With the Chiefs getting set to open summer camp next week in St. Joseph, this is a good time to address a subject I’ve been thinking about lately.
More specifically, Jason Whitlock and his future at The Kansas City Star, where he’s been a fixture for 16 years.
In my opinion, Jason is effectively finished at The Star. I’m not just basing that on the fact that he hasn’t had a column in the paper – either sports or one of his ridiculous “independent thoughts” op-ed pieces — since June 2. No, the tell-tale sign that he’s effectively finished is that there have been very few inquiries and very little speculation, anywhere, regarding his absence from print.
That tells me that he has essentially become irrelevant, as far as readers of The Star are concerned. At this point, The Star might as well cut his big, fat salary loose and spend the money on some more reporters or copy editors.
In recent weeks, The Star has been running a box, usually on Page 2 of the Sunday sports section, saying that Whitlock is on vacation. A few weeks ago, someone at The Star told me that Whitlock had gone on vacation and then had a death in the family.
But still…seven weeks? Nobody at The Star gets that much time off; I’m pretty sure five weeks is the maximum.
He’s been writing columns for Foxsports.com, and he’s been Tweeting, but, like many a suspect on A&E’s “The First 48,” he’s “nowhere to be found” in the pages of The Star. I haven’t put in an official inquiry to anyone at The Star because if a separation is looming, I won’t get a straight answer. Besides, it’s not particularly material if he does resurface in print because, as I said at the outset, my point is that he’s effectively finished at the paper.
Here are three reasons I say that:
:: During the go-go years, when Whitlock and Joe Posnanski were a solid one-two punch, just about everyone who followed sports couldn’t wait to read what Whitlock and Poz had to say. They had a symbiotic journalistic relationship that worked to the benefit of the readers. With Whitlock often wielding the hammer and Posnanski bringing the lyrical touch, the duo gave the readers a reason to open their papers early. Then, a year ago, Posnanski left The Star to become a senior writer at Sports Illustrated, and the magic quickly disappeared. It was like any great team – Burns and Allen, Martin and Lewis – they were just a lot better together than as solo acts.
:: We came through the entire conference realignment story, which went on for many weeks, without an utterance, as far as I can tell, from Whitlock. It has been, by far, the biggest story in college sports this year, and The Star’s supposed No. 1 columnist never wrote about it. The people who carried the ball for The Star on that story – and ever so capably – were reporters Blair Kerkhoff and Mike DeArmond and columnist Sam Mellinger. Mellinger is Posnanski’s successor. A baseball expert, he has made great strides in his relatively short tenure. He’s like Posnanski in that he’s prolific, but he’s different in that he relies less on turning a phrase and more on insight and keen observation.
:: Finally, the Chiefs are in a sorry state, and, while they still are very popular, they are not nearly as relevant as they used to be under “King Carl,” as Whitlock memorably referred to former Chiefs president Carl Peterson. They have an earnest but unimaginative owner in Clark Hunt; they have a hot-headed, yet dull-as-dirt coach in Todd Haley; they have an egocentric president, Scott Pioli, who hides in his office; and they have a sub-par group of players. So, really, what does it matter what Whitlock might write about this year’s Chiefs?
Let’s face it…Whitlock’s day in the sun as a columnist for The Star has passed. I wish him luck in the future, but it’s time for him and us to move on.
The king is dead! Long live the king! (Mellinger, that is.)