DALLAS - One of the aspects the people who do not do but teach never tell you about when covering sports is the difficulty remaining unbiased when covering the team you actually want to see win. If you are around any team long enough, you eventually grow numb to those feelings and simply cover the story. You likely don't care who wins or loses. Be around any team enough, it's not uncommon for the journalist to hope to see the team lose, or hope for a lockout.
I still care, ignorantly so, about the Kansas Jayhawk football team. I'm never around them, so that helps keep my feelings in the 'fan strata'. KU is a basketball school, but I want to see KU at least be competitive in the sport that America places above everything else.
I proudly purchased lot of KU football junk the year we won the Orange Bowl. Recently? Not so much. Most recently I behaved like most fans would when watching their team get routinely blown out against their rival schools - throw little tantrums, stop their feet, and not buy stuff.
I was thrilled when they canned Mark Mangino, and not because he was fat. Football has lots of fat guys who coach. Even though he won the Orange Bowl, I regarded his success with great skepticism. As one of the state's most visible and highest-paid employees I felt his demeanor was bullying, belittling and embarrassing. His behaviors made his weight an issue. He created an image of a man who simply could not control his temper, and those guys seldom last in a business that mandates balancing composure with intense emotion.
His replacement, Turner Gill, who graduated from Fort Worth's Arlington Heights, sounds so good. I want to see this man succeed. He has redshirted nearly all of his first group of recruits, some of whom allegedly are good players. But watching his team last season, his first in Lawrence, didn't instill a lot of confidence. His team looked small, unathletic, and often disorganized. How they beat Georgia Tech, and rallied to defeat Colorado, is a mystery.
I don't know if Gill realizes how hard this job is. Decades of losing and mediocrity has engendered a culture of indifference, and zero expectations, in Lawrence. Mangino grasped that part, which is why he rolled the dice on so many players. How he kept Aqib Talib out of trouble, relatively speaking, during his career at KU may have been his best coaching.
As a fan, I want to see Gill succeed and make this program competitive.
As a "sports journalist", who already has watched too much football, I just don't know if he can because this job doesn't look that much different than Iowa State or Washington State.
"I had an open mind and an open heart," Gill said when I asked him if he knew how hard this job was. "I knew coming in the team was fragile, as far as the student athletes. It was a similar situation in Buffalo. I had a plan to recruit and teach young men how to play the game of football, and the game of life. ... You have to understand the University of Kansas, and all those things to move forward."
I understand Kansas, which is why I remain the skeptical fan that I am. But I will always remain a fan, which is why I can say the following: When does basketball season start?
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