Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Warm Up The Ol' Slide Projector!

"Hey, jerk! I know you went to Hawaii over Thanksgiving. Why haven't you said anything about it? At least show me some pictures, for crying out loud!"

Good idea. In chronological order:

To begin with, the weather was, how you say?, ah, yes: Crappy. So we spent the first two days inside as evidenced by the first couple of pics. Samantha was still enthusiastic, though.

David was looking foward to spending some of his hard-earned cash on some lovely Hawai'ian trinkets.

Dad (and Mom) cooked up a lovely Thanksgiving dinner.

Plenty of football was watched.

Poi was harassed, I mean, played with by Dave and Sam.

This was dawn of the first day we saw the sun. Time to hit the beach!

Not your typical Midwestern day-after-Thanksgiving kind of photos, eh?

Below is the first sighting of a pasty, white, wild-haired individual that just kept hanging around.
"Look out, kids; he's in the water!"

Along came some more showers and we decided that we ought to take a drive around the island. We ended up at the Kaumalapa'u Harbor, checking out the ocean and some menacing clouds.

"There's that freak with the afro again. Run!"

A behind the scenes look at the making of a model...

...and the photo that resulted.

The sun eventually came back out, so we decided to hike up to Pu'u Pehe (Sweetheart Rock).

Mom zipped ahead with her newly smoke-free lungs!

Dave posed at the top while trying to appear as though there was a giant head sticking out of the ocean.

Samantha flashed her million-dollar smile. Again.

The views were lovely...

"Oh my gosh! Get your hands off those kids, you maniac!"

Here are the kids on the early morning ferry to Maui.

...where we went to a super-cool aquarium, complete with sharks and stingrays. VERY cool.

Later on, we took the kids to ride some go-carts. Dave tried to pass Sam as many times as possible while, guess what?, Samantha was smiling.

After months of fielding questions like, "Dad, am I old enough to go to shoot sporting clays ?", we were able to appease David by going to the air rifle range. After blasting away in the practice rounds, we all choked big time when it came to the prize round and a chance to win the Crystal Pineapple. The competitive Blakeley nature was fully in attendance.

Finally, photographic proof that David got to drive a golf cart. We only drove off two cliffs!

I hope you enjoyed this modern-day slide show.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

There's Gotta Be Some Way To Root For This Team

The Royals made what might be the four most uninteresting signings in baseball history recently when they inked contracts for 2B Mark Grudzielanek, 1B Doug Mientkiewicz, SP Scott Elarton and C Paul Bako.

Both arguments have been made as to the significance of these transactions:

A) "Allard Baird is an idiot and needs to be fired. What the hell do we need a 35-year old second baseman for when we have no fewer than three second base prospects who could be utilized? Why do we need a good glove/no hit first baseman when we could split those duties with some combination of Mike Sweeney/Matt Stairs/Justin Huber? Isn't Scott Elarton a Jose Lima clone, minus the histrionics? Aren't backup catchers a dime a dozen? Why pay Paul Bako $700,000 when we had Paul Phillips readily available?"


B) "Allard Baird has finally put a plan together. Bringing in a handful of 'experienced Major League veterans' will give much-needed development time for the youngsters who proved they weren't quite ready this year. The short-term contracts they signed ensure that they won't be blocking those prospects paths once they're ready to contribute. The improved infield defense will help restore the confidence of a young pitching staff that has been continually betrayed by one of the worst defenses in baseball. And Paul Bako will act as a sort of a catching instructor to young starter John Buck."

Well, you know what? There's probably some truth in both arguments. Allowing the youngsters to develop is a much better idea than letting them crash and burn in the same fashion they did last year. On the other hand, Baird had a bucket-load of cash to spend and still couldn't come up with his fabled "impact bat".

"So," I thought to myself, "I had better come up with some reason to follow these guys other than rooting against another 100-loss season."

Here's what I came up with:

First base/DH - Mientkiewicz is a gritty, dirt-on-the-uniform, eye-black-under-the-eyes kind of player. That's fun. He'll scoop up more errant throws than Sweeney or Stairs could ever dream of. That'll be refreshing. His nickname is "Minky". I don't know how I feel about that other than I'm glad he's got a nickname.

Sweeney will no doubt be in the best shape he's ever been in (again) come spring training. With that declaration will come his usual enthusiasm at the beginning of the season. I vow to enjoy watching him swing harder than anyone I've ever seen without thinking about how he will inevitably wrench his back sometime in late May or early June.

I will enjoy watching Stairs continue to compete at the major league level despite having the body of a slow-pitch softball player. I will continue to enjoy the two nicknames Ryan and I have come up with for him: "Beer League" and "Stairs, Son of Gloin".

Second base/shortstop - Grudzielanek will botch fewer plays at second than the kiddie corps before him. And he has the endearing nickname "Grudz".

Angel Berroa will surely be more confident throwing to a first baseman who isn't made of stone and turning double-plays with a guy who knows that you need to be relatively near second base for it to count.

Third base - I will be glad to see the inevitable improvement from Mark Teahen after playing a full season in the majors. And if not, I can continue to daydream about super prospects Billy Butler and Alex Gordon who also man that position.

Catcher - John Buck is a guy who will never quit trying to improve. Even if he doesn't do well, it's nice to see him be a stand-up guy and answer all the humiliating questions in the locker room, day after day. I still hold out hope that he can be a Mike Macfarlane clone. (To me, that's a good thing.)

Outfield - Watching David DeJesus' tiny little legs motor around like a Bugs Bunny cartoon while covering for "outfielders" Emil Brown and Matt Stairs is highly entertaining. Actually, DeJesus is one of the more underrated players in the game. He fields his position well, doesn't force anything at the plate and has a little pop in his bat.

I suppose watching Emil Brown become the next Raul Ibanez is at least moderately interesting. I'll just have to forget the fact that he's our cleanup hitter.

Aaron Guiel puts in a hearty effort every time he's out there and Chip Ambres brings the promise of once being a highly-touted prospect.

Starting pitchers - Runelvys Hernandez should be much improved in his second season coming off arm surgery.

Zack Greinke, struggling or not, has one of the most enjoyable repertoires of any pitcher I've ever seen.

Mark Redman and Scott Elarton will (hopefully) keep us in games long enough for our bullpen to take over.

Maybe, just maybe, Jeremy Affeldt can fulfill his potential and land a spot in the rotation with his blazing fastball and big curve.

Bullpen - After watching DeJesus run down a plethora of fly balls from our starters, it will be fun to watch our Young Guns blow people away in the late innings.

Andy Sisco (who ought to get a chance at the last rotation slot, as well), Ambiorix Burgos and Mike MacDougal all heat up the radar gun.

Throw in crafty long relief guys like Mike Wood and Older Mike Wood, a.k.a. newly acquired Elmer Dessens and this should be one of the better bullpens in baseball.

Now I'll have a few handy answers to use when someone asks, "Why do you continue to watch these losers?!" that doesn't start with, "Well, they play in Kansas City and I live in Kansas City; who else am I supposed to watch?."

Friday, December 09, 2005

Lotsa Stuff

Several things to cover today as much has happened during my absence.

First, by request of a faithful reader, I need to comment on the Hot Stove League, baseball's off-season transaction circus. All sorts of interesting and befuddling things have transpired over the last couple of weeks.

The most interesting team in my opinion has been the Red Sox. They started off by trading for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell. I really think Beckett has a chance to be a number one starter and any time you can acquire a guy like that, you have to seriously consider it. If he stays healthy, he could be the cornerstone of the Sox pitching staff for a decade. And they'll need it considering Curt Schilling isn't getting any younger and Matt Clement was a little iffy last year. Then you throw in Mike Lowell, who struggled mightily for the Marlins last year. He's past his prime, but the only was the trade was going to be made was by Boston taking on his contract. That's the luxury of having the second-highest payroll in baseball. But he could produce if he can stay on the field. (Plus, they stole Mark Loretta from the Padres for backup catcher Doug Mirabelli. Padres GM Kevin Towers: "Hmm, All-Star second baseman for a guy whose only measurable talent includes catching Tim Wakefield's knuckleball every fifth day. What the hell, gimme Mirabelli!")

If not, they picked up Andy Marte, who Baseball Prospectus considered the top prospect in all of baseball at the beginning of last season. This was another excellent transaction, sending Edgar Renteria and the majority of his contract away after a disappointing 2005. And while that may leave them thin at shortstop, they have highly-touted prospect Dustin Pedroia waiting in the wings.

That's assuming the latest high-octane rumor doesn't pan out: Manny Ramirez for Miguel Tejada. Tejada came out and said that he's unhappy with the way the Orioles have built their team and suggested that a change of scenery might do him good. With ongoing rumors about trading Ramirez and the sudden vacancy at the shortstop position in Boston, this seems like a viable trade.

But I'm not sure it's the best thing to do.

Manny Ramirez is one of the best hitters of all time. Sure, he acts a little kooky on occasion but he's never done anything but produce at the highest level. I just don't see why the Sox would feel obligated to ship him off. That being said, if the pressure to trade Manny becomes too great, at least they're getting a high-quality bat in return. And at a traditionally defensive position, to boot.

But that would leave a gaping hole in left field with no apparent successor at the ready. Add in the fact that Johnny Damon may not re-sign with the Sox and they're outfield is suddenly barren. You keep Manny and you've got Pedroia on the way. You get Tejada and Pedroia is blocked and only usable as trade bait for a left or center fielder.

I think I'd keep Manny.


The hometown Royals have not been nearly as splashy. Check out this list of winners the Royals have acquired so far:

P Adam Bernero, signed to minor league contract
P Elmer Dessens, 2 years @ $3.4 million
P Mark Redman, in exchange for minor leaguer Jonah Bayliss
2B Esteban German, in exchange for Fabio Castro, the Royals first pick in the Rule 5 Draft.

The Bad News: The Royals have not acquired anyone that could be considered "high-impact".

The Good News: The Royals have not flushed the extra $22 million available to them down the toilet by giving in and overpaying for mediocre talent.

Allard Baird has stuck to his strengths, scouring for "piece-of-the-puzzle guys", but still hasn't made been able to land any players who can make an immediate difference. The sad thing is that he's accumulated a lot of talent and fill-in guys, but because he hasn't brought in any superstars (or even stars, for that matter), he'll likely be gone by the end of next season.

There's still time left, though. I wouldn't mind seeing him pony up some cash for Kevin Millwood. Or take a flier on Richard Hidalgo or Nomar or Byung-Hyun Kim. Instead, the ancient names "Reggie Sanders" and "Mark Grudzielanek" keep popping up. Why not get in on the Julio Franco sweepstakes? He's only 47 years old!


Some short thoughts on other off-season activities:

Toronto signs starting pitcher A.J. Burnett for 5 years/$55 million. Toronto is trying to keep up with the Joneses, but signing an injury-prone #2 starter to that kind of contract is ludicrous. Though not as ludicrous as...

Toronto signs relief pitcher B.J. Ryan for 5 years/$47 million. Apparently the Jays took a look at fellow AL East also-ran Baltimore and decided to copy their plan. By the looks of the Orioles, I wouldn't say that was a very smart decision.

New York Yankees sign relief pitcher Kyle Farnsworth for 3 years/$17 million.
New York Mets sign relief pitcher Billy Wagner for 4 years/$43 million.
Philadelphia signs relief pitcher Tom Gordon for 3 years/$18 million.
Chicago Cubs sign relief pitcher Scott Eyre for 3 years/$11 million.
Including B.J. Ryan, major league owners have pissed away $136 million on relief pitchers who have one of the following qualities: a) have had short-term success, b) have had long-term success, but are now old enough to have grandchildren, or c) have learned the ways of hypnotism and therefore managed to fleece their current boss out of inordinate amounts of money. Look at it this way: A lot of teams would love to have $136 million to spend on an ENTIRE ROSTER, much less five relief pitchers.

Chicago White Sox acquire first baseman/DH Jim Thome. Gee, I can't wait to have this guy blast 15 homers in 18 games off my Royals.

New York Mets acquire first baseman Carlos Delgado. For some strange reason, I kind of like the Mets. But I don't think Delgado will be enough to push them into championship contender status.

Florida Marlins retain one player from last year's Opening Day starting lineup. You'd have thought they won the World Series last year...

Chicago Cubs acquire centerfielder Juan Pierre. You thought Cubs fans were whiny about Corey Patterson last year? Just wait until Juan Pierre hits .265 and completely submarines his on-base percentage. Wait 'til next year, Cubs fans. Well, I guess, wait 'til the year after that.


Fans of Kansas basketball are officially freaking out. And, quite frankly, I'm annoyed by it.

Yes, we're 3-4.

Yes, Bill Self has used more lineups than Bob Boone.

Yes, it looks like we'll be lucky to make the NCAA tournament.

But I'll let you in on something: Bill Self did not make it this far in his career by being indecisive, unable to adjust and relying strictly on recruiting. Here is his career head coaching record:

Oral Roberts University
1993-94 6-21 .222
1994-95 10-17 .370
1995-96 18-9 .667
1996-97 21-7 .750

Total 55-54 .505

1997-98 19-12 .612
1998-99 23-10 .697
1999-2000 32-5 .865

Total 74-27 .733

2000-01 27-8 .771
2001-02 26-9 .743
2002-03 25-7 .781

Total 78-24 .765

2003-04 24-9 .727
2004-05 23-7 .766

Total 47-16 .746

Grand Total 254-121 .677

Does this look like a coach that doesn't know what he's doing? That's what many KU fans would have you think. But he made Oral Roberts a winning program in his tenure there. He won 32(!) games at Tulsa. He had one of the consistently toughest teams every year at Illinois (and his guys played for the National Championship last year).

So he's had a tough time adjusting at Kansas. Give him a break. He inherited a talented, yet disillusioned team. Gone were Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich, the best players of the young century. What he had left were guys who were good, but not as good as those who left. Wayne Simien, as good as he was, was no Nick Collison. Combine the skills of Aaron Miles, Keith Langford and J.R. Giddens and you come up with Kirk Hinrich. The guys who were left were used to running fun-and-gun basketball. Self had to implement his defense-first system and it probably cost us in the short term.

But he's got his guys in place now. And it looks like he's starting to realize that minutes for Jeff Hawkins, Christian Moody and (are you kidding me?) Stephen Vinson are getting us nowhere, if the St. Joe's game is any indication. Anyone with half a brain in his head noticed that the team played much better offensively when the four freshman were all out on the floor. Unfortunately, the defense was lacking. So that put Self in a bind: go for the short-term, feel good wins against St. Joe's and the like or continue to plant the defense-first philosophy and reap the benefits next year and beyond.

The thing is, Self's not an idiot. He's the one who put those freshman out there in the second half. He's that one who limited the minutes of our dreadful senior class. He'll get things sorted out. But we're going to have to live with the growing pains.

We've (I include myself) become spoiled beyond belief as KU basketball fans. Contending for the National Championship every year is a blessing all but a handful of teams don't receive. It's been a tumultuous couple of years in Lawrence, but things will come out looking as good or better than they ever have. A slow start and the prospect of missing the tournament is no reason lynch Bill Self.


It's come down to the Final Four in Survivor, with the winner to be determined Sunday night. This has been an odd season for me as I never really felt like I got to know the contestants that well, even though the group included Stephenie (from last season), Danni (from Kansas City) and Brandon (from Kansas). Anyway, here are my thoughts on the chances of the remaining Survivors:

Lydia: Couldn't win because no one in the jury would respect her for sliding by the entire game.

Danni: Unlikely to win because I don't see her winning an immunity challenge and avoid being voted out before the final two.
(Side note: I'll be curious to see what she looks like on the reunion show. You know how everyone always puts on a few pounds and some makeup? It'll be interesting to see if she gains any weight. For everyone's sake, I hope so. Yikes.)

Stephenie: Could win if she continues to get immunity, but if she doesn't she'll be gone. Though, if it comes down to Rafe and Steph, I don't see all the people Steph has screwed over voting for her to win unless it's one of those backwards "I respect her for playing the game hard even though I got betrayed" votes.
(Side note: Last season, Stephenie became my all-time favorite player. She epitomized the definition of survivor, enduring the worst tribe in Survivor history, clawing her way past Bobby Jon and even spending a night alone in the wild. But her personality has taken a big hit this season. Now that she's actually had to play the mental game, she's just as conniving as the next guy. That just doesn't come off as well and leaves me mildly disappointed. Oh, well; that's what you get rooting for a reality show contestant.)

Rafe: I think he probably wins because he's strong and smart enough to win the last couple challenges and everyone likes him and will have little problem voting for him. I don't recall him backstabbing anyone, either.

When it comes down to it, though, I vote for Lydia's Hair as the "Ultimate Survivor". Have you noticed that it hasn't changed at all in 34 days, deep in the jungle of Guatemala? She ought to get a hefty endorsement contract from the hair product company she currently patronizes.


Last and least, the Chiefs take a 3-game winning streak into Sunday's matchup against the Cowboys in Dallas. After jerking Kansas City's collective chain, the Chiefs have actually put themselves in a position to grab a playoff spot. The road ahead is still tough, though. At worst, they need to split the next two road games against the Cowboys and the Giants. And they absolutely MUST beat San Diego and Cincinnati at Arrowhead to close out the season. Of course, even if they do happen to make it into the playoffs, there's that pesky little monkey on their backs of not winning a first round playoff game since the Lincoln administration. But I suppose it's better to contend for a playoff game with a foregone conclusion than it is to have no shot at all. Like the Royals.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Sporting News

The pop culture take is a little more involved than I thought. I want to do it right, so it may take me an additional day or two. Fret not, though; I will have something soon. In the meantime, I wanted to comment on recent and timely sporting news:

** The Royals have reportedly targeted Reggie Sanders as a free agent solution to their abysmal outfield production. I think Reggie Sanders is a stand-up guy, but he's 37-years old and has an extensive injury history. How this fits into our youth plan is beyond me. Additionally, GM Allard Baird is interested in Elmer Dessens as a middle reliever. The same Elmer Dessens with the 4.40 career ERA. Of course, he had a 3.56 ERA last year for the Dodgers. But Baird obviously isn't aware of the existence of park effects which give Dodger pitchers shinier resumes because they pitch half their games in Dodger Stadium. Think of Dodger stadium as the opposite of Coors Field in Colorado: pitchers thrive in L.A. and die in Denver. Jose Lima reminded us of that when he was re-signed by the Royals a year after posting a 4.07 ERA for the Dodgers. His 6.99 ERA for the Royals last year was the worst in baseball history by a pitcher who started at least 30 games. All of this is to reiterate that Allard Baird has absolutely no idea how to acquire proven major league talent.

** The NCAA suspended KU forward Darnell Jackson for nine games. The suspension came as a result of Jackson's friendship with KU football alumnus and booster Don Davis. Davis met Jackson when Jackson was in high school and had yet to even be recruited by KU. Davis befriended Jackson and his family, becoming a mentor and spiritual leader to the boy who had previously lost his father.

I realize that the NCAA has to have strict guidelines in place to avoid unfair treatment of athletes and universities, but this just doesn't seem appropriate. How can you punish a kid for a sincere relationship he had with someone before he was even a college recruit? On top of that, Davis, who is one of the few successful KU football players currently in the NFL, has been disassociated from the university, revoking his ticket privileges and ability to donate to the Williams Fund. All I can say is that this is all very unfortunate.

** The NFL announced that Kansas City is eligible to host a Super Bowl, assuming they make renovations to Arrowhead Stadium that include a roof and climate control. This should have been a happy day, but the $500 million estimate to renovate and add a roof has dampened enthusiasm. Since Lamar Hunt tried earlier this year to bilk Kansas City taxpayers out of hundreds of millions of dollars (and was voted down), it seems he's been holed up, trying to figure out how to leverage his enormous clout into getting these renovation dollars. And he seems to have found the perfect plan: Throw your weight around with the NFL offices and owners ("I founded the AFL, after all!") to ensure an opportunity to host the Super Bowl and then pawn off the ever-increasing costs to the Kansas City taxpayer. That way, if the taxpayers vote it down, they'll be stuck with the stigma of not doing enough to help attract a Super Bowl and improve Kansas City while Hunt sits back and says, "Hey, I did my part." I'm tired of this crap. Maybe if we had won more than one Super Bowl since 1970 I'd be more willing to pony up some dough for this ridiculous proposal.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Kansas State and Missouri. One's a respectable, good-natured, in-state rival. The other is a low-down, mangy, despicable screw-up. I'm sure you'll figure out where I stand after reading the following opinions:

**Bill Snyder is retiring at the end of the season as Kansas State's head football coach. Though it seems like an appropriate time, it's still kind of a shocker. Snyder transformed the worst college football program in history into a national power. And while the team has slipped of late, he has left the program in a position to reclaim some of the glory he had once brought the school. Though it would be great fun to write about what how wooden he's been and so on, I'll prefer to just give the man his due. He accomplished a monumental task at K-State, sacrificing many years of family time that he can never recapture, in order to put that program on the map. And regardless of the fact that he coaches on of KU's main rivals, this is a time to put that aside and give him his much-deserved respect. Unlike the recipient of the next topic...

**Quin Snyder's Missouri Tigers lose (at home!) to SAM HOUSTON STATE. Blink a couple of times and read that again: SAM HOUSTON STATE. This gives Missouri losses three years in a row to teams that have absolutely no business beating them. Belmont, Davidson and now SAM HOUSTON STATE. In Missouri's home opener. A game they haven't lost in 32 years. If this doesn't begins Quin's death march, I don't know what it takes. Get a load of these quotes:

“Obviously,” Snyder said, “if we play like this, it’s going to be an awfully long season.”

“I think it’s reflective of us not accepting who we are,” Snyder said of the implication that Missouri took this opponent lightly. “And frankly I’m really surprised by that in light of what these guys have been through.

“I’m shocked that we don’t understand that. I thought that’s something that would be burned on our heart, the lessons about how much energy we have to play with.”

Maybe it's just me, but I'm pretty sure the coach's main responsibility is to make sure he puts his charges in a position to do the best they can. That might entail having them run to achieve superior cardio-vascular fitness. That might also entail imploring to them to understand that each game is important and deserves maximum focus. Old Sam Houston managed to do that, defeating Santa Anna after Texas forces got whupped at the Alamo. Looks like Quin needs to take a page out of history if he wants to stay at Missouri much longer.

**I'm working up some thoughts for a take on pop culture. Stay tuned in the next day or two...


Up and down.

Good and bad.

Exciting and boring.

In my opinion, this is the sort of game that is going to define the upcoming regular season for KU basketball.

A decent first half showing followed by a sloppy and out-of-rythm performance in the second half. On a team so young and inexperienced, there is little reason to expect anything other than this. There were flashes of brilliance and flashes of immaturity. In the end, it makes me dream of what's to come.

The Kansas big men were aggressive once again, with C.J. Giles having the banner game with 24 points. Both Giles and Sasha Kaun looked to score nearly every time they received the ball. The willingness to be assertive and take a leadership role was certainly appreciated, but that willingness needs to be balanced with the ability to kick the ball out to the wings when the shot isn't available. I can remember less than a handful of times that the ball entered the hands of a Kansas big man and was subsequently kicked back out.

Joining the inside game was Darnell Jackson, making an impressive debut this season after being cleared by the NCAA regarding mysterious "eligibility" issues. After the game, Coach Self said they hoped to have these issues cleared up in the next 48 hours. But during this game, Jackson asserted himself, looking to score, rebound and defend. His presence will be much needed as these big men learn how to keep themselves out of foul trouble.

KU's perimeter players were less impressive, making one of their first eleven from three-point range. To be fair, the guards had plenty of good looks and open shots, but it was just one of those nights where the shots just weren't falling. Russell Robinson did manage to direct a couple of floaters for alley oops to Giles and Brandon Rush, but he was unable to finish on several drives to the basket. Mario Chalmers made some nice passes, including a no-look, behind the back dish on the fast break to Julian Wright, who was able to finish for two points. And Jeff Hawkins was pestering Pittsburgh State guards with his quick hands and quick feet.

As Coach Self mentioned in his post-game interview with Max Falkenstein, the Jayhawks were definitely lacking energy when compared to their game versus Fort Hays State. Rush and Wright didn't seem to be in just the right spot every time as they were in the previous game. And Robinson and Chalmers seemed to lack the quickness on defense that caused Fort Hays so much trouble.

But there were plenty of bright spots that left me to daydream about what's to come: Alley-oops to Giles and Rush; great entry passes by Micah Downs and Chalmers; several blocked shots by Giles; the picture-perfect shooting technique of Downs; Jackson ripping down rebounds; the unselfishness of the freshmen.

This year will have its share of highs and lows, shouts of delight and groans of despair and blowouts from both the winning and losing sides. But it will be great to watch this team grow up and dish out a little damage along the way.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Weekend at Gurney's

Well, that weekend sucked.

The sports portion of the weekend, anyway. KU gets a nationally televised football game for the first time in at least ten years and the game was over before we were even able to see it. Because the OU-A&M game went late, ABC didn't cut over to the KU-Texas game until it was already 14-0 in favor of the Longhorns. And it wasn't really worth watching after that anyway. In fact, spirits were so low at Chad's, Ryan busted out the 2002 KU basketball highlight video. Watching Collison/Hinrich/Gooden and Boschee and Simien/Langford/Miles helped ease the pain of watching KU's football team get loaded onto hospital gurneys and wheeled out of the State of Competitiveness. Of course, when the highlight video ended, we flipped back to the game and saw the finishing touches of the 66-14 flogging. Oh, well. At least I won a game of poker during it all.

Following that football downer was the Chiefs game on Sunday. The Chiefs were fresh off a last second victory over Oakland and looking to stay in the thick of the AFC West race. Turns out that the team was fitted with some new footwear: toe tags. Those guys were D.O.A. The offensive line played very politely. They simply stepped out of the way of oncoming Buffalo linemen, so as to not obstruct their journey. Poor Trent Green looked like the guy from the NFL Apparel commercial who zipped himself into the tackling dummy and took a beating all day just to get some NFL jerseys.

But I'm not sure what's worse: Getting beat up or getting torched. Which is what happened to Eric Warfield. Twice he was beaten deep for touchdowns.

Really, though, Larry Johnson was the only guy who seemed to show up for the game. He ripped off 130+ yards on the ground and ran with his usual angst. It just so happened that no one else was up to the challenge. And now the Chiefs playoffs hopes are dim at best. With the exception of Houston, every remaining team on the schedule has a winning record. And we would have to go 6-1 to have a reasonable shot at the division.

Chiefs fans, say hello to a long, cold winter. This team is going nowhere this year or in the near future. Coach Dick Vermeil will likely retire after the season. Priest Holmes best days are behind him, even if he is able to play again. Willie Roaf and Will Shields are beginning their trek to Canton. And Trent Green's hair just keeps getting grayer.

At least we've got basketball, though. Tonight, the Kiddie Crew takes on Pittsburgh State in what will most likely be a carbon copy of the Fort Hays State game. Tune in tomorrow for another look at the basketball Jayhawks through rose-colored glasses.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Lowered Expectations

All during this off-season for KU basketball, I've been pretty realistic (some would say pessimistic) about our team's chances this year. We just lost four seniors, three of whom started and one of which (Wayne Simien) was an All-American. J.R. Giddens was involved in a bar fight and was stabbed in the leg, another data point on his ledger sheet that was filled with erratic behavior. Giddens transferred to New Mexico, stripping the team of yet another starter. The only returning starter just happened to be a walk-on.

That left the bulk of this year's minutes in the hands of four sophomores and four freshman. There is no question that these underclassmen contain bucketfuls of talent (particularly the freshman), but experience, strength and toughness generally win out in a league as tough as the Big XII.

So, I figured we would definitely take our lumps this season and build toward next season. With that in mind, I was really looking forward to seeing just how talented these freshman were and to see if the sophomores had bulked up any and improved their games.

Watching last night's exhibition game (the first of the season), I was pleasantly surprised. The sophomores were aggressive and looking to take charge. The freshman were active and eager to display their much-hyped talent.

To break down my impressions on the first Jayhawk action of the season, I'll go over the good and the bad, first for the whole team, then for each player.



* Perimeter defense. Jeff Hawkins, Mario Chalmers, and Russell Robinson were all relentless in pressuring the Fort Hays guards. Those three only combined for four steals, but the constantly harassed their opponents into making poor decisions.

* Ball distribution. The ball didn't stay in one place too long when the 'Hawks were on offense. Lots of unselfish play. The team had 24 assists on 35 made field goals. A very good sign.

* Hustle. KU was never beat down the floor on defense. There were several instances of players diving for loose balls. This is a central theme of a Bill Self-coached team.


* Fort Hays is a Division II school. This wasn't much of a test. There are something like 300 Division I schools and Fort Hays was picked to finish third in their conference. There are scores of much better teams than this. They had no size inside and were clearly overmatched.

* Free-throw shooting. Sasha Kaun was the main culprit, making only 3 of 10 from the line. But Christian Moody and Russell Robinson were a combined 2-7, as well. Considering that big guys get fouled a lot during the game, Kaun and Moody missing free throws is troubling. And if Robinson is going to be handling the ball at the end of close games, you want him to be more reliable from the stripe.

* Strength. Only Kaun looked like a regular in the weight room. C.J. Giles reportedly put on some weight, but didn't look noticeably beefier. All the freshman have typically svelte builds. This team is going to need to hit the weight room and training table with the same intensity they take to the practice floor.



* Jeff Hawkins. Hawkins started the game at the point and played well. He ran the team and shot well from three-point range (3-5). As mentioned previously, he played tenacious perimeter defense, something that has been consistent from the fifth year senior throughout his career.

* Russell Robinson. A somewhat surprising starter considering his troubles with turnovers last year and the hype of incoming freshman Mario Chalmers. But Robinson turned the ball over only twice in 27 minutes and handed out 11 assists. He and Sasha Kaun seemed to be on the same page as exemplified by Robinson's lobs for Kaun dunks. And Robinson was a major pest on defense to the Fort Hays guards.

* Steven Vinson. Definitely a surprise starter. Bill Self has not been shy about experimenting with different lineups or playing walk-ons. Vinson came out and contributed immediately with a three before giving way to Chalmers and Brandon Rush.

* Mario Chalmers. This is the one freshman nearly everyone expected to start. He didn't. But he did show why people had such high hopes. He shot the ball well, his only two misses coming behind the arc. He showed the ability to drive to the bucket and finish. And he displayed tough perimeter defense.

* Jeremy Case. Case didn't play much but did score with the home crowd when he hit a three with one second left in the game, making sure that every available player scored.


* Julian Wright. Possibly the most highly touted player of the freshman class, Wright looked like he wasn't quite up to speed yet. He did seem to possess excellent court vision and the desire to find the open man. He was also quite active on the boards. His shot looks like it could use a little work, but he also showed the ability to put the ball on the floor and finish.

* Micah Downs. Has a nice looking shot from long from long range. He'll need to put on a significant amount of muscle in order to endure the intense grind of the college season. Downs does seem to have long arms and athleticism that will help him on the defensive end. Blocked a shot with his elbow, which was both odd and impressive.

* Brandon Rush. Probably the crown jewel of the freshman class. Rush didn't start the game, but ended up with the most complete stat line of the night: 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field, 5-of-6 from the line; 10 rebounds, seven on the offensive end; a team-leading four steals; three assists. Rush employed a complete offensive game, taking his man off the dribble; pulling up for the mid-range jumper; even a reverse dunk on a breakaway steal. Very impressive debut.


* Christian Moody. Got the start and played his typical solid, though unimpressive, game.

* C.J. Giles. Also started and took the initiative as a scorer in the first half. He showed off the 15-foot range Self had touted from practice and was confident in taking what the defense was giving him. Giles blocked a couple of shots and altered numerous others, though his aggressive defensive style did result in four fouls. This is something he'll need to improve given the lack of depth in the front court this year as opposed to last year.

* Sasha Kaun. Kaun had a very encouraging beginning to the season. Taking advantage of the lack of size in the players guarding him, he repeatedly took the ball to the rim and finished with powerful dunks. Unfortunately, he was miserable at converting his free throws after being fouled repeatedly. And he seemed to disappear on the boards, only collecting three in 19 minutes.

* Matt Kleinmann. The big redheaded walk-on got some garbage time minutes and made the most of his opportunity, scoring on a decent move around the basket.

All in all, the team performed much better than I had expected. We've had lots of highly touted freshman over the years at Kansas and even the best ones are generally pretty inconsistent. I don't think that will be any different with this class, but the talent is there, without question. If we make it to the tournament this year, I will be more than pleased. Anything more than that will just be icing. I guess that's the good thing about having lowered expectations.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Good Times

How about this lineup for the football games of weekend past?

University of Kansas: 40
University of Kick-Kansas-Ass-36-Years-In-A-Row: 15

University of Colorado: 41
University of Perpetual-Mediocrity: 12

Iowa State University: 45
Quickly-Losing-Respectability-As-A-Top-25-University: 17

Kansas City Chiefs: 27
Oakland Raiders: 23

In case you haven't been notified of the name-changes of several universities within the Big XII, KU beat Nebraska; Colorado beat Missouri; and Iowa State beat K-State. First and foremost,


No one has been able to truthfully write this sentence since before I was born. I guess all bad things must come to an end, and the Jayhawks were finally able to put 36 years of futility behind them. Of course, a lot of stars had to align to make this even a remote possibility:

1) Tom Osborne retires as head coach at Nebraska, begetting Frank Solich. Solich wins "only" 9 games per year and is forced out, begetting former Raider head coach Bill Calahan. Bill Calahan decides the best way to pick up the tattered remains of the recruiting classes Solich brought in was to institute the vaunted "West Coast Offense", even though none of these kids were recruited with this system in mind.

2) Roy Williams decides to accept his "dream job" at North Carolina, releasing his stranglehold on the rest of the KU athletic department. Lew Perkins decides to leave the burgeoning empire he created from scratch at UConn and try his hand at boosting the *entire* KU athletic department, rather than just the basketball program. Noted friend of Roy, Terry Allen, finally receives his just desserts and is fired, replaced by sizable head coach Mark Mangino.

3) Calahan institutes a system of confusion and turmoil into the Nebraska football program and winds up missing a bowl game for the first time since football was invented.

4) Mangino institutes a system of hard work and preparation and winds up taking the Jayhawks to the Phillip Rivers Bowl, er, Tangerine Bowl, the team's first bowl game since 1995.

And, finally, Memorial Stadium was not filled with Husker Red, but overflowing with Jayhawk Blue as a new stadium attendance record was set. Over 51,000 people got to witness something that a whole generation of KU football fans had never seen. Unfortunately, Kansas football still doesn't carry the same weight as Kansas basketball and so the game wasn't televised locally. But I was able to listen to Bob and Max on the radio as Bob screamed at the top of his lungs after every noteworthy play. And there were plenty of noteworthy plays:

* 40-yard TD pass on KU's opening offensive drive
* KU blocks a punt and recovers for a touchdown
* KU RB John Cornish rips off a 72-yard touchdown scamper
* A Kansas safety
* Mark Simmons catches his second TD pass for KU
* KU linebacker Kevin Kane picks off a screen pass and runs it 40 yards for a TD

I'm not sure Bob still had working vocal chords after this game. And to top off the day, main rivals MU and KSU get completely destroyed, seriously hindering their chances at ending the season in a bowl game. Meanwhile, KU needs to beat Iowa State in Lawrence (a tough, but winnable game) to make itself bowl-eligible, two weeks after at the possibility of a lost season.

This team has been both exciting and maddening at the same time. The offense, until the last two weeks, has been wretched. The defense, on the other hand, has been one of the nation's best. It had been disappointing watching the defense play its heart out only to have the offense piss away victories, game after game. Add in the fact that it's a senior-heavy defense and you could just see a potentially special season going down the drain. Now, after dismantling Brad Smith and Missouri for the third straight year and finally ending the streak against Nebraska, there is some hope again for this team.

This week, the Jayhawks travel to Austin to play second-ranked Texas. Normally, that would sound like a momentum buster, but KU was one horribly-botched call away from beating Texas last year. I'm not saying Kansas won't get annihilated by UT, but these guys have seen the possibility of beating this team and won't be intimidated in the least.

It doesn't take much to brighten the spirits of a Jayhawk football fan. Here's hoping we can send these seniors out on a bright note.


And as if all that college lunacy wasn't enough, the Chiefs managed to pull a game directly out of their collective ass.

The first half was a terrible snoozer, with both teams combining for five field goals and a 3-point lead by Oakland. But the second half saw KC's offense start to wake up, even though it was without Pro Bowl lineman Willie Roaf and Pro Bowl running back Priest Holmes. And once it looked like the Chiefs might take Oakland by the throat, Kerry Collins finds Jerry Porter in the end zone and makes it a 5-point game. And with time running out in the game, Randy Moss decides to show up and makes his first catch of the day: a 7-yard touchdown that, with the two-point conversion, puts the Raiders up by three. The Chiefs somehow manage to chip away and get the ball down the field, aided by a leg whip call that goes against the Raiders and negates yet another late game sack of Trent Green. With new life breathed into the offense, Green finds Eddie Kennison along the sidelines and gets close to field goal range for Lawrence Tynes. After a time-out with nineteen seconds left, Green checks off and dumps a short pass over the line to Larry Johnson.


Larry Johnson has been itching to be in this situation from the moment the Chiefs drafted him and hasn't been afraid to tell anyone who will listen. After being drafted as a bargaining chip in Priest Holmes's contract negotiation, though, Johnson had been stuck riding the pine. After much whining, Johnson was able to take advantage of opportunities that presented themselves in the way of Priest Holmes injuries. He had a respectable second half of the season last year after Holmes went down and parlayed that into more carries in the preseason this year. He had added patience to his repertoire and was ripping off 15 yard runs left and right, forcing the Kansas City coaching staff to find a larger role for him in the offense. The staff settled on a rotation that alternated Holmes carrying the ball for two series and Johnson for one. Johnson has thrived, scoring as many touchdowns as Holmes in less carries and keeping himself ready for the inevitable Holmes injury. And ready he was when it was announced that Holmes would not play against the Raiders and Johnson would get his first start of the year.


Larry Johnson catches the dump pass and turns to find no Raiders within 15 yards of him. In his most impressive run to date, he took off, full-speed, toward the goal line. Johnson is a big guy, but can make people miss if he wants to, but most of the time he runs as if oncoming tacklers have burned down his house and stolen his girlfriend and he's looking for revenge. I've never seen a more "angry" runner than Larry Johnson. Anyway, he sprints 35 yards downfield and just lowers his head as two Raiders finally realize that they'd better do something or else they'd end up like Brian Bosworth after a Bo Jackson steamrolling. They manage to stop Johnson at the one-yard line with five seconds left. The Chiefs immediately call time-out and try to decide whether to take the safe route or go for the win.

Thankfully, Vermeil decided that the offense was good enough to get one yard and didn't put the pressure back on the defense to potentially get torched in overtime. And Larry Johnson and the offensive line came through. Johnson leaped over the line for the winning score with time running out while the line blew open several hole for him to run through. The Chiefs were celebrating wildly and deservedly while the Raiders walked off the field.

It's always fun to beat the Raiders (even though we do it all the time), but this was a particularly rewarding victory. Trent Green has been mourning his father's unexpected death and his focus has been understandably distracted. The best offensive player in Chiefs history (Holmes) suffers yet another injury. Willie Roaf, arguably the best left tackle in the game, missed another game. Off-season acquisition Patrick Surtain was out due to injury. All these things could have easily derailed this team and no one would have batted an eye. But the revolving door of mediocre lineman filled in and gutted it out, just enough; our increasingly suspect secondary sustained injuries, but managed to limit Randy Moss to just one catch; and Larry Johnson turned in a much-needed professional performance when his team needed it the most. Now, instead of allowing Oakland to join the fight in the AFC West, the Chiefs put them away and remained a game back of Denver and a half-game in front of San Diego. I'm not sure this was a "season-saving" win, but it sure was a good one.

Friday, November 04, 2005


There's a guy who works at the Wendy's down the street from my office that I suspect might have Tourette's Syndrome. Why? While he's bussing tables, he'll often let out an emphatic, "SPORTS!" With that in mind, let's dig in:

--The Jayhawks come off an impressive victory over hated rival Missouri to face the Nebraska Cornhuskers in Lawrence. KU has lost 36 straight times to Nebraska, the second-longest streak in Division 1-A football. They had a great opportunity to end the streak last year in Lincoln, but couldn't quite do it. This year, the Hawks' defense is one of the best in the country and should keep Nebraska bottled up. The huge question mark is whether their "Without A Trace" offense can score any points. They managed to have a fairly effective running game versus Missouri, but the quarterback situation is a revolving door of ineptitude. If Mangino can somehow convince Swanson to hold on to the football and not turn it over, I think KU probably wins this game. One of my former co-workers, a 61-year old cornhusker fanatic, told me that he wouldn't live to see the day that KU beats Nebraska in football. I told him that I thought this would be a very short and uncomfortable weekend for him.

--Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil intimated that Trent Green may not start this Sunday against the Raiders. Green's father passed away last week apparently Vermeil wants to make sure that Green is "OK" before he makes a decision. If Green doesn't play at all this week, the Chiefs are screwed. He's the one indispensable player on the roster. We've managed to gut out wins without the amazing Priest Holmes; we've won some games when we started a defense that would have a hard time stopping 10-year olds in a game of "Red Rover"; we were able to get by while Big Willie Roaf was out a couple of games. But if we have to rely on backup QB Todd Collins for more than a couple of snaps, we're doomed. Trent Green is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the league. Not because he has tremendous physical ability, but because he knows exactly what needs to be done in this offense and is completely comfortable executing it week after week. Even with Priest looking more and more doubtful for this week's game, we could still get by with Green under center and Larry Johnson getting all the carries. Unfortunately, what this all boils down to is that the Chiefs' offense is aging like Mel Gibson in "Forever Young". Priest can't stay healthy, Roaf and Shields are starting to break down and Eddie Kennison's not anyone's idea of a spring chicken. We could be getting our first possible glimpse of a post-Green/Holmes/Roaf offense and it doesn't look good.

--A positive off-season Royals note: Mike Sweeney won the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award, voted on by his peers as the player who best combined skill in the field with positive impact in the community. Of all the whining I do about the Royals, it IS nice to have a stand-up guy as the face and cornerstone of your franchise. Even if he only plays 120 games a year.

--Another note on off-season baseball: the first trade of the winter was pulled off yesterday. Washington Nationals GM Jim Bowden, roundly considered an overrated and egomaniacal GM, pulled the wool over the eyes of Padres GM Kevin Towers, widely considered one of the sharper minds in the game. Washington pawns off the desiccated remains of third baseman Vinny Castilla for the unspectacular, yet serviceable arm of Brian Lawrence. This quote by Towers helps explain the apparent George Costanza/Elaine Benes personality swap that must have transpired as well:

"In the 10 years I've been a general manager, I was tired of Vinny hitting home runs against us, either in Colorado or Washington," San Diego GM Kevin Towers said. "He's always been a Padres nemesis, not only from the offensive standpoint, but from a defensive standpoint. This guy, I think, is one of the best defensive third basemen in the game."

Castilla is going to have to be the second coming of Brooks Robinson to justify that deal. In addition, what does this say about Sean Burroughs? After failing miserably to live up to his Little League potential, the Padres brought in Joe Randa and sent Burroughs to the minors to help restore his ability/confidence. Randa files for free agency and apparently Burroughs didn't register on Towers' radar screen enough to avoid bringing in one of the worst regular third basemen in the game. Sorry, kid; looks like it may be time to see what that high school degree has in store for you.

--Bad news for the Miami Heat: Shaq is out 2-4 weeks with a sprained ankle. That's not the worst news, though; more minutes just opened up for Antoine Walker. Even though the Heat would have made the Finals if it weren't for Dwyane Wade's injury, Mad Scientist Pat Riley decided to blow up the roster and bring in noted "shoot first, ask questions later" Hall of Famer, Antoine Walker. Walker might be the most maddening player in the league, alternating 30-point, 12-rebound, game-winning shot performances with 3-for-19, 1-for-14 from 3-point range, shoot-my-team-out-of-the-game-in-the-first-quarter performances. How do you trade for a guy like that on a team that should be funneling the ball into Shaq 65% of the time and letting Wade do his thing the other 35%? Mind boggling.

--Last night, the guard lined up beside Kobe Bryant in the Lakers' starting lineup?

Smush Parker.

That's gotta be the best nickname in major sports right now.


Trent Green WILL play this Sunday versus Oakland, Willie Roaf and Priest Holmes are "very doubtful". We'll avoid our first taste of a Green-less lineup, but the mere thought of it should make Chiefs fans shudder.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Opportunity Knocks

Two highly-qualified and highly-attractive general manager candidates arrived on the market this week. Paul DePodesta, recently dumped unceremoniously by the Dodgers, and Theo Epstein, the architect of the much-ballyhooed 2004 Red Sox world championship are available at this very second. DePodesta was the one-time assistant to Billy Beane in Oakland who first found fame by appearing in Michael Lewis' Moneyball. Theo Epstein was apparently fed up with the constant lunacy and obsession of Red Sox Nation and decided to step down from his post rather than accept a 3-year, $4.5 million contract extension.

I realize that the Royals are still in the "honeymoon phase" of the Allard Baird era (wink, wink), but allow a guy to dream a little. Wouldn't it be amazing (and so totally out of character) if Royals owner David Glass actually used some of the creativity and business sense that made him successful in other aspects of his life and hired one of these fellows? Sure, he'd have to kick Allard Baird to the curb - or would he?

If Glass had the cajones to hire one of these young, brilliant and thoroughly competent general managers, couldn't he offer Baird the proverbial "job within the organization"? I think Allard Baird is a hard-working man of high character, but I think he's in over his head as a big league GM. He would fit in well as an assistant GM or director of scouting (a position he used to hold). The idea of demoting the GM isn't as far-fetched as it seems. The Chiefs hired Gunther Cunningham to be their defensive coordinator after his failed attempt to be the Chiefs' head coach. Why couldn't it work in this situation?

Even if Baird didn't want to accept the demotion, this would be a risk worth taking. These are both guys with something to prove. DePodesta was canned after two years of a five year contract. He didn't get a chance to fully implement his system with the Dodgers before the McCourt family went with the knee-jerk decision to let him go. DePodesta was a master at identifying talent when with the A's, a skill that needed in Kansas City's front office as much as anything. Building and maintaing a quality farm system is the only way to compete in today's economic climate and he's got the skills to see that through. Epstein was adept at finding cheap, high-impact talent. Not to be confused with Baird who was proficient at finding cheap, mid- to low-impact talent. He was also quite skilled at handling the press and personalities of his various high-paid stars. If Glass ever decided to open up the checkbook, Epstein would know how to use it. Both guys have vaunted educational pedigrees, a passion for baseball and, now, the additional motivation of wanting to show that they can succeed in a new situation.

Obviously, there are more attractive vacancies available. But the Royals do have some young talent to build upon and a relatively weak division to operate in. And stranger things have happened. Like a 29-year old GM leading the supposedly-cursed Red Sox to a world title. Maybe, just maybe, David Glass will hear the knock this time and actually be brave enough to open the door.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

"Hello? Hold On; The Drink Cart Just Stopped."

A few days ago, I saw a story on the New York Times site that indicated airlines are
starting to consider allowing the use of cellular phones while in flight.

Now, before I begin the fireworks, let me make something clear: I think cell phones are great. I personally own a cell phone and I no longer have a traditional "land line". Why? Because cell phones are exactly what they've been marketed to us as: highly convenient. Unfortunately for many people, they're *too* convenient.

Do we need to facilitate *more* convenience by allowing people to chat in mid-air? The most shocking part of the Times article is the numerous quotes from people who did NOT want to be able to be reached during their flights. Many business people who spend 10 hours a day on the phone actually look forward to a time when they don't have any choice but to turn off the phone and enjoy some relatively peace and quiet. They cherish the natural downtime that allows them to sleep, read, or work quietly on other projects. The response was borderline panicky when they were made aware of the prospect of their phone-free zone being hijacked.

But, rather than scoff at the notion and come to the realization that they could just turn their phones off while in flight (or anywhere else, for that matter), many said that they would never be able to escape their omnipresent communication device. Herein lies the problem: many people lack a general sense of discipline and self-control. They think that the inherent freedom in being able to communicate with anyone at any time is both necessary and beneficial. But what it has become for many is a set of self-imposed shackles from which they cannot free themselves.

Freedom is a wonderful thing. It is what this country is all about. But freedom that
infringes upon another person's rights needs to be put in check. And the rampant misuse of cell phones is going largely unchecked in our society. Everywhere you go, someone is talking on a cell phone: in the car; at work; at restaurants; at the movie theater; at the airport; walking down the street; at home; in the grocery store.

On the toilet.

Yes, even in the restroom. I walked into the restroom in my office building last week and moved toward the urinal. As I was preparing to do what one does in the restroom, I heard a faint, muffled voice. As my brain tried to decipher just what in the world that noise was and where it might be coming from, a loud, masculine voice projected from the closed stall door, apparently responding to the tiny voice I was hearing. I couldn't help but laugh when I flushed, hoping the person on the other end of the line could hear the ambient noise.

And that's the Catch-22. There is nothing inherently wrong with talking to someone while sitting on the pot. There is nothing inherently wrong with with taking a cell phone call at work. There is nothing inherently wrong with making a call at the airport. There is nothing inherently wrong with taking a call while walking down the street.

There *is* something inherently wrong with imposing your conversation on others without their consent. There is a general lack of courtesy when it comes to cell phone use. If I'm talking with you, face-to-face, and stop mid-sentence to start another conversation with the person who just walked up, you would be justifiably irked at my indiscretion. Yet, the same scenario plays out over and over again when you're talking to someone and you suddenly hear a catchy little jingle and the person you're talking to starts furiously digging in their pocket or purse, God forbid they should miss this one call. Suddenly, your ranking in this person's world has dropped a notch and, short of knocking the phone out of their hands, there is nothing you can do about it.

One might reasonably think that it is common sense to avoid making noise at the movie
theater. Yet, amazingly, there must be another species of people on our planet who don't turn their ringers off and continue to talk, laugh and carry on without a care for the $8 they or their fellow movie-goers just spent on the price of admission. I can't even begin to make sense of this behavior.

But the single worst abuse of personal freedom combined with cell phone use is the
simultaneous operation of both a two and one-half ton automobile and a cellular telephone. It's one thing to bump into someone while walking down the sidewalk or cut someone off with your grocery cart while talking on the phone. It's an entirely different animal when a split-second decision is made a split-second too late because one's attention has been diverted from the potentially lethal business of driving a car.

How is it that we've been able to systematically eliminate smoking in public places (which I whole-heartedly endorse) because it might, eventually, one day, somewhere down the road kill an innocent bystander, yet we continue to play Russian Roulette with the potential for instant injury or death at the hands of a distracted driver? We don't allow people to drive drunk because their ability to drive is impaired. We don't allow people to watch television while they drive because it distracts them from the task at hand. We don't allow people to wear headphones to listen to music while they drive because it cuts out one of the necessary senses involved in driving.

And now some states have considered banning cell phone use for drivers under the age of 18. Is this because teenagers are inherently poor at splitting their attention compared to their adult counterparts? I'd would argue that teenagers wouldn't do any worse. I recall myself as a teenager carrying on a conversation with my buddy in the same room, a conversation on the phone, playing a video game and listening to the radio all at the same time. But the quality of which I was doing any of those four things was surely not as great as it might have been had I been concentrating on just one of those items. The argument is that cell phone use distracts teenagers. Is it that much of a stretch to assume cell phone use distracts adults? If teenagers are so easily distracted, why don't we wait until they become adults before allowing them to drive?

What this whole issue boils down to is that there is a major lack of common sense, courtesy and self-control when it comes to cell phone use. Freedom is the cornerstone of this country, but freedom without boundaries is irresponsible at best, fatal at worst. So when you get on your next flight, go ahead and turn off your phone whether you're asked to or not.

You just might survive.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

What Provoked My Interest Today, October 4, 2005

These are some of the things I thought about today, from the moment I woke up until the moment I laid my pretty little head to sleep:

It really is too bad that Meredith Hoenes has to be stuck bantering with that idiot Brett Anthony.


Fiona Apple has a new album coming out soon. I always liked her smoky voice and piano accompaniment, but she had fallen of the face of the Earth after her second album. I'm looking forward to checking out the new material.


My boss's mom had a stroke last night. He says she's recovering quickly. What I find most interesting is the constant optimism and good spirits of my boss. He came in to work at lunch time and started making fun of the Hans & Frans sound-alike that was jabbering on the speaker phone during a conference call. He never misses a beat.


My co-worker likes to eat yogurt first thing in the morning. He likes to take hundreds of little scrapes at the bottom of the cup when he's nearly done, extracting every last molecule of yogurt. I like to pull my teeth out one by one, sans anesthesia. Well, not really, but the effect is the same.


I'm sooooo glad my brother and his family came into town. It was fantastic hanging out with them, especially my niece. She's only nine months old, but I think she's gonna grow up fast. I've seen her three times and she's changed so much each time. I can't wait to get back out to Colorado and see them again.


I'm becoming less and less interested in claiming to be even a slight Republican. Not that I'm thinking of switching allegiances and looking to become a Democrat. I'm personally sick of all the contentiousness and sniping between the two parties. I can't affiliate myself with one or the other without provoking some sort or argument in my head, from my friends, or from what I read. I like to keep up on the opinions generated by both sides, but I've become more and more sickened by the arrogance and imperialism of the Republicans and the subversion and dissent of the Democrats. I'm tired of every single issue being a black-and-white, split down the middle tug-of-war. Is there anyone out there that doesn't follow one of two party lines like a lemming follows his buddy over a cliff? You've got to think so, but there doesn't seem to be anyone to represent a balanced view in our current political system. (If there is, please let me know.) Is George W. Bush the best president we've ever had? Of course not. Has he done some good things? Of course. Has he done some questionable things? I believe so. In the big picture, how is that any different than Clinton before him? Clinton accomplished many good things and screwed just as many things up. What happened to the days when once the president was elected, the public stood behind him? Not blindly following the president but also not wasting so much time and energy bitching and complaining and sabotaging. I've always believed that balance is a major theme in life and I'm not going to support either party until some sort of balance within one of them is restored.


Kansas City is getting an Arena Football team. The average ticket price is $20. No freaking way would I pay $20 to see an Arena Football game.


According to the New York Times, airlines may start allowing the use of cellular phones while in flight in the near future. This deserves a column of its own. Stay tuned...


I wonder how much difference there would be between Vladimir Guerrero and Barry Bonds if Vladi didn't swing at everything within his current zip code? He pounded a ball that was high and away in the 6th inning of tonight's game for a single to right. What happens if he lets that ball go and pounds a ball in the strike zone? I realize that he has reached base at a .390 clip over the course of his career, but he's only slugged over .600 twice. Wouldn't a slight reduction in batting average (but a possible increase in walks, keeping his on-base percentage nearly the same) be worth the added power?


I'm tired of the "Playoff Face" of every pitcher courtesy of FOX.


Why is it easier to drink cold water than lukewarm water?


Do you ever wonder what the media would talk about if certain things didn't happen? What would they fill their airtime with right now if Katrina and Rita had fizzled out in the Gulf of Mexico? Or if two Supreme Court seats hadn't opened up almost simultaneously? Would they just add a couple more murder/robbery stories? Or just wait around for Michael Jackson to "allegedly" molest some more kids? (UPDATE: Lindsay Lohan smashed up her car after being followed by paparazzi and Nick & Jessica are reportedly new residents of Splitsville. I now have my answer.)


The new Charles Schwab commercials are a little disconcerting. The new animation style they employ is very lifelike and (for some reason) very disturbing. Words don't do them justice. I'm sure they'll play these commercials hundreds of times during the playoffs. And I'll gradually be desensitized to the new Matrix being created by the evil computer hench-bots at Schwab.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Grab Bag

Just like the grab bags my parents used to sell at their baseball card shop, you never know what you're going to get. And so goes today's entry:

**Sunday was the last Royals home game of the year and I was given a primo seat for the contest. I always like going to the last home game of the year, but I always come away with a bittersweet taste in my mouth. I'm happy to see the last game, but I'm always sad that I won't see another live baseball game for six months. And so it went with this game. I was hoping against hope that the Royals might actually pull a win away from the surging Cleveland Indians, but after the first inning, my optimism was squelched. Mark Teahen booted what would have been a possible double-play or at least one out at the minimum. This opened the doors for one of Zack Greinke's oft-thrown lollipops that escaped the surly bonds of Kauffman Stadium with ease for a first inning 3-run homer at the hands of Indians catcher Victor Martinez. Thankfully, young Zack settled down and pitched quite effectively for six more innings. During that time, though, the inimitable Terrence Long managed to add to the circus-like antics of his fielding resume, falling down while dropping a routine fly ball that he misplaced in the sun. One might think that Terrence, buoyed by the vote of confidence from manager Buddy Bell, would have learned how to play left field in Kauffman Stadium after being run out there time and again in lieu of youth movement members Chip Ambres or Matt Diaz. Greinke, though, managed to avoid turning Long's moment of foreshadowing into any additional runs. And Long actually managed to make up for his gaffe two-fold by singling in a run and immediately leaving the game due to tightness in his knee. Follow that up with an Emil Brown two-run rip over the left-field wall (at the behest of my mental pleading) and the game was knotted at 3. And though we managed to benefit from the misfortune of Indians pitcher Cliff Lee and take the lead on his wild pitch, another typical Royals scenario played out when "closer" Mike MacDougal allowed the tying run to score in the top of the ninth. Lest we think we've received an undue share of misery and bad luck, the Gremlins of Misfortune came out to play with the Indians again in the bottom of the ninth when Paul Phillips' line drive to center was also lost in the sun by centerfielder Grady Sizemore allowing the Royals to win in "walk-off" fashion and give the 11,453 faithful one last reason to believe that there's always next year.


**From the semi-sweet sentiments of Sunday to the manic moments of Monday...

The latest "Debacle in Denver" really got my juices flowing. I follow and root for the Chiefs, if only because we both reside in the same municipality. But I'm not passionate about them in the same way I am about the Royals or the Jayhawks. That being said, I was livid with their performance on Monday Night Football.

First and foremost, the fact that we were embarrassed YET AGAIN on multiple bootleg plays is totally unacceptable. How many times over how many years do we need to be exposed to this play before someone on our coaching staff draws up a defense to combat it? We finally bring in some speedy linebackers who can pursue the ball from sideline to sideline and we waste them with Gunther Cunningham's overly-aggressive play-calling. Is no one required to keep "contain" on plays like this? I cannot come up with any reasonable explanation for why our coaching staff and players refuse to adjust to this strategy.

(Conspiracy Theory #1: When Denver had the ball within K.C.'s 10-yard line and Greg Wesley made a truly remarkable open-field tackle to stop Mike Anderson on the 1-yard line on second down, I think that little rat-face Shanahan decided to rub it in our faces. I'm convinced he told Anderson to trip before reaching the goal line on third down so that they could run Plummer's naked bootleg for another humiliating touchdown on fourth down.)

The next point is this: Jordan Black, Kevin Sampson and Chris Bober are not the future of our once-dominant offensive line. When John Tait left via free agency a couple of years ago, we didn't really miss a beat. With Willie Roaf out due to injury, our line was suddenly reduced to a laughing stock that not even Pro Bowlers Will Shields and Brian Waters could salvage. Included in the 13 total penalties the Chiefs racked up were four holding penalties. They made Denver defensive lineman Trevor Pryce looked like vintage Warren Sapp. In addition, there were two more holding penalties on kick returns.

(Conspiracy Theory #2: After Dante Hall humiliated the Broncos a couple of years ago on a kick return that featured an obviously blown holding call by Kansas City, the officials are determined to never let it happen again, hence the two holding calls on returns.)

Back to coaching deficiencies, when Larry Johnson fumbled deep in our own territory, Vermeil challenged the play. It was admittedly a desperation challenge, knowing full well that Johnson had coughed it up but hoping that by some miracle the refs would overturn the call. I don't necessarily have a problem with this specific challenge but what piqued my interest was the graphic displayed showing that Vermeil has been successful in less than 20% of his challenges in his career. Now, I don't know the situation of every challenge, but something seems inherently wrong here. Either Vermeil and his coaches have no concept of the challenge rule or their team is constantly in a desperate position where only a bogus overturned call could turn things around. Very sketchy, in my opinion.

Speaking of poor coaching and Larry Johnson, can anyone explain to me why Vermeil stuck to his arbitrary running back rotation when we had 1st and Goal on the Denver 4-yard line? Why is inexperienced, upright-running, speed merchant Larry Johnson getting goal line carries when we have one of the most prolific short-yardage, touchdown scoring backs in the history of the league standing on the sidelines? Johnson is going to be a very good running back in this league, but when you're down 20-0 with time running out before half you need to score a touchdown. This was an absolutely awful decision by the coaching staff.

That's an awful lot of ranting for a team that I'm supposedly not passionate about, but it needed to be said. This team still has problems that need to be addressed before any mention of "playoffs" can be uttered again seriously.


**The next topic is a bit more tricky. Surely, many folks have encountered a situation like the one I'm about to describe. I find this situation to be both challenging and perplexing.

The problem: The guy that sits across from me at work is almost unbearably annoying.

I don't say this to be mean. He's one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. Which makes it that much tougher. It's a lot easier to dislike and write off someone who behaves like a complete jerk. But nearly everything he does gets on my nerves, much like having your knuckles run over a cheese grater.

First, he *loves* to chit chat in the morning. I'm not a morning person. I certainly don't expect everyone to bow down to my wishes, but I think a spirit of compromise would definitely be in order. My co-worker, who sits to his left, shares my general lack of enthusiasm for the hours preceding lunch. We started out by being quiet, nodding and grunting and trying not to encourage his behavior. Didn't work. Eventually, my co-worker came right out and said, "It would probably be best if you didn't talk to me until 10:00." Didn't work. I've resorted to avoiding eye contact at all costs for at least the first hour I'm at work.

Second, the stuff he loves to chit chat about is terribly mundane. "Well, I tried to mow my lawn really fast last night before it rained. It started to thunder and lightning and I just barely got it done. My wife wanted me to get inside before I was struck dead." Uh, how am I supposed to respond to that? "Great work, man! I really hope your well-manicured lawn was worth the possibility of leaving your wife a widow with four children." Another excerpt: "Oh, man; I'm tired." This is generally repeated until a response is offered. After two or three tries, I generally give in with the only response that seems appropriate: "Oh, yeah?" He then goes on to repeat how he didn't get any sleep the night before due to the fact that his wife just gave birth to their fourth child. The first time or two this was mentioned, I expressed sympathy since I have two children of my own and remember the choppy sleep patterns bestowed upon parents of a newborn. But how many times am I required to offer sympathy? I almost feel manipulated in a passive-aggressive way to pump him up. If it was a young, attractive single mom sitting across from me I'm sure I could come up with the stamina to keep doling out sympathetic phrases. Unfortunately, I'm not that noble.

On the subject of passive-aggressive behavior, whenever he screws something up (perfectly acceptable considering he's the new guy) he apologizes profusely until you tell him that he's just fine. Again, it feels very manipulative, like "Poor me, I'm an idiot, I'll never figure this stuff out, I'm always messing up," until I give in and say, "Don't worry about it, everybody makes mistakes at first, you're picking it up, it's OK." Again, I didn't mind the first couple of times, but after a while it just felt phony so I stopped.

Along those same lines, he's always whining about one thing or another. To me, it always feels like another disingenuous attempt to score some sympathy points or an ego boost. In fact, it never seems like a guy-to-guy, "I'll offer up my problem and you offer me a solution" kind of thing. It seems like a more female-oriented "I don't really want you to fix my problem; I just want you to listen." If I've got a girlfriend or wife, I'm more than happy to lend a sympathetic ear. If you're my male co-worker, it just seems out-of-place and I don't want to hear it. Maybe that's harsh, but I've always thought of myself as a good listener (and been told the same by others), but there's just something wrong with this exchange.

On top of that, he's in insufferable suck-up. Not only to our boss but to me and my co-worker. It's a case of the guy who wants to be liked so much that he tries *way* too hard. When my boss asks his opinion on something, it's always, "Well so-and-so and such-and-such, but only if that sounds alright to you." Again, as a new guy, some of that is perfectly acceptable. But it's been six months. Surely, he's got a solid idea by now.

And everything is hilarious to him, particularly his own jokes. Maybe I'm a comedy snob, but I never want to laugh at a joke that's already been laughed at by its creator. And I honestly don't ever feel obligated to laugh at a joke or comment that I don't find funny. Which seems weird in context, because I'm always making jokes or laughing at the jokes of others. So it seems really out of character when I sit there stone-silent after another tepid witticism. I just feel like it's my responsibility not to encourage humorless humor. It probably comes off as elitist, but I don't want to be fake.

In a similar vein, he'll include my name in a supposedly witty remark made to someone on the phone, expecting me to laugh or grin as if I always have my ears perked up to his phone conversations. Unless it has to do with the work at hand, I couldn't care less about anyone's phone conversations and find it intrusive and rude for anyone to eavesdrop on another person's conversations.

Anyway, what it comes down to is this: I feel conflicted because my heart and faith are telling me that I should be more compassionate towards this guy. But my brain is telling me that I'm getting boondoggled. Obviously, the guy is in need of friends and I understand that. But after trying to be a friend, he still behaves this way. I've dealt with people like this before and the last two times I've been in this situation something has changed and I've become friends with, or at least cordial with, each person. Not that I'm not cordial with him. Outwardly, anyway. But after each corny quip, whiny plea or over-dramatized apology, I just get myself in a mental tizzy. I've been praying about it and will continue to do so, but this doesn't seem to be something that will resolve itself any time soon.


**Finally, I'm very excited! My brother, sister (I'm not going to use the term sister-in-law because it just seems so annoying), and niece are coming into town this weekend. I have only seen my niece once since she was born in December and she was still quite small and inactive. But now she is almost 10 months old and is developing not only a more distinct personality, but also the ability to move around and create havoc. This excites me, being a first-time uncle. I can only hope that my niece becomes as fond of me as I am as fond of my aunt. It will be more difficult given the geographical distance between us, but I'm willing log the miles it takes to make an impact in her life.

Plus, it's fun to be able to see my brother in the role of "Dad". He's doing a fine job already (and so is Kira), but it's still strange to see my kid brother pushing 30 with his own little one in tow. As Bob Dylan sang, the times they are a changin'.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Various Thoughts

I can't snap my fingers.

My favorite color used to be red, but now it is blue.

Carrie Carlson is the only person who could call me by my first and middle names without leaving me annoyed.

I don't understand what is so great about classic literature, Bruce Springsteen or BBQ potato chips.

I've never pulled a muscle even though I never stretch before participating in athletic activities.

I have no desire to ever own a house.

During my lifetime, I've known seven different people named Jeff/Geoff.

Number of people I've known named Lyle: one.

I have physically set foot in 29 states.

Missouri hasn't shown me much.

The Union Pacific and Burlington Northern/Santa Fe railroads are monopolies that excel in providing grossly inadequate customer satisfation.

Baseball cards and cartoons aren't made for kids anymore.

Driving is fun.

Classes I would pay more attention in, if I had it to do all over: Social Studies, English, Spanish.

Classes I would probably still blow off: Science, Math.

I can juggle.

I can throw respectably with my left hand.

I'm nearly impossible to beat in Mario Kart.

I've been knocked out in a fight.

Every time I wrestle with David, I tell him he can't escape, and every time, he escapes.

It's rarely a good idea to order fish while dining in the Midwest.

It's difficult to beat the allure of a girl wearing a sundress.

I always give a second look to a girl with a pony tail.

My hair has never been longer in my entire life.

My ankles roll just a little too easily.

I made one mean batch of peanut butter cookies from scratch once, and haven't made any more since.

I really enjoy wind.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

She's Only Seventeen...

As a salve to help ease the pain of the Royals' 17-game losing streak (and a tribute to 80's hair band, Winger), I give you my top 17 favorite baseball moments. Hopefully, this will give a brief respite from the loads of negativity I've been pushing out here lately:

17. Watched David Letterman throw BP to Alex Rodriguez while Billy Crystal shagged flys.

I was visiting Jeff Peterson in Providence, Rhode Island and we decided to take a road trip down to New York City. We sat through the drizzle for five innings and watched the Mets plaster Mike Hampton and the Braves in the home opener. The entire crowd at Shea repeatedly chanted "HAAAAMPTOOOON! HAAAAMMPTOOOON!" until Hampton was relieved of duty. We decided to skip out and head downtown via the infamous Number 7 train. While wandering around looking for the Ed Sullivan Theater, we stumbled upon it. There was a small crowd gathered behind some temporary fencing along the side street next to the theater. We decided to hang around and see what might happen. After standing around in more drizzle for nearly and hour, out from the side doors steps Jorge Posada, David Letterman, Paul Schaeffer, Alex Rodriguez and Billy Crystal. Posada and ARod are both wearing suits, but Posada crouches behind the makeshift home plate and Rodriguez steps into the batters box. Letterman starts chucking an endless supply of baseballs at Posada and ARod fouls them up on over adjacent buildings unitl he finds a rhythm and starts knocking balls past Billy Crystal in the "outfield". It wasn't a "pure" baseball moment, but it sure was cool.

16. Saw Royals play Cubs at Wrigley and Brewers at old Milwaukee County Stadium in same weekend.

Another Jeff Peterson-induced roadie. I wanted to see a game at Wrigley Field and Jeff was doing medical school in Chicago. Didn't need much more reason that that to head north. My sister-in-law (at the time) and her boyfriend were both big baseball fans and wanted to do the same thing along with checking out a game in Milwaukee where her grandparents and uncle lived. So with three people pitching in gas money and two free places to stay, the trip was on. We bought bleacher seats from a scalper and enjoyed a mid-eighties, sun-drenched Royals victory at Wrigley. A perfect baseball afternoon. Milwaukee County Stadium was on it's last legs, Miller Park emerging from beyond centerfield. But it was quaint and serviceable. The sausage race was hysterical and Bernie Brewer sliding into a mug of "beer" after a homerun was perfectly un-P.C.. But my favorite part of the Milawukee game was the small-town feel. Lots of tailgaters grilling sausages before the game, a presentation on the field for the pitcher and player of the month with the players looking more "Aw, shucks" than "Who's your daddy?!" And the entire crowd sang every word of the National Anthem. I'd never heard that in Kansas City before and found it to be quite moving. Oh, and the Royals won that game, too.

15. Took the kids to St. Louis to see the Cardinals lose to Florida.

I took David and Samantha to their first game outside the friendly confines of Kauffman Stadium. We traveled the entired width of Missouri to see the (normally) hated Cardinals take on the defending World Champion Florida Marlins. I informed the kids that while we normally never, ever, EVER root for St. Louis, this game would be different. No need to stir up trouble in a foreign land and in a foreign ballpark. Luckily, our rooting made no difference, as the Marlins won anyway. But Jim Edmonds strengthened his case to be one of my all-time favorite players after hitting a homerun and making a signature over-the-shoulder running catch in centerfield. And the kids were happy to have received their bright-red Scott Rolen replica bats as the giveaway that day. And an interesting phenomenon had unknowingly just occurred...

14. David Ortiz hits walk-off homer in 11 innings to beat the Blue Jays at Fenway.

Yet another Jeff Peterson-inspired adventure. This was part of the same trip that gave us the Letterman/Rodriguez batting practice matchup. The day before our New York jaunt, I arrived in Boston and Jeff picked me up at the airport. From there, we immediately headed toward Fenway. We managed to get some very resonably priced scalped tickets that put us out in right field, as it happened, one row behind the red seat where Ted Williams hit a 500-foot homerun. It was a bit brisk, as it was April, but newly-acquired Curt Schillling was on the mound and the Toronto Blue Jays didn't seem to pose a formidable threat. But the game ended up going into extra innings and we continued to get colder. Thankfully, we were rewarded for our heartiness with a David Ortiz homerun over the Green Monster in the bottom of the 11th to win the game. It was early in the season in a seemingly meaningless game, but every person in that stadium was tuned into the game. And with the win, thus began the interesting phenomenon I mentioned in the previous blurb: I saw home games in person for both World Series participants, with Boston winning their game (and the Series) and St. Louis losing their game (and the Series). Coincidence? Yeah, probably.

13. Caught foul ball Ferris Bueller-style.

I wrote and entire article earlier this summer about this one, so I won't go in depth here. But I had only ever touched a foul ball once in my life before this incident, so it goes without saying that this was a great moment. Plus, I was playing hooky from work and I didn't get kicked out of my covertly-acquired seat. Lovely day.

12. Ken Harvey hits extra-inning, walk-off homerun to beat Detroit during 11 game win streak to start 2003 season.

Nick Nave and I decided to catch the excitement that was brewing as the Royals had won every game of their first road trip after winning their first home series. The walk-up crowd was the biggest I had ever seen and we didn't even enter the ballpark until the 3rd or 4th inning. Luckily, we got our money's worth when Ken Harvey hit a game winnning homerun in the extra frame and the Royals continued their amazing beginning to the only good season they've had in the last 10 years.

11. Carlos Beltran hits game-winning homerun Opening Day 2004.

After being fooled into thinking the Royals might actually contend for a playoff spot coming off a winning season in 2003, three friends and I purchased partial season ticket plans for 2004. Opening Day was turning into a bad omen until the bottom of the ninth when Mendy Lopez came to the plate. Doug Jones turned to me and said "I bet he hits a homerun," and I said something to the effect of "I'll bet you everything I own in this world that that lowly waste of a roster space does NOT hit a homerun." I don't think we shook on it and it was a good thing for me as Mendy hit a game-tying homerun. Hysterics ensued. Up came Carlos Beltran, he of the soon-to-be expiring contract. And hope was given that we would indeed make the playoffs as he hit a game-ending homerun. After listening to Ryan Thye moan about how bad we were before that inning began, it was hilarious listening to him extoll the virtues of our team after the two game-breaking homers. We went on to lose 104 games that year, but let's just stick with the good stuff.

10. Jermaine Dye hits a walk-off game-winning homerun to win the game on the day George Brett was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

My Aunt Vicki bought tickets for Allison, the kids and I in the middle deck for the game and post-game induction ceremony. The middle deck tickets were great seats, but also out of the blazing sun that day. The kids were little and not paying much attention and Allison wasn't terribly interested either, given the conditions. The prospect of extra innings did not bode well. But Jermaine Dye saved the day by hitting his game-winner and allowing us to watch George Brett's induction speech on the JumboTron. A hot, but satisfying day.

9. George Brett gets his 3,000th hit.

The culmination of a Hall of Fame career. He wasn't the same George Brett that he was in his prime, but you still believed that he would come through when you needed him to. The only Kansas City Royal currently in the Hall of Fame and will most likely be the last Royal in the Hall of Fame.

8. Pete Rose collects his 4,192 hit to pass Ty Cobb as the all-time hits leader.

He was playing AND managing at the time, which I found strangely cool. But this and Ripken's record are the two records I thought were the most impressive. It was my first real taste of the effect modern ballplayers would have on baseball history. Plus, my dad was impressed, so, naturally, I was impressed, too.

7. Cal Ripken, Jr. breaks Lou Gehrig'srecord for consecutive games played.

I had to run to the grocery store, but I heard it on the radio. It was one of only two goose-bump inducing baseball moments I've ever had (if you don't count all the times I've watched "The Natureal" and "Field of Dreams"). The announcers were quiet and allowed the sound of the roaring crowd to take center stage. With all the talk about steroids lately, this feat is all the more amazing considering the recuperative advantages steroids give people. And Ripken was able to do it without. As far as we know. God, I hope so.

6. Bo Jackson throws out a Mariner baserunner at home from 3oo-some feet away in Seattle.

I think I was in 7th or 8th grade and Bo Jackson was the biggest thing on the sports scene. The Royals were playing the Mariners in the Kingdome and it was a late game, probably a 9:00 start here in Kansas City. I had a TV in my room and my parents were long before asleep, but I always enjoyed staying up late and I was certainly glad I did this time. The Mariners' batter hit a ball into the left field corner and the runner who was on first at the time was speeding around the bases. Jackson races into the corner and disappears from sight of the camera. The ball comes flying out of the corner like a laser, blasting past third base and pummeling the catcher's mitt on the fly, no bounces, from over 300 feet away. The tag was applied and everyone was shocked: our catcher, the baserunner, the umpire, everyone in attendance, both teams. The announcers were tripping all over themselves finding the appropriate adjectives to describe what had just happened. It was one of the most unbelievable act of athletic skill I have ever seen.

5. David's first game.

My son was only about five or so and I don't really recall many of the details of the actual game, but the whole idea of being able to go to a game with my son was just off the charts. David was more interested in what was available to eat and drink than the outcome of the game. Come to think of it, that aspect hasn't changed dramatically. But we were able to get down close to the dugout in the late innings, which he found very fun. My picture of him sitting on top of the Royals dugout remains one of my favorite pictures of all time.

4. Will Clark dominates the 1989 NLCS.

Another moment I've previously written about, but a moment that forged much loyalty. I had found my favorite player (and, by default, my second favorite team) and my favorite sport. I had always liked baseball, but I had played a lot of soccer growing up. This was the beginning of an almost unhealthy addiction to baseball.

3. The Royals win the World Series in 1985.

The single greatest event in my sporting life. I remember going to bed after the our Game 7 pasting of the Cardinals and thinking that somehow my life would be different when I woke up in the morning. I was still excited when I woke up, but not much else had changed. A couple of days later, my mom and grandma took my brother and I out of school and went to watch the World Series parade and rally at Liberty Memorial. Things had certainly changed, as another piece of the foundation of my baseball fanaticism had just been poured.

2. George Brett's run at .400 and the Royals lose to the Phillies in the World Series in 1980.

These were some of my earliest memories of my childhood and my first memories of baseball. My grandma bought my brother and I Hal McRae t-shirts because all the George Brett shirts were sold out. She had (along with innumerable others) a "George Brett for President" bumper sticker. And the indelible image of Brett standing at second base with ".400!" flashing on the scoreboard behind him will always be etched in my brain. I also learned what it was like to defend your team after visiting my great-grandmother in Pennsylvania and having to stick up for my Royals over the neighbor girls' Phillies.

1. Kirk Gibson's game-winning homerun in Game One of the 1988 World Series.

This is the other goose-bump inducing moment. This World Series wasn't terribly enticing as I didn't have any sort of emotional investment in either team. But I loved baseball and I was certainly going to watch. Kirk Gibson was the MVP of the regular season, but his knees were killing him and he didn't start the game. The Dodgers were down in the bottom of the ninth and facing the most formidable reliever in the league, Dennis Eckersley. But Gibson managed to hobble to the plate as a pinch hitter and take a couple fo feeble hacks at the Eckersley offerings.
And then, the greatest moment I have ever seen took place: Gibson lunged and scooped a pitch low and outside into the right field seats at Dodger Stadium to win Game One of the 1988 World Series. Gibson pumped his fist in victory as he coaxed his pain-filled legs to circle the bases. And I tried to hide the tear that was running down my cheek so that my parents wouldn't see that I was crying over a baseball game. That's the kind of moment every kid dreams about having and Kirk Gibson just overcame everything and made it happen. Absolutely amazing.

I hope you had fun. As I post this, the Royals are well on their way to losing number 18. I guess I'll have to come up with another moment tomorrow...