Morning Sun
  • SISNEY: Travel, concessions and plenty to be thankful for

  • Friends and family have been posting online what they have to be thankful for and some have gone as far to post something every day leading up toward Thanksgiving. It’s been nice to read them and it started me thinking along similar lines. I composed a sports-oriented list. . . .

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  • Friends and family have been posting online what they have to be thankful for and some have gone as far to post something every day leading up toward Thanksgiving. It’s been nice to read them and it started me thinking along similar lines. I composed a sports-oriented list. . . .
    • New experiences. Last weekend, I covered the NCAA Division II National Championships in cross country. This was my first time covering a collegiate cross country meet and it was definitely everything that Pittsburg State head coach Russ Jewett told me it would be and more.
    The spectacle was incredible — over 500 men and women runners combined from schools all over the country and their fellow runners not participating in the meet, fans, parents, and coaches massed along the Missouri Southern course north of the football stadium.
    The cross country team members not running last Saturday painted themselves in their respective school colors, wrote slogans, carried signs, and acted like cheerleaders and partisans of their respective schools. I can remember seeing Augustana (S.D.), Adams State (Colo.), Pitt State and Missouri Southern runners performing mass dance numbers before the race and then cheering their teammates on. I kept thinking, ‘Boy, they’re lucky we’re enjoying such mild November weather today.’
    The sight at the start of the race . . . wow, 250 runners making a straight-line downhill run for the middle of the course and the most advantageous early position in the race possible. It felt like something out of a motion picture.
    Then, once the course was clear, all the masses of people headed for their next destination. NCAA employees warned you to stick to the brush. Once in the brush, you have to keep an eye out for thorns. We’re talking serious pain infliction. You’ll see and hear coaches follow their runners — easy to identify because of their clipboards, their jackets, and their commands or shouts of encouragement. Parents will generally have video cameras or cell phones recording history. Cross country offers even spectators a mild workout in the great wide open.
    It all seems like it’s over so fast, especially the 6K women’s race. They all make 20-25 minutes seem like only a few minutes. Every time I watch a cross country race, I have more respect for those athletes.
    • Travel. Since attending the National Championship Game last December in Florence, Ala., I’ve been lucky enough to go to Manhattan, Salina, Topeka, Kansas City (Mo.), Bolivar (Mo.), Tahlequah (Okla.) and San Antonio. We’ve put some good solid mileage on the 1993 Chevy Caprice this past year and it brought up later travel ideas for my girlfriend and I, who love our little Sunday road trips and who enjoyed most of our summer vacation to San Antonio and Corpus Christi.
    I’ve already written on a few road experiences and I should write a book one day on misadventures. I will mention a couple here: on the Sunday drive from Pittsburg to San Antonio, Texas college students returning from Spring Break added multiple hours to our drive because of traffic congestion. We’re talking Texas Christian, Baylor, University of Texas, every college between Denton and San Antonio.
    Page 2 of 3 - Texas felt like one big, continuous city that day into night and I pondered a great escape route from Interstate 35.
    Driving back from state baseball in Manhattan, en route between Manhattan and Topeka along Interstate 70, a deer tested its courage against a mini-boat buzzing down the interstate at 70 mph. Somehow, I simultaneously averted the deer and remained in the right lane the whole time. I didn’t realize I would have such good reflexes after driving from Salina to Manhattan earlier that day, covering two baseball games and writing two stories, and sending in our stories and photos from on top of my car parked near Bramlage Coliseum. It was a spontaneous reaction.
    I read something on Jack Kerouac the other day and I realized that I’ve seen more of the country in my sober 30s than my wild and crazy 20s. Then, I remembered that Jack Kerouac worked as a sports writer and that his voyage to Columbia University began on a football scholarship. I also remembered that Hunter S. Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” had its genesis in “coverage” of the Mint 400 motorcycle race and that his infamous Gonzo writing style flowered in the 1970 piece “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved.”
    I am thankful I have football stadiums, basketball courts, baseball fields and cross country courses for additional office space. I already wrote that column about enjoying baseball games. I am blessed.
    • Concession stands. Thanks to my job as sports writer, I eat a good, clean, healthy All-American diet. Balanced and nutritional: pizza, popcorn (lots of popcorn), hot dogs, hamburgers, candy, et cetera. Now, it seems like I have to brush my teeth more and more to keep decay at bay and to make those dental appointments less painful when they crank up those drills and other power tools. I look forward to an entire basketball season of popcorn consumption from several stands. Hopefully, nobody stages an intervention and suggests dietary rehabilitation.
    • Interview subjects. You get to meet some good people on this job on a regular or a semi-regular basis. And every now and then somebody like former Major League Baseball player Willie Wilson and current University of Kansas football coach Charlie Weis comes to Pittsburg for an event.
    I have touched on my nostalgic affection for the Kansas City Royals of the 1980s in past columns. When the Royals Caravan hit Pittsburg earlier this year, I had an opportunity to interview Wilson, a key player on the 1985 World Championship team. Boy, I was a little bit nervous. It’s not everyday that you have a chance to speak to an important childhood figure like Willie Wilson. It went smoothly and I did not stumble all over myself like I have during some past interviews. I seized the moment and told Wilson my first live experience watching a MLB game was a Kansas City Royals-Detroit Tigers clash in September 1985.
    Page 3 of 3 - I was the lone area media dude who interviewed Weis. From what I understand, the President might have been in Joplin that day. Anyway, Weis sat alone in a booth and a KU media relations person led us to him. I tried asking him questions he’d not heard before from every sports writer and I failed. I found out that when he gets worked up and lights into something, he sounds like Biff Tannen (the “Back to the Future” movies).
    The seemingly long and winding road back to Weis felt like a past job interview experience which I would describe as my worst-ever job interview experience. I mentioned changing the culture and this was obviously the one conversational subject Weis heard at every stop on his Kansas tour. He did his best to answer the question with professionalism and respect but I read him being a little perturbed. I thought asking him ‘What’s Tom Brady really like?’ would have been a great waste of time. I thought it was an OK interview, not anything special on my part.
    I have both the audio of the interview and his chat with KU fans at Chatters. I cherish the dialogue exchange between a heckler and Weis. It’s priceless. I should go home and listen to it for old time’s sake. Hopefully, I did not delete it after going through and clearing 50-75 interview tracks.

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