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Music to my ears

The minute I heard her voice ringing through a crowd of 10,506 at Saturday night’s Wichita State basketball game, I knew Cynthia Whiteside had “it.”Cynthia Whiteside wowing them at the Shocker game against Illinois State on Feb. 5. The girl has pipes.The girl can sing. She belted out “The Star Spangled Banner,” and I just closed my eyes and enjoyed the minute and a half, or thereabouts, of her amazing voice.

And after it was over, I expressed my impressions to Wichita State media relations director Larry Rankin, asking him to make sure I had a way to contact Cynthia because I wanted to write about her on my blog.

So, five days later, that’s what I’m going to do. I talked to Whiteside this afternoon, but didn’t embarrass myself by asking her to sing to me over the phone, even though I was tempted.

She’s a Wichita State senior, a transfer from Friends and a native of Andover. She’s been singing since she was a kid; her mother made sure she was in all the school musicals.

But here’s the kicker: Whiteside is majoring in communications at WSU. Not music. She’s major in communications, which is my field. If I had a voice like hers, I would not be in journalism. I would be hanging out on a yacht somewhere, sipping gin and waiting for sound check.

“I want to do something in print,” Whiteside told me. “Newspapers and magazines interest me.”

They interest me, too, but only because I sing like a goat.

“It would be really cool to do music journalism someday,” she said. “Those are my two passions. Music is No. 1.”

Far be it from me to advise anyone about their careers. Have you witnessed mine lately? But I really think Whiteside, if she’s up for it, should pursue a singing career. A lot of people can write; not many have a voice like hers.

You’re probably wondering how I can make such a declaration based upon hearing her sing one song. It’s a good question and I’m not sure how to answer it. I just loved her voice and so did many other people inside Koch Arena last Saturday night. She received an enthusiastic ovation.

I asked if she’d ever been tempted to try out for “American Idol,” one of my favorite television shows.

She said she hadn’t, but that recently her husband of four months, Brandon, mentioned the same thing.

“I’ve always felt like the people who go to “American Idol” tryouts are just people who want to show off or something,” she said.

Well, yeah, that’s kind of the idea. If you have the voice, you show it off.

“I’ve been contemplating it,” Whiteside said. “I’ll probably look into it, but I’m not quite sure yet.”

She said her favorite styles of music are Christian, pop and country. Told she nailed the National Anthem at the WSU basketball game, Whiteside said she was surprised by how relaxed she was.

“That’s the most people I’ve ever sang for in my entire life,” she said. “But for the first time, I was completely calm. That makes everything so much better because your voice isn’t shaking and you don’t cut out on notes.”

Whiteside thinks it’s helped her to sing solos at her church, Hope Community, in Andover.

“There, it’s not so much about the quality,” she said. “You’re singing to the Lord so you’re not supposed to be worrying about how good you are.”

Whiteside said she missed Christian Aguilera’s Super Blow up with the National Anthem, but seemed to understand how something like that can happen. Fortunately, it didn’t happen to her. She was outstanding. For my money, she should be on her way to Hollywood.

* I feel bad for the Cleveland Cavaliers, but I wish they’d show a little more heart. They were flat and disinterested, it appeared, during their Wednesday night loss to the Detroit Pistons, another of the worst teams in the NBA.

It was the Cavs’ 26th loss in a row, an NBA record for futility. And it further illuminates just how much LeBron James meant to the franchise, which has gone in the tank without him.

But wait, there’s hope.

On Sunday, Cleveland plays in the game of the year when the Cavs take on the atrocious Washington Wizards in Cleveland. This game is appealing in so many ways and should be shown in prime time on ABC. “Desperate Housewives” has nothing on these two teams, trust me.

You have the incredibly distasteful Cleveland losing streak. And you have the Wizards, who play OK at home but are 0-25 on the road. We’re guaranteed of one of these streaks ending Sunday.

Can you imagine how hard Washington will play in this game to keep from being the team Cleveland finally beat? Or how the Cavaliers will seize the moment against a team that hasn’t won away from all season?

Incredible stuff. Bigger than a basketball game. I need to watch this game, which will be televised only on NBA League Pass, which I don’t have. I’m hoping somebody invites me over, although who would possibly do that?

My Facebook friend

Nikki EpleyNikki EpleyI’ve known Nikki since I covered the Wichita State beat in the early 1990s, when she was a student-athlete for the Shockers. I say that in honor of her later work for the NCAA, which loves to emphasize the student aspect of college athletes. She was a great softball player, but I remember our H-O-R-S-E games at what was then Levitt Arena. I think I won most of them, though my memory could be foggy. Nikki, as you’ll read, has gone on to have an exciting career in sports administration and I’m proud of her for that. She’s a really good person and I’ve enjoyed our friendship, though it is now enjoyed from afar. Here is what Nikki had to say about herself and our FB relationship:

I grew up in Valley Center and played softball at Wichita State, where I first met Bob. My morning routine consistently involved reading the sports page first and foremost, and I always enjoyed Lutzy's articles (as we affectionately call him)....unless, of course, we lost or I had played a bad game. (Bob, you are not allowed to post any of my statistics here). :) I continued to follow his articles in my many moves, and now Facebook makes that easy.

The first job I ever had was working with the Wichita State Athletic Department in my off-seasons and as an intern when completing my degree. I had such a great experience there, I knew that I wanted to pursue athletic administration or work on a college campus. I think WSU was wondering if they'd ever get rid of me. Since then, I have worked at four other universities (Wake Forest University, the University of New Mexico, Colorado State University and now presently at the University of Kansas), for one conference office (Missouri Valley Conference), for the NCAA Men's Basketball staff in Indianapolis, and for two Super Bowl Host Committees (Jacksonville Super Bowl XXXIX and South Florida Super Bowl XLI). All have been memorable jobs, and I find myself cheering for each school, pro or college team I've had the pleasure of working for. I've made lifelong friends across the country. I feel blessed by what I often refer to as my bucket list experiences. Just yesterday, I returned from 11 days in North Texas working Super Bowl XLV. As a passionate Green Bay Packers fan, it was a perfect ending to an amazing (and somewhat crazy) week.

Through the years, I've been yelled at by Roy Williams for his players slipping on floor logos during the post-season basketball tournament; received a personal call on my cell phone by one of my childhood idols, Bart Starr, who could not have been more humble and kind about featuring him at an event as a former MVP; coordinated a Media Party on the legendary 17th green of TPC in Ponte Vedra Beach; was a member of the Final Four staff when Mario Chalmers hit the winning shot; was hit by sliding ice from the top of Cowboys Stadium last week while trying to clear the sidewalks; and my most memorable.... having the humbling experience of working with the inspiring Make-A-Wish Foundation kids at the Super Bowl.

Now, I'm back at KU in crimson and blue looking forward to following Bob's upcoming blogs and articles on Facebook about the Jayhawks and Shockers.