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Archive for September, 2015

It was a crisp, late summer day — perfect for a road trip and a college football game.

So off to Patty’s alma mater, the University of Missouri (class of ’78), we went.

It was a full, fun day. We headed east shortly after 8 a.m. and didn’t get back until shortly after 10 p.m.

We parked on the grounds of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, where Patty was a “little sister” during her college years and where hundreds of people tailgate before games and hang out long after the games are over.

You wouldn’t know it from the hustle and bustle on the grounds today, but the fraternity house is vacant these days. The MU chapter lost its recognition as a student organization last year (failed to file routine paperwork with the university), and the fraternity is planning to start afresh with a new group of pledges next year.

No matter from the game-goers perspective, though; it’s party on!

From the fraternity house, it’s a short walk up Providence Road to Memorial Stadium.

The photos will tell you the rest of the story…Oh, and the Tigers beat UConn 9-6 before a crowd of 70,000.

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To the stadium we go…

 

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Sign down, lot full…

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A lot of cars grow tails on football Saturdays in Columbia…

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This young woman’s boots made me wince…

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The band looked great, but the “Missouri Waltz” is one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard…Now, the Kansas state song, “Home on the Range,” that’s another story.

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The Golden Girls…

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…and a golden girl.

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And then it was over…

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On the way back to the Phi Kappa Psi house, several other “house” parties were underway.

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Back at the Phi Psi house…That’s Patty in the middle.

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Here she is again, with an older guy who was hitting on her…

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The post-party clean-up is a big job, and one guy who enthusiastically volunteers for it is Steve O’Rourke, a contemporary of Patty’s and a Phi Psi forever!

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As dusk settled in, Jesse Hall was aglow…

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As was the Tiger Hotel on Eighth Street…And the day wound down.

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I turned on the Chiefs-Broncos game last night just in time to see the Chiefs snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the game’s last two and a half minutes.

Following the last minutes of the game on espn.com’s “gamecast,” I succumbed to watching the very end on TV mostly out of curiosity, to see if Peyton Manning could lead yet another successful two-minute touchdown drive to tie the game. Not only could he, he did.

And then, of course…well, you know what happened.

…All I can say is it’s a good thing I gave up following the Chiefs before last season (primarily because the pro game was exposed as a brain diminisher) or I would have been pretty upset about the last-second loss.

As it was, I just handed the remote to Brooks — who wanted to watch something else — and with total equanimity walked back to my office.

I was pretty pleased about the equanimity part because it doesn’t take much to shatter my equanimity — like watching a golf ball drop in a pond after thinking I’ve hit a good shot.

When I got back to the computer, I wanted to see how KC Star reporters and editors had reacted to the startling conclusion. On Chiefs’ and Royals’ games, the sports department posts “live updates” — tweets by reporters, editors and sometimes others. If you have never taken a look at the live updates, I suggest you give it a try; it’s a fun way to track the emotional ups and downs of the games. And you feel like you’ve got company, both in the misery of the “downs” and the exhilaration of the “ups.”

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Kerkhoff

The two main tweeters last night were Jeff Rosen, sports editor, and Blair Kerkhoff, whose primary beat is college athletics.

Here are the last five tweets:

Rosen: “The Chiefs out-Chiefed themselves here tonight, lost 31-24. Catatonic locker room, here we come.”

Kerkhoff: “Death, taxes, Peyton Manning over Chiefs (14-1). Broncos win 7th straight over KC, set NFL mark 13 consec division road W’s.”

Rosen: “This and the (January 2014) playoff game against the Colts…soul crushers.”

Rosen: “Last time Jamaal Charles had two bigger fumbles in a game? Not sure he ever has.”

Kerkhoff: “That fifth turnover will get you beat every time.”

**

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Rosen

Speaking of Rosen and the Chiefs, The Star had an egregious headline error in Wednesday’s paper. “Jah Reid continuing as starter on defense,” the headline said.

Now, as much as the Chiefs are written about and talked about around here, you don’t have to be paying close attention to know Reid is an offensive lineman.

On Wednesday morning, I sent Rosen an email, saying:

“How did this happen? Doesn’t the sports desk still do its own copy reading? I can’t imagine a sports person not knowing Reid plays offense.”

Rosen wrote back: “That person certainly should. Embarrassing mistake.”

For all of Rosen’s candor, which I commended him on, it’s the kind of error people cite when they say The Star has become a shell of its former self.

…And another thing that shows The Star is an organization in steep decline:  There was no correction for that error in Thursday’s paper.

Not owning up to errors is a sure sign of not caring about your credibility…That applies in life, too, of course.

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Nearly four months ago, I wrote that the family of 20-year-old Brandon Ellingson, the 20-year-old Iowa man who drowned at the Lake of the Ozarks on May 31, 2014, was being subjected to what I dubbed “The Ozarks Shuffle.”

The gist of the shuffle is that various Ozarks law enforcement officials have been dishing the case off to one another like they’re dealing cards.

This is no game, though, because an officer in the Highway Patrol’s Water Division put Ellingson in harm’s way and then failed to rescue him. Officer Anthony Piercy probably didn’t mean to kill Ellingson, but there are strong indications that Piercy could be charged with involuntary manslaughter.

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Highway Patrol Officer Anthony Piercy

First, he put a life jacket on Ellingson improperly after arresting him for boating while intoxicated. Then, he bounced the young man out of his patrol boat while driving it at 40 miles an hour in very choppy water. And, finally, when Ellingson was in the water — hands cuffed behind his back and the life jacket having floated away — witnesses said Piercy took his sweet time trying to rescue Ellingson and didn’t go in after him until it was too late.

The latest hand-off in the shuffle occurred last March, when the first special prosecutor in the case, Amanda Grellner, recused herself and a second special prosecutor was appointed by an associate Circuit Court judge. Before that, a coroner’s jury — after being presented minimal and non-incriminating evidence — took eight minutes to decide Ellingson’s death was the result of an accident.

Grellner dithered for nine months before stepping aside because the Highway Patrol had at some point investigated her son for one thing or another. When the Highway Patrol cried conflict of interest, Grellner let the case go.

Her successor, William C. Seay, a former prosecutor and retired judge, has had the case the last six months.

The Star’s Laura Bauer, who has covered the case from the outset, hasn’t been able to get Seay to comment, but yesterday I reached him on the phone.

A little Journalism 101 here: I learned a long time ago that sometimes when you call a person’s office, even if it’s a law office or a major corporation, you get lucky and the person you’re seeking picks up the phone. And if you’re luckier still and you play your cards right, the person will open up and give you more than a “No comment.”

Yesterday morning, Seay (pronounced See) picked up the phone at his Steelville, MO, law office. Our initial exchange, after identifying myself, went like this:

Q: “Mr. Seay, I’m just wondering if you have come to a decision on the Ellingson case, and if you haven’t, when do you think you might? In any event, can you give me a progress report?”

A: “I have not. I have no date. And I don’t give progress reports.”

The next thing I expected to hear after that blunt statement was a curt, “I have nothing more to say,” followed by the silence of a dead line.

Instead, there was only a pause. So I kept asking questions.

As sometimes happens with people you catch off guard, he warmed up as we went along.

He said had appointed an investigator to assist him. He would not identify the investigator but said, “It’s someone who has not been associated with the Highway Patrol — ever.”

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William Seay, when a judge

When I said six months seemed like a long time to pass without a decision, he became defensive and said in a raised voice, “I’ve been in the hospital three times for (a total) of five weeks, and I’m under home health care now.”

My response to that was, “Well, I didn’t know that now, did I?”

“No,” he acknowledged.

Defending the passage of six months, he noted that “someone else had the case for nine months” without anything happening. And backing over what he had said at the outset, he did give me a progress report, of sorts, saying that he had made progress.

And his health? “I’m improving.”

One of the last questions I asked was, “How old are you?”

A little more Journalism 101: Some casual observers of journalistic practices consider it impertinent for a reporter to ask a person’s age, especially when it’s not particularly relevant. But my first editor, back in northern Kentucky, told me that most people, even women, will usually answer the question. I soon learned he was right.

“Fifty-eight,” Seay said.

…I came away from that conversation thinking that Seay is well intentioned and that he might not sweep the case under the rug. On the other hand, I’m not convinced he won’t sweep it under the rug.

In addition, it’s worrisome to me that he’s relying heavily on the investigator. My impression is that, with his health problems, Seay doesn’t have the energy to give the case the time and attention it cries out for.

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Brandon Ellingson

Ultimately, I fear The Ozarks Shuffle will end like it’s supposed to end — with Seay one day going to the office of the judge who appointed him and filing a report saying he has concluded that Brandon Ellingson’s death was an accident.

…By the way, if not for Anthony Piercy’s extreme recklessness, Brandon — assuming he was on track academically — would now be in the first semester of his senior year at Arizona State University.

Sadly, Brandon Ellingson drew a bad hand. And he didn’t get a helping hand when he needed it most.

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The New York Times had an excellent story last week about noisy restaurants and how some restaurateurs are paying more attention to acoustics in the interests of most diners’ desire to go somewhere and have a good meal and good conversation.

The story, titled “Taking the Din out of Dining,” said:

“(A)t some places, at least places where the target audience is more than a few years out of college, owners are spending money so that a big night out is actually decipherable.

“…After years of paying lip service to the idea of fostering civilized conversation over deafening clatter…some restaurateurs appear to be listening to customers’ pleas.” 

This is music to my hearing-reduced ears because I have been to far too many restaurants in the Kansas City area where it is extremely difficult, sometimes nearly impossible, to engage in comfortable conversation.

The loudest restaurant I have been in, by far, is Char Bar in Westport. Of course, it does cater — to borrow The Times’ line — to people a few years out of college.

Patty and I went there with another couple several weeks ago, and we weren’t smart enough to leave when they told us the wait would be 30 to 45 minutes. We had plenty of time to assess the noise level, but we hung on, mainly because one member of our party had her heart set on trying the place.

At the table, I couldn’t hear any of the conversation, and neither could the other guy. Every once in a while I would shout something at him, and he would either nod or shout a few words back. The ladies did a little better; neither has a hearing deficit…As for the food, I don’t remember much about it.

Other restaurants I have been to that are extremely loud, when crowded, are Summit Bar and Grill, near 75th and Wornall, and Louie’s Wine Dive, Gregory and Wornall. The Yard House, with locations at The Legends and the Power & Light District, is also very loud, but when I was at the P&L location recently with Brooks, we sat at a rear booth that was sheltered from the cacophonous main dining area.

The quietest restaurant I have been to — and by far the most pleasant dining experience I have had in a long time — was at Cafe Provence in Prairie Village. The Tavern in Prairie Village and Avenues Bistro in Brookside are also fairly easy on the ears.

A significant problem at many restaurants is that the owners or managers are convinced that loud music is a requisite. So, they turn the music up loud, and then the diners try to shout over the music, creating a true din. Frequently, I ask waiters or managers to turn the music down. Sometimes they do and sometimes not.

But restaurants don’t have to be loud. As The Times story said, “acoustic buffers and panels are nothing new, but restaurant designers are becoming more precise and scientific, working to create self-enclosed huddles of talk at each table without losing the low rumble of activity that makes a place feel alive.”

…Don’t call me a fuddy-duddy. Like most people, I like restaurants that “feel alive”; I just don’t want to have to strain and turn my hearing aids up to their highest level, which makes everything sound tinny, to hear what my companions are saying.

:: I read with awe and admiration today about firefighters from the Midwest gathering in Kansas City Sunday for the fifth annual Memorial Stair Climb at the Town Pavilion to honor firefighters killed in the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

The Star’s Matt Campbell reported that the participants climbed 110 stories — the number of floors that many fire fighters attempted to ascend on Sept. 11, 2001. It’s still hard to imagine the courage it took for those guys to climb up all those flights knowing they probably wouldn’t be coming back alive. The ultimate sacrifice of their own lives.

One of the most amazing aspects of this story, to me, was that “it took only 4 minutes when registration began on June 1 to fill up the 343 slots for the climb.”

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Three-hundred-forty-three. That’s the number of fire fighters who died that day in New York. Proceeds from registration fees and T-shirt sales go into a fund for survivors of police officers, fire fighters and emergency medical providers who have died in the line of duty.

A snappy salute goes out to those climbin’ fire fighters…I think it would take me half an hour to make it up 10 floors.

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It is downright disheartening to watch the Royals imploding before our eyes, but it’s not an apparition.

This downfall has been in the works for several weeks. (Those of you who are regular readers might recall my prediction on Aug. 23 that the Royals “probably aren’t going to win the American League championship.”)

The nadir of this slide into mediocrity occurred tonight. The Royals led the Orioles 6-4 going into the bottom of the eighth inning. They needed just six outs. But then a funny thing happened: The Orioles scored 10 (TEN!) runs in the bottom of the eighth, including TWO grand slam homers.

Here’s how our vaunted bullpen performed in the eighth inning: Chris Young gave up one run, Kelvin Herrera four, Franklin Morales another four and a guy named Chamberlain one. It was a milestone performance, in that it once and for all blew up the notion our bullpen is as strong as last year.

Baseball is all about momentum. Last September the Royals went 15-11, nudged into the playoffs and then got even hotter than they had been.

This year, they are 3-7 in September, and the momentum is all on the losing side. The next milestone will be when the Toronto Blue Jays overtake the Royals (the Jays are three games back as of tonight) for home field advantage in the American League playoffs…That’s when you’ll see widespread panic among the body politic. 

…As I said on Aug. 23, you’re not going to see the most likely scenario laid out on The Star’s sports pages; they don’t want to spoil the script. You probably won’t get it on 610 and 810 sports-talk radio, either; they don’t want to kill their ratings.

So now what? Well, what we’ve gotta do here is brace ourselves for keen disappointment; it’s barreling straight down the tracks. And it’s OK to cry.

:: A friend sent an email tonight, saying: “I’m very disappointed in the KC Star today. I couldn’t believe that there was not one mention of 9/11??? I was pretty dumbstruck…What’s up with that? Their choice of news coverage baffles me at times.”

…I’m embarrassed to say I hadn’t even noticed. I thought my friend must be wrong, and I quickly went back to check. I shouldn’t have doubted her because she’s an avid reader of The Star (at least until now).

I wrote back that The Star’s oversight was not just disappointing but bordering on outrageous. The New York Times had an editorial titled “Will We Always Remember?” (Particularly interesting in light of The Star’s forgetfulness, don’t you think?)

The Times also had a story that contained some 9/11 emails recently released by the George W. Bush Presidential Library. One of those emails, sent at 8:56 a.m. Eastern time by White House media affairs director, said: “Turn on CNN.”

Here’s the story. I think you’ll find it interesting.

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Shall we boogaloo on over to the Hillary Clinton story?

Not her apology — issued on national TV Tuesday — for setting up and maintaining a separate email account while she was secretary of state. The apology may help her a little, but I agree with Republican National Committee spokeswoman Allison Moore, who suggested Tuesday that Clinton was only apologizing because “she got caught and is dropping in the polls.”

The bigger story is the underlying dynamic and suspicion that her campaign for the Democratic nomination is unraveling by the day.

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Charles Blow

The media is playing a huge role in this, and New York Times columnist Charles Blow today put his finger on it in his column today.

Here’s what he said:

“There seems to me a gravitational pull of media desire that wants, on some level, to see her crash and burn. Twice snubbed. The ‘queen’ goes down, again.

“The media, and possibly even the public, loathes coasting. Trajectory, either up or down, makes a better story. Since Clinton started with such high expectations, the only trajectory available to her — and to those covering her — was down.

“Now she can’t seem to stop the slide. She simply can’t direct the narrative away from the email and toward her policies. And this constant chatter about things other than her vision for the future and the suggestion that she is not being fully forthcoming is hurting her in the polls.”

As is the case in so much of sports, it’s all about momentum. Late last summer the Kansas City Royals captured momentum, and look at the thrills we experienced as a result.

Clinton was going along smoothly until the email scandal broke, and now she appears to be caught in a swirling descent similar to those hair-raising, haunted-house slides that, in short order, deposit you back on the sidewalk.

As Blow went on to say, “It’s not clear to me how this story ends other than how it appears it wants to end: badly.”

The latest bit of bad new for Clinton came this morning when figures released from a Quinnipac University poll showed Clinton being the choice of 40 percent of likely Democratic caucus participants in Iowa, but Bernie Sanders with 41 percent.

Polls also show Sanders gaining ground fast in New Hampshire.

So, while Clinton still can claim the mantle of being the overall frontrunner based largely on the depth of her organization and her durability in the public arena, she appears to be extremely vulnerable.

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Chris Cillizza

The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, who has a column called “The Fix,” wrote today that once a frontrunner loses traction, he or she can lose a lot of ground quickly. 

“(W)ho’s to say what political cost Clinton might pay for losing the first two states to Sanders with (Vice President Joe) Biden, potentially, waiting to ambush her in the Palmetto State (South Carolina)?” Cillizza said.

“Remember how Rudy Giuliani was just going to let the first three states play out before making his mark by winning the Florida primary in 2008? He was irrelevant long before the vote turned to the Sunshine State.  The first states to vote inevitably impact how the race is covered and, therefore, how voters (and donors) regard it. Front-runners need to win; otherwise they aren’t front-runners anymore.”

A news story on page A18 of today’s New York Times said Democratic Party officials have been “casting about for a potential white knight to rescue the party from a beleaguered Clinton candidacy.”

Democrats know full well that Sanders, an independent who has characterized himself as a “democratic socialist,” probably can’t win in November 2016. Among those mentioned in the story as possible Democratic saviors were Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Secretary of State John Kerry.

Al Gore was also mentioned, but I can’t see that at all; his day under the arc lights is long past. The most likely of the those four to emerge, I would say, would be Kerry, mainly because most Democrats seem to trust him and he has steered clear of impropriety during his long career in politics.

The story quoted Robert Shrum, a veteran Democratic strategist, as saying:

“You still have to think of her (Clinton) as the odds-on favorite for the Democratic nomination. But the challenge she faces in the general election is both the trust problem and the likability problem.”

Trust and likability? If a candidate for president doesn’t have either of those qualities, she — or he — might as well get out of politics, go to the haunted houses and enjoy a few rides down the tubes.

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Well, it’s hot and steamy and too expensive to play golf on the holiday, so I better get to writin’.

…I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Royals’ pitcher Johnny Cueto, who has been an unmitigated disaster in his last three starts. It’s beginning to look like trading away three top pitching prospects to “rent” him for a few months, until he becomes a free agent next year, could be one of the worst trades the Royals have made in a long time.

Before we go any farther, let me assure you I’m not going to write an entire column about Johnny Cueto; he’s just my lead-in.

A few days ago, while thinking about a possible nickname for him (besides “Ace,” which he’s definitely not looking like) the name The Fantastic Johnny C popped into my head.

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The Fantastic Johnny C, boogalooing down Broadway

That was appropriate and kind of catchy, I thought. Rock’n’Roll seepage then set in, and I thought I recalled a person who really went by the name The Fantastic Johnny C. Then it came to me: the real Fantastic Johnny C was the guy who had a smash hit with the song “Boogaloo Down Broadway” in 1967.

I then jumped on YouTube and listened to it five or 10 times.

While Johnny C wasn’t technically a one-hit-wonder, he didn’t make much of a mark with any other song.

According to the website http://www.allmusic.com, he was born Johnny Corley, in 1943, in Greenwood, SC.

The allmusic.com bio continues…

“He joined the armed services at an early age, leaving Brewer High in Greenwood before graduating to enlist. When his military duty ended, he moved to Norristown, PA, a small city 18 miles from Philadelphia, and found work as a heavy-equipment operator while becoming increasingly unable to resist the temptation to sing professionally. R&B producer Jesse James attended the same church as Corley and quickly spotted his talent. James made a career out of transforming gospel singers into secular performers; he discovered Cliff “the Horse” Nobles a short time later at the same church.

“James became Corley’s manager and wrote songs for him — one of them, ‘Boogaloo Down Broadway,’ convinced Corley to give pop music a serious try. ‘Broadway’ became a big hit, hitting number five on the R&B charts and number seven on the pop charts. The follow-up, ‘Got What You Need,’ didn’t surpass or equal ‘Broadway,’ but it did chart, while ‘Hitch It to the Horse’ bounced onto the R&B charts and even crept into the pop Top 40, in 1968.”

It was Jesse James who came up with the name by which Johnny Corley would henceforth be known. Johnny released only one album and, besides “Broadway,” it contained some covers, including “Barefootin” and “Land of 1000 Dances.”

Allmusic.com says that after his big hit, Johnny C set his sights on becoming “the number one soul brother.”

But like a lot of other artists who nurtured visions of long-term stardom after having a Top 40 hit, his star faded. The website http://www.waybackattack.com says that after 1970 Johnny C “resumed life as he’d previously known it except for the occasional return to performance glory.”

…I hope the arc of Johnny Cueto’s star doesn’t descend has quickly as that of the one, true Fantastic Johnny C, even though I’ve got a bad feeling about Cueto.

But let’s not dwell on the negative on this Labor Day 2015. Let’s drift back to the 60s and focus, for a few minutes, on a truly great song. 

So get your partner, get in line,
We’re gonna have ourselves a heck of a time.
Baby, oh baby, Boogaloo down Broadway…

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