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Posts Tagged ‘Jason Whitlock’

Like the locker room of the World Series champions or the Super Bowl winners, the second-floor mezzanine of The Kansas City Star probably was the scene last night of champagne corks flying and reporters and editors spraying each other with the traditional celebratory beverage.

If it wasn’t, it should have been: The Sports Department learned yesterday that it was one of three papers to win sports journalism’s biggest award for its work in 2012.

The Associated Press Sports Editors voted The Star as a winner of its “Grand Slam” competition. That is, The Star was named one of the top 10, large-circulation newspapers in each of four main categories: daily sports section, Sunday section, special sections and website content and presentation.

It is a tremendous triumph for the paper, especially considering that the only other two papers to gain Grand Slam status last year were the Washington Post and The New York Times. The air is mighty thin at the top, and that’s where The Star’s Sports Department has stood for the last 15-plus years.

In a sports-section story today, sports editor Jeff Rosen said, “We’re not in this business to win awards, but it’s a tremendous honor to score The Star’s first Grand Slam.”

The quality of the sports section is something that, I’m sure, a lot of readers take for granted. The sports section’s rise to the top has been gradual, for the most part, and it’s worth taking a look at the modern history of the sports section and how it climbed into the top ranks nationally.

In most cases, the stature of a paper’s sports section coincides with the caliber of its columnists. For the most part, that is the case with The Star.

When I was hired as a general assignment reporter at The Star in 1969, Joe McGuff was sports editor and sports columnist, and his name was uttered with reverence. He was a clear-headed thinker and straightforward writer whose honesty and dedication to Kansas City and its betterment were unquestioned.

joe

Joe McGuff

His greatest hour came in 1968-69 when he played a huge role in convincing the executives at Major League Baseball to locate an expansion team in Kansas City. That, of course, came on the heels of the late Charles O. Finley owner of the Kansas City Athletics, moving the team to Oakland.

Not since then, and probably not before, has a sports writer or columnist stepped so far beyond the customary trappings of his job. As far as Kansas City was concerned, McGuff might as well have been “St. Joe” after that.

Another great Star sports columnist in the 1960s and 70s was Dick Mackey. Another not afraid to leave the comfort zone of sports, Mackey set sports aside the day after Martin Luther King’s assassination (April 4, 1968) and wrote about King and the nation’s shock.

Metaphorically, Mackey later drove himself into the ground: In a state of exhaustion and with an ulcerated stomach, he collapsed in the back of a cab in Memphis and died. That was in the late 70s.

jon

Jon Rand

In the 1980s and 1990s, the featured columnist was Jon Rand, another straight shooter, who came to The Star from the Miami Herald. He wasn’t a flashy writer, but readers could rely on him to give them informed opinions. The most memorable line that I recall of Rand’s was a year or so before The Chiefs hired Carl Peterson as general manager and Marty Schottenheimer as coach. The front office was led by Lamar Hunt’s old buddy, Jack Steadman, who was never popular with the fans.

“This fish stinks from the head down,” Rand wrote one day, capturing the sentiment of the entire city.

Gib Twyman was another outstanding columnist. A born-again christian, he was genuinely empathetic with people who were experiencing difficulties, and he frequently digressed from the sports scene. He wrote several extremely touching columns, I recall, about the Thompson family after a Thompson daughter, Amy Thompson, was shot in the neck and paralyzed in a botched robbery on Halloween night 1986. Some friends organized the first Amy Thompson Run in 1988, and over the years it has raised more than $1.5 million to help people with brain injuries.

On Christmas night, 1989, Amy died of complications from her injuries.

Twyman, unfortunately, had a big problem making deadlines, and that resulted in him getting fired for plagiarism in 1994. He later redeemed himself as a reporter and columnist at a paper in Salt Lake City, before dying of a heart attack in 2001.

In the long run, though, it was not a columnist but an editor who took the sports section to new and spectacular heights.

In 1996, then editor Art Brisbane and managing editor Mark Zieman brought in a guy named Dinn Mann, who, at 31 years old, already had some notches on his journalistic belt. He came to The Star from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where he was associate sports editor. Before that he had been sports editor at the Houston Post before it folded in 1995.

Mann also had a high-propane personality and some estimable blood lines: His grandfather was Judge Roy Hofheinz, a former Houston mayor, who built the Astrodome.

dinn

Dinn Mann (right) with Louisville, KY, sports commission director Karl Schmitt

Mann only stayed at The Star for five years, but he brought the sports section into the 21st Century before the 21st Century arrived. It was he who introduced the snappy, funny headlines on the lead sports story of the day. It was he who pushed for award-winning special sections, and he who introduced many features that are still cornerstones of today’s sports section, such as the Five-Game Planner and expanded “On the Air” listings of sports on TV.

In addition, Mann hired columnist Joe Posnanski, who became the counterbalance for Jason Whitlock, whom Mann’s predecessor, Dale Bye, had hired in about 1994. It was at The Star that Whitlock and Posnanski found their voices and established their launching pads to bigger jobs. At The Star, Whitlock wielded the hammer, while Posnanski supplied the poetry.

Mann himself went on to an extremely big job in 2001 — founding editor-in-chief of MLB.com, baseball’s official website. Mann is still with MLB.com, which has grown to more than 100 employees.

When Mann left, his top assistant, Mike Fannin, became editor and kept the momentum going. After Fannin was named editor of The Star in 2008, the sports section went through a bumpy period. Fannin’s top assistant in the department, Holly Lawton, took the reins, but she left two years later, after allegations surfaced that she and Fannin had had an affair. About the same time, Whitlock left the paper after a blow-up with Fannin and perhaps Lawton.

jeff

Jeff Rosen

The ship got righted late in 2010, however, after The Star hired Rosen as sports editor. For six years, Rosen had been deputy sports editor at the Houston Chronicle.

For the last couple of years, the public face of the sports section has been columnist Sam Mellinger, who combines Whitlock’s hammer with Posnanski’s poetry.

Already, Mellinger has established himself as a “destination columnist,” that is, someone who draws readers to the paper just for what he brings to the paper.

Headed by the team of Rosen and Mellinger, and buttressed by fine reporters like Blair Kerkhoff, Adam Teicher and Bob Dutton, The Star’s sports section should be solid for the near future.

Don’t be surprised if you hear about more “Grand Slams” down at 18th and Grand.

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Every day for the last week I’ve expected to read or hear that Fox Sports has fired or suspended Jason Whitlock for the outrageous Twitter comment he made about women and New York Knicks’ sensation Jeremy Lin.

I don’t know how he did it, but with one little tweet he managed to paint women as sexual trophies to be used and abused, and he managed to stereotype Asian men as having…well, as former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner might have put it, inadequate “packages.”

Here’s what Whitlock tweeted the night of Feb. 10, after Lin scored a career-high 38 points as the Knicks beat the Los Angeles Lakers 92-85.

“Some lucky lady in NYC is gonna feel a couple inches of pain tonight.”

That brought this reaction from the Asian American Journalists Association:

“Outrage doesn’t begin to describe the reaction…to your unnecessary and demeaning tweet…Let’s not pretend we don’t know to what you were referring. The attempt at humor – and we hope that is all it was – fell flat. It also exposed how some media companies fail to adequately monitor the antics of their high-profile representatives. Standards need to be applied – by you and by Fox Sports.”

Whitlock/Lin

Whitlock, who flamed out at The Star in August 2010, later apologized, saying in part:

“I…gave in to another part of my personality—my immature, sophomoric, comedic nature. It’s been with me since birth, a gift from my mother and honed as a child listening to my godmother’s Richard Pryor albums. I still want to be a standup comedian.”

So, it was the fault of his mother and godmother? I guess his godmother should be flogged for leaving those Richard Pryor albums lying around like loaded handguns.

Meanwhile, an ESPN editor got fired for using an ethnic slur  in a headline on ESPN.com’s mobile Web site, and an ESPN anchor was suspended for 30 days for using the same phrase during an interview about Lin with a former NBA player.

The headline posted by Anthony Federico of ESPN said, “Chink in the Armor: Jeremy Lin’s 9 Turnovers Cost Knicks in Streak-stopping Loss to Hornets.”

Federico, who deserved to be fired, apologized and in an interview with the New York Daily News said: “This had nothing to do with me being cute or funny. I’m so sorry that I offended people. I’m so sorry if I offended Jeremy.”

The suspended anchor man, Max Bretos, also apologized unequivocally, saying in a tweet, “My wife is Asian, would never intentionally say anything to disrespect her and that community.”

There you have the story, so far, of how two networks handled the same type of problem. ESPN fired one person and suspended another, while Fox Sports has remained largely silent on the matter of Whitlock’s double slur and his subsequent lame attempt to dismiss the ethnic element of it as a bad joke.

A week before Whitlock fired off his tweet, CNN suspended political analyst Roland Martin for tweets he posted during the Super Bowl.

Martin caused an uproar, particularly among gay rights groups, by tweeting that people should “smack the ish” out of any male fans of an underwear ad starring David Beckham.

He also made fun of a New England Patriots player who arrived wearing a pink jumpsuit. “He needs a visit from #teamwhipdatass,” Martin wrote.

As the Asian American Journalists Association said, “Standards need to be applied.”

I’m waiting for Fox to join ESPN and CNN in applying high standards to a sports writer who seems destined to be immature and sophomoric for life.

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Now there’s a game that was worth losing some sleep over!

Chiefs 21, Chargers 14. Finish time: about 12:15 a.m.

It might go down in the annals of local sports as the game that put Kansas City back on the NFL map.

Isn’t it amazing how one game can lift the spirits of a town that has seen so many years of frustrating losses for its two primary major-league franchises?  

All that losing, combined with the Chiefs’ relatively poor pre-season play, had a lot of people on edge and gloomy about the team’s prospects. Why, just a few weeks ago, The Star’s Adam Teicher and Chiefs’ head coach Todd Haley had a testy exchange at a news conference, and it looked like bitterness was going to be the season-long tone out at Arrowhead.

I was one of those people who was gloomy about the team’s prospects.  On July 22, I wrote, accurately, in this space that the sun was setting on Jason Whitlock’s career at The Star. (He resigned last month.) I went on to write, terribly inaccurately, it appears, that one of the reasons Whitlock was verging on irrelevance in Kansas City was that “the Chiefs are in a sorry state.”

I went on to say: “…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?”

Now, clearly, there’s a guy who didn’t know what he was talking about! There’s a blogger — the kind I like to complain about — who was just standing on a soap box and making noise. I could have, and should have, qualified it, as I learned to do in my many years at The Star, and said, “It appears that the Chiefs are in a sorry state.” That would have given me some cover.

At least, however, I was swimming in a crowded pool. And now all of us who were in that pool want out; we want out of the pool of despair and into the waters of rejuvenation because football is back in Kansas City. Once again, the Chiefs own the town…Well, I guess I better say it appears that the Chiefs own the town.

And what about Whitlock? How do you think he feels today? Wherever he’s writing now — Twitter or Foxsports.com — look for him to try to minimize this thrilling victory, to write it off as an aberration. But deep down, where his little heart is beating, I’ll bet he’s sorry that he’s not here writing about this team, with its talented, enthusiastic young players and its new, deeply experienced offensive and defensive coordinators.

If he were here, I’ll bet he’d be calling today on Chiefs’ fans everywhere to “Get on the bandwagon…This team might go undefeated!”

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Well, The Star made it official today: Jason Whitlock is leaving The Star after 16 years as a sports columnist and six weeks as an Op-Ed columnist.

After 10 weeks of being “on vacation” (the weekly explanation that The Star has been trotting out to readers), Whitlock is now free “to pursue other interests.”

I predicted here on July 22 — after his columns had been missing for six weeks — that he was finished. (By the way, my hunch has won me a lunch bet with my colleague Hearne Christopher of KCCconfidential.com.)

The latest signal, to me, that he wasn’t coming back came last Friday when he posted this message on his Twitter account at 7:33 p.m.: “I know I’m lazy, but how did Tiger’s Wood (stet) finish today?”

He was asking, in other words, for somebody out there in Twitter land to tell him what score Tiger Woods had recorded in Friday’s round of the PGA championship, held in Wisconsin.

It struck me immediately that if the guy was too lazy to go to ESPN.com, or any number of other Internet sites, and check a player’s score, he was by no means ready to return to real work. 

There really isn’t much more to say. His obit has been written (see Aug. 2 post on this site), and he’s done about all he can do at The Star. He’s made a significant contribution to Kansas City sports coverage, and he helped catapult Sports Daily into the top ranks of the nation’s sports sections. The challenge for The Star now will be to keep the sports section in the top tier, especially with Star sports editor Holly Lawton’s recent decision to resign. 

Clearly, though, the time is right for Whitlock to move on: The paper, like most other metropolitan dailies, is in flux; the Chiefs seemingly are headed for another dull season;and Whitlock obviously is sick of writing for The Star.

So, good luck, Jason. We’ll be looking for you under the arc lights.

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Some of you probably are tired of reading about the Jason Whitlock saga.

But it’s got a very important element that is worth discussing — the credibility of The Kansas City Star.

The Star’s stock in trade is its credibility. Readers rely on The Star — just as readers in other cities rely on their daily papers — to get at the truth, when the truth is obscured by lies, conflicting allegations, complicated facts and just plain clutter.

For example, The Star has been working mightily to comb through the chaff of the Karen Pletz situation at Kansas City University of Medicine and Health Sciences. Was it a case of an administrator run amok, or was it a case of a board of directors that was sound asleep? Or was it both? The Star has done an excellent job, overall, of trying to sort things out, and its stories have laid plenty of blame at the feet of both parties.

Only The Star has the resources to launch a thorough examination and be assured that most people will trust the result. No other news organization in Kansas City can come close. So, when The Star speaks on the Pletz issue, thousands of people — tens of thousands of people — listen closely.

Another example: The Star recently published a big, 40-year anniversary story on the slaying of political and civil rights leader Leon Jordan, suggesting that it might be a good idea to reopen the case. Less than two weeks later, lost evidence turned up, and police decided to reopen the case.  

Here’s another, different, example of The Star’s credibility: Why do you think Mark Funkhouser is mayor today?  Here’s why: KC Star editorial writer Yael Abouhalkah, who has “covered” City Hall for more than 20 years, got behind him early on and started pushing. Yael, in turn, convinced the editorial board to support Funkhouser, and The Star then endorsed Funkhouser, propelling him to victory.

Among the dozen candidates for mayor, Funkhouser did not stand out for his character, personality or ability to build a consensus. No, he was just another member of a weak field. But he had The Star behind him. That’s why he won; the voters trusted The Star. (Footnote: The Star, to its credit, saw the error of its ways a couple of years after Funkhouser was elected and admitted it made a mistake.)

So, The Star’s credibility is important, very important to this community. And what is it doing with this Whitlock fiasco? It is chipping away at its own credibility. For weeks, The Star has been publishing a note to readers saying Whitlock is “on vacation.” Come on, it’s a lie, and everybody knows it.

It’s something else. Maybe he’s been suspended; maybe it’s a contract dispute; maybe the editors are sick of dealing with him. It could be anything…other than a vacation. After an absence that now exceeds two months, he’s probably not coming back.   

So, The Star should stop lying. It could drop the “note to readers” and say nothing. It could change the note to say, “Jason Whitlock is on leave,” or “Jason Whitlock is off work.”

Sorry to say, this is not the first time that The Star has been less than forthcoming about Whitlock’s status. In October 1998, Whitlock was suspended for goading fans who were taunting him at a Chiefs-New England Patriots game in Foxboro, Mass. Against the press-box glass, he held up hand-scrawled signs that said, “It’s warm in here — good looking women too” and “Bledsoe gay? Pats suck.” (He was referring to Patriots’ quarterback Drew Bledsoe.)

That was on Sunday, Oct. 11. The next day, Whitlock was suspended, and the suspension turned out to be for two weeks. The Star didn’t inform the public, however, until 10 days after the suspension. On Oct. 22, then-sports editor Rick Vacek wrote a column explaining the suspension and referred to “offensive” signs that Whitlock had shown to Patriots fans. He didn’t say what the signs said.

On Nov. 1, Miriam Pepper, who was then readers representative (the position that Derek Donovan now holds), wrote a column saying that the tardy report and lack of details had been a disservice to readers. “The newspaper regularly has to ‘go with the news’ before all sides weigh in,” said Pepper, now a vice president and editorial page editor. “In this case, it could have been handled by reporting the incident immediately and explaining that management was investigating.”

That episode hurt The Star’s credibility, and that was before the bottom fell out for most metropolitan dailies. Now, here we are again with a situation that, while probably different at its core, is still a matter of public interest. Whitlock is not a journeyman reporter; he’s the highest profile columnist and personality at The Star. Readers want — and deserve — an explanation that is not bogus.

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As some of you may know, I have a friendly bet with fellow blogger Hearne Christopher of KCConfidential.com over whether Jason Whitlock will return to The Kansas City Star. The stakes are lunch at The Well in Waldo.

I am so convinced that my position is correct — that Whitlock is finished at The Star — that today I am presenting Whitlock’s advance “obit” accompanied by a timeline noting the highs and lows of his 16 years at The Star. 

With no further ado, then, join me in bidding a fond adieu to Jason. (Wherever you are, Jason, I hope you enjoy the tribute.)  

*** 

Jason Whitlock, who brought big-time, hammer-pounding sports commentary to The Kansas City Star, has left the paper after 16 years as a sports columnist.

The Star announced Whitlock’s departure on (day to be determined), following the widely read columnist’s two-month absence from the pages of The Star. During that period, The Star occasionally ran a note to readers, along with Whitlock’s mug shot, saying “Jason Whitlock is on vacation.”

During his absence, even members of the sports staff did not know what was going on or if he was coming back. Sports Editor Holly Lawton recently told a reader who called her to ask about Whitlock that he was taking back-to-back vacation months. For years, Whitlock has worked for The Star on a contract basis, and the terms of the contract have not been made public. Regular employees of The Star get a maximum of about 28 days paid time off and cannot carry over unused days from one year to the next.

An indication that Whitlock was either trying to spread his wings or was dissatisfied with his role as a sports columnist at The Star surfaced on April 27, when a political opinion column written by Whitlock turned up on the page opposite The Star’s editorial page. An editor’s note accompanying the column said that the Op-Ed column would appear weekly.

The column appeared for six consecutive weeks and then disappeared just as mysteriously as Whitlock himself.

For his part, Whitlock did nothing to shed light on the situation. Last Friday, he posted this message on his Twitter account: “KC folks, do not believe anything said about me by ANYONE, even if he/she claims to have spoken to me. They are lying and/or misrepresenting.”

Whitlock, 43, also writes a weekly column for FOXSports.com. That column continued during his absence from The Star. Previously, he wrote a weekly column for ESPN.com and had worked as a radio talk-show host on local sports radio stations.

For 13 years, from 1996 to 2009, Whitlock and fellow columnist Joe Posnanski provided a powerful and intriguing one-two punch on The Star’s sports pages. Whitlock generally took the role of heavy hitter, calling out players, coaches, owners and others for sharp criticism, while Posnanski offered nuanced opinions and compelling narratives and commentaries. A year ago, Posnanski left The Star to become a senior writer at Sports Illustrated.

Whitlock and Posnanski helped transform The Star’s sports section into one of the best in the nation. Four times since 2003, the section has won sports journalism’s highest honor, being ranked by the Associated Press in the top 10 for its daily, Sunday and special sports sections. Whitlock has won top 10 honors as a columnist three times since 2005, including last year.

King Carl and Dr. B.A. Homer 

Famously and fearlessly, Whitlock took on major sports figures, such as former Kansas City Chiefs’ president and general manager Carl Peterson, whom Whitlock dubbed “King Carl,” and current president and general manager Scott Pioli, whom Whitlock often referred to as Scott Ego-li.

He also introduced Star readers to a fanciful character called Dr. B.A. Homer. Described as “Kansas City’s leading sports therapist,” Dr. Homer would engage in imaginary dialogue with Whitlock, often trying to convince Whitlock that his position on an issue – whatever it might have been – was crazy.

In a September 2006 interview with a sports blog called The Big Lead, Whitlock was asked if he intended to remain a sports columnist.

“Yeah, I’m always going to keep a hand in the sports world,” Whitlock said. “Writing about sports is a great platform to write about the rest of life. Plus, the sports world and the entertainment world are where much of the bojangling is taking place. I haven’t left The Kansas City Star because I’m treated well there, enjoy the freedom, love the city, the Internet makes the world much smaller and, most important, I have a good boss.”

At the time, his supervisor was managing editor Mike Fannin, who oversaw sports and features. Two years ago, Fannin was named editor of The Star, and since then, Whitlock has worked for Lawton, who succeeded Fannin as sports editor.

Last Friday, to the surprise of many rank and file workers at The Star, Lawton submitted her resignation as sports editor, saying she intended to leave journalism. The notice of her resignation, placed on Star bulletin boards, reportedly said that she would remain sports editor until a successor was in place.

A source at The Star said Friday that he had spoken with Lawton and that she had told him her departure had nothing to do with Whitlock’s situation. “She said she wanted out from under the job,” the source said. “She wanted a life.”

The source also said that the Whitlock situation might have been in limbo for an extended period because of the terms of his contract, such as when it was due to expire.  

Whitlock, an Indianapolis native, is a 1990 graduate of Ball State University, where he started as an offensive tackle for two years. He came to The Star from the Ann Arbor News in Michigan. He previously worked at The Charlotte Observer in North Carolina and the Bloomington Herald-Times in Indiana.

*****

Jason Whitlock timeline at The Kansas City Star

1994 – Whitlock is hired as a sports columnist

October 1998 – Whitlock is suspended for heckling fans who taunted him in the press box at a Chiefs-New England Patriots game at Foxboro, Mass. Among other things, Whitlock displayed to fans a hand-written sign that said, “Bledsoe gay? Pats suck.” He was referring to New England quarterback Drew Bledsoe.

April 2007 – Perhaps Whitlock’s most provocative column, titled “Imus isn’t the real bad guy,” is published. In the column, Whitlock argued that African-Americans should examine hip-hop music’s culture of black-on-black disrespect rather than focus on shock jock Don Imus’ description of Rutgers women’s basketball players as “ho’s” (whores).

March 2010 — The Associated Press names Whitlock one of the top 10 sports columnists in the country for 2009. It is the third time since 2005 that he has been so honored. 

April 27, 2010 – The Star launches Whitlock’s “Independent Thoughts” column on the Op-Ed page. An editor’s note says the column will appear weekly.

May 27, 2010 – Whitlock’s last sports column, about a “culture of corruption” in college sports, is published.

June 2, 2010 – Whitlock’s sixth (and last) “Independent Thoughts” column is published. The headline is “Obama owes Bush an apology.”

Aug. x, 2010 – The Star announces Whitlock’s resignation.

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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.

Jason Whitlock.

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.)

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