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Berry Tramel  


Kansas City travelblog: A full day at the arena

by Berry Tramel Modified: March 14, 2014 at 12:40 pm •  Published: March 14, 2014

Here was my day Thursday in Kansas City:

7:30 a.m.: Woke up, read The Oklahoman online and started blogging. Those things are not unrelated.

Oh, the waking up is. I’ve always woken up. Usually before 7:30, but I tend to stay up way late on the road when the Dish isn’t with me. Watching TV. Working on the computer. Updating my bracket.

But reading the paper online and blogging? Completely related. The internet has changed everything.

Back in the ’90s when I would come to Kansas City for the Big Eight Tournament, I’d get behind three or four days on my paper reading. Someone would have to tell me the high school state tournament scores.

That’s all changed, of course. Now, I can read most of our stories before they’re even edited. Most of my fellow writers email me what they’ve just written. Or I can read it on as soon as it’s posted, either afternoon or evening. Or I can look at the print replica the next morning; read the paper just as if it was in my hands.

It’s great. I don’t get behind. I feel connected to back home, a little like all the Oklahoma expatriates who live all over the world and still stay in tune with their home state through newsok.

So I read the paper, then I started blogging. I’m addicted to my blog. Try to blog three times a day during the week. And I committed to writing extensive game analysis blogs over OU and OSU post-season games and Thunder playoff games. So I started here in Kansas City. Knocked out a 1,900-word blog on OSU-Texas Tech, took a shower, got dressed and headed for the Sprint Center. I had a definite mission.

10 a.m.: Jumped on the shuttle with a couple of guys I didn’t know, plus Gavin Lang, the sports information director at OSU. Gavin’s father-in-law is Doug Tolin, the long-time successful hoops coach at Oklahoma Baptist. The Bison have qualified for the NAIA national tournament, which begins next week in Kansas City, so Gavin might be coming back to KC, depending on OSU’s NCAA assignment.

I’ve never covered the NAIAs in Kansas City. I need to some year. It’s wall-t0-wall basketball the first three days. Eight games a day. Starting at 9 a.m., going until midnight. They play at Municipal Auditorium, the grand old place that’s been home to so much great basketball over the years but now is two generations removed (Kemper Arena, now the Sprint) from being the basketball palace of Kansas City.

Anyway, I got the Sprint Center and headed straight for my seat. I needed to try to get the internet working.

Wednesday night, my internet wouldn’t work out in the arena. It was fine in the press room, but I couldn’t get connected by the court. And the same thing happened Thursday. Wouldn’t work.

The Big 12 provides an IT desk for help with technology problems, and those guys were great. Fantastic really. Two people helped me literally for an hour. Out on the court, back in the press room. They did everything they could think of to get me connected.

To no avail. I had no internet out on the court. Almost everyone else did, although it was slow. With all the people in the media, plus all the fans, connectivity, even with secured networks, is dicey.

Here’s why I usually need the internet at basketball games. I’ve been charting games so long, I can record almost everything that happens. Shots, who took them, from where they were taken, who got the assist, who got the block, all that stuff. I generally don’t record rebounds, unless it’s really significant, but I have shorthand method that I use as a quick resource after games.

But every once in awhile, I miss something. Have my head down when Phil Forte makes a steal. Didn’t see the number of the opponent who took that shot. Don’t know how the statkeepers scored a play in which a guy taps the ball on a missed shot. Was it a rebound and a shot, or was it just considered a loose ball? So I immediately check with the play-by-play to see how it was scored.

Wednesday night, I used my iPhone to check that stuff — same as I did in Stillwater when I started sitting in the stands — but it’s quite a bit behind the information you can get off your laptop.

Plus Thursday was going to be a killer day. OSU-Kansas at 2 p.m., OU-Baylor at 6 p.m., and my plan was to write a column off each game. Which meant I would not finish OSU-KU by 6; I would have to write during OU-Baylor timeouts. So I needed the internet.

And didn’t get it. But it wasn’t because the guys at the Sprint Center didn’t try.

11:30 a.m.: Since my internet didn’t work at courtside, I sat in the press room, watching Iowa State-Kansas State while I did my prep work for my bracket projections. When the KSU-ISU game went to the wire, I hustled out to the arena and watched the final three minutes. Great, great game. I grabbed a small sandwich to tide me over for lunch.

2 p.m.: OSU-Kansas. Great game. I assume you know. Cowboys lost. Kansas owns this tournament. Someone emailed me, griping about the tournament being held in Kansas City, saying the Jayhawks had too big of an edge. But KU has finished atop the regular season 10 straight years. So it’s not just Kansas City or the Sprint Center. Marcus Smart said it right. Kansas is hard to beat.

4:30 p.m.: I conducted some post-game interviews, went to the OSU locker room. Big 12 Tournament locker rooms are OK, even in defeat. The NCAA Tournament looms. I was pulling for the Cowboys to win, but losing was not the end of the world. The end of the world comes next week. Or the week after. NCAA Tournament locker rooms are the killers. That’s when the devastation sets in.

5 p.m.: I sat down to write. Big 12 catering brought in some baked potatoes, with all the proper fixings. Trouble is, baked potatoes are good only when hot. When not, not. Mine was lukewarm, but at least it tided me over.

6 p.m.: OU-Baylor. The game was over in the first five minutes. Baylor got off to a 10-0 lead, and though the Sooners eventually made a desperate comeback in the final three minutes to make it interesting, it was a dud game. You wonder how Baylor ever lost a game, playing with guys like that. During timeouts, I finished my OSU-KU column. At halftime, I went back to the press room, connected to the internet and filed my column. Glad that was over.

8:30 p.m.: Conducted post-game interviews. OU locker, same as OSU. Disappointed, not discouraged. Everyone will be fine by Friday, resolved by Saturday and excited by Sunday.

9:30 p.m.: Filed my column. My deadline was 10, which on Wednesday night I missed by 3-4 minutes. The great sports desk bailed me out on that one. I tried to repay them Thursday night by getting in early. Thursday night was one of our busiest nights of the year. Big 12 Tournament. Thunder-Lakers. Ten state tournaments (2A through 6A, boys and girls). OSU Pro Day. All kinds of stuff.

10 p.m.: Jumped on the shuttle back to the hotel. The Thunder-Lakers were hitting halftime. I wanted to watch as much as I could. I suppose I could have found a TV in the pressroom to switch over to TNT, but that’s bad form. Watching the NBA at a college basketball event? Little too provocative. Of course, the Sprint Center could have put Thunder-Lakers on the jumbotron, and all the fans watching that Texas-West Virginia debacle would have cheered.

10:30 p.m.: I still had work to do. We’ve been running my bracket projections in the paper all week, and Thursday was the first day that we had a bunch of competitive games, played deep into the night. So I still had to monitor the games being played and figure out how high to raise Connecticut and how far to drop Iowa. Even watched the end of the Iowa-Northwestern game around Thunder stuff.

11:30 p.m.: With the Thunder over and my bracket safely filed, I hooked up with Damon Fontenot and Bryan Terry, our visual artists, and we set out on a Kansas City pilgrimage. Town Topic. I’ve written about Town Topic before. The all-night hamburger stand on Broadway in downtown KC. About the size of a boxcar. No. That’s not right. Not nearly as big as a boxcar. Eleven stools total. One other counter where you 3-4 people can stand and eat. A tiny work space with a small grill. And the best burgers this side of Big Ed’s. We all had cheeseburgers, Damon and Bryan had fries, I had tots, Damon and I had pie and we made up for a lack of eating all day long. Town Topic is a great place to people watch. A bum sat just outside the door. All kinds of people come and go. I’ve seen the homeless walk in, followed by people in formal wear who stepped out of limos. And one of the women, who looks sort of like Anne Ramsey of “Goonies” (the old woman), has been there everytime I’ve gone in. For 15 years.

12:30 a.m.: We dropped Damon off at the Power & Light District — Kansas City’s Bricktown — where he was meeting up with some Oklahoma City TV folks who I’m sure were looking for some poetry readings and contemplation, then Bryan and I went back to the Sheraton.

A long day, a mostly unsuccessful day. I didn’t get on the internet. OSU didn’t beat Kansas. OU didn’t beat Baylor. But all hope was not lost. I got a cheeseburger at the Town Topic.










by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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