Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Elijah Johnson dropped 39 on Iowa State Monday night.  Yes, I know I'm a little slow to acknowledge that fact but I wanted to digest, nay savor his tremendous performance, which came as a major surprise given Johnson's horrid Big 12 campaign.

Johnson has shouldered point guard duties this season for Kansas despite being a shooting guard.  Last year during KU's Final 4 run Elijah showed he could fill it up.  But this season during conference play he's looked unsteady, often unable to finish at the hoop.  Against Kansas State last week you could see something of a resurgence that came full bloom during the Big Monday contest on ESPN.

Johnson's performance left me reflecting on a couple of the best shooting performances that I've personally witnessed by a Jayhawk.  The last big scoring night that I saw was more than 30 years ago when Tony Guy torched Arizona State for 36 points in the NCAA tournament.  That ASU was loaded with future NBA players like Byron Scott and Alton Lister. 

Tony Guy was a silky, smooth shooting guard out of Baltimore.  At 6'6" he was one of the first big shooting guards to ever play for the Jayhawks.  He was the kind of player you would expect to score at a 15 to 18 points a night but he never rose to that level.  Part of it was the system he played in with then Kansas coach Ted Owens.  Shooting by guards were almost frowned upon on an Owens' coached team.  He wanted the ball pounded into the post.

But Tony's performance pales in comparison to another Owens' coached shooting guard who torched Missouri for 50 points 41 years ago.  Bud Stallworth's game against a very good Tiger team is the best individual performance I've ever seen by a basketball player, period.  Had the college game had a three point line in 1972, Bud would have scored 55 points or more easily that afternoon.
Bud had been a very good starting guard on a great Final 4 team the year before as a junior.  His senior year, he had no supporting cast.  Kansas had two terrible big men, Randy Canfield and Wilson Barrow and a hard nose point guard in Aubrey Nash who couldn't shoot a lick. 

Stallworth's game against Missouri came as a huge shock.  The Tigers were heavy favorites that day and Bud literally shot Kansas to a victory hitting a variety of long range jumpers and hard driving shots in the lane.  By the end of the game Missouri was fouling Stallworth with zeal trying to stop the onslaught but to no avail.

I remember Bud's 50th point being a big jumper from beyond 25 feet that brought the roaring crowd to its feet.  The fans poured out onto the floor as the pep band continuously played the Budweiser beer jingle "This Bud's for You."  Stallworth would finish the season as an All-American, the only bright spot in a drab 13-13 season for Kansas.  Not bad for a trumpet player from Hartselle, Alabama.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Eagles

Sometime in the summer of 1972 Mark Booth took me up to a small record shop that no longer exist just north of the campus of the University of Kansas.  In that shop he pulled out an album and said, you've got to buy it.  It was one of two records he recommended.  One was the Doobie Brothers debut disc, the second, The Eagles.

Both albums were great, the Doobie Brothers certainly went on to become one of the seminal bands of the 70's, but The Eagles went above and beyond that.  Their debut album was the definitive example of what was the Southern California sound.  "Take It Easy" and "Peaceful Easy Feeling" are simply two of my all-time favorite country-rock songs.  Their second album "Desparado" and third "On the Border" were discs that I also purchased, but by 1974 I was moving more heavily into my love of Bob Dylan and The Grateful Dead.  Neil Young was already a staple in my music collection.

By the time "Hotel California" came along I simply saw The Eagles as this huge commercial success and got tired of hearing the songs from that album pouring out over the radio non-stop.  I stopped paying attention.  I didn't care that they broke up.  I thought Glenn Frey and Don Henley had decent solo careers.  I was into other things musically.

My wife begged me to take her to see The Eagles in 2000 when we lived in Fargo.  Incidentally, "Hotel California" is the Czarina's favorite American pop song.  The show was great, it brought back a lot of memories.  It was great seeing Don Felder and Joe Walsh duel their way through "Hotel California" and they are as polished a band you could ever hope to hear, but it really didn't make much of an impact.

That was until this week when I watched the documentary currently playing on Showtime called "The History of The Eagles."  It's simply one of the best music documentaries I've ever seen.  The boys let it all hang out, the good, the bad and the ugly.  It's an amazing musical history lesson.

It was amazing to hear the role big acts like Bob Seeger and Kenny Rogers played in the early careers of Glenn Frey and Don Henley.  The documentary also confirmed that Glenn Frey and Don Henley are major league a-holes, which they pretty much admit during the course of this great piece of history.  Joe Walsh, as one would expect, steals the show.  He's one of the best interviews out there.   The only thing he really failed to touch on was Don Felder's ouster from the band over how the money was to be split once The Eagles decided to become a major touring act again.

Everyone is in this thing, from Linda Ronstadt to Jackson Browne and lessor known musical luminaries such as J.D. Souther.  The story made me realize that despite my snobbish outlook on The Eagles, they are the seminal American rock and roll band.  They took elements of The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, even The Beach Boys and smaller slices of less bands like Poco to create quite probably the slickest sound to ever come out of a recording studio.

The documentary reminded me why I loved The Eagles in the first place.  It shows that it takes ruthless ambition to be the best in the music business.  "The History of The Eagles" is a great way to spend two hours plus.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

What's the Matter with Kansas

I'm not going to recap Thomas Frank's wonderful book about the political shitstorm that has happened in Kansas over the last 20 years.  No, this mess is entirely on the basketball court.  Never in my life would I dream that I could be sitting at home, watching a K.U. game where the Jayhawks trail 10 to 2 with under 8 minutes to play in the first half.  It's mind boggling.

You can feel the panic gripping Jayhawk nation.  Two losses in February do not make a season.  In fact, Bill Self teams typically stumble this time of the year.  Much of the blame has been leveled at senior point guard Elijah Johnson, playing out of position.  Johnson has played horribly since the start of conference play.  But worse still is Nadir Tharpe, a point guard who I believe deep down inside thinks of himself as a shooting guard.  Tharpe never saw a shot he didn't like or an interior pass he didn't think he could thread, but I digress.

What disappointed me so much last night was Bill Self.  He was gutless.  I don't understand not sitting the starters and letting the freshman play.  When it's 2 to ZIP 6 minutes into the game the seniors need a wake up call.  That means sitting through a couple of TV timeouts while they collect their senses.

The other shocker was the complete disappearance of Travis Releford.  His a senior who should have demanded the ball, taken some shots and led.  The seniors on this team lack serious leadership skills.  Tyshawn Taylor willed Kansas to a Final 4 last year.  That kind of perseverance is sorely lacking with this team.

I still believe this is an Elite 8 team, but like DeLoss Dodds, the Texas athletic director, college basketball has turned putrid.  The one and done thing has hurt the game but what's more troubling is the officiating or lack of it.  The college game is beginning to mirror the NBA more and more.  Players continually get mugged in the interior post.  A dominant big man can't dominate because he gets the crap beat out of him on every shot.  It's making the game unwatchable.  And don't even get me started with the horrid inconsistency on charging calls.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

My Love Affair with Dan Patrick

When it comes to talk, Dan Patrick is the best thing going on radio and television, period.  This from a man who relishes the Howard Stern Show.  With Dan, it doesn't matter if you're a sports fan or not, because his style and sensibility bridges the gap for the non-sports fan, just ask the Czarina.

I remember Dan back when he was a pup working for CNN back in the 1980's.  But he became a broadcast legend in the 1990's with "The Big Show" aka SportsCenter on ESPN.  Sunday nights when he was teamed with Keith Olbermann was the best television outside of "Seinfeld" that you could hope for.  I was drawn to the show by Keith Olbermann's great writing, but Patrick slowly grew on me.  His catch phrases such as "the whiff" and "en fuego" are the stuff of legend.  The chemistry was palpable.

Then ESPN got the good sense to give Dan an afternoon slot on the radio and boom.  He was sharp, incisive and a great interviewer.  ESPN radio was horrid save for Tony Kornheiser and his replacement Colin Cowherd.  Stumbling upon Dan Patrick's show stuck in the no-man's land of afternoons was always a delightful listen if you happened to be away from work, stuck behind the wheel on the way to some dreary task or another.

Somewhere along the line ESPN decided that Patrick was replaceable.  The petulant Olbermann was long gone as was "The Big Show" with him and I suspect Patrick didn't feel appreciated.  I also suspect he was growing tired of the direction ESPN was going.  It had become this perpetual machine of self-promotion and aggrandisement and less and less about the story of sports.  Perhaps it was the money the money or a desire to do something that he could call his own but Dan Patrick left the place he calls "The Mother Ship" in 2007.

What came next was "The Dan Patrick Show."  When I first heard it sometime in the fall of 2007 I thought it was okay.  It took time for me to connect with his new program and line-up of co-workers lovingly dubbed "The Danettes".  It had a rag tag feel broadcast from the attic of Dan's home in Connecticut.    I rediscovered it when unemployment came my way in the fall of 2009.  There on DirectTV broadcast from what they called "The Man Cave" was a televised version of what "The Dan Patrick Show" was doing on radio.  The TV was even better than the radio due to the little televised vignettes of the behind the scenes doing.
They had an indoor basketball court, a golf simulator and enough memorabilia to make any sports bar owner drool.  You got a better feeling of the diverse personalities of the four "Danettes" and the importance of their contributions to Dan's show.
But the key to the show's success is Dan Patrick.  He is a fearless interviewer.  He asks the question that his radio colleagues at ESPN are too afraid to ask.  Dan will tackle topics outside the realm of sports, wearing his feelings on his shoulder, daring you to knock him for expressing his pointed opinion.  This week's interview with former Chief's GM Scott Pioli was vintage Dan.  Carefully, Dan got Pioli to speak about the awful murder-suicide of Jevon Belcher for the first time.  It made for riveting listening.
Even the Czarina likes watching in on the boys in the man cave.  I now DVR the show for a kick recap of what's happened and the Czarina even likes listening in on the antics of Dan, McLovin, Paulie, Seton and Fritzy.  She savors the man talk served up with a slice of life and the wisdom of a man who has dealt with the inflated egos of athletes for the past 30 plus years.