Monthly Archives: March 2012

Don’t Forget the Ohio State – Kansas Rivalry

The Louisville-Kentucky rivalry is the talk of the Final Four, and I’m not here to rain on anyone’s parade. There’s a lot of history there, and the schools happen to be located in the same state. Fair’s fair. All I ask is that you don’t ignore the long, rich rivalry between Ohio State and Kansas. It’s lesser-known, yes, but no less meaningful, and today we should take time to remember the strange interconnected past that forever links the Jayhawks and Buckeyes.

It all started in 1875 …


Aloysius Brutus, the son of a Kansas barley farmer, decided on his 17th birthday that the agricultural life was not for him. He asked his father (David Llewelyn Brutus, one of the state’s 10 richest men according to a contemporary wealth survey commissioned by the state) for permission to enter the famous Topeka Seminary. But the elder Brutus was a distrustful man who lacked a spiritual side, and he told his son that, “religion is but a poxy on the righteous fervor of labor. My sons shall be men of the callous, not the cloth.”

Distraught, Aloysius gathered his scant belongings — a biddle stick, 10 “territory dollars” stolen from his mother’s pistol drawer, and a primitive toy similar to a slap bracelet — and lit out in the middle of the night, heading east. When he reached the border a week later, he uttered the iconic words, “Kansas, cast thy eyes downward, for I humble thee by my leaving.” A local gadfly heard the words, and published them in his popular pamphlet, Hearde in Thy Sweet State.

Brutus’ ego, along with the business sense he’d learned from David Llewelyn, led him to abandon his dreams of priesthood and go into the wagon manufacturing business. He started in eastern Missouri, but was chased out of town at age 26 when it was found out the wagon axles he used were made from a cheap rubberized material bought at a discount from Mexico, leading to several fatal crashes around the area. But he was a resilient man, and he turned up in Ohio seven years later. This time, business boomed, and soon he was a wealthy pillar of the community.

In 1894, he established the State University of Ohio in Columbus. He had not forgotten his unpleasant Kansas beginnings, and insisted that it be written in the school charter that no student from Kansas ever be admitted. (The rule was not revoked until his death in 1941.) Kansas remembered him too, from the anger that swept the state when his quote was printed in Hearde in Thy Sweet State, and the legislature issued a law (redundant, but they were making a point) that no resident be allowed to attend Ohio State. Also, David Llewelyn Brutus was tried and imprisoned for the crime of “rearing seditious offspring.”

Thus, the animosity between the two schools was born. Even today, the image of Brutus Buckeye, the mascot named after Aloysius Brutus and designed in his likeness, is banned from Kansas-based television stations.


The Great Kansas Corn Fire spread across the state in August of 1926, destroying acres and acres of crops and ruining the economy, and it just so happened that the first Kansas-Ohio State football game was scheduled for that October. When the visiting Buckeyes won 82-4, it set off a spark that ignited the entire state in a red rage. The stagecoaches carrying the Ohio State football team were only able to outrun the pursuing Kansas militia due to the fact that in a great historical irony, the militia’s wagons had been sold to them by an unscrupulous Missouri dealer looking to unload some of Brutus’ old wagons with the faulty rubberized axles. The wagons collapsed less than a mile into the chase, and the Buckeyes were able to escape eastward.

But without economic opportunity, the young unattached men of Kansas began to form outlaw bands. One of these, the Vengeance Raiders, crossed the country on horseback to kidnap Brutus Buckeye, the Ohio State mascot, and restore the state’s honor. They found him drinking alone in early December, and brought him back in ropes to Kansas. They didn’t realize until they were safely in Topeka that the man wearing the mascot uniform was Ezekiel Amadeus Brutus, the youngest son of Aloysius. When his father heard the news, he used his great wealth to convince the state government to declare war on Kansas.

The state militias began to form in the early part of 1912 (by this time, the Kansas forces had replaced the useless wagons and hanged the vendor), and conflict was only avoided when President William Howard Taft intervened and brokered a deal by which Ezekiel Brutus would be married to Evangeline Collier, the daughter of the Kansas governor. This arrangement placated both sides until the marriage fell apart in 1926 due to what Hearde in Thy Sweet State called “assiduous infidelities.”


Enraged by the separation of his son from Evangeline Collier, Aloysius Brutus attended the first basketball game between the two schools, hoping for satisfaction. Instead, he watched as the talented Kansas Jayhawks, coached by the legendary Phog Allen, beat the Buckeyes by the lopsided score of 125-13. Indeed, written accounts of the game seem to indicate the Ohio State team (founded earlier that season) didn’t completely understand the rules of the sport, and the only points they scored were when a sixth and seventh man illegally entered the game in the late moments and Kansas found it prudent not to protest.

Allen grinned at the Buckeye faithful on his way out of the gymnasium, and Brutus would later describe his smile as having “all the pomposity of a sated jackrabbit” in his memoir, The First Real American. The game inspired riots in Columbus, and violence against the Jayhawk players was only avoided due to the fact that Brutus had refused to allow gasoline into the city because he was convinced (wrongly, it turned out) that the gasoline boom was a plot to enrich a few Texans, and that cooking oil would work just as well in any engine.

The Jayhawks escaped, but Brutus banned basketball from the campus, and later the entire state. Like the ban on Kansas students, this last until his death, in 1941.


Less than two months after Brutus was killed by his seventh and final heart attack, the first Kansas-born student at Ohio State University was escorted through the campus. The girl, named Margaret Bohanon, was considered a traitor in her home state (Hearde in Thy Sweet State even called for her extradition and arrest) and an abomination by Ohioans. Many had gathered to protest her admission, and she was hit by several rotten grapefruits (Ohio’s state food, at the time) on her way through the campus.

However, she persevered, and when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt praised her courage in one his fireside chats broadcast to millions of Americans, popular sentiment turned in her favor. A popular song with the chorus “Marge, Marge, Bo-hanon, we want you on our side!” even swept the country. (The melody was later preserved in a song honoring Joe DiMaggio, which is how it’s best remembered today.)


Unfortunately, the admission of Kansas students at Ohio State didn’t quell the hatred between the two schools. For the next 30 years, Ohio State won every football game and Kansas every basketball game. Things evened out beginning in the ’70s, but when Kansas star Danny Manning famously called Ohio State “the Academy for Buffoons” in a Columbus Dispatch story in 1987, it ignited the two-week hysteria known as “The Jayhawk Fortnight,” or the “Blue Terror,” when Kansas fans and residents were harassed across the state of Ohio and banned from most restaurants. The state of Kansas returned the favor, and soon the death toll reached triple digits.

Again, presidential intervention was necessary. Calling both sides “clowns,” Ronald Reagan forced Ohio State to join the Big Ten and Kansas to join the Big 12, and dictated that neither side would play the other in any sport “unless it became necessary by dint of the postseason.”


Which brings us to the present. With so much at stake, it’s impossible not to remember the contentious history between the two teams when Ohio State and Kansas meet on the hardwood this weekend. And the powers-that-be have not forgotten, either; before the game, Kansas coach Bill Self and Ohio State’s Thad Matta will speak to the respective fan bases in a joint press conference, urging them to avoid violence and respect the institution of the game.

When the contest ends, the rivalry will return to the shadow of Louisville-Kentucky. But memories are long, and the past is persistent. Today, on the eve of the Final Four, we recognize the bad blood, and pray for a peaceful result.

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I want to punch and pray for Tyler Zeller

Maybe that headline is a bit too extreme. I don’t always want to pray for Tyler Zeller.

For almost four years, I was blissfully unaware. As a Duke fan, I would see Zeller on the court in that powder blue and I could hate his annoyingly efficient game. Nothing contained my undignified rage at every invisible foul he drew, as visions of Tyler Hansbrough flopped in my head. I could mock mercilessly when he acted like he was shot by a sniper running down the court in the first Duke game this year (again in slow motion!). All the joy I took from casting Zeller in the revolving role of Tar Heel villain was ripped away from me with one tweet.

Oh, the dangers of Twitter. Politicians find out when they accidentally send inappropriate public tweets that were meant to be inappropriate private tweets. I found out when I saw J.D. Greear, a prominent Triangle area pastor, tweeted out a congratulation to Zeller on being named ACC Player of the Year. He called the UNC senior “a man of great character” and said he was faithful to their church.

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Harrison Barnes at Duke

More talented writers have given their thoughts on Harrison Barnes, and I wouldn’t be offended in the least if you read Moneyballer or Brand Gone Bust or Death of a Salesman instead of my next few paragraphs. Actually, you should definitely read those articles before any of the below. I loved each writers’s take and would like to expand on the subject by offering up my suggestion that Harrison Barnes get in a time machine and go back and pick Duke. Don’t mistake this for me writing that I like watching Barnes play or even would want him to go to Duke, but it is clear that his brand equity would have increased had he played for Coach K.

When Barnes talks about going to Carolina to build his brand, he might as well have been Coach K talking about American Express. Couldn’t you see Barnes saying “I don’t look at myself as basketball player. I look at myself as a leader who happens to play basketball.” It is also clear that Barnes’s life is not about playing games. He could have said all the stuff he said about building a brand at Duke and it would have been a perfect fit. In branding it is imperative that your company’s message connects with people’s perceptions of your company. Business = Branding = Coach K/Barnes.

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The Black Falcon Has A Question

(NOTE: This post probably won’t make any sense unless you’ve read this article. Even after you read that, it might not make a lot of sense, but I won’t have any excuses.  And if you don’t know who the Black Falcon is, well, this site isn’t for you.)


The room is packed, but silent.  Tape, socks, and warm-ups are strewn across the floor.  Each player is seated in front of his locker, listening to music, studying the playbook, or staring at the last-minute notes Roy Williams has managed to print on the whiteboard.  Each player, that is, except for one…

BLACK FALCON: Hey, Kendall.

MARSHALL: (headphones in, focused on the last minute pointers he’s about to give to backup PG Stilman White)

BLACK FALCON: Kendall. Kendall!

MARSHALL: (still listening to music)

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Humility in losing

(Hey, don’t miss the latest Walk-Ons podcast below!)

I don’t know exactly how Coach K was feeling after he finished watching one of the more frustrating seasons in recent Duke history. The year ended with a historic loss to a 15 seed from a conference that until 2005 had not won a single game in the NCAA tournament. Was he thinking about the upcoming Olympics? Was he thinking about how this team needed some impact recruits? Was he wondering like the Warden in The Shawshank Redemption just how the heck Lehigh got the best of him?

Despite what he must have been thinking he addressed the media with nothing but respect for Lehigh. He didn’t blame the loss on Ryan Kelly’s injury. He accurately called C.J. McCollum the “best player on the court.” He gave them all the credit in the world for playing well and deserving the win. There wasn’t a snide remark from Coach K about the officials, his players or the fact that Duke was placed against a team that might have been the best 15 seed in the history of the tournament. There was a grace to the way that he lost that is often overlooked in a sporting world that places a 100% importance on winning.

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Duke/UNC – Things Are Even

(Hey, don’t miss the latest Walk-Ons podcast below!)

The preseason #1 ranked team suffered a key injury to their point guard and ended up falling short of their expectations by not even making it to the Final Four. Am I talking about this year’s UNC team with Marshall or last year’s Duke team with Irving? I understand that UNC fans might complain more heavily because Marshall’s injury kept him out of two tournament games, while Irving’s injury only kept him out for the majority of the regular season. That’s fine if you want to make that argument, but regardless both injuries severely hurt their team in a way that won’t soon be forgotten.

Duke had a chance to go back to back, and with Irving that team would likely had a better #1 seed (not out West) and a more favorable path to the Final Four. There I would have liked to seen Duke play teams like VCU, Butler, Uconn or Kentucky. With Irving playing all year, I have no doubt that Nolan Smith and him would have learned to compliment each other to easily form the best backcourt in the NCAA.  Duke’s season went down with Irving’s toe injury.

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The Walk-Ons! Sweet 16, Elite 8

Today, Ben and I wrap up the end of Carolina’s season, from Harrison Barnes’ no-show to twitter reactions to Bleacher Report to Spandau Ballet. Literally EVERY facet of the UNC loss. (But especially Spandau Ballet.)

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Thanks as always for listening. Time stamps to come.

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What Could Have Been

It started in the summer with the news that Leslie MacDonald, a role player from last year and the Tar Heels’ best returning 3-point shooter, would miss the year with a torn ACL. We winced, but knew this was a glancing blow. The Heels were supposed to be a juggernaut, and juggernauts don’t flinch when someone cuts off a finger. We would be fine. Students lined up for (not)Late Night With Roy at 4pm. We eagerly read along as ESPN launched a blog just for UNC on its basketball homepage. We soaked up commentary. Optimism reigned supreme.

The season began with great fanfare, highlighted by UNC’s annual pasting of Michigan State in a new, fancy venue – this time, an aircraft carrier. Even when UNC lost to UNLV and then Kentucky, we knew March was when it really mattered. As ACC play rolled around we started to get a sense of the team: they were nice kids. Off the court they loved hanging out together, communicating on Twitter so we could all feel part of their goofy lifestyle. Henson was the class clown, Barnes the businessman, Watts the elder statesman, with Kendall Marshall at the center of it all. This was, after all, the team that played outdoor pick-up against us mere mortals (sometimes spotting teams 9 points in a game to 11). On the court, they occasionally coasted on talent against inferior opponents. They won, mostly, but sometimes seemed uninspired. The Heels went through a lengthy, multi-game shooting slump where they developed a gritty defensive identity. Things started coming together.

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K’s Year Off

I know this will be an opinion not shared by many of those who follow Duke, but to me, this was one of the worst coaching jobs K has ever done (apologies for the Bleacher Report quality intro but I’m still upset over the loss). I know people will point out how we beat many great teams during the course of the year and how we had a chance to win the ACC regular season title as proof of K’s genius, but to me those early successes simply mask the overall poor job he did this year. A poor job that by and large was the result of the stubbornness – which admittedly has over the last 32 years generally served him better than worse – that led to a highly uncharacteristic lack of experimentation that ultimately doomed the team.

K ultimately failed this team and potentially future ones in 3 ways: 1) not recognizing that our lack of perimeter defense was not something that could be fixed with simple willpower (why was this ever seemingly considered an option I will never understand), and the unwillingness to give 2) Cook and  3) Gbinije more run at the PG and SF spots, respectively. On the defensive front, I would’ve hoped following the Temple game, that K would realize that forcing our guards to pressure out on the perimeter was only leading them to get beaten off the dribble and forcing Mason, Miles and Kelly to constantly have to help which led to offensive rebound situations and increased fouls accumulated by the bigs challenging shots. It seemed to me at least that going to the 2010 sag defense ( as depicted by Luke Winn) could solve so many of our perimeter defensive problems.

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Selfish Young Americans, Episode 5

This week, Jim and I complain about NCAA refs, the rich getting richer, really old people getting divorced, traffic court being depressing, and parents getting dickish over cell phone bills.

SYA will have its own home shortly, but for now it lives on Tobacco Road Blues. For those unfamiliar, this is the comedy podcast done by myself and my pal SlimJim, where we talk about news and life and the world of selfish young Americans.

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If you like it, tell a friend or write a review on iTunes or send me $400. Enjoy!

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