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New dot connected

I apologize for not blogging since getting back from Beloit Friday night. I’ve been battling a cold the last few days, and combined with the heavy workload which comes following a week full of basketball games, blogging moved down a few notches on my priority list.

If there’s ever a good time to catch a cold for me, it would have been last weekend. It was the one weekend in February where I do not have a wrestling tournament to cover, and since Valentine’s Day was Saturday, I figured if a single guy had to be sick, why not be sick on Valentine’s Day? I totally avoided social media that day. Not that I wanted to rain on anyone’s parade, but I felt it would be the best way to avoid trouble. No problems for certain.

I’m well enough to be back on the road tonight covering basketball. Tonight’s journey takes me to a new destination and a gym the likes of which I have not seen before, or may not see again.

I am in Kinsley, the seat of Edwards County. The town touts itself as the dead center of the United States, exactly halfway between San Francisco and New York City, even though the official geographic center of the lower 48 is near Lebanon in Smith County, about 12 miles from Smith Center. Kinsley may not have much, but it does get a heck of a lot of 18-wheeler traffic, since it lies at the junction of three US highways–50, 56 and 183. 50 and 56 join at Kinsley for a westward journey to Dodge City before splitting again at Dodge, with 50 going to Garden City and 56 to Liberal. I came south on 183 from Hays to Kinsley, although it would have been shorter for me to go from Russell to Great Bend on US 281 south and then southwest on 56.

Kinsley is a member of the Central Prairie League, the same as Victoria. With Russell’s teams off tonight, I figured it might be a good idea to see something new and cover Victoria at the same time.

Well, the Kinsley gym is unique.

It isn’t very hard to find. It’s separate from the rest of the school facing the business district. You can tell it’s a gym–not only is the building shaped like a gym on the outside, it’s lettered in plain sight for eveyrone to see. Good idea.

Once inside, it’s a sight to behold.

There is a small lobby when you enter on the west side. The bleachers on the south side are small, what you might expect from a small-town gym.

The north side bleachers are like nothing you’ll ever see in a gym.

Not only are the north side bleachers steep, but they are carpeted. It’s like sitting on the living room floor of your home. I don’t know about what it does to people with backaches, but it’s got to be a lot better on the butt than wood or gym floor.

There isn’t much room between the baseline and the wall, but I’ve seen many gyms with less.

Hey, now I can say I’ve been to Kinsley, something a lot of reporters in this state can’t say. Another dot filled in on the map.

This is the prelude to the big event this weekend, the regional wrestling tournament in Norton I will be covering Friday and Saturday. It will be my fourth event in Norton this year, but it will be my fourth stay this month alone at the Sleep Inn, since i’ve used it for pivots for events in Oberlin and Phillipsburg as well as Norton.

For those who may not know, today is Mardi Gras. In less than seven hours, Lent will begin, and there won’t be any more parading in the Big Easy until early next year. I don’t miss Mardi Gras. I went to my last parade in 1994, and I swore I would never go to one again. The only exception might be to Thoth to see my friends ride..

Lots to catch up on

I went into another Howard Hughes phase since last Monday and disappeared from the face of the blogosphere. I apologize.

Part of it was because the bluetooth keyboard for my iPhone stopped functioning last Tuesday (Jan. 13), the day I went to Gypsum to cover the Russell at Southeast of Saline basketball games. It just plum stopped. Nothing. It wasn’t the batteries, because I tried new batteries in it.

I ordered a new one immediately from Best Buy that day before I went to Southeast. I was intending on going to Wichita the next day to pick it up, but after getting my work done at 2:30 that afternoon, I just went back to Buffalo Wild Wings and stayed until 8:30, when I drove back to Russell.

I could not get my butt up early enough Thursday to go down. I took a Seroquel pill the night before, and I did not fully wake up until almost 3. I went to Hays that evening with Larry Bernard and Jerry Driscoll to watch Russell’s dual wrestling meet with TMP-Marian, which lasted all of 37 minutes. Jerry took us to eat at Applebee’s afterward, which was very nice.

Friday wasn’t an option regardless of when I woke up, since I was going to Smith Center for the Redmen and Lady Red’s basketball games against TMP. The Monarchs won both, taking the girls 52-47 and the boys 75-42; the latter had a running clock in the fourth quarter.

Seroquel again took control of my day Saturday. Could not for the life of me get going, but finally, I found enough energy to drive to Plainville for the Mid-Continent League basketball tournament. I wanted to go see Norton’s girls play so I could see my dear friend Peggy Cox, whose daughter Caitlyn is a starter for the Lady Bluejays. I stayed after Norton defeated Oakley to watch Phillipsburg’s boys down Smith Center.

I went to Buffalo Wild Wings Sunday, but I did not stay for too long. I had a flood of e-mails come in from Kirby Ross, the editor of the Phillips County Review, and I got nervous about getting everything done for the week, since I knew Monday night would be shot with Russell playing two basketball games in the Hoisington tournament.

I left Salina at 3:30 and drove to Wichita. I went to Best Buy to get the keyboard resolved and then checked in at the Springhill Suites at 13th and Greenwich. I got all of Osborne’s work done in the evening, plus a few Phillipsburg stories.

The next morning, I got my column done before getting out of there at noon. Elaine Mercer wanted to see me in the office, so I did my best to haul butt north and west. I arrived at 3 and we had a very productive 25-minute chat.

Russell won both of its basketball games Monday, defeating Otis-Bison each time. The boys won for only the second time this season. The Cougars were without 6-foot-6 standout Kyle Patrick, but Russell wasn’t feeling sorry for O-B, which happens to be the alma mater of one of my good buddies, Smith Center volleyball and girls basketball coach Nick Linn.

Tuesday was the usual grind to get all of my work done. I had Phillipsburg done at 8 a.m., save for a story on Thunder Ridge’s girls game Monday night which I did as soon as the information came in at 8:40. Ellis was done before noon, Smith Center by 2, and Plainville by 3. Nobody was complaining.

The only downside was I didn’t get out of the house in time to see Victoria’s girls play Ellinwood in the Hoisington tournament. Sadly, the Knights lost 58-19, but the Eagles are 9-0 and ranked second in Class 2A by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association, trailing only defending state champion Central Plains. Elllinwod and Central Plains, like Victoria, are all members of the Central Prairie League.

I stopped at the Dairy Queen in Hoisington for a mint Oreo blizzard, then got to the Activity Center at 4:15. I didn’t go in; instead, I listened to a recording while I napped in the car.

Victoria’s boys fared no better than the girls. The Knights fell behind Hoisington by 25 points and lost 61-47. I left at the end of the third quarter so I could get my steak fingers at DQ.

I went to bed at 11:20. I knew I would have to get up early because I had an important 9 a.m. appointment at Hays. I did get up early, at 5:30, to get some stories written before leaving.

I almost didn’t find my phone before going to Hays. I called my phone from the land line in the house, but stupid me had the silencer on, so I could not find it until the fourth call. But I made to Hays on time.

My appointment went exceedingly well. EXCEEDINGLY well. Got back to Russell at 10:30, and by 1:30, the pages were done.

Buffalo Wild Wings on a Wednesday night. It’s good. Promise not to go so long between posts again.

Laziness continues

I have got to get out of Russell. Not blogging is not good.

No trips to Kansas City. I’ve been spending most of my time writing and in high school gyms.

Last Friday and Saturday were largely spent at Russell High and Middle schools, watching the Amos Morris-George Stephens Classic. Morris was the coach of the Broncos from 1949 through 1966, leading Russell to 301 victories and four state championships. The RHS gymnasium is named after hijm, but he did the majority of his coaching at what is now the middle school. The current RHS building did not open until the fall of 1961, which also happened to be a few months after my dad graduated.

The hometown teams each went 1-1 over the weekend. The Lady Broncos advanced to the tournament championship game Friday by defeating Plainville, but Russell was run over 63-39 by Central Plains of Claflin in the title tilt. Russell’s boys won a consolation game over Lincoln on a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Colten Fritschen, but

I did take some time Sunday to watch the NFL, mind you. Thankfully, the Fox affiliate in Wichita opted not to to show Johnny Manziel’s first game as an NFL starting quarterback. Many Fox stations throughout the country, including those in Lincoln and Topeka, opted to switch from showing Green Bay at Buffalo to Cincinnati at Cleveland.

At first, I feared the Wichita affiliate would do the same, but thakfully, it stuck with Packers-Bills.

Great move. The Bengals bludgeoned the Browns 30-0, holding Cleveland to a meager 107 yards. Manziel was just 10 of 18 for 88 yards.

Meanwhile, Buffalo pulled off a surprise, beating Green Bay 21-13 to knock the Packers temporarily out of first place in the NFC North. The Packers and Detroit are both 10-4, but the Lions won the earlier meeting at home. The teams meet at Lambeau Field on the final Sunday of the season.

The Cardinals clinched a playoff berth late Sunday when the Cowboys-Eagles game didn’t end in a tie. Dallas won 38-27 to take over first place in the NFC East.

Monday Night Football was beyond awful. Saints 31, Bears 15. It should not have been that close.

I wrote all day Tuesday, getting done a little before 4, which gave me enough time to get presentable and drive to Victoria for the Knights’ basketball games vs. TMP-Marian. The Monarchs won the girls varsity game 64-30. The boys game was a thriller, with Bryan Dome’s driving layup with one second left lifting the home team to a 58-56 triumph.

Had to write early Wednesday to get my stuff for the Russell paper done before noon. Missed it, but only by 10 minutes. Nobody was complaining.

Last night I rode with Russell High principal Larry Bernard to the Broncos’ wrestling double dual at Lincoln. There weren’t many contested matches for Russell grapplers vs. Stafford and Lincoln, and I was home before 8.

Getting out of here in a little bit. Going to Norton for basketball and staying the night.

Back to it

I did it again. I negelcted yet another blog. Going ten days without a post is totally unacceptable.

On the other hand, there just hasn’t been much happy news to report. I’ve been mostly miserable, save for the football games I’ve had to cover. If it had not been for those football games, plus a trip to Topeka last Thursday, it would have been pure hell.

Going all the way back to the day of my last post, the Phillipsburg-Oakley game was the coldest sporting event I’ve ever covered. The temperature was 27 degrees at kickoff, and a biting south wind dropped the wind chill into the mid-teens. I could not wear gloves because I was trying to take pictures and write down each play as it went, and my fingers paid a heavy price.

As bad as it was with the cold, I nearly made it much worse. There four space heaters on Oakley’s sidleline–I did not go to Phillipsburg’s side because I wanted to avoid certain people from a rival paper–and I attempted to warm up my frozen hands by sticking one in front of the heater.

Terrible idea. It got so hot I had to pull the hand away immediately. I was afraid I had damaged nerves in my hand, but that wasn’t the case. My hands were still frozen, though, and I was fearing any longer in this weather would cause frostbite. Coincidentally, I was thumbing through an e-book about the Ice Bowl, the 1967 NFL championship game between the Cowboys and Packers in Green Bay where the temperature was 13 degrees below zero at kickoff, with a wind chill of 38 below. Quite a few players who played in the Ice Bowl received permanent frostbite from that day.

At halftime, I went to my car to warm up. Fortunately, I was parked right across the street from the entrance to the stadium, so I didn’t have to walk but a few feet. I ditched my camera for the second half and just took notes. At least I was able to put a hand in my pockets in between plays.

I stayed home the weekend after that game due to a forecast of snow. There was no snow, at least in Russell, and I didn’t have the best weekend. LSU got shut out by Arkansas, and all I wanted to do Sunday is sleep after eating my mother’s pasta.

It all began to go downhill a week ago Monday. It was the first day of practice for basketball and wrestling at high schools across Kansas, and I was asked to go take some pictures at Russell High. I really didn’t want to do it, because it was in the low 20s outside and I really didn’t feel like practice pictures could make that much of a difference, but they insisted.

I was very upset. I threatened to quit. I threatened worse. I began to send out desperate e-mails to people about how sad I was. I went out and got the pictures, but I still was not a happy camper.

The next morning, I went to visit my primary care physician, Dr. Shanon Custer, in Hays. We discussed my depression, and she said she would refer me to High Plains Mental Health in Hays. I agreed to go, and I ended up going the next day.

The visit to High Plains–where I was a patient many years ago–was routine and just was designed to get me back into the system. I have my first appointment with my counselor on Dec. 11.

Thursday was another trip to Topeka, this time to pick up a hand warmer at Dick’s Sporting Goods. That was a great idea, as I would find out the next night.

I wore my hand warmer at the Phillipsburg-Ell-Saline semifinal football game at Phillipsburg. I would put a hand inside the warmer, and it would immediately feel much better. No worries about frostbite this time.

The host Panthers dropped a 22-21 heartbreaker. They had the ball at the Ell-Saline 1-yard line with 17 seconds remaining, but a fumbled snap ended their hopes. The Cardinals earned a berth in the Class 2-1A state championship game this Saturday vs. Olpe.

I had to leave Russell before dawn Saturday to go to Newton for the 8-man Division Ii state championship game Saturday at 11 a.m. It was foggy the whole drive down, and the fog did not lift until late in the game.

Victoria easily defeated Attica/Argonia 52-8. The Knights led 36-0 at halftime and allowed the Titans, who scored 751 points in their first 12 games, just 163 yards.

I’ve been at the Wichita Marriott since Saturday’s game. I spent most of Sunday sleeping. I’ve got work to get done today and tomorrow. Back to Russell Wednesday.

Sunday rewind

It turned out the drive from Russell to Dodge City yesterday was more than twice as long as the football game in Minneola lasted.

Victoria wasted no time in putting away the home team. The Knights scored 28 points in the first quarter and kept pouring it on in the second, crushing the Wildcats 64-12. The game was terminated at halftime by the 45-point mercy rule, which applies to most 8-man games in Kansas. Under the “slaughter rule”, a game ends immediately at halftime or any point in the second half when one team gains a lead of 45 points or more. The 11-man playoffs, except for championship games,

Knights quarterback Brady Dinkel was 5 of 7 for 146 yards. All five of those completions were for touchdowns, and none of them were gimmes, either: they covered 42, 15, 31, 39 and 19 yards. Dinkel also had two touchdown runs, the first a 47-yard scamper just 2:03 into the game. Victoria’s defense also scored twice, a fumble return of 25 yards by Eric McAlonan in the first quarter and a 55-yard interception return by Noah Dreilling with 37 seconds left which made sure the game would end by the mercy rule.

Victoria now hosts Wallace County (11-0) from Sharon Springs in the semifinals Friday. Someone else will have to cover, since I’m already committed to going to Phillipsburg at Oakley.

LSU lost in overtime last night to Alabama. The Tigers took a 13-10 lead with under two minutes to go on a field goal, but the ensuing kickoff went out of bounds, allowing the Crimson Tide to start from its own 35. Indeed, Alabama drove down and kicked a field goal to tie the game. The Tide got the ball first in overtime and scored a touchdown. LSU could not, and once again, the Bayou Bengals came up short against their former coach, Nick Saban.

Taking today to relax and catch up on work in Dodge City. Back to Russell tomorrow. And then the cold front comes in, and it will be brutally cold come Friday night.


For the second time in the past three Saturdays, I left Russell early to go south and west to cover a high school sporting event.

The first part of the journey, I-70 from Russell to WaKeeney and then US 283 from WaKeeney to Ness City, was exactly the same as it was two weeks ago. I made a stop at Wal-Mart in Hays and found my favorite Ghardelli chocolate. I need to load up at Hy-Vee the next time I’m in Kansas City, although I bet the one in Topeka will have it too.

In case you’re curious, every November and December, Ghardelli of San Francisco puts out the best chocolate I’ve ever tasted. Peppermint bark, which is white choclate flecked with peppermint over milk or dark chocolate; pumpkin spice, milk chocolate with caramel in the middle; and the best of all, egg nog. I am so tempted to pay $180 to buy a case of the egg nog chocolate squares.

I guess I shouldn’t be buying Ghardelli in Kansas City, given the Giants beat the Royals in the World Series. I’m also being disloyal to Russell Stover, the candy giant which is headquartered in Kansas City, has a giant distribution factory in Abilene, and was founded by a man born in Alton, a microscopic village in western Osborne County.

The second half of this trip was much different than the one two weeks ago. Instead of heading west on Kansas Highway 96 through Dighton and on to Scott City, I kept on trucking down US 283 all the way to Dodge City.

There was a big rig hauling large pipes which I passed just south of WaKeeney. He stayed on my tail all the way to Jetmore-65 miles south of WaKeeney–before he had to slow down through the city limits of the Hodgeman County seat. There were a few cars I had to pass between Jetmore and the junction with US 50/56 north of Dodge City, but it was otherwise a very smooth drive south.

I actually bypassed the heart of Dodge City to the north on US 50, realizing that the TownePlace Suites was on the west edge of Wyatt Earp Boulevard, the main business street of Dodge City. Very fitting that the main street in Dodge City is named for Earp, the famous law man who helped found the city in 1872.

The room at the TownePlace is the same as the one I had in Garden City two weeks ago, so I am not complaining one bit. It provides easy access to return to US 283 south and go to Minneola this evening, and also a convenient return to US 50 to get out of here whenever I choose to leave, whether it be Monday or Tuesday.

I have to leave the hotel no later than 3. I usually like to get to the field two hours before kickoff, but maybe I’ll wait this time, since a lot of Victoria fans probably won’t get there until 4 or later. I got to Victoria at 5:55 Tuesday, much later than usual, and parking was not an issue.

Minneola is 25 miles south of Dodge City on US 283. I passed through the town once, in 2008, on my way to Meade. As it turned out, I took the wrong way that time; I learned better when I went back to Meade in 2013, going southwest on US 56 to Kansas Highway 23, which took me right into Meade. When I went in 2008, I went 283 south to Minneola, then turned west on US 54 and had to go through Fowler, the hometown of U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp.

Jack Krier told me yesterday I probably didn’t have to go, but I felt a sense of duty–and adventure–to go. What happens if Victoria loses today?

I like Victoria to win today. Minneola has had a fine season, but the Knights have been in this position time and again. They have not been to the semifinals since 2009, the title game since 2008, and haven’t won a title since 2006, which has to seem like an eternity to Victoria’s fans. If Victoria wins, it will host either Ingalls or Wallace County next week in the semifinals.

I won’t be at Victoria’s semifinal game. I’m going to Phillipsburg at Oakley Friday. I’ve also committed to go to Norton’s game Saturday if it defeats Scott City today. The Bluejays would host Wichita Collegiate or travel to Hesston in the quarterfinals. Peggy Cox is hoping Norton plays Collegiate, so she can invite me to her house for dinner. I might feel a bit uncomfortable in that role, but I hope Norton wins, because (a) it’s in the Mid-Continent League and (b) I know so many people there.

If Victoria wins, I’ll be covering them two weeks from today in the championship game at Newton.

Bad times

Sorry I haven’t posted since Monday afternoon from Morse-McCarthy Chevrolet. But other than Tuesday night, when I covered the football game at Victoria and the elections went the way I hoped, it’s been pretty bad since.

I should have stayed away from Buffalo Wild Wings Monday. Would have saved gas. May have been able to get some work done. Instead, I went up there and stayed for less than two hours, the shortest visit I’ve made there in a very, very, very long time. I was going to stay through at least 8 p.m., when Buzztime’s The Pulse, the sports trivia game played every Monday evening from 7-8, is on, but I did not like what was coming my way. None of my favorites were working that night, and even worse, the crew in the bar was nobody I really cared for. As for the dining room, I could not plug in my computer, and besides, other than Raymie, there was nobody there I really wanted to see, either. I deicded it was best I get the hell back to the other side of town.

Of course, it rained all the way back to Overland Park, and it was raining pretty good by time I got back to the hotel. I got takeaway from the Outback near Oak Park Mall and ate most of it when I got back to the room. I was in no mood to work, however, and I slept through most of the Colts-Giants game.

It set me back Tuesday, and I had to stay until 2 p.m. to get everything done. Fortunately, the football game in Victoria wasn’t until 7, and I got to the school just before 6, enough time to use the restroom well before the game.

The game was better than I expected. Hoxie had only 13 players dressed, but it scored on a six-minute drive to open the game, then tallied again on the first play of the second quarter to increase its lead to 12-0. Victoria woke up and scored three touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 20-12 halftime lead, only to give it up when the Indians scored midway through the third quarter.

The Knights’ superior depth finally wore Hoxie down, and Victoria pulled away to win 34-20. Next up for the Knights is a trip to MInneola Saturday at 5 p.m. I’m not happy with the late kickoff, because it means I’ll get no good pictures. Why can’t they start at 3 p.m.?

When I got home, I was scared to turn on the election results. I was afraid Sen. Pat Roberts would lose to the lying “independent” Greg Orman, who wasn’t man enough to admit he is nothing more than a left-wing Democrat who supports Obama’s agenda and would fall in line with whatever Harry Reid told him if elected. I was more scared Gov. Sam Brownback would lose to far left state Rep. Paul Davis, who never laid out a single policy of his own, but instead attacked Brownback with every chance he got.

Thankfully, the GOP turned out their voters across Kansas, and Roberts and Brownback both were re-elected, as were all four members of the Kansas U.S. House delegation, all of whom are Republicans as well..

That’s been the bright spot. I hardly went anywhere Wednesday and Thursday. I have a football playoff game tomorrow at Phillipsburg, and then it’s back south and west Saturday.