I’ll make this brief because , as many of you know, I’m bullish on Sam Mellinger…
And I know that being a columnist with a finite beat like sports is a mixed blessing. On one hand it’s a somewhat sexy subject, a lot of people follow the local teams and and you can say almost anything you want because they’re public figures. On the other, you’re stuck writing about the Royals for six months.
One of the things that used to piss off some people at the Star – not everyone mind you – was when I broke news or dropped in my two cents about somebody or something on somebody else’s quote/unquote beat.
Tony Rizzo are your ears burning?
Here’s why. Because the way the newspaper is set up, it generally assigns a reporter to cover a certain subject or "beat." So scooping them or even perstering with "their" sources is considered by some as poaching. However, early on former editor Art Brisbane made it clear that for the most part that was a good thing. Because the readers were the winners. Beat writers miss stuff and sometimes don’t write about things because they don’t want to piss off the sources they must return to time and again.
For example, I broke the story of the then controversial Nelson-Atkins shuttlecocks and first black debutantes in the Jewel Ball. And I did so months before the so-called beat reporters had planned to. In the case of the ‘cocks, it resulted in a heavy duty public referendum on their placement and a kickass pissing match between the Nelson’s Marc Wilson and BBQ baron Ollie Gates.
No harm, no foul.
In another poached (if you will) story I set the record straight about beloved businessman Ray LaMar not merely setting sail into retirement for his few remaining golden years. Rather that he got closed down by Kansas City’s health department after more than a decade of stomach-turning violations of city health codes.
So embarrassed by my disclosures and reporting on LaMar’s was business writer Joyce Smith that ever since she’s scheduled regular pilgrimages to both Kansas and Missouri side health departments to report on restaurant violations. Guess who the winners were here? Star readers and the general public.
Joyce wasn’t about to be caught with her, uh, pants down again. In a front page story, no less.
Fun fact: So grotesque were some of LaMar’s violations my editor pruned them from my story. Something about not creating a disturbance at the breakfast table.
So today I come to you – hat not in hand – to make a suggestion to my pal Sam (not sure we ever met, actually) and the sports department.
Lighten up on the hyperbole.
In the midst of a decades-long losing streak by the Royals, it cannot possibly ring true that a cat from Gardner, Kansas named Bubba Starling "can change baseball in Kansas City forever."
Still that was Sam’s lede.
Even if that does eventually come to pass – unlikely as it seems – Royals fans have been jerked off far too many times for far too many years to swallow a line like that in today’s paper. As Joe Posnanski might have said, "Get me re-write!"
Next the headline-writing copy editor did Sam a further disservice in his page 2 column, "Despite Losses, Royals Future Is Still Bright."
Timing, wild man, timing.
We’ve read far too many headlines and columns pointing to the Royals promising future.
If drumbeats are the order of the day, Royals fans deserve to be served up a diet of "Get Rid of Glass" columns and headlines.
In my humble opinion.
Advice No. 3 advice, dearest Sam, has to do with the ridiculous hyperbole in Sunday’s sports section about Sporting Kansas City’s new stadium and its opening game this week against the Chicago Fire.
"The most important game in the history of Kansas City’s Major League Soccer franchise is less than 100 hours away…" Sam wrote.
The team is in the toilet and unless this begins a run to the MLS Cup and a second championship for the franchise, it’s little more than a curiosity call for the civic-minded types to come check out SKC’s cool, new digs.
Clearly Sam is not much of a soccer fan.
He seldom (if ever) writes about the play of the team (as sportswriters generally do). I can’t recall Sam calling out a single SKC player for poor play or critiquing the team’s on pitch strategy.
Sam doesn’t follow the team. He doesn’t have the faintest idea where to begin, so why pretend?
The most important game in SKC’s16 year history? Simple.
You don’t even have to know the difference between a corner kick and a goal kick. It was the Wizards thrilling MLS Cup Championship in 2000 in Washington D.C.
SKC’s new stadium? Huge deal. Thursday’s game against the Fire? Eh! Don’t bullshit us please, Sam.