Don't Kill The Mellinger

Twitter Tuesday: KU wins, Seahawks stumble, Royals coming up

KU's Frank Mason (right) drove hard into ISU's Georges Niang for a shot during the second half of Monday night's game at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kan. KU won, 89-76.
KU's Frank Mason (right) drove hard into ISU's Georges Niang for a shot during the second half of Monday night's game at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kan. KU won, 89-76. The Kansas City Star

The Big 12 basketball season is almost exactly halfway over. Six of the ten teams have played nine games. And while it’s a stretch to say the conference race is over, what was supposed to be Kansas’ stiffest challenge in some time looks more and more like an 11th consecutive conference championship.

Kansas beat Iowa State 89-76 in Lawrence last night, which means the Jayhawks are now two full games up on the Cyclones, either one or two full games up on West Virginia after the Mountaineers game in Norman Tuesday night, and at least three games up on everyone else.

KU has now won 20 straight home games, and has only lost nine games at Allen Fieldhouse under Bill Self. The Jayhawks’ remaining home games are against three teams they’ve already beaten on the road (Baylor, Texas and TCU) and West Virginia. The road games, in rough descending order of difficulty, are against West Virginia, Oklahoma (season finale), K-State, Oklahoma State (on Saturday) and Texas Tech.

So for KU to not win at least a share of the Big 12 title, the most likely scenario would either include two losses against West Virginia, and/or a loss at home and two on the road. It’s certainly plausible that KU could lose two or three more conference games — the Mountaineers, in particular, are an interesting matchup — but even then, West Virginia or Iowa State would need to win out.

I never thought this way before, but I’m starting to inch closer to what sure seems like the majority opinion that KU’s dominance is bad for the league. This was supposed to be a different year, especially after KU was blow’d out by Kentucky and Temple. The Jayhawks weren’t as talented as they are in many seasons, and this was the best and certainly deepest the Big 12 has been in years.

I’m sure this is something we’ll get into more down the road, but if KU wins the league outright — particularly with a 16-2 or 15-3 record — in this context without any Big 12 team making a run in the NCAA Tournament, criticisms of the league will be easy and loud.

This week’s eating recommendation is the Italian steak sandwich at the Cigar Box, and the reading recommendation is an old but — and I don’t use this word often when talking about a story — important first-person piece by Chris Jones about depression. The more depression and mental illness are talked about, the more we can all do to help limit the effects.

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

Anybody want to talk about the Seahawks’ play call?

Well said, sir.

One of the things about being at a game is that you miss some of the experience of people at home, watching on TV. Usually this isn’t a big deal, or really any deal, but the Super Bowl is when I notice it the most. Companies waste pay $4.5 million for three seconds of your attention and then 27 seconds of your party making jokes, so they’re going to come strong with boobs or tears and I WANT TO DO THIS.

Now, like I say, I didn’t see the Nationwide ad, but, c’mon. It couldn’t have been that bad.

OK, fine.

Let me see what everyone is talking about here.

/starts up the Google machine/

/jaw drops/

Holy crap. This really happened?

Because parents don’t worry enough already, and no insurance company had yet cornered the market on blatantly and shamelessly profiting off that worry?

This reminds me … why do people think that any publicity is good publicity? Where did this lie come from?

Do people not think that was a great play?

I embedded it in the column from the game, but here goes again:

It’s a spectacular play, really, one that comes at the intersection of ability and preparation. After the game, Butler said he recognized the play call from the formation the Seahawks had, meaning he outsmarted the Seattle coaching staff and was able to recall the information at the most important moment of his football life.

But it was more than just the recognition, because without ability that recognition just would’ve made him a sort of fortune teller about how he was about to get beat.

It was a pick play, technically illegal but in reality only illegal in the way you’re not supposed to jaywalk, so Butler had to avoid being knocked back, but still have the guts and speed to close on the pass, and then the ability to make one of the most dramatic plays in Super Bowl history.

I have no idea what Butler’s football future is. He was an undrafted rookie, playing last year for a Division II school with a 7,000-seat stadium. Maybe he’ll turn into a star. Who knows?

But worst case scenario, his football career will be remembered forever, the man who jumped a route and gave Tom Brady his fourth Super Bowl championship.

I was thinking the same thing. The best play there may have been to let the Seahawks score, because then you’d have about a minute (if you let Lynch score on first down) with two timeouts for Tom F. Brady to at least get you in field goal range.

The Patriots’ game plan had clearly been focused on underneath stuff, so maybe they didn’t think that was a high-percentage play. After the game, Belichick indicated that he liked the personnel match-ups on the field and didn’t want to give the Seahawks time to rethink it, but Belichick is also as likely to give us a true read on what he was thinking there as Jonathan Baldwin was of making that Jermaine Kearse catch, so who knows.

The no-cheering-in-the-press-box thing is more about the face-painting, jersey-wearing, dee-fence chanting kind of cheering that makes stadiums so loud.

The exceptions — allowed in practice if not by any particular rule — are in moments. I’ve written before about the way this silly profession can change the way you watch sports, but the short version, at least for me, is that you start to root less for teams and more for people. Less for outcomes and more for moments. Less to vindicate the hope you’ve put into something, and more for something you’ll remember years from now.

When those exceptions come, the press box is not unlike other parts of the stadium. These are true exceptions, though, and off the top of my I head I can think of five that I’ve been a part of in the last five years: the 100 meters in London, the Wild Card game in Kansas City, game six in St. Louis in 2011, double overtime in Salt Lake City in 2010, and, Sunday night, twice — Kearse’s catch and Butler’s interception.

I do not know the man who was sitting next to my left. I think he covers the Jets, but I’m not sure. We didn’t talk much. But when Kearse made that catch, and then Butler made that pick, we did that senseless, dumb-founded, holy-eff arm bump into each other like we were old friends.

I could not have cared less who won that game. I don’t think the guy next to me cared, either. I wanted to see a great game, something I’d remember.

That’ll do.


If you were distracted by the guacamole, here it is:

Pretty well done.

And Yordano Ventura. At least, he’d be my pick^.

^ And if you haven’t already, check out Vahe and Eulitt’s fantastic work on Ventura from the Dominican. I linked to it last week too, I think, which means we are 2,630 away from tying Andy’s streak on linking to his Lorenzo Cain story.

No. It is an incarnation of the fact that Alex Gordon would have been thrown out by a thousand feet.

I mean, look, here, watch the play again.

Brandon Crawford had the ball BEFORE Gordon touched the bag. Brandon Crawford was like 140 feet from the plate at this moment. Thrown baseballs travel much faster than running humans, and selfishly, I’m glad that Mike Jirschele held Gordon up because I was much happier writing about an incredible playoff run than I would’ve been ripping apart the decision of a very good baseball man to make the last out in game seven of the World Series with a horrendous decision.

Honestly, would’ve made throwing an interception on second-and-goal from the one with Marshawn Lynch in the backfield look like, well, the fake field goal call that helped the Seahawks get to the Super Bowl.

I know it’s painfully easy and obvious to point to Sal Perez popping up for the last out against Madison Bumgarner and say that any other decision would’ve given the Royals a better chance to win, but I cannot fathom the mockery and jokes and venom that would’ve been thrown at the third base coach who made the last out of the World Series by 30 feet.

The hardest thing about being a sports writer is coming up with good ideas, then reporting and writing them in a way that is worth someone’s time when there are a million other things they could be doing. Really, that’s the entire challenge, not just the most difficult part but in a lot of ways the only difficult part and when I write it like that it strikes me that this is also the only part of the job that matters.

Twitter has limitations, obviously, so I hope I’m reading your question correctly. You ask about Kansas City in particular, and I don’t think there’s anything inherently difficult about writing here. Being from the area, it’s undoubtedly easier for me here than it would be somewhere else. Some people you write about can be thin-skinned, but that’s true anywhere. It would be an easier job if we had a team at the Sprint Center, I guess, but that’s not happening.

Maybe you’re asking about deadlines, or travel delays, or bad food, or rude athletes, or breaking through the facade of corporate entertainment, or being away from your family, or the humiliating feeling of seeing an error in print, or the name-calling voicemails, or the angry emails, or the haunting feeling that your computer is about to crash and then you’re super-screwed^^, or how easy it is to be unhealthy and fat on the road, or anything like that. But, really, all of that is either part of the fun or a minor nuisance in a silly profession I’m grateful to be in.

^ Super Bowl week is the longest I’ve been away from my son, and that sucked.

^^ Mine did crash Sunday night, by the way, about 15 minutes before my deadline. I actually just laughed, because what else could I do? Thankfully, the one computer fix I know — turn it off, turn it back on, and hope – worked.

But coming up with ideas, and then executing them well enough to be worth your time, that is the most excruciatingly difficult part of this job and there is no second place.

It’s probably the best part of the job too, now that I think about it.

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