There is so much going on, I hope you don’t mind going through a little about each Kansas City-area team or university rapid-fire style here at the top:
The Chiefs’ extension with LDT was a bit surprising, though as is his wont, our Terez Paylor made some good points here. One part I’d emphasize is the Chiefs’ belief in the value of continuity, and that offensive linemen often get better with age. If they’re right, a line that was among the league’s worst in 2015 and mostly average in 2016 could move to the top half or even top third in 2017. If that happens, an offense that needs to score more should look better.
The Royals believe that even with four All-Star appearances, four Gold Gloves, and a Silver Slugger last year, Salvador Perez’s best baseball is ahead of him. It could be more than their typical optimism, too. He turns 27 in May, and after cutting weight, and with perhaps more time at DH, he could avoid what’s become his customary second half slump.
Kansas basketball is, in the macro, a lot like it always is this time of year: one of the very best teams in the country, good enough that anything less than a Final Four will be a big disappointment, and flawed enough that losing before reaching Glendale is a real possibility. A few important differences: the Jayhawks will have the best player on the floor in virtually every game, and the best two players on the floor in most games. They are cold-blooded close and late, and have shown the ability to muscle up for important stops on defense. Potential fatal flaws: bad free-throw shooting, an injury or foul trouble to Landen Lucas, and a bigger team willing to push them around inside.
K-State is either playing for its NCAA Tournament life, or at the very least, its NCAA Tournament security. It’s such a strange thing to see a program on the brink like this, and feel so many fans rooting against it. I understand the frustration, and hope this behind-the-scenes piece showed the good and bad. Either way, this program may be the basketball story of the Big 12 Tournament.
Mizzou is looking for a basketball coach, to the surprise of nobody, and it appears the idea of Tom Crean leaving Indiana for the job is gaining traction. There will be plenty of time to talk more about this, but it is genuinely difficult to imagine him not being successful at Mizzou. He checks all the boxes. After four post-Norm hires that ranged from awful to largely unsuccessful, Crean would be the proverbial home run. There are others who could make sense — Cuonzo Martin, most obviously — but none with the track record of Crean. I believe it’s a good job, too. They’re desperate for success, so resources and support should be plenty. Great facilities, good recruiting base.
Sporting KC began what should be an interesting season. We’ve talked a lot here about the Royals’ ambitious plan of winning now, building for the future, and not increasing payroll while doing it — well, Sporting is attempting something similar in a fairly massive roster makeover. I know I’m probably chasing a little bit here, but it’s impossible not to be intrigued by Erik Palmer-Brown’s potential impact. He’s a major part of the U.S. Under-20 team, and with World Cup qualifying he may miss significant club time, but it’ll be fun to watch his career from the start.
This week’s eating recommendation is the nachos at the Quaff, mostly because the Quaff is awesome after games at the Sprint Center, and the reading recommendation is Elizabeth Kolbert on why facts don’t change our minds.
Use your instincts. Follow your heart (and your hunger, and your thirst). But, basically, park, and walk.
If you don’t eat well, it’s your own damn fault. Pick a spiedini at Garozzo’s (try the veal, avoid the Gabriella, but you’re the boss), or the wings at the Peanut, or the pop-a-shot at the Quaff, or anything at Johnny’s, and if you’re out afterward and up for some live jazz check out the Phoenix.
The party will be at Power & Light, and for me, this is the one week of the year that place is palatable after 10 p.m. or so. It’s great. You’ll see so many arguments, almost all of them good-natured between rival fans, and some of them end with one side buying the other a round.
I’m guessing the College Basketball Experience will be packed, and if you don’t want to fight that, I get it, but it really is worth doing. They have a nice mix of history, and interactive stuff. If you have kids, they’ll love it.
If you’re looking for something away from the area, and Power & Light, I strongly urge you to try the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. It’s a treasure, a beautiful and at times heartbreaking collection of stories and memorabilia from an important and fun and regrettable part of American history.
One more, and again this is better if you have kids, but I have kids, so this is what you get from me: Union Station and Science City are well-kept secrets. You could spend the morning there, then streetcar it toward the Sprint Center for lunch and the games.
The emotion, the unpredictability, the scope. I get that for the best players in the tournament, these are not the most important games, or the most important event. I get that for many, given a choice, they would choose losing in the first round over suffering a major injury in the national championship game.
But there is still an immediacy, and a preciousness, to every game, and every half, and every possession. One wild shot can alter a season, and a career, and create a memory you’ll never forget.
I love that so many of the most passionate fans of four different schools are in the same arena, the uninvolved ones pulling for the underdog, and on the first day of games heading over to the area where the losing fans are sitting to see about buying tickets for the second day of games on the cheap.
I love how each pod takes over most cities, so that your walk to the arena or your lunch before the game or your beer afterward are in the midst of fans making memories.
Also, I love the sweet and spicy snack mix they serve in every media room. Man, I love that snack mix. Completely worth the stomach ache and disappointment in my own lack of self-control.
I’ll take your word for it that this is true, and assume that it’s because the Sprint Center will hold the NCAA Midwest Regional in two weeks.
I don’t know the ticket breakdown, and the number available to each fan base or the general public, but I’m guessing that if people are being forced to choose between the Big 12 Tournament and the NCAA, they’re choosing the more important games.
That’s probably particularly true for Kansas fans, who are the ones driving much of the interest in both events.
The candidates, in order of likelihood:
1. Monte Morris. The best player on a team that’s traditionally done well in this tournament.
2. Josh Jackson. A superior talent, and if Kansas wins, he very well could be their leading scorer.
3. Johnathan Motley. Baylor has had some success in the Big 12 tournament, and Motley could put together a string of double-doubles.
4. Jevon Carter. No. 2 seed West Virginia’s leading scorer, and a terrific defender.
5. Jawun Evans. A longshot, but if Oklahoma State scores its way into the championship game, it’ll probably be because Evans is putting in 24 or so per game.
The correct answer is: … maybe?
I’ve always thought this depended almost entirely on whether K-State makes the NCAA Tournament.
My best guess is that they’re now in the field, because they’re sixth in the Big 12, the No. 1 RPI league in the country and a conference that’s put seven teams in each of the last three NCAA Tournaments. Wins at Baylor, and against West Virginia, are nice.
But I also understand their non-conference schedule was incredibly soft, and the NCAA committee may be turned off by six losses in their last 10 games. Their third-best win is at Oklahoma State, but that came on Jan. 18, when the Cowboys were a different team.
There is the possibility that Weber could be fired even if the Cats make the tournament. I don’t think K-State is the kind of program — no offense — that should be firing coaches for making the NCAA Tournament. The team outplayed its preseason conference ranking by three spots, and should be better again next year.
Weber is 32 games over .500 at K-State overall, and exactly .500 in league play. He certainly hasn’t been terrific, but normally coaches have to do worse to be fired.
Now, yes, we’re all adults here. There is much fan unrest. Weber means well, but he needs to be coached up on how to present himself publicly. He doesn’t help himself. Particularly if “making the tournament” means “losing in Dayton,” there would not be much passionate defense of Weber if he was fired.
But, yes, I expect him to be back. I expect K-State to make the tournament. I am 60 percent certain about this.
They traded down last year, and still got their guy with Chris Jones 37th overall, but to me the answer is still either 50-50 or slightly leaning toward trading up.
John Dorsey and Andy Reid both strike me as aggressive in their evaluations and moves. They have extra picks, and typically when a roster is close, that’s when you extend yourself a bit to get the piece you think you’re missing.
I know I’m not thinking about this with an entirely clear head, though, because I absolutely without even a hint of hesitation believe this is what they should do — specifically for a quarterback.
You guys are probably sick of me saying it, but it’s true, and blame Ryan here for bringing it up again, but: the Chiefs are uniquely positioned to both move up for their guy, and to give said guy the best chance to succeed.
If Reid and his coaches are as good with quarterbacks as is often said around the league, then a draft class full of highly talented but flawed prospects who likely need a year of on-job training is a perfect fit for a team with a reliable starting quarterback whose contract makes him an attractive candidate to cut next year.
We’ll talk more about this later, if it happens, but the trick will then be to actually develop the kid — and for expectations to be managed.
But, first things first. Trade up. Get your guy. The future is coming, whether you prepare for it or not.
The first way that I would do this is that I wouldn’t — I wouldn’t sign him.
He’s generally despised around the Royals’ clubhouse, infamous in Kansas City for a reckless slide into Alcides Escobar that tipped off a baseball urinating match. For a franchise that has preached about cohesion, and spent so much dang time and energy promoting what it believes is a rock-solid culture, this would be a difficult sell — particularly two months after Yordano Ventura’s tragic death.
Now, all that said, I haven’t answered your question.
Here’s how I would sell it, if I was needing the sell it:
It’s our job to identify the best ways to win, and you guys have done a spectacular job trusting us, and supporting us, and showing the world why we believe so much in you. We know the hesitations some of you may have here, and we understand, and we hope you know we wouldn’t do this if we didn’t believe he could help us win.
We’re all adults, and we’re here to win games. Please show the world one more time why you’re the group that turned this franchise around. And, now, Brett wants to say something.
(At this point, Lawrie stands in the clubhouse, apologizes for his role in what happened two years, talks about how much he respects how hard the Royals play, because that’s how he plays, that he’s matured and grown up in the last two years and is looking forward to being part of a team that plays as hard as he does)
Boom. Then we all go eat cheeseburgers.
If the Royals do this, it almost certainly means Ned Yost was talked into it. I don’t mean that derisively. I just mean it as a fact.
Ned prefers locked roles. Some of this, I assume, is that it simplifies his game management. Some of it is how he grew up in the game.
But he does honestly believe in the benefit of guys knowing exactly when they’ll pitch, and even as I would prefer bullpen usage closer to what you’re suggesting here (and closer to how the Indians used Andrew Miller last year) I do think Ned’s point is a good one and worthy of consideration.
Because it’s not so simple as just plugging in Herrera in the eighth if that’s when the best hitters are due up. There is nothing relievers hate more than warming up without getting in the game.
Their distaste for this is honest, too. Relieving is hard. You’re asked to go on consecutive nights, and sometimes three out of four. You only have so much in your arm, and it doesn’t do anyone any good to waste that in the bullpen.
So, if I was king of the world, or even just the Royals manager, I would make sure I had buy-in from Herrera. If I did, then I would go with this fireman strategy, but only rarely, and selectively, at least until or unless we hit the last few weeks of a pennant chase and the playoffs.
All that said, I’d be surprised if they actually do this. Ned is the manager, and I don’t think he believes in this. I might disagree with him, but I respect his reasons.
There are a hundred reasons not to buy season tickets for the Chiefs or any other NFL team, but I don’t know that this would make the list.
You can change the dollar figures around if you want. They could raise regular-season prices and drop or maintain preseason prices and that wouldn’t change anything.
To me, the biggest problem the Chiefs and NFL teams in general have in selling tickets is that the in-home experience is, in many ways that matter, better than in the stadium.
But that’s not all. It’s a problem that you’re trying to sell an outdoor sport in some of the worst weather months of the year, which means that even when the team is good and playing important games in November and December, those tickets are often harder to sell than for September and October games during mediocre seasons.
It’s a problem that for a lot of people, NFL games are not a place for children.
It’s a problem that for a lot of people, football isn’t as fun as it used to be.
It’s a problem that to enjoy a proper tailgate experience for a noon game, you have to wake up at an ungodly hour, then deal with all the logistics of getting through the parking gate and getting set up only to tear it all down and get home 15 hours after you left the house with a mess to still clean up.
There are so many problems with trying to sell NFL tickets, many of them centering around rising costs vs. a free experience at home.
I understand the frustration that you’re technically paying the same amount for a game the starters won’t play as you are for a game with a playoff spot on the line. But this is just accounting.
There are some bigger problems the Chiefs and other NFL teams need to deal with.
Neither is likely to make the team, but Zimmer is more likely. Particularly if he’s healthy. The Royals have some bullpen spots open, even if they go with 12 pitchers.
I know Mondesi is having a good spring, and that’s better than not having a good spring, but there is a lot working against him making the team. Christian Colon, Whit Merrifield, and even Cheslor Cuthbert are older, and more experienced. Colon and Cuthbert are out of options.
Mondesi was so overwhelmed at the plate last year, and is still just 21 years old. He has time. The Royals, like all teams, prioritize organizational inventory. If keeping Mondesi means losing Colon or Cuthbert, it’s tough to see how that works.
They’ve always talked about giving Strahm a chance at the rotation this year, which is typical of what any team would be doing in this situation.
When you have the choice, you want to push guys, to make them prove what they can or can’t do, rather than put your own limitation on it. Let the player show you, plus it’s easier to pull Strahm back from the rotation to the bullpen than the other way around.
Strahm really is an interesting character for the Royals. A year ago, Rene Francisco was the only one talking about Strahm as a potential help to the big-league club. Today, he could be in the rotation, or a middle reliever, or otherwise fade away like many do when it’s time to separate the great from the very, very good.
The most likely spot, to me, still seems to be as a middle reliever. Maybe the eighth, maybe the seventh. But the kid can get guys out, and doesn’t seem to have any fear.
I assume you’re talking about attending as a fan, not a writer, which to me is an important distinction even as I include the unnecessary disclaimer that I am shamefully fortunate to have a job that allows me to write at so many big and fun events.
I’ve never been to the Masters, or a Premier League or Champions League match. If I had to choose one, it would likely be a Champions League final, but at that point it’s hard to distinguish — do you want a billion dollars? Or a billion dollars plus an order of tater tots?
But the Masters has always seemed, to me, to be the most unique American sporting event. I’m not even that much of a golf fan, and I’m certainly not much of a golfer, but the course pops off the television screen and the friends who’ve been swear it’s even better in person.
And even if I’m 90 percent sure it would be a disappointment, I’d eat 12 pimento cheese sandwiches there.
Do we all agree that Jackson is the better college player? Because I think that’s true, and I’m starting to believe it’s not by a small margin. Wiggins could’ve dominated every game he played, and even without full and consistent effort had some moments better than anything we’ve seen from Jackson yet — 41 points, eight rebounds, five steals and four blocks at West Virginia, or 17 points and 19 rebounds at Iowa State, just to name two.
But Jackson has been better, overall, and is unlikely to go 1-for-6 with four points in a first-weekend tournament loss like Wiggins did against Stanford. I think Bill Self would agree with that, whether he’d say it publicly or not.
I also think it’s too early to say exactly what kind of pro Andrew Wiggins is. He’s leading the NBA in minutes in his third season, averaging 23.3 points on 46 percent shooting, with 4.1 rebounds, and 2.4 assists. He will almost certainly make many tens of millions of dollars, and probably some All-Star teams.
He only turned 22 a few weeks ago, and along with Karl-Anthony Towns and Zach LaVine, makes for an enticing future for the Timberwolves.
Wiggins could turn into a Paul Pierce sort of star, or he could hang in that Rudy Gay zone — talented, with terrific moments, but not a true impact on the league.
But even if we take the pessimistic view there — heck, even if Wiggins does not improve from here — that’s still a pretty high bar.
Comparing Jackson to Wiggins means indirectly diminishing Jackson’s significant physical gifts. He’s basically the same size as Wiggins, though not quite as fast, or as great of a jumper — particularly that second jump. But Wiggins is going to make anyone dull in comparison of physical gifts.
Jackson’s true edge will come from his competitiveness. He tries as hard as any supremely talented one-and-done that I can think of. That may read like a small, insignificant thing, but it also could be the biggest thing as Jackson’s career unfolds.
But my answer here is going to be Wiggins. Those physical gifts matter, and his game has always seemed a good fit for the NBA — he’s a terrific two-way individual player, with enough awareness and vision to help his teammates, too. Being surrounded by so much talent should mean he can continue to improve his shot selection and efficiency, as well as play for something more than a check.
I’m guessing most people would answer Wiggins, too, so I’m not going out on a limb here. I do think Jackson has a chance to be better. That jumper needs work, he probably needs a little strength, a better handle, and more consistency defensively.
First, there is a logical and sensible case that national anthems don’t need to be and perhaps even should not be played before games. Nobody sings the anthem before a show at the theater, or a movie, or a street festival, or virtually any other large gathering of people.
But to answer your question, I don’t like it. I think I understand where the sentiment comes from — particularly with a national team — but I can’t get past the thought that it misses a bigger, more important, and better truth.
Even as I wonder why we play the anthem before games in the first place, I still occasionally find myself looking around to see if anyone didn’t take their hat off.
But forcing someone to do something is, in many ways, the opposite of what the flag and anthem stand for. I will always stand, and I will always take my hat off, but I will also always feel others have the right to do as they choose as long as they’re not hurting anyone.
If you kneel, you’re making a choice. That choice comes with consequences. You should expect to explain yourself, and you should expect to be criticized. But I think you should also expect to be able to do it.
That’s part of what our country should be. The most compelling thing I hear around this debate is when veterans say they fought so people could kneel.
I don’t like seeing people kneel, but what I like even less is seeing someone “ban” it, particularly without listening to that person’s reasons. I think our goal should always be to have the kind of country where everyone wants to stand, and to sing the anthem at the top of their lungs. It’s hard to see how we get closer to that with forcing what by definition would be an empty show of non-respect gets us there.
But I also know you’re asking the wrong question, and I think you know that, too. The reason for the mandate, at least in my opinion, has very little to do with patriotism and a lot more to do with business.
If U.S. Soccer is afraid it will lose sponsorships, or if the sponsors are afraid they’ll lose business, then there will be rules about standing during the anthem.
Assuming I did this right, I counted 53 beers on Boulevard’s website, including seasonals.
That is far too many beers for a normal person to try. I counted, and I think I’ve had 33 of them. That’s probably far too many beers for a normal person to try.
But I want to say this: I’d be happy if they had 153 beers, as long as it doesn’t impact my favorites, and it means more experimentation and different flavors that might turn into new favorites.
Being able to try them all is never the point. I would not drink a sour beer unless you paid me, and even then I’d make sure to negotiate the price. I would rather drink iced tea than any Radler (sorry, Jeremy Danner).
But, what do I care if those beers are produced? If enough people like them to make it worth producing, then cool. There is plenty of room on the shelves.
When Boulevard sold to Duvel, I was disappointed. In some ways, I still am. They had positioned themselves as a Kansas City company — perhaps the Kansas City company — and threw subtle shots at Budweiser and others who sold or merged.
Selling meant fundamentally changing the company. There’s no way around that. Boulevard is still my favorite brewery, though my fridge now has more variety than it once did.
All that said, what I was most concerned about is that Boulevard would lose its personality, or its innovation. I would’ve been happy enough if they merely continued to produce my favorites — Pale Ale, Tank 7, Bully Porter, Bob’s, BBQ, and of course the amazing Saison-Brett.
My fear was that a corporate overlord wouldn’t want to make the investments, and take on the possible losses, of experimentation. I’m thrilled to be so wrong.
There is no chance I’m going to try all of the new beers, but that’s never the point. If I try one, I’m happy they made it.