Meanwhile, On the Prairie Sports Pages

As much as we hate to see another summer pass, one of the compensations of autumn is that it soon brings basketball season. That’s a big deal here in hoops crazy Kansas, where all the universities and colleges and the big city and small town high schools and all the local playgrounds pride themselves on how well they play the beautiful game.
The big political story of the moment in is the ongoing argument about whether President Donald Trump or former Vice President and still front-running Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden should be hanged for treason because of the Ukrainian thing, but what caught our eye is the news that the University of Kansas Jayhawks are under scrutiny from the National Collegiate Athletic Association. On a calm and temperate autumn evening here in Wichita there’s a palpable feel of both the dismay and schadenfreude around here.
For those of you not who are blessed to be living in here in the heart of God’s country, we should explain that basketball exposes some class divisions around here. We grew up in the golden age of Wichita’s City League, when it was producing future professional stars, but these days the suburban leagues are holding their own in non-conference games, the small towns still continue to impress and come up with the occasional division one star and professional player, and for the most part it’s a friendly rivalry. The junior colleges in the Jayhawk League of community colleges produce a surprising number of professional players who couldn’t pass the pathetic minimum test scores for a division one are the big sporting attraction in a number of small Kansas towns, but that’s also mostly a friendly rivalry.
At the D-1 level of this hoops crazy state it’s more of a blood sport. The Kansas State University Wildcats have won numerous conference championships and often been top-20 teams, with a couple of Final Fours thrown in, and we don’t think that there are more than 40 states who can claim a college with a more impressive record. Our most beloved Wichita State University Wheatshockers also have a lot of conference titles and top-20 rankings and a couple Final Fours to brag about, and given our coach’s coach-of-the-year-award-winning record there’s hope that they’ll be back in the top 20 and the tourney next March, when we hope Spring will arrive.
There’s no denying, though, damn it, that the KU Jayhawks sit atop the state’s basketball ¬†hierarchy. They’ve been playing the game so long that basketball inventor James Naismith was once the coach, and over more than a century they’ve won a couple of contested and a few more un-contested national championships. They won 14 Big XII championships in a row before falling just short in the injury-riddled last year, routinely send players to stardom in the National Basketball Association, and along with Duke and North Carolina and Kentucky they’re one of the most blue-blooded of the sport’s perennial dynasties. Such a consistent record of excellence does demand some respect, of course, but to a Wildcat or ‘Shocker fan those Jayhawk fans can be damned annoying.
One wonders how they do it year after year, and we won’t be surprised if this latest NCAA probe provides some embarrassing explanation. KU’s basketball team and our still-beloved and similarly blue-blooded University of Oklahoma Sooners football team have occasionally been caught breaking rules. So have all the other blue bloods in the college football and basketball rackets over the past century or so, as well as both major party players in the political racket.
Perhaps there’s some perfectly reasonable explanation for everything, as there occasionally is in both the sporting and political realms, but we’re not bettors and will wait and see. In the meantime we’ll be rooting for the Wildcats and especially the Shockers, and wishing no malice against the Jayhawks, and hoping that it all the rest of everything ends with the the best team winning. Here’s also hoping that the ‘Shocks have a good run.

— Bud Norman

Nothing Today

Christmas has passed, but the lights on our block will stay up into the New Year and a sort of holiday atmosphere will prevail through the last of the college football games, so we see no reason to concern ourselves with the latest events until then. After New Year’s it’s just a long, hard slog through the snow and the cold and the imperceptibly diminishing darkness toward spring, or “tornado season” as we call it around here, so there will be plenty of time and an appropriately gloomy atmosphere to consider the state of the world.
There are still the final fiddlings to be added to a novel soon to be e-pulished, too, and the house is still rather messy. A few old friends we can think of really should be contacted, as well, and with so much to do we can’t be expected to provide our usual profundities. We can only wish you a lingering holiday spirit, and thank you for your loyal readership, and hope that will suffice.

— Bud Norman

Vulgar and Offensive

We had hoped to take a break from the decline and fall of western civilization over the weekend by immersing ourselves in college football, but of course it proved futile. The top-ranked team in the country was playing without its Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, who had been suspended for the game due to “vulgar and offensive behavior,” and the frequent televised shots of the sidelined player cheering on his eligible teammates only reminded us of the sorry state of our culture.
“Vulgar and offensive behavior” isn’t quite so troubling as the domestic battery and child abuse scandals that have lately bedeviled the professional game, but it is so far more common that we didn’t need the reminder. Vulgarity and offensiveness are so commonplace, in fact, that instead of concerning passing and rushing and defensive statistics we found ourselves on the internet trying to find out just how much more vulgar and offensive than the prevailing standards a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback must be to get benched in a big game. The more polite media were vague, explaining only that the quarterback had shouted an “internet meme” at a group of women in a public square, but the “social media” reporting the accounts of the twittering students within earshot were more explicit. We’ll spare you the ugly verbatim details, but suffice to say that what he was shouting at women he did not know in a public square was pretty darned vulgar and offensive.
The offending Heisman Trophy winner, who won the prestigious award last year despite a credible accusation of rape by a fellow student, might well have had no idea that he was shouting something that would keep him out of a big game. It’s an “internet meme,” after all, and not significantly different from what you might hear on the latest pop hit or in a popular motion picture or see on the back of the t-shirt in front of you at the grocery store check-out line. Absent any connection to the social standards that prevailed just a generation ago, which a college-aged person of the moment is likely unaware of, it might have even struck him as a witty and convivial remark.
Which is all the more reason that we are heartened a football-crazed institution would risk a shot a national championship by sidelining the player. Even without the star player the team was still favored by more than a touchdown, which might well have informed the university’s decision, but it was still a brave stand on behalf of old-fashioned decency. As it turned out the inexperienced substitute played just well enough to send his team in overtime, where the opposing coach’s bone-headed call on a fourth-and-inches play secured a victory, but one can hope that the close call made an impression on the vulgar and offensive quarterback and his equally vulgar and offensive fans.

— Bud Norman