Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Writings' Summer Sports Update

Introductions are overrated... Okay, maybe they aren't, but still... Whatever the case, whether people actually read intros word-for-word or if they just skim them in order to get to the meat of a Writing, I think we can all agree on one thing: This particular introduction has been fairly pointless thus far. Yet, you're still reading it... Weird. Anyway, my lackadaisical attitude toward writing this summer has led me to neglect covering sports on the whole. That's completely unfair to those who rely on The Writings for their sports news (we call those people "the lost"). It's time to catch up. Here's a quick look at the areas of sports that truly matter (Royals, Chiefs, and Wildcats, of course) and what's ahead...

The Royals
Where we're at:
In the cellar. The Royals currently sit in last place in the American League Central, trailing the division leading Detroit Tigers by 11 games.

What you've missed:
Though the record may not paint a clear picture of it, this team is improved. The major talking point coming into the season was talent at the minor league level. Now a handful of those top prospects have ascended to the Majors. Results have been mixed, but each youngster has at least shown a flash or two of the promise that helped them build such hype. First baseman Eric Hosmer, despite being barely of legal drinking age, already looks like one of the team's top hitters (he leads the squad in game-winning RBI) and exhibits Gold Glove-caliber defense on a nightly basis. On the opposite side of the diamond, Mike Moustakas has seen big struggles at the plate - recently suffering through an 0-19 slump - but has strung together some quality games recently. At shortstop, Alcides Escobar - a piece of Zack Greinke trade - has proven to be one of the most exciting defensive players in all of baseball. The second-year player has yet to throw out a baserunner by kicking the ball soccer style, but he has seemingly made every other play imaginable.

What's ahead:
Look for trades and more prospects. KC is out of the race this season, but is attempting to piece together a contending team for 2012. Don't be surprised to see and outfielder or two jettisoned, along with some pitchers hitting the road. Don't get me wrong, the games this year matter... Just not for typical reasons. Sure, it may sound like my typical hokey optimism (Go Royals!), but there's hope ahead.

The Chiefs
Where we're at:
The NFL lockout ended just one day ago, meaning most Chiefs have to put down their nachos and attempt to remember how to get back to KC. Vacation time is over.

What you've missed:
Constant discussions on television and sports radio about labor negotations between the NFL owners and the players. Yes, it was mind-numbingly boring. So boring that I actually dozed off typing that last sentence.

What's ahead:
A frenzied period of action where teams try to fit five months of off-season free-agent negotiations and transactions into about two weeks. Frankly, I'm not sure how it can all work, what with the legal details that go into NFL contracts. Will the Chiefs sign a player with a contract written on a bar napkin at 1 a.m.? Hey, it's possible. Look for KC to try to sign a linebacker, a speedy wide receiver, and help along both the offensive and defensive lines. And hope that the locked out players did more training during the lockout than building their own dynasty on Madden football.

Where we're at:
The NBA players are locked out. Unlike the work stoppage in the NFL, all indications are that the NBA's labor issues will result in an abbreviated season.

What you've missed:
Nothing, really.

What's ahead:
Nothing, really. Maybe we'll at least get some decent commercials out of the whole deal. Remember the last lockout?

K-State Basketball
Where we're at:
It's the off-season. We're reading Tweets about Coach Frank Martin missing connecting flights. Hurry, November. Hurry.

What you've missed:
Jacob Pullen - the Wildcats' all-time leading scorer - did not get drafted into the NBA and has signed to play in Italy. I have yet to discover whether Italians fear beards in the same manner that we do stateside. Wally Judge, the former McDonalds' All-American who left the squad in the midst of last season, transferred to Rutgers. Guard Nick Russell has also transferred, with Southern Methodist his destination.

What's ahead:
God only knows. The Cats enter 2011-2012 short Pullen and fellow departed senior Curtis Kelly. Junior Rodney McGruder and sophomore Will Spradling will be relied upon to play major roles. Where will the rest of the points come from? An optimist would start by pointing to senior Jamar Samuels, saying that he will find consistency this season. The pessimist would say that the Wildcats will average 45 points per game. Good thing I'm an optimist.

K-State Football
Where we're at:
Close, oh so close, to the start of fall practice. Coach Bill Snyder spoke at Big 12 Media Day earlier and inside sources say that Wildcat Cushion (comfy and waterproof... Wow!) leases are on pace to eclipse last year's total. (The Writings: Your home for shameless shills.)

What you've missed:
K-State's Wagner Field has new turf, meaning that folks catching games on television will no longer wonder why K-State plays it's home games on a black rubber mat that has been hastily painted green.

What's ahead:
A season where the Wildcats may very well be a better team that the 2010 version, but sport a worse record. K-State will feature some new big-time talent on the field, beginning with linebacker Arthur Brown and running back Bryce Brown. Are they brothers? No.... Yessssss! (The Writings: Your source to references to somewhat obscure films based on Saturday Night Live sketches.) Alas, while the talent may be greater, the competition will be, as well. With Nebraska and Colorado having left the conference, this season marks the first that will involve each Big 12(-2) school playing a round-robin regular season schedule. Gone are the days where the Wildcats might avoid a match up against Oklahoma or Texas A&M. Now there's no hiding for anyone in the league. This could be interesting. With my history of having the accuracy of Robin Hood's glaucoma-ridden third-cousin when it comes to predictions, I'm laying off the temptation to predict how the Wildcats might fare this season. Instead, I'll leave you with this...
Happy thoughts.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Of Potter, Princesses, and Procrastination

Apologies to those who read the title of this Writing and immediately assumed that I had undertaken a hybrid fantasy story involving wizardry, royalty, and doing-little-ry. That epic tale must wait for another day. (Spoiler: in the end, it was all the dream of a coma-ridden marmoset.) Instead, the aforementioned title covers a bit of my life as of late, and the lessons to be learned from such things.

As recently as a couple years ago, I refused to acknowledge anything involving the world of Harry Potter. I would not read the books, I shunned the films, and I strayed far from any conversations about quidditch, Hogwarts, or persons who shall not be named.  Most of my family and many close friends had embraced the fictional world like the great aunt who hugs for awkwardly long periods of time, so why did I harbor such an aversion? Honestly, I'm not sure of the reason. Perhaps I did it to be different, but I think writing lengthy soliloquies about the folks one encounters as Wal-Mart probably covered that. Whatever the case, I have since moved beyond such faults. In the two weeks leading up to the release of the seventh movie of the series, I watched the first six on DVD. I've now read the first two books of the series and on Saturday went with friends and family to see the final movie about the bespectacled wizard. Long story short, all things Potter are pretty entertaining. No, I don't think the series is the greatest thing ever (rest easy, Tecmo Super Bowl), but I fully intend to read the rest of the books and the films are no waste of time.

Moral: Be open to trying new things (... unless that new thing involves Twilight. Vampires and werewolves should not be wrapped up in sappy love stories.)

Saturday also brought the celebration of my niece's third birthday. Yes, it's been three years since the toddler formerly known as "Niecephew" came into the world and - among other things - gave the author of this blog an awful lot of great (and cute) material. The third birthday was no exception. Though she's just turning three, the little girl is already one of the world's most knowledgeable experts in the field of Disney princesses, and her gift-wrap dismantling marathon certainly reflected her interest. There were princess toys, princess books, and princess shoes, and each gift was met with a similar exclamation: "It's a Jasmine toy!", "It's princess shoes! There's Belle! And Snow White! And..." Not all of these gifts will be appreciated in the same manner in a week. Not all of these gifts will even be remembered tomorrow. Yet, the initial excitement about each and every item unwrapped was accompanied by the sort of joy one typically sees on a Publisher's Clearing House commercial. The excitement carried throughout the evening, from watching an 18-year-old video from a Disney trip (That's Mickey Mouse!) to an impromptu, music-less dance party as the evening wrapped up.

Moral: Enjoy life and all that comes with it. Sure, hollering excitedly about everything that goes your way might be extreme, but it's that sort of mindset that keeps one from taking things for granted.

The summer has been a lazy one around The Writings, and that's something I want to absolve. There's plenty I can, and should*, write about in this space, but I've been ignoring some and pushing back others. Things have gotten so lax around here that I'm fairly certain that the cyberspace equivalent of cobwebs may not be seen on each corner of my blog.

*Arguments that I cannot write and should never do it are duly noted.

It's time to return to a blogging routine that involves more than one update a week. After all, I enjoy writing. I should probably do it.

Moral: You have talents; make the most of them.
... Unless your talents somehow involve prolonging this summer. If that's the case, I recommend you find a nice book to read. Can I recommend Harry Potter? 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Always anti-summer

Here's a tip for everyone: name-dropping is never a good idea. The idea of using the reputation of a person whom you are not to attempt to gain something for yourself is an absurd one. More often than not, if you attempt to name-drop, you'll accomplish little more than sounding arrogant or pompous, and quite possibly coming off like an ass. Furthermore, if you attempt to drop a name that is obscure enough that the listening party has no clue of whom you are referring... well, then you will come off like an ass.

Now that we have the public service announcement out of the way, I'd like to provide a little breaking news: it's hot outside.

I'm fairly certain that I've written of my dislike of the summer's triple-digit temperatures every year of The Writings' existence, but this summer Mother Nature seems to getting a bit carried away. The term Excessive Heat Warning has become a routine part of my day, as if I'm reading that oxygen will be readily available or that I'll encounter road construction in Manhattan. I've tried to handle the heat with a smile on my face, utilizing more "How hot is it?" jokes than any person should ever attempt to conjure. I'm fairly certain that my sense of humor is now suffering from heat exhaustion as a result.

It's hot.

How hot is it?

So hot that folks everywhere are setting bonfires in order to cool down.

Ugh... That hurt.

Yes, you're safe in betting that my anti-summer stance is still very firm. As a result, I'm left dreaming of falling leaves (which is as boring as it sounds) and attempting to find ways to take my mind off the mind-melting heat. Alas, the two things at the forefront of thought parade at the moment - baseball and eventually buying a home - both steer my mind back to summer. Yes, even my brain is betraying me.

The correlation between baseball and summer seems pretty obvious. Despite the fact that the Major League season begins in April and ends in November, baseball is widely considered a summer sport. Perhaps I should just blame all the Royals' woes over the last 20 years on warmth of the season. Is that a valid excuse for, at times, comically bad baseball?

The other notion currently running laps in my head involves home ownership. I've lived in my current apartment for over four years, and my encounters with neighbors have been fairly well documented courtesy The Writings - from the neighbor who fancied himself the second-coming of Busta Rhymes to the kid with boxes upon boxes of skateboard magazines. This apartment has served me well, and I'd recommend it to anyone (and will, if I end up needing a subleaser... Interested?), but the truth is that I'm getting a little old for life in an apartment next to a university. I no longer work next door, I no longer feel the need to live in Manhattan, and I no longer can consider asking a neighbor out without feeling like the creepy old guy. It may be time to move on.

Alas, bundled with the idea of buying a house is the idea of having to move... again. I've moved five times in my 28 years and that already seems like far too many. I consider few things to be greater hindrances that the process of moving. From sorting and packing (and wondering why in the world you would want to move item X to your new place) to unsorting and unpacking (and realizing that you moved item X to your new place for no good reason), moving is painstaking. It's horrible. It's almost as bad as oppressive heat. (Yes, we've come full-circle, friends.)

What's the time line for the house-hunting process? Honestly, if I had one-third of a clue I'd be far more knowledgeable than I am now. Whatever happens, it will be interesting. It may be exciting. And it will most certainly provide some good blog material.

Are you free to help me move? What if I drop the name of a mutual acquaintance?
(Nevermind. NOW we've come full-circle.)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Quick Thoughts - The July 12 Rendition

The Major League Baseball All Star Game is taking place tonight, meaning that my evening contains little more than sitting on my couch and watching baseball... Yes, this is a situation that I'm somewhat familiar with. The Royals have just one representative in the game - relief pitcher Aaron Crow - and word is that he won't pitch due to illness. Crow's specific ailment has not been divulged, but many Royals fans are set to assume that it's the fault of Kyle Davies and his 1-win, 8-loss record. Yes, it's been that sort of season for Davies.


The phrase "Fear the Beard" is tossed around often, but I think I am actually legitimately afraid of the one that Giants' reliever Brian Wilson sports. It looks like some combination of a costume beard and hair from King Kong's left elbow. If I saw him walking toward me, I think I'd take a defensive stance upon first sight of that beard. 


The journalism school at my alma mater sends out a short magazine called "Update" to its alums on a quarterly basis. As an intelligent reader might guess (and I know all my readers are of the intelligent variety*), the publication contains articles on events around the school of journalism and feature stories about alumni. Unfortunately, the most recent issue also features a typo on the magazine's cover. Yes, that's right... The magazine published by the School of Journalism has a typo. Worse yet, the typo lies in the name of the University's mascot. Oh well. You win some, you lose some. Go Wlidcats!

*Suck up to readers... Check!


Some folks say that a person should make lemonade when life hands them lemons. My thought: ask life how it suddenly has hands, plus ready access to lemon trees.


Have you noticed that whenever someone asks how old a child is, they always follow the answer to said question with "Oh, that's a fun age"? Am I wrong to wish to someday hear someone respond by saying "Oh mercy, I'm sorry. That age is horrendous"?


Yes, my good friend "Dear Daryl" is still MIA. He mentioned something about not writing until he has adequate material to work with, but I think he's holding out for better pay. Who knew that seven kernels of corn and a crippled mule might be deemed subpar wages in 2011? Thus if you have a chance, send a question... Or some kernels of corn.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Time flies

Time flies.

No, this is not the punch line to some horrible joke involving news magazines and airplanes. It’s the simple, figurative truth; truth that was hammered home over the weekend when celebrating my 10-year high school reunion.
Ten years… that’s a daunting number. I’ve officially been a high school graduate for over 1/3 of my life. My days eating cafeteria food? Long gone. My afternoons spent imitating a very life-like tackling dummy on the practice football field? Nothing but memories. My time spent composing immature school newspaper writings that would ultimately be read by few people? Well, cross out “school newspaper” and you still have an accurate depiction of my life, but I think you’re getting the point. High school was long ago, yet when talking to a number of my former classmates on Saturday it seemed like little more than a day had gone by since our post-RCHS days began.
Sure, a few classmates had picked up some extra pounds over the years; a few had seen their hairlines recede like a beach’s low tide; several had begun families of their own. Yes, most everyone’s lives had seen some dramatic changes over the last 10 years, but – once the necessary “catching up” questions* were out of the way – conversations trended back to reminiscing about old classes and classmates. I entered the weekend braced for the sort of awkwardness only witnessed in Ben Stiller movies (and every first date I’ve been on), but – beyond the afternoon’s first five minutes – the event did not approach such heights.

*I’ve never asked “Where are you at now?” so many times in my life. Not only was I mindlessly repetitive with the question, but I constructed it in a horrible manner; a manner that made it sound like I was checking to see if they were recently concussed. I really wish someone would have answered me by saying “I’m here talking to you, moron.”

Time flies.
Yes, observant readers, you are picking up on a theme. After all, if the last ten years have seemed to transpire in quick fashion, it seems to make logical sense that the year 2011 would have seemed to move forward in similar quick fashion. (Please don’t get used to things proceeding in logical fashion here at The Writings… That’s a lofty assumption to live up to.)

Though I’m fairly certain that I was setting unrealistic April 1 expectations for the 2011 Kansas City Royals no more than a week ago, it seems that our nation (assuming you are reading this Writing on American soil) celebrated its birthday over the weekend. July 4 has come and gone, yet I’m still occasionally writing 2010 on checks.
The holiday brought some quality time with friends and family. It also brought some time to truly ponder what “independence” means. After all, if America was not a free country, it’s highly likely that some of the plus-sized folks I saw in downtown Wamego would not have been able to declare independence from their apparently stifling shirts. Though it may not been my first thought upon seeing those bulbous bellies, they actually provided a good representation of our freedom. (No, that’s not an America-has-a-weight-problem joke… Well, unless you find that funny. I’ll take what I can get.)

Beyond the opportunity to provide rather disturbing physical representation of the effect “The Whopper Diet” can have on a shirtless, middle-aged man, July 4 also gives us a chance to celebrate our freedom through the wonder of parades. Sure, it’s a little strange to celebrate something by sitting uninvited in a neighbor’s yard to watch cars, tractors and horses idle down the street. Sure, I could probably set a lawn chair next to a busy street and have a similar experience. And, sure, it’s weird to suddenly encourage small children to run into the street and accept candy from strangers, but – again – such things represent the freedom that many great folks have fought for and the freedom that makes our country great. We, as Americans, are free to spend insane amounts of money on tattoos and iPhone apps and then complain about the price of gasoline. We’re free to eat foods that can clog arteries via osmosis. We’re even free to pass along hundreds of horrible attempts at jokes in our blogs.
Did I say bad jokes?

What’s the biggest worry when having a picnic inside a grandfather clock?

Time flies.

… I told you there were no jokes involving magazines and airplanes.

On a final note, I’m feeling nostalgic. No, I don’t plan on digging out a fanny pack or sporting a bowl cut, but I do plan on bringing an old “Riley Rumor” high school newspaper shtick to the Writings for (most likely) one time only. It’s called “Dear Daryl,” and it’s basically a spoof on Ann Landers, Dear Abby, and any other advice column where common sense is extolled in print.
You can help this happen. I need advice-seeking questions. Get creative and send some my way. Remember, “Dear Daryl” is here to help.*

*Legal disclaimer: “Dear Daryl” is not here to help. He is not a licensed psychologist, psychiatrist, or bus driver. His advice is not meant to be taken seriously in any way, shape, or form. The Writings accept no responsibility for any consequences or side effects that result from following his “advice”; consequences may include: headaches, nausea, disowning by family, the breakup of your Men At Work cover band, onset of scurvy, repeated hedgehog attacks, achy breaky pelvis, hallucinations involving Emmanuel Lewis, an inability to recall the starting lineup for the 1983 Montreal Expos, gingivitis, struggles with parallel parking, severe intolerance of anything involving Barry Manilow, and tennis elbow.