Sept. 7, 2010
By Dean Buchan
Grab your gold and white pom-pons and head west to Lawrence, Kansas this weekend. It’s not often that Georgia Tech plays a football game west of the Mississippi River and the last time it played a road game against a Big 12 Conference team – November 7, 1992 at Baylor – Yellow Jacket safety Isaiah Johnson was six months old. Come to think of it, in 1992 the Big 12 was simply the Big Eight.
You should make the trip to Kansas not only for the uniqueness of the game and to demonstrate your unwavering support for Paul Johnson’s 16th-ranked Jackets, you should also go because Lawrence makes for a good road trip. I’m biased, of course, having lived in Lawrence and having worked at KU from 1990-2000 – 10 fantastic years.
You’ll find the people there very friendly – unless you attended the University of Missouri or Kansas State University, which is bad news for our own president, Dr. Bud Peterson. He played a little football for the Wildcats, you know.
And while I don’t claim to be an expert on all things Sunflower State-related – far from it, in fact – let me bust a few myths about that part of the country, if I may:
Tornadoes do not blow through the state every day, and rarelyit seems do they reach Lawrence, which is about 50 miles west ofthe border with Missouri. Having said that, if you hear what soundslike an air-raid siren, head for cover.
The entire state is not flat. Don’t believe me? I encourage you totake your morning jog around the KU campus, specifically near thefootball stadium, then talk to me. They don’t call the KU campusMount Oread for nothing.
Dorothy and Toto don’t live in Kansas. It was a movie, folks. Andthe people who live there roll their collective eyes every time anopposing fan yells, “you’re not in Kansas any more” or asportswriter drags out a tired Wizard of Oz reference.
Kansas is much more than a basketball school. Remember what teamplayed in the Orange Bowl two years before the YellowJackets?
Former Kansas basketball All-American Wilt Chamberlain (may he restin peace), by far the most gargantuan human being I ever met, mayhave exaggerated his… umm… statistics. That one I’m not sureof.
Despite a local newspaper saying you might hear The Rock ChalkChant “a few times” on Saturday, trust me – you will not, and youhope you don’t hear it at all. Hearing the chant typicallysignifies a KU victory. You also don’t want to see Jayhawk fans”waving the wheat”, which they do after every Kansas score.
OK, now that we’ve cleared that up, let me give you some suggestions for travel and entertainment.
Transportation — You’ll want to fly into the Kansas City airport. The drive from KCI to Lawrence is about 50 minutes on I-70.
Lodging — Stay at the Eldridge Hotel downtown, a historic hotel where every room is different. Bringing kids? Stay at the Holidome. There’s an indoor pool and you’ll get that chlorine smell out of your clothes sometime in October.
Lunch — Thanks to ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt, The Wheel is the most over-rated place you could dine, although they do have a sandwich called The Dinger, named after my pal Mark Friedinger. Eat the bread bowl soup at Quentin’s, the inexpensive Mexican food at La Familia or have a local brew at Free State Brewery.
Things to see on a budget — There are some great shops up and down Massachusetts Street. Ignore the guy holding the “Honk for Hemp” sign standing on the corner. Allen Fieldhouse (yes, Fieldhouse is one word, not two) and the museum inside it are must sees. Going for a jog? Former Kansas basketball coach Roy Williams’ daily run included touching the tombstones of Dr. James Naismith and Phog Allen.
Nightlife — There’s the Yacht Club, which is located nowhere close to a body of water, and the Jet Lag, which is not really close to an airport.
The game will not be so confusing, but it should be interesting.
Never mind that Kansas lost its opener, 6-3, to North Dakota State last Saturday. The Jayhawks, under first-year coach Turner Gill, had every opportunity to win that game and should come out fired-up on Saturday.
Georgia Tech, meanwhile, must match KU’s enthusiasm and not look ahead to its ACC opener the following Saturday at North Carolina. It should be an interesting match-up between Tech’s high-powered spread option offense and a stingy KU defense.
You will enjoy Memorial Stadium, an old on-campus, picturesque facility at the base of Campanille Hill. Legend is that John Wooden, as a teenager, helped with the construction.
Expect more than 50,000 fans and temperatures in the mid-80s – a far cry from the first Kansas football game I attended in 1990. Temperature on the field registered 112 degrees and Virginia clobbered the Jayhawks 55-10 in front of 35,000. KU football has come a long way since then.
See you on the plains.