Tag Archives: K-State

Dancing in the dark

Editor’s note: It does feel like we’ve been pretty heavy on the college basketball lately. Then again, it’s March. So without further adu…

The story starts under the night sky. You leave work late on a Sunday, just as the day is about turn to Monday. You crawl into your car, and the voices emanating from the speakers start spewing advice.

Beware of the 12-5 upset. Look out for UTEP. There’s gonna be a champagne superNOVA in the South.

You rub your eyes. What are these people talking about?

You flip the dial. Another voice. Wait, an animal show? At this hour?

The voice is talking about Grizzlies and Mountain Hawks and Tigers. About Owls and Bears and Badgers and Huskies.

You take a deep breath and stare out in the deep, dark horizon. Is this a dream? Where am I? Who said that?

Better try another station.

Problem is, you stumble upon a show that’s even stranger.

A farming show? Could it be? Yes, a farming show. They’re talking about Cowboys and Aggies and Gauchos.

Click. Radio off.

Finally, you’re home. You stumble through the front door and collapse onto your couch. Perhaps you can reintroduce yourself to reality through television. It’s 12:15 a.m., so you hit the power button on the remote.

And then you realize. It’s worse than you think.

Your television has been hijacked by middle-aged men in luxury suits. Who are these guys?

They use words like “sleeper” and “upside” and “spurtability”. They ask questions about the abilities of Sam Houston and Robert Morris and Brigham Young.

What? You’re confused. Why are they comparing a former Governor of Texas with a major financier of the American Revolution? And what does Steve Young’s great-great-great-grandfather have to do with anything?

And then you realize. You’ve descended into madness.

*****

So yes, it all starts with the bracket. Sixty-four teams spaced evenly on that small white piece of office paper. Yes, there’s a random play-in game place somewhere off to the side. But that’s OK. It’s a small flaw overshadowed by perfection.

So yes, let’s start with the bracket.

And to do so, we must take a trip back in time. Before the internet. Before printable brackets ran up printing costs at offices around the country. Before ESPN had a network called ESPNU – and 87 straight hours of NCAA Tournament talk. Before the talking heads saturated our heads with cinderellas and upsets and chalk.

Yes, let’s go back to a simpler time. When it was just a kid and a bracket. Such a simpler time.

The tradition went like this: I would wake up on a Monday morning and search for the special NCAA Tournament preview section in the Kansas City Star. Inside, on page C6-7, would be the holy grail. The NCAA bracket. The first opportunity to see every matchup, laid out across the kitchen table. The Final Four logo was always in the middle, reminding us of the goal. Salvation didn’t lie within, it awaited your team in Indianapolis or San Antonio or St. Louis.

*****

Of course, the next part was the best.

You grabbed a pen and made your picks. Simple, right? Easy, right?

You studied the first-round games. You looked for any sort of hint. You analyzed coaches and matchups and the strength of each conference.

You probably made a few homer picks. You knew you had to pick a few upsets. You learned tricks along the way. Always pick at least one 12-5 upset. Nine-seeds actually beat eight-seeds more than 50 percent of the time. 16-seeds? Forget ‘em.

You found teams with great point guards. You searched for teams with experience and chemistry and intangibles.

And in the end. None of it seemed to matter. Your bracket would inevitably go bust. Sure, sometimes you would hit on a big upset. But nobody can be perfect. Nobody.

*****

So what’s the secret? Well, first, you must realize that there is no secret. Yes, you can use modern tools. You can look up offensive efficiency ratings. You can compare advanced RPI metrics. You can use it all. But there is no fail-safe.

Still, there is strategy.

For example:

1. Put all ones, twos and threes through to the second round.

2. Go through the other first-round games and go with your first instinct. If you have to think about it, skip that game and come back.

3. At least one No. 1 seed will make the Final Four.

4. There’s a reason why – since the inception of the 64-team tourney in 1985 — only two double-digit seeds (LSU in 1986, George Mason in 2006) have made the Final Four.

5. Pay attention to coaches. Sure, they might not make much of a difference during the actual games, but there’s a reason why only 15 coaches have won National Titles in the last 20 years.

Breakdown by coaches (* means there actually in the field)
1. *Mike Kryzewski (2)
2. Roy Williams (2)
3. *Billy Donovan (2)
4. Jim Calhoun (2)
5. *Bill Self (1)
6. *Jim Boeheim (1)
7. *Gary Williams (1)
8. *Tom Izzo (1)
9. *Tubby Smith (1)
10. Lute Olson (1)
11. *Rick Pitino (1)
12. Jim Harrick (1)
13. Nolan Richardson (1)
14. Dean Smith (1)
15. Jerry Tarkanian (1)

6. In the same vein, only 13 different schools have won titles in the last 20 years.

Last 20 champs by conference breakdowns (Now, not at the time of the title)

1. ACC (7)
2. SEC (5)
3. Big East (3)
4. Pac-10 (2)
5. Big 12 (1)
6. Big Ten (1)
7. Mountain West (1)

7. If you need a tiebreaker, go with the coach with Final Four experience

Other coaches with Final Four’s in the field (number in parentheses)

1. Kentucky’s John Calipari (2 *though both were vacated…ouch)
2. San Diego State’s Steve Fischer (2) *won a title at Michigan in 1989)
3. Georgia Tech’s Paul Hewitt (1)
4. Georgetown’s John Thompson III (1)
5. Texas’ Rick Barnes (1)
6. Ohio State’s Thad Matta (1)
7. Villanova’s Jay Wright (1)
8. West Virginia’s Bob Huggins (1 *at Cincy)
9. UNLV’s Lon Kruger (at Florida)

9. Lastly, work fast

*****

So let’s do it. Here it is… My 5-minute bracket. A little science… and a little speed.

Midwest Regional

(1) Kansas over (16) Lehigh – Duh
(9) Northern Iowa over (8) UNLV – Panthers are tough and experienced
(5) Michigan State over (12) New Mexico State – See Izzo, Tom
(4) Maryland over (13) Houston – Cougars lucky to get in
(11) San Diego St. over (6) Tennessee – Old coach strikes again
(3) Georgetown over (14) Ohio – Duh
(7) Oklahoma State over (10) Georgia Tech – first instinct… who knows?
(2) Ohio State over (15) UC Santa Barbara – Duh

Second round

(1) Kansas over (9) Northern Iowa – Going with chalk
(5) Michigan State over (4) Maryland – Going with coach with more Final Four’s
(3) Georgetown over (11) SDSU – Going with talent over Fisher’s coaching experience
(2) Ohio State over (7) Oklahoma State – Talent and coaching advantage for Buckeyes

Sweet 16

(1) Kansas over (5) Michigan State – Revenge for Jayhawks
(3) Georgetown over (2) Ohio State – Interior play carries Hoyas

Elite Eight

(1) Kansas over (3) Georgetown – Easy: talent and coaching on KU’s side

West Region

(1) Syracuse over (16) Vermont – (Just nod and move along)
(8) Gonzaga over (9) Florida State – Instinct pick; Who really knows?
(5) Butler over (12) UTEP – Hoosiers was filmed at Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse
(4) Vanderbilt over (13) Murray State – Tough matchup for Murray St.
(6) Xavier over (11) Minnesota – Gophers are a fraud
(3) Pitt over (14) Oakland – Going by rules
(7) BYU over (10) Florida – Ignoring rules; love Jimmer Fredette
(2) K-State over (15) North Texas – (Nodding…)

Second Round

(1) Syracuse over (8) Gonzaga – Talent… check. Coaching…check.
(5) Butler over (4) Vanderbilt – Chitwoods pull it out.
(3) Pitt over (6) Xavier – Toughest call yet, but Panthers are battle-tested
(2) K-State over (7) BYU – Great defense over great offense

Sweet 16

(1) Syracuse over (5) Butler – Probably dumb, but going with Boeheim
(2) K-State over (3) Pitt – Teams are similar; Love Pullen and Clemente

Elite Eight

(1) Syracuse over (2) K-State – The ‘Cats ride ends in the regional final…

East Regional

(1) Kentucky over (16) East. Tenn. St. — (Breezing along)
(9) Wake Forest over (8) Texas – Longhorns are lesson in dysfunction
(12) Cornell over (5) Temple – Cornell almost beat Jayhawks, who destroyed Temple
(4) Wisconsin over (13) Wofford – Anybody know where Wofford is?
(6) Marquette over (11) Washington – Yea, I’ll sell on the Pac-10
(3) New Mexico over (14) Montana – Steve Alford primed to take Lobos deep
(10) Missouri over (7) Clemson – Dream draw for Mizzou
(2) West Virginia over (15) Morgan State — Love Bob Huggins’ sweatsuit

Second Round

(1) Kentucky over (9) Wake Forest – Wildcats chalk it up
(12) Cornell over (4) Wisconsin – Big Red will be tourney darlings
(3) New Mexico over (6) Marquette – Lobos have Big East-type talent
(2) West Virginia over (7) Missouri – Bob Huggins puts clownsuit on Mike Anderson

Sweet 16

(1) Kentucky over (12) Cornell – Sad to say… Wildcats have too much talent
(2) West Virginia over (3) New Mexico – Lobos lack muscle to stay with Mountaineers

Elite Eight

(1) Kentucky over (2) West Virginia – Wildcats have NBA talent and coaching — a potent combo

South Regional

(1) Duke over (16) Play-in winner – (nodding head)
(9) Louisville over (8) California – Honestly, just going with the nine-seed here
(5) Texas A&M over (12) Utah State – Aggies over Aggies… fun.
(13) Siena over (4) Purdue – Let’s hope Gus Johnson calls this upset
(11) Old Dominion over (6) Notre Dame – And the south region implodes
(3) Baylor over Sam Houston State – Bears’ Carter and Dunn play at home in N’awlins
(7) Richmond over (10) St. Mary’s – (nodding head)
(2) Villanova over (15) Robert Morris – (still nodding)

Second Round

(1) Duke over (9) Louisville – Coach K over Pitino — barely
(5) Texas A&M over (13) Siena – Saints not as good as 2009 version
(3) Baylor over (11) Old Dominion – Udoh makes difference for Bears
(2) Villanova over (7) Richmond – Once again, going with coaching

Sweet 16

(1) Duke over (5) Texas A&M – Blue Devils are efficient — Coach K’s OK, too.
(3) Baylor over (2) Villanova – Baylor wins playing “home” game in Houston

Elite Eight

(1) Duke over (3) Baylor – How’d Duke get this bracket again?

Final Four

(1) Kansas over (1) Syracuse

Payback for 2003. But really, it’s about Jayhawks being the more complete and efficient team.

(1) Kentucky over (1) Duke

Blue Devils are talented, but they just can’t run up and down with Wall, Patterson and Cousins.

Championship game

Kansas over Kentucky

This one feels like destiny. And it feels like 2008. Self versus Calipari. Kansas versus an uber-talented freshman guard. I believe the result would feel the same, too.

Kansas 75, Kentucky 68 – in regulation

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Going to Kansas City…

So here it is, the first week of March, the temperature has climbed into the 50s, the sun is shining, joggers have hit the pavement in T-shirts and shorts, and Kansas City… my hometown… is coming alive.

Kansas City, one of the greatest college basketball cities in the country, the site of more Final Fours than any other city, will become a national basketball capital for the next week.

Of course, you probably know that the Big 12 Tournament starts at the Sprint Center in Kansas City on Wednesday.

And you probably know that Kansas, the No. 1 team in the country, is coming to town. And you probably know that Texas, one of the most disappointing teams in the country, is coming. And you probably know that Kansas State, one of the most surprising teams in the country, is coming to town, too.

There will be NBA talent on the floor and million-dollar coaches on the sidelines. And downtown Kansas City will be hopping with parties and music and basketball junkies.

This is Kansas City’s week. And it’s always been one of my favorite weeks of the year. To me, this week will always remind me of the days in the mid-90s, when my dad would show up at my elementary school in the mid-morning, bust me out of class, and take my siblings and me down to Kemper Arena for four basketball games at the old Big Eight tournament.

In honor of this week – and those memories – we’re breaking out a list of eight short stories about Kansas City, basketball, and the Big Eight Tournament.

Chapter I: The Building

They called Kemper Arena so many names. Of course, Kemper Arena was the home of the old Big Eight Tournament for decade. There were so many stories about Kemper.

*For one, it looks like there’s an erector set on the roof.

It was built in the early 70s, a futuristic-looking arena rising up from Kansas City’s old stockyards.

So many memories. NBA Hall-of-Famer Tiny Archibald and the Kansas City Kings played there. Paul McCartney and Wings performed their. Gerald Ford was nominated for the presidency there, defeating Ronald Reagan at the 1976 Republican National Convention. And wrestler Owen Hart died there, falling from the rafters during a stunt gone wrong.

But at its core, Kemper was always a college basketball building. I used to be mesmerized by a banner that memorialized the 1988 Final Four. Wow, I thought, this is where Danny and the Miracles cut down the nets.

Still, they called the place names. Kansas City Star columnist Jason Whitlock used to call the place the “Dump with a Hump”. And he may have been right. In the mid-90s, when Kansas City wrongly figured that they needed a bigger building to keep the Big Eight (and later, the Big 12) Tournaments, they decided to expand the building by adding onto one side. As a result, the building became asymmetrical — and ugly. They later would add a large glass façade to improve the aesthetics of the exterior… but for one year, the building literally had a huge white bulge hanging off the top of one side of the building.

They also criticized the building’s charms. Or at least, its lack of anything resembling charm.

They criticized the location, too. The building was in the West Bottoms, a deserted area haunted by the ghosts of cowboys and livestock and cattle. And despite what some people say, most Kansas Citians despise the term “Cow-town”. It’s our history, but some just don’t want to remember. And the West Bottoms, in the shadows of downtown, are an old reminder of the past.

None of that mattered to me. Kansas City didn’t have an NBA team when I was growing up. So to me, Kemper was as close as you could get to a major-league arena. To me, it felt like a palace.

Chapter II: The Signs

I’m pretty sure every little kid dreams of being on television during a sporting event. This is just one of those axioms that seems universal. So how do you do it? How do you become one of the fortunate ones that the cameras focus on? Well, you can become lucky. This is one way. But to improve your chances, every little kid knows you must have a catchy sign. And in almost all cases, this sign must also reference the television network that is broadcasting the game.

*For some reason, in the early 90s, those signs that used the letters of ESPN seemed original. Maybe they weren’t. But for an eight-year-old kid, it sure seemed that way.

So one year, I decided that I must be one of those kids. Must make a sign. Must be on TV. It was meant to be.

And so, I talked it over with my brother and my dad. What should the sign say?

Well, it just so happened that Kansas was playing Kansas State in the first round of the tournament. And then, it hit me. The perfect sign.

Not
Backing
Cats

Yes. It was perfect. I was all set to be on television. This would be my moment.

I brought the sign to Kemper Arena. I held it above my head proudly. I received high-fives from drunk 30-year-old men. Yea. Little man, great sign.

Success.

Of course, I didn’t appear on television that day. I think I was sitting too high up for the cameras to see me. But there was one other problem.

I would find out later that the game was definitely not broadcast on NBC.

Chapter III: The End

In 1996, the Big Eight died. The cause of death? Progress.

In an effort to keep up with the Joneses of the college world — in this case, the Big Ten and the SEC — The Big Eight added four Texas schools — Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor — to the conference.

In so many ways, it was a business move. And in so many ways, it was a move based on football.

Looking back, it’s easy to say it was the right move. Save for the Gorilla that is the SEC, the Big 12 is generally considered the second-best football conference in America. And why not? It’s a conference filled with traditional powers, big-name coaches and fertile recruiting grounds.

Of course, it’s easy to forget about the Big Eight — the little power conference on the Plains.

You see, Nebraska and Oklahoma ruled the Big Eight football scene. It just worked that way. But for the most part, Big Eight basketball lived a relatively egalitarian existence. Sure, Larry Brown showed up at Kansas in the early 80s, and Kansas started to dominate.

But before that, during the 1970s and 1980s, the Big Eight was one of the deepest basketball leagues in America.

Kansas was Kansas. Missouri played tough, gritty basketball under Norm Stewart. Jack Hartman and Lon Kruger took Kansas State to five Elite Eights during a 17-year span. Legendary coach Johnny Orr rebuilt the Iowa State program. Oklahoma State had tradition. And Oklahoma had Billy Tubbs.

Perhaps that was why there was such a sense of sadness when the Big Eight ceased to exist — at least, in the way people remembered it.

I remember being at the last Big Eight Tournament in March of 1996. There was a cavalcade of emotions flowing at Kemper Arena… Sadness and Grief and Anger.

And I still remember seeing a guy wearing a shirt with the Big Eight logo on the front. And on the back it said:

“Big Eight’s great. Big 12’s a snitch. We win the titles as the Texans get rich.”

Chapter IV: The Tragedy

If you were in Kemper Arena on that day in 1995, you can still remember the silence.

Colorado star Donnie Boyce was writhing on the ground in pain. He had crumpled to the ground with a gruesome leg injury, and he would never be the same.

Today, Boyce is just a tragic footnote in the history of Big Eight basketball. But if you saw him play, he was so much more.

First, he had an intriguing backstory. He had played at Proviso East High School — near Chicago — with future NBA players Michael Finley and Sherrell Ford. They had earned the nickname the “Three Amigos” — and some have called that Proviso East squad one of the top prep teams in the history of Chicago hoops.

They were destined for greatness and fame and NBA riches.

Ford, a 6-7 forward, was the most accomplished in high school. He would go on to play at Illinois and was the 26th pick in the first round of the 1995 NBA Draft. Finley, who would go on to play at Wisconsin, would become the success story. He was drafted 21st in the NBA Draft by the Dallas Mavericks. He would play in two All-Star games and win an NBA championship with the San Antonio Spurs.

Boyce was supposed to have all that, too. But his dream ended on the floor of Kemper Arena on March 10, 1995.

Boyce’s Colorado team was playing Oklahoma — led by Big Eight player of the year Ryan Minor (see below).

Colorado was outgunned, but with Boyce, Colorado’s all-time leading scorer, the Buffs had a shot.

And then it happened. In an instant, Boyce was on the floor and the crowd was hushed. After a long delay, he was carted off the floor on a stretcher with his broken leg stabilized. And just like that, his college career was over.

He would attempt a comeback — the Atlanta Hawks would even take a flier on him in the second round of the NBA Draft. But he would never be the same. He would gimp through two non-descript NBA seasons before floating out of our memories.

Chapter V: The Memories

If you were going to make a case for the one Big Eight program that always had the most entertaining players to watch, you could easily make a case for Oklahoma.

From the great Nate Erdmann to Eduardo Najera to Hollis Price, the Sooners always had somebody worth watching.

But my favorite Oklahoma player was always Ryan Minor, a sweet shooting swingman with freakish athleticism. He’d score more than 1,900 points at Oklahoma — and he was also dominant in the video game “College Slam” for Super Nintendo.

But here’s why Minor’s name will live forever.

On Sept. 20, 1998, Orioles Hall-of-Famer Cal Ripken Jr. ended his record-breaking streak. He had played in 2,632 straight games. On that night in Baltimore, a young rookie third baseman took Ripken’s spot in the lineup. His name? Ryan Minor.

Chapter VI: The Players

Let’s have some fun with lists…

The Top Eight Players I Ever Saw At The Big Eight Tournament

8. Tony Battie, Texas Tech
7. Tyronne Lue, Nebraska
6. Jacque Vaughn, Kansas
5. Dedric Willoughby, Iowa State
4. Raef LaFrentz, Kansas
3. Bryant Reeves, Oklahoma State
2. Chauncey Billups, Colorado
1. Paul Pierce, Kansas

The Top Four Most Underrated Players I Saw At The Big Eight Tournament

4. Manny Dies, Kansas State
3. Kenny Pratt, Iowa State
2. Cookie Belcher, Nebraska
1. Eric Piatkowski*, Nebraska

*I once saw Piatkowski score 42 points in a Big Eight tournament game in 1994.

Chapter VII: The Food

Talk to a Kansas Citian long enough, and the conversation inevitably leads to barbecue. You know, Kansas Citians are a funny people. In general, they possess typical Midwestern characteristics: They’re generally humble and self deprecating. They know Kansas City is special place. And they won’t be boastful, but they’ll be protective if somebody wants to slam their hometown. In simple terms, there just aren’t many reasons for Kansas Citians to be arrogant.

The Chiefs are mediocre, the Royals a laughingstock, and city officials have struggled for decades to implement a successful public transportation system.

But there is one reason for Kansas Citians to be arrogant: barbecue.

Did you know KC has the best barbecue in the world? You didn’t? Well, lemme tell you, KC has the best barbecue in the world.

You can go to Gates and hear, “Hi, may I help you?” You can go to Oklahoma Joe’s — named by Anthony Bourdain as one of the 13 restaurants you have to eat at before you die — and you can sit in a gas station and eat the juiciest ribs in the world. And you can go to Arthur Bryant’s and eat the same great meat that has charmed presidents*.

*In 1974, writer Calvin Trillin wrote in Playboy that Arthur Bryant’s in Kansas City was “…possibly the single best restaurant in the world.”

Of course, there’s more than just barbecue in this town.

Here’s eight other classic KC establishments to visit during this week’s Big 12 tournament:

1. Fritz’s, 250 N. 18th St, – OK, so it’s not in Kansas City proper, but trust us, you can’t skip this place, where the crumbling walls go unnoticed while you wolf down a greasy Poor Dan Sr. and a creamy chocolate shake. Order your food on a phone then wait until a train brings it right to your table. Remember to grab a cardboard engineer’s hat on your way out. Choo-Choo!

2. Granfalloon, 608 Ward Parkway – The ‘Falloon has 18 High Defintion TVs for great sports viewing and the place gets hopping around midnight. But watch out: the crowds might be a little intense this weekend, and you might have to throw some elbows to make room for yourself.

3. Minsky’s Pizza, 427 Main St.- It’s not flat and big like New York pizza, deep like Chicago’s crust or disgusting like St. Louis’s awkward, thin contraption. Minsky’s is just good, classic pizza.

4. Brooksider, 6330 Brookside Plaza – The ‘Sider is what it is: A classic neighborhood bar. Grab a drink, put a dollar in the jukebox, and if you get bored, you can always walk down the street to Charlie Hooper’s.

5. Town Topic, 2121 Broadway and 1900 Baltimore- The burgers are small, greasy and filled with tiny grilled onions. Order at least two, or maybe three if you’re really hungry, and saddle up on a stool in this old-fashioned diner.

6. Blonde, 1000 Ward Parkway – Girls, put the Prada bag over your shoulder. Guys, switch your Birkenstocks for the Gucci loafers. Seriously, this is high society at its finest or most obnoxious depending on how you look at it. If you can stomach the long lines and expensive beverages, you’ll be rewarded with the most upscale crowd in town. Word is that Christina Aguilera even once stopped in for a drink.

7. McFadden’s, 1330 Grand Blvd.- It’s right across the street from the Sprint Center. Even if the only drink they serve is Strawberry Nestle Quik, this place is still too convenient to pass up.

8. Kona Grill, 444 Ward Parkway – A Country Club Plaza staple. The food can be exotic and the atmosphere is relaxing. Plus, what’s KC without a walk on the Plaza.

But here’s the question: If you were going to live out the ultimate Kansas City food fantasy — three meals in a day, breakfast, lunch and dinner — what three joints would you choose?

Here’s mine:

For breakfast, I’m booking it to John’s Space Age Donuts in downtown Overland Park. Walk into this this classic hole-in-the–wall donut shop, and you’re transported to an earlier time. Grab a Caramel Long John, smell the batter sizzling in the back, and sip on a eight-ounce carton of milk. You can also sit on a stool and listen to old men sip black coffee and talk about better days.

For lunch, I’m driving to the Plaza and sliding into a booth at Winsteads — the iconic KC joint that’s been doing burgers right since 1940. There’s nothing better than a double-Winstead with a chocolate shake.

And lastly, for dinner, I’m either going Oklahoma Joes or Arthur Bryants. Yes, this is a cop-out, but here’s the deal. I just can’t choose. But I’ll say this. For ribs, it’s Joes. For the best barbecue sandwich you’ve ever had, it’s Bryants.

Chapter VIII: The City

Still not convinced that KC is the greatest basketball city in the world?

Listen to this song…

Or better yet, listen to this one…

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Passing around the scorn

“You get smaller as the world gets big
The more you know you know you don’t know shit
“The Whiz Man” will never fit you like “The Whiz Kid” did
So why you gotta act like you know when you don’t know?
It’s OK if you don’t know everything”
— Ben Folds, from the song “Bastard”

So let’s start here, because I really don’t know where else to start.

I usually don’t like to criticize people in the media. I guess that’s just the way I operate.

Of course, I operate this way for a number of reasons. First of all, we all know that there are plenty of people throwing jabs at media members. And really, who wants to join that argument?

Secondly — and I think this is the most important thing — I sincerely dislike the fact that many people seem to refer to the media as one singular body. There seems to be this line of thinking that the “media” is this one huge mass of people. And, of course, they all work in the same way. And, of course, everyone works together in the same room.

Of course, this is an exaggeration. However, I think there’s some truth in that statement, too.

For instance, did you know that “media” is plural?

Yep, it’s the plural form of “medium”. So whenever I hear someone say something like, “the media is” terrible, or “The media is” so biased, I really do start to cringe.

Of course, all of this is not that important. But it did cross my mind today… and that’s where we begin.

So I’m watching ESPN’s “Around The Horn” on Tuesday afternoon. To be honest, I really don’t watch this show that often.

I do enjoy Tony Reali, who seems to be a really gifted TV sports guy. And sometimes it’s nice to get a quick, 30-minute run-through of the bigger stories of the day.

And on Tuesday, believe it or not, “Around The Horn” led off with K-State’s Big Monday victory over Texas. So even though I don’t care much for “Around The Horn”, this did seem to be a nice moment for Kansas State.

I have a personal connection to Kansas State. My parents grew up in Manhattan. My sister went to K-State. And I remember the Tom Asbury and Jim Woolridge years, when K-State took the court with Pervis Pasco, Jeremiah Massey and a bunch of worthless spare parts. Those were tough years.

And now, K-State is back in the top 10, they beat the No. 1 team in America, and for 24 hours, they were the toast of college basketball*.

*And did you see that K-State coach Frank Martin said he’d “destroy” his players if they didn’t come hard at their next practice? That had to be one of the all-time great quotes after a victory, right? Here are the exact words…

“Wednesday, if we don’t come in and compete, I am going to destroy them.”

Tony Reali started by hyping K-State’s win. He mentioned Martin’s quote. He mentioned the fact that the Wildcats hadn’t beaten a No. 1-ranked team since 1994 (Kansas). And he mentioned that K-State’s students didn’t rush the floor — a move that is giving K-State’s students some major street-cred among people who care about such things.

But then Reali had to toss off the discussion to the first pundit, and in this case it was Kevin Blackistone*.

*Let me first say that I don’t want this to come off as a dig at Blackistone. I’ve never met the guy, but I’m sure he’s good people. And the guy is a pretty fine journalist. He’s been everywhere — The Boston Globe, The Chicago Reporter, The Dallas Morning News, and now he’s writing for FanHouse.com. However, I am going to use him as an example in a much larger problem.

Of course, Reali threw it to Blackistone using some hip language like this:

Reali: So, K-State students decide NOT TO RUSH THE FLOOR, you cool with this KB?

Blackistone: Yea. I’m cool with this, Tony. It was a good move. They THOUGHT THEY WERE GOING TO WIN THIS GAME. K-State has a good team this year. They came in ranked ninth (in the coaches’ poll) and Curtis Kelly — this guy is a great player. He’s a National Player of The Year Candidate. He’s a double-double threat every time he takes the floor.

Now, I’m not sure if you follow college basketball. And even if you do, you probably don’t follow K-State basketball that closely. So let’s take things slowly. But there is one sentence here that I want you to pay close attention to.

“Curtis Kelly — this guy is a great player. He’s a National Player of The Year Candidate.”

Thing is, I’ve been following K-State pretty closely this season. Obviously, I haven’t been following the Wildcats as closely as say, an actual “K-State fan”, but let’s just say that sentence seemed a little off.

Hmm. Let’s look closer. How about we find some stats?

Let’s see here… K-State junior forward Curtis Kelly.

So Kelly, who is in first season at K-State after transferring from UConn, is playing 22.8 minutes per game.

He is averaging 11.4 points per game. So he’s not exactly piling up the points.

The 6-foot-8 Kelly is pulling down 6.3 rebounds per game. Hey, that’s not too bad.

He’s shooting 65.7 percent from the free throw line. He has 47 turnovers against just 24 assists. And how about all those double-doubles he’s recording? It seems he’s had two.

Well, to be fair, he did have 18 points and 10 rebounds against Ole Miss in a K-State loss.

And he did have 11 and 11 against IUPUI. And he did put up 15 and 9 against Xavier.

But according to the information I received from the google machine, that only makes two double-doubles. Hmm.

And to be really honest. He has scored in double-figures in 11 games. Then again, he has scored fewer than six points in four different games.

But let’s go back to that statement one more time.

“Curtis Kelly — this guy is a great player. He’s a National Player of The Year Candidate.”

Now let me slowly take a sip of water, and…(clearing my throat) Really? Really, Blackistone? National Player of The Year?

Now perhaps Blackistone made an honest mistake. Maybe he got some bad information from a friend. Who knows? It’s just one measly comment about some basketball team from Manhattan, Kan. Sure, that basketball team just knocked off the No. 1 team in the land. But can we really expect one man to know every little detail about every team in the country?

I guess that’s the whole point of this little exercise. And it’s the same reason I find myself watching ESPN less and less.

It’s just simply unreasonable to expect anyone to know everything about every sports story in the country. It doesn’t matter if it’s Kevin Blackistone, or Woody Paige, or Skip Bayless, or Kornheiser, or Wilbon, or Greeny and Golic.

All these thoughts were coming together when I thought about that great song from Ben Folds.

“So why you gotta act like you know when you don’t know?
It’s OK if you don’t know everything.”

And yet, all these talking heads on ESPN must know. I mean, they do work for ESPN, right?

Hey, I know it’s there job to go on and talk about the big stories of the day. But just once, I want to hear one of these guys say something like this:

“You know what. K-State played great last night. The home crowd was rocking. Frank Martin is an unheralded guy, and he’s doing a great job building that program. And hey, I didn’t watch the whole game, and I don’t know all that much about this K-State team. But keep an eye on them. They just took down the No. 1 team in the country. And they play Kansas in a week… and that place is going to be crazy.”

There’s one more thing that I find interesting about this discussion. And that’s the fans. Listen, I know I’m speaking in huge generalities, but bear with me. Please.

In general, fans seems to hate their hometown media.

The hometown newspaper is a rag. The local TV stations are jokes. And grown men on message boards seem to spend way too much time discussing how much the local sports radio stations suck.

This seems to happen everywhere.

And yet, fans seem to love the national media*.

*Hey, did you see ESPN.com has a story about us?
Yo, we’re on the cover of Sports Illustrated. We’re the shizz.
Hey, Tony and Mike were talking about us on PTI.
Hey, did you see they mentioned us on Around The Horn?

These words have been said by thousands of fans across the country. Fans of many teams and fans from many cities.

At the same time, the local beat writer at the newspaper is a tool. And all the local radio hosts are idiots.

I have so many personal feelings about this discussion. Yet, at the same time, there’s a little bit of truth in everything.

There are some local media member that are brilliant, and there are some local media members that are less than brilliant.

There are some members of the national media that are phenomenal, and there are some that… well, struggle.

And sometimes, I turn on ESPN and I hear someone say that K-State’s Curtis Kelly is a National Player of the Year candidate.

And then, I just don’t know what to say. But then, I hear Ben Folds and I feel better.

Remember… It’s OK, if you don’t know everything.

Tagged , , , , , ,
Advertisements