Vahe Gregorian

Gregorian Chants: Banter-busting, Norm on KU/protests, Zobrist’s childlike wonder

Donald Trump’s assertion that talking about grabbing women’s genitals is common locker-room conversation is off-base, according to Chiefs receiver Chris Conley and the author of this post.
Donald Trump’s assertion that talking about grabbing women’s genitals is common locker-room conversation is off-base, according to Chiefs receiver Chris Conley and the author of this post. Bloomberg

Wrote a few weeks ago about receiver Chris Conley emerging as a voice of conscience for the Chiefs.

And he continued to be just that over the weekend in response to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s rationalization as good ol’ “locker-room banter” the crass, nasty comments about women he made on a 2005 tape that became public Saturday.

Here is what Conley said in a series of posts on Twitter:

“Just for reference. I work in a locker room (every day)... that is not locker room talk. Just so you know…”

“Have I been in every locker room? No. But the guys I know and respect don’t talk like that. They talk about girls but not like that. Period.”

“Apart from this debate and apart from the election. I’m appalled how many of you are tweeting me that talking and acting that way is ok.”

“I’m done. If that’s the talk you hear around you then be the place where change begins. Regardless of this election let’s be a better people.”

Friends have asked me if it’s been my experience to hear such stuff in a locker room.

Not at all. Not as an athlete in high school and college and not in about 30 years as a reporter.

Yes, crude stuff you wouldn’t want to repeat might waft across now and then, but none of this kind of aggressive posturing — at least not in the recent decades since Trump would have inhabited them in the early 1960s.

Now, obviously in our jobs we only get glimpses of locker rooms, and ultimately only a few at that, and it might be reasonably surmised that athletes are conscious of our presence and clean it up for our consumption.

It’s also hard not to think there aren’t conversations in that sphere on occasion between athletes seated next to each other.

But Trump’s insinuation was that this is the essential culture of locker rooms, as if that sort of talk is encouraged and enabled and condoned by every group and that ogres rule the rooms instead of the many thoughtful men who actually do.

Even if you accept that there may be locker rooms where some of that is allowed to happen, it’s preposterous to suggest it’s a universal language.

Or that that would somehow make it OK even if it were.

And, finally, that there aren’t enlightened people like Conley and many others around who wouldn’t seek to shut it down.

▪ At the Coaches vs. Cancer season tipoff at Bartle Hall last week, had a nice visit with Norm Stewart, the founder of the program and former University of Missouri basketball coach.

He reiterated some things he’s said before and elaborated on a few others … and I can’t swear to this but I believe he waved to a passing Jayhawk mascot as we sat and chatted.

Yes, he’d still like to see the rivalry resume, albeit with the perhaps-surprising asterisk he’s attached ever since it went dormant with MU’s departure from the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference.

“We’re the ones I think that have to make the amends and appeal to them to come and play,” he said.

In addition to continuing to support protégé Kim Anderson, among the topics was how Stewart, 81, would handle any inclination of his players to engage in protest with athletes around the nation more involved in that now than since the early days of Stewart’s coaching career.

Stewart thought of one of his first players, David Pike, who wanted to take part in a sit-in at the chancellor’s office.

Stewart recalled asking Pike, who died in 2015, “David, what do they want?” When Pike said he was unsure, Stewart said he told him to go find out and that if it was “something we believe in, I’ll go with you … Maybe I’ll want the ballclub to go.”

Pike soon returned and said he was going to practice because he couldn’t understand what the group sought, Stewart said.

“So I think today everybody has to look at the circumstances and the situation, and you make intelligent decisions,” he said. “I’ve never met anyone in the coaching profession who didn’t want to help somebody else if it was for a good cause. I just haven’t met them.”

That said, Stewart considers it all delicate and complex.

“To me, if I were an athlete, my first obligation was that the school gave me a scholarship ….” he said. “Obviously, (as a player) I’m free to express what I want to express.

“But there’s a lot of funny sayings, cute sayings about doing things in a fan … They better be prepared, because not everybody agrees with them.”

▪ There may be an entire column to write about this sometime, but I find myself wondering if some of the glory of being a Cubs fan would be lost if they win their first World Series since 1908.

▪ Speaking of the Cubs: Love that ex-Royal Ben Zobrist wore his uniform as he rode his bike to work at Wrigley Field last month.

It made me think of my trip during the 2015 postseason to his hometown of Eureka, Ill., where I think I saw the seeds of what would compel him to do such a thing — including the elaborate Wiffle Ball field in the family’s backyard and the fact that his career basically hinged on a $50 tryout camp.

The visit started at the Liberty Bible Church, where Zobrist’s father, Tom is the pastor, and featured stops at some of Ben’s early playing fields and a pop-in at the Ronald Reagan Museum at Eureka College (Reagan’s alma mater) and ended with Tom insisting on taking me to Uncle Bob’s Homemade Ice Cream.

▪ Mama Gregorian got me the new Springsteen autobiography, “Born To Run,” and it seems like every day now I find myself needing to think through my top 10 songs by my favorite artist.

This morning’s list:

“Backstreets”

“Badlands”

“Incident on 57th Street” … into “Rosalita”

“Promised Land”

“Thunder Road”

“Ties That Bind”

“Darkness On The Edge of Town”

“She’s The One”

“Independence Day”

“Saint In The City”

Vahe Gregorian: 816-234-4868, @vgregorian

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