All posts by ianechlin@gmail.com

Kansas Alienates Home Crowd Further With Unsportsmanlike Conduct

Audio: Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield talks to the media  after winning a road game against Kansas.

By Greg Echlin

Of all the Power 5 football conferences (Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, ACC and Pac-12), only Duke’s home game against Georgia Tech over the weekend had a smaller announced crowd (20,141) than the game in Lawrence between Kansas and No. 4 ranked Oklahoma (22,854).

So what did KU’s game captains do to fire up the Jayhawks fans not dressed up in Sooners gear? Refuse to shake hands at the coin toss with Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield.  How about that for upperclassmen leadership!  Really?

To top it off, after the game, when Jayhawks third-year coach David Beaty was asked from the outset of his post-game news conference about the gestures—or in this case a non-gesture—of his captains, he responded, “You’re going to stick your feet in the ground and you’re going to defend your grass.  I think we’ve got to display it better than that, obviously, but I get it.”

Beaty added, “I understand where they’re coming from.  I’ve got to do a better job as their coach.  Maybe teaching them how to manage that a little better.”

Isn’t sportsmanship one of the first basic principles taught at the beginner’s level of any sport?

Granted, Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield didn’t handle himself well later in the game with some of the gestures he made.  But the tone was already set for that type of behavior with KU’s display by its three game captains—Joe Dineen Jr., Dorance Armstrong Jr. and Daniel Wise—before the kickoff.  Then in the Jayhawks post-game interview room, only Lawrence native Dineen Jr. addressed questions while the other two Jayhawks players ducked out.

Mayfield, on the other hand, was openly apologetic in the compact visitors media room and then later on through Twitter.  His actions overshadowed the clinching of a berth in the Big 12 title game by OU (10-1, 7-1).

If KU wants to make statement, here’s a novel idea: Play better than losing to the Sooners, 41-3, and dropping to 1-10 (0-8 in the Big 12) this season.

It’s bad enough to alienate a fan base so badly that, if it’s not a KU basketball game, it largely wasn’t even aware the Jayhawks were playing their last football home game of the year.  It’s not hard to explain why more and more aren’t showing up.  Adding insult, KU is in the midst of a true road game losing streak—45 straight—that’s the worst ever among major college football programs.

The immediate outlook doesn’t look any more promising as KU focuses on its final game of the year at Oklahoma State.

Saying Goodbye To Carlos Beltran

Carlos Beltran photo above courtesy Keith Allison/flickr

Audio: George Brett in Cooperstown, 1999

By Ian Echlin

I have a special fandom toward Carlos Beltran ever since we were paired on-field. I was an honorary lineup participant around ten years old before a Sunday afternoon ballgame, and our short back-and-forth chat sticks with me to this day.

As a ‘90s kid, I only knew about watching the Kansas City Royals when they were at rock bottom. I got used to everyone counting the Royals out of contention before the All Star Break. As grim as the playoff picture seemed, I remember Carlos Beltran as a player who added something positive to a franchise deep in a hole.

Beltran represented one of the players I grew up wanting to like and follow closely. I remember watching Opening Day in 2004 after school. As excited as I was that baseball was back, I’ll never forget Beltran’s walkoff homerun to start the season with a win against the White Sox.

Beltran and second basemen Carlos Febles, Dos Carlos as they became known, made an impact as rookies in 1999. I remember hearing the skeptics and I wondered how long those homegrown players from that time would play together. Or when and if they would be dispersed for greener pastures.

I now realize that Beltran is probably the only Hall of Famer to go through the organization the same time my generation started buying baseball cards and playing little league.

All of those players – Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye and Mike Sweeney – stood out as my favorites with Beltran. They could hit and score runs, but the back end of the Royals bullpen struggled to protect their leads.

Carlos Beltran won the American League Rookie of the Year in 1999, and there wasn’t much to brag about within the organization after that. It was in the middle of a drought in the Royals farm system, and I wondered if Beltran would ever get to see a winning season during his time in Kansas City. After a 9-0 start in 2003, the Royals finally put together a winning record (83-79) with Beltran seemingly hitting his peak at the age of 26. He hit 26 homers, drove in 100 and stole 41 bases.

Beltran gave fans like myself a reason to go to the ballpark.

But everything I heard as a kid regarding free agency would sadly come true. In the end, the Royals as a small market team chose not to shell out the millions to keep everyone.  The same season he started Opening Day with the walkoff homerun would be his last in Kansas City. I remember hearing about how the Royals had to wheel and deal in mid-season in hopes of getting a decent return for trading Beltran.

It happened when Beltran was traded to Houston. I was upset since I was emotionally invested and hadn’t grasped the business side of the game yet. The young baseball fans like myself held on to Carlos Beltran autographs. I had to hope the best for him after Kansas City.

It’s hard to blame Beltran as a client of Scott Boras to seek free agency. He was searching for a contending team.

It ended up being a long search for the much-coveted World Series ring he earned this year with the Houston Astros. After his 20-year career and seven teams, he deserved a ring. As much as I would’ve loved for him to win it in Kansas City, I was happy for him.

I believe Beltran has the stats comparable to Hall of Famers. With a solid resume, I think he’ll eventually be inducted in Cooperstown. Now that he’s announced his retirement, it’s just a matter of time before he gets the call.

I had a chance to visit Cooperstown for the 2010 induction weekend. When Beltran gets the call, I’d hate to miss it and hope Royals fans join me for my trip back to Cooperstown.

Carlos Beltran

SEC and Missouri Tiger Fans Still Saying “Show Me Football”

Photo courtesy of MU Athletics

By Greg Echlin

Not much has changed for the Missouri Tigers since entering the Southeastern Conference as far as earning respect.  But these days, it comes from MU’s own fan base in the Show-Me state.

Take Missouri’s coach-killing win, 50-17, over Tennessee for example.  For the Tigers’ last home game, a crowd of 50,637 showed up, which in a stadium that seats more than 71,000 looks vastly undersold for a team that had won three in a row, plus moving closer to bowl game eligibility.  The day after Missouri won, Vols coach Butch Jones was fired.

Surely after scoring 63 points against Missouri last year, then allowing 433 rushing yards to the Tigers’ offense this year, the Vols’ reversal was the last straw toward Jones’s dismissal. It can’t be about Missouri’s improvement from one year to the next, can it?

This appears to be the same song-and-dance as winning back-to-back 2013 and ‘14 SEC East Division titles in only the Missouri Tigers’ second and third years in the conference.

Missouri Tigers Mizzou
Missouri Tigers fans supporting Mizzou outside Faurot Field at University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo. There’s no “I” in team. Comments encouraged below 

The territorial media brethren in the heart of SEC football country was incredulous.  The narrative during those two seasons wasn’t: How good were the Tigers?  Instead, it was about how much Florida under Will Muschamp had slipped after losing to Missouri in both years, or how Mark Richt was losing his grip on the Georgia program.

It wasn’t long before both of those coaches moved on against their wishes.

This season, in the midst of the Tigers’ best winning streak under Coach Barry Odom in his second year, Missouri’s fan base has been hesitant to buy in.

Missouri Tigers fans file into Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium to watch a Saturday evening game against Tennessee. The Tigers won 50-17.

Before Gary Pinkel retired from coaching after the 2015 season, he practically had to beg for MU fan support every year, besides the 2008 Cotton Bowl, the Tigers earned a bowl game invitation.

The Missouri players, however, have a different view.  Anthony Sherrils, a senior from Hogan Prep HS in Kansas City, says he senses a positive vibe.

“It’s a great climate,” said Sherrils, the Tigers co-leader in tackles against the Vols with six.  Sherrils also recovered a fumble and came up with an interception.  “We’re winning.  Fans are happy.”

With remaining road games at Vanderbilt and Arkansas, the Tigers have a chance to position themselves further for a possible invitation to the Liberty Bowl in Memphis.

Whether that’s enough for the fans in the Show-Me state to climb aboard is the prevailing question this season.

Former KU and MU Football Prospect Pays Off—For Iowa State

Photo credit Iowa State Athletics Communications

By Greg Echlin

There’s a reason the Kansas Jayhawks and Missouri Tigers continue to struggle in football under David Beaty and Barry Odom respectively.  They’re letting the best prospects slip away. Continue reading Former KU and MU Football Prospect Pays Off—For Iowa State

The Kansas City Chiefs Fumbled Before Jamaal Charles


By Greg Echlin

Across the parking lot, the Kansas City Royals set the standard when welcoming back old friends.  The Chiefs, however, missed the cue when the moment called for them to recognize their all-time leading rusher, Jamaal Charles. Continue reading The Kansas City Chiefs Fumbled Before Jamaal Charles

John Schuerholz Excluded From Royals Hall of Fame While Enshrined in Cooperstown

Perhaps the Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame executive board needs to be re-assessed.  Curt Nelson of the Royals Hall of Fame seems to be the only one who appreciates the roots of the success in the Royals franchise.  Sid Bordman, a former sportswriter for The Kansas City Star, wrote stories about the Royals from the team’s inception in 1968 and well past the first game in franchise history in 1969.  But he has never been asked to be a part of the committee that considers those from the Royals’ early days.  Consequently, some of the important early figures in the history of the Royals go unrecognized.

LINK: Greg Echlin’s full story for KCUR.org Continue reading John Schuerholz Excluded From Royals Hall of Fame While Enshrined in Cooperstown