Saturday, January 31, 2009

Basketball as it should be

Suddenly it didn’t seem like such a good idea. We had won tickets on eBay for today’s KU – Colorado game at Allen Fieldhouse. I had never seen a game there, having only been in the fieldhouse to enroll in classes. But once we parked the car, I began to realize just how far from our seats we were on foot -- me with two, him with one and a crutch. But intrepid we are and off we went. My son of steel plate and 13 screws and me of titanium hips, worked our way down three flights of concrete stairs from the parking lot and up three long flights of concrete stairs in the fieldhouse to our seats 10 rows from the rafters.

Not seats. Wooden benches, actually. A little less contoured to the butt than even stadium seats. I understood why smarter fans were hauling cushions up to the roof.

Being at Allen Fieldhouse in person reminded me how small a basketball court is. The last time I saw a basketball game live was a Kansas City Kings game where I had a photo pass and sat on the court at Kemper Arena. If you only watch basketball on television, the setting looks so much bigger. The experience today reminded me of the time we took my 80-year-old mother to a major league baseball game. She tapped me on the shoulder then whispered in my ear, “John, it’s so much bigger than it looks on television.” I think she was also thinking it was more grand. Then I was reminded how my sister and the grandchildren got her tickets to the fieldhouse a few years before she died and how much she loved being there. My eyes got teary.

I’ll never forgive Roy Williams for breaking her fragile old heart.

Not only is the court and the fieldhouse smaller than they appear on television, but the players are younger than they appear on screen, boys really, unlike the hulks of the NBA. They scrabble and scramble like mice with cats in hot pursuit. They care more than pros and that makes fans care more about them.

The game is just too easy for NBA players. They need to raise the rim to 12 feet for the pro game.

Allen Fieldhouse isn’t perfect. Did I mention those rock hard wooden benches? The third level has only one men’s room and one women’s room and two family rooms. Concessions are limited. Not much pizzazz.

But, when you look across the packed house, folks standing in front of the windows, and you see the strips of bright light from the afternoon sun illuminating certain rows of fans with the God-light of our old Sunday School papers, you realize how special this place is.

If the University of Kansas gets greedy and touches one brick of that building, the whole administration should be run out of town on a rail. Star reporter J. Brady McCollough referred to the field house in his game story today as “the old barn” which was probably a term of endearment. If not, it was a term of stupidity.

Not sure why reporters still write game stories anyway – especially the formulaic stories Star reporters churn out daily. In most cases anyone who was interested saw the game. The writers routinely fail to capture the drama or the narrative of the game, opting instead for statistics anyone could cull from the Web and, of course, a few typically lame interviews.

An afternoon in Allen Fieldhouse deserves drama and narrative, and maybe even a wee small bit of atmosphere.

-- Lofflin

Friday, January 30, 2009

Who the heck is Henry Wiggen?

If you've been wondering about Henry "Author" Wiggen, who comes onto this blog now and then to comment, more now than then, visit this ESPN story.

The story reminded me of my favorite quote from The Southpaw delivered by Henry's wife, Holly. Henry has just stepped over his own ethical line, throwing a spit ball that nearly decapitates the hitter:

"It is a grand game," Holly says. "I love to see it, and I love to hear you talk about it. It is a beautiful game, clean and graceful and honest. But I will be damned if I will sit back and watch you turn into some sort of a low life halfway between a sour creature like Sad Sam Yale and a shark like [manager] Dutch Schnell."

The best way to save the planet is to buy this book and pass it around to everyone you know who can be coerced into reading it. In the meantime, it looks like Henry -- Author -- will be visiting us here, as he did below, to share his unusual wisdom.


Everybody needs insurance against the future

Let me just say that the braintrust should never give up on a pitcher that has heart. Heart is 1 thing you can not get from eating Wheaties. Now, it was about 10 years ago that the Kansas City club give up on Tom Gordon after bringing him in for a try out in the spring. After he threw 10 pitches, the braintrust said he was too old. That was about 1,000,000 curveball's ago. Today, he is still better than about 1 half of all the pitchers that have stood in their bullpen since then.

-- Your's truly,

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sweeney's back

I just read this post my favorite blog (other than The Henry Wiggen Blog, of course), Mike Sweeney signed a minor league contract with the Seattle Mariners.

A few months ago, Sweeney said he wanted one more chance to be a successful major leaguer again. And I really hope he succeeds.

I have nothing but good memories from his days in Kansas City. He's criticized for spending too much time on the disabled list after signing a huge contract with the Royals. But I don't blame him for getting hurt. When he was healthy, he was a monster.

Sweeney's not the only old Royal in the news today. The Arizona Diamndbacks are reportedly showing interest in 41-year-old Tom Gordon. Flash Freakin' Gordon. Good for him.

Here's hoping the 2009 Royals are as good as the memories we have of some great former Royals.

--Matt Kelsey

Who Me?

They just don't make tennis rackets the way they used to.

Have you ever seen so many defective rackets? Watch a tennis match these days, like the one down under this week. Nearly every time a player miss hits a ball (you do not want to type miss hits as one word, by the way) she or he stares at the racket as if it came from Mars. Does it have a hole? Was it miss strung? Is the handle broken? Is it warped?

What on earth could have sent that ball sailing into the crowd?

A similar problem has emerged in college basketball. Nobody fouls. Ever.

This virus was once confined to the NBA, but now it has spread to the college game. It seems every time a referee blows a whistle, he has seen something happen that did not happen. The offending player looks utterly amazed. Shocked. Stunned. Vilified.

Me? I wasn't anywhere around. I was staying at my mother's house that night. Home with the flu. Had to work that night; check with my boss. Couldn't have done that; I was in Cincinnati.

In the words of Dr. Suess: Who me? Couldn't have/wouldn't have.

The rackets are no good. The fouls are bogus. My mother never loved me. I didn't know the gun was loaded. I thought it was flax seed oil. Who could have imagined people would stop buying cars that get 15 miles to the gallon when regular hit $3.50? I didn't know the intel was lousy.

-- John Lofflin

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

It's not the Super Bowl without the wings

So I'm making a batch of buffalo wings for my brother's Super Bowl party on Sunday. My goal is to make half of them with barbecue sauce (Gates, of course), and the other half with a traditional hot wing sauce.

I've tried store-bought wing sauces in the past, and they're all terrible; they don't come anywhere near the taste you get from really good wings at restaurants.

I read somewhere that you can make a pretty good, simple wing sauce by mixing butter and hot sauce. So today I tried that. I pan-fried a few test wings and coated them with my hot sauce-and-butter creation.

I took a bite, and my sinuses instantly cleared. The wings lit me up. Maybe I had the ratios off, but I didn't want them to taste too buttery.

So I did an Internet search and found thousands of sauce recipes. Most of them are complex, some featuring a dozen or more ingredients, some of them ingredients I've never heard of.

But we're talking about BUFFALO WINGS here, for cryin' out loud, not fine French cuisine.

Finally I landed on this recipe, courtesy of

1 1/2 cups hot sauce
half stick of butter
tablespoon of ketchup
1/2 cup of maple syrup

Heat all the ingredients in a pan until they're mixed.

That's it. No Creole seasoning. no white vinegar. No ginger. You get the heat from the hot sauce, the great red color from the ketchup, the sweetness from the syrup and the... butteriness from the butter.

And I have ALL the ingredients in the cupboard already.

I'm gonna give it a try on Sunday.

--Matt Kelsey

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Are the Yankees buying another title?

I'm not going to make a profound statement here about the great divide in Major League Baseball between small- and large-market teams. I think small-market teams have done pretty well the last few years, all things considered, while the Yankees and their record-setting payrolls have fallen.

But in advance of the 2009 season, the Yankees are making serious moves to re-load their cannons. They seem hell-bent on winning another series - maybe one final championship for George Steinbrenner.

They've made all the big off-season moves this winter, and hooked three of the biggest fish in the free-agent pond, with eight-figure contracts given to C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixiera and A.J. Burnett. That's impressive and all, but it's the smaller moves where the Yankees are flexing their muscles.

The most spine-tingling signing they've made happened just this week by signing Andy Pettitte to a one-year, $5.5 million contract.

It's impressive because Pettitte last year was paid $16 million. He expected a little bit of a pay cut - he's nearing the end of his career and he didn't have a very good season in 2008 - but he was deeply, personally offended by the Yankees' offer.

Did I mention that the Yankees had originally offered $10 million?

That's right. $10 million. Pettitte told them where to stick it.

So the Yankees waited. Pettitte decided he didn't want to play anywhere else besides the Bronx.

He came back.

But the Yankees had pulled that $10 million offer off the table. The new offer was $5.5 million, with performance incentives that could add a few million more.

Pettitte is probably going to be the Yankees' No. 5 starter this season. On any other team, he'd probably be the No. 1 or No. 2 starter.

If you hate the Yankees for "ruining baseball," as many critics have argued, you have to at least respect the Yankee management for having the best business sense in all of the MLB.

--Matt Kelsey

A few thoughts from Author

I have never in my life heard such garbage as all this. And I am 1 person who has heard plenty of garbage, especially out of that Krazy Kress character that 1,000,000 clucks seem to believe is true. What I do not understand is why baseball cannot be just baseball. Red tells me this is a natural feeling for a baseball player such as I but he says the clucks need something to cluck about all winter so naturally they want to know things about our private life, whatever that may be. Or they want to know what goes on in the clubhouse which is pretty much just a lot of sweat and the fellows getting dressed and undressed and shaved and such. But the clucks want to know if we like each other and the answer is sometimes but not all the time. You can ask Dutch or Joe Torre, whichever comes first.

Now, why should I care what sort of thing some big fat home run hitter has put into his body before he comes to the plate? If my fastball is good, he isn't going to see it 1 time anyway. And if he does, so what? He hits it out of the park and I get a new ball. Red says that is the time 1 must bear down. Aaron says the same thing. That's when you find out what a fellow is made of.

The real problem here is insurance. If these ballplayers are putting dangerous things in their own bodies, that is nobody's business, especially Krazy Kress. But, you just have to wonder if they have the proper insurance laid back against the future.

Now, about this Greinke character. I just hope he has a good catcher like Red Traphagen to keep him on the right track. Not a crazy 1 like Piney Woods. Like me, Greinke thinks 2 much sometimes. I have found that thinking 2 much and baseball do not mix that well. The braintrust of the Mammoths do the thinking for us, only they don't always mix that well either. Now that I am a veteran, I will only trust what Red has to say and Aaron and pop and nobody else where baseball is concerned. I forgot Holly. She is 1 person I will trust on about any subject, baseball or life. So, let us hope Greinke has a good catcher like Red and not a dumb one like Piney Woods no matter what he hits.

-- Henry (Author) Wiggen

Monday, January 26, 2009

Greinke signs long-term deal

It looks like the Royals signed Zack Greinke to a 4-year, $38 million deal today.

It's hard to call $38 million a bargain, but... wow, what a bargain! I'm very happy with this signing. On the free agent market, I think Greinke probably gets another $10-$20 million.

I'm not saying anything original here, but Zack Greinke is the type of guy you can build a rotation around. And you have to give the Royals credit for sticking with him through his emotional issues. Surely Greinke considered that when deciding to sign on long-term to this team.

Putting on my optimist cap, I'm betting (or at least hoping) that the Royals can compete for the AL Central this year or next year.

--Matt Kelsey

Another baseball tell-all book in the news

After reading John Lofflin's post below about Jay McGwire's tell-all book on the subject of his brother Mark's steroid use, I saw this story about former New York Yankees manager and current Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre penning a tell-all book of his own. The book, which has not yet been released, apparently refers to Yankees star Alex Rodriguez as "A-Fraud," and has unkind words about other Yankee players and management.

As a fan of the small-market KC Royals, I don't have a problem with someone bashing the Yankees. But it seems a little risky and arrogant for Torre to write this book while he's still a manager in Major League Baseball, albeit the National League.

So with this book, is Torre saying he'd never consider managing for the Yankees again? Is his current job going to be his LAST managing job? Can we expect this kind of hit piece on the Dodgers' management when Torre leaves the team?

--Matt Kelsey

Dumb joke

Driving home today, I noticed a beautiful flock of geese flying right over my head. The image reminded me of this bad joke:

When you see geese flying in a V, do you know why one side of the V is always longer than the other one?

Because there are more geese on that side.

--Matt Kelsey

How well do you know your city?

A good friend of mine who lives in Chicago is visiting me and my wife this weekend. It’s his first trip to Kansas City, and I’ve promised to show him what this city has to offer.

And I’ve been thinking a lot about that over the last several days. I have an image in my head and in my heart of what Kansas City is to me. But do I really KNOW Kansas City?

When I visit my friend in Chicago, what I remember most is the great variety of truly fantastic deep-dish pizza he manages to put in front of me. And I’ve shamelessly touted this city’s great barbecue, so of course trips to Gates, Arthur Bryant’s and maybe a few other local barbecue joints will be on the list. My friend is only going to be here for four days (Saturday-Tuesday), and I figure one barbecue meal per day is a good ratio. So we have to find a few other places, unique to KC, to feed him.

(That part should be easy. There’s a load of great Italian and Mexican places in KC, not to mention a gaggle of top-notch steakhouses - most of which are out of my price range - and a billion burger houses.)

What I’m struggling with is, what else are we gonna do besides eat? We’ll probably drop by the World War I Museum at the Liberty Memorial. And, of course, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is a can’t-miss. I’ll probably also take him on a driving tour of the Country Club Plaza and a few other unique KC places.

So that’s Saturday. What do we do Sunday, Monday and Tuesday?

We could take him to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, which is one of my personal favorites, but does the Nelson REALLY reflect Kansas City? Maybe it does. Maybe not.

We could enjoy a night out at the Power and Light District. But do those generic bars and restaurants and the frat-boy crowd tell Kansas City’s story?

We could go to Crown Center. But again, we have the problem of generic stores in a mall venue.

So instead of the Nelson, we could take him to the Thomas Hart Benton Home, one of Kansas City’s best-kept secrets, where you can get a personal look at one of America’s great artists who called Kansas City home.

Instead of the P&L District, we could spend an evening at the Westport Flea Market and some of the other bars in Westport.

Instead of Crown center, we could go to Parkville or Weston or Lexington for the afternoon, to show him idyllic small-town living, KC-style.

Kansas City is no Chicago. But I’m pretty sure I can show my friend a great time right here in the city we call home.

--Matt Kelsey

With a brother like Jay, who needs enemies?

So, Jay McGwire is ratting out his brother Mark on the subject of steroids. Just another sad chapter in the demise of baseball, eh?

He says it’s for big brother Mark’s own good. That’s why he also needs a six-figure book deal. Couldn’t just do it in a letter to the editor of the New York Times. Got to get paid so his brother can repent. Get paid. Repent.

If you think this sounds crazy, take a peek at the excerpts of the book he’s shopping posted at . The repentance part is the killer here. Jay claims to be the first to shoot his brother up but he’s since found God and hopes to be his brother’s keeper while, it seems, making the talk show rounds and signing hardbacks at Barnes and Noble.

Which is more corrupt here – baseball or religion?

Or, publishing? Make no mistake, somebody will buy this trash, no matter how dreary the writing, and the writing, based on the excerpts, is dreary.

I was forced to read these excerpts, boiled down to a few terse sentences, about six thousand times in the crawl during the Winter X women’s half pipe snowboarder competition on ESPN. I hate the crawl, whether it is on MSNBC, CNN, FOX or ESPN. Call me old school, but I remember when the only thing on the screen was the game. Offer me a television that will eliminate the crawl and I’ll shell out whatever you want. I enjoy the crawl about as much as I enjoy watching a basketball player pound his chest after sinking an uncontested layup.

But enduring the Jay McGwire crawl was a special sort of agony for a man who saw a particular form of grace in Mark McGwire’s homerun swing. Tawdry is how it felt.

Of course, the idea that Mark McGwire was juiced is no surprise. Let's pause for some honesty. I teach ethics; I know what it means to rationalize so I’ll save you a litany of rationalizations. You save me the hypocrisy. I promise you this: If you had told me when I was younger a drug would buy me one day in the major leagues -- no matter what the physical or legal consequences – I’d have been on that drug like a duck on a bug. I won’t kid you, or me, about the truth. And that's the truth, Ruth.

The Mark McGwire ornament still swings from a low branch on my Christmas tree every year. I offer no apology for it.

Jay McGwire says he just wants to set his brother free. He doesn’t say he is sorry for getting his brother started on steroids; at least he doesn’t apologize in the portion he leaked to He does sweetly speculate maybe his brother wouldn’t have topped Maris if he hadn’t pushed the plunger. But, he says, “at least I feel better about setting the record straight.”

He feels better. Oh brother!

--John Lofflin