Archive for the ‘sports’ Category


Friday, March 5th, 2010

The home-court advantage in college basketball is astounding. While most sports show a tendency for the home team to do better than the traveling team, the world of college basketball provides an extreme example, where even the best teams may lose to mediocre teams on the road, and any road victory is to be celebrated.

Could the reason be that the home team gets to choose the balls, which can vary significantly in size, weight, and feel? And they don’t even have to give the visiting team warm up balls similar to the game ball?

Zach Hillesland of the New York Times provides a bit of background.

Shockingly, the reason we don’t see college teams playing with the same ball in all locations has to do with corporate interests and money. Shocking, I say.

Let’s Talk Politics This Time

Friday, February 12th, 2010

Last year about this time, we discussed whether the City Council should make a $2,000,000 donation to the County, in the form of stadium subsidies. I opposed the decision, the Mayor opposed the decision, but the City Council voted 12-1 to give money away.

Since then, the Chiefs and Royals have had horrific seasons with terrible attendance, the City has not had sufficient money to clear streets, our murder rate remains high, a rapist roams Waldo, city employees have been laid off, remaining city workers have had their wages frozen, and we’ve installed Cathy Jolly’s odious red light cameras to generate revenues. All this, and nobody has had the cleverness to point out that the City Councilmembers who voted for the donation should be held accountable for their shocking priorities.

And now the issue is back again.

(As an aside, why don’t some of the crack reporters for the Star do an article about the FREE Royals and Chiefs tickets handed out to County and City politicians? Who’s sitting in those seats? Are they even being used? I’d be willing to bet there’s a story there – either the politicians are handing them out to donors, or they’re wasting the tickets. And, as another aside, why doesn’t the Star do a story on why, exactly, we even have a Jackson County Sports Authority? How much bureaucracy do we need to pay for simply to keep track of two tenants??)

This year, I’m not even going to bother arguing about the wisdom of stealing $2,000,000 from the city’s coffers. My opinion remains clear, but let’s look at a much smaller issue.

How do the politics of this debate work this year? Will Funkhouser’s suggestion that we end the exemption do him political harm or political good? Will it harm him by showing him (again) as out of step with the Council and willing to risk our sports franchises? Or will it help him by showing him (again) as out of step with the Council and being the only one who prefers to spend $2,000,000 on things like police protection, snow removal, and city workers rather than weak athletes?

I’m curious about what people think. A good friend emailed me when the news came out and said that this closes off Funkhouser’s path to reelection – “Voters won’t tolerate our Mayor screwing Chiefs and Royals, regardless of the budget shortfalls.” He may be right, or he may be wrong, and the decision could be a step on the path toward reelection. (I know a lot of you disagree with a lot of Funkhouser’s decisions, and believe that reelection is utterly impossible. That’s fine – but, if you can, try to analyze the politics of this one decision. I’d love to know what you think.)

(Update: A commenter claimed that city officials get tickets, but county officials don’t. The commenter is mistaken. Under the lease agreements, County officials get a suite and prime parking. See page 16, section 7.4. It’s offensive to think that the City Council would steal money from city priorities so that county officials can watch games from a suite.)

Missouri Mavericks Hockey – Pro Sports Success

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Thanks to free tickets from a friend, we made our first journey yesterday evening to the Independence Events Center to watch a Missouri Mavericks hockey game. It was a great time at a fine facility, and the hometown Mavericks beat the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs (gotta love a team named after crawdads) 4-3 in an overtime, shoot-out thrillfest.

Simply put, Missouri Mavericks hockey is a good time. The evening featured a boisterous but not obnoxious group of fans cheering on a team that has some really talented players and a few that the really talented players have to cover for, plus a facility that is the perfect size to keep the action close but not feeling either crowded or abandoned. Parking was free.

The play itself was tremendously fun to watch. The hitting is not quite as hard and the action is not quite as fast as the NHL, but it had me on the edge of my seat. The team seemed very well-coached, with some well-run set plays and players attentive to passing and shooting lanes. The officiating was competent – neither intrusive nor oblivious.

The game also featured tons of hokey promotions and advertisements – I think every section was in on at least one opportunity to win something. I wound up with a free sub at Firehouse Subs – a franchise I had never heard of before venturing into the suburban wilds of Eastern Jackson County.

If you’re thinking of going to check out a game – do it.

KC Sports – Rednecks Preferred?

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

Ancillary Adams raises a fine question: “What is it about this town’s athletics franchises that makes them want to portray themselves as the Official Teams of Hee Haws everywhere?” At Royals games, the family atmosphere is shattered every game by a public singing of a country song celebrating threatening behavior and problem drinking. Now, the Chiefs have decided that Trace Adkins – with no apparent Kansas City ties – should be the pitchman for the Chiefs. Trace Adkins?

If it hadn’t been for Ancillary Adams, I confess that I would not have any idea who the guy in black leather on the screen was. After a little research, I’ve discovered that he is an anti-union conservative who appeals to a heavily caucasian audience. The only obvious tie to the Chiefs I could find is that he sings a song called “You’re Going to Miss This”, which I haven’t heard, but it might be directed toward the receiving corps.

Like Ancillary Adams, I’m sick and tired of having our sports teams portray us to the world as a bunch of drunk rubes. If I recall correctly, it was Kansas City that made a $2 million donation to the stadiums, not some rural cowpatch. Maybe we ought to be promoted by Kansas Citians instead of boot-wearing bumpkins from Louisiana and Oklahoma.

The Case Against Pete Rose

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

Over on Facebook, a friend has started a discussion of whether Pete Rose should be allowed into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In this age of chemically-enhanced, steroid-juiced heroes, the simple act of placing bets in favor of your own team seems simple and understandable. Why should Pete Rose be singled out for making a phone call to a bookie while other major leaguers were shooting up?

So far, I’m the only vote against Pete Rose in my friend’s informal survey.

Let me be clear. There can’t be any legitimate argument about whether Pete Rose’s baseball playing deserves the honor. It does. His hitting, his longevity, his versatility and, most of all, his hustle made him a true great. His play at the plate in the 1973 All Star game remains one of my favorite baseball illustrations of toughness and determination.

But he bet on the Reds. Strikes one, two, and three. He’s out.

I’ve only been in a couple MLB clubhouses. Besides benches and lockers, there’s one other thing always in them, though, and I would find it in every single clubhouse in Major League Baseball. Rule 21. “Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible.”

Pete Rose has admitted that he violated that rule. He lied about it for years, denying it at every turn, but I’m not here to judge the moral worth of the guy – only whether he has a legitimate claim that he should reside in the Hall of Fame after he violated the most prominent, crystal clear rule of the sport.

Everything else you or I can say about the situation is simply argument over details. Pete Rose supporters can point to his performance as a player, and his detractors can point to his decades of lying about his betting, and his time in jail for tax evasion (ironically, in the hometown of the catcher he demolished at the plate). Neither is relevant. We can argue about whether the penalty for betting on your own games is too harsh, but it is what it is (and, in my opinion, what it should be).

I appreciate the way that “Charlie Hustle” played baseball. He was one of the greatest. But he violated the rule posted on every clubhouse door. He should not be allowed to reside in the Hall of Fame.

Are Soccer Fans the Most Obnoxious People on Earth?

Friday, June 26th, 2009

What the hell is it with those people?

The World Cup games in South Africa sound like they are being played inside a hornets’ nest, with a constant drone of horns continuing throughout the entire game. The horns are vuvelezas – cheap plastic trumpets that any clear-thinking person would blow only during moments of celebration, if at all. But, unfortunately, the South African crowds deem it clever to blow the things as a constant noise, no matter what is going on down on the field.

But my scorn isn’t reserved solely for the vuvulezas and the South Africans. Closer to home, what is the deal with people throwing junk on the field? After every goal, knuckleheads in the crowd will throw rolls of toilet paper onto the field. You’ll have a dozen or more long streamers of toilet paper polluting the field, even at a Wizards game. And they don’t stop play to have the crew clean it up, or for security to throw the throwers out of the stadium.

What the heck? You don’t throw stuff onto a field of play! If you do, you get kicked out of the place. (Ice hockey’s an exception – hat tosses happen everywhere, Detroit sees its share of octopi, and don’t ask about Sweden.) There’s no reason to TP the stadium just because your team scores a goal – it’s visually distracting for the rest of the game.

I hope this blog post will help football (soccer) fans worldwide do a better job of living up to my expectations.

Off to See the Wizards

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

As recapped over at Kansas City Bloggers, a group of us headed over to the windy prairie west of civilization to watch the Wizards play Toronto FC on Saturday evening. Truly, 5 people wedged into a hybrid vehicle plastered with liberal bumper stickers may have been the most left-wing event in suburban Kansas so far this century.

Since others have already discussed the social aspect, I’ll tackle the sporting aspect. Believe it or not, the Star’s coverage actually had it right! The game was dominated by Toronto in the early going, but the Wizards controlled the second half. One of the goals came off what appeared to be a sloppy rebound, though it’s hard to judge whether the goalie really had a chance to smother the ball since I was at the far end of the field.

The outing was my first visit to Community America Park, and I intend to go back. The family atmosphere was nice, the game was good, and the parking was free. The level of talent on the field was better than some of the games I see on the Fox Soccer channel, and 5 goals made for an exciting game.

We don’t owe $2,000,000

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Mark Funkhouser has taken a lot of heat for his proposal that the City should stop paying $2,000,000 out of its general funds to support the Truman Sports Complex. He’s absolutely right. We have no contract or law obligating us to make such a staggering gift, and it is insulting to the poor citizens of Kansas City that we would reduce basic services while subsidizing suburban entertainment.

According to news reports, Mike Sanders and others are claiming that if the City of Kansas City does not bail out the stadiums, it will be violating the leases, freeing the Royals and Chiefs to leave the area. That is an absolute lie, and I have the proof.

I have read the lease agreements, and found something amazing. The City of Kansas City did not sign the leases. In fact the agreements (page 13, section 14.a.ii, of the Royals contract and page 21, section 10.5.2(ii)(a) of the Chiefs contract) to be precise) refer to payments by the City as “currently” $2,000,000, which clearly anticipates that the amount could change in the future. Mike Sanders is playing with other people’s money.

Kansas City cannot violate a lease it never signed.

I have spent a lot of time looking at the City’s budget, and this is not a good year for us to be giving money away when we are under no obligation to do so. In a time when we are looking at cutting the police, closing community centers and jacking up the property tax, it’s impossible to justify spending such a huge amount of money for stadiums. We are in the process of firing people – city employees are losing their jobs – and Mike Sanders wants us to spend $2,000,000 to cover an obligation owed by the County??

Will Mike Sanders be willing to walk into the offices of $2,000,000 worth of those City employees and tell them that he’ll be thinking of them when he’s watching a Chiefs game from the fat-cat suite after parking like a rock star? (Check out page 16, Section 7.4.)

The simple fact is that the City of Kansas City owes no money whatsoever under the leases. If anybody wants to claim that we are so obligated, I would ask that they show us the legal documents that back up their claim.

If, on the other hand, they resort to bogus claims like “Kay Barnes promised . . .”, ask them if they really, truly believe that is how government works. Did “Credit Card” Kay Barnes really have the ability to obligate the city with a speech? If you believe that, you really have no idea how the process of government works. If Mark Funkhouser announces in a speech that the City will, without any sort of ordinance or documentation, or signing any contract, give $2,000,000 to me every year forever, because he likes my writing, is the City on the hook?

And don’t let them trot out the old “economic engine” argument, either. Of course there are tangential benefits to having the Chiefs and Royals in town, but that’s true of any employer or tourist attraction. And a lot of those benefits go to Lee’s Summit, Independence, Blue Springs, Liberty and Overland Park. How about if the City of Kansas City matches the tax dollars chipped in by those municipal governments?

Sadly, this is a very difficult budget year. I would love to see the City in a position where it could make a $2,000,000 charitable contribution to help the County live up to its contractual obligations. Especially if we could do that AFTER helping the truly needy in our community, with things like better police protection and codes enforcement. But, really, we cannot do that this year.

Those two millions dollars to not come out of thin air. They represent choices. If we put $2,000,000 into the stadiums, when we are not obligated to do so, we need to take $2,000,000 from somewhere else.

Why should we pay what we do not owe?

SUNDAY SHOCKER – Squitiro Taking Over as Chiefs Head Coach

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

On the Sunday before the Super Bowl, new Chiefs General Manager Scott Pioli shook up City Hall and Arrowhead Stadium by announcing that Gloria Squitiro will be replacing Herm Edwards as Head Coach of the Chiefs, effective immediately. “Squitiro knows how to make things happen in Kansas City,” Pioli explained, “and she’s not welcome at her first choice of workspaces, so I thought we should let her try her hand at coaching a football team.”

Ed Ford, of course, was the first to criticize. “She has no experience!”, he shouted from the back of the room, where nobody had been paying attention to him. Pioli replied that Herm Edwards had plenty of experience, and “look where that got us.” Clark Hunt chimed in that Ed Ford really ought to spend at least a little time doing something other than attacking the Mayor and his wife, but Ed Ford shook off the suggestion. “I paid Pat Gray good money to conduct a ‘push poll’, and I want my money’s worth. If I don’t have Gloria to attack at City Hall, somebody might start asking why I haven’t accomplished anything.”

The traditional media were in a state of shock. Steve Kraske and Deanne Smith were seen sadly handing over thick files to Jason Whitlock and Joe Posnanski, and CJ Janovy was rumored to be in despair. “Squitiro was Janovy’s muse. CJ managed to create a cover story out of nothing but snark and Photoshop,” a source from within the very quiet Pitch newsroom whispered. “I gotta go and empty the trash now.”

In her first address to the team, Squitiro was clearly relaxed and in her element. “You big lugs,” she shouted, “you’ve probably heard a lot about me. Most of it’s not true, but losers like to talk. I like to get results. If I took a funny-looking, dour accountant and ran a campaign that made him Mayor, it will be easy to take a 2-14 group of losers like you to the Super Bowl. Alvin Brooks was a helluva lot tougher to beat than the San Diego Chargers, I tell ya. From now on, we’re wearing orange!”, she shouted, and then murmured, “and I’ll be attending your team physicals, too.” The players squirmed a little upon hearing that.

One of the Chiefs players, speaking under condition of anonymity, seemed pretty pleased with the choice. “Sure, she hasn’t coached before, but she never worked in a Mayor’s office before, either. She’s smart, aggressive, and not afraid to say what’s on her mind. I think she might fit into the NFL even better than she did City Hall.”

Brandon Clark, a skycap at the Kansas City Airport, was enthusiastic about Squitiro’s new role. “I’ve seen her stand up for herself when she thought the officiating was questionable, and she will dominate the sidelines.”

Contacted at her Northland home, Frances Semler remained bitter about her experience with the City. “I just hope she takes a hard look at that Gonzalez guy!” she shouted, before slamming the door on a reporter.

Clark Hunt seemed especially thrilled with the salary negotiations. “She works for free!”, he exclaimed. “That frees up lots of money to spend on draft picks. And I think she might be able to convince Funk that city support for the Jackson County Sports Complex should keep on flowing. Can’t get much further East Side in Kansas City than Arrowhead Stadium, so keep that money flowing.”

Jan Marcason expressed frustration that Squitiro had circumvented her anti-Volunteer Ordinance. “Volunteers are bad people,” she complained. “We need to find a way to regulate everyone who works for free in this city, especially Gloria Squitiro. Ed Ford suggested in one of those famous backroom meetings that I should have named my ordinance the anti-Gloria ordinance, and included a provision that told her to stay in her house at all times, but I didn’t listen to him because I wanted to make it look like I was spending time on something that wasn’t so mean-spirited and foolish. I guess he was right. Mean-spirited and foolish isn’t really unusual on this Council.”

Mayor Mark Funkhouser seemed happy with the turn of events. “I’ll be spending most of my office hours at Arrowhead Stadium now, rather than my house in Brookside. It’s more convenient for the residents of the East Side, and I’ll be holding Town Hall meetings at the Stadium on a weekly basis.”

Wayne Cauthen was unavailable for comment on the news. He was busy negotiating with Cordish to give them the parking concession for Arrowhead, in exchange for a handful of promises.

“This is a great time for the Kansas City Chiefs franchise,” Scott Pioli gushed. “Gloria Squitiro has watched her husband try to lead 12 Council members at a time, and he’s made some great plays, like the New Tools initiative, a better budget and an economic development policy, and he’s made a few bad calls, too. Like a football coach, he has done it by empowering the members of the Council to make the right plays. Now, Gloria gets to try to manage 11 players on the field at a time, and accomplish her goals through them. It ought to come easy to her. She can trade the ones that aren’t doing their jobs, but Funk doesn’t get to do that.”

(UPDATE!: I received a gentle and good-natured email from the fine folks over at FuKCed City, who pointed out that this post bears more than a passing similarity to their post of a little more than a month ago entitled “BREAKING NEWS: One Arrowhead Shocker!” and reporting that Gloria Squitiro was becoming the team’s General Manager. All I can say is if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, they should feel incredibly flattered. I can’t even deny that I read the piece when it was posted – I read all their posts, because they’re great. It must have stuck in the back of my mind, and come out in a more wordy and less original form. My apologies to the crew over at FuKCed City, and, if you haven’t bookmarked them yet, add them to your list of regular reads.)

Whitlock – Winning Mizzou Team Should Feel Awful?

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

I know that Jason Whitlock doesn’t get paid to put reasonable views onto paper – he justifies his massive salary by attaching his name to counter-intuitive perspectives, and every now and then he hits paydirt with a fresh insight.

That said, this morning’s column berating the Mizzou Tiger football team after they defeated a similarly-ranked team in the Alamo Bowl Game is a classic example of saying something stupid in a vain attempt to be original. In it, he seeks to rain on the Tigers’ parade because their victory was not a stomping of their opponent. He called the victory “an embarrassment”, because the #21 team in the nation went into overtime to defeat the #23 team in the nation. He was shocked and horrified that the Missouri team celebrated on the field after the game.

Jason, a bunch of 18-24 year-old kids just won a nationally-televised big time football game, and it was the last time that many of them will get to play together. Do you honestly, truly think that they should feel bad about themselves, because they won the game but didn’t complete the grim task of meeting the expectations of a middle-aged guy who can’t play anymore? Do you really expect the winners of the Alamo Bowl to sulk off the field in a storm of self-loathing because they “merely” won the game?

Congrats to Mizzou for finishing among the top football teams in the country, and enjoy your ticker-tape parade in Columbia. College sports are for college kids, not for semi-pro joy-sucking parade-rainers.