SIDELINE SLANTS

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JOE KLEINSASSER
While working on my column about the Kansas Collegiate Athletics Conference pre-season football poll, my agent I.M. Slick showed up to throw in his two cents’ worth.

Slick: Why bore readers with a column about a pre-season football poll?

Joe: Well, for one thing, it’s the first time since God created the Earth that Tabor College has been picked to finish first by both the media and the coaches.

Slick: Why shouldn’t they be picked first? They won it last year and most of the starters return. That’s a no-brainer.

Joe: Not so fast, my friend. Tabor has historically been picked to finish last or lower more often than they’ve been picked to finish in the top half of the conference.

Slick: Yes, but you know as well as I do that the program isn’t the same as it was 10 or 20 years ago. Tabor won their first championship last fall, right?

Joe: Right.

Slick: And they won first by a whopping three games last year, right?

Joe: True.

Slick: They return nine starters on offense and six on defense this fall, right?

Joe: Well, yeah.

Slick: So why wouldn’t they be picked to win the whole enchilada?

Joe: Did you hear what Coach Gardner said when he learned that Tabor was picked first? He said, “These things are for the media to have fun with and talk about. But as a coach, this is just an opinion and means absolutely zero.”

Slick: And what did you expect him to say? Coaches who are picked first rarely say, “Who else could they pick? Mark it down. We’re No. 1.”

Joe: Superficial or not, Gardner has reasons to be concerned. Most of Tabor’s wins last year were nail-biters. A few bad bounces or untimely turnovers and they could have easily finished in the middle of the pack.

Slick: But they didn’t. They won all but one conference game while everyone else lost at least four conference games.

Joe: No denying that it was an amazing season, but that doesn’t guarantee a repeat this year.

My concern is that a team that won games by such a slender margin has little margin for error.

My concern is that the league has caught up and passed them.

My concern is that there have been very few, if any, repeat champions since Bethany’s domination ended some years ago.

My concern is that the talent level in the conference is so even that any of five or six teams could win the title.

I’m concerned that you’re almost always too optimistic or too pessimistic and seldom accurate.

Slick: Enough with the concerns already. I’m concerned that you have so many concerns. Just relax.

Joe: And I’m concerned that it has been a few years since a KCAC team picked to finish first actually won the championship. It’s the first time Tabor has ever played with the proverbial bull’s-eye on its uniforms. It’s one thing to be the chaser. It’s another to be the chasee.”

Slick: If I didn’t know better, I’d say that you were more relaxed when Tabor football was at the bottom.

Joe: Now that I think about it, the Tabor football team usually met expectations because they were so low. Here’s hoping that they’ll continue to meet expectations now that they’re higher.

* * *

Coach Gardner respectfully disagrees with my assessment that the home field advantage in the KCAC is less important than at the major college level. While the crowd noise and crowd size is not much of a factor in the KCAC, Gardner says the playing surfaces vary a great deal, whether it’s a grass field or artificial turf at the small college level, resulting in a significant advantage for the home team.

* * *

Gardner tried to explain to me why the KCAC football schedule is so weird, but I’m not sure I understand it well enough to explain it here.

Let’s just say any schedule that has Friends playing in Hillsboro three seasons in a row, and Tabor playing at Kansas Wesleyan three years in succession is not good scheduling.

Plus, this is the first season in some time that Tabor hosts five conference games instead of four.

There has to be a better way and a better computer program.

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