Archive for Monday, March 10, 2014

It’s tough being a Wichita State fan in Jayhawk Nation

March 10, 2014


During Wichita State's improbable run to the NCAA Final Four last year, Lisa McLendon, coordinator of the Bremner Editing Center at Kansas University, wore Shocker black and yellow to work.

"Why are you wearing Mizzou colors?" a couple of colleagues asked.

Such is the plight of the Wichita State fan in Lawrence: marginalized, ignored and — even though their team just followed up an undefeated regular season with a Missouri Valley Conference tournament win Sunday, a year after coming a victory short of playing for the national title — not taken seriously.

While Shockers fans say they get pretty good treatment in Lawrence overall, that may be, in part, because Jayhawk Nation isn't ready to give them their due. So they have chips on their shoulders, ready with a response for anyone who brings up Wichita State's mid-major status or lesser Ratings Percentage Index, or RPI.

"The strength-of-schedule argument is always there. But I think the Shockers sort of say it best: 'Play angry.' That's about as good an attitude about the haters as you can have," said Emily Smith, a third-year KU law student who got her undergraduate degree at WSU. "It's not their fault their conference isn't as strong as the Big 12. They're still building and developing their program."

Wichita State fans readily acknowledge that their team doesn't have the winning history of KU and that Charles Koch Arena isn't quite Allen Fieldhouse, but they say the assumption that WSU is the lesser squad does tend to get old.

Wichita State Shockers fans living in Lawrence may be outnumbered by Kansas Jayhawks fans, but that doesn't mean they're afraid to show their support. KU student Corbin Mihelic is happy to support both teams and looks forward to March Madness.

Wichita State Shockers fans living in Lawrence may be outnumbered by Kansas Jayhawks fans, but that doesn't mean they're afraid to show their support. KU student Corbin Mihelic is happy to support both teams and looks forward to March Madness.

"I think Wichita State's treated like the kid brother: 'Look at you, awww, you're adorable,'" said Lawrence accountant Linda Jalenak, who, like her husband, Jerry, is originally from Wichita and attended WSU, back when the school was known more for its baseball and bowling prowess. "I don't think KU fans see us as a threat to their No. 1 standing in the state."

When the Jalenaks are out in public wearing Wichita State gear (not an easy thing to find in Lawrence, they say), they do get accosted by their fellow Lawrencians — but in a good way. Jayhawk loyalists congratulate them on their team's success; Shockers fans give them high fives or chant "WuShock!" Of course, not everyone in Lawrence is so genial.

"I take so much flack from my friends, especially the ones who aren't from Wichita," said Corbin Mihelic, a junior at KU and Wichita native whose family holds Shockers' season tickets. "They just don't take Wichita State seriously, no matter how undefeated they get."

Growing up north of Wichita, Austin Hershberger's dad would always tell him about the Shockers' glory days: their 1965 Final Four appearance; the 1980s, when they were led by future NBA stars such as Xavier McDaniel and Antoine Carr. But having experienced only mediocre WSU basketball during the course of his life, that success was hard for Hershberger to envision. Until 2013.

"Last year's Final Four was magical," said Hershberger, now a senior at KU. "It's still hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that the Shockers were actually in the Final Four!"

Like Hershberger, many Lawrence-based Shockers supporters are actually Jayhawks fans, too. And while many Kansans are crossing their fingers that WSU and KU will meet in the tournament, some Lawrence residents say that would be just too difficult.

"I really do support both teams — I hope I don't have to pick," said Linda Jalenak. Ryan Camenzind, a Shockers enthusiast and freshman at KU, said he wouldn't know which squad to cheer for "until the ball was tipped." (Camenzind, like everyone else interviewed for this article, doesn't actually think Wichita State would beat the Jayhawks in that hypothetical matchup.)

So allegiances can often get fuzzy for the Shockers fan living in Lawrence — but not always.

"I'm going to root for both KU and WSU in the tournament," said McLendon, who used to reside in Wichita and teach at WSU. "But in my heart I really want Wichita State to win it all!"


Lawrence Morgan 4 years, 3 months ago

It would be great if the Journal-World would support both teams. In past years, there has been very little at all about the Shockers. To an outsider reading the Journal-World, they barely exist. That has GOT TO CHANGE!

For that matter, there ought to be much more information about other schools in the state in the Journal-World at all times. Isn't it about time to broaden the scope of what is reported?

Curtis Lange 4 years, 3 months ago

Why would they? It is the LAWRENCE Journal World after all; a city newspaper for the city of LAWRENCE, KS...home of the Kansas Jayhawks. That's like asking the Kansas City Star to do more features on the St. Louis Rams. It's not happening, nor should it.

Kenneth Charles 4 years, 3 months ago

I can understand that. Lawrence is a College town. The Wichita Eagle covers all 3 Div. I schools in Kansas because Wichita has a lot of K-State and KU fans besides Shocker fans. When K-State played Gonzaga in Wichita earlier this season, most of the K-State fans attending the game at the IBA were fans that lived in Wichita. Wichita has a lot of KU and K-State alumni.

Lawrence Morgan 4 years, 3 months ago

Oh - and by the way, Mike Yoder, that's a great picture of KU student Corbin Mihelic. Corbin, thank you for supporting both teams!

Fred Whitehead Jr. 4 years, 3 months ago

Oh, boo, hoo! I have been a resident of Lawrence for over 40 years and I am a big fan of the Oklahoma Sooners, my home state team. And as we say, "Sooner born, and Sooner bred, and when I die I'll be Sooner dead. That may appeal to some Kansas fans!!

As all of you know, Oklahoma usually has one of the best football teams in the nation, and is a usual contender for the mythical "National Championship". But there is hardly anything about Oklahoma in the JW, understandably so since it is hardly possible that Kansas will ever occupy this place in the national scene. Kansas fans are dedicated to their basketball team, and that will be the main topic for news coverage in Lawrence. I need to go to the Norman Transcript or the Daily Oklahoman for news about my team. That is the beauty of internet news, you are not confined to the bucolic mullings of the local newsrag.

Tyler Emerson 4 years, 3 months ago

As somebody who grew up in Wichita as a KU fan (third-gen), I never paid much attention to the Shockers through the 1990s as a kid. I went to KU to start undergrad, didn't even apply anywhere else. Ended up graduating from Wichita State undergrad in 2010, which is when I learned to like Shocker Basketball. It helped that Turgeon was the coach, and a fellow Jayhawk. And then I went to KU Law, and graduated there last year. So this piece is interesting to me, as somebody who has been a life-long Jayhawk but a recent Shocker convert. When I was living in Lawrence the second time around, I got the impression that any hate directed toward WSU was coming less from fellow Wichita Jayhawks, and more from the JoCo Jayhawks. I realized quickly that any KU-WSU issues are really just a proxy war for Sedgwick County vs. Johnson County. So often I'd have friends from the KC area that when I suggested going to Wichita for an event or something, I'd get something about how Wichita was a cow-town, or small town, or hickish or anything like that. It always made me sad that JoCo friends would not expand their horizons, because it's not exactly like KC is Los Angeles or New York or something, and then talk that kind of crap on the town in which I was born, raised, and will always love as home. I find that both sad and interesting.

Phil Minkin 4 years, 3 months ago

ESPN Magazine asked Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall: "What living person do you most admire?' Marshall: "Charles Koch. He and his brother are the fourth richest men in America, and he's done it with great integrity and great commitment to the community. He's brilliant" BTW, they play in Koch arena. Sure makes it hard for me to root for them.

Kenneth Charles 4 years, 3 months ago

Makes it hard for a lot of Shocker fans to acknowledge those facts. Lots of longtime Shocker fans still prefer to call it the Roundhouse. That and the majority of Wichitans vote democrat or have more left leaning views.

Mo Meza 4 years, 3 months ago

There is nothing about hatred coming from KU fans. Does it mean that the Wichita Eagle should include KU basketball articles in their newspaper so PRIMARILY WSU fans can read them. Don't you think it is a little to much? Now, ask yourself sencerily, does it help for the coach to call the Kansas Jayhawks - chickens. WSU is practically, demanding attention from KU fans and that KU must play them. I even hear Wichita politicians involved on their demand.

Kenneth Charles 4 years, 3 months ago

The Wichita Eagle writes a lot of articles about KU and K-State basketball. People seem to forgot a lot of Jayhawk and Wildcat Alumni live in the Wichita area. There are just as many KU and K-State fans in Wichita as there are Shocker fans. Then there's a lot of fans who are a fan of 2 or all 3 of them.

Otavio Silva 4 years, 3 months ago

Phil Minkin, you nailed it! From Wichita, I am thankful for Ellis and Frankamp.

Robert Rauktis 4 years, 3 months ago

I am thrilled they are undefeated. They don't get off the plane, but rather the bus, in some pretty forlorn places. (Lubbock is bad enough!) I think they have every reason to have been defeated. The RPI means nada. Plus there's something called the NCAA tourney to level doubters.

Kenneth Charles 4 years, 3 months ago

Actually they fly on a private jet to all their games.

Erin England 4 years, 3 months ago

I am not a particularly huge Shocker fan. I follow along with their season and I am indifferent to their wins and losses. With that being said, I am always in favor of them. WSU fans want respect for one year of tremendous success, that KU and other respected powerhouses spent decades building. That doesn't happen in the world of sports. Consistency is the key to getting that kind of respect. Let's see where they are next year and the year after that. If they keep up the winning seasons, they will get the respect they're, almost desperately, demanding. I am not downplaying their talent and obvious drive this season and last March. They have done tremendously well. However, I don't know of any team that doesn't have "haters" when they're at the top. It's part of being one of the best...dealing with the negatives, which I think SOME (not all) Shocker fans and at times, Greg Marshall, has handled poorly.

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