The phone rang, and I feared it was a parent bitter over coverage given to an athlete at another high school, or, get this, to a teammate of the parent's son or daughter. Believe it or not, some such parents exist, though, thankfully, not many. They begrudge coverage given to teenagers. Imagine how embarrassed their children would be if they knew such calls were being made.
Anyway, the phone call that came from a parent Wednesday, as I was sitting at my desk contemplating where to have lunch, originated from left field. Specifically, it came from the Left Coast.
The friendly voice was a man who identified himself as Steven Downs, father of former Kansas University basketball player Micah Downs. Evidently motivated by something he'd read on an Internet message board that blamed KU coach Bill Self for Micah Downs' transferring to Gonzaga, the father wanted to set the record, as he views it, straight about his son's flight.
"I want you guys to know Bill Self and his staff did everything they could to encourage Micah and to help him," Steven Downs said. "It wasn't Bill's fault that Micah left. Personally, I wish my son would have stayed. The Jayhawks have the best program in the country, bar none. I've got another son, Steven Jr., who's a sophomore at Rainier Beach (Wash.), and that's where I want him to play. I'm still heartbroken Micah's not playing for the Jayhawks anymore."
Asked if he tried to talk Micah out of quitting, Steven said he did, and then he volunteered a stunning personal heartache.
"He hasn't spoken to me for months now," Steven said of Micah. "We have personal issues because of his girlfriend. I never approved of her. : My wife is heartbroken over the situation."
In the message-board world in which we live, nobody is spared from criticism. That's life, but Steven Downs doesn't have to like it.
"I don't like the way people talk about coach Self," he said. "That man is a good Christian man. I will stand behind Bill Self 'til the day he dies. He doesn't get the credit he deserves. He's good with X's and O's. : I just want everybody to know in Lawrence that Bill Self is good for Lawrence. It wasn't Bill at all. It was Micah's own fault, man. You can't blame the coach or the staff."
Steven Downs said he will not go to any Gonzaga games unless Micah invites him, and that hasn't happened.
"This isn't a slam on Micah, either," he said, explaining his phone call. "I want everyone to know how much our family appreciated Bill Self and Kansas University. I feel like I owe you guys a basketball player. If I could afford it, I'd be coming down to Kansas for every game. I've been a Kansas fan all my life. I still wear my Kansas Jayhawk cap. We still have our Kansas Jayhawk flag hanging up in our room."
Kansas is loaded this season and won't miss Downs, a highly skilled 6-foot-8 forward. As for the fractured father-son relationship, it's never too late to repair that.
"I'm trusting the Lord in that," Steven said. "I just keep my faith."
He said his wife, Gerri, attempted to speak with her son at the home of the girlfriend's parents over the Christmas holidays, but "had no luck."
"I just think Micah's a confused young man," Steven said. "I just really believe the wrong people have gotten in his ear."