Archive for Friday, November 27, 2009

Gridders, win one for yourselves

November 27, 2009


Phog Allen’s Kansas basketball pep talks emphasized that while it was all right for his players to win a given game for Phog, the university, the state, their families — on and on — the most important approach was to win it for themselves. The personal pride that comes from preparation, sacrifice and triumph, Doc felt, is the crux of meaningful competition. One of life’s ultimate rewards.

That’s how I hope the KU football team, especially the seniors, attacks Missouri on Saturday. Not for embattled coach Mark Mangino, Lew Perkins, the new chancellor, KU, parents, girl friends, all that jazz — for themselves! They do that, everything else will fall into place and the players can hold their heads stratospherically high.

Missouri represents a whole other aspect of a Kansas season and no matter what else has happened, victory in this battle obliviates a multitude of sins and errors.

Win one for the coach? In 1953, KU coach J.V. Sikes was doomed and the Jayhawks gave their best on his behalf, only to fall 10-6 to the Tigers. In 1961, Kansas was striving for revenge against MU because it had blistered the unbeaten Bengals 23-7 the previous November, only to have the Bert Coan eligibility issue muddle things enough that KU lost a clearcut league title and a good bowl trip while MU had postseason success. No revenge in ’61... Mizzou won 10-7.

When it was clear coach Jack Mitchell desperately needed a win in his final season of 1966, a team trying to save his job fell 7-0 to MU.

Guys in combat situations, sports or otherwise, may pray, but mostly to do the best they can, not let down the other guys and not end up in cowardice or disgrace. Not to help the coach, the commanding officer, but to win it for themselves and each other.

Not sure where the Mangino soap opera is headed but I do know that there are enough able, smart and strong Jayhawks to upset Missouri, even with its awesome passing thrust.

You’ll never see another KU squad take personal charge and excel better than did the 1957 crew captained by John Wertzberger, Lynn McCarthy, Bob Kraus and Chet Vanatta. Coach Chuck Mather knew he was going to be canned so he resigned with the record at a paltry 1-4-1, saying he would finish the season. That made it simple for the administrators, but what about the players, about whom we should be thinking a lot more this year? The coaches make marvelous money, win or lose.

The dedicated ’57 gang with the bit squarely in its teeth then beat Nebraska, up there, and Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Missouri to finish 5-4-1 and take second in the Big Seven. Ironically, Mather was voted league coach of the year before he drove out of town.

The MU team that KU upset had Frank Broyles in his one year as Tiger coach before becoming a legend at Arkansas.

Like this ’09 Kansas team, the ’57 guys were notable rascals. Seven of them were drafted by NFL teams — Kraus, Tom Horner, Frank Gibson and punter Ted Rohde by the Cardinals, Don Feller by the Browns, Vanatta and Ed Prelock by the Colts. They decided to bow their necks and have some fun, and did they ever! Greatest comeback in KU history.

So, Jayhawks of 2009, do what you gotta do for each other and give your fans a delightful performance. To hell with all the side issues, distractions and recriminations! This is Missouri Week. Get out there and win this one for yourselves.


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