Wint Winter Jr. leaned against the hallway wall in nearly deserted Robinson Center late Sunday afternoon, a Sunflower State Games silver medal dangling from his neck.
Two days of basketball competition had ended several minutes earlier, and the 37-year-old Lawrence state senator's team, Winter Land and Cattle, had blown a halftime lead and lost to a team from Olathe in the ages 35-and-over championship game.
Was Winter disappointed his team had lost?
"Hey, I'm happy to be alive after playing four games in two days," Winter said cheerfully.
Then he was silent for a moment.
"SURE, IT was disappointing to lose," Winter confessed. "You know, most of the guys on this team played football or basketball in college, and all of them said they were nervous beforehand. Some couldn't sleep, one had diarhhea."
On the surface, the Sunflower State Games are informal, sports in a low-key atmosphere with camaraderie ahead of competition. Yet underneath, the juices are flowing.
What a great place Robinson Center is for watching hoops, if you like your basketball by the gross. Six courts were used during the Games and four of them are all in a row. You can walk back and forth and watch four games if you want.
Of course, the drawback is that you can't watch four games at the same time. Or two, for that matter. That's what I had to do, though.
Simultaneously, the championship games in the open and 35-and-over divisions were played on courts one and three. For a while, I tried to watch both, then gave up when my peripheral vision gave out.
SO I WATCHED the 35-and-over game for a while, mainly because I wanted to watch former Jayhawk Bud Stallworth perform for Winter's Greyhawks, as he dubbed them.
Earlier in the day, I had asked Stallworth good-naturedly if he had a sore arm Bud never met a jump shot he didn't like and he replied, "Hey, it's not the arm, it's the rest of me."
Sure enough, Stallworth, who turned 40 earlier this year, was nearly a statue, if you can imagine a statue shooting nearly every time it touches the ball.
Momentarily, I drifted over to the open division championship. This one featured the Lawrence Indians against Emporia John North Ford, a team composed mostly of juco players but with two familiar names former Kansas guard Todd Alexander and KU signee David Johanning.
Most everybody thought the younger, taller and lither Emporia outfit would blow the Indians a team that, believe me, did not look good in suits out of the tub, or teepee, or whatever.
SO MUCH FOR appearances. Steve Daney, a 31-year-old former Haskell Junior College player who now works as a roofer, scored 42 points and the Indians won, 86-81.
I was impressed. If they'd have named a Sunflower State Games basketball MVP, Daney would have received every vote. Daney made it look easy. It wasn't.
"It was hard," he stressed afterward. "I'm just getting over food poisoning. I lost 10 pounds not too long ago."
If Daney was ill, then why, I asked, had he played the entire game? Not once did he go to the bench for so much as a quick breather.
"Because," he answered, "I always play the whole game."
Players come to play. And that, in effect, is what the Sunflower State Games is all about.
"I THINK this thing is gonna explode," Winter told me. "When people go out across the state and talk about it. . .I mean, I expect the entries in our division to triple."
Yes, but if the entries triple in Winter's division, they may need to station an ambulance outside Robinson Center next year.