Wade, KU, & The Spirit

A few notes as I wrap up a short week in our home.

Wade Davis Trade

Wow, it was almost exactly four years ago that the Royals traded Wil Myers and others to Tampa for James Shields and Wade Davis, a trade I HATED. I guess everything worked out ok, didn’t it?

It hurt a little when the Royals couldn’t re-sign Ben Zobrist or Johnny Cueto last year. But those were expected losses. Same with Kendrys Morales this year. But trading Wade Davis to the Cubs yesterday, and willingly parting with one of the most important elements of the 2014–15 teams? It seemed like a sure thing to happen, but it still hurts a lot more, both because Wade will be pitching for another team next year, and because the official dismantling of the current Royals roster has begun.

That said, Wade was on the DL twice last year, and would be a free agent after this season. This was probably the best time to move him. I think the combination of those DL stints, and the Royals desire to get MLB-ready talent back, cut into his value a lot. Just look at what the Cubs sent to New York last July for three months of Aroldis Chapman. Shouldn’t the Royals have gotten at least as much talent back for a full year of Wader? Well, only if they were willing to accept prospects. And they weren’t.

Jorge Soler is widely viewed as a disappointment so far in his young career. But he’s still awfully young. Maybe the simple change of scenery will unlock his immense potential. Maybe Dale Sveum and Rusty Kuntz can do their magic and tap into all that was projected that he has yet to show. I think he arrives in Kansas City with a ton of pressure, though.

Four years of control of Soler – a power hitting outfielder/DH – for one year of Davis makes sense in a lot of ways. I’m not convinced it was the best trade Dayton Moore could have made. But I don’t think it’s a disaster, either. More than anything, it hurts the heart.

Of course, the other factor in the Royals favor is that Kelvin Herrera is ready to be the next great Royals closer. And the Royals have enough bullpen depth to fill in as they slide everyone back an inning. Joaquim Soria to figure his shit out, though.

Tons of Wade Davis memories. Obviously pitching the bottom of the 12th of game five of the 2015 World Series is at the top. The picture of him with both arms raised in the air will hang in the Royals Hall of Fame forever.

But I think my most vivid memory of Wade will be his role in the epic 120 minutes or so that ended the 2015 ALCS. With bad weather approaching, the Royals leading 3–1, and the heart of the Toronto lineup due to bat in the top of the 8th, Ned Yost chose to go to Ryan Madson instead of Wade Davis. An infield hit and home run tied the game. Davis came into the game three batters too late, just as the rain began coming down. A 45-minute delay allowed Royals fans to stew[1] before the bottom of the 8th brought one of the greatest moments in franchise history. But the game wasn’t over. Davis put two on with one out and the top of the Jays order coming up in the 9th. I remember hoping the Royals could get out of the inning just giving up one run, but fearful a base hit would score two. A friendly strike zone helped Davis strike out Ben Revere, and then after a masterful setup pitch, Davis got Josh Donaldson to hit a sharp grounder to Mike Moustakas at third that ended the game and the series.

The Wade Davis Experience was the Twitter description for the typical Davis outing. He always found a way to make it interesting, but he also almost always got those final outs. He will be greatly missed, and another reason for Royals fans to pull for the Cubs.

KU Hoops

OK, so I’m really enjoying this KU team. They’re blowing the doors off people, which just isn’t something Bill Self teams always do in December. I’m enjoying it because I know, as good as their guards have been playing, there are going to be nights when the shots don’t fall. And with KU’s anemic inside game, things will get dicey. The game against Davidson next week and then a trip to UNLV before Christmas should tell a lot about this team.

West Virginia and Baylor both appear to be legit. So the run to Big 12 title #13 in a row may not be as easy as a lot of experts thought a month ago.

When KU beat the crap out of UMKC Tuesday night, it was the 600th win of Bill Self’s career. Which is pretty cool. Especially given how consistently excellent he’s been at KU. You can almost expect 30 wins from the Jayhawks each year, which is crazy. Yeah, the March results could be better. But there’s, arguably, no better regular season coach in the game than Self.

I’ll write more about the Jayhawks down the road.

Holiday Spirit

Still not feeling it as much as in the past. I’ve spent more time listening to my large playlist of favorite songs of the year, hoping to get it whittled down to a round number soon, than Christmas music. Don’t get me wrong, I still probably listen to more holiday tunes than the average person. I’m just not listening to them constantly as I have in the past.

No real changes in the girls. M acts like everything Christmas-related is a chore. C keeps updating her wish list, looks for Elfie mostly as competition to L, but doesn’t watch many Christmas shows. And L is still trying to make up for her sisters’ lack of enthusiasm. It was her week to pick a dessert to make together, so we made our first ever gingerbread men. They turned out pretty good for a first effort. I think we just missed on getting the flavor perfect, but the consistency was just fine. Even M has enjoyed decorating them each night after dinner.

I’m hoping my spirit level gets a little boost this weekend. S and I are driving up to Chicago for a conference. We’ll drop the kids and school tomorrow and head straight up. Hopefully she won’t miss too much of the morning session. We’re staying right in the heart of downtown, so I’ll have plenty of cool things that are a short walk away. The forecast looks bleak for the entire weekend, so I’ll have to pop in and out of stores and attractions to stay warm rather than take long, uninterrupted walks. I’m hoping it’s not too cold so my camera doesn’t have any issues operating.[2] And we’re hoping the weather isn’t too nasty on Sunday when we drive back. But I figure downtown Chicago is going to be super Christmasy, so that might just be the little shove I need to get fully into the spirit of the season.

  1. I called for Ned to be fired on Facebook.  ↩
  2. Another reason to upgrade – for the second time in a year – to a weather-resistant model.  ↩

Back In The Day

It seems like every day there is another piece of evidence that the Internet is a terrible place, and that far too many humans are loathsome people.

And then there are things like this, which reaffirm my faith that the Internet is ultimately a good thing.

I discovered it just after last Christmas, so I’ve been sitting on it for a while year. I’m glad I’m finally able to share Greg Maletic’s look back at the 1977 Sears Wish Book!

"You might not recognize what this is. This is Amazon, printed out.

The Sears Wish Book, 1977

I just wish he had shown what was always my favorite clothing section: the NFL sweatshirts and letter jackets for kids. Those were dope as hell.

Speaking of dope…

Dunking on Fools

A couple NBA links this morning.

First, another excellent link to a piece on The Ringer, who is NBA-heavy in content. In this one, Shea Serrano breaks down the five most disrespectful dunks of the young NBA season. Even if you don’t like the NBA, this is a fine article to read through. I hope he continues to do these through the year.

The Disrespectful Dunk Index

Next, and I only have a Twitter link here, the official NBA Twitter account offered up Shawn Kemp’s 47 best dunks in honor of the Reign Man’s 47th birthday last week. There really wasn’t anyone like him back in the day.

Shawn Kemp’s 47 Best Dunks

Friday Playlist

“Feel Right” – Esmé Patterson. This time of year can be frustrating for me, music-wise. I have the holiday tunes in high rotation. At the same time, I’m paring down the list of my favorite songs I’ve been building all year into its final form. And I’m reading other Best Of lists to make sure there’s nothing I’ve missed, which there always is.

Yesterday I read through Frank Turner’s list of favorite albums of the year and gave most of the entries a brief listen.[1] I don’t recall ever hearing Esmé Patterson before, but her’s was the only album I listened to front-to-back. She’s awesome. And this song/video is perfect boost of light an energy as we are about to get hit with our first bitter cold stretch of the season.

  1. Excepting Frightened Rabbit, of course. I’m pretty familiar with them.  ↩

L’s Big Day

Yesterday was a big day for our girls. There was a trip to the dentist for C and L, and you really can’t beat a trip to the dentist.[1]

M went on a retreat with the rest of the sixth grade to visit a monastery in southern Indiana. They had to be at school at 6:30 AM and didn’t get home until around 6:00 in the evening. She was so tired when they returned that I have yet to hear how it went. That kid does not do well with being tired. I know the agenda included touring the monastery and spending time with the monks. Hopefully she’ll be in more of a mood to share details tonight.

L had a big day, too. St. P’s participates in the Leader In Me program, which is an educational off-shoot of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Yesterday there was a one-day symposium for schools in the area that participate in the LIM program, and the keynote speaker for the event was Sean Covey, son of Stephen Covey and main guy behind the LIM program.

In early November I got an email from school saying that L had been selected to introduce Covey before his speech. She was very excited! We received a little example of what kind of introduction she should give and a request that she have her speech memorized. That night she got on the computer and started looking up facts about Covey. She brought us back a page filled with info about him. We helped her organize it, printed out a bullet-pointed list, and she began working on learning it. Typical of her, she had it down in about a day. In fact, she was adding a little too much “flavor” to it at times, so we had to make sure she toned it down a little. And we kept working with her on making sure she spoke slowly and clearly.

I picked her up from school around 11:30 to head to the event. When we arrived, she was the star of the moment. The women who were working the registration table came around and introduced themselves, asked her lots of questions, and made her feel super important. They brought Covey out so they could meet and he was super nice to her, too. After she got her name tag, we went into the conference hall and several other people came over to introduce themselves to her. Worth noting a lot of these adults just gave me a nod and focused all their attentions on her. I thought that was great! M’s teacher was there and she made sure to come over and say hi, too.

We took some seats up front as a principal panel discussion was wrapping up. She looked around and asked how many people were watching. I did a quick estimate and told her probably 250. Then she asked me if I could see her lip moving. No, I said, and asked why her lip was moving. “Because all of a sudden I’m really nervous!” she said. St. P’s assistant principal, who picked L to present, came over to wish her luck. The event’s MC came over and had a quick chat with her. And then it was time for her to go on stage.

She rocked the mic pretty well. She was a little rushed, but I think spoke pretty clearly. She flubbed a couple lines, but quickly caught and corrected herself. The best part was, like most kids, she can’t just stand still and speak in front of an audience. She had jammed both hands into her pockets and was pumping each fist up and down in time with her speech. Thank goodness she’s a girl, or it might have looked a little inappropriate! I was right in front of her videoing and had to struggle to keep from laughing.

The only thing we forgot to do was coach her on what to do when she was done. She made her formal introduction, turned, and marched offstage. I should have told her to stay in front of the mic and clap until Covey made it onstage and then shake his hand before she left. Oh well, she did better than I probably would have done.

We hung around and listened to most of Covey’s speech before we had to head out to get back to school for pickup. Unfortunately because L was a little nervous before she spoke, and we left before the event ended, I didn’t get a chance to take a photo of her and Covey together. I should have grabbed one when they first met outside the hall.

So she was pretty proud of herself. We heard she was picked because of her determination and how she demonstrates so many of the seven habits in her daily behavior at school. That, and how well she did on stage, made us very proud of her, too.

  1. To be fair, our girls do love going to the dentist. I also enjoy our dentist’s office, which is filled with extremely friendly and personable dental professionals.  ↩


November 2016

  • Ryan Adams – 25
  • Kevin Morby – 22
  • Frightened Rabbit – 18
  • Beastie Boys – 15
  • Julia Jackson – 15

Complete stats available at my Last.fm page

Hoops: Don’t Hate

It wasn’t that long ago that I abandoned my Friday Links posts. I promised to share interesting links individually, hoping that I wouldn’t get so backed up with things to share and also post a little more often.

I’ve kind of screwed that up. I need to rethink my workflow, obviously, because I keep forgetting about cool things I’ve read.

Anyway, here’s one I meant to share a couple weeks back when the NBA and college basketball seasons began.

Like a lot of former Grantlanders, Mark Titus has landed at Bill Simmons’ new web vehicle, The Ringer. That means the most important college hoops rankings are back for another year! It also means some generally fine basketball writing from the former Ohio State walk-on. He’s had a couple good pieces already. I really enjoyed this one, which addressed the holy war in basketball: NBA fans vs. college fans.

College-Versus-NBA Arguments Are Pointless

Although I greatly prefer the college game, and I have some problems with the NBA game, I agree with most of what he says. Many of the criticisms of the NBA game are based on ignorance and latent racism. It’s the “Blacker” game to many, and thus harder to connect with. Hey, it’s fine if you don’t like the NBA. But being dishonest about what the actually goes on in the NBA isn’t a valid argument against the game. In pure basketball terms, the NBA is clearly a better game. They shoot better, they run better offense, they play better defense, the coaching is better. The skill level is off the charts.

I would much rather watch a college game between two conference rivals on a cold, February Saturday afternoon than just about any NBA game. The emotion on the court and investment by the crowd will almost always be better in a college game. But that’s what I grew up with. I may not love the NBA, but I also don’t hate it.

Thanksgiving 2016

A mostly-good Thanksgiving weekend here. Hope you had a fine weekend as well.

Our actual holiday went off quite well. We were not hosting this year, so only had to provide a couple dishes. I was doing the mashed potatoes and used a different recipe than I’ve used in the past. It became a little problematic as it took longer to get completed than I anticipated. But we were driving exactly two blocks, so we didn’t delay the family meal or anything. Excellent food all around. And the big highlight of the day was it being the first big, family gathering where all three of the new boys in our family were there. The girls loved being around their new cousins.

Friday was our annual tree puttin’-up day. I think I’ve been saying “this could be the last kid Christmas we have” for three years. But based on the enthusiasm level, I think I was finally right last year. Pre-teen #1 is clearly not into anything that has to do with the holidays and spending time with the rest of her family. Pre-teen #2 still seems into things, but I just get this undercurrent to her mood that she’s torn between acting like a single-digit kid and a double-digit kid. And #3, who is the pleaser of the group, is laying it on extra thick to prove to us that she’s still all-in; she’s the only one who seems excited to find Elfie in the morning or watch Christmas shows with me. I’ll admit my excitement for the season has been a little slow to ignite this year because our girls are clearly in a different place than they were a year ago. Maybe their moods will shift the closer we get to Christmas.

Quick question: is there a better day than Christmas card picture taking day?
Answer: Yes, there are approximately 360 days better than Christmas card picture taking day. We’ve struggled with this day ever since we became a two-kid family in 2006, I think. When they’re little, it’s just impossible to get everyone situated properly and cooperating for the time it takes to snap off a few frames. As they get bigger, there’s always one kid who is in a bad mood, which pisses the parents off, which in turn affects the other kids. Yesterday was no exception. One kid was moody. Another kid was hyper. And the other kid kept closing her eyes during pictures.

We’ve farmed out the actual picture taking to others in the past. But this was the first time since M was a baby that I was manning the camera. I shot about 250 or so frames in about at hour at two local parks. You all know I’m not a very religious person. The fact we actually got a couple keepers out of those 250 shots makes me think that miracles are possible. We were pretty happy with the final result, which should be arriving in your mail boxes in a few weeks.

Despite the drama at the parks, the girls were given the chance to pick something fun to do afterward. They selected going to a movie. So we closed out the weekend seeing Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them. The girls are all way into the Harry Potter universe, S has been watching the movies, and I’m four books into the series myself. The girls liked the new movie a lot. I thought it was pretty solid. I liked how it blends some of the elements of classic comic book-based movies with the Potter/fantasy world. I’m interested to see where the series goes.

There was a lot of lying around and watching TV, reading, and brief visits from friends and family sprinkled into the break as well. Despite the usual stresses and annoyances, it was a pretty good holiday weekend.

A 30 Year Tradition

I realized a few weeks back that this year is the 30th anniversary of my all-time favorite TV episode, Cheer’s “Thanksgiving Orphans,” which first aired on November 27, 1986. I taped the show that night and held onto that tape for years. Somewhere along the way the tape either gave out or I lost it. I recorded it again sometime in the late 90s or early 00s, and it became an integral part of my Thanksgiving celebration. The year we found ourselves without a VCR, I sprung for the Cheers season five DVD collection. Every year in November I say to myself that I’m going to revisit that entire season. Every year, I watch just the one episode.

My love of the episode has become a bit of a running joke for those of you who follow me on Facebook. I usually make an announcement that I’ve poured myself a nice distilled beverage and am about to put the DVD in. Some years I post a few of my favorite lines. One year I “live blogged” my viewing, sharing roughly half of the show.

It’s always been something I’ve done on my own, though. S watched it a few times in the early years we were together. But although she finds the show funny, she doesn’t have the enthusiasm for it that I do. So she’s let me enjoy it in solitude.

This year, though, I’ve decided to bump up my viewing a few hours and will let the girls watch with me. They’ve never seen Cheers before, so are coming in blind. I told them this afternoon that it was my favorite show when I was growing up, we drove by the location it was based on when we were in Boston, and there’s a big food fight. That got them interested.

I’ve always thought my love of “Thanksgiving Orphans” was unique. When I remembered this was the 30th anniversary, I went searching for articles about the show. I found the three I’m sharing below. I was pleased to learn that I’m not the only person who thinks it is likely the best episode of one of the great shows of all time, and stands on its own as one of the finest half hours of comedy.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

A Cheers family Thanksgiving ends in a big mess

Summer sitcom rewind: ‘Cheers’ – ‘Thanksgiving Orphans’

Food Fight! The Messy True Story Behind the Classic ‘Cheers’ Episode, ‘Thanksgiving Orphans’


Saturday evening we were on our way to dinner and my phone kept chirping, notifying me of incoming text messages. A couple college friends and I had been texting about random life stuff before we left home, and that thread continued as we drove. My wife asked, “Is your team playing?” Usually if I’m getting a stream of texts that means a game is going on. I shook my head and answered, “No, they played last night…Well, they’re playing football right now, but that’s not what we’re texting about.”

I know, I know: typical KU fan.

Oddly enough, while we were in the car, KU got a pick-six and kicked a field goal and took a 10–7 lead over Texas. As my two buddies I was texting with both live in Texas – one in Austin – the conversation had turned to football, something I didn’t learn until we had parked at our restaurant of choice.

Fortunately we were home in time for me to see KU tie the game in the closing seconds of regulation, get an interception to start overtime, and then kick the game-winner to get the biggest win for the program since beating Missouri in the 2008 season.

That’s right, beating a crappy Texas team that’s about to fire its coach is field-rushing, goal post yanking worthy win for KU football. Make fun if you want, but I think the reaction to beating a name team that doesn’t measure up to its name these days was entirely appropriate. And I think this was a huge win.

Not because it’s some marker that the program has taken a leap from utterly awful to possibly mediocre. But, rather, this win means there’s no pressure to nuke things, fire the coach, and start over again. Which, believe it or not, I think a certain portion of the KU fanbase was starting to think was the way to go.

That’s mostly because in some small ways, KU doesn’t appear to have made progress. There are far too many silly errors in games that seem to result from coaching errors. Calling a time out then coming out and false starting. Calling a time out and then pooch punting. Guys who have shown, time and again, that they are incapable of hanging onto the ball getting chance after chance.

I’m not saying blaming David Beatty and his coaching staff was correct. You have to look at what they’re working with. Sometimes option A isn’t that great, and there is no option B. When a program has sunk as low as KU’s has, sometimes you just have to suck it up and take the extra pain as you try to turn things around.

Still, though, there were questions about whether Beatty is the right guy for the job. And those questions haven’t been completely answered by one game. Beating Texas means that there’s not going to be a snap decision at the end of this season. I think Beatty, or whoever was hired to replace Charlie Weis two years ago, had to be given at least four years to bring some life to the program. The downward spiral that began with the controversial loss to Colorado in Mark Mangino’s final season was going to take a long time to pull out of. Hell, KU may never pull out of it. But starting over again after two years would be the worst possible decision.

Beatty needed something to build on. He’s got a few good, young kids in the program. Clint Bowen has done a fantastic job with the defense. They should have beaten TCU. They could have beaten Iowa State. Beating Texas doesn’t mean they’re going to go out and sign a bunch of five-star guys this February. But, even though Texas is shitty right now, Beatty has something he can take to the kids he can sign and say, “Look what can happen here.”

I thought Beatty was a good hire simply because of his history with the KU program. He had coached in Lawrence twice before, once during the Mangino era. He willingly came back. He could tell recruits, “Hey, it’s going to be tough, but we can win at KU. I’ve seen it happen.” There is some weight to his recruiting pitch that a coach who had no history with the program could offer.[1]

I do have concerns about whether he’s going to be a great head coach. But I’m still holding my judgment until he can get more talent to work with. If he is still making head-scratching decisions when he has talent to line up against average D1 teams, then it will be time to reconsider. But not now, when the program is just barely above rock bottom.

Beating Texas is a win that’s going to look a lot better in the media guide 10 years from now than it does today. Still, it just might be that spark that finally gives KU football a little momentum down the path toward respectability again.

So, Rock Chalk, bitches.

  1. Bowen, who was interim coach after Weis was fired, played at KU, and has spent almost his whole coaching career there, can offer that same weight.  ↩