Tag Archives: KU

So exactly which KU football game is Clark Kent watching in Man of Steel?

I saw “Man of Steel” last night. It was an OK movie by regular standards. By “holy shit they mention Kansas like 13 times” standards, it was spectacular. As many people have noted since Friday, Clark Kent watches a Kansas football game  on TV during the movie, and it no doubt has taken super powers beyond those endowed to regular mortals to watch KU football the last three years.

But what game was Clark actually watching? Continue reading

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DeShawn Stevenson was (sort of) KU’s first Andrew Wiggins

I wonder if Andrew Wiggins will be as good for KU as I hoped DeShawn Stevenson would be. That sentence should not make any sense to sane individuals, even sane individuals who followed Kansas basketball with ritualistic intensity in the late 90s,  which, I guess, might actually make them insane, thus placing me squarely into that camp. Oh well.

But back in the late 90s, DeShawn Stevenson was the shit, which also makes little sense. Stevenson these days conjures up two distinct, incredibly awesome images.

 1. His tattoo of Abraham Lincoln

Continue reading

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Here is a story. A few months back, a few weeks before my 25th birthday, I went to go see the Arcade Fire at Starlight Theater.

The opening band went on at 7:30. We got their late. I had to finish up an assignment for work before I could finally be free. And after running around for almost two hours, making phone calls, finishing up interviews, running through a story outline in my head, I was finally ready.

Ready to start. Continue reading

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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

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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.


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.


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…

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The story of Self

LAWRENCE | The story begins here, on Naismith Drive on a bitterly cold December night.

Start here, on the sidewalk, with a college freshman decked out in a blue T-shirt.

Can you see him? He’s walking fast, among a pack of disgusted fans. He is furious, talking nonstop to no one in particular.

“That was embarrassing,” he says.

The throng of fans, a jagged line of bundled-up fans, leads all the way back to the front of Allen Fieldhouse.

It is dark. And it is winter. And the Kansas basketball team has just lost a heartbreaker — 72-70 to Nevada on the first night of December in 2005.

“Are you kidding me?” the kid in the blue T-shirt says. “Nevada? Are you kidding?”

The pack of fans is quiet. There is no response. There is no reason to.

They had all seen the same thing. A lanky kid named Nick Fazekas had ravaged the Kansas defense for 35 points. And with the loss, Kansas had been humbled again.

They had started the season 2-3. But, of course, there was more.

This was Bill Self’s third season, his first without the leftover mainstays from the Williams era.

Simien, Langford and Miles were gone. J.R. Giddens had the left program, too. And his departure — the muddied result of a stabbing incident at a Lawrence club — had left a stain on the program

Can you see the freshman in the blue T-shirt?

“Nevada, are you serious?”

But, of course, there was more. Just eight months earlier, a 3rd-seeded Kansas team had fallen to Bucknell — yes, Bucknell — in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

And dating back to Feb. 14, 2005, Bill Self’s Jayhawks were 5-9 in the program’s last 14 games.

So can you see him, the kid on Naismith Drive? Can you hear him?

“It’s Bill Self, man,” he says. “This guy can’t coach.”


I thought of that story on Monday, as Kansas dismantled Texas 80-68 in Austin to improve to 23-1 and 9-0 in the Big 12.

How did we get here? How did we get from that angry young freshman on Naismith Drive to here.

Here, Bill Self is coaching the No. 1 team in the country. Here, Self is on track to lead the Jayhawks to their sixth-straight Big 12 title. Here, Self and Kansas are just 22 months removed from a National Championship — 22 months removed from The Shot.

KU has an All-American candidate at point guard, an All-American candidate at center, and a future first-round draft pick on the wing.

And on Saturday, Self and Kansas will welcome Iowa State to Allen Fieldhouse — a building in which they’ve won 55 straight games.

And so Kansas will most likely win, and Bill Self will win his 400th career game.

How did we get here? How did Bill Self, at age 47, become the best college basketball coach in America?

There is no easy answer. Yes, Self can recruit. And yes, Self can coach. And so yes, Self wins.

But there has to be more to it, right?

There is no easy answer — but there are moments.

So let’s take a trip back in time, before Sherron cemented his place in history, before Cole Aldrich’s NCAA tournament triple-double, before Mario’s shot, before Brandon Rush tore his ACL, before Bradley and Bucknell… before it all.


On the day we met Bill Self, the city of Lawrence was still in mourning, still reeling from the national championship game loss to Syracuse, and still in shock that Roy Williams was gone.

Roy? Gone? It was supposed to be forever, wasn’t it?

The press conference happened on a Monday — April 21, 2003 — one week after Williams boarded that private jet for Chapel Hill and said that he was a “Tar heel born” and he’d be a “Tar Heel dead”

One week after Wayne Simien stood outside Allen Fieldhouse and, with his emotions flowing, told reporters that he’d “given his arm” for Williams.

So with the wounds still gaping, with the heartache still fresh, Bill Self showed up in Lawrence and introduced himself.

“It’s a tough act to follow,” Self would say, mentioning Williams’ legacy of success. “But you know something, Larry Brown was a tough act to follow… And Ted Owens went to two Final Fours and was a tough act to follow… and Phog Allen was a very tough act to follow… and the guy who started it all, is the toughest of all acts to follow, Dr. Naismith.”

Self was the guy Kansas had wanted. And now they had their man. But there seemed to be one collective thought among Kansas people after Self’s first press conference.

Man, this guy sure does stutter a lot.


So how did we get here?

Here’s another story about Bill Self.

Perhaps it will help us on our journey. Perhaps it won’t.

But if you squint really hard, you just might just be able to find the exact moment that Bill Self made the KU program his own.

The moment that Bill Self stopped being “that guy who took over for ROY WILLIAMS” — and instead, Roy Williams became “that guy who was at Kansas before BILL SELF”.

The moment came six weeks after the painful loss to Nevada.

KU was 10-4 at the time, and the freshman trio of Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers and Julian Wright was still finding its way.*

But after losing to Saint Joseph’s at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 6, the Jayhawks had churned out six wins in a row, including a 73-46 mugging of Kentucky.

There was hope.

*As you probably remember, the fourth freshman that year, Micah Downs, skipped out and headed back home to Washington during Winter break.

But that hope would soon diminish as Bill Self — the man who couldn’t coach, the man who lost at home to Nevada, the man who wasn’t Roy — would have his worst weekend at KU.

It started on Saturday, January 14th, when a Jim Woolridge-coached Kansas State squad would walk into Allen Fieldhouse and beat Kansas 59-55. The loss would snap KU’s 31-game winning streak against K-State.

“It is disappointing,” Self would say, “because we are a better team than what we played today.”

Two days later, Kansas would travel down to Columbia, Mo., to play Mizzou on Big Monday.

This was the Christian Moody game.

Yes, you remember. With the score tied with 0.4 seconds left in regulation, Moody — the player whom Bill Packer called the “greatest walk-on ever” — had two free throws to win the game.

He clanked both.

Of course, this was also the game that Thomas Gardner would score 40 points.

That Missouri loss would drop Kansas to 10-6 and 1-2 in the Big 12.

You could hear the whispers. They circulated in dorm rooms and fraternity basements and on message boards.

Will this team even make the tournament? Does Bill Self know what he’s doing? Can this guy coach?


We can’t know for sure what happened after that Missouri game. We just can’t.

But we do know this number — and it’s staggering.

Since KU lost in overtime to Missouri, Bill Self is 135-19

Yes, 135-19 — He’s won 87.6 percent of his games.

Of course, the numbers don’t stop there. And if you look closely, the numbers point to Bill Self being the best coach in college basketball.

During the six-plus seasons Self has been at the helm, Kansas is 192-41 (an 82.4 winning percentage)

During the same period, Roy Williams is 189-48 at North Carolina. Coach K is 190-44 at Duke. Jim Calhoun is 172-55* at Connecticut.

*We should note that John Calipari, who won many games at Memphis before taking over at Kentucky before this season, is 203-39 during the same period. Of course, we’ll also point out that Calipari racked up nearly half of those wins playing in a picked-over Conference USA.

There are other numbers to look at. Yes, Ol’ Roy won national titles in 2005 and 2009, and Billy Donovan won two at Florida, and Calhoun won another title at UConn in 2004.

But how about this?

Bill Self is 47 years old, and he will win his 400th game this season. We can’t know the future. We can’t know if he will eventually move to the NBA, or if he’ll eventually lose the passion to recruit and replenish his program.

But let’s assume that Bill Self stays at the college level for the next 10 years. And let’s say he averages 25 wins* per season.

If he does that, he’ll have more than 650 wins by age 57.

*It might be a little conservative to say that he’s going to win 25 wins per seasons. He’s averaged 28 wins over his first six seasons, and he’ll surely win more than that this year.


Let’s end here, outside Allen Fieldhouse — the place it where it all began. Let’s walk on Naismith Drive, let’s walk past Phog Allen’s statue, and let’s go inside and see the 2008 National Championship trophy.

There’s a great story about Bill Self.

It was the morning after the Memphis game, the morning after The Shot, the morning after the confetti had dropped.

Self had a morning press conference in the Alamodome. Russell Robinson and Sasha Kaun were there, too.

They were still holding the NCAA championship trophy.

Self talked about how’d he been woken by a phone call from the president. He talked about how the team had celebrated together at the team hotel. And he tried to explain how the past night had changed his life.

And then he brought up a conversation that he’d had the night before with assistant coach Joe Dooley.

“Coach,” Dooley had said. “We got to find a way to do this again.”

Of course, the NCAA tournament can be the cruelest of sporting events.

Kansas fans know this better than anyone. But right now, it seems likely that in March, KU will be favored to win its second title in three years.

Bill Self is doing it again.

And one day, when it all ends, Bill Self will be one tough act to follow.

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Thursday YouTube Sesh

I’ve told this story before, but I’m going to tell it one more time.

I can still remember the first time I heard about YouTube. It was 2006 — it must have been late January — and I was a freshman in college.

I was sitting in Professor Chuck Marsh’s “Media and Society” class in Budig Hall at The University of Kansas.

There were about 800 people in the class, mostly college freshman, and Old-man Marsh* used to start every class period with a segment called “The Hot Topic.”

*That’s not really Prof. Marsh’s nickname, but hey, it makes the story sound better.

Basically, Marsh would pick a controversial issue in the media, or a new trend, or whatever — and we’d have a class discussion about it. Of course, this is more interesting than it sounds, considering the fact that there were 800 people in the class, and it takes a certain type of personality (read crazy) to speak out in a class of 800.

Well, one day in late January, Marsh comes into class talking about a new website called “YouTube” and a hip, new word — “mash-up.”*

*Back in those days, it did seem that there were very few videos on YouTube, and most of them were movie preview mash-ups. Like this one and this one…

But the original one, the one that started it all, was the mash-up “Brokeback to the Future”. And on that day in late January, Marsh introduced me to a world I’d never imagined…

“Brokeback to The Future*”

In the last four years, that video has been watched more than 5.5 million times.

And like Windows and Google and iTunes and Facebook and Twitter, YouTube has become part of the fabric of our daily lives.

There are YouTube sensations and there are videos that go viral, getting passed around from friend to friend. And personally, I’ve spent way too many hours watching soccer and basketball highlights on the old laptop.

But for me, it all started four years ago.

OK, now fast-forward three years.

I’m working as the sports editor at The University Daily Kansan, and in an homage to the great former Kansas City Star columnist Jeffrey Flanagan, I created a daily Page 2 column entitled “The Morning Brew.”

Long story short, I started a weekly tradition called the “Thursday YouTube Sesh”. Why? Because sometimes, there are just videos that must be shared.

I saw one of those videos today.

If you’re a Kansas basketball fan, you probably know that KU beat Baylor 81-75 on Wednesday night at Allen Fieldhouse.

If you’re a big fan, you probably know that Baylor coach Scott Drew created a mini-controversy before the game.

You see, about four years ago, when Kansas renovated Allen Fieldhoue and added a modern scoreboard that hangs above center court, they started playing a pregame video montage. The montage highlights KU’s incomparable basketball tradition — from Naismith to Allen to Manning to Mario — and works the crowd into a frenzy.

Here’s one version of the video here…

Well, Baylor’s Drew wasn’t having any of it. And he had his team walk out into the Fieldhouse’s concourse during the video. It’s not that surprising. More than one opposing team has looked visibly intimidated while watching the video.

Of course, it’s also true that KU’s Bill Self and Drew have what could be described as a rocky relationship.

Self and Drew battled over Darrell Arthur — and Arthur, in one of the more mysterious recruiting stories in recent memory, picked KU at the last minute after having “a dream” about playing at Kansas.

Let’s just say that Drew was not happy. And according to many reports, he told former KU recruit Dwight Lewis — who eventually went to USC — that he shouldn’t go to KU because KU does a poor job of graduating players (or something to that effect).

So yea, Self was not happy.

“We’d never do that,” he said about Baylor’s walkout.

Drew, for his part, said he wasn’t trying to be disrespectful.

“It was simply because we knew we only had a minute and we wanted to go over what we wanted to do to start the game,” Drew said after the game. “There are no rules against it or anything. We met in the hallway and discussed how we were going to handle the beginning of the game.”

One thing is for certain. And it brings us to our Thursday YouTube Sesh.

There’s no way Baylor would have walked out on this pregame video.

OK, where do we start? First a little background. Apparently, this is the pregame pump-up video for the University of Alaska Fairbanks hockey program. The Nanooks, as they are called, are a legit Division 1 hockey program. They play in a 4,500-seat arena and compete in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.

Other teams in the hockey-only CCHA include: Michigan State, Ohio State, Miami (Ohio), Michigan and Notre Dame,.

There are 12 members in all, but this explains why the polar bear drops bombs on the Ohio State, Miami and Michigan State campuses.

Of course, this doesn’t explain why the giant killer bear must use a hockey stick to chop a trapped oiler tanker in half. And it doesn’t explain why the fighter pilot polar bear must drop a bomb into a volcano and blow up the planet.

No matter how you slice it, this video just doesn’t make much sense. I just wish I was in the room when the creators of the video were brainstorming ideas*.

Person 1: Ok. We start with a polar bear rising up from the arctic and attacking a huge ship.
Person 2: Yes. Yes. I like that. And then we could cut to a polar bear in a jet fighter.
Person 1: Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
Person 2: Danger zone?
Person 1: Oh my god, Yes!
Person 2: OK, he could drop bombs on our rivals. And then, what about if we had him drop a bomb into a volcano and blow up the entire planet?
Person 1: Wait, the entire planet?
Person 2: Dude, this would be sweet.
Person 1: You’re right, screw it. I’m in.

Part of me thinks the creators were being a little ironic. I mean, polar bears destroying the planet, that has to be a subtle hint about the state of the environment, right?

In the end, all I know is that any video that includes “Highway to the Danger Zone” and polar bears blowing up stuff must be cherished. So enjoy.

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