Archive for Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Chinstraps and mouthpieces: ESPN piece overlooks state legends

July 27, 2005

ESPN, in its "50 states in 50 days" tour, featured Kansas on Sunday.

An anchor discussed Kansas sports history from a desk set up at the Trego County Fair in WaKeeney, which is about 30 miles west of Hays.

The network also did a piece on a horseshoe competition at the fair, which a father-son team from nearby Ellis won.

In addition, the piece included trivia about former Kansas athletic stars, such as Gale Sayers, Barry Sanders, Al Oerter and Jim Ryun. Basketball analyst Dick Vitale and football analyst Kirk Herbstreit discussed the two sports at Kansas University, how basketball is king and how football is trying to successfully coexist.

Although it's great to have much of the segment devoted to KU, other Kansas schools deserved some mention.

Wichita State, for instance, has become a baseball powerhouse under longtime coach Gene Stephenson, who earlier this summer announced he would coach at Oklahoma, only to back out and stay with the program he built from struggling team to national contender. Major-leaguer Joe Carter was a three-time all-American for WSU. His three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series gave Toronto a championship.

Kansas State, meanwhile, was home to legendary basketball coaches Tex Winter and Jack Hartman. Golf pro Jim Colbert competed at K-State, as did NBA and college coach Lon Kruger, who also coached at KSU. Tiger Woods' father, Earl, played baseball at K-State. He was the first African American baseball player to compete in the Big Eight Conference. Osawatomie native Lynn Dickey was a quarterback at K-State, as was Ottawa native Steve Grogan.

Fort Hays State, Washburn, Emporia State and Pittsburg State all deserve mentions as well.

Hays and Washburn both have men's basketball titles to their credit, while Washburn won last year's NCAA Division II women's basketball crown. Emporia State won the first women's softball national tournament in the 1980 AIAW Small College Tournament and was runner-up in women's basketball a few years ago in NCAA Division II. And don't forget Pitt State, the football powerhouse that won the 1991 national title in NCAA Division II.

Kansas also is home to one of the top junior college football conferences in the country. Division I programs look to Kansas for juco talent in both football and basketball.

With only a few minutes to work with and plenty of other states still to cover, ESPN just didn't have enough time to mention all those additional athletes and schools.

Dorothy and Toto, of course, were mentioned during the Sportscenter segment, but it's clear there's more to Kansas than tornadoes and ruby red slippers.

And although they were sports icons, there's more to the state's sports history than James Naismith and Phog Allen.

Surely there are more important issues swirling about the nation's capital than Northwestern lacrosse team members wearing flip-flops during their visit to the White House.

President Bush was recognizing the team's national title, not what a proper lady should wear with a skirt and blouse.

I bet it never crossed his mind -- and it shouldn't have.

Some people, including some of the players' family members, were "mortified."

Take a look at the team's photo with the president. The women look nice in their summer wardrobes.

Personally, I wouldn't wear flip-flops if I were going to meet the president.

But then I wouldn't have a skirt and blouse that would match them either. And the flip-flops weren't some ratty old shoes that one might wear to the beach.

The Northwestern athletes, though, were resilient.

They used the national criticism to their advantage, planning to auction off their flip-flops. The proceeds will go toward a fund for a 10-year-old girl with a brain tumor.

Besides, if the flip-flops worked for Bush's daughter Jenna at a court appearance for a misdemeanor charge of being a minor in possession of alcohol, I would think some Northwestern Wildcats could meet the president with similar attire.

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