Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Perils of Running

Running is not without its dangers.  I have been hit twice by vehicles while out on a run.  The first time I was on a sidewalk blocked from view by a UPS truck when a driver in a minivan came flying up a driveway in south Kansas City.  I was actually being attentive because I was aware of the truck and the obstructed view so I was able to react by throwing myself up over the windshield.  I broke my ribs.  The woman driver thought she had killed me.  The UPS driver was at fault because he was sitting where he shouldn't have been and he tried to bail on the situation.  He was lucky I'm not litigious. 

Then three years later in Fargo it happened again as I crossed a sidewalk with a green light and a 14-year-old behind the wheel of a pick up.  The boy didn't bother to check the crosswalk as he made a right turn into me.  Again I jumped up on the hood and again I broke my ribs.  I jogged the last 2 miles home just as I did after the Kansas City incident. 

But the biggest danger is taking a nasty fall.  I've had three bad ones over the years.  Once as a teen I was running down a hill at K.U. through a construction zone and a wire had been strung across the sidewalk.  It was dark enough that I couldn't see it and I did a belly flop on the concrete.  Remarkably I was uninjured.

In 1996 I was running in south Kansas City when I stepped on a shoelace and face planted in the middle of a street.  I braced myself with my hands and ended up fracturing both of my arms near the elbow.  As I rolled in the street in pain an old couple got into their car and drove past me as if I didn't exist.  A postman stopped and assisted me.  I jogged/walked back the mile and a half to home and had a neighbor take me to the hospital.  I couldn't even get my shirt off over my head.

I did it again two years ago while running to pick up my car at the Ford dealership.  I only fractured my right arm as I crashed to the pavement when I somehow tripped myself.  I ran the 4 miles to the dealership, got my vehicle, then drove to the Quick Care clinic to get X-Rays. 
When it comes to falls the Czarina takes the crown, as well she should.  It seems that at least once a year she stumbles and falls while out on a run.  I've personally witnessed one of her epic falls.  The Czarina kind of shuffles when she runs which makes her susceptible to any type of edge or outcropping in the roadway.

She did it again tonight.  She was a couple of miles into a 4 mile run and yes, she finished it.  Fortunately she usually ends up just getting a nasty case of road rash on her knees.  She hasn't broken anything, probably because she doesn't have far to fall. 

It's actually not very funny.  As I get older I worry more and more about either the Czarina or myself getting hurt badly in a fall.  I admit it.  I'm less sure of myself on my feet as I'm out on a run, especially if it's dark out.  With winter running at hand and more running in the dark I think it's time to invest in a couple of running lamps.  I don't want the Czarina to run out of iodine!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

30 miles

I hit it last week and training but before I blogged about it I wanted to back it up with another week.  It was a long, horrible summer of almost no running.  I ran something less than 150 miles from the beginning of May to the end of September.  It started with a sore hamstring that erupted a few weeks later into a sore right knee which eventually destroyed my right calf.

After the right calf fiasco the left calf started giving me trouble.  The rotation was a week off with swimming, biking and elliptic followed by a couple of runs and then boom.  It was the story of my summer.  It resulted in a weight gain of 17 pounds but it didn't come without some positives.

My right hip which has been a disaster for three years finally doesn't hurt all of the time.  When the hip problem started I lived with a burning sensation down the back of my right leg that took nearly six months to get under control.  From there it just went into a nagging pain that would ebb and flow in terms of serious pain.  The combination of the semi-enforced rest and some good chiropractor therapy from Dr. Ziggy gives me hope that hip replacement won't happen anytime soon. 

I capped a pretty good October of training this morning by going on my first 10 mile run in more than five months.  It was the slowest 10 I've ever run in my life.  But it's a start.  I don't foresee any racing for at least another month.  A Thanksgiving Day 5K may be in the offing, but only if I can get my training runs in a consistent 9 minute pace and that doesn't seem likely.  Racing by January seems more realistic.  I fear unless I lose 10 pounds, running any times remotely in the range I managed last spring is going to be tough.

But I'm back in the game baby.  I love it that I'm logging miles of trials and trials of miles.  And my streak of hitting at least 1,000 miles for the last 41 years should remain alive.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


I wanted to take some time to digest the whole Lance Armstrong debacle.  I think it was around Tour de France win number five that I was pretty much convinced that Lance was doping.  I didn't care.  I watched and loved his kick ass riding.

You see, I come from the everybody dopes school of thought.  I had to adopt that posture a long, long time ago, given my love of track and field.  You see track athletes have been doping for better than 50 years.  It started with steroids and got more and more sophisticated as time went along.

Do I approve of doping?  Absolutely not, it's terrible.  But the system set up to catch the cheaters doesn't work.  It's never worked and it never will.  The cheaters will always be one step ahead of the testers.

Lance Armstrong was the greatest bike rider of his generation, one of the greatest ever, period. He was a doper who beat a bunch of other dopers. The mock outrage by the cycling federation is laughable. Stripping Armstrong of his titles is stupid. Give him an asterisk like Roger Maris.

Two things kill me about all of this.  First, why does anybody care?  NFL players have been roided to the teeth for 40 plus years.  Baseball players caught on about a decade later.  Given the popularity of the NFL it amazes me that journalists and fans alike continually turn a blind eye to use of performance enhancing drugs but get upset when track athletes or swimmers get caught.  Double standards anyone?

The second thing that kills me is the absolute loyalty of the Lance Armstrong apologists.  They point to all of the good deeds Lance has carried out in the name of cancer.  I say, ask Joe Paterno about 60 plus years of good deeds at Penn State.  One massive fuck up certainly did a lot for Paterno's legacy.  Armstrong has no legacy.  Plus, if you care to believe the mountain of articles that have come out in the wake of this scandal Lance is a major, blazing, asshole.  Karma's a bitch.

It's great that he beat cancer.  But don't show me your silly Livestrong bracelet.  A lot of great people who didn't dope have beaten cancer long before Lance came along and lost one of his balls.  And while we're at it, Kansas City's new soccer facility needs a new name. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Epic Bus Trip of 1973

A couple of tweets between old friends and thus a blog is born.  It was the summer of 1973.  I was 17 years old, training my ass off for fall cross country, when an opportunity came to make a trip to see my oldest sister Dianne in San Diego, California.  Dianne was getting hitched to Bob Throop.   She had met Bob while he served in the Army and she was working for the Selective Service, AKA, the Draft. 

The lovebirds had moved out to California to Bob's hometown where he returned to college after his time was finished with Uncle Sam and Dianne eventually landed a job with the U.S. Navy.  So somewhere along the line it was decided that I would take the bus from Lawrence to San Diego for their wedding.  Bus travel was super cheap comapred to flying.  My memory as to the cost is long gone but I know it was less than $100.  My middle sister Karen was to fly in later for the big event.

The bus trip was monumental with very little sleep.  I was carrying this ancient acoustic guitar to San Diego for Bob.  Somewhere along the road I met a hippie who tried to play the guitar.  I certainly couldn't and he barely could.  But he did have some marvelous marijuana and we took turns heading back to the bathroom in the back of the bus to light up.  I was pretty stoned when we hit Phoenix as the sun was coming up.  The only other thing I remember was how freaking hot Arizona was.  The bus was poorly air conditioned.

It took about 36 hours but I arrived in San Diego by late Saturday afternoon.  Bob and Dianne lived in a cramped apartment in a so-so part of San Diego.  I've got to give my brother-in-law to be credit.  He kept me entertained.  We went to a Dodgers-Padres game which meant to world to me.  I was a huge Dodger fan and had never seen them play in person.  In fact, it's the only time I've ever seen them play.  I remember Al Downing was pitching for L.A. and a rookie named Dave Winfield was playing the outfield for the Padres. 

The next night we saw an NFL exhibition game.  The Chargers had just acquired the greatest quarterback in NFL history, Johnny Unitas.  Sitting on the bench was a soon to be NFL great, rookie QB Dan Fouts.  I don't even remember the Chargers' opponent.  All I remember is that Unitas looked really old and the Chargers played really bad.

Bob also kept me well supplied with beer.  When your 17 beer is about as good as it gets.  I remember a tremendous shrimp dinner and I think I nearly drove poor Bob and Dianne out of their apartment because of all the gas I was passing. 

The trip came with a twist.  The twist that was the push behind this blog.  One of my best friends, Mark Booth, was staying in San Francisco for a couple of weeks with his older brother David Booth.  David worked for Wells Fargo.  Somehow I was invited to spend a few days with David and Mark as part of this cross country adventure.

While in San Diego Mark got word to me that David was going to have to leave town so if I was going to come up for a visit, I'd better come now.  Now I was in a pickle.  The wedding was still a couple of days away.   The choice was San Francisco or the wedding.  Then there was the matter of Karen joining us in the already cramped apartment.  In my 17-year-old mind it made perfect sense to choose San Francisco.  I'm not sure to this day what Bob and Dianne thought of my decision.  Looking back, it was a dick move, but it's in the past and I get along great with both so go figure.

Part of the reason I took off early is that I thought I would spend a day in Los Angeles.  But those plans quickly went out the window.  I took one step outside of the downtown Los Angeles bus station and saw skid row heaven.  It was more than this boy from Kansas could handle so I stepped back in the depot and hopped on the next bus headed to San Francisco.  Unfortunately it was not an express bus.  The bus made stop after stop up the Pacific coast.  I didn't land in San Francisco until just after midnight.

Somehow my suitcase hadn't made it onto the right bus.  So I quickly found a cabbie who gave me a Steve McQueen style taxi ride jumping the hills of San Francisco to David's apartment near Fisherman's Wharf.  Mark quickly informed me that David's palatial bachelor's pad cost an ungodly $1,000 a month. 

The next morning Mark and I made the trek back to the bus station to pick up my wayward suitcase.  On the way out of the bus station a hippie stopped us and promised us an incredible high if we would just join him in his apartment.  We politely refused his invitation and headed back to David's pad.  The two biggest highlights I remember is playing tennis with Mark in a park not far from Lombard Street.  San Francisco, even in the dreary 70's, was a beautiful city.  I also remember David buying me the best shrimp dinner I ever ate.  The fun was over all too soon and I was back on a bus for a marathon trip back to Kansas.

I want to point out a couple of things about Mark and David.  Mark went on to join MTV on the ground floor, started MTV Europe and ran it before running BSkyB for Rupert Murdoch and then NetJets Europe for Warren Buffett.  Mark retired a couple of years ago.  David run's his own mutual fund company in Texas.  As mentioned in my previous blog, they built, along with their sister Jane, the Booth Family Hall of Fame at K.U.'s Allen Field House.

The trip back was even more monotonous than the journey to Southern California.  I remember hitting Reno in the early morning hours.  The sun came up as we headed across the Nevada desert and the landscape was mind-numbing.  By the time we hit the Rockies it was pitch black so the incredible scenery that the mountains would have offered were veiled in darkness.

We arrived in Denver well before dawn.  A hippie got on our super crowded bus and sat next to me.  We talked and talked and laughed and laughed and laughed. I think we were both so exhausted we found everything funny, but the bus driver and weary passengers didn't. In St. Francis, Kansas the driver ordered the two of us off the bus and told us to wait 15 minutes for a baggage bus that was following us.

So the hippie and I were the lone passenger on this stinky, smelly bus, filled with the overflow of baggage. By the time we hit Oberlin, the rest of the hippies had decided to join us on our smelly fun bus. The hippie I was with and another hippie shared some peyote. I was curious but knew better. By the time we were nearing Lawrence my hippie companion asked me if I could hold onto his Fender Stratocaster while he looked for permanent lodgings. I agreed and when I got off the bus in Lawrence I carried both a suitcase and a guitar, just like I did when I had left.

It took at least a couple of weeks before my hippie friend came by the house to pick up his baby blue Strat. I never saw him again. I don't remember getting a lot of grief for skipping the wedding. If I did, I've blocked it from my memories. Despite my boorish behavior, it was an epic trip.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

"There's No Place Like Home"

I rip on ESPN pretty regularly.  One of the few bright spots in recent years was the network's introduce of its 30 for 30 series.  The quality of these mini-movies or documentaries is outstanding.  But I have to be honest, last night's 30 for 30 which put my beloved University of Kansas front and center was a little weak.

"There's No Place Like Home" followed K.U. alum Josh Swade and his heroic efforts to bring the original rules of basketball to Lawrence.  The typewritten rules with James Naismith's scribbles are priceless.  Naismith invented the game while working in Springfield, Massachusetts but brought basketball with him to Kansas when he came to Lawrence to start the school's physical education program.

It took Forrest "Phog" Allen to invent coaching basketball.  Allen was no slouch winning titles and a record number of games.  From his lineage came other coaching greats such as Adolph Rupp at Kentucky, Dean Smith at North Carolina, Ralph Miller at Oregon State and John McClendon at North Carolina College.

 Swade's quest, while admirable, seemed hardly worth a network documentary.  I only found the last 10 minutes truly gripping, as he fought the powers that be at the University of Kansas, enlisting the help of Phog Allen's grandson, Mark Allen, to convince K.U.'s biggest benefactor David Booth to bid on Naismith's rules.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the story.  I think Swade's idea and hubris are terrific.  But the story appeals to a pretty narrow audience, namely Kansas fans.

The real twist in all of this is the lack of cooperation Swade received from K.U.  But that shouldn't surprise me, given the bureaucracy that surrounds the athletic department.  The fact that Swade got his project off the ground despite of the roadblocks is to be applauded.
Finally, I admire the Booth family for some very deep and personal reasons.  When I first moved back to Lawrence in the fall of 1970 David's younger brother Mark, was my first friend.  I spent hours with Mark playing Strat-o-matic baseball, summer nights watching "The Tonight Show" and playing ping pong in his basement at all hours.

Gib and Betty Booth lived at 1931 Naismith Drive.  I lived on the other side of the Booth's backyard fence at 1934 Emerald Drive.  Mark and David's parents were terrific.  They worked hard to raise three terrific children that included a daughter, Jane.

My Christmas wish that winter of 1970 was to have K.U. season basketball tickets.  Gib told my mom he'd take care of it.  For two years I enjoyed bleacher seats on the floor in the northwest corner of Allen Field House.  Then Gib asked me if I wanted an upgrade.  Who was I to say no.  My senior season in high school I sat eight rows back, center court, behind the scorers table.  I had those seats for four years.  I saw some incredible basketball and two K.U. teams make it to the Final 4. 

What the Booth family has done for the University of Kansas is beyond belief.  What Gib Booth did for me was to hand a rabid Jayhawk fan a lifetime worth of basketball memories.  I wish he was still with us so I could just say one thing, thanks!


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Converged to Oblivion

Two years ago the University of Kansas announced it was converging the newsroom of the campus newspaper, The Daily Kansan, with the newsroom of KUJH TV.  At the time it seemed like a good idea given the retirement of longtime TV newsroom leader Dick Nelson.  Newspaper reporters need to be exposed to the use of video cameras and editing video.  Plus, goodness knows the TV students needed to be exposed to the great writing that comes from the Kansan.

K.U.'s print journalism program has long been one of the top three in the country.  K.U's television journalism program, not so much.  When I attended Kansas we had great teachers, but we were short on equipment and a focal point of what real newsroom environment was like.

Then in the 1980's the university woke up and started hiring some great educators with deep ties to the University of Missouri's wonderful television journalism program to bulk of K.U.'s rather meager offerings.  That's right, I'm praising Mizzou.  They've got the best TV news program in the country.

By the beginning of the 1990's K.U.'s TV news program was hitting on all cylinders putting out very good reporters, producers and photographers that were on a par with the students coming out of Columbia, Missouri.  The last time I walked into Dick Nelson's newsroom classroom three or so years ago, before his retirement, the program was in full bloom.

Last week I made my first pilgrimmage to Dole Hall, which is home to the television program, in at least three years.  As I stepped up to the second floor and looked into the huge window which shows the KUJH newsroom I thought, what the fuck?  It was 9 a.m. on a Monday morning and there wasn't a soul in sight.

I wandered down the hallway where the faculty has their offices hoping to find my old friends Max Ustler or John Broholm to get an explanation, but I came across an old high school classmate now officed in Dole.  I stopped to say hi and introduce myself to Mike Williams, who obviously didn't recognize me (and why should he) and asked for a quick rundown on what was happening. 

Mike comes from a print background so him being officed in Dole, while surprising, led me to be that the convergence was at work.  And that was exactly the problem.  As Mike explained, it hadn't.  The print and TV students didn't play well together, but more accurately, the faculty that was supposed to lead them to this promised land of convergence didn't.  Not only is The Daily Kansan on life support, but the TV news program barely has a pulse.

K.U. has a great faculty.  But the faculty is only as good as its leadership.  The problem is the push to turn the journalism program into a research program.  K.U. made its bones as a place to learn how to be a great reporter, editor, producer or even a media salesman.  It was never a place about theory.  But that's not what the top dogs at K.U. want.  Okay, I can live with that and the University of Kansas can live without my meager donations.

The newspaper business is dying.  I don't know what the end game will be but the need for great reporters who know how to write a great story will exist even on the Internet.  The death of television news will take a lot longer.  Too much of what we do as TV journalists translates directly to the web.  While print journalists can do amazing things with graphics on the web, video is still the name of the game and that's an area where the TV folks dominate.

K.U.'s J-School Dean Ann Brill needs to wake up and fix the TV news program.  Dick Nelson's retirement was the first blow.  Failing to find an experienced replacement was the second.  The third will be when Professors like Broholm and Ustler retire and the Missouri influence which brought a heartbeat to the TV program will flatline. 

I'm pissed off. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

4 Days in the Land of Oz

Rushing off from work I had a 6 p.m. flight from Fort Myers through Atlanta into Kansas City.  It was my first trip home in more than a year.  Despite a bumpy ride across the southeast I was more than happy to touch down at KCI at 11:30 p.m.  I was struck by the ghost town that the airport had become.  Sure it was late, but gate after gate had been abandoned.

As I glided into Hertz to pick up my rental car the agent noted my Fort Myers address.  He said, “You know your airport has more traffic now than ours.”  We kibitzed about the advantages of winter living in Southwest Florida as he finished my paperwork in record time I hustled to my car and off to a nearby airport motel that came complete with bugs in the room.  I didn’t care.  I just wanted to sleep.

The next morning I managed to time my arrival at Bryant’s for a lunch with Chris Ronan.  It was a good time to commiserate about injuries while enjoying one of the best barbeque beef sandwiches ever.  Chris went for the pulled pork.  I’m betting Chris rode an extra 50 miles on his bike over the weekend to work off the excess fat.

Friday was spent with my sister Dianne and my brother-in-law Bob.  The evening turned into a music fest with Bob running through memory lane of the San Diego music scene in the mid to late 60’s where the various bands he played in would open for some pretty amazing acts.  The evening included a slate of bawdy rock and roll and country tunes that were in the vein of Jimmy Buffett’s epic “Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Screw.”  It was awesomely naughty.

Saturday morning Dianne and I took a trip out to the family farm.  We walked across some beautiful pasture that I had never bothered to visit before.  It sits east across a creek from our fields that are normally teaming with corn and soybeans.  Needless to say the drought did a number on the crops this year.

The toughest moment came at the main farmhouse where a massive hay barn is showing its age.  It nearly brought tears to my eyes to see it in such a dilapidated state.  I doubt that it will be standing in another five years.  It had served as a mysterious playground for me as a young boy.  I used it to host an epic high school party in which we were allowed to tear down and set fire to an old chicken coop.  The barn’s current state is just too sad to put into words.

 I spent an hour on Saturday afternoon with Phil Wedge, an old friend from high school and college.  He’s been teaching English at the University of Kansas for more than 30 years now.  I think he’s more proud of his two sons, Roy and George, than he is about his teaching, his years of softball, or any championship he’s managed to snare playing ball park baseball.

That night I went to my sister Karen’s beautiful home south of Lawrence to spend an evening celebrating my late mother’s birthday.  It was a chance to catch up with the cousins and hear their latest triumphs and tribulations.  The crowning moment actually came the following morning when I got to see my 89-year-old Aunt Betty, a lovely woman who is everything a family matriarch should be.

Monday was spent on the K.U. campus where the television news program appears to be in a shambles.  All the work that folks like Max Ustler, John Broholm and Dick Nelson had done to build a very good television news learning environment has been torn apart.  I won’t go into details but it’s a mess.

I took a trip to the Booth Family Hall of Fame that was built into the front of Allen Field House.  It is a beautiful tribute to Kansas athletics.  Gib and Betty Booth, my old neighbors, would be proud of what their children and grandchildren brought to the University of Kansas.

The trip back home was a nightmare.  An hour on the tarmac at KCI before a rushed arrival into Atlanta and another half hour on the tarmac before arriving home nearly an hour late with plenty of turbulence in between.  At least I made it home. 

The result of the trip and the lack of sleep that came with it was a nasty sinus infection.   As I sat quietly suffering Friday night at my assigned high school football game wearing my Jayhawk polo shirt, the audio operator leaned over and told me I’d like St. John Neumann’s new fight song.  Sure enough, “I’m a Jayhawk” blared out of the stadium speakers as the Celtics jogged onto a rain soaked field.  Too bad they didn’t win. But that’s another blog for another time.