Don't Kill The Mellinger

Twitter Tuesday: What’s a catch, Big 12 hoops, and a surprising amount of life advice

Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) caught a pass against Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields (37) in the second half of the NFL divisional playoff football game Sunday in Green Bay, Wis. The play was reversed after review. The Packers won 26-21.
Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) caught a pass against Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields (37) in the second half of the NFL divisional playoff football game Sunday in Green Bay, Wis. The play was reversed after review. The Packers won 26-21. AP

Just five years ago, the people in charge of college football responded to a Sports Illustrated story about what a potential playoff might look like with a string of make-believe hyperbole that they had to know would someday be proven as silliness.

“College football’s unique regular season would be greatly diminished,” said Bill Hancock, executive director of the BCS.

“Student-athletes today love the bowls because they arrive four or five days before the game and they’re the toast of the town and put on a pedestal by the media,” said Tina Kunzer-Murphy, Football Bowl Association chairman.

“There’s no debate, a playoff system would ruin the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic,” said Rick Baker, president of the, um, AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic, and that’s the dumbest thing any of them said.

“In (the bowl system’s) place, a corporate sporting environment of a playoff would destroy the experience for all those involved,” said Scott McKibben, Rose Bowl executive director, and, well, sorry, I take back what I said, THIS is probably the dumbest thing any of them said.

The playoff is over now, of course, and without an overtime game or something like that it’s hard to imagine the whole thing going better. Having the semifinals on January 1st helped restore the tradition of college football owning New Year’s Day. The selection committee was roasted for taking Ohio State, including barbs from the omnipresent conspiracy theorists and some with Big 12 victim complex, and then the Buckeyes tore through the two top-ranked teams in the country.

The biggest takeaway, actually, might be that a six- or eight-team playoff could be on the way. TCU and Baylor, of course, had credible cases to make the four-team field, and especially after emasculating Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl it’s hard not to wonder how TCU may have fared.

I know that the talking point is that we won’t see expansion past four teams during the 12-year contract for the current format, and maybe that’s right. But this is America, where everything is negotiable, and as we know, it wasn’t long ago that the same people in charge of the sport were saying we’d never see a four-team playoff.

This week’s eating recommendation is the beef empanadas at Empanada Madness, and the reading recommendation is Brian Phillips on the doom of Kobe Bryant. The hero is Katie Browning, a school teacher and volunteer at two shelters. Last fall, she adopted a senior dog named Chico and last fall took in a pregnant cat and cared for the kittens. She was nominated by a friend who said a few of the kittens were named after her favorite Royals players.

Please keep those nominations coming. I’m hopeful this can be a permanent and worthwhile part of this silly weekly exercise.

Now, on with the silliness. As always, thanks for reading and thanks for the help.

Well, for starters, this is a catch:

See that? Possession, three steps, even switches the ball to his other hand, reaches out for the goal line, I mean, wow, not only is that a catch … that’s the kind of catch that makes Dez Bryant such a great player, and makes the NFL such an irresistible product. The timing, the speed, the strength, the grace, the athleticism, the guts … if you were to make an argument about why the NFL is so popular, despite its lies and danger and cold-hearted nature, I mean, that clip is a pretty good place to start.

Which makes it absolutely poetic that the NFL’s self-imposed bureaucracy and own made-up, nonsensical rules made that play an incomplete pass. So stupid. Honestly, I thought the league changed that dumb rule after Calvin Johnson’s catch against the Bears a few years ago, the same way they changed the tuck rule, but I guess nobody cares when the Lions get hosed.

The league has to know it has to fix this dumb rule, and as he is wont to do, Greg Bedard has a thoughtful solution here.

But one thing that’s being ignored in all of this, and I suppose it’s understandable, but the Cowboys didn’t get screwed here. And not just because the (dumb) rule was called correctly. Even if we assume the Cowboys would’ve scored a touchdown there, they still would’ve needed the two-point conversion to go up three, and then Aaron Rodgers has the ball, at worst, with two or three minutes left and only needing a field goal to at least go to overtime and possibly win. Even if Bryant was given the catch, the Cowboys were still less than 50-50 to win that game.

Let me just say here that I don’t believe he’s going to retire. I just don’t. I think he’s a proud man who loves everything about football and being a quarterback. He hasn’t been great the last month or two, but can we pump the brakes on this Peyton-sucks-now narrative? I know the popular thing right now is to trash him, but does anyone remember that he was second in TD passes, third in QBR, and fourth in passer rating while playing a chunk of the season with a torn quad? There are signs he is considering retirement like never before, and maybe he will. Just seems out of character for him to walk away now.

But, sure. Let’s assume he retires. Brock Osweiler is the current No. 2 and has spent his three years in the league backing up Manning. I have no idea what the Broncos have in him, but for argument’s sake, let’s assume he’s the starter and assume he’s basically Drew Stanton.

The Broncos still have a lot of great pieces, particularly receivers and on defense. They won 13, 13 and 12 games the last three years. I’d guess they could win 10 or 11 with an average quarterback. Going through this little thought exercise reminds me of the Patriots winning 11 games with Matt Cassel in 2008, when Tom Brady’s knee tore in the season opener against the Chiefs.

The Chargers haven’t won more than nine games since 2009, and even if Manning’s absence opened the division a bit I wouldn’t trust them to get to 11. The Chiefs could do it, depending on how this offseason goes. They allowed the second-fewest points in the league last year, which I think is being overlooked a bit even locally. If they can find a solution along the offensive line — particularly at left guard — add a receiver or two and fill in some smaller gaps, 11 wins is entirely possible.

I’d still be inclined to pick the Broncos, but could be swayed depending on who Denver’s quarterback is and what the Chiefs do in the offseason, but, like I say …

… I just don’t think Manning will retire. I understand that Father Time is undefeated, and that the popular sentiment right now seems to be that Manning is a cross between Tyler Palko and Orville Redenbacher, and that the list of men who were good quarterbacks at 39 or older is basically limited to one season each of Brett Favre and Warren Moon.

But I also think that Manning just had the most effective season ever for a 38-year-old quarterback, and that the rules are protecting quarterbacks more than ever before, and that the Broncos have a ridiculous amount of talent around him.

It’s fine to talk about how he couldn’t beat a very smart game plan by the Colts that dared Manning to beat them deep and especially deep down the sidelines, and about how 13 points in a home playoff game is the stuff of Grbac more than Peyton, but this is still a smart and talented man who’s figured out how to be great for this long. If he can get healthy, I’d bet on him being very good again next year, and think the football world is being far too quick to bury a great career.

One of the best things Bill Simmons ever wrote about was the need for what he called a vice president of common sense. This was usually (or maybe even always) presented as a way for teams to better operate, but leagues could benefit, too.

Like, in baseball, the VP of common sense would’ve had replay put in much quicker, would’ve handled PEDs differently in a thousand ways, wouldn’t limit the number of selections on a Hall of Fame ballot to 10, and would’ve been much quicker and stronger with revenue sharing^.

^ Also, if the Royals had a VP of common sense, they wouldn’t have this albatross of a TV contract that’s keeping them from at least $10 million a year through 2019, unless renegotiated.

In the NFL, the VP of common sense would, among many other things, eliminate the ridiculous score-commercial-kickoff-commercial thing, take out the loophole where teams can decide whether to pay a man on the non-football injury list^, punch Roger Goodell in the nose every time he mentions the words “18-game season,” and absolutely take one look at Dez Bryant’s catch and rule it, um, a catch.

^ The Chiefs, in theory, could decide not to pay Eric Berry because he got cancer.

Bedard’s suggestion is a fine one, to take out the “football move” part of the rule, because anything that includes “etc” is just dumb, but you could also add a simple line: if 99 percent of people not cheering for either team think it’s a catch, then stop being stupid. It’s a catch.

Again, just for posterity’s sake: Aaron Rodgers would’ve had around three minutes and needing only a field goal to tie or even win the game.

A lot of this is in the column from the other day, but I think the Chiefs have to cut Hali. You can’t use your first-round pick on a guy who’s just going to sit for two years. Like with Alex Smith, I’m probably higher on Dee Ford than a lot of people, but either way the Chiefs owe it to themselves to see what they have in him. The fact that he would save about $9 million in cap space makes it a necessity.

I think they can convince Bowe to take at least a $5 million paycut, and if Bowe is your No. 2 receiver, that’s not bad. With Johnson, I’m reminded of a conversation with an expert on Achilles tendon injuries for this column in which I learned that defensive players typically have a better recovery than offensive. Johnson is due to take up about $5 million of the cap next year, and if he’s even 80 percent of the player he was in 2013, he’s worth it — particularly considering the Chiefs are desperate enough to fill one inside linebacking position, let alone two.

Not at all. I’m with you. The problem at Mizzou is they just don’t have a lot of talent. Frank Haith’s exit was a weasel move on many levels, and this is at least one of them. Whoever took over was set up to lose a lot of games this season.

But I do think they’re improving. They continue to play hard, and there are improvements in the way they work together on both ends that I think are a credit to Anderson and his assistants. I know this sounds silly in a lot of ways, but, really, the only bad loss is UMKC.

With what Kim Anderson was left with, and the way he appears to be trying to build the program — basically, the exact opposite of Haith’s transfer hoarding — I think it’s at least year three before we can really start to make major judgments.

But so far, sure, I like the way they’re improving and working hard.

This is weird that you mention this, because I actually tried changing it yesterday but couldn’t find anything that struck me.

Any suggestions?

By the way: I had to look it up, but the lights turn off this Sunday. So we still have time. I turn myself over to you, dear reader.

Please be nice.

A lull? College basketball isn’t as interesting this year as most, but there’s still a lot going on with the sport. I’m headed to the AFC Championship game between the Colts and Patriots this weekend, the Super Bowl after that, and then it’s spring training and the NCAA basketball tournament. March is the busiest month of the year for me, actually.

This is probably a bit too inside-sportswriting, but maybe a big difference in the next few months is that the columns become more event-based. That’s easier in some ways, harder in some others.

Even in a job I love year-round, February and March might be my favorite two months of the year.

This may be presumptuous, but if you’re at all referring to my column here about how KU is going to win the league again, that had almost nothing to do with anything that happened against Texas Tech. If you don’t beat Texas Tech, at home, you might think of another sport to play.

There are (at least) three things I could expand on from that column about why KU will win a preposterous 11th straight conference title.

1. KU reasons. The more we get away from it, the more I think that Baylor win is going to stick out. That’s a game that I don’t think any other team in the league would’ve won. In the first half, nothing was working for KU. They couldn’t score, on the road, fairly tough environment against a talented team. Even in the end, they needed Selden hitting some shots and everything else to fall their way to get out of there with a one-point win. I’m not saying KU is the only team that’s going to win in Waco. But that kind of win is one the Jayhawks tend to pull out much more often than anyone else in the league. They probably have one or two more of those in them, which is probably one or two more than other teams.

2. They were so horrendously awful and uncompetitive in their two losses, I think it’s overshadowed some of what they’ve accomplished. Beating Baylor and Georgetown on the road is impressive. The comeback against Florida. Beating Michigan State. Beating Utah. It’s easy sometimes to think about the weaknesses, to focus on what a team can’t do. But as bad as those two losses were, no college basketball team is defined by two games.

3. The context of the league is working in KU’s favor. It’s early, obviously, but Texas might be the worst matchup for KU because of Myles Turner. But the Longhorns are already two losses into it, including one at home. Nobody’s played more than three games, and already KU and Iowa State are the only teams without a loss. This is the deepest and best the Big 12 has been in a while, but no team in the league has a home court advantage like KU, and Self is the league’s best coach. The Jayhawks caught a break with Devonte’ Graham’s quick return, and Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre seem to be improving every game. Think of it like this: If those pieces — the same pieces that already have four wins against KenPom top 25 teams — can protect home court and win just five of nine road games, that’s probably enough to win the league, and outright.

That said…

… I think 13-5 is going to be the best anyone manages, and I expect KU to share the conference title with Iowa State.

The Cyclones are strong offensively, have a constant mismatch in Georges Niang, a very good home-court advantage (especially for big games) and at least what I think of as the league’s second-best coach.

This could be a book, really. I love social media. I’m probably on Twitter more than any other website, mostly to see good stories I’d otherwise miss, but also to be entertained and see news. I also love Facebook and Instagram, though I use them much more for personal stuff — seeing and sharing pictures with friends. But I think across all three of those websites — and any other social-media platform — there is an enormous potential problem when we think what we’re seeing is a fair or accurate depiction of the world.

By definition, every form of social media is an echo chamber. You only see and interact with people (and their viewpoints) you choose to see and interact with. The immediacy of every platform — particularly Twitter — often robs people of perspective, and gives the impression that things are much bigger deals.

I think that’s fine, and for me it’s certainly worth the tradeoff, but the problem is when we — you, me, anyone — forgets context. I saw this all the time, but Twitter is not the real world. According to this, there are 57 million monthly active Twitter users, and even if that does not include people with more than one account, that’s less than 20 percent of the country. And how often are each of these people actually on Twitter? We could go through the numbers and do the same sort of thing with Facebook or Instagram or anything else.

Again, I love social media. The world would be a less interesting, less informative, less entertaining place without it. But, fundamentally, it is not an accurate depiction of the world any more than a particular block in Mission Hills or another particular block along Independence Avenue is an accurate depiction of Kansas City.

I think we’d all — me, you, everyone — do well to remember that.

This is a tough one. I’ve done it a few times, but only when I’m absolutely sure it’s going to be a hit. A case of a friend’s impossible-to-find beer, for instance. Or a Star Wars video game for another friend that was an inside joke and I’ve since realized was an awful idea.

The problem with going off the registry is that this couple has put some thought into what they need, and asked for what they want. Going off the registry is a ballsy move, with some I-know-what-you-want-more-than-you-know-what-you-want undertones. It’s a home run swing, and you look really stupid (like me with the Star Wars game) if you miss.

Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. The process of wedding presents is a little dehumanizing, the happy couple sort of turning friends and family into an ATM machine or gift factory, but it’s custom, it’s nice, they’re throwing you a hell of a party, it’s the least you can do.

So, all that said, I think these are two pretty good rules to follow if you’re feeling up for the challenge:

1. Get something they want, not need. Someone else is getting the coffee maker.

2. If you’re not sure you have the right idea, go off the registry.

Look man, I’ve tried to come up with something solid here. It sounds like this is a standing date you have, every Labor Day, you get together with your buddies and this is more than a fantasy football draft — it’s jokes, it’s old stories, it’s beer, it’s wings, the whole bit. This is important.

There are some points of context here that are important: How well do you know the couple getting married? Anyone else from your league invited to the wedding? How laid-back is your wife? When you got the invitation, did your wife have any idea about the fantasy draft? Does she think your league is a dumb thing you should’ve outgrown at 16, or like that you have this thing with your friends? Also, how much of a fight are you up for here?

But like I said, I want to have something solid for you here. A point you can make. Something to stand on. But I think what you have to do is sort of read the coverage here. Wait a month or two — long enough that it’s not RIGHT after you see the invitation, but not so long that you’re screwing with the RSVP or giving your friends long enough to wonder — and then present it as a sort of, oh, damn, I forgot I have this annual get together that on the surface seems silly but in a strange man way represents something very important to me.

See how she reacts. Depending on the answers to those questions above, you might be able to get an opening here. But you should also accept that you may be out of luck here, in which case you’re going to have to wear everything your friends say about it, and should probably order them some pizza for draft night as a sort of peace offering.

First of all, congratulations!

The first sign that you’re going to be a great dad is that you’ve come here, to Twitter Tuesday, for advice. Real recognize real.

It should also be abundantly clear that I don’t really know what I’m doing here. Our son is about 10 months old, and so far he’s awesome, but I attribute all of this to his mom and luck. I was lucky to have a great dad, and I hope you were too, and I know I’m going to try to steal a lot of what he did with me.

But you’re asking for advice, and I do have two things to share. When we found out we were having a child, I asked a lot of people a lot of questions, and did a lot of reading to try to get an idea of what the hell you’re supposed to do when you’re the kind of person who loses his car keys once a week and will soon be in charge of a human life. There is a lot of ways to go with this, a lot of advice, from the micro to the macro but there are two things that really stick out to me that I hope to always keep in mind.

The first is more about what I think the spirit of your question is, and that’s how to be the best dad you can be. I heard this from a lot of people who I think are great parents, and it has the benefit of making intuitive sense and simplifying a very complicated thing: The best thing you can do is be a role model. Live the way you want your child to live. There’s a saying that kids forget almost everything they hear but hardly anything they see, so the best way to raise a good kid is to live as a good adult. Be nice to people. Hold open doors. Pull out chairs. Smile. Don’t get angry at small stuff. Work hard. Love. Ask questions. Pay your bills on time. Be a good driver. Treat people with respect. Your kids are going to be watching you, so make sure they’re seeing a good example.

The second thing is more selfish, and that’s to enjoy it. Enjoy it all, even and especially the parts that might suck. Own it all, absorb it all, the tantrums, the refusal to sleep, the diapers with the lethal odors, the mistakes, the fears, the everything. You only get one time through with a kid, so you might as well enjoy every step. Depending on your situation, you’re probably not going to have as much time with them as you’d like. But it’s up to you how much you make of the time you have.

Anyway, makes sense to me. That’s what I’m trying. Hope it works.

To reach Sam Mellinger, call 816-234-4365, send email to smellinger@kcstar.com or follow on Twitter @mellinger. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com.

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