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Tag Archive: Kansas City

Oct 19

A look back at my columns about the Kansas City Royals: Part 8 — Are Kansas City sports making you crazy? First published September 22, 2011, in The Examiner, an Eastern Jackson County, Mo., daily newspaper.

Are Kansas City sports making you crazy?

Sports is human life in microcosm.” – Howard Cosell

Is the sports world making you crazy right now? If you live anywhere around Kansas City, it probably is, even if you are not a big sports fan.

One thing is certain, do not write anything in ink about college football conferences, and you might need a big eraser for the Chiefs.

Perhaps, more than ever before, the stability of the world of sports in the Kansas City area is unpredictable, worrisome and uncertain at best, and that is about as similar to what happens in real life as one can get.

Victory, failure, loyalty, friends turning their backs, injury and pain, disappointment, happy surprises, unexpected success and dreams come true or shattered.

Yes, indeed, all human experiences and emotions are in sports, just as in real life, and they are all playing out front and center in Kansas City this fall.

Not everyone is a die-hard sports aficionado, granted, but it seems as though most people care a great deal about what happens to college football and certainly the Chiefs. Even non-fanatical fans are having plenty of ‘water-cooler’ talk about local sports these days.

Case in point. The day-to-day changes in college conference realignment are baffling to the average fan including conference names that are puzzling, such as: ACC, C-USA, MAC, MW, SEC, Sun Belt, WAC, PAC-12, Big XII, B1G (Big Ten) and Big East.

Furthermore, some conferences are creative with their math and actually have either more or less member schools than their names imply: Big XII has 10 but is shrinking, and the B1G (Big Ten) has 12. Apparently, the only conference that can count is the PAC-12.

More than a few ‘Monday morning quarterbacks’ are feeling mystified, bewildered and downright bamboozled.

Therefore, I decided to conduct my own unscientific survey to see what fans that are not particularly rabid think about the current state of affairs in the world of sports.

I limited my questions to two in the survey:

1. What do you think about college conference realignment that might leave some of our area teams virtually homeless, i.e. Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State?

2. And oh yes, of course, what do you think about the Kansas City Chiefs miserable beginning to the season?

Survey says:

–Big XII-Big East merger – NO!

–Could Mizzou share some of its 69 points from the Western Illinois game with the Chiefs?

–The Colts are the only hope Chiefs fans have to not be the worst team in football this year.

–Definition of leftovers: what is left of the Big XII and what is left of the Big East.

–Conference realignment: it’s like elementary school recess when the “non-cool” kids hope to be picked by the “cool” kids for kick ball.

–Season of the ACL, acronym now means: ‘Another Chief Lost’, not anterior cruciate ligament, since three Chiefs standouts tore their ACLs in a matter of a few weeks.

– A more hopeful definition of ACL—‘Andrew Chiefs Luck’. If Chiefs finish last, they could get Stanford star quarterback, Andrew Luck, so long as he doesn’t tear his ACL, too.

I give up. I am ready for spring baseball and the Cactus League.

My hope for a happy future for Kansas City sports rests with the Royals. Yes, the Royals.

On a recent perfectly gorgeous September night, I watched our Kansas City Royals beat Detroit soundly with excellent hitting, bring up an amazing new pitcher Mendoza from the minors, see Hosmer go 5 for 5 and a total of three team homeruns blasted out of the park in one game.


“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” – Rogers Hornsby

Mar 08

From my archived columns: Baseball and the Royals, a hope that springs eternal

“Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True.
And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona.” – George F. Will

Surprise Stadium

I might just burst with excitement if I don’t say this before I start waxing poetic about baseball. How about those Royals!

I feel better. Now, on to my story.

Baseball fever is here, and many of us have the bug. It happens every spring.

More than flowers or sunshine or April showers, it is baseball that is our true April love. It has been that way as long as most of us can remember.

After all, baseball is America’s game. Granted it may have gone global, but we invented it, and we love it.

In fact, we love it so much, that when opening day of baseball season finally arrives, folks take off work often braving bitter temperatures and cold rain just to watch. You know the drill.

Some of us have to be there. Period.

Others of us prefer the coziness of our homes or offices on opening day, but make no mistake, we are paying attention just the same.

Each spring, baseball makes us believe all over again that all things are possible (i.e. how about those Royals), for a few weeks at least.

Any team can win the Pennant on opening day, maybe even the World Series. The worst team in the league can be at 500 in mere days. The coaches have winning records, and the pitchers have great stats. Every batter can be Babe Ruth, every fielder Jackie Robinson, on opening day.

If they can be all things, then so can we. At least that is our hope each and every spring.

To be on the safe side, we throw up a silent prayer along with our hopes, “Please do not break our hearts this season!” How well we remember last year when our home team had an indescribably miserable and embarrassing record, we lament.

Let’s face it. Some years, it is nearly impossible to be a fan. We pray it will not be such a year. We pray hard.

“No more 3 to 2 losses in the ninth, please,” we beg.

“No more pitchers losing their groove.”

“No more batting slumps by our star hitter.”

Ernest Lawrence Thayer understood our baseball psyche, our worries, and desperate baseball prayers such as these as long ago as 1888. That is when he wrote “Casey at the Bat”, the single most famous baseball poem ever written. “Casey at the Bat” was first published June 3, 1888, in the San Francisco Examiner.

Another writer Albert Spalding once wrote of it, “Love has its sonnets galore. War has its epics in heroic verse. Tragedy, its somber story in measured lines. Baseball has Casey at the Bat.”

In his legendary poem, Thayer describes a baseball hero, the mighty Casey who is advancing to the bat just in time to save the day for Mudville’s home team.

It is fun to remember some of the poem’s perfectly written verses. Here are some excerpts:
“The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day.
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play…
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game
A straggling few got up to go in deep despair.
The rest clung to the hope that springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, if only Casey could get but a whack at that,
We’d put up even money, now, with Casey at the bat…
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped,
‘That ain’t my style,’ said Casey. ‘Strike one,’ the umpire said…
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew;
But Casey still ignored it and the umpire said, ‘Strike two’…”

Thus the legendary story goes, but let us pretend we don’t know how badly the game ended.

After all, it is April. Baseball season has just begun and all things are possible once again.

Case in point. I have the fever and cannot for the life of me resist saying one more time “How about those Royals.”

Dec 22

Christmas memories of “The Ones That Got Away”

“I like fishing for fish, but sometimes I just like fishing for no fish. I am kinda happy when the fish get away. Then, they don’t get caught.” – Enrique, a camper at the Greater Kansas City Camp Quality for kids with cancer

At Christmastime, Joyce Branson of Higginsville remembers fondly the kids from Camp Quality “who got away”, the ones who sadly passed on due to cancer or other life-threatening illnesses.

It is hard not to think about them, she says, because they changed her life.

Joyce along with Paulette Augustine wrote a book, published this summer, and titled “The Ones That Got Away”. In the collection of stories about campers, Joyce describes her 17-plus years of teaching kids how to fish at the Greater Kansas City Camp Quality, one of four in the State of Missouri and of several throughout the country.

The book title, Joyce says, refers to the children lost to cancer, but it also reflects on how these kids got away from cancer, got away from hospitals and got away from misunderstanding and ridicule from their peers.

The only thing these kids often want for Christmas is a trip to Camp Quality next summer where he or she can be a normal child and where their fellow campers accept them for who they are.

Sadly, Zac and Hope, two of Joyce’s fishing pupils who are featured in short stories in her book, succumbed to cancer this year.

“Zac, the Golf Cart Boy”, is about Zac’s affinity for golf carts. Joyce remembers him well because she says you can’t help but smile if you ever met Zac.

Joyce writes, “Three years ago I met Zac when he first came to camp. He had the most beautiful smile and was so cute…little did I know he would change my life. I had a golf cart, so we became instant buddies. Every time I would come around, he wanted a ride…it was no problem. We went everywhere on that thing…I think he enjoyed the freedom the golf cart provided, with the wind blowing in his face. As we rode, he did not have to think about his cancer.”

Then there is a sweet vignette about a little girl named Hope titled “The Beauty Shop of Hope”. Carol, the camp beautician, recalls in the story, “Hope came down to the beauty shop, and of course since she had no hair, she was probably thinking that there would be nothing I could do for her. I said, well Hope, hold on—we will think of something.”

Carol said she thought and thought…she made a stencil of a flower, then carefully placed it on Hope’s head, and sprayed on colors over the stencil. The smile of hope that Hope gave Carol was one she says she will never forget. She added beads for sparkle and ‘coolness’, making Hope the fashion leader for the camp that summer.

There are many more similar stories in the book, each heart-warming, humorous and touching.

And Joyce, “the fish lady”, continues year after year to bring happiness and healing to kids by coaching them on how to fish. Some of the campers who live in the city, she says, have never seen a fish swimming in a lake, they get their lines impossibly tangled and are horror-struck by cutting up worms to put on hooks. By the time camp ends, they are fishing with the best of them, she says.

Well, almost all of them, she laughs. Joyce remembers one little boy who was all set to fish for the first time—line was ready and the bait was on the hook. She said, “Ok, throw in your line”, and he did.

The little guy threw in the line, pole and all, and turned to look at Joyce as if to say, “Now what? You said to throw it in.”

In camper Susie’s story in the book, she makes a wish about increasing understanding of her illness. She asks Joyce: “I wish kids at school knew about this camp. Could you come to my school and tell kids about the place so they could understand, like you people do? Then, they wouldn’t make fun of me anymore.”

And may I suggest that if you are still looking for a way to help others at Christmas time or anytime for that matter, consider buying these books as gifts or for youth groups in order to raise awareness of childhood cancer.

Joyce is donating all the proceeds from the book to the camp and to other children’s charities. The book can be found on amazon.com for $16.00 and is published by Authorhouse.

As the back cover explains, “Everything associated with Camp Quality is such a positive experience. For six days, campers, companions, and staff members look cancer in the eye and tell the dreaded disease that it can be beaten.”

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