Drama takes away from game

Anyone else dream of those times when athletic teams got ready to compete, coaches and players discussed what was shaping up, played games and then talked about what happened, win or lose?

Considering all the drama and distractions nowadays, chances are we’ll never again know such purity in sports. Here or just about anywhere else. Modern sports pages and newscasts also project lessons in crime and punishment, anger management, social consciousness, financial finagling, you get the drift — now and then you may even find some reports of actual competition.

I mean, when schools such as Kansas University have football and basketball contingents facing off in hostility, when a dolt shoots a BB gun from a dorm window and hits somebody, when “kids” who are old enough to know better get booked for driving intoxicated and when a tempestuous football coach drifts far from the norm, it’s sometimes hard to remember that KU plays football at Texas this weekend and that the Kansas men’s and women’s basketeers have the chance for pretty good seasons.

Latest furor, of course, is the Mark Mangino conundrum. Mark’s always been an advocate of just keeping on “sawin’ wood.” Looks like his celebrated temper negated his realization that he was chopping away on the wrong side of his branch, risking a massive plop.

Mangino could lose his job if it turns out that during one of his rants he laid hands, and not as a faith-healer, on a player or two. Woody Hayes’ departure at Ohio State was hastened when he gonged an athlete, but that guy was on an opposing team. You physically abuse one of your own people — it could mean a pink slip.

Athletic director Lew Perkins is facing tough decisions. If Mangino is terminated for cause, like attacking jocks, he might forfeit a lot of money from his contract that runs through 2012. If it’s just a case of KU’s “moving in another direction,” he could walk off with a $600,000 payoff. Whatever, the final games with Texas and Missouri are bound to be shortchanged from the standpoint of player, coach and front-office concentration.

If things are as bad as some indicate, and this may be sacrilege, Lew Perkins might secretly be hoping KU doesn’t upset Mizzou. KU seems sure to fall at Texas.

What would happen if KU should go 6-6, gets some kind of marginal bowl game then has to prepare with all this negative baggage on the rack? One thing’s sure: If KU should beat MU, you’re not about to see the players trying to tote off Mt. Mangino, who’s known to erupt regularly, even when he’s happy. Think of the hernias that might impede bowl game preparation. Who would be in charge?

There’s a lot of flack that Perkins might fire “the best coach in KU history.” I can think of at least three better ones. None of them ever faced revolt not only by players but from parents who are infuriated about some of the travesties that apparently have gone on under Mangino.

Gee, it’d be great to focus on KU’s game with Texas and the fantasy that the Jayhawks could repeat their 19-18 upset of 1938. Then turn to throwing everything out the window for a battle with Missouri.

They’ll get some attention, but not as much as they deserve, because of all the needless nuttiness currently distorting the picture.