Thanks to K-State, K-Staters
With tremendous appreciation to Kansas State, this will be my final writing through K-State Sports Extra.
Through growing up in western Kansas, followed by 40 years of telling stories through the general media of radio and the print world, I knew K-Staters had a loyalty to their school. But it wasn't until the last five years with K-State Sports Extra that I truly sensed, read and heard the absolute passion that comes from the soul of the Purple Nation for their Wildcats.
The daily handful of e-mails received have been smudged by blood, sweat and tears shed by the Wildcat faithful through their years - 30, 40, sometimes 60- and even 70-plus years - of commitment to being a true bleed-in-purple K-Stater.
Overall, what a career it's been through 10 years with KMAN-KMKF Radio, including three seasons on the K-State Radio Network and hosting the Jim Dickey television show; 28 years with The Manhattan Mercury; the absolute thrill of all professional thrills of penning a book with coach Bill Snyder; and now the last five sports seasons with K-State Athletics and K-State Sports Extra.
All that after first being turned away from my first radio job interview because, "You sound like you're from western Kansas." I'm not sure what I sounded like, but I'm glad I went back for a second try once I dropped whatever accent Scott Citians have.
Yes it's been a tough gig that few could handle: a seat between the two 46-yard lines, a freebie parking pass, and munching on donated grub before games and at halftime. Yes, life has been tough.
Someone recently asked about story numbers and I came up with the following guesses: 15,000 features, columns and general stories (roughly), 400-plus K-State football games, and 1,200 (give or take a few) basketball games. I've been fortunate enough to be press box-side for 16 of Kansas State's 17 bowl games, and a total of 33 - I think it is - men's and women's postseason basketball tournaments.
The travel has included 35 states with cities including Seattle to Orlando, plus New York City to San Diego on the mainland, and Hawaii to St. Thomas on the islands.
It's been a treat to cover road events in such historic venues as Allen Fieldhouse and Gallagher-Iba Arena, and in electric football stadiums at Nebraska and Texas A&M, and in the lavish new homes of the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees.
To me, telling stories has been my thing. Wildcat stories, plus vivid in my mind are the one-on-ones with the likes of coaching legends and personalities in Adolph Rupp, Henry Iba, Barry Switzer and Bob Knight; Happy Chandler, who was commissioner of baseball from that in the Ruth-era; and a golf tip story from Byron Nelson.
But mainly, it was the pleasure has come via the daily blue collar K-State story - from the super star to the walk-on at the end of the bench - that perked my interest on a daily basis for these last 40-plus years.
It seems impossible that touching my life have been 11 K-State ADs, seven football coaches, eight men's basketball coaches, plus the first seven coaches in the history of Wildcat women's basketball. And, one can throw in a handful of track coaches and another seven in baseball, not to mention a brief tie way back when with K-State swimming, wrestling and even gymnastics coaches.
Some have been legendary hall of famers, while others just good, good people from which I had the opportunity to take a life-lesson, or a principle on discipline that I put to portions of my life. My kids - Travis and Kelly, and even pups Yogi and Lobo - weren't always happy with coach Jim Dickey's line of, "It's never the right time to do the wrong thing," or with Bill Snyder's "16 Goals for Success," but all of us are better for it.
Changes in athletics have been aplenty in the last four-plus decades. The biggest?
- Dollar signs are the biggest difference. I have a copy of an athletic budget from the late-1970s that was $3 million when the department was efficiently run by four or five individuals. Today it's a budget of the north side of $50 million.
- The birth of ESPN in 1979 to how it now influences so much of intercollegiate athletics today.
- The emergence of women's athletics from nearly an intramural status in the 1970s, to the AIAW ranks, and now NCAA.
- The Big 8 becoming the Big 12 (with 12 teams) and now the Big 12 (with 10 teams).
OK ... that's enough reminiscing. Simply put, it's been a blast... a career of all careers.
It's been my pleasure to serve as your story teller sending Wildcat tales from the huddles of K-State teams and into your home and/or computer inbox for the last 40-plus years.
I sincere thank you goes out to each of you.