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Merry Christmas

I hope to spend Christmas in a relaxed state. My goal is to go to a half dozen or so movies over the holidays, to catch up on some reading and to spread festive cheer. And maybe a nip or two of eggnog somewhere along the way.

It’s been a great year for me, personally. And I believe 2011 will be even better. I’m very fortunate to have a job I love and great teams to cover. The basketball scene in Kansas is incredible right now and I can’t wait until Kansas, Kansas State and Wichita State get into the midst of conference play.

Kansas is such a talented team. A tad bit immature, yet, but I like Bill Self’s team a lot. I think the Jayhawks will continue to get better as freshman Josh Selby acclimates himself to KU’s style.

As I wrote in the blog yesterday, I’m not sure what’s going on at Kansas State. But whatever it is isn’t good. We’ll see if Frank Martin and his team can get on the same page.

And Wichita State is doing just exactly what I thought Wichita State would be doing. While I have the Shockers on my mind, I still say the game against Tulsa on Tuesday night at Intrust Bank Arena was a huge smash, all the way around. I know some WSU fans are still complaining about their seats, about how chilly it was inside the building, about this and that. My response? Get over it. It was a fantastic night and I’m sure the necessary tweaks to the process will get taken care of.

* I just received my new issue of “Sports Illustrated,” in which the magazine pays respects to those sports figures who died in 2010.SanteeKansan Wes Santee, from Ashland, is one of those honored. He was 78 when he passed away last month.

I talked to Santee a few times over the years, but I never wrote a column about him. And I’m still kicking myself.

Santee set a world record in the mile in 1954, with a time of 4:04.9. At the time, a group of runners were approaching a four-minute mile and Santee was considered one of the most likely to break the barrier.

But three months later, England’s Roger Bannister became the first to run a sub-four-minute mile and Santee went on to set a world outdoor record in the 1,500 meter with a 3:42.8 in 1956. His fastest mile time was 4:00.5. So close.

I wonder how much, if any, it bothered Santee over the years that he had come so close to cracking the four-minute barrier but hadn’t done so? It would have made for a fascinating column, I think, because Santee was such a thoughtful subject. Missing out is something I regret.

* OK, I watched the Rex Ryan and wife foot fetish video just now on You Tube. One word: Weird.

What else is there to say, really?

I guess the Jets will never look at fourth and a foot the same way again.

Cheap joke, I know.

I’m really not sure what all the fuss is about. Aren’t foot fetishes kind of common, as far as fetishes go? I’ve done a little reading about them today and they just don’t seem like that big of a deal. But feet don’t really do it for me.

It is strange, though, that Ryan (allegedly) made the video tape of his wife’s feet that appears now on You Tube. I don’t really get it. And the whole thing has spawned a great series of one-liners. I can’t wait to see the headlines in the New York newspapers tomorrow morning. Otherwise, ho hum.

A sports writer’s memories

I was young once. Really. There’s proof on the Internet.Kriwiel with his 1981 Kapaun teamAnyway, as a young reporter, I was sometimes intimidated by the task at hand. The first time I covered a Kapaun Mount Carmel football game, for instance.

Eddie Kriwiel was already a legend from his years at West High during the 1960s and from his time building a winning program at Kapaun. And, believe it or not, I had written something Coach Kriwiel didn’t like. So I walked on egg shells as I approached him for a post-game interview after a game in, oh, probably 1975.

I never heard Kriwiel raise his voice. I never even saw him give a dirty look.

But that night, he questioned me about something I had written. It was 35 years ago, so I don’t remember what it was about. I do remember stumbling on my words and being very nervous. But then something kicked in. I talked back. As Coach Kriwiel made a point, I made a counterpoint. I defended what I had written. We went back and forth for a few minutes, right there in the middle of the playing field. It was uncomfortable. I was 20 at the time and Kriwiel was, as I mentioned, a legend.

He didn’t back down and even though I was probably sweating profusely at the time, neither did I. I figured that if I was going to gain any credibility with the coaches I had been assigned to cover as a young reporter, I had to stand my ground. Plus, it’s kind of my nature anyway.

As he aged and I gained experience, our relationship improved. He was a class act and the greatest high school football coach I was ever around. In the years since, I came to know his wife, Mary, and their large family. When Ed passed away three years ago, I talked to all seven of his kids for a column I wrote.

I remember one of my most intimate times when Coach Kriwiel. It was later on, long after he had stopped coaching football at Kapaun. But he was still coaching girls golf. I met his team at Braeburn Golf Course and I decided it would be fun to play a few holes with the girls I was writing about. But I didn’t have my clubs. Ed let me borrow his, and I think I had pars on the two holes I played.

We had a really good time that day.

* A note to you great blog readers: There will be no blog until Monday, Jan. 3. I’m taking some time off next week to re-charge the batteries, see some movies and adjust to married life, although there’s really no adjustment to be made. I just like reminding myself that I’m married. Hopefully, the blog will return better than ever in 2011. I’ve really had a lot of fun doing this and, after a couple of halting starts and stops, I think this blog is here to stay. I appreciate all of you and have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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