Dugan' A., Man
Out of all the things I'm really, really good at in life — sports, dating, parallel parking, long division, relating to people, playing the stock market, mixed martial arts, oil-based painting, Hungry, Hungry Hippos, welding things, being humble, computer programming, gaining the respect and adulation of literally every single Kansas fan ever (no exceptions), yo-yos — probably the thing I'm most good at is being an awesome dresser.
Ever since I invented "tight-rolling" back in the fall of '91, I've pretty much been the most fashionable person I know. People are always stopping me in the street to tell me how much they like my Bugle Boy button-up or my JNCO jeans or my B.U.M. Equipment tank top — which is a little annoying, but understandable considering that walking into my closet is like walking into some fancy Paris fashion show only better.
The point is, I come correct.
So when I head over to Allen Fieldhouse for Kansas men’s basketball home games and see Brady Morningstar carrying out his one-man blitzkrieg against American fashion — in the form of that long, baggy, dingy white T-shirt he wears under his jersey — it makes my heart hurt a little bit.
Look, I’ll be the first to admit there is a lot to like about Brady. He’s tough and scrappy. He’s a local kid who’s built himself into one of the Jayhawks’ most important pieces. He doesn't use his cell phone during class.
But that undershirt is threatening to undo a lot of the good he’s done — like a big, baggy, white asterisk hanging over his career.
It’s not that it’s literally the last remaining undershirt in college basketball. Or that the sleeves hang down to his wrists. Or that raggedy white T-shirts are the primary fashion choice of that dirty kid from your neighborhood who was always walking around barefoot and had a rat tail and a permanent Kool-Aid mustache and you never wanted to invite him over to your house because he would always leave sticky candy fingerprints all over your Sega Genesis controller.
(Although all these things are true.)
No, the issue here is that it’s just so ... plain.
This is basketball, which, with the exception of figure skating and NASCAR, is basically the most artistic sport there is. It’s about flash and pizazz and, on occasion, telling your Washington Wizards teammate that you’re going to burn his Cadillac Escalade and shoot him in the face if he doesn’t quit pestering you about the gambling debt you owe him.
Simply put, it’s about style. And style is precisely what Brady Morningstar is lacking.
That pasty torso of his is a blank canvas, one that deserves to be cloaked with something noteworthy. Which is why I’ve decided to take time out of my busy work week to put together a few T-shirt alternatives that might pump some life into an otherwise bland in-game wardrobe. Pretty much any of them will work, so if Brady gives a rat’s behind about basketball and fashion and America — and I sure hope he does! — he’ll be wearing one of them come Saturday’s game against Iowa State.
Pros: Simple. Artistic. Majestic.
Cons: Availability might be a concern, considering the “47-year-old elementary school art teacher” demographic seems to have a monopoly on the “wolves-howling-at-the-moon” T-shirt market.
Pros: Classy and sophisticated, the Tuxedo T-shirt has long been a staple of American high-society.
Tie-dyed T-shirt (or any “air-brush” number)
Pros: Hip. Fun. Lets people know you came to party.
Cons: It is hard for me to imagine a scenario in which Oklahoma guard Willie Warren scores less than 78 points while being guarded by someone wearing a tie-dyed shirt.
Any ‘No Fear’ T-shirt sold between 1991 and 1996
Pros: Easy availability (any 20-something male with less than seven old “No Fear” shirts in his closet should turn in his Dude Card), lots of options (“Second Place is First Loser”; “A Champion is Someone Who Gets Up Even Though He Can’t”; “There’s No Such Thing As Unnecessary Roughness”). Also, it would be easy to occasionally slip in a “BIG DOGS” T-shirt for effect. Like the one where a bunch of dogs are sitting at a table playing poker and smoking cigars and the slogan says something like, “If you can’t run with the Big Dogs, stay on the porch.”
Cons: Too many good options to choose from; inspirational slogans might inadvertently provide a morale boost to opposing players who read them.
Pros: Turns the whole “T-shirt” idea on its head; allows for creativity and freedom of expression; Lil’ Wayne has one.
Cons: Tattoos, with very few exceptions, are sickening.
Pros: If you need me to spell out for you why it would be a good idea to wear a Tony Montana “Scarface” T-shirt under your basketball jersey, then you obviously have no fashion sense whatsoever and you need to stop reading this blog immediately.
Cons: Almost too cool to wear. Like, it’s so cool it’s almost not cool.
Mario Chalmers Miami Heat T-shirt jersey
Pros: A particularly good choice, this option pays homage to a former Kansas great whose 3-point basket against Memphis paved the way for the Jayhawks’ magical 2008 national championship.
Cons: A Google search for this item indicates that it does not exist, possibly due to a lack of demand.
One of those T-shirts where you go to a booth at the mall and get your picture taken with your BFF and then you have the picture screen-printed onto a shirt (or coffee mug) with the words “Best Friends!” or “Too Cute!” or something of that nature.
Pros: Promotes friendship, which, at the end of the day, is the most important thing there is besides money.
Cons: Obtaining one would involve going to the mall and dodging a bunch of 13-year-old middle school kids with food stuck in their braces who are drinking iced lattes and talking about "Twilight". But, boy, would it be worth the trouble!
Anyway, these are my suggestions. Obviously, I can't force Brady to wear these shirts. I mean, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink, you know? So all I can do now is hope that, after a good deal of soul-searching, he does the right thing.
Also, before I forget, I would like to thank Brady for agreeing to be photographed in all of these different T-shirts. Without him, this really, really important piece of journalism might not have been possible. (Just kidding. It was entirely possible without him. Believe it or not, the above pictures were Photoshopped by Journal-World Web producer Nick Nelson, who, while highly skilled in matters involving computers, is about the worst dresser I know.).
For a long time, I was under the impression that pre-game videos couldn't get much better than what the Kansas University men's basketball team had to offer.
I mean, everything about the KU video is great. The music. The footage. The volume. It's so great, in fact, that I make it a point to get to the arena early on game nights to watch it. So great that, if I'm having a conversation when the video starts, I suspend said conversation until the video is complete. So great that it literally gives me chills sometimes.
After seeing this, however, it's going to be hard for me to get too excited about a pre-game video that doesn't involve a huge polar bear waking up underwater, sinking a cruise ship with a hockey stick made out of lightning, boarding a jet, blowing up Miami University, blowing up Ohio State University, blowing up Michigan State University, blowing up planet Earth, traveling through a purple space-time continuum to another planet, bursting through the roof of a hockey arena and, eventually, blowing it up, too.
So Turner Gill is interviewing for the Kansas University football coaching job today.
At least I think he is. He might not be. Probably, he isn’t. I’d say there’s at least a decent chance that, at this very moment, the Buffalo head coach is sitting on his couch at his house in western New York, watching NFL games and eating an ice cream sundae in his bathrobe.
The thing is, no one of any consequence has confirmed the Gill-KU interview. Not Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins, who’s in the midst of a search to replace recently resigned coach Mark Mangino. And not associate athletic director Jim Marchiony, who has declared he won’t be confirming or denying any rumors associated with the ongoing search. In fact, the only indication that this might actually be going down is the fact that a CBS commentator made some off-hand remark before Saturday’s SEC championship game about how Gill would be interviewing with Kansas today.
Coaching searches are weird. Those on the outside want to know everything and those on the inside want to share nothing, and it always seems to lead to a bunch of wild rumors and speculation.
Coaching searches are also, in many instances, massive wastes of time. In fact, if you had to rank the three things that most contributes to the lack of productivity among sportswriters, it would probably read like this:
- YouTube videos (particularly “Kittens Inspired by Kittens")
- Office debates (Example: Would Milwaukee Bucks’ guard Brandon Jennings beat Mario Chalmers 10-0 if they played one-on-one, or would Chalmers figure out a way to score one point?)
- Coaching searches
This is because coaching searches are all about chasing down unsubstantiated rumors. You see a post on a message board from some dude, and he’s saying that his stepbrother’s boss knows this guy who’s the godfather of a kid who takes piano lessons with the son of a woman who’s husband works as a trainer for the Kansas football team, and he totally heard that Turner Gill was at the Lawrence ‘31 Flavors’ last night.
And so, because you’re scared that this dumb, stupid, idiot rumor might somehow be true, you start hitting the phones, calling everyone you can think of — sports information directors, other beat reporters, KU athletic department spokespeople, agents, ice cream stores in the great Kansas City area, players — and then, after getting stiff-armed (and, in many cases, laughed at) for four hours or so, you find out that Message Board Guy’s stepbrother’s boss’ friend’s godson’s mom’s husband actually heard that Turner Gill wasn’t at ‘31 Flavors’ last night. It was all just a big misunderstanding.
Don’t’ get me wrong. I’m not really complaining. Coaching searches, by nature, are pretty exciting to cover, and the thrill of the chase pretty much makes it worthwhile.
I’m just having a hard time figuring out why all the hoop-jumping is necessary.
Maybe I’m missing something big here, but what, exactly, is the point of all the secrecy? I mean, what’s the problem with Lew Perkins stating publicly, “This weekend, I’m going to interview Buffalo’s Turner Gill for our head coaching job. We like what he’s done with the Bulls’ program, so we’re going to talk to him a little bit, gauge his interest in the job. Then we’re going to talk to a couple other potential candidates — we’ve got interviews lined up with Houston’s Kevin Sumlin and Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh — before making the decision we think will benefit the Kansas football program most”?
Like, is that really such an unthinkable way of handling things?
I have to believe that at some point in history, athletic directors handled coaching searches in this manner. And by “in this manner” I mean “logically”. Before college sports became all business-ey, surely, athletic directors and reporters sat down like gentlemen and had a conversation. The reporters asked questions and, and the athletic director answered them and then everybody went on their way.
At some point during the past half-century, however, some athletic director somewhere decided that, hey, we can play this fun game where we don’t tell anybody anything about our coaching search, and it will be like this cat-and-mouse game and everybody will have so much fun playing it. And then other athletic directors followed his lead, and so here we are.
Now, it’s bat-crap nuts. Nobody says anything about anything. And not only does nobody say anything, great lengths are gone to to make sure no information whatsoever leaks out. The KU athletic department, for instance, found some loophole in a law meant to protect government and state officials, and so now the athletic department’s planes can’t be tracked by the public. (Which, it should be noted here, is completely insane. I mean, we’re talking KU athletics here, not something really meaningful and important to the world).
And so that leads us to today: It’s Sunday afternoon in Lawrence. Turner Gill might be interviewing for the Kansas job today or he might be watching the Chiefs play and eating Ben and Jerry’s.
Anyway, I’d love to stay and talk about it, but I’ve got to go make 17 calls to try and confirm a rumor I just heard about how Tommy Tuberville’s daughter may or may not have called the KU admissions office to ask about January enrollment.
Since childhood, Richie Reyes had tried to persuade best friend Mike Rivera to switch allegiances.
Since the two were seventh graders, playing youth football together in the Shawnee-Mission area, Reyes has been preaching the gospel of the Chicago Bears. When he could get a good sales pitch in, he did. When his family took a trip to the Windy City in high school, he brought Rivera back a Brian Urlacher jersey.
“He was always trying to convert me from a Chiefs fan,” Rivera said.
On Sunday night, thanks various developments during the NFL Draft, he just might have gotten his wish.
Rivera, a standout linebacker during his five-year Kansas University career, signed a free agent deal with the Chicago Bears, becoming one of two former KU players — along with fellow linebacker James Holt (San Diego Chargers) — to make the leap to the NFL.
In truth, the Bears’ offer was not exactly a shocking development. In the weeks leading up to the draft, Rivera had been in steady talks with the team, having spoken with multiple coaches in addition to visiting the team’s headquarters two weeks prior to the draft.
By the end of the draft’s seventh round, however, he was getting calls from teams with which he hadn’t even spoken — which meant lots of research in a short amount of time.
For each team that contacted him, there were a number of variables to consider: How crowded was the position? What did the linebacker depth chart look like? What type of defense did the team play? How many linebackers would it carry?
“You want to set yourself up in a situation where you can go in there and be successful and have a chance to (thrive),” Rivera said.
The best opportunity to do that, he determined, was with the Bears, a traditionally stout defensive team with a strong reputation for developing talent at the linebacking position.
“It’s amazing,” said Rivera, who plans to leave for a weekend mini-camp later this week. “... I’ve always wanted to have the opportunity to play at the next level. There’s still a lot of hard work to be done — this is still the beginning.”
For Reyes, news that his best friend would be joining his favorite team was delayed a bit on Sunday.
Reyes had planned to watch the second day of the draft with Rivera and his family before unexpected events caused him to alter his afternoon plans.
“He was going to come over and visit for Draft Day and kind of hang out,” Rivera said. “So he got (dressed) in his Bears jersey and his Bears sweatshirt to come over. And next thing you know, he gets a call from his wife: ‘Hey, we gotta go.’”
Turns out, Reyes’ wife had gone into labor, and so the two exchanged a trip to the Rivera home for a trip to the hospital, where she would later gave birth to the couple’s child.
Eventually, Rivera was able to reach his friend, and upon receiving the news that he had a new reason to cheer for his favorite team, Reyes reacted with predictable excitement. As Rivera put it, “He had a newborn baby and his best friend was going to the Bears.”
Not a bad Sunday.
Good morning, Kansas fans! Have I got a treat for you today!
Seeing as how the much-anticipated BCS Championship Game will be played tonight between the Oklahoma Sooners and Florida Gators, and seeing as how you’re probably looking for some healthy, last-minute analysis on the game, I’ve decided to invite a very special guest — Brett Hevia! — here today to fill us in on everything Gators.
You might be asking yourself: 1. Who is Brett Hevia? 2. Why, exactly, is he being invited to share his thoughts here today?
I’ll answer these questions in two parts:
Brett is currently an undergraduate at the University of Florida, where he lives spitting distance from the legendary Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and charges people hundreds of dollars to park in his front yard on gamedays. He was born and raised in Florida (I think) and his family has had season tickets to Gators games for — oh, I don’t know — infinity and a half years!
He’s speaking here today because I said he could.
Now, what I will tell you is that, of all the Florida fans I met during the 18 months I spent in the Sunshine State, Brett is by far the most knowledgeable. He knows his team inside and out, which makes him a lot like the Kansas fans I’ve met since moving to Lawrence. (You guys are great, by the way. I don’t tell you that enough). And now, he’s agreed to fill us in on what we can expect from the Gators in tonight’s game. What I think you’ll find most refreshing about Brett is that, despite his allegiance to UF, he has a tremendous ability to remain fair and objective in his analysis.
And so, I’ll ask you to join me now in giving Brett a big, loud, warm, passionate, happy, fun, friendly, happy Kansas Jayhawks welcome!
Dugan Arnett: Hello, Brett! Thank you so much for taking the time to join us today! Boy, what a game coming up for your Florida Gators on Thursday! Taking on Oklahoma for all the marbles! To start with, there was quite a bit of controversy — go figure! — surrounding Oklahoma's invitation into the national title game. Many believe the Texas Longhorns deserved a shot at the crystal ball. At the same time, no one seemed to have much of a problem with Florida's invite. Do you think there's a reason for that?
Brett Hevia: It's great to be here, Dugan, thanks for having me. I'm glad you asked that, and I think it has something to do with the fact that the Gators are much, much better than anyone else in the country, including the Oklahoma Sooners, the Texas Longhorns, the Detroit Lions, and the Los Angeles Lakers. At this point, it doesn't matter who they play, and the BCS knew it.
DA: Spectacular, Brett! Great answer! Now, not a lot of Kansans have kept up with Florida football this fall. From the viewpoint of someone who's watched nearly every minute of every UF game, what can we expect from the mighty Gators this week?
BH: I've been thinking about this a fair amount for the last month or so, and I've decided that your prediction for the final score of the game (70-3, Florida) is about as accurate as any I've seen. Did you know that Florida has outscored opponents 160-10 in the first quarter this year? We jump on people and don't let them up. Everyone talks about how Oklahoma is the top scoring offense, but people forget that we are the third-best scoring offense while still maintaining the fifth-best scoring defense. So I think that after the first quarter, the score is going to be something like 28-0. I'm not predicting a shutout, though. You've gotta give that Oklahoma offense some credit, right? Final score: 73-3.
DA: That’s great, Brett! Now, despite failing to earn his second Heisman Trophy in as many years (hey, you can't win 'em all, right?), Tim Tebow had a tremendous season for the Gators in 2008, accounting for 40 touchdowns while tossing just two interceptions. What's more interesting to me, however, is Tebow's significant contributions in the realm of community service. Would you mind filling us in a bit on what he's been up to over the course of the past couple of years, philanthropically speaking?
BH: Tebow is definitely a huge source of pride for us Gator fans. Besides being the best leader and quarterback in college football, he's also one heck of a guy. I'm going to be honest, I've never seen a football player work as hard as he does. He spent part of last year in the Philippines, doing all manner of charity work, like feeding the hungry and circumcising little poor kids. I guess you could say he stiff-armed poverty. Ha! Just for fun, I googled “Todd Reesing, community service, circumcision”, but nothing came up. That's fine. I'm sure he's a great guy and all, he's just a little less obvious about it than Tebow.
DA: Sounds like a young man I wouldn't mind dating my daughter! Good stuff! Changing gears a little bit, the University of Kansas features one of the most tradition-rich men's basketball programs of all-time. Recently, however, Florida has emerged as a noteworthy force, as well, thanks largely to the Gators' back-to-back national "chomp"ionships in 2006 and 2007. In your opinion, which school — Kansas or Florida — has had the most success over the course of the past — oh, I don't know — 15 years?
BH: What was that? I'm sorry, I was just admiring my reflection in our two national championship trophies, both of which have come in the last 15 years. For those of you keeping track at home, that's twice as many as Kansas has in the same time period. Florida has also made the championship game in 2000 and the Final Four in 1994, giving them more finals appearances than Kansas and the same amount of Final Fours. Since us Gator fans are all about winning, I'm going to have to say that Florida has been better.
DA: Thanks for the honesty. Now, I gotta ask: There's been so darn much speculation about which is the superior conference in college football — the Big 12 or the SEC. What's your stance on the matter, Brett?
BH: Well, that's an excellent question, Dugan, and last time I checked, the SEC has accounted for the last two national championships, and a third will be arriving shortly. I don't care how many points Oklahoma and Texas score, defense wins championships. And, to be honest, I think that if you arrayed the starting defenses of the every school in the Big 12 on the field at once, the Florida offense would still score. I think that after this year's blowout win over Oklahoma, which will make three straight, the winner of the SEC championship game is just going to be allowed to play in the NFL playoffs, which will save other conferences from embarrassment while actually providing the SEC champion with opponents of comparable talent level.
DA: You're killing me with insight here, Brett! Now, a lot of what I've read seems to indicate that Urban Meyer is the godfather of the traditional spread offense. Ever since he started lining his players up in those crazy formations over in Utah, spread offenses have been popping up all over the country — perhaps nowhere more than here in the Big 12. What I want to know is this: Would it be accurate to say that no college football coach in the past 10 years has had a bigger impact on the college game than Meyer?
BH: Absolutely it would. I'd also argue that after this week's victory, he'll be the most successful coach of the decade. Two BCS championships at Florida in addition to a BCS win at Utah is pretty impressive.
DA: I figured as much! Moving on, this Percy Harvin character is about as good as any I've seen in a long while. What can you tell us about him, and, also, what do you think he might have accomplished if, instead of the SEC, he had played in, say, the Big Ten or Big 12 — where, statistically speaking, defenses aren't quite as stout?
BH: Well, it's difficult to say, because he's so much better than anyone else in the country. He is what Jeremy Maclin wants to be when he grows up. He is, quite simply, the best player in college football. I think that if he got a chance to play against Big 12 defenses week in and week out, he would average 99 yards per touch, because he would demand that his team kneel at the one every possession to make it more difficult for him. But it wouldn't matter. I'm thinking his per game stats would look something like this: 7 rushes, 693 yards, 7 touchdowns and 4 receptions for 396 yards and 4 touchdowns.
DA: Brett, as you probably know by now, Oklahoma cornerback Dominique Franks had some not-so-nice things to say about Tim Tebow this week. Among other things, Franks noted that Tebow would be no better than the fourth-best quarterback in the Big 12 and also that he hopes Tebow throws the ball in his direction a couple times so he can "get my hands on it". First off, do you agree with Franks' comments? And secondly, what effect do you think these comments will have on the game?
BH: When I saw this, I wasn't so much angry as I was curious and a little confused. Could that cornerback really be dumb enough to say something like that? The fact that he said anything about Tebow at all — who suffice to say, is not the kind of player that is going to ignore bulletin-board material like that — is preposterous. I wouldn't be surprised if, on the Gators' first offensive play, Tebow stiff-armed Franks, picked him up, stiff-armed him again, picked him up again, and then ran him over en route to a first down.
DA: Stupendous! Brett, I want to thank you so much for taking the time to fill us in on what we can expect from the Gators. I think I speak for every Kansas fan reading this when I say, “Wow. Everything you said today is incredibly well-thought out, objective, and indisputable. You're a great person with a bright future who will no doubt do tons of great things in your life.”
Again, thank you for stopping by! Chomp! Chomp!
The year 2008 will go down as one of the most successful ever for the Kansas University football team. History was made, age-old records were shattered and a few oranges helped signify the Jayhawks' rise to prominence. Now, as the calendar year draws to a close, we look back at the top 5 Kansas football stories from 2008:5. KU downs rival K-State in Lawrence: A bit of pre-game trash talk paved the way for Kansas' most lopsided victory of the conference season. Not only did the victory mark the Jayhawks' third straight over the Wildcats, 52-21 on Nov. 1, it also essentially cost KSU coach Ron Prince his job. The week following the game, Prince was fired after three seasons in Manhattan and later replaced by the legendary Bill Snyder, who at 69, is set to take over the team next fall. 4. Kansas opens $31 million practice facility: In a nod to the facilities arms race of college football, KU completed the state-of-the-art Anderson Family Football Complex and adjacent practice fields this summer, just weeks before the '08 season was to begin. The complex, funded in part by booster Dana Anderson, is expected to provide a significant boost in the area of recruiting. The opening of the complex was spiked with a bit of controversy, however. Despite a $90,000 project to place trees along the practice fields, a measure aimed at keeping practices private from the general public, the fields had reportedly gone largely unused, at least through the first part of the season. 3. Kansas makes history by accepting bowl bids in consecutive seasons: Even in the aftermath of a BCS bowl invite, Kansas players aren't complaining about a 2008 trip to the Tempe, Ariz.-based Insight Bowl on Dec. 31. That's because, in the 119-year history of the program, a Kansas team had never earned back-to-back bowl invitations. The Jayhawks' 7-5 record this regular season marks the fourth straight season they've been bowl eligible, but just the third time in that span they've earned a berth. 2. 'Hawks top Missouri, 40-37: In summoning some magic it wasn't able to in 2007, Kansas battled back from a 37-33 deficit with under a minute left in the game to beat Border War rival Missouri, 40-37, at Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium on Nov. 29. When quarterback Todd Reesing found quarterback-turned-receiver Kerry Meier in the end zone with 27 seconds remaining in the game, it ensured the Jayhawks a winning record in '08 while simultaneously salvaging a season that, up to that point, hadn't featured a signature victory. 1. KU captures Orange Bowl title: No surprise here. When the clock reached zero in Miami on Jan. 3, Kansas had earned its first BCS bowl title in school history. The victory helped the Jayhawks finish the season ranked No. 7 in the nation, and helped dispel whispers that the team's magical 11-1 regular season had been the product of weak scheduling.
Great news. I'm starting today's blog post with a joke.
It's a pretty good one. I thought of it while walking to Jimmy John's yesterday to buy a tuna fish sandwich. It was freezing cold outside, one of those November days where the chill just gets inside your bones, and I got to thinking about how cold I was and this joke just popped right into my mind and didn't want to leave. So - lucky for you! - I thought I would share it here today.
The joke is as follows...
Me: You won't BELIEVE how cold it was yesterday!
You: How cold was it, Dugan?
Me: It was so cold I saw a polar bear leaving Lawrence, and I said, 'Hey polar bear. Where are you going?' And he said, 'I'm leaving. It's too cold around here for me!'
(DISCLAIMER: I don't know what got into me with that joke! Most of my jokes aren't very funny, but I just hit this one out of the park! Go figure!)
Now, on to more pressing matters. As most of you are aware, the Kansas University football team will be traveling to Lincoln today for a meeting with the Cornhuskers of Nebraska. Big game. Big implications. Little Red, my favorite college mascot, will be there. What most of you are probably not aware of, however, is that, as of the 2002-03 school year, Nebraska decided to prevent its cheerleaders from leaving the ground during their sideline performances. Citing a previous incident and a high risk of injury, the university determined that, from then on, cheerleaders wouldn't be allowed to participate in any form of "stunting," which an NU press released described as "pyramids, basket tosses, handsprings and flips."
In other words, they tried to ruin cheerleading.
I try not to offer my opinions in print, so I won't say that having cheerleaders who don't throw each other in the air (or otherwise leave the ground) is the dumbest thing I've ever heard of - which is saying something, because I've heard of Crystal Pepsi, vanity license plates, Kansas football's end-zone seating section and the X-Games. I'll just say that grounded cheerleaders is weird. Real weird.
Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that, as fans, you shouldn't be expecting any flips of basket tosses this weekend. Sorry. I'm not really sure what bearing this will have on the outcome of Saturday's game, or why, exactly, we're talking about cheerleaders right now. But, hey, (what a coincidence!) now that we're on the topic, I'll take this opportunity to go ahead and tell you about how I used to date a Kansas City Chiefs cheerleader.
Yep. It's true. The same guy you call "DUMBgan" and regularly request the firing of, used to be hot and heavy with one of K.C. Wolf's gals. And believe me when I say that none of you guys could've gotten this girl. Her name was Tiffany. She had blonde hair, a mouthful of braces and a curious habit of wearing "Tweety Bird" T-shirts five days a week. Of all the girls at Moreland Ridge (Mo.) Middle School, she was by far the most beautiful.
(DISCLAIMER: For full disclosure, I will mention here that I did not technically date a Chiefs cheerleaders while she was a Chiefs cheerleader. I dated a Chiefs cheerleader before she became a Chiefs cheerleader, which, in my opinion, is just as good as dating a Chiefs cheerleader while she's a Chiefs cheerleader. I also realize that there might be some of you reading this who might be of the belief that, because the relationship took place while we were both 7th graders, that I cannot reasonably claim to have dated a Chiefs cheerleader. Let me take this opportunity to tell you that you are wrong.)
Tiffany and I got together because, one day during science class with Mrs. Keiley, she told Ronnie Hurley that she liked me (Big surprise there. I got like six of those messages a day in 7th grade), and so I told Ronnie Hurley to ask her if she wanted to be my girlfriend, and so he did, and she did.
Now, if you want to know what's it like to date an NFL cheerleader, imagine what you think it would be like dating one of the most beautiful women on the planet, and then multiply that by 600. Then add infinity.
I remember at one point, an hour or so after we'd officially started going steady, we passed each other in the hallway. I was with my friends and she was with her friends. As we brushed by, we made extended eye contact, and time, as they say, seemed to stop. It was one of those moments where you look into a girl's eyes, and you just know: This is the person I'm going to spend the rest of my life with.
The relationship ended four hours later (four and a half if you count the 30 minutes it took me to work up the nerve to call and break up with her). Somewhere between pre-algebra and recess I realized that Tiffany and I were two different people who wanted very different things out of life, and that, despite our mutual physical attraction, it would probably never work between us.
Things had started out fine. Lots of love letters and flirtatious banter. Then, by the time 5th hour rolled around, she started getting weird on me. All she wanted to do was hang out by my locker and walk to class with me and sit by me in the lunchroom. Here I was, in the prime of my life (Seriously. Seventh grade was the prime of my life. I had a Starter jacket, a Super Nintendo and an Anfernee Hardaway Dream Team II jersey. Life will never be better), and I felt totally smothered!
After a contemplative bus ride home, during which Ross Johnson book-checked me and tried to steal my backpack, I decided that the best thing for all involved parties would probably be to just end the relationship now, before things got too serious.
It wasn't easy.
As you can imagine, getting broken up with by me is no picnic, emotionally speaking. For a girl, it's kind of like winning the lottery and then realizing (four and a half hours later) that you read the ticket wrong and you were actually one number off. I worried I was doing irreparable harm. That Tiffany's self-confidence would be forever shaken, and that, after her time with me, she would never again experience meaningful love (Once you've climbed Mount Everest, Mount Oread won't really do it for you, you know).
Most of all, I worried that letting me slip through her grasp would be too much for her 13-year-old heart to bear.
I picked up the phone and dialed her number, and after a few slow rings, she answered.
"Hey, babe," I said, trying to sound like Zach Morris. "We need to talk."
"OK," she said, sounding bored.
There was so much I wanted to tell her. How she had done everything right. How love works in mysterious ways, and everything happens for a reason. How, 20 or 30 years from now, she would (maybe) be able to look back on this whole situation and laugh.
Instead, I bit my tongue and said, "Hey, do you want to breakup?"
"OK," she said, sounding bored.
"OK," I said. "Cool."
Then we said goodbye and hung up. The next day at school, I braced for the breakup backlash. The constant tears and the mean looks from her friends and the vicious rumors aimed in my direction ("Hey, did you hear Dugan eats his boogs?").
But it never came. Somehow, in a miracle on par with the one that happened on 34th Street, Tiffany was able to get over me and piece together some semblance of a normal life. In fact, a couple weeks after our relationship ended, she started dating one of my best friends. Two years after that, she became a standout on our high school's state champion dance team. Two years after that, she started throwing really cool parties that I wasn't invited to. Two years after that, she moved on to the University of Missouri, where she joined a sorority and became a member of the ultra-hot "Golden Girls" dance team. And finally, two years after that, she became a Kansas City Chiefs cheerleader - which I guess is cool, if you're into scorching hot girls wearing sequinned outfits and really cute tomahawk decals on their cheeks (which I'm not).
These days, I don't think about Tiffany much. Last I heard, she was running her own dance studio in the Kansas City area. I guess in hindsight, it's easy to see why we didn't work out. At age 12, I was young and carefree, too much of a womanizer to settle down with one girl. All I cared about was kickball and NBA Jam and making sure I watched "Snick" every Saturday night on Nickelodeon.
Every so often, a friend and I will be talking and he'll say something like, "Hey remember when you were dating Tiffany in 7th grade and then you broke up with her for no reason and she became a Chiefs cheerleader? What an idiot move, you dorkbutt!"
Idiot move? Not in my eyes. As far as I'm concerned, the only thing cooler than being able to say you dated a Chiefs cheerleader is being able to say you broke up with a Chiefs cheerleader.
For instance, sometimes when I'm watching a Chiefs game with a bunch of guys, the TV crew will scan the sideline and they'll stop on a group of gorgeous pom-pom girls, looking all gorgeous and happy, and someone will say something to the effect of, "Man, those girls are SO babelicious! I'd do anything to date one of them!"
It is around this time that I will lean forward in my seat, take a swig of cola or chocolate milk or whatever I happen to be drinking at the time, and say, nonchalantly, "Oh, them? I used to date one of 'em, until she got all clingy on me. Then I had to break up with her. Kicked her to the curb, really. I just didn't want to deal with all of her Chiefs cheerleader drama, you know?"
Without a doubt, Wednesday is my favorite day of the week. That's because every humpday evening, underneath the stands at Memorial Stadium, Kansas football coach Mark Mangino meets with members of the local media to talk football.
This is the way it works: Mangino will approach the cluster of five or six waiting reporters following his team's practice - smiling or unsmiling, depending on how positive our coverage has been that week - and open with the same introduction every time: "Hello, men."It's a great intro. "Hello, men."
It's tough-sounding, and somehow it creates this instant masculine bond, like we're old Army buddies or something - just a few old-timers trying to earn a paycheck and make it through this crazy thing called life.
Except a couple weeks ago, for reasons I do not fully understand, Mangino called an audible. He approached the way he usually does, smiling and jovial in his fleece adidas jacket. But when he reached the group of waiting reporters, he said, "Hello, boys."
Now, first of all, let me go on record as saying that I couldn't BE farther from a "boy." As most of you are probably aware, I'm all-man. I'm probably the manliest guy that I know. I'm always doing all kinds of manly stuff like building things with my bare hands and grilling steaks with my shirt off and watching Jean-Claude Van Damme movies. People are always coming up to me and saying, "Dugan, you're a man's man!" Heck, even the name of this blog oozes manliness - it ain't called 'Dugan' A., Boy,' is it?
Second of all, Mangino's little stunt has brought back some pretty troubling memories for me. Memories that I spent a great deal of time trying to forget. Memories of a night nine years ago that threatened to shatter my self-confidence into a million tiny pieces.
You see, when my friends and I were sophomores in high school, we had this idea. As we counted down the days until the first member of our group was to turn 16 - thus, giving him the ability to drive the rest of us around; thus, expanding our social lives to something beyond slumber parties - we began racking our brains for the best way to celebrate our forthcoming freedom. It didn't take long. Soon, it was decided that, on the day the license was obtained, the eight of us would take a trip to the first place every group of 15-year-old dudes goes when they're of legal age to operate a motor vehicle: Hooters.
The night was kind of a coming-out party for us, our foray into manhood. I don't remember all the specifics, but I know the bowl-cut to human ratio was at least one-to-one, and there was probably a fairly pungent cloud of Tommy Hilfiger cologne hovering above us for the duration of the evening. We were on top of the world, chests puffed out, drunk off the independence that comes when you don't have to have the "My-mom-can-drive-if-your-mom-can-pick-up" conversation. And as we cruised through town in a busted-up Camaro, anticipation growing with each clunking mile, there was one thing we were very sure of: That night, we were men.
So you can imagine our shock 30 minutes later, when, after we'd arrived at the restaurant and made our way to a table in the smoking section (manlier than non-smoking), a neck-snappingly gorgeous waitress approached, pulled a pad out of her apron, and said, "Hello boys. Welcome to Hooters."
For a moment, we thought maybe we'd heard her wrong. Surely, she couldn't have said "boys," we told ourselves, as we scanned our minds for the word she'd actually used - "Toys"? "Noise"? "Roy's"? When we failed to come up with anything, we figured that maybe she was just goofing around with us, like how when you see one of your good friends at school and you say "Hey, dork butt!" (Obviously you don't think your friend is a dork butt, it's just an expression you're throwing out there). But she didn't really smile. She just kind of stood there, chewing her gum and looking bored, and then she took our drink orders.
Here's the thing about that: At that moment, my friends and I were approximately 94-percent sure that we were "men." At the very least - and I mean very least - we were "guys."
What we were quite sure of, however, was that we were not "boys."
Guarantee you what, "boys" didn't roll around town in Camaros and spend their Friday nights eating hot wings at bars surrounded by provocatively dressed waitresses. That much we knew.
Our particular waitress, however, disagreed, and her blatant disregard for this fact was rampant throughout the night. She proceeded to call us "boys" throughout the evening - even when it wasn't altogether necessary - and each time the word escaped her lips, it was like a shotgun blast to the ego. Would you boys like a refill on your Cokes?
OK, boys, here are your wings.
Is there anything else I can get you, boys?
With each "boy," we cringed, and the more she said it, the more it got to us. Eventually, it managed to ruin our night. By the time we'd paid our bill and made our way outside to the parking lot, we didn't really feel much like doing anything else.
"Can you drop me off at home?" someone asked, quietly.
"I think I'm just gonna call it a night — I've got some homework to get started on," said someone else.
"This was a bad idea," added another, a bit more bluntly.
In the ensuing years, we didn't go to Hooters much. And by "much" I mean "ever." We tended to stick to places a little less conducive to public ridicule - like Winstead's and Taco John's. And we never spoke about the Humiliation at Hoots again.
As the years came and went, the passage of time allowed us to forget about the whole incident. I pushed it into the deepest depths of my consciousness, a place reserved for things like Ross Johnson stealing my bike and threatening to beat me up in junior high. But then Mark Mangino had to walk up one day two weeks ago and, with his two-second introduction, bring back nine years of pain and heartache.
He uttered that word, "boys," and there I was, back at Hooters, a 15-year-old dude trying to choke down some wings I didn't want anymore and wishing a hole would open up in the ground so I could crawl into it.
For the record, I'm not mad at Mark. I'm just confused. Calling me a boy is like calling Jessica Alba "plump" or Mario Chalmers a "law-abiding citizen." It's just weird and doesn't make any sense. I'm a man in the truest sense of the word. To paraphrase a former San Diego news anchor, I'm the kind of man that built the Eiffel Tower out of metal and brawn. That's the kind of man I am. And it's high-time I start getting treated like it.
Anyway, I'd love to sit here all day and talk about how tough and manly I am, but I gotta run. I'm gonna go pound some Budweiser and then meet up with some buddies. We'll probably spend all night arm-wrestling each other and talking about car engines. Peace.
The other day, I got into a big-time water-cooler sports debate with colleague Eric Sorrentino. It was one of those grind-it-out, no-surrender arguments that gets everybody worked up.
Let me say, first of all, that these kinds of arguments are about as common in a sports department as fart jokes and references to 'The Office'. The way it usually happens is, you're leaning back in your desk chair on a Monday afternoon, tossing a Nerf football to yourself while waiting for someone to call you back (which, let's be honest, they probably won't), and your co-worker, who is battling a severe case of writer's block or procrastination, comes over to chat. So you start talking about your weekend or your fantasy football team, until the conversation eventually and invariably turns to some ridiculous and asinine sports debate question, and, before you really know what's happened, you're taking a stance, and he is taking the opposite stance, and then you're sitting there in your chair, arguing that of course you, your sister and your 8-year-old next-door neighbor could beat Brandon Rush three-on-one if given a five-point lead going to 11 - even though you know in your heart that it's probably not true. But it's too late to turn back now and so you start to rationalize your argument in any way possible ("Dude, you just don't get it, bro! I'd draw Brandon over to the corner. He'd have to respect my 'J', because everyone knows I'm cash from the corner. Then I'd give him a little pump-fake, he'd leave his feet, and I'd dish off to my sis for an easy two! You don't even know, bro!").
Anyway, on this particular day, the question was: Which state produces better high school football players - Texas or Florida?
Having lived and worked in Florida for a year and a half, however, and having once driven through the state of Texas, I know that comparing Texas to Florida is like comparing something really lame and horrible to something really awesome and not horrible. It's always been my belief that, besides cowboy hats and Tex-Mex, the state of Texas doesn't really contribute much to American society.
A better question, I thought, was this: If Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing and Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps both went out in downtown Lawrence on a Saturday night, to enjoy a couple drinks and bask in the glory of their athletic prowess, who would receive more female attention?
At first glance, it does not seem like a very difficult question. Michael Phelps just won eight gold medals. He broke (or helped break) seven world records. He's pictured - topless - on the cover of this week's issue of Sports Illustrated. But Michael Phelps is also a swimmer, meaning that, for three years and 10 months of every four-year period, he is completely irrelevant to the majority of the world's population.
Also, this is Lawrence, Kansas. And if there's one place on earth that being Todd Reesing holds a significant amount of weight, it's here.
We debated this question for some time. We sought outside help. We added wrinkles to see if that would provide some clarity (while out on the town, each athlete is wearing his respective uniform). We couldn't really decide on an answer.
And so it was decided that this would be the first edition of "Answer the Question, Dummy", a new bi-weekly "Dugan' A., Man" feature aimed at examining really serious issues in today's sports world. It's kind of like a poll, except you don't just vote; you have to rationalize your response. And it's a contest. Whoever makes the best argument by the end of the week is deemed the winner of the contest.
As is the case with any good contest, winners will have their pick from an excellent assortment of prizes, including a granola bar, one week of free and unlimited access to KUSports.com, an expired coupon for a free McChicken sandwich, a 2005 Kansas football magnet schedule, clearance to become my friend on Facebook (on a limited-profile basis, of course) or a donut.
Now, there are some things you need to know before answering this week's question.
In this particular scenario, both Reesing and Phelps are at 'The Hawk'. They are dressed identically, wearing T-shirts and jeans, meaning that face recognition will play a key role. Both are traveling in small groups (3-4 people), and this supposed outing takes place on the night of this Saturday's Kansas-Florida International game - meaning Reesing's (projected) thrashing of the Golden Panthers is still fresh in the minds of fans. But so, too, are Phelps' eight gold medals.
Other variables to weigh before making a decision: looks, personality, wealth, world-wide fame, local fame, straightness of teeth, popularity of each athlete's respective sport, number of Olympic gold medals in each athlete's closet, sense of humor, knowledge of local terrain, height, quality of potential pick-up lines ("Hey, did you see the game on Saturday?" vs. "Hey, did you see me win eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics this summer - a feat that's never before been accomplished in the history of mankind?") and who can hold their breath under water the longest.
With all of that in mind, it's up to you guys to make the call. Get after it.
In this crazy business we call journalism, stories can come about in various ways. Some are hatched out months ahead of time in intense news meetings aimed at tracking a societal trend. Some are products of tireless reporting and exceptional interviewing.
And some - like mine - come together, by chance, in the cereal aisle of a 24-hour Super Wal-Mart. Last week, we ran a story about recently departed Kansas University running back Donte Bean. It was a short story. Nothing special. I'm sure a lot of you posted really funny, original comments on it, describing how poorly written it was because it was done by me.
Anyway, here's the story behind that story: Late on Sunday night (or early Monday morning), I got a call from a blocked number from a voice I didn't recognize telling me that Bean, a reserve running back for the KU football team, was transferring. I relayed the message to sports editor Tom Keegan (who, he would like you to know, happened to be in the office at 1:30 in the morning during his vacation). It was too late to make any calls confirming the tip, so I was instructed to pursue the story hard the following day.
The next morning, I arrived at the office ready to play hardball. I made my mind up: Much like Robert Redford, the great Washington Post reporter who helped break the notorious Watergate scandal (you guys probably didn't even know that was his name), I was not going to take no for an answer.
Unfortunately, things did not get off to a great start. I tracked down a half dozen phone numbers and started making calls. I called his parents, Charles and Cheryl Bean, but there was no answer. I called the number to his dorm room/apartment. No answer. I called his North Garland High School in Texas, Bean's alma mater. No answer. I called his high school coach, David Farris. No answer.
With the help of a friend, I came up with a number for someone who may or may not have been his aunt. I felt good about this one, though - even better when I heard a voice on the other end. "Hello?" said a middle-aged woman.
"Hi, could I speak to Ms. Bean, please?" I asked.
"Are you from the doctor's office?"
"No, I'm a reporter for the Lawrence Journal-World."
"Oh, then you have the wrong number."
I went to lunch. Came back. Made more calls. Still no luck. I said some cuss words.
As the hours passed, things got more desperate. I looked up his Facebook account (one of the most bush-league moves in the history of journalism) and sent him a message begging him to call me. No response.
I tracked down his KU e-mail address and sent him an e-mail asking the same thing. No response.
More time passed. Eventually, the sun began to fall. I made more calls. Nothing good came of them. I said some more cuss words. By 11:30 p.m., I realized that this story just wasn't meant to be. Reluctantly, I threw together a worthless brief about how multiple sources had confirmed that Bean planned to leave KU, grabbed my backpack and headed home, disappointed and annoyed.
For those not familiar with the world of journalism, few things are more frustrating than having a story but being unable to run it. Throughout my reporting, three different people had confirmed that Bean was leaving the team, including Carmon Boyd-Anderson, who himself had announced his intentions to leave the program a day earlier. But without hearing it from Bean or a family member, the story was severely lacking.
Sulking, I drove to Wal-Mart at midnight to buy Season 5 of The Wire, the only season I've yet to see. (By the way, if ANYONE tries to ruin the season for me, I will end you. Like, for real. You're Wallace and I'm Bodie. Boom. You're done. You're in a vacant somewhere.)
Anyway, because my life sucks and nothing ever works out the way I want, I had to wait in line for 30 minutes because this particular night happened to be the night that Madden '09 was released. Every high school nerd in town had descended upon the Wal-Mart electronics counter to get his personal copy as soon as possible. After overhearing a lot of conversations about "My dynasty is going to kick buns this year!!" and "Do you think the Madden curse will get Favre this season?!?", I made it to the front, made my purchase, and headed out.
As I was leaving, I passed someone who looked familiar in an I-might-have-seen-that-guy-before-but-I-have-no-idea-where kind of way. I looked at him for a moment, tried to place him, couldn't, and kept walking.
I got into my car and took off down Iowa Street.
I was about a mile down the road when it hit me: The guy I had walked past was Donte Bean, the man I'd just spent 15 hours trying to track down.
Stop the car. U-turn. Return to Wal-Mart. Hurry through the store until I find Bean, in the cereal aisle (I don't remember what brand he was buying, but if he knows anything about breakfast cereal consumption, it was Cinnamon Toast Crunch).
"Are you Donte Bean?" I asked, interrupting a cell phone call he was currently engaged in.
"Yeah," he said.
"Are you really transferring?"
"Yeah, I am."I explained who I was, and how, since first thing that morning, I'd been trying to track him down.
He looked at his cell phone and muttered something about how he thought he had called me back but maybe there was a phone problem (a move I can respect because it's funny and the default tactic for when you run into someone you were supposed to call back but didn't; "Oh, hey bro. Yeah, I got your message about going to your great aunt's birthday party last weekend. I totally tried to call you back, like, 10 times, but my phone's been all kinds of whack lately. Freakin' Verizon, you know? Service sucks. I'm thinking about switching carriers, actually. Have you seen the new iPhone, by the way? Totally awesome. I'll probably get one of those. Anyway, I'm really glad I ran into you. How have you been, bro?").
So anyway, after that little introduction, I rambled through a few questions: What are your plans now? (Transfer to Washburn University to play with his brother, Brandon Walker, a senior running back on the team). Why are you leaving KU? (To get more playing time elsewhere). What's the next step? (He's currently awaiting an official release from his scholarship). When we were through, I hurried out of the store, dialed the office and begged associate sports editor Drew Hartsock to rework the article with the new information so that, when newspapers began to smack against driveways a few hours later, I would appear half-way competent as a reporter. He agreed, I breathed a heavy sigh of relief and headed home, basking in my immense talent (read: luck) as a reporter and the wonderful ending to my day.
In hindsight, I guess it's pretty pathetic that a good night for me is getting a short quote from a departed KU running back. Not meeting a really attractive girl that wants to go to first base with me. Not writing some awesome, breaking story about some awesome scandal. But talking to Donte Bean in the cereal aisle of a Kansas Super Wal-Mart in the middle of the night.
But as I sat on my couch in my boxer shorts an hour later, scooping Ben & Jerry's ice cream into my mouth and watching the final scenes of "Serendipity" play out, I didn't feel pathetic.
I felt awesome.