November 22, 2007

Diary of an Unsuspecting Contender

This is a special post from currently-Spain-based Kansas student Jonathan Orlansky, otherwise known as jaybro.

At the University of Kansas, we have an understanding. In gratitude for success in any capacity, we are to thank, praise, and sacrifice goats to one man, and one man alone: Dr. James Naismith. As you should well know, Dr. Naismith was a professor of Science at our prestigious institution who came up with the awfully good idea of basketball. He put up some peach baskets, very cleverly crafted some inflatable rubber, and provided the United States with its most accessible, most original, and arguably most fun sport (you’re welcome). Since that time, it has been the responsibility of the Jayhawks to be the greatest basketball program of all time.

I. 1,900 wins
II. 50 conference championships

However, in the past we have been humble enough to limit ourselves to unspeakable greatness in that one sport alone. To attempt even to be competitive in any other sport was a crass and ungentlemanly notion. However, as many have come recently to notice, our sense of decorum seems to have quite startlingly and suddenly fallen away. How to explain a University of Kansas football team at 11-0? My answer was instant and decisive: this could only be the work of Dr. Naismith.

An oft-mentioned, but under-appreciated part of the Professor’s legacy is that, at the time of his innovation, he was the football coach of the proud Jayhawks. Football is a sport not quite graceful enough to have been invented by Naismith (that, as is known by all you attentive sports fans, was Abner Doubleday), but curiously, Naismith was a better leader of exclusively white football teams than equally stark basketball teams. Naismith remains the only basketball coach in the history of the university to retire with a losing record, whereas his football years were some of our finer times.

To come to the point, I think the truth is clear: reincarnation is heavy. Before ridiculing Mark Mangino for his size, bear in mind, he’s eating for two: his primary person (or pod), and the soul of the inventor of basketball, dead for nearly 100 years. The ever-wise and powerful professor looked down from his personally furnished fluffy cloud, where he had just finished beating Jesus at ping-pong for, like, the fifth time in a row, and he saw his proud Jayhawk footballers in need of his help.

We were in the hands of a coach so inept that he would sit out in the fourth quarter a running back who ran for more yardage than Gail Sayers ever approached (Jon Cornish; look for him in the CFL), so dull that he would refuse to blitz one of the most highly regarded linebacking corps in the country. Dr. Naismith knew it was time for Chapter Two.

So the poor, unsuspecting, already large man became the home of the spirit of one of the great minds ever to grace sports. Since then, the formerly inept KU football squad has become the only team in the country to be in the top twenty in both passing and rushing offense, the only undefeated team from a major conference, and proudly stands as the least penalized team in the country, all this with an undersized quarterback, an overslow halfback, and a completely white tailback.

We’ve got a big game coming up against Missouri on Saturday, by far the biggest challenge of the season. The good doctor will have to pull out all the stops, and swing around the very large arms of his surrogate with tremendous focus. But if he is able to accomplish a victory in that game (and do the same the following week against Oklahoma), then I swear on the Rock Chalk foundation of the Kansas Union that I will go to New Orleans, wrap my arms halfway around Mark Mangino, lean into his ear and whisper, “I know you’re in there. Thanks for coming back,” before being dragged away by security.


1 comment:

Daddyeaux said...

So who gets the Coach of the Year award--Mangino or Naismith?