Jayhawks a bright spot in a cold, ugly winter

These days, it is increasingly difficult to be optimistic. The weather in Kansas has been just awful. Every time the snow seems finally to be off the ground, it starts falling from the sky again. In spite of the statistics coming from Washington showing the beginnings of a national recovery, the local economy seems to go from bad to worse. Politicians continue to put party over country and, of course, our military forces are involved in another “surge,” this time in Afghanistan. One begins to wonder when we’ll start hearing some good news about something. When will spring finally come?

I remember during the period immediately after the 9/11 attacks, some psychologists started to recommend that parents restrict how much news their children watched each day because of the fear that too much bad news might cause permanent psychological trauma. I must admit that I’m beginning to wonder whether this shouldn’t be extended to adults as well. Certainly, Shakespeare’s famous line in Richard III about “the winter of our discontent” might well be applicable to this year here in Kansas.

I lived in Syracuse, N.Y., for six years. During those six years we averaged over 300 inches of snow and fewer than 50 sunny days per year. February, was in most people’s experience, the worst month. The holidays were over, spring still seemed far away, the snow was still falling along with the temperature, and everyone was beginning to feel cabin fever. In my 15 years here in Northeast Kansas, never before have I felt that Lawrence and Syracuse shared a similar climate. These days I’m beginning to wonder.

So I suppose that the question becomes whether there is anything to be happy about in our part of the world just now. And, of course, the answer is that there is. Even as the weather continues to be awful and the politicians continue to bloviate and the economy continues to stagnate, there is one bright star on our horizon: Bill Self and the KU basketball team.

Regular readers of this column will know that I’m not a great sports fan. In general I think that college sports are overfunded and overemphasized. But I must admit, amid all the gloom and doom of February 2010, it is really nice to be able to hear good news about something local. The basketball team has been rated No. 1 in the nation for three weeks in a row. Allen Fieldhouse continues to reverberate with joyous cheers for the home team. I don’t know, I might even try to get tickets to a game myself, just to see some happy people. Thanks, Bill and thanks to your players, the one bright spot in a very gloomy month. Go Jayhawks.

— Mike Hoeflich, a distinguished professor in the Kansas University School of Law, writes a regular column for the Journal-World