I popped by Tally’s Good Food Café on Saturday night to wish Ted Owens a happy 90th birthday. To get to the coach meant navigating a restaurant full of his former players. Walt Wesley at this table, Bud Stallworth at that one, Dave Robisch around the corner and so on.
It was worth the wait. It was worth taking a few moments to soak up such a beautiful scene.
Men who played for Owens at Kansas, Oral Roberts and Metro Christian had traveled from all directions to be at the birthday celebration. Men who managed his teams and announced his games.
Owens worked the room like the patriarch of a reunion, busy as a waiter, bouncy as a kid on a diving board.
He had just unwrapped a framed portrait of one of his early ‘90s Metro teams when I cut in for a handshake. He showed me the gift as if it was a photo of a grandchild.
He pointed out some of his Kansas players. He was proud of them, too. I have known Owens long enough to understand he has always been proud of them.
I met Owens while covering his alma mater Oklahoma. It was 15 years ago maybe. He was genuine and courteous with me immediately. I am quite certain that is his standard.
“There is not a finer gentleman in the game,” ESPN commentator Jay Bilas tweeted on Owens’ birthday last Tuesday.
“One of the most impressive men I’ve ever met,” Gary Bedore, longtime KU beat writer for the Lawrence Journal-World and Kansas City Star, tweeted.
Norm Stewart, the coach at Missouri for 16 of Owens’ 19 years at Kansas, who’d gouge your eyes out to beat the despised Jayhawks, called Owens a “gentleman” and “one of the outstanding coaches in the country” in a birthday email to Chris Lincoln, the Tulsa sportscaster who is good friends with both coaches.
Lincoln lit up over that story Saturday night. The whole restaurant glowed, honestly, befitting the guest of honor.
Happy birthday, Mr. Owens. What a glorious legacy.
So now you know one highlight from my week. There were others...
This made me laugh
Lincoln Riley, toward the end of a long grind of interviews at Big 12 Media Days last Monday, got to break up the monotony and smile a little. It was when someone asked him what was happening back home in Muleshoe, Texas.
Riley laughed and said: “Not much that I know of. I was actually there a couple of days ago to check in with some family. It’s still ticking. It’s all good. Pete the Mule (Muleshoe’s renowned statue) is still standing, so that’s good.”
Follow-up question I can’t believe I didn’t ask: “Do they still send you to the supermarket to pick up a gallon of milk?”
And this made me laugh
Gary Patterson, reflecting on his 19-year run as TCU coach last Monday: “I have a little bit of cockroach DNA, and you can’t kill a cockroach. You just gotta keep moving forward. I started in fifth place with my wife. I just outlasted everybody else.”
I always figured Bill Belichick and Tom Brady were football’s cockroaches, but OK.
This made me think
Will there ever be a time the Big 12 Conference gets out of its own way?
Commissioner Bob Bowlsby spent last Monday morning peeling off reasons his league has never been more robust. OU’s College Football Playoff appearance... Texas Tech’s Final Four run... Baylor’s women’s basketball championship... The $38.8 million per-school distribution last fiscal year.
So Big 12 officials coordinator Greg Burks opened Tuesday’s Media Days proceedings, took any momentum Bowlsby was able to generate... and ran it straight into the AT&T Stadium ground.
It happened with a simple question: “What is your stance on Horns Down? Is that an unsportsmanlike penalty? Should that at any time be a penalty?”
The Big 12 has had eight months to clarify its stance of Texas opponents flashing “Horns Down” to either taunt or celebrate. Eight months to clean up the mess it made in nearly undercutting the Big 12 Championship rematch between the Sooners and Longhorns last Dec. 1. Eight months to find an authoritative voice, one way or another, on the gesture and the ramifications of flashing it.
“Somehow I knew I was going to get that question today,” Burks began.
Here we go...
“The answer I will give you is...”
“... It depends.”
What followed was a little more nuance to Burks’ answer — Bill Haisten covered it in Wednesday’s Tulsa World if you want to rewind — but none of us heard that because we were too busy banging our heads against our keyboards.
The Big 12’s 2019 slogan right there.
This made me cry
Have you seen video of the 9-year-old baseball fan retrieving a foul ball and then giving it to the barely later-arriving 11-year-old at last Wednesday’s Phillies-Dodgers game? Google it. Savor it.
Then feel free to wonder why children don’t run this country.