Don't Kill The Mellinger

Twitter Tuesday: Eric Berry, cancer battles, gratitude, Alex Smith and Bill Snyder

Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry (29) walks off the field during the second half of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Denver.
Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry (29) walks off the field during the second half of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Denver. AP

The biggest thing of the Kansas City sports week is Eric Berry going to Atlanta to see if he has cancer.

I hope there are not many “this sure puts things in perspective” lines said around town, because I hope we don’t get so caught up in watching adults play kids games that we need a possible cancer diagnosis to snap us back into reality.

But, it is a hell of a thing to hear that a 25-year-old elite athlete may be facing a deadly disease in the middle of what should be his physical prime. Berry is an impressive man, football or not, and one of the things sports can provide is a platform or reminder of things that would otherwise go unnoticed by a lot of people.

It’s with that in mind that my mind tend to wander from stories like this to the ones we usually don’t hear about. A local man named Tim Grimes was diagnosed with Stage IV melanoma this year. His attitude, media attention and the Royals’ journey to the World Series helped bring his story to a wide audience, as well as drive donations to help with his fight against a grim diagnosis.

Tim’s is one of those stories that would otherwise go anonymous, with support from friends and family but mostly otherwise unknown. It’s people like that that I think about when hearing about a sad diagnosis like Berry’s.

I wish him the best, and am encouraged for him that he seems to be hitting this head-on with the kind of kick-ass attitude and waves of support that can hopefully bring cancer to its knees, if that’s what it is.

And I also think about the other 80,000 or so new lymphoma diagnoses that are expected this year, and the millions waging their own fights against awful diseases that we don’t hear about. They deserve our thoughts and support, just like Berry.

This week’s eating recommendation is the catfish at Lutfi’s, and the reading recommendation is Mark Anthony Green with Dave Chappelle.

As always, thanks for the help and thanks for reading. Let’s do it:

Thanksgiving is the best holiday of the year, and if you disagree with this and don’t have young children, chances are good that we would not be friends. Thanksgiving is low-pressure, you sit around and eat food and drink beer and make fun of the people you love while watching football. Honestly, if I could invent a holiday, I think this would be it. I would probably add some clause banning the subtle expectation of people to wear itchy sweaters, but those are the types of battles we must all fight on our own.

The theme of Thanksgiving hits home with me, a lot. I’m probably going to sound like a crotchety old man here, but I think it’s entirely too easy for us to get caught up in our day-to-day stresses and forget everything we should be grateful for. This is especially important as the Christmas commercial monster revs up and we see wish lists for silly things nobody needs, and the inevitable embarrassing stories about riots in and outside big box stores as people claw for cheap TVs and fad toys for their kids on Friday.

Joe owns the Thanksgiving beat, so I’m not going to get in on his turf, but these feelings of gratitude are stronger for me than ever in what I’m fairly certain is the best year of my life, both professionally and personally. My thoughtful and beautiful wife and I now have a baby boy who seems determined to bang everything in the house as hard as he can. I have a great family, awesome friends, an unbeatable chili recipe, and a hyper dog. This year, I got to help my friend Art Stewart write a book^ and cover the team I grew up cheering for end the continent’s longest playoff drought by going all the way to the seventh game of the World Series. Feeling anything other than gratitude right now would feel ridiculous.

^ Makes for a great gift!

We all have successes, both big and small. I know it’s corny, but I feel like it’s so easy to let the failures occupy our brain power. I adore the fact that we’ve set aside a day to do the opposite, all the while stuffing our faces.

The truth is that the Chiefs are both of those teams, and there is something informative in that description. They have proven good enough to beat anybody because they are smart, extremely well-coached, and have pieces and game plans that make their whole much greater than their sum.

But they have proven vulnerable enough to lose to anybody because they don’t have an overwhelming amount of talent, and that their game plans and executions typically ride on that razor’s edge. When the play calling works and the players do what they’re capable, they are a (beast) to play against. When the safety is caught of position — more on this later — they are inept and left trying to explain the unexplainable.

The NFL is one of the best places in the country for overreaction, but the thing that’s so easy to forget in the wake of losing to the craptastic Raiders is that there are no perfect teams. The NFL is week to week, every team trying to think of new ways to cover old weaknesses. One team’s success is the other team’s failure, and with only 16 games and (usually) six days between each, the failures become heated conversations.

To me, a team that blows out New England and beats Seattle is capable of winning in the playoffs. I had relatively low expectations for the Chiefs this year, but on the whole I’ve been much more impressed than disappointed.

Sometimes I think about how different the narrative on Alex Smith would be if the rest of the team (with a few notable exceptions) didn’t collapse in the playoff game after last season. Smith was terrific in that game, near flawless, and there are even people in the Chiefs’ building who will tell you his last throw to Cyrus Gray was in the perfect spot — that Gray screwed that up and turned it into an incompletion.

Shortly after he came to Kansas City, I wrote that Alex Smith would be the Chiefs’ best quarterback since Joe Montana. That’s faint praise when taken in one way, and I know there are Trent Green backers who will call that statement idiotic, but I do believe it to be true even as I understand the criticisms against him.

This play, with the Chiefs tied and about 9 minutes left in the fourth quarter at Oakland last week, is as good an example as any of the fair criticisms against Smith:

It looks like Smith has a touchdown if he throws it just before or just as Bowe makes his cut. A touchdown there, obviously, would’ve been huge. But it’s also true that the Chiefs needed points, and in that situation — you’ve been down the whole game, you’ve fought back to tie it, and you have a defense you trust against a crappy offense that is now playing without the only player (Latavius Murray) who’s hurt you — a field goal to take the lead feels pretty good, too.

I would’ve liked to have seen Smith go for the touchdown there, but understand playing it safe there, too. Taking the points still puts the game in your favor. Smith is not — no matter how much people want this to be the case — Aaron Rodgers or Colin Kaepernick or Drew Brees or Ben Roethlisberger, the kind of quarterback who can win a game by his sheer awesomeness. But he’s also not — and Kaepernick fits here, too — the kind of quarterback who’s going to torpedo your chances to win with stupid mistakes or failed execution.

The Chiefs would trade Smith in a second if they could get someone like Rodgers, but there just aren’t a lot of those guys available.

Think of it this way — their contracts are similar, and would you rather have Smith or Jay Cutler?

This is also a fair point. Smith is basically trying to drive a race car with a flat tire. His offensive line struggles, and his receivers are horrendous. The Chiefs have a fabulous running back, a wonderful toy, and a tight end who’s dangerous in the pass game but still struggling to consistently block. Other than that, Smith and the coaches are manufacturing everything they do.

He’s not a great quarterback, but there are only a few of those guys out there. For everyone else, Smith is pretty damn good.

I don’t know, man. This would’ve been a hell of a play …

Abdullah is an NFL safety, and he probably feels like that’s a play he needs to make, but it’s not a blown catch. Defensive backs are usually defensive backs because they don’t have the hands to play receiver, and even for a receiver I think that would’ve been a nice catch.

If we’re going to bemoan the plays that didn’t get made, I thought the fourth-and-one sneak by Carr on the previous play was a bigger miss. The Chiefs also failed to stop Carr on a third down sneak later in this drive, to set up the touchdown. The Raiders are a bad offense made worse playing without Murray. I’m just not sure it’s fair to single out Abdullah not making a terrific catch there.

I’m torn between Guns N’ Roses’ “My World,” Mick Jagger doing “Dancing In The Street,” or the Black Keys’ awful cover of “Grown So Ugly.” I am not including links here, because I care about you people.

Or, I guess, we could go the other way. Maybe beating the Seahawks and Chargers is like Billy Idol recording “White Wedding.”

Man that was a great song. Let’s watch:

Or, maybe it’s Warrant coming up with this masterpiece:

Or, really, maybe we should just move on.

I see what you did here, and I like it.

I know the accepted take on what Sanders did over the summer is to paint him as some jerk gone wild, an untrustworthy scum who proved himself a two-timing fake. I don’t see it that way. I think the rules are stacked against NFL players in so many ways that I don’t want to begrudge them the right to make the best deal for themselves. Sanders never signed a contract with the Chiefs, so nothing was ever official. If the roles were reversed, and Sanders backed out on the Broncos to sign with the Chiefs, people here would consider him a hero.

But the other thing I think about him: holy crap the Chiefs would be SO MUCH BETTER with him.

The silence from the Royals has been a bit different than what we’ve been used to over the years. Maybe it’s a different approach, or maybe it’s a growing organizational confidence that they don’t have to jump at the first opportunity.

David Glass spoke last week, and kinda-sorta said that payroll would go up, but there have been no indications about just what that means. Last month, I wrote this about the profit the Royals were making during the playoffs and the team can expect around a 10 percent or more boost in attendance next year^.

^ And you can be sure those tickets will cost more than they did in 2013.

Add it all together and the Royals should play next season with a significantly higher payroll than they did in 2013, but there has been nobody saying that, not exactly, not on the record. Some of this is strategy, because you don’t want agents using promises of boosted payrolls against you. But if it’s making some fans nervous that’s understandable.

I do know this, and I mean no disrespect to the man: but if we live in a world where Billy Butler signs for three years and $30 million, the Royals need to be willing to spend more than they’ve ever spent to take advantage of this core.

I don’t know, but I do know this: I’ll be there to find out!

K-State is a 28-point favorite, which, unless I’m missing something, is the biggest point spread of the week.

K-State has dominated this series in recent history, and has won the last four games by an average of, um, 38.8 points. Bill Snyder seems to take a particular interest in drubbing the Jayhawks as hard as he possibly can, sort of like the way you might try to block your little brother’s shot over the garage just to let him know.

What’s interesting here is that if Texas can beat TCU on Thursday, K-State would play Baylor for the Big 12 title next weekend.

Anyone want to bet against Bill Snyder?

To reach Sam Mellinger, call 816-234-4365 or send email to Follow him on Twitter: @mellinger. For previous columns, go to

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