Tuesday, November 21, 2006

He is a Christian, and I'm thankful

I boast being a Christian. I praise my God. I pray to my God.

I sin and admit it. I pray I'll do better.

My friend has been a Christian since the day he was born. He's more fortunate than most in that regard.

You see, Christian is his name, given to him by his parents.

Middle name? D (Note the no period)

It's a family thing, I promise. But when combined with his last name, people wonder. You see, my friend is Christian D Orr, a reassigned sports writer who just happens to share a similar name with designer Christian Dior.

Chris and I became friends a decade and a half ago, and the relationship has simply grown. I pray it continues to grow.

Chris was one of two men injured Nov. 18 in Lawrence, Kan., when the Kansas State University "Cat Tracker" bus -- on its way to the intrastate rivalry football game between the Wildcats and the University of Kansas -- went under an overpass about three hours prior to kickoff. Both men hit the overpass.

Chris and John Green were standing on top of the party bus and struck the overpass. Green died at the scene. Chris was lifeflighted from the scene to the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan., with a serious head injury.

Suffice it to say, it's critical. It's scary. It's deadly.

Chris is fighting for his life, and I'm scared. I can't help it, folks. He's my friend. I don't want to bury my friend. I don't want my friend to spend the rest of his life bedridden and cared for by a nurse. But those are possibilities.

Anything is possible with a brain injury.

I spent three days in the hospital with Chris and his family. I cried. I told stories. I prayed. I prayed a lot. I even prayed when I didn't know it. There were times when I caught myself in thought, and I was in prayer.

Maybe it's fear. Maybe it's faith in God. Whatever it is, I don't rightly care. I just hope it works.

This is the first step in months of rehabilitation. If Chris survives, he is in for a very long road. I plan to be there for it.

Chris was on his way to the game with the Cat Tracker crew. I planned to meet him there, with our friend, Tim, and others. At 11:30 a.m., I received a text message from Chris, telling me he was on the bus having the time of his life. According to the police report, the accident happened at 11:35.

In the past few days, I've wondered what happened in that five minutes. I've wondered how much fun he was having.

Tim called numerous times upon our arrival to Lawrence on Saturday. He never got through. We now know why. I called a friend I knew was on the bus about an hour after the accident, and that's when I heard the news. Tim and I handed the tickets over to the other two cohorts who were with us, walking toward the stadium in hopes of finding the Cat Tracker bus and partying with our friend when I made that fateful call.

It stopped me in my tracks in the middle of the street.

Within 45 minutes, Tim and I had arrived at the hospital. We were there until Monday evening, when we went back to our respective jobs. But we'll be back. We'll be back soon.

No matter the work to do and the other things that are going on this holiday week, my heart and my mind are in Kansas City with Chris, as they should be. My wife understands, just as she did when she arrived at the hospital Sunday afternoon.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I realize I have much for which to be thankful, most notably Christian's life. I'm thankful for the beautiful bride, who shared the love she has for me with my friends.

I ask for a lot, I know, but I want my friend to beat the odds. I want him to improve and love his wife and hug his kids. I want him to call me names and make fun of my fat butt. I want him to cheer at Chiefs games and hug my neck when the team wins its next Super Bowl.

But I have faith, in Christ and Christian.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A rodeo legacy

Just two years ago, the ProRodeo Hall of Fame inducted former Dallas Morning News sports editor Dave Smith.

Smith was recognized for helping put rodeo on the sports pages of The Morning News, and he rightly deserves his name among the greats in ProRodeo.

His is the first media plaque registered in the hall in Colorado Springs. It shouldn't be the last. Come next year, I'd like to see Smith's colleague, and former reporter, standing alongside rodeo's best athletes while being inducted into the hall of fame.
Ed Knocke has done more than any other reporter to keep rodeo in front of readers of The Morning News. He has covered hundreds of rounds of the National Finals Rodeo, has been to Cheyenne, Wyo., for Frontier Days, has seen great cowboys break records, has seen historic cowboys die.

I met Knocke in 2001, my first trip to the NFR in Las Vegas. He was and is an old newspaperman — don't call him a journalist, though his skills fit the bill. He is a genuine, caring, talented man who helped put rodeo on The Morning News' front sports page. His main job, since rodeo isn't the Dallas Cowboys and isn't a full-time gig, was as a "slot" editor on The Morning News' sports desk, but he enjoyed covering rodeo.

Last week when I read Knocke's weekly rodeo column online, I noticed a different tagline at the end. Instead of, "You can reach Ed Knocke at ..." it said, "Ed Knocke is a freelance writer ..."

Confirmation came days later when Knocke revealed to me in an e-mail that after 39 years at The Morning News, he had retired. His full-time job now is taking care of Ed Knocke, but his passion shines through as he still writes about rodeo weekly in the pages of The Morning News. He will still attend the biggest rodeos in the country, including the NFR. He will still be a solid rock in my world as a rodeo writer.

Ed Knocke has done things I can only dream about, and he has lived his life as a stand-up newspaperman, wonderfully telling other people's stories. He has given much to the wonderful sport of rodeo, as much as the Clem McSpaddens, Jim Shoulderses, Donnie Gays, Hadley Barretts, Ty Murrays.

He deserves to have his name alongside each of them in the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Boren to be Wild

This column is to appear in the Thursday, Sept. 21, 2006, edition of The Maryville Daily Forum. It is with reflection of the near-death Sooner Nation, which has plunged itself off the tallest building in Norman because of referees' calls last weekend in Oregon. Read on, McDuff:

David Boren, president at the University of Oklahoma, is a former senator and governor for the Sooner State.

David Boren is also a numskull.

For those not in the know, Boren sent a letter Monday to Big 12 Commissioner Kevin Weiberg, calling the officiating at last Saturday's Oklahoma-Oregon football game an injustice. He also wanted the game stricken from the record books.

The Sooners were screwed in the final minutes of the game in the Northwest, where Pacific-10 officials called. Two particular calls — an onside kick and a pass-interference penalty that both went Oregon's way and helped lead the Ducks to a 34-33 victory — were the target of Boren's fire.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops called the officiating blunders unacceptable and inexcusable.

"It is truly sad and deeply disappointing that members of our football team should be deprived of the outcome of the game that they deserved because of an inexcusable breakdown in officiating," Boren wrote in his letter to Weiberg.

Sad and disappointing — the mantra of the Sooners faithful for this season and years to come.

They're still griping about the officiating in the OU-Texas Tech game from last year, so know that this will hang on the edge of lunacy for many months to come.

Bulletin, folks. This was just a game.

In the last month, we've honored the five-year anniversary of 9/11 and looked toward the New Orleans area as we've remembered the South in its trials and tribulations from hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Now some yahoo who sits in a comfy chair in the biggest office in Norman, Okla., wants to tell us the injustices of a college football game. I think priorities have run amok amongst the Sooner Nation.

But that's been a long time for those who have been there. I spent six of the last seven years in Oklahoma, working for a newspaper that covered the Sooners football as if it were second only to God. It's idiocy at its finest.

Gordon Riese, the replay official who botched the calls up in the booth, has received death threats and has had an unsettling look at life after Saturday.

It's only a football game.

If you want to know what is sad and disappointing in the world of sports, look no further than Duquesne University, where five members of its basketball team were shot after a school dance over the weekend. Look no further than Oklahoma State University, which lost 10 members of its basketball team's family five-plus years ago in a Colorado plane crash.

What's really sad and disappointing about Oklahoma's loss to Oregon is the egregious overreaction of the Sooners faithful, their football coach and their university president.

It's only a football game.


I love sports, and I love being a sports fan. I even love rooting against rivals — I cheer for the Oakland Raiders' and Denver Broncos' foes.

In my former life, I spent my weekends reading millions of words written about sports as an editor for a large daily newspaper.

It became a drain on my sporting nature, especially during football season. Mine wasn't the glamorous, sideline reporting sports gig. I was a desk jockey, handling the editing and design for the reporters and photographers on the scene.

Rarely did I get the chance to sit down for an entire Saturday and enjoy college football, even though I played college football 20 years ago. But the last two falls have been spectacular. I moved into a different world. One day not long ago, I parted company with my wife and 4-year-old to enter "Man's World," where football was on the screen and testosterone was in the air. No Spongebob in this part of the house, I proclaimed. No "Dancing with the Stars."

My wife is still learning what it's like to live with a football nut, oftentimes laughing at my intensity as I sit on the edge of my seat during a Chiefs game. She giggles at my obsession, and rightfully so — I'm currently testing the waters as to which shirt I should wear during a Chiefs game since the Tony Gonzalez jersey seems to be a loser.

But when the clock has wound down and the game has ended — and sometimes, after a minute or two, when the anger subsides — I go about my day, loving my girls and carrying on with life in general.

Because with age comes reality, and the reality is, it's just a football game.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Gone Shopping

I’ve been praying.

A lot.

I pray for friends. I pray for family. I pray for those who need it.
But basically, I pray so I don’t go to hell. I know what hell is, and I was reminded of hell recently in what can only be described as a nightmare.

I’ve known about hell for decades. It started in my youth, and as I grew into maturity, I thought I’d overcome it with knowledge, understanding and a genuine outlook of life.

But like all demons, hell has a way of creeping back into ones life, and it has with me.

It’s shopping.

Clearance racks – the bane of my shopping existence.

Three decades ago, I was dragged – kicking, screaming, fit-throwing, you name it – into department stores with my mother pulling the tow chain. Tears streaming down my face, my mother went from one clothes rack to another, most often with the red “clearance” sign atop to draw extra attention.

Mom gave those racks her own nickname, an endearing note of affection as she hunted for bargains in Sears and JCPenney and Woolworth’s. She called them by that nickname as she approached.

“Oh, there’s ‘Clarence,’ ” she said, tunnel-vision encroaching her view. “ ‘Clarence’ is all over the place in here, honey.”

“Clarence” – the bane of my shopping existence.

Make no bones, folks, I loved my mother tremendously. I was, am and always will be a Mamma’s Boy and am proud as punch to say it.

But my mother tortured me with those ventures to the mall. Minutes seem like hours to a young boy, and my mother could examine the same “Clarence” rack for hours before deciding whether to purchase the item. Worse yet, Mom seemed to have a special affection for women’s skivvies.

Do you realize what standing alone, with your mother 10 feet away, in the “Old Women’s Underwear” section at Penney’s does to a 10-year-old boy?

The bra and panty section – the bane of my shopping existence.

As I worked myself into the teen years, and as video arcades became “The Thing” for junior high kids to do at the mall, I escaped most of Mom’s shopping torture. And you can trust me when I say that it was as much of a relief for my mother as it was for me. It had to be much easier to hand me a few $1 bills and send me on my way instead of hearing the incessant whining coming out of my mouth.

The only time I couldn’t hide from the pain was when Mom was looking specifically for clothes for me. And when Izods and Polos were it, my limpy-collared shirts came from “Clarence” – it’s worth noting that Izods and Polos were never shown by “Clarence.”

When Levis and Lees and, about 1980, Wranglers were the jeans of choice for my buddies – about the same time when Gloria Vanderbilt and Calvin Klein were tightly wrapped around the female sect – I was in the fitting room trying on another variety.
Husky jeans – the bane of my shopping existence.

As an adult, I learned the way around the nightmare. My own version of shopping tended to happen once a year. I boast that I could walk into any full-service mall in mid-December and within an hour have spent $200 and have purchased the Christmas gifts for all my friends and loved ones.

Yes, we all know men shop differently than women. We’re hunters. We locate our game, we attack it full force and we drag the carcass to the register. There’s no need to meander or flip through racks of clothes or spend 10 minutes trying to figure out which white socks might look better.

But I’m a married man now, and that means life has changed. No longer is it justified to do an entire month’s worth of grocery shopping in 20 minutes. No longer do I sprint down the toilet-paper aisle reaching and throwing. No longer do I linger in the beer section, instead focusing my attention to vegetables.

My nightmare reminder reappeared recently, as I stood near bras and panties in another large department store. Older ladies gave me that same smirk I felt 30 years ago, and younger women passed by with glares toward a hormonal middle-aged man.
And as I looked up, he stood there smiling.

“Clarence” – the bane of my existence.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Man, that's a Pretty Prairie

I have a confession to make. I'm an addict.

My drug of choice? The Pretty Prairie, Kan., annual rodeo. It's this week in the beautiful little community in southwest Reno County, about 20 minutes from Hutchinson and 40 minutes west of Wichita. I've been coming this this spectacular event for 10 years, and since 2000, I've spent a week vacationing in my little rodeo paradise.

So why is it that 100-plus-degree heat in the middle of July in a community that's smack dab centrally located in the Wheat Belt is my version of paradise?

Because I tell other people's stories, or in this case, I help others tell those stories. Television stations. Radio Stations. The Wichita Eagle. The Hutchinson News. They get to tell their viewers, listeners and readers all the fantastic things that are happening and tell about the people who produce, who compete, who volunteer their time each year.

Have you ever seen a small town explode? Pretty Prairie does that each year. The community of about 650 grows at least 25 times its size for four days each July. Rodeo week brings out all sorts -- those originally from Pretty Prairie who come home or those from Wichita itching for something fun or those from the many area communities taking in some family time or rodeo folks eager to watch one of the better medium-size rodeos in the region. You've got cowboy hats and starched Wranglers walking next to someone in Daisy Duke cutoffs and flip-flops.

Mostly, you've got people laughing and talking and celebrating smalltown Americana. It's absolutely beautiful.

So this week I'm in my own paradise. My lovely wife of 11 days had to stay back home in Maryville until this weekend, when she will join me, toting her (our) 4-year-old daughter and my mother- and father-in-law. I miss my love, but she knows how important this week is to me.

After all, an addict is always seeking his drug of choice.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Time and place set

7 p.m. Central
5 p.m. Vegas time
Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel

On that date, at that time, y'all can log on to the chapel's site, vivalasvegasweddings.com, go to web cam and be part of our nuptials.

It ought to be a hoot.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

It's All Set

Date: July 8.
Time: yet to be determined.
Exact location: yet to be determined.
General location: Las Vegas, Nev.
Purpose: Nuptials for me and the love of my life.
Invitees: Me and the love of my life. That's it.
Internet inivitees: All y'all.
Party invitees: Well, that'd be friends and family, on both sides, at two locales — western Kansas and northwest Missouri.

After much thought, much deliberation, goin' to the priest to find out how stinkin' long it takes to get a Catholic annulment, tryin' to figure out the cost of an elaborate affair, tryin' to figure out why we'd need to spend that money, tryin' to figure out where we'd come up with that money even if we wanted to spend that money, tryin' to figure out if we should do it in Maryville, Mo., or Leoti, Kan., or somewhere in between, hearin' horror stories from friends who are plannin' their nuptials and tryin' to please everyone in between, realizin' we don't need an elaborate wedding to show each other how much we love one another and figuring out that we'd rather have a heck of a shindig instead of a big ol' weddin' (WHEW! That took some time), my bride to be and I decided Vegas is the place to get ourselves hitched.

We'll come back to Middle America for the gatherings in both Maryville (her hometown and our home) and Leoti (my hometown). Anybody know of a cheap band (OK, free band) that'd love to play for us?

But we want this to be special for us, and with technology, the Internet can provide an outlet for our loved ones to witness our celebration. It'll be a weekend getaway — leave on a Friday, return on a Sunday. But it'll be nice.

I'm a fortunate man to have found such a special, caring, loving woman with whom to share my life.

On to the other things going on: We're finally all moved out of Oklahoma and into our own casa.

We had to wait until the second weekend in May to get into our house, which was the weekend after the Guymon rodeo. All of my honey's stuff and a few of my things were moved the second weekend in April, but moved into her parents' garage while we stayed there. A month later, we were able to move it into town.

Over Memorial Day weekend, we hightailed it back to Oklahoma City in her father's new pickup pulling an old horse trailer to retrieve the bulk of my stuff, which had been in a storage unit since the end of October. We got it home Sunday evening.

And as my life has seen some whirlwind changes in the last year, I can only say that it's getting better and better each day. I thank God for that.

And my friends, who helped me through my struggles and my down times and lifted me up.