Making sense of a senseless act impossible

A scene from the Columbine shooting more than 13 years ago.

A scene from the Columbine shooting more than 13 years ago.

April 20, 1999. It’s one of those dates generations remember. I was on my way to Burlingame to pick up the Washburn student newspaper, where I was editor-in-chief. I remember the news of the Columbine shooting breaking on the radio and hurrying home to watch a few minutes about it on TV.

I remember images of students running from a school, scared beyond belief. I remember parents in tears, faces in their hands. I remember a scene that looked more like a war zone than a place of learning. And, above all, I remember the overwhelming sense of sadness.

I also remember writing a column that day for the student newspaper. It would have been one of my last, as I was finishing up college. I don’t remember much of what I wrote. I know the words weren’t about gun control, or about video games being the culprit (remember, video games took A LOT of blame back in those days).

I didn’t have answers back then, and I don’t today as I read about the horrific school shooting in Connecticut. In addition to marveling at the decay of responsible reporting over the past 13 years, I’m trying to figure out how in the world you get to the point in your life that you think shooting a bunch of people who had nothing to do with your issues is the answer.

Nearly 30 people were killed during Friday's shooting.

Nearly 30 people were killed during Friday’s shooting.


We were raised with guns. I can handle anything from a pistol to a shot gun. I also know I don’t own one. That’s my choice.

Would gun control have prevented this tragedy? I’m not so sure. We live in a society where you can get your hands on just about anything you want (with the exception of sanity), illegal or not. I’m inclined to think if the shooter wanted to kill that badly, he would have found a way to get a gun.

On the other hand, I’d rather not see this post or tweet again: “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” Actually, both do. You probably don’t attempt to kill a person if you’re holding a pencil.

Either way, I was disgusted that both sides felt so compelled to use the shooting as a platform minutes after the event. We should be focusing more on helping the families and children in Newtown, Conn. The selfishness and self-righteousness of many people in the country says plenty.


Accuracy. Good lord was I tired of hearing that word by the time I graduated. “You’re nothing if you’re not accurate,” one of my professors would say.

Thing is, I took that for granted back then. Not because I didn’t think it was important, but because I thought it was commonsense. If you don’t have the right information in your story, who’s going to trust you?

That seems like a long, long time ago. Time and time again, journalists have been absolutely torched in social media trying to be the first to report a story. Today, it was media outlets reporting the wrong name and displaying the wrong photo of the shooter.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Twitter. Social media is wonderful. But it’s also been a significant factor in the erosion of responsibility and accountability in the media. It’s a simple rule, folks: Don’t run the story until you’re 100 percent sure it’s ACCURATE.


It’s about time the Royals went all-in

James Shields

The Royals finally have a starter who packs a punch.

Hell hath no fury like a sports fan scorned, particularly if that fan has been kicked in the groin, crane kicked in the nose and falcon-punched in the stomach repeatedly for 25 years.

The vitriol came out in force late Sunday night when news broke that the Kansas City Royals traded Jesus Christ (Wil Myers) and three of original members of Guns N’ Roses (Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard) for the 75-year-old edition of Satchel Paige (James Shields) and pre-Crash Davis Nuke Laloosh (Wade Davis).

The sentiment from the fan base on Twitter – always entertaining, if nothing else – is Royals general manager Dayton Moore went “full retard” in a desperate attempt to save his job. To quote former Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil, “I say B.S.”

Royals fans have been in this “wait until the year after next” mode for decades. It’s been the only hope for years. “Oh yeah, well wait until those guys in Double-A get up here.” We’ve treated the future as a guarantee, that players like Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Mike Montgomery, Alex Gordon and Wil Myers will rescue what was once one of baseball’s finest franchises.

Never mind that Gordon sucked for four years before he figured it out, that Hosmer hit .232 last year, that Moustakas hit .220 in the last four months of 2012, that Montgomery has been arguably the most disappointing prospect in baseball the past two years and that Myers strikes out once every four at-bats.

Wil Myers

Shields came at a steep cost in the 2012 minor league player of the year


I did not want to see Myers go. He’s the 2012 minor league player of the year after hitting 37 homers. He has a mountain of potential and might end up being a superstar. The Royals also traded away a starting pitcher who projects as high as a No. 3 (Odorizzi), a left-lander with three plus pitches (Montgomery) and a third baseman with pop (Leonard).

But they got plenty in return. As in one of the best pitchers in the American League in Shields, who’s been about as good as anybody not named Justin Verlander the last two seasons.

The Royals have had one ace since Kevin Appier left town in the 1990s, and Zack Greinke was a true ace for all of one season in Kansas City. You don’t get to the postseason in the major leagues without an ace. The Royals needed one, Moore went and got one. The price was going to be steep.

Kansas City also acquired Davis, a decent-starter-turned-dominant-reliever who’ll move back into the rotation, where he’s a significant upgrade from the typical Royals starter over the last 20 years (an era that’s included the likes of Mark Redman, Jose Lima and Brian Anderson, among dozens of other has-beens).

Royals fans

It’s been a long 20 years for Royals fans


I understand the disdain for Moore. He brought a plethora of promise from Atlanta. Promise that included replenishing a pool of pitching prospects that dried up when gangsta rap hit the scene. To this day, more than six years after he took over as GM, he has not delivered the goods.

Yes, the Royals have a ton of talented every-day players (Gordon, Hosmer, Moustakas, Billy Butler, Salvador Perez, Alcides Escobar), but you don’t win without pitching. It doesn’t matter who’s hitting if Charlie Brown (Luke Hochevar) is your opening-day starter at the K.

So if you can’t develop your young pitchers, what do you do? You trade prospects for KNOWN QUALITY. You deal your best prospect for an ace. You take a risk, something the Royals haven’t done for far too long.

You know, it might work. Shields can deal, as he’s done for the past two years. Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie are capable of winning 12 to 15 games. Davis is an upgrade at the end of the rotation. Bruce Chen is where he belongs as a No. 5. Luke Hochevar … well, let’s just hope he’s not needed once Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino return.

In other words, the Royals finally have hope. Maybe “Our Time” actually fits now.

It could fail. Kansas City could be the laughingstock of baseball. Of course, it has been for going on 20 years now.

You become great by taking risks, not sitting on prospects who might be superstars.

Dawson goes out a winner

Nick Dawson

Nick Dawson coached at Lyndon for 35 years, finishing third at the state tournament in two seasons.

In my one year of coaching high school basketball in Burlingame, I got plenty of suggestions. Mostly from parents (their kid should be starting, you know). Officials, principals, players. You name it, all of them had advice to offer to a green 21-year-old with hoop dreams.

But some the best advice I received that year wasn’t even spoken. It was from watching a man who’d become a legend in Lyndon coaching basketball for four decades in a sleepy town 30 minutes south of Topeka.

My first – and only – year as a coach was Nick Dawson’s 35th – and final – season at Lyndon. I coached against him three times that year (1997-98), once as a varsity assistant, head junior varsity and freshman coach.

We managed to win two of those games, including the freshman game on a January afternoon in Lyndon. I remember it for several reasons, namely that we rallied from 20 points down in the second half. And that I was ejected in the first half after picking up two technical fouls.

Of course, I was the only Burlingame coach in the gym. It could have been a disaster. A forfeit because of an ejection in my 10th game … always did have a temper. Fortunately, Coach Dawson, who was so dedicated to the program that he was working as an assistant during the freshman game, asked the officials to let me stay.

Years later, I remember that like it happened yesterday. Just as I remember his grin as we shook hands after the game. As in, “You’re damn lucky I’m a nice guy …”

I cherish that win to this day, partly because his big and sophomore-laden JV team had absolutely destroyed by tiny, freshman-laden  roster by 50 points a week earlier.

What I remember most about coaching against Dawson is how he treated folks – equally. It didn’t matter where you were from, how old you were, how good your team was … the handshake was the same, the words were kind.

Just as they were several months later, when I sat down with him as a reporter for the Osage County Chronicle for a story on his retirement. Here was a college kid in his living room, one who’d been ejected for acting like an ass on HIS court, and he treated the interview as if Burt Sugar asked the questions.

It was great to see Lyndon honor Coach Dawson last Friday by naming the school’s gym after him. According to reports, including this story by longtime Capital-Journal sports writer Brent Maycock, he was moved by the gesture.

Coach Dawson suffered a stroke moments after the ceremony. He died a few days later, at age 77. Initially, it struck me as incredibly sad. But the more I think about it, it almost seems fitting. He went out a winner, enjoying one final moment of glory in a place he essentially built.