Monday, January 31, 2011

I'll learn

It seems that, once again, I jinxed a team I root for with my positive thoughts conveyed through written medium. K-State not only suffered a humiliating loss to rival Kansas on Saturday, but also lost one of the highest-rated players in the history of the program today when sophomore Wally Judge chose to leave the program. The ability is a gift(/curse). Someday I’ll learn that cynicism is the proper way to approach things and that, when it comes to sports, I can’t have nice things. Someday.  In the mean time, I’ll concentrate on not showing the balance of a one-legged barstool outdoors. As has been well-documented here (and by my friends and family) ice has proven to be my mortal enemy in the past. It’s the Bowser to my Mario, the Dr. Evil to my Austin Powers, the Voldemort (gasp!) to my Harry Potter, and the booze to my random yokel that eventually appears on Cops. It is all these evils and more, and now… it’s everywhere.
(Cue dramatic montage of water freezing, folks slipping, and cars sliding uncontrollably into others, all set to ominous-sounding music.)
Wish me luck. (Or, perhaps, ill will, if you have the same luck that I do when it comes to things you like.) Beyond that, expect more weather-related blogging soon. (Please, don't let the thought of being subjected to more of my writing drive you to spending the next few days attempting to replicate the life of an eskimo.)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The 23rd-Best KSU Basketball Analysis That Money Can't Buy

It’s been far too long since I last dedicated a Writing to detailed analysis (read: observations bathed in purple Kool-Aid) of K-State basketball. This is inexcusable and the governing board of this blog (a 1992 Skybox basketball card of Fat Lever and an expired can of Green Giant green beans) are threatening excommunication unless the issue is soon resolved. This is a threat I take seriously.

How long has it been? Since the last K-State Writing (that didn’t involve the author growing physically ill thanks to a loss to Texas A&M):

- Kansas State has lost 7 of 18 games;
- The Wildcats have used eight different starting lineups;
- Seniors Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly were proven the worst secret shoppers in Manhattan;
- Transfer Freddy Asprilla quit the team to return to Colombia;
- Wally Judge sat out due to unidentified reasons;
- Wally Judge returned to the lineup, played effectively, and seemed to redeem himself;
- Wally Judge saw his minutes reduced to that of a kettle corn vendor for unidentified reasons;
- Pullen said he was not interested in playing in the NIT, effectively conveying the message that the team was not giving up;
- Media and fans misinterpreted the comment, thinking Pullen was saying that he would quit the team if the team ended up in the NIT.
- Derek slapped his forehead in cartoon-like fashion when he realized how many folks had misinterpreted Pullen;
- Kansas State picked up new uniforms;
- The Wildcats dropped from No. 3 in the nation to being unranked and not receiving a single vote from a member of the press. (Somehow authorship of The Writings has yet to earn me a vote in the AP Poll. Contact your congressman.);
- K-State fans melted down to the point that an outside observer might have assumed that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were buying sugar cubes at the local market or that the sky was one slight breeze away from collapsing onto all that the eyes see.

As you can see, this basketball season has been quite a ride, and it’s not even February. The Wildcats went from preseason Big 12 favorite to a team in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament entirely, marking a tumble rarely seen in college basketball. Perhaps the sky is falling. Perhaps the program is doomed to return to the days where recruiting coups came in the form of 7-foot volleyball players and guys with the athleticism of George Wendt. Perhaps Bramlage Coliseum would make a really nifty aquarium. Or perhaps this season has simply been a perfect storm of “what can go wrong will go wrong,” and there are still reasons for hope. My guess is the latter.

Consider Rodney McGruder. The sophomore guard shoots with a stroke out of an instructional video, but his greatest strength lies in his ability to get to the basketball. The phrase “nose for the ball” is cliché, and I never gave it much credence. Then I saw McGruder play this season. It’s uncanny and may be inexplicable, but he just seems to have a knack for being in the right place at the right time. How else do you explain a 6’4 guard leading
this team in rebounding? Before being knocked out of the game (lousy floor) on Monday night, McGruder made one of the biggest plays, chasing down a rebound as if it were a baby stroller rolling into traffic and then passing it to the safety of Pullen’s arms. (Note: The baby stroller analogy ends here, as it’s not great to think of Pullen then chucking the stroller through the net of a 10-foot goal.) Pullen took the pass and canned a 3-pointer, putting the Wildcats up by nine and helping push them to a 69-61 victory. The best illustration of McGruder’s ability that my feeble mind can craft is this: if 200 people stood on the Bramlage Coliseum floor and a $100* bill was dropped from the rafters, drifting to the floor through air-conditioned breezes, I have no doubt that McGruder would end up catching it.

*That's $100 in Monopoly money. We’re not going through the “impermissible benefits” thing again.

Consider Shane Southwell and Will Spradling. In previous seasons, coach Frank Martin has had patience with true freshmen… The sort of patience a grizzly bear has with an inebriated woodsman trying to coddle one of
its cubs. Playing time fluctuates, ears ring from shouts on the sideline, and the frosh ultimately ends up with a really good seat during crunch time. For much of the season, those roles have held true for Southwell and Spradling, however both seem to be earning the confidence of the 2010 Big 12 Coach of the Year.

Spradling earned a starting role earlier this season, but struggles to catch up with the speed of Big 12 basketball soon found him returning to a reserve role and losing backup point guard minutes to Juevol Myles.
The best free throw shooter on the team*, Spradling is back to seeing significant minutes, scoring 17 points in the Baylor victory and icing the game at the foul line.

*Contrary to popular belief, that is not akin to picking out the least awkward photo of me from my
teenage years. Spradling is legitimately good at shooting free throws.

Southwell remained mostly anonymous* through the first half of the season, earning nicknames like “that kid on the bench that jumps up and down a lot” and “not Nino Williams.” However, out of seemingly nowhere, the Bronx-native earned a promotion to the starting lineup in the midst of conference play. A 6-6 swingman that reminds some (translation: me) of former Wildcat Akeem Wright, Southwell defends with lengthy arms and has the sort of court vision that had Martin mention him as a point guard candidate before the season. He still struggles with ball-handling, but Monday night he showcased a passing ability that few other K-Staters possess. Time after time on Monday night, Southwell zipped passes through defenders to the waiting hands of his teammates. Chest passes are unorthodox on the gridiron, but Southwell showed enough accuracy that he could possibly be the football Wildcats’ best option under center next fall.

*How anonymous? Southwell’s name was misspelled (“Souhtwell”) on the new road jersey’s that the Wildcat’s donned against Texas A&M. Seriously.

Consider the Wildcats’ roster. The featured cast (starters plus top contributors off the bench) has seen more turnover this season than Saturday Night Live saw in the 1990s. Pullen and Kelly, both preseason all-conference picks, have both missed time due to suspensions. Jamar Samuels, last year’s Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year, missed time because of an “eye injury” (though he unfortunately never sported an eye patch). Freddy Asprilla, a
transfer who started 13 games early this season, is no longer even on the same continent. Nick Russell, a sophomore guard who started 14 games, seems to now have an ultimate express pass for “The Ride of the Pine” (No lines! No waiting! A reserved seat every game!), and Judge - an 11-game starter - is sharing a seat. Ten different players have started. Fourteen different players have served as relied-upon members of the rotation at times this season. It's not easy to find consistency on the court when there's none surrounding the guys who are playing. If (and this season that's an if deserving of a font larger than your computer screen) the Wildcats avoid further roster catastrophe are close to nailing down a consistent rotation, they might just have an opportunity to focus on the aspects of the game that made them successful last season: a harassing defense and junkyard, do-anything-to-get-the-basketball attitude. (Knocking down shots helped a little bit, too.)

The remainder of the schedule is not easy, with games against the nation's No. 6, No. 7., and no. 11 teams still remaining, but the Wildcats still have the talent and - on the right night - the desire that had conference coaches picking them as the top team in the league prior to the season. If they want a trip to the tournament, they can't expect a cakewalk.*

*Though it would be pretty weird if that's what they ended up with: a literal cakewalk. Imagine the heads of the NCAA telling Frank Martin that his team goes to the tourney if he strolls to the right cake at a local fair. That's good television.

It’s for these reasons and more (including a possible lack of oxygen being transported to my brain) that I refuse to give up on the hope for this basketball season. Maybe the world is not ending. Maybe the Wildcats are turning things around. There's one way to find out. Wait.

(And how does one react if the sky is actually falling, anyway? Wear a helmet everywhere? That’s trouble for us who wear XL ballcaps.)

Friday, January 21, 2011


What happens when quick thoughts are not brief enough for Twitter's wickedly unyielding character limit? They earn a home at The Writings. Welcome, quickthoughts.

That's good news, right?
As I looked at some news on Michael Beasley - former K-State hoopster, Spongebob enthusiast, individual in need of a haircut, and subject to a recent ankle injury - today, I came across a story with the following headline: "Rambis admits Beasley's ankle could linger." I took this as good news. After all, the alternative (an ankle taking off to start a new life as the body-part-equivalent of a carnie - Would that be a nostril? Not always pleasing to look at, but they do serve a purpose) would not bode well for someone who depends on said ankle to run and jump.

Alas, it turns out that genius that crafted said headline did so while embracing the popular trend of being ridiculously lazy when it comes to using words and omitting the trisyllabic noun "injury." It turns out it's the ankle injury that could linger, which is not the positive that one might originally construe. Whatever the case, when it comes to Beasley's ankle, I hope it decides to linger, as well. The life of a nostril carnie is not one that many would pick.

... but you can fake logic, apparently
An area fast food sign advertised an interesting message today, relating to their new freshly cut, sea-salted, rabbi-blessed french fries. (Okay, one of those may be made up.) The message? "YOU CAN'T FAKE REAL."

It was a mistake to read this while driving, as I nearly careened into a nearby pile of snow. You can't fake real? Of course you can. That's what fake is: not real. Even Merriam-Webster's online Dictionary/Thesaurus/Translator/Dating network (... Give them time) clearly lists "real" as an antonym of "fake." Though it may sound preposterous, it seems that someone in the fast food industry may not have a firm grasp of crafting intelligent sentences. If anyone at said fast food eatery is reading this, I might suggest some new wording. Perhaps, "YOU CAN FAKE REAL, AFTER ALL THAT IS WHAT FAKE MEANS, BUT WE HAVE STOPPED TAKING PART IN SUCH VENTURES. HONESTLY, WE'RE NOT SURE WHY WE MENTIONED FAKE IN THE FIRST PLACE. HOW ABOUT YOU JUST STOP IN AND TRY OUR NEW FRIES. OH, AND WATCH OUT FOR THAT PILE OF SNOW... CAN YOU BELIEVE HOW BIG THIS SIGN IS?"

Monday, January 17, 2011

Thoughts from Big Monday (a bad idea in hindsight)

It's Monday afternoon and I'm prepped to watch K-State basketball. Yes, this is a unique situation. Though the 4:30 p.m. game time has a strong high school junior varsity feel to it, I'm fairly confident this game between Kansas State and Missouri will be quite a showcase of skill and intensity and not resemble the sort of game that finds players ogling Maxim magazine in the locker room at halftime.* Whatever the case, I'm in my home office (read: lounging on my couch with my feet propped up on the coffee table) and ready to document all the thoughts on the proceedings that are fit to print (and many that should probably never leave the recesses of my mind). Join me, won't you?

*Inside joke of such insiderness that it's practically hiding in the house's safe room. If you have never known a kid nicknamed "Newbie" I don't recommend attempting to understand it.

- Pregame, a Mentos commercial ends with the request "Like us at Facebook..." I am still new to the world of marketing campaigns, but doesn't begging for people to "like" you come off as a bit needy? I know it's never worked when I've used it as the opening line on a date.

- This game marks Curtis Kelly's second game back from accepting "impermissable benefits" (which, as far as I know, is not the name of an alt rock band... yet). It's Jacob Pullen's fifth game back. Cameras showed well-dressed Missouri fans with signs reading "Pullen: We paid for our suits." Clever? Yes. Chances that it will be imitated at every other Big 12 arena that KSU plays at, receiving more pub than the overweight fans that dance in techno fashion? Very, very strong.

- Freshman Shane Southwell picks up two blocked shots in the first three-and-a-half minutes of the game. Southwell is starting for the second time in his career. He's a wiry wing player, but plays solid defense. My theory behind his promotion is that he plays the role Dominique Sutton played last season, providing a defensive stopper on the perimeter. Let's hope this doesn't mean that Southwell will be playing for North Carolina Central next season.

- Seven minutes in, our game is interrupted by what must be a very important Home Depot commercial. You need new shingles. You really do.

- Minutes later, the talking heads at ESPN reveal that there's been a power outage in the production truck in Columbia, Mo. It's 2011, isn't there an app for that?

- To kill time until the broadcast signal from Missouri is back up and running, we see highlights of the previous game (Villanova and UConn) plus a postgame interview.

- The video of the broadcast returns, but we're without the audio from the game announcers, meaning game commentary is provided by the folks in the home studio at ESPN. Please note that these folks are clueless as to much of anything relating to this game. Apparently I should value play-by-play announcers more than I typically do.

- Back to regular broadcasting, it's time for a KU love-fest from the game's broadcasting duo, despite the fact that this game features Kansas' biggest rivals. Forget what I said about valuing play-by-play announcers.

- From a commercial, I've learned that doubt of his abilities has fueled Tim Tebow's motivation for years. Guess what, Tim? I still doubt you're going to get me to buy that energy drink.

- Pullen's first field goal comes 14 minutes into the game. K-State trails by seven. Yeah, there's certainly no correlation there.

- The game's commentators just decided that Pullen was Robin to Denis Clemente's Batman last season. There's a mental image that is going to have me chuckling for awhile. I hope they flesh this analogy out so that we can determine which Batman characters the rest of K-State's players last season were. Of particular interest, who was The Penguin?

- They didn't. Jerks.

- I could really use an extended soliloquy on Batman, as this game turned depressing. Cats trail 43-28 at the half and they are handling the basketball with the care of nearsighted polar bear.*

*Would a nearsighted polar bear be particularly bad at caring for a basketball? I assume so... I don't know. Obviously bad basketball wreaks havoc on my ability to craft a proper simile.

- With horrible basketball currently being observed, it's the executive
decision of The Writings' editorial board that this Writing must be
brought to a swift end. After all, it could be the confounding things
contained within that are throwing Kansas State off kilter and making
them look an awful lot like the JV teams I referenced earlier. (When
basketball looks this poor, one goes to extreme measures to end such

Monday, January 10, 2011

People in Your Neighborhood - The Edition I Nearly Forgot

Back in December I traveled to a trade show for my job. At that time, I decided the place was brimming with subjects who deserved The Writings’ “People in Your Neighborhood” treatment. Alas, due to the hustle and bustle of the holidays, an abundance of sporting events, changing tides, protests from the AARP, a bevy of lawsuits, a temporary crippling of my left pinkie, and a memory as sharp the scissors you used in kindergarten, the aforementioned Writing was never composed. Today we correct that problem. These are the people in your neighborhood, if your neighborhood happens to be a trade show at a conference for high school athletic directors.

The Used Car Salesmen
The products this trio was looking to market to the attending public were not used cars, but the mindset was the same one you’ll find at most lots in the land. Stalk, chase, grab, and more; just do whatever you can to make the sale. While each member of the trio served as a wheel of the most annoying tricycle you’ll ever encounter, each guy also held his own very distinct style and persona.

Mr. Astonished
I have no clue if Mr. Astonished was really ever astonished by anything at all, but his expression sure made it seem that way. Each attendee he encountered was greeted with eyes so wide that there was actual worry about whether his eyeballs would roll right out of his skull. Thankfully, they never did, and people seemed to show interest in their product – perhaps only to take their glances away from his crazy eyes.

Mr. Superball
Bounce. Bounce. Bounce. Bounce. Oh, Mr. Superball, please cease with the incessant bouncing. I know you picked up that bouncy ball at another vendor’s booth. I know it’s pretty amazing that the technology exists to make a palm-sized ball that bounces even though there’s no air pumped inside. I also know that you think you look pretty cool bouncing a ball continuously, one hand to the other, while waiting for the next conference attendee to latch on to. It’s great that your coordination and ambidexterity allow you to complete such a task. Unfortunately, the whole thing is unbelievably grating. I’m not sure I’d be any more annoyed if you grabbed a Sharpie and attempted to draw a handlebar mustache on my face. Please stop. Please.

The Godfather
The senior member of the group, the Godfather was the one that Mr. Astonished and Mr. Superball seemed to look to for approval any time they reeled in a potential customer. Built like a bowling ball (with the same amount of hair), the Godfather took the aggressive approach to tracking down prospective buyers. “Hey! Come check out something you need!” His voice sounded as if he was an old friend of Joe Camel, and his efforts often had the effect of hounding someone to take your half-ashen cigarette.

The Passive Guy
The Passive Guy sat across the aisle. That’s kind of a boring description, but that’s literally all he did. He sat. Sure, he’d answer questions if people asked him directly, but beyond that he did not do much to acknowledge that folks were even in his vicinity. It seemed to be a risky sales method.

The Very Passive Guy
The Very Passive guy may have very well been The Passive Guy’s grandfather. How did he earn his “Very Passive” tag? I credit it to age and wisdom… That, and the fact that I saw him dozing off at one point.

The Zapper
Technology is a great thing, unless The Zapper is involved. The Zapper uses a hand-held barcode reader to scan the name badges of conference attendees so that he can have evidence that folks actually visited his booth and he can gain their contact information to follow up after the event. It's actually a pretty slick idea, but The Zapper seemed to take it to unintended extremes. He would seek out folks that had not given his booth a second glance and still ask if he could scan their name badges. It seemed a bit intrusive, considering that some of these folks were actually talking to others when he'd but in with his query, but it even crawled into creepy territory at times. What would your response be if a guy you'd never spoken to before sidled up next to you and said nothing but, "Mind if I zap ya?"

The Game Changer
Folks at a booth across the aisle were hawking a product intended to cut down the length of a nosebleed, which seems like a worthwhile cause. Unfortunately, the woman at the booth continually referred to the product as “a game changer.” … Listen, lady. Your product is dandy, but if the game we’re stuck in involves chronic nosebleeds, I’m not sure I want to keep playing.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

2010... I remember it like it was just (insert appropriate number of days ago here)

Previously on the 2010 year in review: Lies were told, John Locke hunted a boar, Cylons disguised themselves as humans, and Jack Bauer went yet another hour without a bathroom break. (The Writings: We're confused already.)

The Kansas City Royals traded starting second baseman Alberto Callaspo, starting outfielders Scott Podsednik and Rick Ankiel, and relief pitcher Kyle Farnsworth. Royals fans everywhere were quite disappointed that the Royals seemed to be giving up on their present roster... Then Royals fans everywhere remembered that their present roster had been slightly less successful than the Bad News Bears in the first hour of their film.

Survey data was released that showed New York, New York (the city so nice they named it in rather lazy fashion) was the U.S. city with the worst bedbug infestation. Travelers worried, exterminators rejoiced, and people were advised to refrain from collecting used mattresses left out on the street. I'm suddenly worried about the hobbies of the American public.

Lady Gaga was a winner eight times over at the Video Music Awards. She accepted her final award while wearing a dress made entirely of meat. Yes, meat. I have yet to confirm whether the final award was for "The Strongest Indication of the Impending Apocalypse."

The Kansas State football Wildcats surrendered 14,326 rushing yards* to the Nebraska Cornhuskers, but bounced back a week later to beat the Kansas Jayhawks 59-7. Thus, the month seemed to proved two points. 1. Momentum does not exist in college football. 2. KU is lousy.

*Number is approximate.

Gebregziabher Gebremariam won the New York Marathon. His winning time was 10 minutes less than the amount of time it took sportscasters to figure out how to pronounce his name.

The Chiefs clinched a berth in the NFL Playoffs by winning their 10th game of the season. The Chiefs had won 10 games over the
three previous seasons combined. This, dear readers, is what some might call a “Festivus Miracle.” I can think of no better note to end this Writing on.

Go Chiefs!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

2010... I remember it like it was four days ago

The year 2010 is literally history and I say good riddance.

... How's that for a gripping lede? It's not true in the slightest, but it grabs attention, no? Actually, I can't complain about the year 2010. Like most, it had ups and downs. Like many, it involved both laughter and tears. Like nearly all, it did not contain a single awkward encounter with another person or odd incident that I might later write about... Scratch that last one.

Obviously there was a lot that happened in 2010. Let's catch up. Here's part one of the year in review, January - June.

"January was the first month of that year. It began on a Friday and ended after 31 days on a Sunday. It was the first month of the 2010s." -

Thank you, Wikipedia, for the truly insightful summary. I think we've covered it. On to February!

Okay, fine. James Cameron's Avatar, released in Dec. 2009, continued its success at the box office on its way to grossing more money in the U.S. and Canada than any film ever. Many who saw the film were in awe of the breathtaking 3-D visuals. Those who weren't spent the entire film wondering what the hell happened to the Smurfs. 

Americans everywhere sat in wonder while watching the majesty of the Winter Olympics on television.

… Wait, I worded that incorrectly. Let’s try again.

Americans everywhere sat wondering why programming that could actually be deemed “entertaining” did not appear on their televisions. Instead, they were subjected to Olympic events that encourage the development of Arctic snipers (the biathlon) and obsessive-compulsive igloo cleaners (curling).

Apologies to the Shaun White Fan Club, but we at The Writings are firmly anti-Winter Olympics. If this means I’ll never have a chance to win a gold medal in Inebriated From Nog Christmas Caroling, so be it.

The K-State basketball team competed in one of the greatest basketball games that I have ever witnessed, topping Xavier in a double-overtime thriller in the NCAA Tournament. The game featured more momentum shifts than a teen’s first attempt at driving stick-shift and may have taken a few years off of my life in the process. Whatever the case, it was worth it.

Yes, another excuse to show highlights from the game.

Kentucky Fried Chicken began selling the Double-Down chicken sandwich, which is basically two hands full of fried meat, plus cheese and a "secret" sauce. To date, the value meal does not include a defibrillator.

The author made a relatively monumental move (for the author), changing jobs for the second time in his working life. The move was initially viewed as a good one and, eight months in, said opinion remains unchanged. It’s true, much like his last job, few people actually realize that his job does not involve writing on a full-time basis, but for the sake of the reading public, that’s probably for the best. After all, newspapers would probably frown on a basketball game story that veers into an off-topic discussion of a fan that made a free throw to win more than $100. The frown would probably turn into a sneer when the fan’s celebration, which involved raised arms and healthy gut hanging out from under a criminally small t-shirt, was recounted in infinitesimal detail. The aforementioned sneer would most likely evolve into an unfriendly request to begin looking for a new job when the author ended the story with the comment, “Guess who can now afford a bigger t-shirt!”

Flirtation became the trend in major college athletics* as Universities across the country sent "Do you like me? Check 'yes' or 'no,'" letters to conferences that they did not currently reside in. The end result (phrase "end result" used very loosely, as any conference could crumble at any moment) left those who previously felt they had a strong grasp on things like counting and geography utterly confused. You say there's 12 teams in the Big 10 and 10 teams in the Big 12? And the folks in Colorado - a landlocked state unless you consider Wyoming an ocean of nothingness - are now in a conference named for the Pacific Ocean while the Texas Christian football team's nearest league rivals will be in Kentucky and Florida?

*And academics. Yes the academics played a HUGE role in conference realignment. HUGE. After all, you have to be pretty good at math to be able to count the money Nebraska was being offered to join the Big 10.

College sports: if they ain't broke.... Nope, that doesn't work.
College sports: if they're already broke, see if that sledge hammer will fix them.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Proper ways to enjoy the first morning of 2011

- Make a tent by using a couch and a blanket.

- Hide from the "monster fire" (translation: monster in the fireplace) in said tent.

- Terrorize a pug.

- Watch "The Jungle Book."

- Hide from that monster fire again.

- Chase the pug some more.

- Watch "Ice Age: The Meltdown" solely to see Scrat trying to get his acorn.

(These new year activities brought to you by your local two-year-old.)

And that's 2011 so far. Forgive the holiday hiatus. Coming soon (Tonight? Tomorrow? This week? Uhh... one of the above): The annual look back at the year that was.

Happy new year from all* at The Writings.

*A collection of orangutans with typewriters.