Lawrence T-shirt entrepreneur Larry Sinks may live forever through the phrase Muck Fizzou - the borderline profane motto of Tiger-haters the world over that first rolled off Sinks' tongue in the early 1980s.
But Sinks is not taking any chances on immortality. That's one of the few chances he won't take.
"My saying is that everybody dies, but only a few people live," Sinks says from the backroom of his Joe College.com store in downtown Lawrence.
Perhaps not surprisingly from a man who has been selling the quintessential souvenir -T-shirts - since he was 19, souvenirs of a life lived stand out everywhere in Sink's makeshift office.
Slightly scuffed racing helmets signed by Indy 500 winners sit like trophies on a corner shelf. Personal party pictures of Hank Williams Jr., Kid Rock and Derrick Thomas consume a bulletin board behind the computer that he uses to "panhandle" the planet for clever words and phrases.
But on this day, there's even a shinier medal that he wants to show a visitor. He shuffles through a bit of paperwork and produces a photo of himself, a member of the A.J. Foyt racing family and two swimsuit models at the Playboy mansion, its date stamped just a couple of weeks ago.
"That's where it is at," he says as he taps the glossy.
His wife of 13 years, Carrie, laughs at the story.
"You know what Larry is," Carrie Sinks says. "He's a guy's guy."
Well, not every guy's. There are a couple atop Mt. Oread who don't care for him much at all.
In the last couple of years, Sinks - 45 and a native of East Lawrence - has become much more than a phrase peddler. He's become a complicated case in trademark law, a First Amendment champion and - to hear him tell it - a David who took on the Lawrence Goliath known as the Kansas University Athletic Corp.
But even he admits a slayer he is not. Sinks did go toe-to-toe with Kansas University Athletic Department leaders in a federal lawsuit that accused Sinks and his business of printing more than 200 different T-shirts - everything from Muck Fizzou to Our Coach Can Eat Your Coach - that violated Kansas University trademarks and damaged the school's reputation.
A jury delivered a verdict in July, but determining a winner has been difficult. The jury found that about 50 of the T-shirts infringed on KU's trademark and ordered Sinks to pay the university $127,337 in profits.
The ruling was not steep enough to force Sinks to close his business, but it did leave him bloody and bitter. In total, Sinks estimates the case has cost him about $400,000, causing him to deplete college and retirement funds.
"All this is is a personal vendetta by Lew Perkins," said Sinks, who said the athletic director sent a staff member to the store to complain during the first two weeks it was open. "Let's call it what it is. He doesn't like me. He doesn't like my T-shirts, and he's made it a personal vendetta to try to take me down."
If there is a vendetta, some argue Sinks has taken pleasure in poking the bear. Shortly after Kansas University renamed its football field Kivisto Field after a prominent donor, Sinks - to the chagrin of KU - filed for a trademark on the name Kivisto Field.
But these days, Sinks says he's simply speaking an inconvenient Lawrence truth.
"I'm not a fan of Lew Perkins and that administration," Sinks said. "I'm not ashamed to say it. What they have done to me and my family is wrong. I'm not a fan. I'm not the only one in this town who feels that way, but a lot of people are just scared to say it."
This much seems clear: Larry Sinks is persona non grata in many offices at the Kansas University Athletic Department. When asked to comment on this story, athletics department spokesman Jim Marchiony's position was clear.
"We have nothing to say about Larry Sinks," Marchiony said.
What's not so clear, though, is whether Sinks' problems with the university really began with the arrival of Lew Perkins, as Sinks contends.
For a time, Sinks was in good with the university. He was an owner of Lawrence-based Midwest Graphics, which had a license from KU to print official KU shirts, and his company was just one of seven in the country that was licensed to print official NCAA Final Four shirts. At the time, one of his best friends and frequent nightlife buddies was KU basketball coach Larry Brown.
Sinks sold the company - which grew to about $5 million a year in sales - in 1996. After honoring a five-year no-compete clause, Sinks opened a new Lawrence screen printing business, Victory Sportswear. In 2002, he applied for a university license to produce KU gear. He was turned down.
In testimony in the recent federal trail, KU officials said they rejected the trademark, in part, because an audit of the financial records of Midwest Graphics showed that Sinks was underreporting the sales of KU merchandise. That means the university wasn't being paid its full share of royalties.
All this happened at least a year before Perkins arrived at KU in 2003.
Sinks denies underreporting sales to KU, saying the university improperly made him pay for fraternity and sorority shirts he produced. Despite that pre-Perkins spat, Sinks said he's still convinced Perkins and his staff are treating him vastly differently from others because of who he is.
Sinks says - and the Journal-World confirmed - that some KU-licensed retailers are currently selling T-shirts that say "Our Coach Can Eat Your Coach," which was one of the 50 shirts found to violate KU's trademarks, and was said to be damaging to the university.
Sinks says KU leaders know of the sales but have done nothing to stop them.
When asked about the shirts, Marchiony simply said: "I'm not going to get into that."
The common perception in the public, though, is that it wasn't the coach-eating shirt that pushed KU over the edge. It was the Muck Fizzou shirt, which caused KU leaders to cringe every time it showed up in the background of a nationally televised game from Allen Fieldhouse.
But common perceptions can be wrong. For example, many believe Sinks - as the man who coined the phrase - is living off some Muck Fizzou gravy train.
There's gravy all right. (According to the appraiser's office, Sinks lives in an Alvamar Golf Course home valued at $1.3 million.) But Sinks does not own the trademark for Muck Fizzou.
He came up with the phrase in 1982 when he heard an Oklahoma fan say "Tuck Fexas." Sinks ran several ideas through his head - Kuck Fansas State - but then the Missouri-inspired phrase just "rolled off the tongue."
Sinks applied for a trademark but was denied. Trademark law doesn't allow the branding of a nonsense word derived from profanity, Sinks says.
"Anyone can print that, and I guarantee you that almost everyone has," Sinks said.
The Journal-World confirmed that some KU-licensed retailers still advertise Muck Fizzou merchandise.
Carrie Sinks had to know from the beginning what she was getting herself into. From the day that Larry proposed to her, it was clear that Sinks would give anything a try.
In 1994, Sinks was serving as an extra on the set of the ABC hit show "NYPD Blue." It was a gig that he landed after meeting a producer of the show at the Super Bowl party of Dick Schaap, the late television sports commentator who became good friends with Sinks after a 1988 story on national championship T-shirts.
While on the set of "NYPD Blue," Sinks convinced the show's star - Dennis Franz - to help him propose to Carrie. Franz warmed up to Carrie all day, and at the end of the shoot made a dramatic marriage proposal - complete with fake ring - to Carrie. That's when Sinks stepped in and made his proposal.
The tale provides a good snapshot of how Sinks lives his life.
"His little saying is 'I'm not afraid,'" Carrie said. "And he's not."
Former Lawrence building inspector Gene Shaughnessy was on that trip, too, also serving as an extra. The two men are friends.
"Larry is a go-for-the-gold type of guy," Shaughnessy said.
That's why it didn't come as too much of a surprise to Shaughnessy that Sinks became involved in such a high-stakes brouhaha.
"I think you can say that he likes to push the envelope, so to speak," Shaughnessy said.
Sinks, though, says he didn't push the envelope past any lines. He said he has standards that he won't cross. Those include no shirts about race, homosexuality and nothing that involves disabilities.
And despite admitting that he has a risk-taking personality, he insists that his T-shirt business isn't about filling some inner need for excitement that once had him pursue a career as a race car driver.
Instead, he says it is just about feeding his family, which includes a 12-year-old son and a 9-year old daughter.
And, yes, there's a little bit of pride involved, too.
"To me, this is freedom of speech," Sinks said. "Lew Perkins is not God, he's not president of the United States. He's not the law. He can't tell you what you can and can't do."