Thursday, February 24, 2005

They Pay 2 Play in the ABA

The Star's reporting of the Kansas City Knights economic woes fails to cover one important component of the club's financial struggles. The reported inability to compensate the most talented players available to them may be causing a major shift in the Knights 'basketball philosophy.'

Translation: Potential 'investors' can now dictate who goes on the roster, and who stays. There is no exemption involving family members in this policy.

The Knights began an interesting relationship with former William Jewell point guard Pat Khoury on January 8th when the team squared off against the Colorado Storm at Hale Arena. Khoury was not listed on the team's web site (www.knightsfans.com), nor on the game notes distributed that night. Having left William Jewell a few years ago, Khoury had a brief stint with the Kansas City Steer of the NABL (now defunct?). He then ventured overseas where, like his time at William Jewell, he was not considered an elite player by any stretch of the imagination.

As 2005 rolled around, Khoury's father was seeing to it that his son would find a way onto the Knights roster. What his son could not produce in basketball talent, the elder Khoury would make up for in contributions to the area's fledgling minor league franchise.

Pat's father, Paul, is the President and Director of PB&J Restaurants. He founded the company in 1987. Prior to PB&J, he was a manager for Gilbert Robinson, Inc., another Kansas City-based restaurant operation. Paul and PB&J co-owner Bill Crooks specialize in bringing duck breast to Kansas Citians at Grand St. Café at 47th and Grand Blvd, not something most fans attending Knights games are familiar with. His son wasn't looking to reinvent Kansas City cuisine; he wanted a way into a basketball gig so he wouldn't have to look overseas for work in the hoops industry.

Khoury proposed to the Knights' brass an idea that would make sense for them and keep his son playing in the area. In exchange for covering the costs to produce Knights merchandise and provide other revenue generating materials for the team, they would reward Khoury with a few gifts. A nearly unlimited supply of season tickets for he and his family was an easy bone to throw the restaurant owner. The other condition of their arrangement was a bit more startling: Paul Khoury's son would be joining the team on a full-time basis.

On January 8th, Pat Khoury was not only in the lineup, but he was starting the game. It was something out of a 'Seniors Night' game at KU when Roy Williams would allow bench players to bask in on court glory for a few minutes as their college careers expired. Khoury registered two points during seven minutes of play as the Knights beat the seemingly disinterested Colorado squad.

After the game, word around Hale Arena was that Khoury's appearance with the team amounted to a one-time arrangement. The team passed off the occurrence as if he was the winning recipient of some sort of unofficial contest.

A week later, fans attending the Jan. 15th game against St. Louis noticed that Khoury was still suiting up. Again, he was in the starting lineup, and this time he saw significant minutes in the second half. A week later his only second half appearance was during garbage minutes, but on this night he began the third quarter in the lineup feeding the ball to the Knight's low post scorer, and former KU forward, Jeff Graves.

By this night, Khoury was listed on the team's web site and was mentioned in the game notes distributed to fans. Word was beginning to circulate that Khoury was not a temporary addition, but rather a permanent fixture to the remainder of the Knight's 2004-2005 season. The other significant change at Hale Arena was the merchandising table. Once barely stocked with team apparel, it was now overflowing with a slew of new Knights' memorabilia.

The Knights won the game as Khoury recorded another two point performance, but increased his on court minutes to twelve. Afterwards, he sped out of the Kemper Arena parking lot afterwards in a sporty silver vehicle (not exactly the kind of transportation that ABA salaries traditionally afford players).

The relationship that exists between the Knights and the Khoury family is becoming more and more common to aficionados of the local sports scene. This same kind of arrangement kept Josh Kroenke and Spencer Laurie in Missouri basketball uniforms in recent years. The two are cousins of Paige Laurie, who's father Bill, put up $25 million big ones toward the construction of the Tiger's new basketball specific arena.

Listed as a generous 6'0"by the Knights web site, it is not known whether Khoury is drawing a salary (regarding the reports of paychecks bouncing).

*February Update -- Guards Jeff Boschee and Joe Crispin have left the team to play overseas. Meanwhile, Jon Crispin has filed a lawsuit against the team over nonpayment and wrongful termination. He was released from the team in January to make room for Khoury.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Sports Expansion at UMKC?

While residents protest the demolition of their homes at Twin Oaks, UMKC is fortunate to also be riding a huge publicity wave from the basketball team's moderate success over the past year.

In the midst of this struggle between good and bad karma for the University, is Athletic Director Bob Thomas. Thomas, via an e-mail sent on February 11th, made his feelings towards a new sports facility on the main campus known:

"(We are) dreaming and working to implement ways a facility under our ownership and management on our campus could further enhance the experience for our fans and the University."

Not a ringing endorsement for Municipal Auditorium, eh?

The last time UMKC attempted to construct new athletic facilities was in 1998. That ended in the infamous "UMKC Kills Our Homes" campaign. The community backlash cost the then Chancellor (Eleanor Schwartz) her job. The soccer fields and other intramural sites were never put up.

As the KC Star noted in the same article containing news of Schwartz's 'resignation', the University's Athletic Department has been running deficits ever since they made the move to NCAA division I in the late 80's. By 1996-97, the deficit had reached $1.7 million, not including an additional $1 million in athletic scholarships.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

KMBC Channel 9 News-vertisements

Newsflash: If you're a young, enterprising black male, then contact KMBC-TV immediately! This most likely qualifies you for an entire news segment on their highly-rated, nightly newscast!

Seriously.....Is it just me, or is the definition of news at local television stations becoming more and more suspicious?

KMBC-TV aired quite possibly the most
peculiar segment ever on their Monday, Feb. 21st 10pm newscast. They devoted a nice chunk of time to a new local business using cars and a graphic design technique to advertise business logos and other persuasive messages on everything from low riders to SUV's. Check out
KMBC's homepage to see how this 'wrapping' technique comes out looking.

The segment starts out innocently enough: Jim Ellsworth of Shawnee, KS used this graphic design technique of 'wrapping' a 1962 Chevy Bel Air with images that celebrated black history month (i.e. Malcolm X, Rosa Park, etc.). The kind gesture fades as the piece moves along, and we find out that Ellsworth's company is 'interested' in wrapping other vehicles (one possibility is a message in support of the troops overseas). Hmmm. You feed the news beast a little 'goodwill' bit and then you've got them in the palm of your hand.

The piece quickly transitions from cutesy, tootsey community feature on a local guy celebrating a worthy cause into a guy advertising his start-up business. Ellsworth then spouts off some nonsense implying that segregation is alive and well in the graphic art industry.

"This is a field that should not be segregated. Anyone can create and use this sort of media to broadcast your message," Ellsworth said.

He throws this in out of the blue, at which point the reporter's taped voiceover tries to wrap the segment up, but not before giving Ellsworth's ‘segregated’ business another huge plug (phone number, plus web site).

The JMI signs web site lists Ellsworth as the company's creative director and co-founder. He certainly has a creative way of turning celebrations of Black History Month into: “I’ll continue to be oppressed in this industry until you wrap you car up with these hokey-looking jpegs!”

I contacted Mr. Ellsworth Thursday to see what he implied by ‘segregation’ in his industry, as well as how exactly KMBC went about selecting his business for such an extensive news feature in the middle of their evening telecast. He did not elaborate, but did say it was a broad statement about minority exclusion from the graphic design industry.

*I've just been alerted to a blurb on the company that the LJ World ran on Feb. 5th (two and half weeks prior to the KCTV story). As you can tell, it's much more of just a photo and caption, rather than a full throttle business promotion.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Questions for Black History Month

? #1 -- What happened to the days of Republican administrations working toward smaller government?

Bush's $2.57-trillion budget for 2006 will be more than a third bigger than the 2001 budget he inherited four years ago.

What happened to the philosophy of fiscal responsibility that once guided conservative thought? It’s gone and we’re stuck with two parties that both espouse big government propaganda.

? #2 -- Why is it that not a single big media outlet picked up the national ID card story?

The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a sweeping set of rules that will force adults to carry federally approved electronic ID cards, including driver's licenses. It's a de facto National ID card; just another sign that privacy and individual freedoms will continue to fall into the crapper while we conduct the 'war on terrorism.'

? # 3 -- Are young Americans really so stupid to believe that it would be a good thing for the Government to give clearance to media outlets in order to publish stories?

CNN reports that many high school students believe government censorship of newspapers is needed in some instances, and that flag burning does not constitute protected free speech.

This is the first "Bush Generation" to be raised in the aftermath of 9/11. They can't read, they love MTV, and their not big fans of the 1st Amendment. The future looks bright....much like the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.

1/3 of the high school students polled said the language of the 1st Amendment goes "too far." If this was Ari Fleischer responding I could understand, but to hear from run-of-the-mill public high school students is a more than a bit disturbing.

? # 4 -- Do we live in a society where bloggers can actually be sued?

Jeff Gannon, err James Guckert, certainly thinks so. Guckert/Gannon is threatening the bloggers with litigation for stealing his livelihood. It was Gannon/Guckert, not the bloggers, who signed off on his privacy when he started selling himself for online sex.

? #5 -- Does the KC Star expect us to take it as a serious journalism publication when it runs front page stories on intelligent design?

Sweet Jesus, they've done it again. Star reporter Eddie Hall apparently had nothing better to write about. So what does he do? He goes out and gives another religious nut job the opportunity to remind us why science is evil and his one book has all the answers.

? #6 -- Will any publication advocate the decriminalization of consensual sex?

Again, not the KC Star. Instead, they run a huge page 2 piece this week on a successful prostitution sting. Naturally, author Tanyanika Samuels makes out the cops to be the good guys and the guilty parties to be evil-doers.

Way to stick up for the system Samuels! You'll fit in nicely at the Star next to Kraske and company. Who are these adults to think that they could actually get away with something like this! Additionally, she was able to glorify the heroics of these police officers. They always appreciate the good press for these WACO-like stunts. I sent this promising young journalist a letter; we'll see how the Star chooses to respond (Ordinarily, they don't).

? # 7 -- When will the fake news stop (no, I'm not talking about Fox)?

The use of video news releases (prepared by professional PR agencies) on television newscasts has been well documented since the first Gulf War. Congressional investigators are asking the feds to stop funding these efforts once again in light of other payments that could be tied back to the Bush White House. Video news releases are produced in a way that makes them indistinguishable from what is broadcast by television news organizations. In many cases, they do the job.