A Kansas State football player told his teammates and then the world that he is gay and there has been plenty written about this already, including this predictably thoughtful piece from Vahe.
The point I’d like to add is not about those who’ve embraced Scott Frantz’s courage, but about those who are uncomfortable with it.
Because you know they exist. There is a 100 percent certainty that one or more of his teammates and coaches are uncomfortable or worse with Frantz coming out. Also, there is a 100 percent certainty that a high school kid somewhere — football player or not — is feeling the same thing and mentally wrecked about how to handle it.
Ten or even five years ago, that teammate may have felt emboldened to shame or freeze out Frantz. Ten or even five years ago, that high school kid would have precious few reasons to believe he might be accepted by peers or even authority figures.
Going one step further, there is a 100 percent certainty that 10 or five years ago there was a kid just like Frantz, who struggled with those same feelings, and felt the best choice was to keep it trapped inside — to effectively hide who he is.
That has all changed by now, and if you think about where things were in recent history, it’s a change that’s both long overdue and that’s come on with rapid speed.
Very soon, there will another player like Frantz, and he will treat revealing his sexuality the way he would revealing his favorite meal or hometown. It will simply not be a big deal, to him or the vast majority of his teammates and the public.
Some of us are already there. Some of us don’t think this is a big deal now, or at least that it shouldn’t be a big deal.
The reaction of Frantz’s teammates and the general reaction of the public shows we’re moving toward that point.
This is what progress looks like.
This week’s reading recommendation is David Waldstein on The Exciting Life and Lonely Death of a Basketball Vagabond, and the eating recommendation is all the tacos at In-A-Tub. Sometimes I forget how delicious that place is.
This is almost surely meant as a joke, and I am here to tell you one of my favorite parts of Twitter is the sarcastic overreaction to any singular moment of a season in which 162 games take up some 500 hours of our lives every year.
But because Alcides Escobar is apparently indestructible, he will probably be back in the lineup, the day after taking a hard baseball off his wrist.
But this will be the last Minutes before the trade deadline — I’m off next week — so I want to say one more time the most likely outcome for the Royals is something close to standing pat.
I know they are pursuing upgrades all over the roster, including a recently focused search for a bat, but they don’t have a lot of capital to offer in a trade and the market has more buyers than sellers.
So any major trade is going to be fundamentally difficult, not to mention some bigger reasons for the Royals not to empty out their farm system.
Think about the last three years of the Royals approaching the trade deadline. In 2015, they had the best team in the American League. They were young, hungry, terrific, and felt relatively sure that they would win the division and earn at least one playoff series. Going for it made a lot of sense then, so they unloaded four pitching prospects for Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist.
In 2014 and 2016, they monitored the market, but didn’t do anything substantial. At least part of that is the balance of not wanting to significantly cut down the future for what might be — if things go right — a one-game wild-card playoff.
The arithmetic is a little different this year, because so many of the best players are set for free-agency, but that only matters if the Royals are considering a sellers’ trade. And as long as they’re within a good weekend of a playoff spot, I can’t see them doing a sellers’ trade.
I know we’re going to get into this a little more, but the inconvenient truth is that the most likely scenario has always been that the Royals don’t do a major trade before the deadline, and miss the playoffs.
This is nuanced, and subjective, but I happen to believe this is also the smartest approach for the Royals. They don’t have the infrastructure to be major buyers, and if they’re on the fringe of a playoff spot they can’t be major sellers.
Some of this is the result of a bigger plan to attempt what I believe to be an impossible walk of the tightrope: to rebuild while winning while limiting payroll.
Hahahahahaha look at Andrew over here, you guys, trying to get me to explain something that can’t really be explained.
You probably saw that the Panthers went all hold-my-beer on the Chiefs and fired their general manager on Monday, so maybe we’ve had this all wrong the whole time. Maybe Clark Hunt is the NFL’s trendsetter, you guys.
I do believe that promoting Veach was the right move, and I say that as someone who has never spoken to him, only knows what I’ve heard from some who know him, and am basing this all on the assumption that the bizarre timing undercut the Chiefs’ ability to hire the best outside candidate.
I have my last vacation of the year next week, so I’m going to miss the long anticipated end of Clark Hunt’s silence, and maybe he has a good reason he’ll share for all of this. But he’s had nearly a month now to take 30 minutes out of his day for a conference call, and until I hear the reason, it’s hard not to see this as a man who has always talked about stability firing his successful GM at the first whiff of stability.
I do want to make one thing clear, and you guys know this but here goes anyway: Veach’s success or failure at the job should be completely detached from Hunt’s unexpected firing of Dorsey.
Unless the upheaval has in some way poisoned the working environment of the front office — and it’s hard to believe that — Veach shouldn’t have to worry about any burden from taking over for his old boss.
There is a lot to like in what people say about him, and in some ways he could be seen as Dorsey 2.0. He comes in with a strong relationship with Reid, a good reputation as an evaluator, and if the hindsight criticisms of Dorsey’s communication habits are valid, an upgrade in the type of office workflow minutiae that can be so important.
Veach inherits a terrific situation. It’s as much of a turnkey roster as can be possible in the NFL, and a perennially brutal cap situation can be fixed if Pat Mahomes is good enough for the Chiefs to cut Alex Smith and save $17 million on the 2018 cap.
If the Chiefs were right about Mahomes — and I’ll have more on this, but don’t believe anyone who says Dorsey forced Mahomes on Reid — then Veach also has his quarterback of the future on a rookie deal. There is nothing more valuable in the NFL than a good quarterback on his rookie deal.
So this is a bit of strange situation. Hunt has turned a stable front office into an unstable one, but he’s done it in a moment in history his franchise is otherwise extremely stable.
So maybe this was the right time.
We’re all guessing.
This is like a lot of seasons for the Chiefs. They could go to the Super Bowl with the right breaks, but that’s a list long enough that they remain behind the Patriots and Steelers, at least.
There are a hundred interesting things about this season, some of them interesting in a soap opera sort of way, and some of them interesting in an actual football sort of way.
The quarterback situation is mostly soap opera, at least unless Alex Smith gets hurt, but that will be there the whole time. The bizarre GM firing is there, Jeremy Maclin is not, Tyreek Hill’s encore, Derrick Johnson’s return, Justin Houston’s health, Marcus Peters’s existence, on and on it goes.
I took roughly 90 seconds and went through the schedule when it came out, and I believe I came up with 10-6, which was disappointing because that’s pretty much chalk at this point.
I will say the more I watch Bennie Logan the more I like him, and the more I think about the run defense the less terrified I am for the Chiefs’ chances. I believe the offensive line will continue to improve, that Hill could actually be better this season (as a receiver, probably not as a returner) and that if Houston is actually for real serious this time healthy for 16 games he is one of the best five defensive players in football.
So there’s room to grow at the top here, even as a dark possibility swims just below the surface — Smith gets hurt, Mahomes plays too early, is overwhelmed, the front office brain drain shows up earlier than expected and a 7-9 season means the Bills get the 12th overall pick from the Chiefs.
I don’t think that’s going to happen.
But it’s there.
I’m just not convinced that Texas is gone.
Texas is in the Big 12 for one simple reason: the Big 12 is the best fit for Texas’ self-interests.
As long as that’s the case, Texas will be in the Big 12, and the Big 12 will continue to exist. I don’t know the realistic scenario in which all of that ceases to be the case.
Why would Texas want out of the Big 12 right now? It gets to keep the biggest chunk of money, enjoying a financial edge over its conference rivals that would be vastly lessened in another league. The Big 12 represents Texas’ clearest path to the College Football Playoff, which is the most important factor in all of this.
I suppose they could go independent at some point, but the Big 12 provides — laugh track — some stability in scheduling and the school knows if it goes 11-1 or better it’ll be in the playoff.
If Texas is not in the Big 12 at the end of the Grant of Rights, the most likely scenario to me is that the Big 12 and other Power Five (plus Notre Dame) schools are rolled into four super conferences or some other format that abolishes conference composition as we know it today.
Bob Bowlsy said a lot here at Big 12 football media days. He used the term “deep dive” about 62 times, talked about sexual assaults on campuses, and spoke a ballad to Bob Stoops’ career.
He also said, at least twice, that the Big 12 is the strongest conference in the country top to bottom, in terms of balance. This is patently ridiculous, whether you look at the top* or the bottom**.
* Big 12 schools are 0-1 in three years of the College Football Playoff.
** Kansas has won three conference games in the last six years.
Bowlsby is a smart and capable man but there are some jobs that just demand you’re going to end up saying something silly, and that includes anyone paid real American currency to promote the Big 12 as anything other than the fifth of the Power Five conferences.
None of this has to be permanent. The Big 12 has had some very well-documented problems keeping players home, particularly in Texas, and the league is in a rotten cycle in putting guys in the NFL draft.
The most obvious explanation is losing Texas A&M, which opened the state’s recruiting to SEC schools like never before.
I do believe the league has some real fundamental problems, particularly when Oklahoma and Texas aren’t great. Those are the two schools with the infrastructure to be consistent national championship contenders, and both have new coaches, and Texas has been underperforming basically from Colt McCoy’s graduation.
This is real. K-State, Oklahoma State, TCU and if you squint enough West Virginia have proven they can compete at a national level from time to time. Baylor has been there, too, though I think it’s fair to want to see them prove they can get back with the shameful scandals of the last few years.
But on a national level, the league is going to be a national force based on the success or failure of Texas and Oklahoma. This is a critically important season for both, and by extension, the league.
Well, you’re not going to like this but Alex Gordon is actually averaging $18 million per year, and he gets a raise from $16 million this year to $20 million in each of the next two.
The biggest contract in franchise history is, at the moment, also objectively the worst.
In the first 208 games of a $72 million contract, Gordon batted .209 with a .303 on-base and .348 slugging percentage. That’s a .650 OPS.
It’s actually hard to come up with a list of regular hitters who’ve performed that poorly, because most of the time they don’t get to be regular hitters if they perform that poorly. Mark Teixeira retired after a .654 OPS last year. David Lough had a .655 OPS in 2016 and is in the minor leagues.
So maybe it’s more effective to mention there are five pitchers with 30 or more plate appearances the last two years with a higher OPS than Gordon.
I don’t know why he’s struggling this much. If I did, no offense, but I probably would not be doing Kansas City’s favorite weekly sports journalism gimmick here.
I can believe any number of theories: a wrist injury that robbed him of his effectiveness, which by now with a healthy wrist has robbed him of his confidence; he’s trying to live up to the contract; he’s failed to adjust to his body as it ages; he’s not adapting to the way teams are now pitching him.
There are a lot of theories, and a lot of them ring at least a little true to me, but none of them explain everything to me.
He had been hitting better for a while, but now is in another slump: .148 with eight strikeouts and one extra base hit in his last eight games.
I don’t have any answers for this. I’m just a guy with a gimmick here.
The chance of failure always exists, but should not by itself be a repellant to the pursuit of success.
That is as clearly as I know how to say it in one sentence.
I come to this topic as a proponent of tanking, as someone who believes the best and most efficient way for teams like the Royals to eventually win is to first lose. Ballplayers (rightfully) treat this as pure business, and I think teams should usually do the same. Sell too early rather than too late, when you can.
All of that said, I do not know how the Royals could sell off their best players when they’re the right few days away from a playoff spot.
We talked a little bit about this on the Border Patrol, but it’s peculiar to me that Royals fans in 2017 could be hesitant about going for it with a team on the fringes of playoff contention.
On July 18, 2014, the Royals lost in Boston and fell to 48-47. They were in a tie for second place in the division, 6 1/2 games back of Detroit, and one of four teams that were 2 1/2 back of Seattle for the second wild card.
It did not look good, is what I’m saying.
That team, you may remember, came within one swing of winning the World Series.
The genius of Bud Selig’s double wild-card format is that most teams are one hot streak from the postseason, and once you’re there, you’re probably on relatively equal footing.
The point of trading veterans for prospects is that you will someday have a chance to make the playoffs, so why would you throw away a chance at the playoffs now to trade away veterans?
I understand the risk, and again, I think I lean more toward trading and tanking than virtually anyone involved in the running of a major league baseball franchise.
Even today, the Royals still have some time before they should and need to make this final decision. They have 12 games before the trade deadline.
If they go 2-9 or something, sure, let’s have that conversation. But at the moment, they are just three games out of the division and two games back in the wild card.
Why not go for it?
It’s true that you risk making the rebuild more difficult, but the needs of now should outweigh the needs of tomorrow as long as the playoffs remain a realistic possibility.
One thing people don’t talk about much is that the downside of getting this decision wrong isn’t as steep as it used to be. The Royals should expect to get at least two and perhaps as many as four compensation picks for pending free agents Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain and Jason Vargas.
That’s not nothing, and teams have generally shown themselves less willing to surrender big packages of prospects for two-month rentals. Again, generally, the biggest packages go for proven big leaguers with multiple years of club control remaining.
The best local example of that is the Zack Greinke trade, and the best recent example is the trade that sent Jose Quintana from the White Sox to the Cubs.
So, I guess what I’m saying is one of the worst things to say in 2017 and particularly 2017 sports: I don’t think it’s entirely fair to judge the decision based solely on the result.
Because if the Royals are two games out of a playoff spot with two months to play, with a team full of guys who’ve proved they can make a second half push, and perform once in the postseason, the possibility absolutely exists that they could still miss the playoffs.
But that wouldn’t mean going for it was a mistake.
Baseball, followed by basketball.
The culture of baseball is standing around the batting cage, telling stories of old stars and funny moments and sharing secrets. It is also the most quantifiable sport in many ways, but also one that requires an understanding of nuance.
A good baseball writer has to be fluent in both languages — the stats and the scouts. You can write books every year and stories everyday by understanding one of the languages, but if you can jump back and forth between the two you can unlock the sport in the best ways.
Baseball players are used to having reporters around, and are, usually, willing and proficient in at least answering the questions (even the dumb ones). I’ve found that scouts and executives, for the most part, are often genuinely helpful in hopes of increasing the understanding of their sport.
Basketball has a lot of these same traits. It’s a fairly open culture, with the added bonus of a greater acceptance of personalities. There aren’t as many players on a team, which means fewer starting points for a story, but I have a feeling that if Kansas City had an NBA team I’d enjoy covering it as much as baseball.
Soccer is great for its global nature. Baseball likes to think of itself this way, but soccer really is the world’s game. There are so many cultures, so many socioeconomic groups that are tied together with soccer. It is the sport of rich kids and poor, of church kids and hustlers.
I meant what I said about moments in football, but soccer isn’t far behind. The best goals require a symphony of movement that is both practiced and improvised, and the right harmony can give a stadium of thousands the best moment of their week. I know painting with broad strokes is flawed, but soccer players tend to be aware and eloquent in a different way.
Football’s culture is that everything is a state secret. Coaches can be paranoid, players scared of their paranoid coaches, scouts and executives careful not to say too much. It’s a hard sport to quantify statistically. This makes for a difficult sport to cover.
There are parts of writing about football that are more enjoyable than any other. Capturing a specific moment in football is unlike any other, because of all the moving parts, the suddenness, the preparation, the strategy, and the difference that one moment can make in a game and season.
Football is — and this is just an objective fact, not an opinion — by far the best sport to rewatch. There is so much strategy, so much philosophy, so many things happening at once.
Football is probably my favorite sport to watch, but you didn’t ask about that. And it can be hard to write about something when the people involved so often seem intent on not talking about it.
Well, sure, but I don’t think it’s just because of the way Tuesday played out — though that was a fairly incredible result.
Sporting will be host to the Open Cup semifinal and potential championship match, and are currently in first in the West (though Dallas has two matches in hand and is just one point back).
The key for Sporting, same now as it’s ever been, is to convert the scoring chances it creates.
I know that’s overly simplistic, but the defense and Tim Melia have been so good they don’t need to be more than middle of the pack in goals.
It’s a confident group that’s playing its best soccer of the season. I tend to think about it in these terms, too: what if you’re the other team?
Who do you want to play?
Who do you want to avoid?
I think I’d want to avoid a team that gives up less than a goal per game, and has one of the league’s better goal scorers at the top of an offense that can score through different styles.
Oh, man, I haven’t given this a bit of thought until the moments I’m typing these words but of course it would be different.
I assume we’re keeping this to baseball, because the emotional part of it is somehow both impossible to articulate and fairly self-evident.
But if you want to look at it in this sense, it is true that the Royals are looking for a fifth starter at the deadline. They signed Jason Hammel as a direct reaction to Ventura’s death, and so far are 4-14 in his starts.
This is unfair, for a lot of reasons, but they are 41-31 in all other games. Give them that win percentage over the whole season so far and they go from 45-45 to 51-39 — that’s the difference between two games back and four games up in the division.
Even if you just give the Royals .500 in those starts — they were 18-14 in his games last year, and 63-67 in the rest — they would have a one-game lead in the division.
This is an admittedly crude and cold way to look at it, but if I’m reading your question right, this is what you’re asking about.
On most days, you don’t hear Ventura’s name but I don’t think he’s ever more than a moment away from any of his teammates’ thoughts. After each of his 25 home runs this season, Mike Moustakas pounds the 30 patch on his arm. Ventura’s locker remains in the clubhouse.
Ventura was not a clubhouse leader, and if we’re honest, he caused way more drama over the last two years than anyone on the team wanted. They were consistently frustrated with him.
But they also loved him, and fought with him, and this has always been a team that’s operated best with love and fight.
Nobody can know how this season would be with him. He was said to be working harder than ever, and poised for the best season of his life. But his ERA went from 3.20 as a rookie to 4.08 his second year to 4.45 in 2016. Maybe it would’ve kept rising. Maybe he would’ve been injured.
Nobody will ever know.
But it’s hard not to think they’d be in a different place.
This is going to come off snarky, and I promise I don’t intend it that way, just honestly:
Could the Chiefs do less?
The presentation of the team is increasingly corporate and detached. The owner will go a full month from firing his general manager to answering any questions, and that’s only because he’ll be introducing the new general manager.
Players used to have radio shows, and they used to be in commercials, and they generally used to be more accessible for fans.
The 30,000-foot strategy now seems to be to remove personality from the promotion, to make it all about promoting the — buzzword alert — brand.
I am sure they have data to back this decision. Coaches and players will always change. The brand can remain consistent. The results on the field can’t be controlled, but a franchise can always promote the experience, and history.
That’s probably even truer for the Chiefs than most, because it’s such a historical franchise. There are Chiefs fans who remember Super Bowl IV, and raised their own children as Chiefs fans, and are now seeing their grandchildren raised as Chiefs fans. That’s a powerful thing, and I have not used the word tailgating until now.
So I certainly don’t fault the Chiefs for going this way. It’s the ultra-conservative plan for a franchise with an ultra-conservative owner in an ultra-conservative league. It makes a lot of sense.
But there are times as a fan you just want to know the owner is as emotionally invested as you. I actually believe Clark Hunt is as emotionally invested as anyone, but he has a hard time showing it.
I’ve always thought this about Lavar Ball: he is pursuing the wrong goal brilliantly.
It seems to me that many of the people who are angry at Ball are unaware of the game he’s playing, helping him win that game, or both.
Ball is out for attention, and cash from a shoe brand that may or may not ever be an actual thing.
Again, I believe this to be the wrong goal from a family and business standpoint. But if that’s what he’s after, yes, absolutely, he’s “won” a staggering amount of attention. If just sells just 2,000 pairs of shoes, at $500 each, that’s a million dollars.
And if at some point they decide to drop the idea of the family shoe brand, the same or perhaps even bigger offer from an established brand will surely be there.
He’s obnoxious, occasionally hilarious, and on point for what his goals seem to be.
Let me answer your question with a question.
Which will you do first: climb Mt. Everest on a bicycle, or drive a family sedan to Mars?
I was maybe 24 years old, covering the Missouri state tennis tournament, and as much as I’d like to say I forgot to pack sunscreen the truth is I probably never even considered packing sunscreen.
The pro move, of course, would’ve been to buy sunscreen, or stay inside as much as possible, or at least wear a dang hat or something. I did none of this. I stayed outside, all day, for two or three days that never saw a cloud or a temperature below 90.
By the last day, I remember my face feeling red and hot but dammit I had a job to do. That coverage of the high school state tennis meet wasn’t going to write itself, I drank some water and ignored the increasingly awkward looks from anyone I saw or talked to.
After all, a sunburn like Doug in “The Hangover” is simply one of many reasons to look at me awkwardly.
But the next day, I woke up with much of my skin having flaked off onto my pillow and face generally feeling like someone hit both cheeks with a frying pan.
There are few things in the world more emotionally and mentally debilitating than an atrocious sunburn. It legitimately limits your ability to do regular human things. Even sitting on a couch can hurt. Your stomach feels sick. And on top of that, you look like a massive fool.
Like, who doesn’t know that the sun exists, and that you should find shade when you can or sunscreen if you can’t?
Me, that’s who, this idiot who looks like he’s been painted with red magic marker.
So, yes. That was me. A crippling sunburn from covering high school tennis.
This week, I’m particularly grateful for a Kansas City man named Sean, who was our Uber driver home for my wife and I last weekend. We left a cell phone in his car, and he not only found it and reached out, but ignored my offers to meet him somewhere and instead drove it to my house. Such a nice thing to do.