Asleep on the Bench

Running on empty

Because of our state song, everyone knows Kansas is “where the deer and the antelope play.” After this past weekend, I think we’re going to need to change Lawrence’s motto to “where we can’t stop the run.”

The day after Hutchinson High’s Blaik Middleton gashed Free State’s defense for 356 rushing yards and six touchdowns in the Class 6A state semi-final, Oklahoma freshman Samaje Perine did him one better — or actually 71 better — rushing for 427 yards against Kansas to set a new NCAA single-game record.

The Jayhawks undoubtedly had little chance of recruiting Perine, a 5-11, 243-pound block of granite who runs as if that granite is rolling downhill. But Middleton might be a different story.

At 5-10, 175, the Hutch High senior is of a size most D-I schools will pass on. If the Jayhawks can sign him and put another 25 pound on the young man, perhaps they’ll have something.

Interim head coach Clint Bowen has talked often of recruiting Kansas kids and Bowen, or whoever ends up with the job, could do worse than start with Middleton.

While the new coach is at it, he might look at the Hutch offensive line, which paved huge holes for Middleton to scoot through. Shoot, sign the whole line.

A similar story took place Saturday afternoon in Norman, Oklahoma. Perine was a marvel, but OU’s line gave him a lot of help.

The Sooner’s O-line includes four seniors, three of whom spent a year redshirting. The five members of the line average 322 pounds, a figure that would be more imposing if they didn’t allow pipsqueak center Ty Darlington (62, 286) in their midst. The only junior on the line, Darlington knocks nine pounds off their average weight.

Having four seniors on the line — three of them in their fifth year — would do wonders for the KU offense.

Another back who had a good day Saturday, Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, also benefits from a strong offensive line legacy.

Wisconsin has sent a bunch of offensive linemen to the NFL. Given their history, the Badgers current offense line is a bit light but they nearly match Oklahoma, averaging 321 pounds. And, you’ll begin to see a theme here; Wisconsin’s offensive line features three fifth-year seniors.

Gordon followed his blockers for 200 yards as he went over the 2,000-yard mark quicker than any back in NCAA Division I history. Gordon was coming off a 408-yard effort against Nebraska last week. That mark was good for the D-I record but it lasted only a week.

The value of a big, experienced offensive line would seem to be obvious. Whoever is coaching Kansas next year, and recruiting this offseason, needs to work to find those kids who can be seasoned starters in four or five years.


KC Royals are the new Kardiac Kids

My cardiolgist is getting an able assist from the Kansas City Royals.

The Royals early run this postseason featured a number of extra-inning thrillers that had my heart racing faster than a treadmill test.

I made it through those games in fine fettle. But I’m sure Friday night’s Game 3 of the World Series would have kicked up my EKG to another level. Had I been hooked up to a machine, the tape would have resembled Norway’s steepest fjords.

Late-game rallies test my composure like nothing else in sports, but it’s those games when the team for which you are rooting seemingly has the game in hand only to let the lead slip away late that drive me crazy. I have a friend who, when faced with watching a game of that sort — especially tight Kansas University basketball games — finds he needs to take a walk around the block in order to cool off. This holds true whether he is watching alone at home or with a group of the guys at a local drinking, or smoking, establishment.

The funny thing is, it often works ... KU rallies or holds off an opponent’s comeback. Order is restored in his world.

My own response when the game gets too tight is much different, and exceedingly more cowardly.

I simply go to bed.

It’s not so much the other team putting pressure on my team that causes me to fold up like a pup tent. That response comes on those admittedly rare occasions when the Jayhawks come out flat and fall behind early.

That’s when I mutter something about not watching this travesty (though my language is usually a great deal more colorful) and head to my bedroom.

My own method has worked out many times as well. The key, I think, is going to sleep convinced that KU will lose. Then when I wake up the next morning I’m not too devastated by a loss, but in those games when the Crimson and Blue manage to pull out a victory I’m joyfully surprised.

Friday night’s Royals-Giants game was one of those when Kansas City seemingly had things going its way until San Francisco started scratching its way back. With KC’s vaunted bullpen, a 3-0 lead going into the bottom of the sixth inning felt pretty safe. But the Giants scored two runs of their own against starter Jeremy Guthrie and reliever Kelvin Herrera. Herrera is the seventh-inning component of the Royals’ three-headed monster relief corps. Letting him pitch in his customary roll, the Dominican pitcher has been lights out virtually the entire season, but bringing him into a game in the sixth hasn’t always worked out as well. Herrera got Kansas City out of the sixth with a lead but he wobbled in the seventh, walking a baserunner and getting only a single out before Ned Yost yanked him from the game.

Enter The Kid. Five months ago, rookie Brandon Finnegan led TCU into the College World Series. Friday night he got his first action in the 2014 MLB World Series. Finnegan is the first pitcher to pull off that diamond double.

He worked his way through the remainder of the seventh and handed the ball to Wade Davis and Greg Holland.

Davis and Holland locked the door tight, as they’ve done any number of times this season.

But one of these days one, or either, of them is bound to falter. Aren’t they?

The 1980 Cleveland Browns, coached by Sam Rutigliano and led by quarterback Brian Sipe were nicknamed the Kardiac Kids for a series of come-from-behind wins to reach the playoffs for the first time in nine years. The Browns played six nailbiters down the stretch, winning four to claim the division crown by a single game.

Their luck ran out in the postseason, as a Lake Erie gust blew a Sipe pass intended for tight end Ozzie Newsome into the the arms of Oakland Raiders cornerback Mike Davis and arrested the Kardiac Kids’ season.

Those Kardiac Kids have nothing on the KC variety.

One more World Series win is in the books. Royals fans, including your’s truly, need only two more wins.

My doc and myself would appreciate it if at least one of them is a breather.


How to save money on big-time sports

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis walks off the field following the Jayhawks' 23-0 loss to Texas on Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis walks off the field following the Jayhawks' 23-0 loss to Texas on Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

The news that Charlie Weis was fired as Kansas University football coach early Sunday morning should have come as no surprise to anyone who has watched the Jayhawks this season. The team was simply not competitive with other Division I teams. KU's game with Texas Saturday was likely its best chance to secure a Big 12 victory this season and the Jayhawks came up 23 points short.

Worse, they failed to score a point. Last time I looked, college football teams that failed to score lost almost all of their games.

That KU owes Weis $7 million on his contract was and is pretty common knowledge as well.

But that fact is still difficult for me to wrap my mind around: Kansas University will be paying Mr. Weis $7 million to not coach its football team. Sorry Charlie. Thanks a lot.

In thinking about this situation, I believe I've come up with a way to fund my retirement account and save some college athletic directors and pro GMs a ton of money.

I'll begin with my alma mater.

Let it be said that I would not coach the KU football team for $1.5 million a year.

Wait, that sentence construction is all over the place. What I meant was I would gladly accept a $1.5 million check from the KU athletic department to not coach the Jayhawks this year and the following two seasons. That's a savings of $3 million right there.

Heck, if Sheahon Zenger wanted to yank my old college ties, I might even agree to do anything but coach the Jayhawks for a million dollars a year.

Weis' isn't the only situation in which I could provide assistance.

Take the Kansas City Royals, who are in the midst of an America League Division Series. In fact, take relief pitcher Aaron Crow. Crow, who started more fires than Zippo this season, made $1.48 million in 2014. I could be a crappy reliever who gets sent down to Double-A for half that much.

And don't get me started on Billy Butler. Butler made $8.5 million this year. For that amount of cash, he crushed nine home runs. You don't have to have a degree from MIT to figure out that he was paid nearly $1 million a dinger. But wait, you say, Billy does much more than hit home runs. You're right, he also clogs up the bases and runs so slowly you could time him with a sun dial.

I could run slowly for a couple of million a year. I've done it for far less.

Those two contracts are absolute steals compared to the New York Mets deal with erstwhile outfielder and professional complainer Bobby Bonilla. Bonilla was a six-time All-Star, including three times with the Pirates and a couple with the Mets. He was also a World Series winner with the Marlins in 1997.

During the 1998 offseason the Mets, thinking they needed just one more piece to win a World Series of their own, re-acquired Bonilla. After a lousy 1999 season — by both the team and Bonilla — the Mets gave up on him. When they released Bonilla they still owed him $5.9 million. Still thinking they were on the verge of a World Series title, the Mets looked for ways to defer his salary.

Bonilla's agent offered the Mets a deal: they would defer payment for a decade but New York would owe him interest on those 10 years.

Apparently, no one in the Mets' front office understood compound interest because when Bonilla's payments came due they found they owed him $1,193,248.20 a year for each of the next 25 years.

As with the above examples, I would do the same things (nothing) Bonilla is doing to earn his paycheck for half what he's getting.

There are a couple of NFL gigs I'd gladly accept. Chief's backup quarterback Chase Daniel makes $2.35 million a year to hold a clipboard. He also occasionally looks in on a huddle between Andy Reid and Alex Smith. I could hold a clipboard for half his salary, but I wouldn't take the job if I meant I had to go to Mizzou to get it.

In Daniel's defense, according to Wikipedia Daniel was a member of National Honor Society and his Texas high school's student council for three years.

But Daniel's contract looks positively thrifty compared to that of Titan's backup QB Charlie Whitehurst. Whitehurst might be best known for being the son of another career backup quarterback, David Whitehurst.

The younger Whitehurst has seen so little regular season action that his nickname is "Clipboard Jesus."

His dad played for the Chiefs for one season. Well, he was on the roster and presumably on the sideline. He never actually got into a game.

Shoot, I would hold a clipboard on an NFL sideline for a couple hundred thousand, provided I didn't ever have to go into the game.

Even the NFL has a Bonilla-esque contract. Steve Young, retired from the league since 2000, gets a million dollars a year from the USFL. That will continue until 2027 when Young will be 65.

The NBA? Stupidity strikes there, as well. Amar'e Stoudemire of the New York Knicks makes $23,410,988, mostly to limp around and cause analyst to reminisce about how great he once was. Amar'e (don't forget the apostrophe!) earned a little over 30,000 bucks a point during the 2013-14 season.

J.R. Smith, also of the Knicks (notice a pattern here?) gets $5.9 million a year to untie opponents shoelaces on free throws and blow into LeBron James' ear.

Former Wizards knucklehead Gilbert Arenas will make $22.3 million until 2016. He hasn't been in the league for two full seasons.

Again, half the money for the same amount of work, especially in Arenas' case.

And, lest we think all this madness occurs only on playing fields, consider that Congress has continued to be paid during each of the dozen government shutdowns since 1981. During the 2013 fiasco, the 535 members of Congress made $4,054,997.95. (Make sure you account for the 95 cents.)

You couldn't pay me enough to be in Congress.


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