goalkeeper Jordan Pickford is a native of the North East of England. He played for Sunderland before leaving the Black Cats in the summer of 2017 after they were relegated out of the Premier League.

Everton, located in Liverpool and the archrival of the world-famous Liverpool Football Club, won the bidding war for Pickford. However, the Toffees were unable to fully take advantage of having Pickford and Wayne Rooney, finishing well behind Burnley for the final European qualifying spot, and obviously behind the Big Six of the Premier League: Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Arsenal.

FYI, the four most famous residents of Liverpool, two of whom are sadly no longer with us (one at the hands of a bloody murderer) did not care about the Merseyside Derby, the name given to the Liverpool-Everton rivalry. It was reported The Fab Four did not care much for football, at least the kind played with a round ball (Paul McCartney performed during the Super Bowl XXXVI pregame show and Super Bowl XXXIX halftime show).

In fact, when England won the 1966 World Cup at the old Wembley Stadium, Paul, John, George and Ringo were on the last leg of their last concert tour in the United States. And if you think few Americans care about soccer in 2018, the number of soccer die-hards in 1966 may have numbered less than the number of members of United States House (435).

Back to 2018, Pickford and his mates.

The announcers on Fox stated throughout extra time that Colombia was a lead-pipe cinch to advance to a quarterfinal meeting with Sweden. They felt Colombia had enough momentum from the late equalizer to score in extra time, then kept harping on England’s failure in shootouts in the past when it looked like the third shootout of the round of 16 would be a reality.

Surprisingly, English manager Gareth Southgate chose Kane to go first. Many managers save their best kicker for the fourth or fifth round, which is what the United States women did in shootouts in the World Cup finals of 1999 and 2011. In 1999, Mia Hamm, arguably the greatest female association football player to date, went fourth, leaving the heroics to Brandi Chastain and her famous sports brassiere. In 2011, Abby Wambach went fourth, but because the three before her–Shannon Boxx, Carli Lloyd and Tobin Heath all missed, it didn’t matter, and Japan won. More of the blame lies on the shoulders of Hope(less) Solo (now Stevens).

Kane and Marcus Rashford scored for England after Radamel Falcao and Juan Cudrado did the same for Colombia. Luis Muriel scored the third kick for Colombia, but Jordan Henderson’s attempt was turned aside by David Ospina, shifting the edge to Colombia.

The pressure was now on Pickford. If he could not stop Mateus Uribe, the South American side would have a huge edge, knowing it would at the very least go into sudden death.

Pickford got a piece of Uribe’s arching shot. It hit the crossbar anyway, and England’s condition was upgraded from critical to satisfactory. It became completely healed when Kieran Trippler scored to knot it up again.

Carlos Bacca stepped to the mark for Colombia. He went right, and Pickford was spot on, easily stoning the Colombian substitute forward.

Southgate sent Eric Dier onto the pitch in the 81st minute to spell Dele Alli, the Tottenham striker. Dier now was called upon to take the last kick of the regulation round. If he missed, the kicks would go into sudden death. If Dier scored, England would play again Saturday.

Dier went hard and low to his left. Ospina guessed wrong. England was jolly indeed.

England now plays Sweden, a 1-0 victor over Switzerland. The winner of that match plays the winner of Croatia-Russia, which is also Saturday.

Friday’s matches are France-Uruguay and Brazil-Belgium. I picked Croatia, England and Brazil as semifinalists before the knockout round, and I’ll stick with that. I had France playing Portugal, with Les Bleus losing. I’ll pick France to win, though, against Uruguay.

Maybe it was time for England to end its curse. The Red Sox ended the Curse of the Bambino in 2004. The Cavaliers won the 2016 NBA championship, ending Cleveland’s sports curse which spanned 51 1/2 years. The Cubs ended the Curse of the BIlly Goat by winning the 2016 World Series, their first in 108 years. The Astros broke through last year, their 56th season, to win their first World Championship. The Eagles won Super Bowl LII earlier this year, Philadelphia’s first NFL title since 1960. The Capitals won their first Stanley Cup last month, ending a long run of playoff futility.

See? Most bad things will end. The bad news? All good things WILL end sooner or later.

Meanwhile, the Rays and Marlins played 16 innings last night. How depressing. Paid attendance: 6,259. I’d like to know how many people actually went to the game in Miami, and how many were left when it ended at 0040 Eastern.

The Royals and Orioles seem to be racing to the bottom. Both have lost 60 games, and both are so far out of the playoff race they need the Hubble telescope to find the Red Sox, Yankees, Astros, Mariners and Indians. Both are on pace to lose 114 games. Neither will probably lose that many, but both will likely fall short of 60 wins.

The Royals host the Red Sox this weekend. There are only nine more big-revenue home games left on the schedule at Kauffman Stadium: the three this weekend, plus three-game sets with the Cardinals and Cubs.

In case you’re curious, the Royals and Orioles play three in Kansas City Labor Day weekend. I’m sure the ticket office at The K is burning up over ticket sales for that one.

Happy New Year, Kansas City (at least so far)

Kansas City may have suffered from bitter cold the last few days of 2017 and the first few days of 2018, but most sports fans in the city are over the moon.

Yes, Kansas’ men’s basketball team lost last night to Texas Tech, the first time the Red Raiders have ever won in Lawrence, and that dates back to when the Big 12 was formed for the 1996-97 basketball season. Tech didn’t play every year in Lawrence until 2010-11 after Colorado and Nebraska left and reduced the conference to ten teams, but that is a long time to go without a win in a given facility.

However, Kansas City’s professional sports teams are on cloud nine.

The Chiefs have bounced back from their miserable 1-6 slide to win four consecutive games heading into the playoffs. What has Chiefs fans more excited than the AFC West championship–the first time Kansas City has won division titles in back-to-back seasons in franchise history–or the playoff game Saturday at Arrowhead vs. the Titans is the play of rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes II.

Mahomes, drafted 10th overall by Kansas City after the Chiefs traded with Buffalo to move up 17 spots in the first round of the 2017 draft, saw his first regular season action and performed well, passing for 284 yards and leading the Chiefs on a game-winning drive in the closing seconds at Denver last Sunday. Mahomes’ performance may prompt the Chiefs to trade Alex Smith prior to the 2018 draft, or at the latest, during training camp. Smith will be the starter in the playoffs, but if he doesn’t get the Chiefs to the AFC Championship game, he’s likely departing One Arrowhead Drive very soon.

The Royals don’t start their 2018 campaign for almost three months, but earlier today, their fans were sent into ecstasy when it was announced first baseman Eric Hosmer was offered a 7-year, $147 million contract by the club.

Hosmer, who was drafted second overall in 2008 behind Steven Strasburg, the All-Star pitcher for the Nationals, has become arguably the second most popular player in Royals franchise history behind George Brett. Hosmer came up to the Royals in 2011 and has been a mainstay in Ned Yost’s lineup ever since, leading Kansas City to the American League pennant in 2014 and the World Series championship in 2015.

It was widely expected Hosmer, along with third baseman Mike Moustakas and center fielder Lorenzo Cain, would leave Kansas City before the 2018 season. The thought was if the Royals fell out of the 2017 playoff chase early enough, they would trade any or all of the players in order to get something in return, but Kansas City hung around long enough to convince Dayton Moore to keep the players around. The Royals faded and finished 80-82, their second consecutive non-winning season since winning the World Series (they were 81-81 in 2016).

Hosmer, Moustakas and Cain all received one-year, $17 million qualifying offers from the Royals in November. The players all rejected them and tested the free agent market.

So far, no takers.

The only player who has received interest is Hosmer, who was offered 7 years and $140 million from the Padres, who are in the midst of a massive rebuild. Right now, it looks like Hosmer will be back in Kansas City.

Moustakas and Cain might be forced to take a one-year deal in Kansas City and retest the market next winter, or else take a bargain deal from another team.

Kansas City fans wanted Hosmer back. Looks like they’ll get their wish.

Now if only the NBA and/or NHL would return to Kansas City…keep dreaming.

Sunday before sunrise

I haven’t done this in forever, but here goes.

I’m leaving Russell before sunrise so I can get to Kansas City at 11 a.m. when Buffalo Wild Wings opens. I haven’t been to the Zona Rosa location since August 4, but I figured i’d better go for my birthday, which is Tuesday.

it will be a crazy day. The Chiefs play the Bears at noon, and the Royals play the Astros in Game 3 of their American League Division Series at 3:10. The game is not available on cable in western Kansas, since it’s on MLB Network. I understand MLB’s desire to put games on its own channel, but that seems kind of cheap for baseball to do it. I can understand the NBA and NHL, simply because of the volume of games, and frankly, a lot of games don’t hold a lot of interest outside the locales of the teams.

If Major League Baseball is the national pastime, it should be available on a national network. Why isn’t ESPN televising this? Or Fox Sports 1?

I’m planning on staying through Wednesday evening, then coming home. I can’t stay through Thursday morning due to my appointment with Dr. Custer in Hays at 8:40 a.m. No way I’m leaving Kansas City at 4 a.m. It’s much easier driving east than it is driving west, trust me.

Time to get in the shower and get out. See you on the other side of the state line.

Ned is Number One

Ned Yost is now the Kansas City Royals’ winningest manager. The 3-2 victory over the Brewers at Kauffman Stadium last night was Yost’s 411th, moving him past Whitey Herzog and onto the summit.

That Yost needed only 411 victories to move to the top of the list tells me the Royals (a) have had many, many bad years, even though they made the playoffs six times (not counting the strike-shortened season of 1981) between 1976 and 1985, but more importantly (b) the manager’s seat has been a revolving door, going back all the way to  the day Ewing Kauffman was awarded the franchise in 1968.

Yost has been manager of the Royals since May 14, 2010. He has managed more games, 824, than any skiipper in team history. In September, he will surpass Dick Howser for the longest tenure in team history. Howser amanged the Royals for five full seasons and the first 55 percent of a sixth before the tragic diagnosis of brain cancer which would claim him on July 17, 1987.

Since Howser’s sad departture, the managerial position has been as unstable as an isotope of plutonium 239. And some of the people occupying the manager’s seat have been totally unworthy of being the skipper of any professional baseball team, much less one of the 30 in Major League  Baseball.

One of the worst was the man who preceded Yost. Trey Hillman was hired prior to the 2008 season after managing in Japan. Terrible hire by Dayton Moore. Just terrible. In two seasons and a month and a half of a third, Kansas City was 52 games under .500.

I happened to witness Hillman’s last game as Royals manager, a 5-4 victory over the Indians May 13, 2010. It was on a Thursday afternoon. By time I returned to my room at the Kansas City Airport Marriott, I learned Hillman had been fired and Yost, who managed the Brewers from 2003 through most of the 2008 season, was going to take over.

The next morning, I departed Kansas City and drove to Smith Center for the Mid-Continent League track and field meet. I spent most of the day listening to the two sports talk stations in Kansas City, KCSP and WHB, discuss Hillman’s firing and Yost’s hiring. None of the talking heads believed Yost was the long-term solution, and wondered if Moore had a short list for someone to come in after the 2010 season was complete.

Yost has supposedly been on the proverbial hot seat time and again. Some couldn’t believe he survived the 2012 season, when the Royals finished 72-90, the 9th time in 11 seasons they lost 90 or more. A slow start in 2013 fueled even more speculation Yost was on his way out.

Yet Kansas City turned it around following the 2013 All-Star game and stayed in the wild card hunt deep into September. An 86-76 final mark convinced Moore that Yost was the right man for the job.

Moore has been vindicated by the Royals’ performance in 2014 and the first two and a half months of 2015. And now Ned Yost will go for win 412 tonight vs. the Red Sox.

Rambling nooner

It’s high noon in Kansas City, and I’m about ready to get the heck out of my hotel room and do something. There are a few afternoon MLB games, but my big action comes tonight at 7 when LSU and TCU square off for the second time at the College World Series. TCU won Sunday 10-3, putting LSU in the unenviable position of needing to win four consecutive games to reach the championship series, something it has never done.

The Bayou Bengals defeated Cal State Fullerton 5-3 Tuesday to stay alive, while the Horned Frogs fell 1-0 to Vanderbilt, which is waiting for the winner of tonight’s game tomorrow at 7 p.m. The other bracket final is set, with Florida and Virginia playing at 2 p.m. tomorrow. The Gators need to win to force a second game between the teams Saturday afternoon. The Cavaliers defeated the Gators 1-0 Monday.

I spent almost 10 hours at Buffalo Wild Wings yesterday. It was blissful during the evening, with Brittany Davidson, Raymie Lepetit and Rue Jean-Klapproth all on shift. They were so excited to see me, and I felt the same way about seeing them. Brittany was gushing over her July 11 wedding, as she should be. I’ve been invited to the reception, and I had better go, because I shudder to think how she would feel if I didn’t show up.

Raymie is leaving for a vacation to Costa Rica Wednesday. I haven’t been outside of Kansas City since last July when I drove to Omaha and Lincoln to raid Raising Cane’s chicken fingers, which was founded in Baton Rouge.

It isn’t the chicken so much as it is the toast and the sauce. MMMMMMMMM. If the CWS weren’t in Omaha right now, I might have slipped away today. Maybe a day trip there or to Tulsa is in order.

My trivia pals Dawn and Robert showed up at happy hour. That was another nice touch.

Liz is supposed to be working today. That will be an interesting reunion. She doesn’t like it when I’m away for long periods. I’ve got to enjoy the days I see her, because she’s moving soon to Colorado. I guess that will mean a few road trips west.

She isn’t the only one leaving. Lisa is moving to Chicago with Jeff very soon. Jeff showed up sans Lisa last night, because she’s in St. Louis for her brother’s wedding.

It’s going to get very hot starting this weekend. The mercury in Russell will be hovering near 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) consistently through at least next Wednesday. OUCH. This means if I want to do anything in Hays before my appointment with Crista next Thursday, going to have to do it very early to avoid the heat.

The Royals are rolling at the expense of the Brewers. Except for the ninth inning Monday when Kansas City reliever Greg Holland got shelled for three runs, Milwaukee has become beyond inept. KC won 7-2 Tuesday and 10-2 last night. More of the same on the way. The Royals had better take advantage of tonight and three games this weekend at home against a bad Boston team.

Not counting Christmas Eve and breaks during the playoffs, last night was the first night without an NBA or NHL game since early October. For those who don’t like baseball, there isn’t much choice in the sports world, especially on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, until August when NFL exhibition games crank up. The weekends have golf. And please resist the temptation to watch Wimbledon. I would rather get a root canal without anesthetic than watch tennis right now, especially women’s tennis.

I like my baseball plain, thank you

The Orioles defeated the White Sox 8-2 this afternoon at Baltimore in what is believed to be the first Major League Baseball game to be closed to the public.

The decision to bar ticket holding fans from Camden Yards was made due to the rioting which has been going on in Baltimore since the death of Freddie Gray, who suffered fatal injuries when he was in the custody of Baltimore police earlier this month.

I have no sympathy whatsoever for the rioting thugs. There is a major difference between peaceful protest, like Martin Luther King Jr. and the March on Washington in 1983 or the Alabama march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965,and the type of looting and destruction going on in Baltimore right now, or what went on in Ferguson, Mo., last year, or in south central Los Angeles on this night in 1992 following the verdict in the Rodney King beating trial of four Los Angeles police officers.

Enough social commentary. Back to baseball.

The Orioles game was open only to credentialed media members, of which there were about 100, Orioles and White Sox employees, and those who had a legitimate function at the game. The game was televised in Baltimore and Chicago and those with SiriusXM radio like myself (although I didn’t listen) could tune in.

The game was played in two hours three minutes. You want to know why?

NO STUPID PROMOTIONS TO SLOW THE GAME DOWN.

As much as I enjoy Major League Baseball and I like going to games, I don’t think I could stand going to 81 homes games–or even one-fifth that many–due to all the asinine and inane things which go on in between innnings.

Do we need a pointless trivia question after every half inning? Do we need to have some idiot with a wireless microphone go into the stands to embarrass someone who probably could care less about being on the stadium’s big screen TV, someone who probably just wants to be left alone and enjoy the game with whomever he or she came with?

The Royals are among the most egregious violators. Since moving to Kansas, I have never been to a Royals game where there has not been an overabundance of lunacy and promotions which belong at a carnival, not a professional sporting event.

The worst is the hot dog race, which in Kansas City is sponsored by Heinz. This is a ripoff of the dot race which began in 1984 at Arlington Stadium, the old home of the Texas Ranges. I didn’t care for it then, and I certainly don’t care for it now.

Even worse about Kansas City’s hot dog race is KETCHUP is one of the three participants. KETCHUP. That’s un-American. I don’t care if you’re 3 or 103. YOU DO NOT PUT KETCHUP ON A  HOT DOG. Period. Cut and dried. If the Royals insist on having ketchup in the race, there ought to be a way that ketchup never wins, much like Teddy Roosevelt never wins in the president’s races at Washington Nationals games.

The worst is the kiss cam. Seriously. KISS CAM? Can’t people have some privacy?

I worked one summer for the New Orleans Zephrys, a Triple-A baseball team. I loathed the stupid dizzy bat race. I could not stand the stupid race around the bases between a kid and Boudreaux, the nutria which is the Zephyr’s mascot.

When I go to a Major League Baseball game, I do not pay good money to park, to get into the gate and to eat mediocre food to watch some idiot with a microphone in between innings. I pay that money to watch BASEBALL. Major League Baseball. The game is more than enough to me.

If promotions departments would eliminate those childish hijinks, I guarantee they will save 25-30 minutes per night.

Sadly, this crap has permeated to the NBA and NHL. Every timeout, every stoppage of play in those sports is time for some fan to make a fool of himself or herself. The NFL doesn’t have these bad ideas. Doesn’t seem to hurt their crowds.

Party like it’s 1985

The Royals won again last night. The Brewers and Indians both lost.

This is starting to look a lot like 1985. That was the year Kansas City won its first–and only–World Series championship, rallying from a 3-1 deficit vs. St. Louis, thanks in large part, though, to a blown call at first base in the ninth inning of game six by umpire Don Denkinger.

Meanwhile, the Brewers and Indians were in a dog-eat-dog race for sixth place in the American League East. The two teams occupied the bottom rungs of the division in 1984, with Cleveland 75-87 and Milwaukee 67-94. Although the Brewers played the entire 1984 season without their future Hall of Fame third baseman and team leader, Paul Molitor, there wasn’t much hope for the Wisconsinites even with Molitor healthy in 1985. The Brewers, who won the American League pennant in 1982 and came within one win of a world championship, simply didn’t have any pitching, despite Molitor and another Hall of Fame shoo-in, Robin Yount, anchoring the offense.

At least Milwaukee could hit. Cleveland couldn’t hit, nor could it pitch.

Sure enough, when the season ended, Milwaukee found itself 71-90 and in sixth place, a cool 25 1/2 games behind division champion Toronto.

As bad as that was, Cleveland was 11 1/2 games WORSE, going 60-102. The only thing which saved the Indians from the worst record in the Majors was the beyond pathetic Pirates, who were 57-104.

Pittsburgh baseball hit rock bottom in 1985. Numerous Pirates, both on the 1985 team and since departed, were addicted to cocaine, and they were subpoenaed by a grand jury in the Steel City to testify about the rampant use of the illicit drug in Major League Baseball.

Although the 2015 season is not a month old, the Brewers and Indians are in free fall. Through tonight’s games, they are a combined 10-30 (Cleveland 6-13, Milwaukee 4-17), and not surprisingly, own the worst records in their respective leagues.

The Cardinals and Dodgers, the two teams which played for the National League pennant in 1985, lead their divisions. The Mets, whose 98 victories left them three games shy of St. Louis in the NL East, have the best record in the Senior Circuit right now. 1985 AL East champion Toronto is hovering around .500, but it’s early, and the AL East figures to be a mediocre division.

I wasn’t quite nine years old in April 1985, but for some reason, several events from that month stick out in my mind three decades later.

The first came on the night of April Fool’s Day, when Villanova stunned Georgetown in the NCAA men’s basketball national championship game at Lexington’s Rupp Arena.

The Hoyas won the 1984 national championship, and with three-time All-American and 1984 National Player of the year Patrick Ewing back for his senior campaign, John Thompson’s club was the overwhelming favorite to repeat.

Villanova finished fourth in the rugged Big East Conference, finishing behind Georgetown, St. John’s and Syracuse. The Wildcats of coach Rollie Massamino earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, which expanded to 64 teams in 1985. The Wildcats, who had not been to the Final Four since All-American Howard Porter starred for the south Philadelphia Catholic school in 1971, were seeded eighth (out of 16) in the Southeast region.

However, once the tournament began, the Wildcats roared to life. They upended top seed MIchigan in the second round, and won regional games at Birmingham over ACC powers Maryland (led by Len Bias) and North Carolina to reach the Final Four, where they would be joined by conference rivals Georgetown and St. John’s, plus Memphis State (now Memphis) from the now-defunct Metro Conference.

Villanova dispatched Memphis State and Georgetown ousted St. John’s to set up the fourth meeting of the season between the Catholic schools, separated by less than 150 miles of Interstate 95.

The Wildcats played what has been called by many the best half of basketball in tournament history in the second half. Villanova hit 22 of 25 field goal attempts, an astonishing 88 percent, and won 66-64.

It was the final game before the NCAA adopted a shot clock for all games. Several conferences had experimented with it in the early 1980s, but it was not universally adopted until the fall of 1985.

Less than 48 hours after Villanova’s amazing victory, my parents, my brother and I departed for an Easter vacation to Walt Disney World.

Let me just say that trip is not one of the most pleasant memories of my life.

In fact, the opposite.

The first night told me this would be trouble. My father insisted on stopping for dinner at a truck stop off of Interstate 10 in the Florida panhandle, approximately 70 miles west of Tallahassee, the state capital and the city where we would stop for the night before completing the trip to Orlando the next day.

The food was terrible. The service was awful, and we got the short shrift since we were not truckers. My dad vowed never to eat at a truck stop again, the only good thing to come out of this trip.

The next day, it went from bad to worse.

One of the tires on our 1978 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser station wagon went flat on Interstate 75 near Gainesville, home to the Florida Gators. I already was not enamored with Florida, since it was a rival of LSU’s in the Southeastern Conferenc,e but the tire blowout gave me another reason to loathe Gainesville.

It wouldn’t be the last bad experience with the city.

Since only one tire was damaged, my dad put the spare on and we made it to Kissimmee, where we checked into our hotel.

I found nothing really exciting about the exhibits at Disney World. The lines were way too long. At least a cold front came through central Florida, meaning it was nowhere near as bad as it could have been. However, the Saturday before Easter, we were stuck in the hotel most of the day by rain.

We visited Epcot Center the last full day, which was far better in my estimation than the Magic Kingdom. If I had my druthers, I would have far preferred Anaheim to Orlando.

When we left the Tuesday after Easter, my father got lost and we took a circuitous route back to the Florida Turnpike, which led to I-75 south of Ocala. Gainesville was on the horizon.

And more trouble.

Two tire blowouts on one trip is almost unheard of. To have it happen in the same city must mean we did something very wrong to anger God.

This time, TWO tires were blown out in Gainesville, and we spent almost three hours in a Firestone store in Gainesville while the tires were repaired.

I have not looked at photos from this trip. Ever. Maybe they were flooded by Katrina.

Two weeks after the trip to Disney World, New Coke debuted.

There were rampant rumors throughout the first quarter of 1985 Coca-Cola would be changing its formula in order to combat the rapid rise of Pepsi, which had been a rival of Coke’s for nearly a century, yet never could come close to eclipsing Coke’s popularity, especially in the South. Coca-Cola’s world headquarters are in Atlanta, and in the Deep South, when you say “soft drink”, it almost always means “Coke”. Pepsi is frowned upon as “Yankee Cola” by many southerners, although it was invented in North Carolina.

April 23, 1985 was the big day. It wasn’t a day which will live in infamy, like Pearl Harbor Day was, but it certainly will be remembered as the introduction of one of the great marketing flops in American history.

Less than three months after New Coke hit the shelves, Coca-Cola agreed to bring back the old formula as Coca-Cola Classic. You would have thought cancer and AIDS had been cured in one fell swoop.

Nobody had any idea what was in store for the rest of 1985. But April had more than its fair share of hijinks.

Did it rain last night?

Just before 10 a.m. this Saturday morning, the sun is out. You never would have dreamed Russell County experienced severe thunderstorms only 16 hours ago.

Going back to yesterday and the early termination of the track meets at Osborne and Phillipsburg, I can remember a few other meets which were affected by rain:

  • 2006 at Norton–the Bluejays were unlucky that year. The meet was called off on its original date, April 7, due to cold and rain. Believe me, it would have been a miserable day for all. The new date, April 25, also found it cold and wet, so the meet was completely canceled.
  • 2006 at Hill City–the meet got underway at 4 p.m. (way too late) as scheduled. Two hours later, severe weather moved in and forced the meet to be called. I drove as fast as I could down US 283 to I-70 at WaKeeney to beat the heavy rain, which I did. The meet resumed the next day, although I did not attend.
  • 2007 Russell Invitational–meet originally scheduled for April 5, but rained out. Held April 16. Russell has two meets each year, the Russell Invitational in April and the Russell Relays in May.
  • 2007 at Norton–meet rained out on original date, April 6. Rescheduled and conducted April 23.
  • 2007 state meet–Saturday’s action was interrupted by over three hours due to heavy rain. I later learned the Kansas State High School Activities Association was very close to calling the meet and sending everyone home. The rain ended just in the nick of time, and the meet lasted until 10:30 that evening. That was the first year the 3,200 meter races were moved from Saturday to Friday, or else it would have been closer to midnight before everyone left Cessna Stadium.
  • 2013 at Smith Center–Redmen Relays scheduled for April 9, but called due to snow. Held April 12 with different field.
  • 2013 MCL at Hill City–several events conducted in the rain. Cold front came through with the rain, and thank God I had warm clothes and my parka to put on.

Yesterday marked six years to the day of a memorable event for me at Osborne.

I found a $50 bill laying on the ground near a gate which led from the bleachers to the track and football field. I did not think twice about bringing the cash to the press box so its owner could be located. Public address announcer Rex Johnston at first only announced he had a Federal Reserve Note to be claimed; not mentioning whose picture was on the bill, or of course the denomination.

Eventually, the unfortunate lady and her money were reunited, and I received $5 for finding her greenback.

If it had been a $1 bill, maybe I pocket it. But $50? I could not in good conscience pocket that much.

It turns out rain was not limited to Kansas.

The Royals-White Sox game in Chicago was suspended in the 9th inning with the score tied 2-2. The game will resume at 1:10 this afternoon, followed by the regularly scheduled game. However, more rain is forecast. If the teams are unable to play, the suspended game will be finished tomorrow, and today’s game gets made up on one of Kansas City’s other trips to the South Side.

It wasn’t until 2007 when Major League Baseball regular season games could be supsended. However, this provision only applies when five or more innings are completed and the game is tied. If the game is not tied after five, the game is over. If the game hasn’t reached five, it is scrubbed and starts over. In the postseason, the game is suspended, no matter the score and inning, and nine innings must be completed.

The Royals have the best record in the American League, 12-4, one-half game in the win column behind the Mets, who saw their 11-game winning streak end last night at Yankee Stadium. The worst team in MLB? The Brewers. 3-14. Lovely.

Baseball drowned

The rain continues to fall in Kansas City, and because Mother Nature will not back off, there will be no baseball at Kauffman Stadium tonight. Game three of the American League championship series between the Royals and Orioles has been postponed. It will simply be played at 7:07 p.m. tomorrow, when game four was supposed to start. Game four is now set for 3:07 p.m. Wednesday, and if a fifth game is needed, it will be played at 3:07 Thursday.

Got to Buffalo Wild Wings at 2:30. As can be expected on a wet, windy and rainy Monday, not much action. The management was going to bring in 12 servers if the Royals played tonight, but with the game washed away, they don’t need nearly as many.

It’s Monday, so it means The Pulse at 7 p.m. I finished a meager ninth nationally last week, but it was enough to extend my streak of top-10 finishes to 10 straight. It was the first time since July 14 (did not play July 21) that I was anything but first or second.

Dan and Pam left me some mini cupcakes and a card for my birthday. Alexandra Mullinax left me a cookie cake. Very thoughtful. Too bad Alex and Brittany aren’t going to the Royals game tonight. Tori is behind the bar, Ashley is waiting on me, so all is okay.

Brookville boo-boo

It rained off and on all the way from Kansas City to Brookville yesterday. It would not stop raining in Brookville until late in the second quarter. This made for an interesting night.

I had a rain cover for my camera, and I would have used it, but I could not get my flash over the rain cover, so I ditched the cover. It wasn’t raining that hard.

The bigger problem was my game notes. I always pride myself on being able to keep a running play-by-play of the game even though I’m taking pictures. I’ll take the play-by-play I write down on the sideline and feed it to The Automated Scorebook on my computer, and it will spit the stats out immediately. I would operate TAS live from the press box when I worked for The Advocate, and that saved me so much time, since I didn’t have to sit there and manually add up statistics. I could just print out the stats and play-by-play, write the story, file it, and be done 15-20 minutes following the game.

My first quarter play-by-play from last night almost didn’t make it. It was quite soggy. The second quarter was a struggle, too, but it was because the paper was wet. Fortunately, the rain abated, and the second half was much easier.

I was also glad I brought two jackets. My parka was soaked after the first half, and I changed to my Milwaukee Brewers dugout jacket for the final 24 minutes. Not as warm, but I had two layers over my turtleneck anyway.

Last night’s Smith Center-Ell Saline football game proved two things:

  1. Mother Nature is often a great equalizer.
  2. Special teams matter.

Both points were proven early. A fine punt by Smith Center’s Kody Zabel and excellent coverage by the Redmen following the game’s first offensive possession left the Cardinals marooned inside their own 10-yard line. Two plays later, Ell-Saline quarterback Luiz Antonio Arceo could not handle the muddy football following a low snap, and the Redmen had the ball at the 4.

Nick Lehmkuhl scored two plays later, and just like that, it was Smith Center 7, Ell-Saline 0, and the game wasn’t four minutes old.

Smith Center looked poised to add to its lead when it used a lengthy drive to reach the Ell-Saline 5, but on fourth down, a low snap to Thayne Benoit did not allow the play to come off, and the Cardinals took over on downs. The first half ended with the same 7-0 score.

It took all of 20 seconds of the second half for the score to change.

Arceo fielded the second half kickoff near the left sideline. He found a wall of red shirts and followed them to the middle of the field, and reached the Redmen 3. One play later, he scored on a keeper around the right side. The conversion failed, but it was a new game at 7-6.

The Redmen looked like they would strike right back when Kaden Meitler returned the next kickoff to the Ell-Saline 14, but that drive came up empty when the Cardinals held on downs with a fourth-and-two at the 6. The Smith Center defense held, and following Arceo’s punt, the visitors had the ball at the Ell-Saline 22.

Guess what? No points. Despite first down from the 12, Smith Center couldn’t pick up the first down from there, and then Zabel missed a 22-yard field goal attempt.

The next Smith Center drive did result in points. For the wrong team.

The Redmen again penetrated the red zone, but with the ball at the 18, Meitler fumbled on a run around left end. Ell-Saline linebacker Luke Sheridan spotted the loose ball and picked it up, and began running the other way. Benoit was in position to make the tackle inside the Smith Center 20, but a good block downfield allowed Sheridan to complete an 80-yard touchdown jaunt. Arceo this time was successful on the conversion, which proved to be critical. Ell-Saline led 14-7 at the end of the quarter, although Smith Cneter was driving.

Six plays into the final period, Benoit spotted Zabel open over the middle. His pass got over the outstretched hand of Cody Walters, and after making the catch, Zabel rumbled into the end zone from 34 yards out. Now, if Zabel could convert the extra point, it would be deadlocked with 9:26 to go, and overtime would be a real possibility for the second time in three seasons between the schools.

Except that Zabel missed. There was still 9:26 to go, but the Cardinals still had the lead.

That 14-13 score did not change. Smith Center never got close to scoring again, and its final play was a Benoit pass which was intercepted by Noah Bradley. Despite gaining 64 net yards and picking up just five first downs, going 0-for-8 on 3rd down conversions and losing the time of possession battle by nine minutes, the Cardinals prevailed, winning for the first time in three games vs. Smith Center. The Redmen won 43-8 at Brookville last year and 20-18 in overtime at Smith Center in 2012. In the 2012 game, the Cardinals missed their conversion in overtime after having the ball first; the Redmen scored and Payton Buckmaster ran in the conversion to win.

The Redmen saw their 33-game winning streak in district games ended. They had not lost a disirict game since October 2003 to Norton at home.

More importantly, Smith Center’s string of 11 consecutive state playoff appearances is in trouble. Not only must the Redmen hope the Cardinals lose at least one district game out of three, they must also defeat Bennington and Phillipsburg in the final two weeks. The best hope would be to hope Phillipsburg wins against Republic County and Ell-Saline, and then Smith Center beats the Panthers in the regular season finale Oct. 30 to force a three-way tie. Since Smith Center lost to Ell-Saline by only one point, the Redmen would need to beat Phillipsburg by two to finish among the top two in a three-way tiebreaker. If Ell-Saline beats Phillipsburg, of course, the winner of the Redmen-Panthers game would finish second behind the Brookville boys.

Following the game, I listened to the Royals-Orioles game. Incredibly, Kansas City got TWO MORE home runs in extra innings to win a postseason game. Alex Gordon led off the 10th with a solo shot, and Mike Moustakas added a two-run clout to put the Royals up 8-5. The Orioles scored once in the bottom of the 10th, but Greg Holland shut the door, allowing the Royals to prevail 8-6 and take a 1-0 lead in the American League Championship Series.

It was midnight when I got off I-435 at Missouri Highway 152, so I decided to go to Buffalo Wild Wings and see who was there. Liz was, and of course she had a big smile when she saw me. Both Morgans, Gilliand (who’s six-plus months pregnant) and Tomec, were there, as was Alexandra Mullinax. Since I was staying only three miles away at the Courtyard on Tiffany Springs, I stayed until a little after 1 before leaving.

Today is going to be hell for the crew at Buffalo Wild Wings. Missouri plays Georgia at 11, the Royals play at 3. LSU plays at 6:30, but who cares?