Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Thursday, December 8, 2011
No, this is not a Christmas rant. I've got no gripe with Christmas this morning. My gripe is with morning.
Morning, I hate you.
Especially in winter, I hate you. I hate waking up in the dark, stumbling around in the dark to get the coffee pot fired up. Looking for my shoes, rubbing my eyes red, the taste of elephant hooves in my throat, and not even getting to dip a fishing rod in the water as a reward.
Ah, morning. A rod in the water, hot coffee in the Thermos, the promise of crappie for lunch. Dream on.
Ducks leave wide sparkling wakes on the big pond off Highway 45. Steam rises and the sun is barely above the horizon. Yes, but no joy for me. I left my camera at home and I don't have time to fish. Drive on by, big boy.
Instead, I have a final exam to give. Which these days means presiding over a room of 30 people who feel exactly as I do about morning; me feeling their angry eyes for interrupting their progression to the credential they believe they need to have a decent life. As a tiny reward, I'll show them "Who's On First" from "Naughty Nineties," knowing they could find it themselves on You Tube any time they wanted, anyway.
Some mornings I feel useless. I feel like life has passed me on the highway and decided not to take a picture.
A few minutes later, I'm sitting in a coffee shop with fake logs in the fireplace, unlit, watching the sun come up over Taco Bell and the early arriving employee who unlocks the door then sucks down one last cigarette in the cold air on the sidewalk outside. Man, what those gloves must smell like after a few of those morning heaters! A chubby carpenter works his way into a pair of brown quilted coveralls. He’s got a cranberry colored awning to fix this morning.
It's just 8:15 but the Taco 12-Pack is back and we've got to get ready.
And I'm ready for another day of murder, abuse and mayhem in the early years of the new century. Child abuse is much in the news these days -- and the accused are the he-men of the big time sports world. Funny thing about child abuse, in the 1800s it didn't officially exist. The first case was brought by the ASPCA. That's right, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The first case required an 11-year-old girl to be declared an animal for the court to hear the case.
Then child abuse kind of went away until an article in a respected medical journal in the 1960s declared it a disease. It was everywhere for a while, then it kind of went away again.
And now it is back with a vengeance. Priests and coaches have made it news this time. And, do not take me wrong, it should be. I just wish I wasn't here to witness it. I just wish I could have gotten in and out of this life without knowing such a thing existed. Without watching it endlessly crawl across the bottom of the television screen while I'm trying to lose myself in a basketball game.
Selfish, eh? I stand accused.
Well, it will be one of those days if I turn on a television or read a newspaper over somebody's shoulder or click on a newspaper Web page. Nothing but static. Stomach turning crawls, bright faced talkers bringing horrific news and all the brain killer static of modern life. The Republicans will be after Obama -- they remind us of our first and second wives who could find something objectionable in everything we did. And murders in bucolic Kansas City will be reported. Dead bodies discovered. Road rage pile ups. Some favorite food found unhealthy. Tony will be busting out the exclamation points and big healthy mostly uncovered breasts. Otherwise, meanness and stupidity will be everywhere.
Have a good day, sir. Would you like a bag for all that stuff?
--Lofflin, just a bit out of sorts. Be glad yours is not the next paper I grade...
Sunday, December 4, 2011
“It was twenty years ago today
Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play…”
By John Lofflin
It was 20 years ago yesterday Frank White last ranged across the dirt of a major league infield as the second baseman of the Kansas City Royals. You can imagine him, the consummate glovesmith, waiting on the first pitch from Kevin Appier to Luis Polonia, opening and closing the broad pocket of his light brown Rawlings mitt, silently thinking through the calculus of Polonia’s tendencies versus the grass and dirt between home and his cleats.
It was Sept. 30, 1990, and the Royals were finishing an unremarkable season in Anaheim, Calif. Appier had 11 wins against 8 loses and with a victory that California afternoon would finish the season 12 and 8, George Brett was hitting .328 when the game ended, and Bo Jackson broke a 1-1 tie on a 3-1 count in the bottom of the ninth with a pinch hit blast into the right field seats.
But Frank White was hitting just .216 that afternoon, last in John Wathan’s batting order. And, it was White who watched from the dugout while Bo Jackson walked to the plate in his stead with no outs in the ninth. Whether he knew it or not, this would be the last time Frank White’s name would be written anywhere in a major league lineup. But it would not be the last time he suited up, nor the last time he calculated the possibilities of bat, ball and infield dirt, even if he sat behind a microphone two decades later to do it.
Twenty-one years spent as a player on the field, counting three years in the minors, and 20 years as a major league coach, minor league manager and teacher-announcer. That’s a lifetime in baseball… and at the highest level.
It’s almost always a mistake to judge a ballplayer by his last game, even if Frank was the pivot man in two double-plays during that tense pitcher’s duel in California. The last game tells you little about an 18-year career. Every sixty-two year old softball player knows the feeling of coming to bat for the last time in late September praying for a crisp line drive double to take into the snowy nights, but grounding out instead. After all, Babe Ruth struck out in his last at-bat.
Friday, December 2, 2011
Sunday, November 27, 2011
But, can we sell that? Doing good in the world is not a lost concept, as two of my students have recently shown... fight the power!
Monday, November 21, 2011
I haven't reached the well-known tale just yet, but I was intrigued by the introduction. Toole, a former boxer, trainer and corner man, for years worked to break into the writing biz. He accomplished it with this story collection in 2000, but sadly passed away just two years later. This is the best boxing fiction I've read outside of W.C. Heinz' classic "The Professional."
Here's a brilliant passage from the introduction comparing Toole's two passions, which should ring true to all you aspiring writers out there hoping to make money at it someday.
I started in the amateurs, took nights off from my job so I could work three-rounders in VFW halls, recreation centers, and the back rooms of spaghetti joints. Then four-rounders, and ten, and traveling around the world to work twelve-round title fights. I've worked seven title fights of one kind or another, and I've been licensed in ten states - from Hawaii to New York, from Missouri to Florida. There are plenty of guys who have done much more in boxing than I, but there are many who've done less. And I've fought in Mexico, France, Germany and South Africa - where, in Cape Town, by the way, they produce a champion Cabernet Sauvignon, Fleur de Cap, that will do wonders for your spirit.
About the only thing I haven't done in boxing is make money. It's the same for most fight guys. But that hasn't stopped me any more than not making money in writing has. Both are something you just do, and you feel grateful for being able to do them, even if both keep you broke, drive you crazy, and make you sick. Rational people don't think like that. But they don't have in their lives what I have in mine. Magic. The magic of going to wars I believe in. And the magic of boxing humor, the joke almost always on the teller, that marches with you every step of the way.
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Joe Posnanski misses the mark on Joe Paterno -- hot house thinking is always suspect and vested interests cloud the vision of even great writers...
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Perry's brain fart sinks the Titanic; The New York Times sinks the republic... Neil Postman laughs lustily from the grave
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
iJournalism or Civic and Citizen Journalism -- the name wars among academics continue in search of relevance and hipness...
This is the second time in two years and frankly I am bored to tears with it.
Not the World Series. This World Series repeated nothing from the past and was anything but borning.
I belong to the Civic and Citizen Journalism interest group in the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication – the huge umbrella organization for academics who teach in communication departments and schools of journalism. And today, on the list-serve, the question of changing the interest group’s name has been in question.
Last year it was the Newspaper Division. I got way too invested in that discussion, which ultimately turned into a generational war, and – as I often do with horror movies – I had to turn it off. I created a separate e-mail folder for it, went there occasionally to check progress of the war and, unfortunately this is a reminder of the grinding war in Afganistan, forgot it was there.
In truth, I can’t tell you who won.
At Civic and Citizen Journalism, the suggestions for new names and the reason are familiar from the previous battle. My favorite suggestion so far is iJournalism, which signals either of two impulses:
1) We are enamored with the I, the self, the journalist enamored with herself, which is actually a live issue for incoming freshmen journalism majors, or
And, no, I am not so un-hip that I am unable to recognize the signature branding of Apple computers,
2) We are enamored with the technology.
Being enamored with the technology is like a flu germ that spreads through academic communication departments – without innoculation – from about fall break through the dreadful winter months, until nearly May. It affects both students and faculty, equally. It generally hits after the first midterms – perhaps in response to poor performance or simply to boredom, to the prospect of being cooped up together through the snow and cold – and continues unabated until the season of finals and portfolios and the prospect of summer arrives, when we become again more enamored with what work we have done and less enamored with what we did that work on.
I probably don’t belong in the Civic and Citizen Journalism interest group in the first place. I’m there because I was not hip to the inside jargon of academics, sharing my department as I do with only one other soul who is himself also not terribly hip to inside jargon, and, typically reading into the name what I wanted to read.
When I joined, my thought was this group would be about the reporter as citizen – as a member of the community not an objective observer outside (above) the community. As such, my thinking went, citizen journalists would respond more to their communities than the demands for blind objectivity by their editors or the demands for sexy, reader-grabbing stories by their publishers. Civic and citizen reporters, I thought, would see themselves as members of the community first and be guided by the notion of doing good in their communities.
What I was missing, of course, was the emphasis on citizen in the name. I’m learning through this debate that the word citizen means the armies of bloggers and Twitter feeders and practitioners of whatever technology comes next, who report like lone wolves on happenings in their communities.
I have a good deal of respect for those folks. With the folks who put out neighborhood association newsletters, they may be the last stand of local news reporting. I remember the “community correspondents” from my first newspaper post and how they supplied us daily with interesting reporting about who was in the hospital and who visited who for coffee. I had great respect for them then – they often produced the most readable and interesting copy in the newspaper – and I have great respect for them, and their digital kin, today.
While I find those modern legions politically interesting – even inspirational – it isn’t the interest group I signed up for. iJournalism is a much more honest name, and pretty hip at that, and if I’ve learned one thing in academia, it’s how desperately we want to be hip, lest we be left behind, like the ivy climbing up our building walls.
Tower of Power: "Sometimes hipness is what it ain't..." I cling to that lyric sometimes.
Tower of Power: "Sometimes hipness is what it ain't..." I cling to that lyric sometimes.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Last images from the 1977 Royals - Yankees playoffs; the fans are part of the spectacle, and being a grandpa with tickets is obviously a very big deal
The 2011 playoffs are over so these are the last three images I've printed from the 1977 Royals vs. Yankees series. I shot this little guy over his grandpa's shoulder as they walked down the isle to their seats in the upper deck. In this image he is looking at me.
In the next instant, he looked at Grandpa. This is a look of pure adoration.
Friday, October 14, 2011
Thursday, October 13, 2011
"Municipal Auditorium is, of course, one of the most famous buildings in America."
I'm not making that up. Really, Larry? One of the most famous buildings in America? That's a bit subjective, isn't it? In fact, I would venture to say it's not even one of the most famous buildings in America NAMED MUNICIPAL AUDITORIUM. A Google search of the phrase finds references to Municipal Auditorium in Nashville higher than a link to the Kansas City facility, and slightly below that are links to Municipal Auditoriums in Shreveport, La., and freakin' Harlingen, Texas. Not that a Google search is an appropriate indicator of popularity, but it's sure as hell a better indicator than KMBC used.
And the fact that it's bad reporting doesn't even bother me too bad - every human listening to that broadcast, if they gave it a half-second of thought, would know the statement was bogus. But I'm offended by the laziness of the statement.
Just because you're on TV doesn't mean you can phone in your facts and make wildly subjective statements.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
This is another flawed negative. I remember clearly making a print of it in 1977, refocusing the enlarger, swearing, making another print, focusing the enlarger with the grain magnifier, making another print, swearing…
Royals’ first baseman John Mayberry apparently didn’t focus on this ball any better than I did. Even mighty, mighty, Photoshop couldn't save this one.
There are moments in games that break your heart. Not just fans, either. Some moments break a team’s heart, its spirit. That three run homer in the 11th tonight in
Well, in 1977, it seemed the young Royals might just beat those damned Yankees. They won Game One 7-2 in Yankee Stadium behind Paul Splittorff. They lost Game Two by nearly the reverse score – 6-2. A split at Yankee Stadium: Was it an omen? Had the Royals come of age?
Maybe. Just maybe. The Royals took Game Three by the reverse score – 6-2 – at Royal’s Stadium. One more victory… one more…
But Game Four was awful. The Yankees became the Yankees and the Royals became the A’s of the early 1960s. Farm team. Little brother. Poor relation.
And the moment you knew it was happening – the moment you knew in your heart the Royals would not go to the World Series in 1977, was the moment John Mayberry dropped this pop-up a few feet foul of the bag. It was the top of the fourth, Marty Pattin on the mound, Yankees ahead 4-2.
Willie Randolph reached on a throwing error by George Brett at third. I will never forget that error either, the first of two in the inning, because the ball took off like a rocket over Mayberry’s glove and ticked my vulnerable right ear as it sailed through the photo bay. I stood no chance because I was focused on Brett in a 300 mm lens and looking through such a lens you have no sense of distance. An inch to the left and it would have hit square in the middle of the lens and killed me. I have no doubt.
As I tried to catch my breath and summon courage to raise the camera to my eye again, Bucky Dent sacrificed
Not so fast. John Mayberry simply didn’t catch the ball and he would never have an easier chance. He should have caught it. He was there. He looked up, raised his glove and, unbelievably, the ball fell unmolested to the ground. My memory is his glove never touched the ball but this image is inconclusive.
In truth, it didn’t matter. Rivers grounded out to short on the next pitch. Greg Nettles singled
But the moment Big John missed that pop-up was bigger than the scorebook says it was 34 years later. At that moment, standing in the photo bay no more than 20 feet from the play, it was impossible not to know the magic had been all used up. The real Yankees had returned and the pretenders would soon go fishing.
More to come...
Fuzzy photograph/ John Lofflin
Sunday, October 9, 2011
More photographs from the 1977 playoffs to commemorate the playoff season -- Here the un-decisive moment of an in-decisive hitter
I didn’t notch this negative in October 1977, so I probably didn’t print it. Probably I looked at it against a light bulb or on a contact sheet and said, “Shit, pulled the trigger too late.”
This is definitely not Henri Cartier-Bresson’s classic “decisive moment,” the invocation under which all photojournalists toil.
In fact, it is probably a classic un-decisive moment.
And, as a black and white photographic image, it isn’t flawed just because it is late. The subjects are not separated visually from the background by either light or focus. And, just look at the middle. There’s nothing in the middle but the ball, and the ball is traveling in the wrong direction. In fact, everything and everybody in the image is moving in precisely the wrong visual direction.
So, 34 years later, imagine the photographer’s surprise when he prints this image under yellow lights in the last black and white photo-lab on the planet and falls strangely in love with the result. This is the classic moment after. This flawed bit of Tri-X film, too-long camera lens -- these are the very edges of the frame --, and nano-second tardy photographer, captured an eloquent moment of success and failure in a very hard game.
Call it success by mistake.
What you see in this frame is the hitter who watched a third strike cross the plate, his head turned around backward staring at the umpire, his now useless club pointed to the ground; the umpire, back turned from him in theatrical pose – “yer out!” – finishing the call with flourish; the catcher, stepping toward first, already firing the offending ball to third base where it will travel around the horn; and the crowd joyous.
Even the beer man has turned in this moment -- mid-pour -- to watch.
This is probably the top of the second inning, Game Four, Oct. 8, 1977, Larry Gura pitching. If it is, the strikeout victim is Chris Chambliss. The catcher is Darrell Porter. The umpire is Marty Springstead. Chambliss was the second out, but the Yankees would go on to score two runs in the inning on a Willie Randolph single, a Bucky Dent double and a Mickey Rivers single. They would win this pivotal game 6-4.
Oh yes, in the background it looks like Thurman Munson is unloading a big, no doubt disgusting, load of Red Man. Therein lies one of the great -- if sometimes disgusting -- powers of the camera.
Next: "The Pop-up"
Photograph/ John Lofflin
PPS: Think about those Yankee names -- Willie, Bucky, Mickey. Baseball names all. Not, I hestitate to point out, soap opera names like Justin, Shane, Corey, Lance, Max, Zack, Taylor, or Brandon. But baseball names change with the times. Willie, Bucky, Mickey, feel like 1950s baseball names. Modern baseball names would include Prince, Miguel, Jhonny, Ramon, Jose, Tokashi. Add in the interesting Russian first names, perhaps tied to the Russian presence in Cuba and revolutionary Latin America -- Ivan, Yuniesky, Vladimir, Melky -- which is reportedly short for Mikhial --, Alexi. Interesting how names define the period of the game.
Dennis Leonard in full stride in 1977. Love the mutton chops.
Pitchers work on a big stage in the middle of the theater. Nothing happens until they throw. They are part athlete, part actor, part magician. Good pitchers rule the bump -- the way K-Rod did last night despite having almost nothing to throw. The pitch in Dennis Leonard's hand at this moment looks like a two-seamer.
And if you think about fastball, you think about Nolan Ryan, the Express. What a moment last night when the television camera caught Nolan Ryan nervously watching his Rangers through the screen, in suit and tie, gripping and re-gripping fastball and curve on the baseball in his hand. It never goes away, does it?
This was Game Five, Oct. 9, and Leonard took the loss. He had won Game Three 6-2, a masterful nine-inning two-hitter. Both Hal McRae and George Brett were 2 for 4, and Darrell Porter was 3 for 4 in Game Three. But in Game Five, despite McRae's 3 for 4 night, he lost in relief, replacing Steve Mingori in the ninth. The White Rat sent him out to the hill for the ninth on just 48 hours rest to protect a one run lead. He gave up a single and walk, left the game, and both runners scored after his departure. Damn Yankees. Heartbreaker.
More to come...
Photograph/ John Lofflin
Friday, October 7, 2011
From my dusty archives: more images from the 1977 playoffs on a big playoff night for the Brewers and Cards...
Doesn't seem like the playoffs without the White Rat holding forth, does it?
The man looks like he was born under that ball cap, doesn't he? Especially in the late afternoon October sun... Afternoon sun in October has a special quality.
More 1977 Royals-Yankees playoff photographs to come...
By the way, did you notice the opposing shortstops, Brewers vs. Diamondbacks, were castoff infielders for the Royals last season?
And you know the networks are weeping tonight. No Phillies, no Yankees. At least they have Texas -- but in Texas, football is king by now. Prediction: Lowest television ratings ever; most hard-fought, most entertaining, league series games in recent memory.
Photograph/ John Lofflin
Monday, October 3, 2011
Some images of playoff games in Kansas City -- file under ancient,heartbreaking but wonderful history
With major league baseball playoffs in full swing, I thought I'd go through my archives (boxes) looking for photographs I took of the classic heartbreaking Kansas City Royals -- New York Yankees playoff battles of the late 1970s. This image of Fred Patek laying down a bunt is from 1977, I think. Who can you identify on the Yankee bench in the background? Wonder if you can recognize anyone in the stands.
This was Game Five. Patek batted lead-off but went oh-for-five.
I'll post some others later this week.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Tony Botello's low level of indignation shines a light on some of the absurdity of Kansas City priorities
Tony Botello, when he isn’t testing the boundaries of libel law or propriety, is the king of juxtaposition. His forte is a sort of critical thinking I wish we could teach more often.
In education, unfortunately, we’ve settled on a safe sort of critical thinking to teach – problem solving. Now, I’m not against problem solving, but what we really should teach is the ability Tony has shown to put two things together and – heaven forbid – compare them critically – with the emphasis on critically. Teach kids to take a stand. To call bullshit. To say something is unfair, wrong, needs to be changed, doesn't make sense.
Tony’s work is strongest when he does this. He seems to just naturally see the world this way. That’s the real skill here – seeing the world through this lens. I’m not sure how you teach people to see this way – it may be that life has to teach you to see through things with this lens.
Journalists are supposed to have a bullshit alarm. They’re supposed to possess a really low level of indignation. Supposed to…
Tony struck the sacred with a recent post. He noted the fear some people might be feeling about their safety at the Plaza Art Fair, given the disruptions a few weeks ago by kids with text machines in their hands (and at least one idiot with a gun). Sounds reasonable, eh?
Then Tony did a little genuine critical thinking. Of course, increased police presence would reassure art lovers their annual love fest on the Country Club Plaza would be safe from those people. But what about the safety of, say, a family living east of Troost, enjoying the evening on their front porch? Extra police in their neighborhood?
I'm not sure from reading if these are Tony Botello's words or the words of one of his "awesome" tipsters or the words of the author of the photograph he displayed, but they are words with a lot of power:
"Oh my god will the lily white folk at the plaza art show be safe this weekend with the extra security?? Meanwhile the over/under on young black men being killed this weekend on the east side is 3, and where's that extra security?..."
Now, I’m not sure that argument really holds up. My guess is the East Side already has extra police. A good journalist would check this out. So, Tony only took the argument halfway… BUT AT LEAST HE GOT THE IDEA ON THE MOVE, which may be more than you can say for the gaggle of columnists at the rest of Kansas City media.
A good reporter did find out the numbers. Alan McArthur at the K C Reporter found that each person in the Central Patrol Division is protected by more than two officers for each officer protecting a person in the North Patrol division. In other words, the police department stations one officer for every 320 residents in the 17 miles covered by the Central Patrol while in the 85-mile North Patrol Division the department deploys one officer for every 688 residents, more than double the force.
The department stations one officer for every 564 Metro division residents and one officer for every 474 East division residents, but only one for every 701 residents in the South division and one to protect every 764 residents in the Shoal Creek division.
So, in fact, the department DOES deploy a larger force on the East Side than in other portions of the metropolitan area. But perhaps Tony's argument is that the east side force could use a "surge" of troops given the guns and death there.
Yesterday, Tony Botello’s bullshit alarm went off again, and he landed this nice barrage of punches:
"In Kansas City we don't like making excuses for students caught in a failed school system.
"We don't want to make excuses for people trapped in the desperate circumstances of the urban core.
"We (rightfully) vow that not even women dressed like "sluts" deserve to have their appearance used as an excuse to justify assault.
"We don't like excuses from politicos about increased spending or so many other infrastructure issues that they've pathologically ignored.
"There are some people who still want to make excuses for The Kansas City Chiefs and their pathetic losing streak."
Add something to Mr. Botello’s argument. The fate of the Kansas City Chiefs, or Kansas City Not-So-Royals, isn’t in any league with the serious issues to which he compares them. The fate of any city’s sports teams pales in comparison to education, rape, and crumbling bridges.
But take a look at the list of “most read” stories in the Kansas City Star at 11:08 a.m. Monday morning. Talk about screwy priorities:
· 1. Will Missouri follow Texas A&M out of Big 12
· 2. Cassel’s quarterback play…
· 3. Chiefs lose…
· 4. Two Johnson County residents injured…
· 5. Fatal shooting at car wash…
· 6. Chiefs cling…
· 7. Kicker Succop struggles…
· 8. Royal’s Mendoza…
· 9. Chiefs blitz…
· 10. Olathe drowning victim…
This calls into question the critical thinking skills of Star readers, as well. As teachers, we’ve got our critical thinking work cut out for us, eh?
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Moneyball interview with the real Billy Beane contains a reality shot for local baseball fans to ponder in otherwise baseball empty October(s)
.... "A five-year dry spell actually places the A’s among the more fortunate have-not franchises in baseball. The Toronto Blue Jays have not made the playoffs since 1993. The Pittsburgh Pirates have not made the playoffs since 1992. The Kansas City Royals have not made the playoffs since 1985.
"Each year, a small-market team with a midrange payroll, like the Milwaukee Brewers or the Tampa Bay Rays, does make the playoffs, usually thanks to a few canny personnel moves, the judicious allocation of limited funds and, most crucially, a stockpile of young talent, collected through high draft picks that are a result of years and years of being absolutely terrible. Such a team has a few seasons to compete with the big boys — the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies, primarily — before its young talent matures and bolts for big money, offered up by the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies, primarily.
"These occasional breakthroughs by midmarket teams allow those who defend the inherent competitive imbalance in baseball to point and say: “See? It’s not impossible.” Conversely, when a free-spending team like the Los Angeles Angels does not make the playoffs, those same people can say: “See? Money doesn’t guarantee wins.” (These people are, more often than not, Yankees fans.) ...."