Another weekend where I was super busy and I watched hardly any football. Perhaps I should just call these weekend wrap ups rather than football reviews. So we’ll knock the football out first and move on to what else I did this weekend after.

A very disappointing weekend for the Jayhawks. I was working Saturday night, so I was only home in time to see the last 20-25 minutes of the game. Because of that, I can sit here and type that the referees cost us the game. I missed the two turnovers deep in our own territory that lead to 14 CU points. I missed four of the five CU sacks. I missed the o-line sucking big time in the first half. I just saw, for the second time in four years, us lose a game because of a shitty offensive interference call. Argh. If it happened every year, I’d think we were cursed. But since there was a four-year gap between the calls, I think it’s just bad luck. Of course, both times the defender initiated contact with the KU receiver that was flagged. And you can call a pick on every pass play but save it to wipe off the potential game-winning touchdown. Whatever.

Initially I was quick to blame the defense again. After all, you give up that many points to a crappy CU team, the defense has struggled all year, it must be their fault. Turns out the defense didn’t play that poorly, and the coaching staff made some serious personnel changes, moving guys from offense – notably Bradley McDougald – inserting another true freshman to the line up, and even pulling a red shirt to get another kid on the field. So they get points for trying.

Regardless of where the blame lies, that was a shitty loss. Nebraska picks up an unexpected, bad loss earlier in the day. Missouri, playing at the same time as KU, picks up their second conference loss. The math was turning KU’s way; they just had to hold court in their north games and would likely win the division even with three losses. But they pissed that away in a way that doesn’t inspire confidence for the remainder of the season. A win at Tech is almost unimaginable now.* Seven wins seems like the ceiling now, and even that is going to take some work.

(Doesn’t it seem like Mike Leach just grabs some guy who was throwing the ball around the park, gives him a week of practice, and next thing he’s going 46-62, 500 yards, six TDs?)

But when was the last time a conference foe other than Missouri* rushed the field after beating KU in football? I guess we have that going for us. Which is nice.

<em>* And those Mizzou fans were generally more concerned with matching the KU fans who had pulled down goalposts the year before, who were trying to match Mizzou fans from the year before, who… </em>

My only other big football experience over the weekend was listening to the second half of the USC – Notre Dame game while driving to the soccer game I was covering Saturday evening. Don Criqui is the radio voice of the Irish, and his voice always brings back memories of Oklahoma or Nebraska playing a team from the south on New Year’s night at the Orange Bowl. I was ready to talk about his willingness to toe the party line and push Jimmy Clausen for the Heisman. It seemed like he called every pass that Clausen made “phenomenal.” It was kind of sickening. Then, when USC had the ball, every play they made was “phenomenal” as well. I guess he just likes that word.

I kind of like living in a world when Big 12 teams rush the field when they beat Kansas and Notre Dame is pleased to have hung close to a top ten team. Not as good as the last time I went to Notre Dame, when they lost to Air Force and KU won that night to go 9-0. But still pretty good.

Two quick NFL thoughts. Has there been a more popular 0-5 team in NFL history, at least to betters, than the Chiefs? I don’t bet, but even I thought about dropping some money on the Chiefs to get off the schnide over Washington. Everyone saw it coming, so is it really an upset?

Also, I did get to watch parts of the New England – Tennessee game. That was good, old fashioned football, and a fine day to break out the AFL throwbacks. Football in snow = awesome. Did I really pick Tennessee to win the division? Yikes.

OK, what did I do this weekend? Friday, I covered a state quarterfinal tennis match. It was the team I covered a couple weeks back, who happened to be the defending state champions. Because of weather conditions (cold, rainy), the matches were moved to an indoor facility. But, that meant rather than play the three singles and two doubles matches concurrently, they had to be staggered, as only three courts were available. Thus, a match that should have taken about 90 minutes lasted for nearly four hours. Even though we were inside, it wasn’t terribly warm. And the team I was covering won the first three individual matches, making the last two pointless. The next day in the state finals, one player forfeited his match when his team clinched the championship. I wish someone had done that Friday, as well.

Anyway, my team won and advanced to play the next day, where they lost to the eventual state champions. The coach can be rather prickly and it was fun to stand and wait for my turn to interview him while the reporter from a competing paper, who didn’t know the coach, asked questions. The reporter got on the coach’s nerves quickly and he began making fun of the reporter’s questions. Fortunately, I’ve interviewed the coach a few times and he must have approved of my stories, because while he was ripping the other guy, he would roll his eyes at me and give me knowing looks. The big bonus was the other reporter had no idea that there had been a lineup change due to illness, and left that out of his story. My story, on the other hand, focused on that change and what it meant for the team. I got over on the big media guys!

Saturday evening, as I said, I covered a soccer match, a regional final. Again, the same team I covered last weekend, and the same one I followed last year when they advanced to semi-state. They aren’t as strong this year, and were playing a team expected to compete for the state title. It ended up being a very exciting game, with my guys losing 2-1. After the game I interviewed one of the senior captains. He was great. He had tears in his eyes, having played his final high school soccer game, but gave me great, intelligent, useful answers. The best part was after I thanked him for his time, he thanked me and said, “Have a nice evening, Sir.” Good kid.

That’s one of my favorite parts about covering high school sports. Every now and then you’ll talk to a kid or coach that have an attitude,* but more often than not they’re very helpful and appreciative of you being there. Nearly every coach I’ve interviewed this year has thanked me for coming to the game and writing about his team. And most of the kids show that we live in a media-saturated age. They’re able to offer cogent thoughts after games, rather than just speak in cliches. Well, some of them are. I guess I do get a lot of “We’re taking it one game at a time, we’re just happy to be here, and the good Lord willing, we’ll come out on top” type answers. But it’s better than the “Ummms” and “You knows” you kind of expect from high school kids.

(I will admit one of my favorite kids to interview is a tennis player who has a serious attitude. He almost always disparages the other team in some way and comes across as very cocky and self-centered. Another reporter told me that last year, this kid pulled against his school’s football team in the state playoffs because he didn’t want them taking attention away from his team’s state title. A few weeks ago, at sectionals, I heard his teammates quietly pleased when he lost a match. At the same time, he’s a smart kid and once you get him talking, offers lots of excellent comments. If he was in college, I’d print some of his more cocky statements, but since it is high school tennis, I give him a break.)

So now we’ve come to the end, more or less, of the fall sports season. I don’t expect more than two of our schools to get through the first week of football playoffs. Most of the other sports have been eliminated. Thus, things should slow down until basketball starts in mind-November. This is the most I’ve worked during fall sports season, and I think it shows. My interviews are better. My stories are better. In football, I’ve got the stats side down. And, most importantly, the writing is coming easier. With the stat-side being easier, I can focus more on the plays within a game that I’ll need to write about, prepping my story as the game progresses. When I did a Friday football game a week ago, I had my story filed at 10:17, nearly 30 minutes before deadline and the earliest I’ve ever filed. It was probably my best football story, too. I’m hoping that confidence and comfort carry over to basketball season.