Don't Kill The Mellinger

Columnist Sam Mellinger's thoughts on sports and other important stuff

Twitter Tuesday: Football season, ghosts of Royals past, Michael Sam, Besler and Zusi in KC

07/22/2014 8:11 AM

07/22/2014 10:27 AM

You probably know that, for the most part, the NFL shuts down between minicamps and the beginning of training camp. You know the way junior high kids look forward to summer break? That’s sort of the way a lot of football people look at those three or four or five or however-many-they-can-squeeze-in weeks.

The ones who’ve achieved a certain level of success have homes they keep in great places around the country like Nantucket or Newport Beach. Most of them try to spend as much time as possible with family, whether that’s Disney World or the North Carolina mountains or a cabin up north where the cell phone service is perfectly terrible.

These men, for the most part, love what they do so turning it completely off is impossible. They’ll check texts and emails during quiet moments, make sure to go to the top of the hill to check voicemails once a day, and find their minds wandering to new schemes or new opportunities or cap space or contract clauses even when there’s a beautiful sunset in front of them and a cold beer in their hand.

This week, then, is the unofficial (but official) start of football season for them. It is around the clock, all-consuming, you’re-lucky-to-sneak-out-for-a-haircut kind of hectic now.

So for the men who live and die and make their money in the NFL, this is it. They’re like groundhogs, in some ways, mostly hidden behind their work now and will pop back up when the season is over.

I’m headed to St. Joe this morning, and that still seems a little weird. Like it’s still minicamp. This isn’t football season yet, not for me, not when it’s still shells and practice pads and all the helmets have the same logo.

For me, the start of football season has always been marked, in order of chronology if not importance, the Hall of Fame game (next Sunday), my fantasy draft (I’m not convinced enough that it’s football season yet to check the date), and when our football section prints (I haven’t yet accepted that this is actually happening).

Of course, I’m well aware that many of you know it’s football season by when you check out of the Royals season.

So, if that’s the case, good morning to those of you now focused on football.

This week’s eating recommendation is the bread pudding french toast at Beer Kitchen, and the reading recommendation is Dan Wetzel on Tony Dungy’s stunning lack of courage.

As always, thanks for your help and thanks for reading.

Come on in, you big lug. We can get through this. Together.

Maybe.

Well, there was this, so, you know, something to keep an eye on. If there are banners flying over Kauffman Stadium soon, well, you’re welcome. Or sorry. Whatever. Either way.

There are any number of ways you can go with the Royals. Management. Manager. Culture. If the Royals don’t change their stripes — if an opportunity they may not even realize is slipping away continues to slip away — there will be so many different places to go with blame. Nearly all of them justified.

But major-league baseball is always about the players. They’re the ones who perform, or don’t. You can change managers to give those players a different voice, or change front offices to get new players in. You can change coaches, or coaching styles. You can change the flavor of Gatorade in the fridges or the protein content in the postgame spread, but none of it matters if the players don’t perform.

The Royals, so far, have not performed the way they should.

This is one of those questions that’s impossible to answer in the moment. Or, more accurately, impossible to answer in the moment with anything other than ARE YOU EFFING KIDDING ME OF COURSE IT’S RIGHT NOW HOLY CRAP DID YOU SEE THE GAME ON FRIDAY?????

But I also know that the Royals fan base of 1996 or 2002 or 2004 or 2006 or 2008 or 20-you-get-the-point spent a lot of time BEGGING to be let down by a .500 team. If this was a movie, the fan of today would be visited by ghosts of fans past who would scold the fan of today.

You complain about your manager, well, WE had a manager who spent the pregames riding his unicycle around the warning track and asking to get a picture taken with opposing players.

You complain about your draft picks not developing, well, WE once ran out of money to sign picks after the fifth round or so and then, when we had money for the first-round guys, blew it on Colt Griffin.

You complain about your offense, well, WE once batted Ruben Mateo cleanup and promptly got shutout for three straight games. No, seriously. THREE STRAIGHT GAMES!!!

Again, you get the point. None of this is a defense of the disappointment this season is shaping into. But this is more like being stuck in a traffic jam when you’re running late for a meeting you can’t be late to, which sucks, but you have air conditioning in your car and a decade ago you were walking on the hot asphalt with everything you own in a duffel bag.

You need to take this in steps, and fair warning, if you click here at work you’re going to want some headphones:

Embrace the hurt with Adele, get angry with Alanis Morissette, and then get your swag back with 2Pac.

They have not, despite her nails lineup, and here I’d like to thank the Glass family for understanding our son needs his mother around.

He’s as obsessed with my child’s growth as I am.

It’s the Royals. I appreciate that the standards you’re using here are slanted away from baseball — the soccer team has to WIN a very tough tournament, the football team has to win a playoff game, and the baseball team just has to make the playoffs — but it’s the Royals.

A lot of this is because to get to the playoffs, the Royals will have played at least a few weeks’ worth of intense, anticipated, every-pitch-matters baseball that will encapsulate the city in a way that I don’t think a lot of people around here understand.

I understand that in realistic terms, Sporting winning the CONCACAF Champions League is the greatest accomplishment on the list. I also understand that there are more Chiefs fans around than Royals fans.

But the Chiefs have had some success, and the losing has become such a part of the identity of Royals fans that to get to the playoffs here would be something like a tectonic shift. We’ve talked about this before, but the decades of losing mean that lesser accomplishments mean a bit more here, and for every whiny complaint from the Royals about getting more love outside of Kansas City than inside, there is no place in baseball where a playoff appearance would mean more.

That’s the tradeoff you make when you work for the Royals.

Awesome. That’s the spirit. Let’s do this!

Dwayne Bowe getting in shape. I heard from a league talent evaluator the other day who said Bowe "was a fatass" last year, and while that’s a bit harsh, he was certainly slow and unproductive after signing that huge contract.

The Chiefs were very frustrated by this, no matter how much Andy Reid talked about Bowe’s blocking, and made it clear that they expected much more than 673 yards and five touchdowns for what they’re paying. The message was certainly helped by the nature of NFL contracts, that it will be much easier for the Chiefs to walk away from Bowe after this season than last.

Either way, Bowe has listened. He’s in terrific shape, by all accounts quicker on his feet than a year ago, and stands to benefit from a full year of Reid’s complicated-but-proven system.

Now, obviously, the best-shape-of-his-life thing is as played out around sports as the wave and in-stadium marriage proposals^. But the Chiefs are, shall we say, receiver-deficient, so this is something they need to turn out.

^ Just a reminder, if your friend starts the wave or proposes to his girlfriend at a game, you are free to slap him right across his unimaginative face. Unless he’s in the military. Those guys can do whatever they want.

No matter what you think about the defensive backs or the offensive line or Jamaal Charles’ career arc, it’s really hard to imagine the Chiefs even making it to .500 this year without Bowe being much better than he was a year ago.

I think I’d see if Bill Self would go on camera to say something nice about Charlie.

I know there are challenges with coaching football at KU. I know Charlie took over a tough situation. I know that KU has stumbled with football in a hundred ways that have nothing to do with Charlie, but I also know that he’s a quarterback guru with two straight hand-picked failures at quarterback and an offensive mastermind whose three-win team ranked 120th in scoring last year.

So, yeah. I’d see if I could get Bill Self on camera to talk about football.

Guys, if you haven’t seen it, here:

Just incredible. The grace. The depth. The message. The support. Absolutely phenomenal. You make a good point, too, because if Sam was just another run-of-the-mill straight guy, we’d be talking about a nobody two-star recruit who worked his way into the SEC co-defensive player of the year award and the NFL draft. We’d be talking about the kid from a nowhere town in Texas, with three dead siblings and two brothers in jail.

There is an amazing book to be done here, and when it’s done, I hope Sam allows the whole story to be told, too, not the we-all-held-hands-and-kumbaya version that’s usually pushed.

Vahe’s mentioned this a few times, but it wasn’t all smooth with Sam’s announcement. And that’s OK. That’s expected. The way Sam and Mizzou managed their way through that is a testament to both sides.

There’s no way to know for sure, of course. Probably. I guess. The competition is generally better in other parts of the world, so you’d think that more experience against bigger midfielders would help Zusi the way that more experience against faster forwards would help Besler.

I mean, that makes sense. The logic is sound. Tim Howard in the EPL is a good argument.

But I don’t know that it’s that simple. Or that it makes a significant difference. MLS is improving. The gap between here and there is shrinking, even if it’s shrinking slowly. Playing for Sporting and in MLS hasn’t held them back so far. They’ve developed just fine.

I wrote about this before, but neither guy had a bad decision to make. They were going to make a lot of money playing a game they love against very good competition. If it was me, it would come down to where I would be happiest. If that’s the way they approached it, then they couldn’t make a bad decision.

Obviously it’s great for Sporting and for Kansas City that they’re staying. I think the proclamations about this being a momentous thing for soccer in America are a bit premature, but I guess we’ll see.

I’m on the side of good food and great friends, being happy with your work, learning how to fix things on your own, finding something you’re passionate about and giving your time and heart, smoking a mound of pulled pork and making sandwiches out of it all week (add peppers), good beer and great jokes, fast internet connections and technology that makes life easier, pay-at-the-pump, self-deprecating humor, making fun of your friends, live music outside on summer nights, fires and whisky on winter nights, pistachios, avocados, steaks on the grill, corn on the cob, sugar cones, and the kind of pickup basketball where everyone passes and nobody thinks they’re in the NBA.

This week’s Knoda:

 

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