• COUNTDOWN IS ON — One month from today.
That would be Aug. 14 and it’s the first day high school sports teams can begin practices as authorized by the Kansas State High School Activities Association.
It’s also a signal that summer is going way too fast and needs to slow down.
There’s probably more excitement surrounding fall sports than anytime of the year.
That’s because the athletes have had the summer preparing for the school year by working out, and getting bigger, faster and stronger. It’s the sports season that sets the tone for the rest of the year.
This upcoming sports season will be my 39th of covering the local scene, which is really hard to believe. It seems like only yesterday I walked into the high school office for the first time on Aug. 13, 1979, and the late Jay Frazier said to me, “so you’re the new sports guy?”
I can tell you that the embers still burn and there’s nothing better than covering high school sports. And from the McPherson High coaches I’ve talked with, they’re looking forward to exciting seasons.
• WILDCATS PICKED THIRD — Finally, somebody who may have gotten it right.
The media who regularly cover the Big 12 voted for their preseason football poll and picked the Kansas State Wildcats third.
I posted on Thursday how the national prognosticators annually get it wrong when it concerns the Wildcats. One leading publication tabbed the Wildcats sixth even though they probably have the most top returnees of any team in the Big 12.
Oklahoma was picked first, followed by Oklahoma State. But don’t be surprised if this is the Cowboys’ year. Oklahoma has to adapt to the loss of Bob Stoops, who surprisingly retired early this summer. I’ve been surprised how little has been made of why he stepped down as it still seems to me there has to be more to the story.
As expected, Kansas was a runaway winner (or loser) as the last-place team. The Jayhawks just hope to beat somebody and not go O-fer. Texas was their victim last year and maybe they can get a couple this year. But I wouldn’t count on it.
• ROYALS RETURN TONIGHT — Tonight could be the beginning of one final run for the core group of the Kansas City Royals as a breakup is a very real possibility.
Kansas City arrived at the All-Star break with a 44-43 record, but with baseball’s parity (other than the 60-29 Houston Astros) the Royals find themselves only 3 games back of Central-leading Cleveland and 1 1/2 out of the wild-card spots.
From all indications, the Royals are going to ride it out with their core group, which includes five-free-agents-to-be — all of them vital players.
The Royals return with 10 straight home games. They haven’t been nearly as dominant at home as previous years, but they need to come out with guns blazing. They open with three against Texas, which always seems to give them trouble. Then it’s four with fading Detroit and three against the Chicago White Sox, who just traded top pitcher Jose Quintana as they’re raising the white flag on this season and dealing off their top assets for prospects.
If KC goes 3-7 or 2-8 on this homestand, the entire complexion of its season changes. And the firesale talk could start again.