Hearne: The Enigma That is the Star’s Vahe Gregorian

Vahe-gregorianRaise your hand if you recognize the name Vahe Gregorian?

Lemme see, one, two, three…that’s it?

Truth be told, chances are if you’re a reader of KC Confidential you also keep an eye on the Kansas City Star and probably noticed when Vahe – may I call him Vahe? – effectively replaced Joe Posnanski a couple months back as the newspaper’s second sports columnist.

He’s the dude who looks like a mashup of John McCain and Joe McGuff’. 

Longtime readers may recall that I was bullish early on on Sam Mellinger in the wake of the Jason Whitlock debacle. I’m still a fan of Sam, even given my infinite ability to search for the cup half empty.

Of course, if you subscribe to the Tracy Thomas school of thought,  I’m certain to trash Sam if I’m around and writing still after he departs this mortal coil.

Hey, but what are the odds of that?

Anyway, I’m overdue in weighing in on Gregorian, so here goes…

First a confession.

I’ve had a hard time bringing myself to read his columns. In part, because my life doesn’t revolve around sports anymore and in part because of that pic of him that accompanies his column – it’s hard to explain.

11386054I thought some of Vahe’s early works were kind of predictible. You know, time and space killers on shop worn topics like the one about local morons who shout “Chiefs!” at the end of the Star Spangled Banner. And bring back the Border War. That stuff isn’t news nor a view that serves much of a purpose.

It was just filler while Vahel had a chance to sample some local barbecue, get over the death of his cat and get up to speed on the local sports scene.

Clearly he’s there now – as evidenced by the increased frequency of his writing and front page cameos, so what do I think?

Here’s what:

I still can’t really tell you, because I’m still having a hard time bringing myself to read his columns.

yost_20120423043450_320_240Take last Sunday’s column.

“Winning manager can’t win with fans,” the front page headline read. “As Royals chase the playoffs, some don’t believe in Yost, even though the players do.”

Uh, that was enough for me.

I was already generally familiar with the topic and no way was I about to chokes down the nearly 70 column inches Vahe laid down exploring this mundane topic.

Seventy column inches is huge.

If you’re going to try and pull a Joe Posnanski in a daily newspaper in this day and age you better have a heckuva strong topic, maybe some actual news and be riveting.

I will tell you that man Vahe knows how to write. I’ve sampled enough of his work to recognize that, still something’s missing in terms of the content.  I keep going back to that mug shot and the fact that he’s a grizzled veteran of the St. Louis scene.

Why couldn’t the Star have hired another fresh, young up and comer? Like Whitlock, Posnanski and Mellinger were when they came on board. Someone fresh and exciting with post Y2K sensibilities. That would have been – I dunno – more exciting, more compelling and hopefully more entertaining.

If the Star was bent on handing the sports columnist baton to a fellow senior citizen, why not Randy Covitz. Randy rocks and they’re already stuck having to pay him. Why not Randy?

Okay, maybe Randy didn’t want it. And maybe the sports section brass is tired of having its brightest young stars spirited away by the likes of ESPN.

Chances are Vahe and his wife – who snagged a job riding herd over the Star’s house and home section btw – are here to stay. The only free agent action the newspaper has to worry about with them is probably if and when the John Knox Village newsletter folks come calling with an offer they can’t refuse.

I’m counting on some of you readers to tell me if I’m wrong.

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The Glaze

And I’ve been taking sport-a-holic Craig Glazer‘s pulse on this topic for at least two months now and here’s what he just told me:

“Yeah, you keep asking me, but I don’t have an opinion either,” Glazer says. “He doesn’t jump out at me, but he’s okay, I guess. I can’t be fair in making a judgment because I haven’t read the guy much.”

That from a dude who lives and breathes local sports, reads the Star daily and is probably pretty close to Vahe in age.

Does Glazer even read Vahe’s columns?

“No,” Glazer says. “Because as a person that does what he does, he’s not telling me anything I don’t already know. And he’s from St. Louis and still trying to catch up.

“Here’s another thing, at his age he isn’t a guy that’s going to get real close to the players. People like Sam Mellinger who are younger, have a chance to get closer to the players to get some scoops.”

Jeff Flanagan

Jeff Flanagan

Is there a buzz on Vahe among the radio and sports media types Glazer rubs elbows with on a weekly basis?

“I’m not ever hearing his name when I listen to the radio,” Glazer says. “I hear Mellinger’s name. I hear Whitlock’s name. I even hear Jeff Flanagan‘s name. I haven’t heard Gregorian’s name once.

“I mean, how is this guy – who I assume is in his 60s – going to get in with these young players and other (younger) sports media guys?”

To be continued.

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19 Responses to Hearne: The Enigma That is the Star’s Vahe Gregorian

  1. paulwilsonkc says:

    First, I’m a sports agnostic; could not possibly care less about a sports writer.
    Second, you chimed in with similar views on a disinterest in sports, but I’m still teetering on whether or not look the dude up and sample a piece or his work even if I had to gut it out just for comparison sake. I’m trying to learn about this writing gig, you know?
    Third, of course, you turned to Craig, nothing is complete without Craig’s view; he doesn’t know him so why should I?
    Finally, I can’t pronounce his name, regardless of previous opinions expressed, I checked out with that last fact.
    Oy Vahe

    • Orphan of the Road says:

      Have to remember the whole sports genre was pretty much invented by a couple of pimps, Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson.

      Good writing transcends the genre.

      Bill Currie was the best reporter/sports-talker (his assessment of the job) I have witnessed in my life.

    • admin says:

      Funny guy, Paul…

      To be more clear, I’m not anywhere near your level when it comes to disinterest in sports, Paul. I’ve been just as rabid as some of the best of them in the past and still watch a number of games – or parts of them anyway – from time to time. I also follow the standings and the players because those are Kansas City’s celebrities and sports agnostic or not, we all have a measure of interest in the town’s celebrities.

      Glazer lives, breathes and dies sports. He’s on at least one television station and three radio stations weekly and listens to sports radio – dare I say – more than you do those snoozers at KMBZ.

      He subscribes to the Star, reads and discusses stories, news and columns in there – not just with me – but with many others and is on a first name basic with many of the sports talk personalities in town.

      So yeah, if after like three months or something he can’t even tell you this guy’s name or anything that he’s said or written, that counts for something in terms of measuring whether or not Vahe is having much, if any, impact since his arrival.

      Don’t trouble yourself to read any of his columns unless you’re just curious. You’ll find they’re well written if you do. But choice of topic is just as, if not more important and thus far he’s yet to make a dent in my armor…or your hero Craig’s.

      • paulwilsonkc says:

        I understand Orphans point about writing transcending genre. I had the chance to spend a good deal of time with Jim Rome a few years back. As you and I just discussed, those few years may have been 10 at this point, but he was at his peak with his show. I made the same comment about my lack of sports interest but listened with some regularity to his show because of content that I found interesting outside of just sports. You know, like Field of Dreams was a baseball movie that really wasn’t about baseball. It has a deeper message. All said, I get it.

  2. Orphan of the Road says:

    His writing makes vanilla an exotic flavor.

    The days of the great sports writer/reporter are pretty much finished.

    Where is Ring Lardner when you really need him?

  3. Mysterious J says:

    Ouch, Vahe’s been Hearne’d.

  4. paulwilsonkc says:

    Sweet baby Jesus, can someone just phonetically spell his name for me? If I have to make one up after looking at his picture, its not going to be pretty, especially after the “wet wipe” story I just wrote….

  5. Stomper says:

    Yep Hearne, you are wrong. At least a little bit.

    First, I work in a fairly large office and a pretty good number of my associates here, both male and female, still argue vehemently about why the Border War should either be renewed because Jayhawk fans need to get over it or why it should never be renewed because MU needs to be punished for leaving the Big 12. All college educated at a minimum and many pulling down 6 figures. I agree with you that it is old news but the passion level on this topic still drives a lot of people.

    Same with what you call “mundane” regarding whether or not the Royals should stick with Yost. Personally this topic does interest me quite a bit more than the Border War issue. Its’ sure to heat up some once the Royals’ season is over. A whole lot more is going to be written on this one.

    No offense intended here but I had to smile a little when you wrote that your life doesn’t revolve around sports anymore. I know you were a track star in high school and that B.C.Christopher was a major sponsor when the Chiefs came to KC back in the early sixties. I still remember the huge B.C.Christopher drum on the sidelines during their early days. You were at every game. Yep, I also recall that you did have a few years back in the 70’s when you bet college games. However, from my perspective, knowing you for almost 50 years now, your life NEVER revolved around sports.

    A huge number of people go crazy about sports. Want to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger. Ask them who their favorite team is and let them roll. Fantasy leagues, college football and basketball, Vegas betting on sports, ad nauseum. Love him or hate him, when Glaze writes about sports, commenters come out of the woodwork. Sports topics is a magnet for comments. Of all ages. Remember Mertie and Gertie Hite ??

    Finally, and I’ve noticed this in many of your postings, there seems to be a subliminal dislike for anything old. In past offerings you have expressed disdain for aging musicians still out there. You think a sportswriter needs to be “fresh and exciting with post Y2K sensibilities” to be credible. Maybe the point about a sportswriter being young gives them a better chance to get next to an athlete but there are still lots of us old people reading what is out there. The John Knox Village comment was a cheap shot. Younger and newer is not always better.

    Ok, good friend, you did ask your readers to tell you if you were wrong. I’m just answering the call.

    BTW, Vahe’s picture creeps me out as well.

    • expat says:

      When I was young my pops told me that sports are great for starting conversations and meeting strangers. What he forgot to mention and I had to learn on my own is that people who are that interested in sports are dullards and conversing with them is a waste of time. Six figures, college, I’m so impressed! I’d rather talk to a high school graduate living at the poverty line if they’re actually living, instead of living vicariously through ghetto thugs in spandex on TV.

      • paulwilsonkc says:

        +100
        I’m right there with you.
        Dullards.

      • chuck says:

        expat makes good points, but the gambling aspect of sports is what makes it interesting in my opinion.

        It’s not really about sports, or the athletes, but about your ability to win or lose based on aquisition of information and the subsequent wager. It’s about Harvey Keitel drawing his firearm in “The Bad Lieutenant” and blasting away at his car radio because Strawberry hits into a double play.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ir8Y4iFrWk8

        It is everything that is bad, evil and yet so seductive. It is you as the substitute for the athlete, the malificent transubstantiation onto the field by way of a Daniel Webster bet, that you lose even when you win.

        I am only mildly interested in baseball and Glazer is right, Vahe has no chance of giving me any information on football that I probably am not aware of.

        Sorry about the offensive clip, it is supposed to be sad, but every time I see it, I can’t stop laughing.

    • admin says:

      Guess they don’t call you Stomper for nothing…

      I think you misread me on Vahe’s Yost and Border War columns. I wasn’t trying to say those topics weren’t relevant to some, rather that they were shopworn and not worthy of a heavy hitter columnist. Not unless he had something new to bring to the table.

      Everybody and his uncle has lamented the Border War, for example. Coming in from out of town and grousing about that and the national anthem folly is tired. Been there and read and heard that.

      Got a fresh solution? Nail Bill Self and/or KU’s chancellor to the cross for being small minded. Jus kicking those same old cans down the road in the same old way is, I dunno, b-o-r-i-n-g to me.

      You read those columns apparently Stomper.

      Can you recall anything provocative from those readings? No cheating. Tell me from memory what you liked from those two columns. Did they for you deliver?

      Did my life ever revolve around sports? Not totally.

      But for years I rushed home or to wherever to be there for the start of KU basketball games on television. I watched almost every Chiefs game either in person or on TV. I had a baseball card collection growing up that wouldn’t quit. And it mattered to me quite deeply if Kansas City’s teams won or lost.

      Granted I was never a complete dweeb in terms of joining a fantasy league and crunching stats day in and day out.

      I drove or flew to bowl games in Miami and Tempe. And I bought season tickets to the Wiz and Wizards from Year One until they went to T-Bones park and went to practically every game, even flying or driving to away games in Dallas and Washington, DC. I watched the US national team whenever I could and subscribed to Soccer America and Soccer Digest. I watched each and every World Cup game I could and probably still will.

      So yeah, sports did matter to me quite a bit for many years, but now, eh. They still matter but I’ve kinda moved on. Like Matt Donnelly said recently about me, now that I’m living in Lawrence I’ve come to look at KU basketball more as a cult than a sport.

      As for my “cheap shot” at Vahe on John Knox Village, that was supposed to be funny. Ha ha.

      But it’s based on fact. Do you know how many 20, 30 and 40-something sportswriters and columnists have been lured away from the Star by ESPN and the like in recent years? A ton. But they’re not so much after guys in their late 50s, 60s and up.

      So it’s doubtful they’ll be having to replace Mr. and Mrs. Vahe anytime soon.

      Just sayin’

      • Stomper says:

        HC

        Just a respectful response here. With regards to the sports issue, looks like we are quibbling on semantics. Ahh, memories of S.I.Hayakawa. Absolutely no question that you were, and to some lesser degree still are a big sports fan. I just got a kick out of the phrase, “revolves around” . In earlier years for you, I will say that phrase could be used for topics like, music and cars. A couple of others come to mind but I won’t embarrass you with your youthful indescretions. You are certainly a passionate and focused guy with your interests so I’d also use that phrase to describe your time spent with Firm Productions, your gig with the Star and obviously KCC. But sports, still a no in my book. Just sayin’

        I am still anxious to hear your thoughts on my accusation of “subliminal dislike for anything old”. Maybe a topic for lunch sometime, old man.

        BTW, no real argument on your view of Vahe. As I mentioned above, I was just taking you up on your invitation to your readers to tell you that you were wrong. We don’t get that often and I didn’t want to miss out on the fun.

        • Hearne says:

          Well, as far as the many readers of KCC, let me make it clear that critiquing and/or bashing me is an open invitation to all.

          As for your other question / point, we live in a culture that celebrates youth. And while certainly there is plenty of room for older, at times wiser heads, I don’t think any of us want to see Len Dawson taking the field for the Chiefs or Jane Fonda appearing in any steamy sex scenes.

          Similarly, past Star sports scribes have been brought on board when they were at least halfway young and they tend to bring fresh perspectives to the table.

          The Star has lost any number of talented younger sportswriters the past six or nine years and by bringing in an oldster like Vahe, it’s probably a pretty safe bet that ESPN won’t be robbing the Star’s sports cradle to bring him aboard. So they can get a little continuity going.

          They just lost their last (younger) sports columnist after like a year or so and then went several months with only Sam Mellinger.

          They can’t replace these guys like they can trash truck drivers or dust mop operators.

          They also hired Vahe’s wife to do the Sunday House and Home section, so even if someone thought he was worth stealing, they’d be bidding against TWO paychecks, not one.

          Old is OK – good even – as long as it’s halfway fresh and still vital. The sad reality is that even in music – and often writing even – the creative juices can run dry.

          Plus that pic of Vahe looking like McCain is more than a little creepy. And can you picture him losing it over the death of his cat?

  6. Sean says:

    Gregorian is a hack. It’s rote, common garbage that everyone has already covered by the time he gets to it. I guess he’s never heard of the internet. Anyway, who the hell would defend Ned Yost in their right mind? Can’t wait until he calls for the firing of Pioli.

  7. Barfly on the wall says:

    you can’t go wrong if you’re one of Fannin’s liquor-guzzling buddies! That’s how he got the job. Not on talent or anything.

  8. Gerald Bostock says:

    Vahe’s output has been disappointing. Obvious, wellworn topics without fresh perspectives, and a tendency to be ass-kissing toward the Big Men on the Sports Campus. Apparently he was considered a good reporter, but not everyone can make the transition to columnist. Maybe he was a reporter too long to feel comfortable expressing opinions or his personality in a column. Or maybe he doesn’t have opinions or a personality.

    Posnanski could tend to mushiness, but he definitely had a strong columnist’s voice; Whitlock could be provocative to the point of clueless self-parody, but he also was clearly comfortable in the role of stir-up-the-mud columnist. Vahe is none of those things–just bland. It’s like we’ve taken the DeLorean back to 1985 and Gib Twyman, Jon Rand, and Joe McGuff are once again churning out their weightless puffery.

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