Archive for the ‘sports’ Category

You’ve got to give the Kansas City Royals credit: Just when frustrated fans were gathering for an attack on the bastion at One Royal Way (Kauffman Stadium), the team made the boldest, most awe-inspiring move in its history by persuading George Brett to take up a place in the team’s dugout.

As soon as I heard the news on sports-talk radio yesterday, I excitedly pulled out my cell phone and called my wife Patty. Of course, being a working woman who is supporting me in retirement and blogging, she didn’t pick up. That dulled my excitement just a touch.

But the prospect of the greatest Royal of all time — ever loquacious and ever pumped up — putting down his golf clubs, grabbing his chewing tobacco and heading to the clubhouse was absolutely thrilling to me. I was there (at least I think I was) the August night in 1980 when Brett stood on second base, having just reached the .400 hitting plateau — arms raised, helmet in hand, basking in the standing ovation being extended by enthralled fans at Kauffman Stadium.

I was watching on TV when he came up to bat — the most memorable Royals at-bat of all time, in my opinion — against the Yankees’ flame-throwing reliever Goose Gossage in the 1980 American League playoffs and, unbelievably, smashed a home run to right field on a high, inside fastball that was traveling about 1,000 miles an hour.

So, when I heard that George was returning to the dugout, it was clear that this was something really special, something that could make all fans feel good again, even though the team had lost eight straight games and 19 of its last 23 going into last night’s game against the Cardinals in St. Louis.

…Allow me to digress her for just a moment. I hate the Cardinals and I don’t much like St. Louis because of the Cardinals. When I was growing up in Louisville, KY, they almost always beat my beloved (at the time) Cincinnati Reds, since moving to Kansas City in 1969, I’ve had to watch our cross-state rivals win pennants and world championships several times, while we wallowed in the post-1985 ineptitude and frustration of our Royals. I console myself by saying it’s easy to be a Cardinals fan, but it makes you tough being a Royals fan. We have true grit!


The lead-up to last night’s (and this morning’s) game was fascinating and fixating.

At a press conference, Brett explained why he decided to accept the challenge now of becoming the Royals interim hitting coach:

“This thing has been offered to me before, but my kids were young. I had three young boys. I retired from baseball. Right now, I have two kids in college, and one is a senior in high school. I’m not missing them growing up any more. It’s summer time, and it’s time for me to go to work.”

Summer and baseball called…and he answered. How can you resist a guy that thinks like that?


Brett with Alex Gordon before thursday night’s game

Later in the afternoon, there he was standing beside Billy Butler outside the cage at batting practice; there he was joyfully and playfully embracing every Royal he happened across as the team went through warm-ups; and, finally, just before the game, there he was in the dugout, chewing that cud and wearing a look of steely determination.

He still looks every bit the part of a baseball player, just worn and weathered at age 60, but rugged and intent. Did I mention that look in the eyes? “Get outta my way,” it screams, “because I’m comin’ through you if you don’t!”

Fast forward to the top of the ninth inning…Royals down 2 to 1; Cardinals apparently pretty sure the Royals don’t have a win in them. So sure that they send out a relief pitcher with an earned run average of more than 10 runs per nine innings. But the Cardinals must have forgotten that George Brett was in the dugout and they must not have paid any attention to the fact that Brett had spent a lot of time during the game talking to right fielder Jeff Francoeur, a clubhouse leader but who has been keenly disappointing at the plate the last two years.

On the second pitch, Francoeur drilled a ball deep to left — gone! a few feet over the wall, enough to tie the game.

A camera homed in on Brett, who was standing at the top of the dugout, holding onto the protective netting. You could read his lips. “YES!” he screamed at the top of his lungs, neck muscles bulging and that protruding in his cheek.

As most everyone in KC now knows, the Royals went on to win the game 4-2 after a long rain delay. The game ended at 3:14 a.m.

They long wait didn’t bother the Royals at all. They were on Cloud 9.

“There’s not a person in here who cares that it’s 3:30 in the morning,” Francouer said in the locker room. “It feels like 10 o’clock for us.”

And as far as we fans were concerned, Brett was back, the Royals had won, and summer lay ahead in Kansas City.

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I’m startin’ to get pissed off…It’s that Andy Reid thing. Not his coaching; it’s his sartorial inadequacy.

If you didn’t see The Kansas City Star photo that I ran with yesterday’s blog, check it out. And on the sidelines, he looks worse. When I would catch glimpses of him when Eagles games were on TV, he didn’t cut a very appealing figure with that walrus mustache, ball cap and zip-up jacket.

This deplorable situation got me thinking about some football coaches who really dressed well, even impeccably.

Here are the first three that came to mind, plus a throw-in…


Former Cowboys coach Tom Landry…A winning smile is not necessary when you’re this dapper.


The late, great Paul “Bear” Bryant in his trademark houndstooth hat


Who needs a smile with hair like that??? I noticed when looking at these photos that Bear Bryant always had a rolled-up program in his hand. Ah-ha! So that’s where The Mentor got his inspiration.

And for the road…


If only he had been as attentive to his moral compass as he was to his sweater collection…

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The Professional Golfers’ Association tour has a lot of young guns with beautiful swings and tapered physiques, but many of them are about as dry as the rules of the game.

Yes, there are some exceptions, like Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, who has an engaging style, which includes a brogue and a swagger.

But there’s a guy on the European Tour — sometimes plays in the U.S. — whom you should know about, if you already don’t.

His name is Miguel Angel Jimenez — a 48-year-old Spaniard who has a style all his own.

Yesterday, Jimenez became the oldest winner on the European Tour when he shot a 5-under-par 65 to win the Hong Kong Open — the third time he has won the tournament, and his 19th career victory.

The Associated Press reported that Jimenez celebrated his success as he usually does — with a cigar and a glass of Rioja, a wine made from grapes grown primarily in the La Rioja area of Spain.

Jimenez celebrating his victory

He attributed his victory to the “olive oil in my joints,” drinking Rioja and his stretching routine. Yes, stretching. Not weight-lifting, not jogging, not doing push-ups, just stretching.

“That’s the main thing to do to keep the body to compete with the new guns,” he said.

Now, that’s a regimen I can identify with — stretching and smoking cigars. Actually, I take his fitness program to another level: I walk the dog…almost daily.

Jimenez likes his cigars so much that he has a cigar holder that keeps his cigars off the ground when he’s hitting golf balls on the range. Fittingly, it’s called a Hole-in-One Cigar Holder. (Personally, I don’t smoke cigars when I play golf. I have enough trouble keeping track of the ball and worrying about my next shot. And, of course, I don’t practice much, either.)

Here’s another thing about the easy-going Jimenez…He hit the most remarkable shot I’ve ever seen — live or on TV — in the 2010 British Open. At the 17th hole, he hit a lousy third shot and ended up in the rough, next to a rock wall that flanked the green. Without enough room to get his club behind the ball to hit it toward the hole, he turned and faced the wall and hit the ball against the wall. The ball caromed off the wall, flying high in the air in the opposite direction and coming down on the green.

Even as the ball was still in the air, Jimenez turned and started walking toward the green, casually watching the ball’s arc. After it landed and the crowd began to roar, he gave a nonchalant wave of acknowledgment, as if it was a shot he had practiced 100 times and fully expected the result.

Just like that shot, Jimenez is one of a kind. Today, I’ll smoke a cigar in his honor…but I’ll use a conventional ashtray.

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There’s always plenty of good journalistic fodder in sports.

Today, I have three things I want to call to your attention.

1) Last night, we saw a great example of a college athletic director — Jeff Long of Arkansas — putting principle above expediency.

Long announced at a press conference in Fayetteville that football Coach Bobby Petrino would not be returning next season, after Petrino witheld key details of a motorcycle accident he was involved in last week.

At the news conference, Long said that Petrino had “knowingly misled” the Razorback athletic department and the residents of Arkansas.


The 51-year-old Petrino had been on paid leave after failing to tell Long that a 25-year-old female football program employee — a beautiful blonde — was riding with him when his motorcycle went into a ditch outside of Fayetteville. Petrino, who is married with four children, also admitted to “an inappropriate relationship” with the football program employee, Jessica Dorrell.

Petrino didn’t tell Long that Dorrell was on the bike with him until minutes before a police report was released last week. The police report disclosed Dorrell’s presence at the accident. Petrino suffered head and neck injuries, while Dorrell was uninjured.

Petrino recently completed his fourth season at Arkansas, and he had compiled a 34-17 record. He had a long-term contract paying him an average of $3.53 million a year. His contract contained a clause, however, that allowed the university to fire Petrino for “engaging in conduct, as solely determined by the university, which is clearly contrary to the character and responsibilities of a person occupying the position of head football coach or which negatively or adversely affects the reputation of the (university’s) athletics programs in any way.”

He certainly did adversely affect the school’s reputation. Because he violated that clause, the university will not have to buy out his contract.

In a story posted on ESPN.com last night, reporter Tim Keown noted that character questions about Petrino had begun long before Arkansas hired him in 2007.


Keown wrote: “Long had to ask himself some simple questions leading up to Tuesday evening’s decision: How many different ways did this guy embarrass the university and play his bosses for fools, and how many wins would it take to forgive them? Apparently, the answers were equally simple: There aren’t enough wins on anybody’s schedule to keep Petrino on board and wonder what might come next.”

Hiring Petrino was Long’s first major move after he became athletic director in January 2008. Firing him on Tuesday was an even bigger move. Congratulations to Jeff Long. He’s taken a big step toward undoing the damage that Petrino did to the university’s reputation.

2) On the morning of the KU-UK championship basketball game in New Orleans, The Star had a picture of a KU player (at least I think it was a player) on the newspaper’s front page. Well, actually, it wasn’t on the front page; it was the front page. Took up the entire cover.

Subsequently, two or three authors of letters to the editor took the paper to task for dedicating the entire front page to a sporting event, even a very big one. I had been mulling over the wisdom of that editorial decision, but, then, another letter writer came along and said something to the effect of, “Hey, folks, it’s only one front page.”

So, I thought, “OK, I can buy that.”

But yesterday, however, a photo of KU star Thomas Robinson and his little sister took up about half the front page. The photo linked to an article on the front of the sports section about Robinson announcing his decision to turn pro, even though he has another year of collegiate eligibility.

I’m sure that the editors rationalized their decision to put the photo on the front page by the fact that Robinson and his sister Jayla endured tremendous personal losses when their mother and maternal grandparents died within several weeks of each other in late 2010 and early 2011.

That accounted for the headline above the photo: “Brighter Days Ahead.” That story was fleshed out all season long, however, and didn’t need to be highlighted again. I think that photo was inappropriate for the front page, especially coming on the heels of the all-KU front page a week earlier.

Why should The Star glamorize the fact that a basketball player, as good as he is, has decided to forgo his opportunity to graduate with his class and in favor of a mammoth contract with an NBA team? Don’t get me wrong; I’m not quarreling with Robinson’s decision — just with the editors’ decision to feature the story on the front page.

Air ball!

3) Unbelievable. That’s all I can say about New York Times’ golf writer Karen Crouse’s description on Monday of the shot by Bubba Watson that won the Masters golf tournament Sunday.

If you watched the two-hole playoff between Bubba and Louis Oosthuizen, you know that Bubba made an unbelievable shot from way off the 10th fairway. He hooked an iron shot around a tree line and onto the green. It was a spectacular shot that curved an estimated 40 yards.


In Monday’s paper, however, Crouse wrote: “After driving into the woods, he sliced a shot onto the green.” For Bubba, a left-handed player, a slice would have been cutting the ball from right to left, not drawing it from left to right.

There’s a huge, huge difference between hooking a ball and slicing a ball; they go in totally different directions.

I wrote to the Times’ sports desk, saying, “What in the world was Karen thinking about? Certainly she knows the difference between a hook and a slice?!?!?”

So far, no reply. And no correction in today’s paper.

What a disappointment from my favorite newspaper.

Air ball! Oops, make that out of bounds. Go back to the tee and hit again, Karen.

Note: The Times ran a correction in today’s edition.

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Got back yesterday from a three-day trip to Denver, where I saw the Women’s Final Four.

This was the first time I spent any considerable time in Denver, and I was impressed. I was all over the downtown area Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, from the land of tall buildings — office buildings, hotels, banks, etc. — to the distinctive LoDo area (lower downtown), with its bars, restaurants and storefront businesses.

One thing that makes downtown so accessible is that there is an abundance of street parking, with thousands of metered spots where you can park any time of night or day. There’s none of this “no parking 7-9 and 4-6,” like we’ve got here. In addition, paying is as easy as sliding your credit card into a slot and paying $1 an hour, maximum of two hours in most places.

I think the city makes a tremendous amount of money on parking violations, too. I saw several yellow envelopes containing citations under windshield wipers…In fact, two of those yellow envelopes ended up under the wiper of my rental car. (Not even grudgingly, I’ll make my $50 contribution to a city where parking is hassle free.)

Anyway, take a look at my latest travelogue…

The Pepsi Center

Baylor warming up before Sunday's semifinal game against Stanford. Brittney Griner, who ended up being the tournament's most valuable player, is at top center.

Pat Summitt, whose Tennessee Volunteers were not in the Final Four, drew more attention than anyone except Griner

Out on the streets...a snowy 16th Street Mall on Tuesday morning

The first part of customer service...

The Brown Palace Hotel, the second-oldest operating hotel in Denver (built, 1892). Harry Truman liked the Hotel Muehlebach but he also stayed at the Brown Palace.

The City and County Building (not City Hall, mostly courts)

A nice cigar store, Palma Cigars, in LoDo...Clay Carlton, proprietor and roller

I spent an hour on that couch, smoking a Don Pepin

Back to the action...The Sheraton lobby was the place to see and be seen Tuesday afternoon.

These ladies weren't in the Final Four, but they were my favorite trio by far...From left, Erika of Northwest Florida State, Stacey of New Mexico State and Lauren of Arizona State.

Baylor fans had a lot to cheer about in the championship game against Notre Dame.

I managed to talk a very nice usher into letting me sit in the lower-level, even though I had a third-floor ticket. My reward, besides getting a great view of the game, was to sit in front of these two ladies from Houston -- Heather (left) and Denise.

Baylor celebrates the 80-61 win over the Irish. (Coach Kim Mulkey is at left center.)

After the game, after the fans disperse, LoDo goes quiet. If there's a celebration, it isn't around here.


Just to show Smartman that I also take photos of the beautiful woman who makes my life joyful and fulfilling, here’s Patty…

Central California coast, 2011

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Today, a quickie…

Tell me — honestly — how much are we going to miss this guy?

(For the record, I don’t approve of a guy wearing a bow tie to be screaming at the top of his lungs, unless his life or the life of someone else is in danger.)

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One of my favorite events, the women’s Big XII basketball tournament, was in town over the weekend, and it didn’t disappoint. Too bad it was the last year for Kansas City to host the women’s tournament, as it moves to Dallas next year. I trust it will be back, though. Municipal Auditorium is a tremendous basketball venue, especially for crowds of less than 10,000. As expected, Baylor, led by 6-8 center Brittney Griner, came out on top, winning the final 73-50 against overmatched Texas A&M, the defending national champion. Check out the scene:

The convention district, alive and well

A Texas Tech cheerleader...Oh, wait, that's my daughter Brooks!

Dee Kantner, queen of the refs -- a Division 1 referee for about 25 years

The Baylor band gets peppy

Color Guard, at ease

This fan ended up by the wrong band

Griner the Great, warming up

AP photographer Jeff Tuttle -- not all the work is through the lens

"Starting at forward, No. 50, Bailey the Bear"

Step right up...

Everybody looks good at tournament time

After the game, Baylor Coach Kim Mulkey talks with one of her favorite players, her daughter and Baylor guard Makenzie Robertson

And the skies opened up...

Brittney owns the net

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