One of the most interestingthings about being a newspaper person, and a sports columnist in particular, is the guessing game that ensues among fan bases for the schools I write about.
Kansas fans are convinced I bleed purple. Kansas State fans are adamant that my crimson-and-blue Bob Lutz is a proud graduate of Wichita State University, where he had it beaten into him how to be unbiased. loyalty comes through in everything I write. And Wichita State fans believe my citizenship to the community should be revoked.
Of course, I’m generalizing. Not all fans feel this way, of course. Just too many.
I used to be defensive about it. In fact, back in my early days as a columnist for The Eagle, I wasn’t sure it was something I was cut out to do. The harsh feedback took some getting used to. It was enlightening to me that readers took so much umbrage with my written opinion. It is, after all, just an opinion.
But you don’t mess with a reader’s sports team, which I soon came to learn. Except that I enjoy messing with sports teams. Or, in a more professional way to state that, I enjoy writing my opinions about the current state of sports at Wichita State, Kansas, Kansas State and everywhere else.
I have always had strong opinions. Now I get paid for them. A guy’s gotta make a living.
This long-winded introduction is a way for me to get to yet another reader who believes I have an agenda that favors, this time, Kansas basketball. It stems from the column I wrote for the paper and for Kansas.com this morning about the potential of a more-heated basketball rivalry between KU and K-State, which is long overdue.
The reader deemed my reaction to Kansas State’s celebration of a Big 12 co-championship in basketball to be harsh. He feels like I’m pro-KU and that I always have been.
I will admit that I like Bill Self. And that I respect all the Jayhawks have accomplished in basketball. And even that I think Lawrence is a swell town and that I always have a good time when I visit Allen Fieldhouse.
I also like Manhattan. And my respect for the Wildcats, and especially football coach Bill Snyder, is immense.
And while we’re at it, I might as well go ahead and confess to liking Wichita State, too.
My point is: I have nothing against any of the Kansas schools. It’s best for me, as a columnist who years for attention in the form of readership, when they do well. I don’t get as many eyes on a column about KU football when the Jayhawks are finishing dead last in the Big 12 as I do when the Kansas basketball team is playing in the national championship game.
I think most people know by now that I’m from Derby. I grew up as a big, big Wichita State basketball and football fan. I went to games with my father from the time I was 7 until we finally gave up our season tickets after I graduated from high school. My knowledge and interest in the Shockers goes way back.
I’m a WSU graduate, in fact. It took me an embarrassingly long time to finally nail down my degree, but I managed to do so while also working full-time at The Eagle.
It was during my training for journalism, though, that my previous ways of being a Shocker fan started to disappear. Slowly but surely. As I was schooled in the unbiased practices of journalism, I shed by loyalties and started to understand that the only way to earn trust as a journalist was to be unbiased.
It’s the price you pay when you get into my field.
Now, more 40 years into my career in newspapers, I supposed I take my unbiased nature for granted. I simply write what I think, forgetting at times that people choose to read what I write through a personal prism of their own allegiances.
A Kansas sports fan is going to read my column from this morning differently than a Kansas State fan.
Most readers, I believe, appreciate the balance I try to strike. Right, readers? You do appreciate that? I don’t try to enrage a fan base, but I realize it happens sometimes. I also know that if I write that the sky is blue, a percentage of readers are going to strongly disagree with me.
It comes with the territory.
Today, I just wanted to clear up any misconceptions about me. I want you to know my background, which includes where I went to college. I’m a life-long Wichitan (if you count Derby), so I love this community. I raised my son here and he’s raising his family here, too. My wife is a Wichita native.
We have no plans to go anywhere, since my wife has squelched my previous plans to live in St. Louis after I retire so that I can buy season tickets for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Now that’s a team I love. I’m a fan. I am 100 percent guilty of bias when it comes to the Cardinals.