If there’s one thing sportswriters are good at, it’s pocket pool…
In a manner of speaking.
Because day in, day out they have lots of time to feign high drama and provocative insight for the jock sniffers of the world. They’re always on the lookout for angles – a new approach to titillate today’s “bread and circus” sports crowd. And it’s a full time job, no less.
The Kansas City Star‘s Sam Mellinger is particularly adept at this, spinning stories that more often than not are artfully crafted, insightful and well written. Unlike his phat predecessor, Mellinger doesn’t need to pimp people to try and make a name – nor drown them in overwrought prose.
That said, like in baseball, it’s hard to knock the cover off the ball every time.
The other thing about sportswriters is they tend to have a pack mentality.
They all more-or-less subscribe to the same broad, general truisms – however cliched – which too often results in consensus journalism.
Take Mellinger’s column, “Think KU and Wichita State players see this as a rivalry? Think again.”
Despite referring to the Jayhawks / Shockers showdown as “one of the most anticipated college basketball games in the state’s history,” Mellinger dedicated an entire column to fleshing out the supposedly false premise that there wasn’t really a rivalry between the two school’s teams. Then he supported his case with quotes from college kids trained not to piss off the other team before a big game.
No rivalry, who’s Mellinger trying to kid ?
“A person or thing that is in a position to dispute another’s preeminence or superiority.”
That sounds like Wichita State and Kansas to me.
Seriously, on what planet does Wichita State vs. KU not qualify as a rivalry?
Hey, but Mellinger was in search of an angle and that may have struck him as a controversial thing to say – an easy column to write. He tried to back it up by citing that there’s “no history and “nobody on either team was out of diapers the last time these teams faced each other. The players know each other. They’re friendly.”
Bogus logic; some of my greatest rivalries have been with close friends, trying to kick their butts in tennis, handball, backgammon – even pro wrestling!
Sunday’s basketball game represented a huge rivalry and one that will resound throughout the state and across the country for weeks and months to come. Because it made the mighty Jayhawks and their McDonald’s All Americans appear weak and overrated, while certifying the lowly Shockers as the real deal.
Mellinger had to effectively eat his “no rivalry” words after Sunday’s game.
“It’s the worst nightmare for us,” he quoted KU point guard Frank Mason.
“It’s not going to be the most pleasant next few weeks for me, personally,” Mellinger quoted KU coach Bill Self, then adding, “(Self) had been very open about how the attention and storylines of facing an in-state school he hasn’t scheduled made this bigger to him than a typical tournament game.There is no question he wanted this one with a particular passion.”
Funny thing, Wichita State star Fred VanFleet must have missed Mellinger’s column.
“There’s so much to be said about this rivalry with Kansas,” VanVleet told ESPN, “but really, it’s all about the fans. What better story is there for Wichita State?”
“The Shockers have tried for years to schedule a game against Kansas, but the dominant school in the Sunflower State has always refused, arguing it would have nothing to gain from it,” ESPN continued. “After the beating they got Sunday, it’s no wonder the Jayhawks never want anything to do with Wichita State.”
Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t that sound a little rivalry-ish?
Of course it does. Who cares when the players were born or who they went to school with, rivalries are passed down through generations – and not just in sports.
When you’re only 160 miles away in the same state and Big Dog KU won’t even throw you a small bone and let you play them once in a while, that’s a rivalry. And now the shoe’s on the other foot with KU on the outside looking in…for now.
Self tried to downplay losing to Wichita State afterwards to ESPN, but the look on his face said it all.
And Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall got the last laugh after the game as well.
“When asked whether he kissed away any chance of playing Kansas on a regular basis, Marshall replied: “Who knows? They may want to play now. I have no idea. I’m not worried about that. I’m fine letting the series lay the way it is right now. The series is good with me.”
Looks like they maybe think it’s a rivalry..
Even the mighty New York Times referred to the contest as an “unfulfilled rivalry.”
USA Today described Marshall as charging toward his family after the game, winking at his wife and saying, this was a victory the Shockers will forever savor. “I’m not sure we’ll even need a plane to fly home,” he added.
Not to be disagreeable, but I’d say KU-Wichita State is one heckuva rivalry.
And KU needs to man up and agree to start scheduling the Shockers – it beats the heck out of what’s left of K-State basketball.
Oh yeah, remember the pack mentality I mentioned earlier? Check out the headline in the Lawrence Journal World the day after Mellinger’s “no rivalry” column ran:
“Rivalry talk dies here”