KHA President Zings Brownback on State’s Insurance Muddle

Kansas and KanCare felt the brunt of federal officials for being out of compliance with federal statutes and the main man who created these problems is catching well-directed darts from the president of the Kansas Hospital Association.

The state’s privatized Medicaid program, KanCare, received notice that the feds have rejected an extension because it has failed to meet federal standards and risked the health and safety of enrollees.

What would happen if KanCare dissolves at the end of the year? A source close to the situation said no one really knows, except probably the hospitals will be forced to absorb the costs and that would put an undue burden on their budgets.

The letter was sent to Kansas officials on January 13 but they didn’t release it to the public until late last week.

Health care in Kansas must tend to the needs of its citizens, first and foremost; however, the industry is a powerful economic tool for the state. Hospitals and health care systems generated $14.6 billion in income and $24.7 billion in sales last year, ranking it fifth among all economic sectors in the state. Hospitals alone have a total impact on Kansas income of nearly $9 billion, and they employ more than 84,000 people throughout the state.

Those figures are according to a Health Care Sector report for January 2017. In the report, Kansas State researchers identify three primary ways health care influences local economic development: health care attracts and retains business, attracts and retains retirees and creates local jobs.

Governor Sam Brownback gave his annual state of the state address to the state legislature and went to great lengths to compliment the administration’s KanCare program. He also praised his decision to refuse to follow “the siren song of the Affordable Care Act.” He mocked Medicaid expansion as “free” money and said expanding it was akin to “airlifting onto the Titanic.” He also predicted the states that expanded Medicaid were going to face a “severe” reckoning when Obamacare was repealed and replaced.

Tom Bell, Kansas Hospital Association president, took exception to the remarks in a press release: “I doubt many healthcare providers would agree with the governor’s assessment as shown in the study we recently completed and presented to the legislature. I did think the choice to make an example of the Titanic was an interesting one for a state facing a $350 million shortfall between now and July 1, and upwards of a $500 million shortfall next fiscal year.”

Bell also said he had a difficult time understanding how the expansion states would somehow suffer. He pointed out that 62 U.S. senators are from expansion states. “Are they going to just sit by while their states face this ‘reckoning?'”.

The Medicaid money certainly isn’t free because it’s money that Kansans are sending to Washington every day that is simply not coming back to the state, Bell noted. The federal government spends $1.3 for every dollar the state spends on Medicaid. If Kansas fails to meet federal standards, it will put that money at risk.

One of the governor’s targeted revenue measures is to increase the hospital tax so that the 4 percent Medicaid rate cuts can be reversed, Bell said. The governor also suggests using some of the funds for rural healthcare in ways that have not yet been specified.

“Let’s be clear,” Bell said, “the governor is proposing that hospitals ‘buy back’ the rate cut he put in place last summer. This is akin to a lifeguard pushing someone in the pool and then charging a fee before throwing him or her a life preserver.”

The money belongs to Kansas hospitals, Bell said, and that money goes to treat sick and injured people.

“To unilaterally propose more than doubling this tax demonstrates a lack of understanding about where those funds come from and how they were meant to be used,” Bell said, noting that a tax increase of 2.5 times the current amount certainly is not modest.

“Hospitals and health services truly are an economic anchor in our state,” Bell said. “This report documents the importance of the health care sector to the Kansas economy. While the estimates of economic impact are substantial, they are only a partial accounting of the benefits that health care in general, and community hospitals in particular, provide to the state. Kansas community hospitals help stabilize the population base, invigorate their communities and contribute significantly to quality of life.”

Federal authorization for Kansas’ privatized Medicaid system ends at the end of this year. The state must submit a plan to address federal officials’ concerns by Feb. 17.

Brownback’s administration dismissed the federal conclusions as being politically motivated. But lawmakers said they felt blindsided and that more oversight and changes were needed.

Kansas privatized its $3.4 billion Medicaid program in 2012 at Brownback’s urging, shifting the bulk of responsibilities for providing services to three managed-care organizations.

The Kansas City Star reported that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services received complaints from beneficiaries, health care providers and advocates throughout 2016 and conducted a series of interviews with state officials and the three companies providing coverage, the letter to Kansas state officials said.

Health care advocates say the CMS findings confirm issues they have raised for years.

“We’re in a political space and anyone can question motivations, but there are significant and real problems with KanCare, and these are not new issues that are being brought to light. They deserve serious reconciliation,” Rachelle Colombo, director of government affairs for the Kansas Medical Society, which represents physicians, told the Star.

Among the problems identified by CMS investigators: The state lacks a comprehensive system for reporting and tracking critical incidents for beneficiaries on the disability waiver, and no data exist to show unexpected deaths were investigated within required timeframes.

The letter also faults the state for allowing the managed-care organizations to develop their own appeals processes. Under federal rules, the state should have developed or approved that process.

CMS “uncovered significant compliance deficiencies” in crafting plans for beneficiaries, the Star story continued. The managed-care organizations asked beneficiaries to sign incomplete agreements without the number of hours or types of services they would receive and revised plans without the beneficiaries’ input, the letter said.

Sean Gatewood, the co-administrator of the KanCare Advocates Network, acknowledged to the Star that  the new Donald Trump administration could be more lenient on Kansas. But he said the letter “puts the Legislature on notice that the system is fundamentally flawed, and they need to take some pretty serious corrective actions.”

Gatewood cited the lack of timeliness on the letter, saying, “That the administration has had that for this whole week and has been marching around the state telling the Legislature, the people of Kansas, that KanCare is in great shape, and they’ve had that letter that talks about how this is putting lives in danger.”

Representative Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican who chairs the Legislature’s KanCare Oversight Committee, called the news devastating and criticized the administration for not informing lawmakers immediately, according to the Star. “Everybody was blindsided in the Legislature,” Hawkins said.

Not only are patients at risk under the auspice of KanCare and other state health programs but the economy also could suffer.

Jobs are an essential part of the economic impact. Health funds flow to businesses and throughout the economy as hospitals purchase goods and services. Hospitals generate more than $3 billion in local retail sales in Kansas each year. Additionally, the hospital sector generates nearly $200 million in state sales tax. These are critical funds that the state uses for important programs such as education and transportation.

Hospital officials say the positive effects of health care services in the state will grow even more if Kansas can develop a solution to expand the KanCare program. The ability to cover more than 150,000  low-income Kansans has the potential to inject $2.4 billion in federal dollars into the Kansas economy between 2016 and 2018, according to study commissioned by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Bell said the economic challenges required a community-wide response involving government, business and civic leaders, adding that, “Expanding KanCare will add needed dollars that will grow the economy, creating jobs and supporting the state’s budget through increased revenues and cost savings.”

The study also found Kansas hospitals generate more than $5.7 billion in direct labor income to the Kansas economy each year.

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Ventura Death a Shocker — and Other Sports News

Stunned, shocked. Yeah, the reactions to the news that Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura, 25, was killed in a car crash Sunday in the Dominican Republic — really got to the fans.

My email and voice mail lit up Sunday with friends and family wondering if we heard the news. The volatile, yet likeable, Ventura was expected to be strong as a starter this season. High expectations.

His crash came just hours after an unrelated accident in the same country claimed the life of a former major leaguer, 33-year-old Andy Marte, a one-time top prospect and former third baseman for Cleveland, Atlanta and Arizona.

Ventura was killed on a highway leading to Juan Adrian, about 40 miles northwest of Santo Domingo. Stories from the region said it wasn’t clear if the Dominican Republic native was driving, but that speeding may have been a factor.

The Kansas City media certainly provided the region with plenty of stories.


Only Michael Weathers off last season’s BS All-Metro team is speeding along in college basketball’s fast lane.

All five of the players are on Division I teams. The five are Weathers, Shawnee Mission North; Blake Spellman, Lee’s Summit; Jeriah Horne, Barstow; Michael Hughes, Liberty North; and K.J. Robinson, Blue Springs South.

Weathers and his brother, Marcus, are with Miami Ohio; Michael is the team’s leading scorer at 18.2 while Marcus has played all 19 games and is at 9.6 points a game.

Horne, the lone repeater off the previous season’s all-star team, is averaging 3.9 points at Nebraska. Spellman, at Northern Kentucky, is averaging 2.3; Hughes, at Akron, 2.1; and Robinson, at Omaha, 3.5.


The Top Ten NBA teams according to point differential power ratings:

  1. Golden State 13.1
  2. San Antonio 8.7
  3. Houston 7.1
  4. LA Clippers 5.3
  5. Toronto 5.2
  6. Cleveland 4.9
  7. Utah 4.6
  8. Boston 2.0
  9. Charlotte 1.9
  10. Oklahoma City 0.8

Golden State is rolling along at 37-6 with Kevin Durant, out of Texas, and Stephen Durant, from Davidson, leading the way. Star power. Durant leads four players in double-figure scoring, averaging 26.3 a game; Curry isn’t far back at 24.6.

Klay Thompson, from Washington State, is the third Warrior averaging more than 20 points a game at 21.1.

Draymond Green, from Michigan State, is averaging 10.8 points a game and leads the team in rebounds 8.7, assists 7.7 and steals 2.0.


Betting the NBA is a big-time risk these days. I started off well, faded and have made a comeback. There are a couple of problems, as far as I am concerned: back-door covers (teams run up a big lead and then allow the opponents to score at will in the fourth quarter, covering the spread as a dog) and not knowing when a team will rest its players.

Cleveland has been problematic in the way it sits star LeBron James. The Clippers have had numerous injuries.

The team to watch is San Antonio. Kahwi Leonard, out of San Diego State, leads the Spurs with a 25.5-point average. Another Texas product, Lamarcus Aldridge, is at 17.6, followed by Pau Gashol 11.7; Tony Parker 11.5 and Patty Mills, St. Marys, 10. Veteran Manu Ginobili is still around, averaging 8 points a game.

However, the guy getting the job done is the coach, Gregg Popovich. He’s a master tactician and psychologist.

The Spurs have forged a 34-9 record.


We’ll have two weeks of hype until the Super Bowl, but that should give you time to analyze the matchup between New England and Atlanta.

The early betting line shows New England a 3-point favorite.

Both home teams won in dominating fashion on Sunday, the Patriots 36-17 over Pittsburgh in the AFC championship and Atlanta 44-21 over Green Bay in the NFC. The home teams have won 6 of the 8 playoff games.

Quarterback Matt Ryan threw for 392 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another — the first time since 2012 he had scored by rushing — to lead the Falcons.

Julio Jones, with a minimum of practice in the week leading up to the game because of lingering toe injury, really put the Packers away with a 73-yard catch-and-run on Atlanta’s second snap of the second half, pushing the lead to 31-0. He finished with nine catches for 180 yards and two scores.

Ryan is headed for the Super Bowl for the first time in his nine-year NFL career.

New England is going to its ninth Super Bowl and quarterback Tom Brady his seventh.

After beginning the 2016 season suspended for four games for his role in the “Deflategate” scandal, Brady has been relentless in leading the Patriots to nine victories in a row. He threw for a franchise playoff-best 384 yards and three touchdowns Sunday in the Patriots’ sixth consecutive AFC championship game. They are seeking their fifth NFL title with Brady at quarterback and Bill Belichick as coach. Belichick’s seventh appearance in a Super Bowl will be a record for a head coach.


The Big 12 vs. the SEC basketball matchups will be Saturday. One will be a classic, Kansas at Kentucky.

Kansas State will be traveling to Tennessee.

The other games:

  • Baylor at Mississippi
  • Texas A&M at West Virginia
  • LSU at Texas Tech
  • Florida at Oklahoma
  • Iowa State at Vanderbilt
  • Arkansas at Oklahoma State
  • Texas at Georgia
  • Auburn at TCU

The Florida-Oklahoma matchup will no doubt bring back memories for OU Coach Lon Kruger. He left Kansas State as coach in 1990 to take over the Gators program. In his six seasons there, he compiled a 104-80 mark and led the team to its first Final Four appearance in 1994. He was named SEC coach of the year in both 1992 and 1994.

Before the weekend action, KU has a really big game Tuesday at Morgantown against West Virginia. The Jayhawks are in first place with a 7-0 record. The Mountaineers have dropped to 4-3 in the conference but they have been tough at home, inflicting the only loss on Baylor, now 18-1, and did it rather handily 89-68.

Kansas State, now 4-3 in the conference and 15-4 overall, will test its road power Tuesday with a game at Iowa State.



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The Things Trump & Co. Say Now — What Hypocrisy!

The things these people are saying now. What hypocrisy! They make contradictory statements, full of lies and more lies.

I came across several stories on the internet that reflect how sordid, how disrespectful these people are.

Take this quote Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave reporters recently: “I think that’s something the American people simply will not tolerate and we’ll be looking forward to receiving a Supreme Court nomination and moving forward on it.”

Oh, so he expects you to tolerate stonewalling when President Obama is trying to get advice and consent on his appointments, but not now, huh. McConnell’s statement about his perceived Democratic obstruction is curious in light of his own plan to quash Obama’s nominees. Yes, he was successful with the Supreme Court plan, one he came up with after Justice Antonin Scalia died last February.

Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court but with the new Congress sworn in, Garland’s chances died. After 293 days of stonewalling — a modern record for Supreme Court nominees — Garland’s name was erased.

Of course, President-elect Donald Trump has so many falsehoods and misrepresentations that journalists won’t have enough room or time to stay after all of them.

Instead of showing concern for Russia’s hacking of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta, or of the Democratic National committee, he misdirected the charges. He said, “While Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat National Committee, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines.”

Oh, so the Russian propaganda that spread lies about Clinton didn’t affect anything, huh. Then why did Trump keep repeating what the Russians said and released to the public?

As one internet story noted, Trump’s conclusion that the cyber attacks didn’t affect the election outcome appeared to be based on his calculus rather than what intelligence officials told him during the briefing. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a Senate committee that although the intelligence community did not believe any vote tallies were changed by hacked voting machines, he could not “gauge the impact [the hacks] had on the choices the electorate made.”

There should be no question that Russian President Vladimir Putin directed efforts to interfere in the presidential election with the goal of helping Trump win, the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency concluded in their report.

Russian spies gained access to DNC networks in July 2015 and maintained access until at least June 2016, according to the report.

“Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election represent the most recent expression of Moscow’s longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order, but these activities demonstrated a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations,” the three agencies concluded.

Even some Republicans are joining the Russia did it growing consensus. House Speaker Paul Ryan said there was enough evidence to conclude that Russia “clearly tried to meddle in our political system.”

Democrat Nancy Pelosi, House minority leader, said during one of her press conferences, “Protecting sources and methods is a very high priority for us — but I think maybe the intelligence community in their protecting sources and methods could maybe release a little more information at least to members of Congress, if not to the public domain.”

The intelligence report also noted, “Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.

“We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.”

Trump the Tweeter seems more interesting in questioning movie stars and jumping on the media instead of leading the country. Here he is about to be sworn in as President and he’s asking Congress to investigate the source of an NBC News report that senior Russian officials celebrated after Trump’s election victory.

According to an internet story, Trump appears to have gotten a number of important details wrong about the NBC report. No one gave NBC the top-secret report. As the NBC story notes, the official quoted by the network never even saw a copy of the intelligence report; it was simply repeated to NBC what someone had said about its findings.

The Washington Post actually broke the story.

Representative Adam Schiff (D-California), the ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, has appeared on numerous cable news shows and has been critical of Trump’s incessant tweeting and his priorities in dealing with the public.

So, Schiff went the tweet route, too: “Of all issues implicated by Russian active measures, this is what you want to investigate? This is your top priority for intel committees?”

So much bull, so little beef.

The concern over the Affordable Care Act’s repeal is a case in point of how the Republicans are going to hit the middle class hard. And how they spread the propaganda. For example, Ryan told reporters, “We want to make sure there is an orderly transition so that the rug is not pulled out from under the families who are currently struggling under Obamacare while we bring relief.”

He must not be listening to all the people who are saying that the ACA has been a godsend.

But pay close attention to that sentence. On the one hand, he’s saying that the people who have ACA are struggling. On the other, he’s saying that taking away their coverage would be like pulling a rug from under them.

Pay attention to what these people are saying. Your life may depend on your understanding the consequences.

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A Veritable Plethora of Sports Notes From Big 12 to Clemson

So, what do you think of Kansas’ chances to win the Big 12 basketball title now? Just as you no doubt thought at the beginning of the year. Right. The chances are good.

Baylor has ability and the Bears are certainly long and quick inside. They present about the only challenge to the Jayhawks in the conference race. KU and Baylor are 17-1 overall while the Jayhawks are on top of the conference at 6-0. Baylor is second at 5-1.

The Jayhawks are 17-1 for the sixth time in the Coach Bill Self era — the 6-0 record marks the 10th time they have posted that in the Big 12. If they beat Texas Saturday at Lawrence, the winning streak of 18 would become the third best during the Self era. By the way, Self is 402-84 at KU.

So, let’s take a look at the individual stats of the four KU players in double figure scoring:

                                                        FG           Treys         FT         Rebs     Assts     Steals       APPG

  • Frank Mason III                   120-229     42-78      83-112        5          5.3           23           20.3
  • Josh Jackson                         105-213      9-38        53-93         8          3.1           28           15.1
  • Devonté Graham                    85-185      42-110    26-36         9          4.8           29           13.2
  • Sviataslav Mykhailiuk           72-155       40-92      13-21         6           1.4           17           10.9


Kansas State had to take on Top Ten Baylor last Saturday after the Bears suffered an 89-68 drubbing at West Virginia. The result was the Bears bounced back quite impressively, beating the Cats at Manhattan 77-68. Now, West Virginia, ranked No. 6, will be grouchy and hungry coming to Manhattan this Saturday after losing Thursday night in Morgantown 89-87 to Oklahoma.

Well, at least the Cats, 14-4 and 3-3, will be playing the Mountaineers, 15-3 and 4-2, after a road win. The Wildcats overcame an Oklahoma State trey machine Wednesday night in Stillwater and managed to break loose in the second half for a 96-88 victory.

What a shootout in that first half. Oklahoma State made 9 of 14 three-pointers in racking up 54 points. But the Cats went to the hole often and scored 51 points of their own. They played tougher defense while continuing to attack on offense in the second half.

Oklahoma State is now 0-6 in the conference and 10-8 overall.

The Cats shot 56.3 percent from the field to deny Cowboy Coach Brad Underwood his 100th career win. Underwood, a Kansas State graduate who later was a K-State assistant, was coveted by many K-State fans to take over the program there.

Wednesday night, Coach Bruce Weber managed to hold things together and record his first victory in Stillwater after four straight losses. For this season, the Cats had lost two straight and three of four to fall out of the Top 25.

Balanced scoring helped carry the team with Barry Brown leading the way with 22 points — four other Cats were in double figures.


Sam Mellinger’s column in Monday’s edition of the Kansas City Star reminded me of Don Rickles’ shtick. Rickles would spend a half hour in his Las Vegas lounge show ripping everybody and then spend the next half hour apologizing for it.

Mellinger spent a lot of the column speculating what it would be like to ship out quarterback Alex Smith and bring in someone else. The hypothesis appeared to be: Get rid of him. Then he would give a little bit why Smith could win with the Chiefs.

Then toward the end, he wrote, “One more time, this is not a call to dump Smith. He’s a fine quarterback, and even with those two brutal end-zone interceptions this season has helped win far more games than he’s helped lose. Reid is right when he says the Chiefs can win with Smith.”

Is Mellinger indecisive? Well, yes and no.

Look, Smith is okay as the Chiefs quarterback. Plus, you gotta wonder about getting a capable replacement. Can you assure that?


The 2017 U.S. Figure Skating Championships are being held at the Sprint Center. Sorry, I’m not going. But I have an embarrassing story about the national championships, but one that turned out well.

I was working for the Tulsa Tribune in 1970, mainly covering golf and Big Eight Conference sports. Well, Tulsa was scheduled to host the 1970 U.S. Figure Skating Championships and the newspaper picked me to cover it. Please, somebody else. Nope, me.

The only skating I had done was with clip-ons that ravaged the sidewalks of Northeast neighborhoods as a kid. Oh, I did graduate to the El Torreon Rink at 31st and Gillham. Roller skating, mind you. Not ice skating. Hey, it was where the girls were. Get it.

So, there I was. A skating naïf. But I knew where to focus. Anywhere JoJo Starbuck was. Good lookin’.

She and long-time skating partner, Ken Shelley, won the pairs division and moved in for the post-skate press questions. I didn’t know a double axel from a Besti squat. So I thought I would get away from the ice skating terms and went with: “Are you two guys an item — you know, date?”

Oh, the look on the Sports Illustrated gal covering the event. Her eyes rolled, her shoulders slouched. The two skaters politely said no. What was the big deal, Miss SI Biggie? Heh, heh, Shelley’s gay. Many of the male skaters were. Oh, I see.

Hey, okay. I asked enough dumb questions to get a pretty darn good story and drew praise for this one. SI‘s story had a line about the unknowledgeable press in Tulsa. Analyze This, Miss SI Biggie.


By the way, JoJo went on to marry football star Terry Bradshaw. Well, that didn’t last. Bradshaw complained publicly that his wife wasn’t around enough. “Okay, I’m a male chauvinist,” he said in his autobiography, Man of Steel. “I’m not ashamed of it. I think that for the most part a woman’s place is in the home.”

Of course, JoJo disagreed and continued to skate while married. Both became born-again Christians and they prayed together, studied the Bible and turned to counselors. Bradshaw said one of the counselors thought they were both selfish.

Faith didn’t carry the marriage. In 1980, JoJo packed up, left their Pittsburgh penthouse, filed for divorce on grounds that the marriage was “irretrievably broken” and skated out of Bradshaw’s life. JoJo’s urban lifestyle apparently had little in common with the down-home tastes of country music fan Bradshaw.


Well, do you stick with the home teams in the NFL Playoffs? These are the conference championship games and with each round the stakes grow larger.

The NFC will pit Green Bay at Atlanta. The classic quarterback matchup with the Packers Aaron Rodgers and the Falcons’ Matt Ryan. The game winner may also be the MVP winner. The Packers are on a run, covering the last four games. Rodgers remained hot in the 34-31 victory over Dallas last week.

So, what do you think? I still believe the Packers have some hurt bodies and the Falcons will take advantage. Plus, Ryan can win a shootout. I like the Falcons and will go with $77. I’m a little concerned with that spread of 4½ or it would be $110.

                       PR        HF        HD          RF       RD       Cover    Streak      APF       APA     Record

Green Bay   18.5     4-4-0     1-0-0     1-4-0    3-1-0     9-9-0       c4          28.0       24.0       12-6

Atlanta         19.0     3-5-0     1-0-0     3-0-0    4-1-0    11-6-0       c1        33.9        25.1         12-5

For the AFC game, all the talk with the Patriots usually focuses on quarterback Tom Brady. Not a bad topic, yes. But take a look at the Pats average points against, 15.6. Pretty impressive defense.

The Chiefs certainly aren’t defensive stalwarts and their bend-but-don’t-break scheme held the Steelers to no TDS — they scored on six field goals in the 18-16 victory. I just don’t think the Steelers will move the ball all that much against the Pats and the Steeler defense is not that good, despite giving up fewer than 20 points a game.

The spread has dropped from 6 to 5½ with the favored Pats. Maybe some folks watched the Chiefs game and liked what they saw. Not me. I will bet the favorites for $110.

                            PR        HF       HD         RF        RD      Cover    Streak     APF     APA     Record

Pittsburgh       20.0     5-3-0    0-1-0    5-2-0    1-1-0    11-7-0       c2         24.8     19.7        13-5

New England  24.0     5-2-1     1-0-0     5-2-0   1-0-0    12-4-1       c4         27.9     15.6        14-2


I’m still ragging on college athletes wanting to form a union because they believe they’re not being “paid” enough despite scholarships that could pay them $300,000 over five years.

Well, SI did a long piece in last week’s issue on Clemson. The athletic department is building a $50 million new home for Clemson football.

It will feature a nine-hole miniature golf course, a sand volleyball pit, a full-length outdoor basketball court, a virtual reality room, a barbershop, a bakery, a two-lane bowling alley, two ping-pong tables, three pop-a-shot machines, an outdoor movie space, an indoor movie room and three 70-inch televisions with video game consoles.

“The bells and whistles are complemented by more functional highlights such as a massive weight room, injury rehabilitation equipment and an academic center,” the story said. “In whole, the facility can be viewed as a 146,000-square-foot shrine to stability. Clemson became one of the nation’s elite programs because it decisively and aggressively committed resources to pursuing championships; the new football center is one of several investments meant to ensure the fun never ends.”

“If you want to have this type of success, we need to have resources,” Athletic Director Dan Radakovich told SI. He noted that no state money or student fees had been used for any of the projects.

What a nice college life. Nice facilities, tutors, pampering, spas, glory. And they want to form a union because they’re being short-changed. Geez!

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Bluntly Speaking, GOP Favors the Rich, Certainly Not Me

Deplorable? Maybe malleable. Maybe just downright stupid. Maybe ideological. Well, for sure, if they believe, if they accept, if they absorb the misinformation that their Republican representatives and surrogates throw out as meaningful information, they need to wear the label, deplorable.

You can throw out half of what the Republicans say and forget the other half.

Republicans are a big reason why so many in the electorate have become disillusioned with the electoral process, government programs and long-term pols. Too many elected officials live by boiler-plate propaganda. Their hacks and flacks spew the information with the efficiency of an expensive copier machine.

I did my duty the other day and wrote my two senators, Democrat Claire McCaskill and Republican Roy Blunt. McCaskill is the Bill Snyder of Missouri pols — answers with little substance. So far, though, I haven’t received any reply from her. That’s unlike her. We have often exchanged emails. Blunt may as well have not answered. His email was full of misinformation and bull hockey.

I wanted to tell him that the Republicans are killing me. Seriously. If Congress goes to a voucher program for Medicare, you can start decreasing the age of longevity at an increasing rate. Because his website puts a limit on how many words you can send, I wasn’t able to unleash all my thoughts.

But here’s his unedited answer:

“Thank you for contacting me regarding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare.

“When President Obama signed this bill into law, he assured Americans that they would be able to keep their plans and doctors, while promising choice and affordability.  Since the law has gone into effect, I have heard from countless Missourians who were unable to keep their insurance plans and/or providers.

“By the end of 2013, over 4.7 million Americans had their healthcare plans cancelled.  This year, Missourians who purchase health insurance on the ObamaCare exchanges will see an average of a 25 percent increase on their premium.  In addition to increased costs, families in Missouri and across the nation have lost the ability to choose a plan that best suits their healthcare needs. Missourians in 97 of 114 counties and the city of St. Louis will only have one option on the exchange.

“I have continually supported repealing and replacing this law with policies that make health care more affordable and accessible, while upholding the importance of individual choice and privacy.  I will make sure to keep fighting for Missourians and common sense health reform in the Senate.  Real health reform should lower, not raise costs; expand, not ration care; and protect today’s seniors, not cut their Medicare.  We need to keep what is working and fix what is broken in health care.

“Again, thank you for contacting me. I look forward to continuing our conversation on Facebook and Twitter about the important issues facing Missouri and the country. I also encourage you to visit my website to learn more about where I stand on the issues and sign-up for my e-newsletter.”

He didn’t even address my concern over Medicare.

But let’s get into all this. Blunt said, “By the end of 2013, over 4.7 million Americans had their healthcare plans cancelled.”

President Obama gave ad-makers plenty of fodder last year when his promise — “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan” — clearly was proven false. Facts checkers had pointed out years earlier that Obama couldn’t make that promise to everyone, but the claim made headlines when Americans received cancellation notices for individual market plans that no longer met the law’s requirements.

The point is, according to the law.

Critics of the law, including Blunt, now say millions lost their health insurance. But that’s misleading. Those individual market plans were discontinued, but policyholders weren’t denied coverage. And the question is, how many millions of insured Americans had plans canceled, and how does that compare with the millions of uninsured Americans who gained coverage under the law.

There is evidence that far more have gained coverage than had their policies canceled.

The conservative Americans for Prosperity made the canceled policies a theme in its advertising. And, like Blunt’s boiler-plate special, it is misleading.

Republicans who insist on quick repeal of Obamacare say it’s necessary because the program is imploding. That’s untrue.

As of the end of 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services reported 11.5 million people had signed up for private insurance using the federally run marketplace,, or one of the versions that a dozen states run on their own. Missouri and Kansas use the federally-facilitated marketplace.

At the end of 2016, Aetna (Coventry) and UnitedHealthcare (All Savers) exited the exchange in Missouri, and their plans are not available for 2017. Four carriers are offering plans in the exchange in Missouri for 2017, but carrier participation tends to be localized. The majority of Missouri’s rural counties only offer  one carrier offering plans in the exchange in 2017.

The overall national enrollment figure represents a slight increase from sign-ups at the end of 2015. The enrollment runs through January 31.

Robust enrollment is an essential ingredient for the success of the Affordable Care Act, which has led to an historic decline in the number of uninsured Americans.

Of course, Congress repeal/replace maneuver creates uncertainty and subsequent fear of what is going to happen.

Blunt insists he wants good insurance for all Americans and then voices support for the repeal and replace process. Where’s the replace? No firm, viable plan exists among Republicans. The ACA is a complex law and a replacement would take a long time in figuring how they could develop a law that would, indeed, be cheaper and still provide good health insurance.

A more simple solution would be to make the ACA better with tweaks and amendments.

The repeal/replace action fits Republican rationale. The rich get richer. How? Well, Repealing ACA would give 400 of the richest families in America a tax cut worth an average of $7 million each, even as it yanks health insurance away from 20 million low- and middle-income Americans. And don’t forget this eliminates funding for Planned Parenthood and health care for so many women in need.

And that doesn’t even include what they will do to Medicare. A key part of my inquiry was about the voucher program backed by Republicans. Blunt never addressed that. Boiler-plate, pure and simple. It is the Republican way. Say I get a voucher and the next year the premiums skyrocket. So, the Republican controlled Congress says they won’t raise the amount of my voucher so I will have eat the increase. And who knows what will happen with quality of care and increased side costs.

Does it not bother folks that the Republicans assail the lower and middle classes right out of the blocks in the 114th Congress?

It is deplorable.

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Good Lines Like One by Angus King Can Focus on Dereliction

Some politicians, battling for favor and one-upmanship, can tweak faster than a Billy the Kid trigger finger.

Texas Governor Ann Richards made what became my all-time favorite line when she was speaking at a Democratic National Convention and made this comment about Republican presidential candidate George H.W. Bush: “He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”

Sometimes the digs strike an even stronger personal tone, as was the case when Theodore Roosevelt pointed to President William McKinley and said: “He has the backbone of a chocolate éclair.”

The British are masters of the put-down. The most popular involved an exchange between Nancy Astor, an American-born politician in England. She shouted at Winston Churchill: “If you were my husband, I’d put poison in your coffee.” His tart response: “If I were your husband, I’d drink it.”

Well, Senator Angus King, D-Maine, had one the other day that should go down as one of the all-time great ones in the halls of Congress. FBI Director James Comey was giving testimony before the Senate intelligence committee and was asked about allegations of Russian election hacking. After a question, he responded, “We never confirm or deny a pending investigation.” King, after a pause, firmly stated, “The irony of your making that statement here, I cannot avoid.”

Insert needle, move needle around to inflict more awareness, keep needle there for a moment or two for full impact.

That exchange deserves more explanation. Comey refused to say whether the FBI was investigating any possible ties between Russia and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, citing policy not to comment on what the FBI might or might not be doing.

Now mind you, it was in late October that he angered Democrats when he announced 11 days before the election that the FBI was looking at more emails as part of its investigation of Hillary Clinton. Yep, he announced a new phase in the FBI’s longstanding investigation into Clinton’s use of personal emails when she was Secretary of State. Of course, many Democrats would contend the announced investigation took the momentum away from Clinton’s campaign and allowed Trump to make a late charge.

So, here’s this new deal that Trump and the Russian government have ties and that the FBI is looking into the situation. Comey declined to say if there was an investigation, a silence he has maintained through repeated questions by the Democrats.

He even delivered this statement: “I would never comment on investigations — whether we have one or not — in an open forum like this so I can’t answer one way or another.”

This hearing was his first public appearance before Congress since his disclosure about Clinton.

That’s when King delivered his great line: “The irony of your making that statement, I cannot avoid.”

According to news sources, former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., wrote two letters to the FBI last year before the election, asking the bureau to publicly disclose what it knew about Trump’s aides’ ties to Russia.

An internet story said, “An FBI investigation of the next president for ties between his campaign and a nation accused of meddling in the presidential election could further stoke mistrust in the legitimacy of the democratic process. It could also put Trump’s own FBI in the awkward position of examining the conduct of those closest to the commander-in-chief.”

Numerous news organizations have reported that the FBI was among three U.S. intelligence agencies that collaborated on Russia’s alleged election activity. A report tied Russian President Vladimir Putin to the hacking of email accounts of the Democratic National Committee and individual Democrats like Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta. It said there was no evidence the Russians tampered with vote tallies; the agencies said they couldn’t assess if Russia succeeded in influencing Americans to vote for Trump.

There’s more hypocrisy. Representative Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, the chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, went after Clinton with all fervor during the email hearings. Here’s Trump possibly involved politically and in business dealings with Russia and Chaffetz says Trump hasn’t been sworn in yet. He may be violating the Emoluments Clause the very day he puts his hand on the Bible and becomes President. Yet, Chaffetz remains detached from ordering a probe.

But he’s going after Walter Shaub, head of the Office of Government Ethics. Why? Because Chaffetz charges that Shaub is blurring the line between public relations and official ethics guidance.

Republicans say Trump is immune from any conflict of interest laws of the country. However, he is not impervious to the Title of Nobility Clause, a provision in Article I, Second 9, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution. The clause prohibits the federal government from granting titles of nobility, and restricts members of the government from receiving gifts, emoluments, offices or titles from foreign states without the consent of Congress. It was designed to shield the republican character of the United States against so–called “corrupting foreign influences.”

Shaub has said Trump’s plan to address potential conflicts is meaningless. Shaub said Trump’s failure to fully separate himself from his company and profits drove him to come forward and speak out.

In his speech, he said Trump’s plan did not comport “with the tradition of our Presidents over the past 40 years. This isn’t the way the Presidency has worked since Congress passed the Ethics in Government Act in 1978 in the immediate aftermath of the Watergate scandal. We can’t risk creating the perception that government leaders would use their official positions for profit.”

Instead of asking Shaub how to fix Trump’s plan, House Republicans threatened the ethics director.

Chaffetz is the same guy who announced last year that he wouldn’t be able to look his daughter in the eye if he endorsed Trump and then went on to vote for him.

Now he has ordered Shaub to show up for a private interview on Capitol Hill as soon as possible — or face a subpoena.

The threat is included in the way Chaffetz worded the letter to point out that his committee has the power to reauthorize the ethics office. In fact, the committee could shut down the office entirely.

Earlier this month, House Republicans tried to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics, before backing down.

Chaffetz’s rationale is simple, according to Richard Painter, former President George W. Bush’s ethics attorney. He told the New York Times that Chaffetz was trying to punish Shaub for criticizing Trump, adding, “They are strong-arming them. They are obviously very upset the Office of Government Ethics is leaning on Trump and not willing to jam through his nominees. It is political retaliation.”

Representative Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the Oversight Committee, said in a statement:  “The Oversight Committee is supposed to protect whistleblowers and independent government watchdogs like the Office of Government Ethics instead of retaliating against them for political reasons. The Oversight Committee has not held one hearing, conducted one interview, or obtained one document about President-Elect Donald Trump’s massive global entanglements, yet it is now apparently rushing to launch an investigation of the key government official for warning against the risks caused by President-Elect Donald Trump’s current plans.”

Comments similar to King’s will focus more attention on the crass and crude of politics.


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It’ll Be a Cold Day in … Well, the Chiefs Lose Opportunity Again

The home teams in the NFL Playoff games this season racked up six straight victories. Then along came Sunday. Dallas was the first to go, losing to the magic of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers 34-31 in a terrific contest. Then came Kansas City on a cold, rainy, icy night at Arrowhead. The Chiefs just never dialed in the right combinations and dropped an 18-16 decision to Pittsburgh.

The Chiefs were trying to get their first playoff victory in Arrowhead after 23 years and they played as if they wanted to wait another 23. Get this, the Steelers didn’t score a touchdown and yet won — six field goals, count ’em, six. How do these things happen? Let us count the ways.

How about the lack of a step up and make the clutch play? Or the multi-million dollar left tackle caught holding on a what was for a moment a successful two-point conversion that tied the game? Maybe the numerous dropped passes, the stupid penalties, the questionable play-calling?

It was a game where lots of arguments can be made. You talk about fodder for the bars. But betcha one of the hot topics will be the holding call on left tackle Eric Fisher.

The Chiefs scored with 2:43 left in the game with Spencer Ware busting over the right side on short yardage. That brought the score to 18-16. Coach Andy Reid inserted extra tight ends and lined up for a two-point conversion try. Beautiful. Demetrius Harris stood wide open in the end zone and quarterback Alex Smith quickly located him with an accurate pass. Tied! Whoops! Not!

A yellow flag was in the Chiefs backfield. Fisher was called for holding. The score remained the same. Was that the difference maker? No. After all, the game would have just been tied. But, oh, you think that would have given the Chiefs a boost and deflated the Steelers, who, after all, didn’t have a touchdown for the game.

They had everything but touchdowns, though, as they dominated KC most of the night.

By the way, after the failed conversion, the Chiefs opted to kick long and the Steelers took over deep in their territory, worrying only about the time. Gutty Ben Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown on a rollout pass play on third and four for the first down. They then ran out the clock.

And hot blood ran for Chiefs fans.

Hey, maybe Mother Nature was ticked off at the Chiefs. Maybe the Karma of winning was upset when the NFL changed the start time for the game from noon to 7:20 p.m. because of the ice storm scare. Could that have been it? Nah.

What it probably boils down to is that Roethlisberger must believe he owns the Chiefs; he’s now 6-1 against them.

The Chiefs did tease us, though. They looked pretty good on their touchdown drive in the first quarter with Albert Wilson catching a Smith pass for the five-yard scoring play. In fact, the Chiefs led 7-6 after one quarter.

But they stayed mainly with the dink and doink passing attack and they couldn’t run the ball.

Each team suffered tipped-ball interceptions in the second quarter but the Steelers managed to kick two more field goals for a 12-7 lead at the half.

Let’s take a look at the stats for that first half. Smith connected on 10 of 16 passes for 86 yards, one TD and an interception. The Chiefs ran the ball only four times for just 20 yards. Meanwhile, the Steelers ran off 42 plays to KC’s 20 — outgaining the Chiefs 275 yards to 106.

Praise the defense all you want for keeping the Steelers out of the end zone. But, my gosh, they moved the ball. Le’Veon Bell ran for 101 yards before the half. The TV announcers kept discussing Bell’s running style, how he hesitated at the line of scrimmage and then found a hole to burst through. They said they had never seen that technique before. Well, they haven’t watched Kansas State much because that’s the way quarterback Jesse Ertz and the stable of Wildcat backs run.

Just a sidelight, no big deal, huh.

For the game, Roethlisberger wound up with 224 yards on 21 of 31 attempts. Bell totaled 170. For the Chiefs, Smith finished with 172 yards on 20 of 34 attempts. Ware led the rushers with 35 yards. The Steelers just can’t be that good on defense. Oh well.

Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce were in the spotlight again, in a negative sort of way. Hill had only 27 yards in receptions and 18 yards on three rushes. The Steelers also did a fabulous job of covering him on kick returns. They even had some of their first-teamers in there on special team play and it was effective; Hill never got close to breaking a run.

Kelce had an ill-conceived act of rebellion in the third quarter when he was tagged for a 15-yard unnecessary roughness call. Poise, please. The Chiefs need leadership to handle adversity, not pop somebody in a dead-ball situation. Maybe he was frustrated because he dropped a few passes he normally would catch.

There was a senseless blow by a Steeler that did give the Chiefs the opportunity to score the second TD. In defending near the Steeler goal line, safety Sean Davis launched into KC receiver Chris Conley, who didn’t catch the ball. He was really defenseless and Davis’ blow was vicious. Conley’s teammate, Jeremy Maclin, charged Davis and had to be restrained. The Chiefs got 15 yards to sustain the drive.

Geez, another frustrating game. Reid told reporters afterwards that the team would have to learn from this one and get better. How’s that for in-depth analysis. Well, many analysts spent the day saying that the Chiefs would have to go deep in order to have a chance in the playoffs. Analyze this, Coach Reid.

He also said the players need not hang their heads because it took a terrific effort to get this far. Yeah, a bye in the playoffs. Do you ever get the reputation that you can’t win the big one? Doh!

Let the games continue. Green Bay will travel to Atlanta for the NFC title and Pittsburgh will go to New England for the AFC. VegasInsider had the early lines and the home teams are favored — Atlanta by 4 and New England by 6.

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SI Likes K-State and Other College Football Items

My gosh, here we are less than a week removed from the College Football Playoff Championship game and Sports Illustrated is picking its Top 25 teams for next season.

You know what, that’s just fine with Kansas State fans. The magazine picked the Cats No. 21, saying: “Don’t doubt the wizardry of Bill Snyder. The Wildcats return quarterback Jesse Ertz, running back Alex Barnes and four offensive linemen, plus 2016 Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the year D.J. Reed, a cornerback who broke up 16 passes in his first season on campus.”

Oh, the Cats return a lot more than that, 16 of 22 starters, for example. They do lose standout linebacker Elijah Lee, who opted to leave early for the NFL draft.

SI tabbed four other Big 12 teams for the Top 25: Oklahoma No. 8, Oklahoma State 12, Texas 18 and West Virginia 20.

What the magazine said about each:

  • Quarterback Baker Mayfield could lead the Sooners to three Big 12 titles in three seasons.
  • The Mason Rudolph-to-James Washington connection will be used frequently in 2017, and the Cowboys should have a strong ground game with running back Justice Hill returning, too.
  • First-year coach Tom Herman was gifted plenty of talent on both sides of the ball— most notably quarterback Shane Buechele and linebacker Malik Jefferson — though the Longhorns will miss running back D’Onta Foreman.
  • With Florida quarterback transfer Will Grier running the offense, the Mountaineers should contend for the Big 12 championship after a 10-win campaign in 2016.

And then there’s this: Charlie Strong hooked up with South Florida after being canned as coach at Texas and SI picked the Bulls at No. 25. Bulls? After being with the Longhorns? Hmmm! Anyway, SI said Strong will have a terrific quarterback, Quinton Flowers, a dark-horse Heisman candidate, in pushing for national recognition.

The Top 25:

  1. Alabama
  2. USC
  3. Penn State
  4. Florida State
  5. LSU
  6. Clemson
  7. Ohio State
  8. Oklahoma
  9. Washington
  10. Michigan
  11. Wisconsin
  12. Oklahoma State
  13. Louisville
  14. Auburn
  15. Georgia
  16. Tennessee
  17. Stanford
  18. Texas
  19. Florida
  20. West Virginia
  21. Kansas State
  22. Oregon
  23. Miami
  24. UCLA
  25. South Florida

While we’re on the subject of football, what did you think of the championship game?

It ran late but it sure was worth the effort.

Clemson, behind star quarterback Deshaun Watson, scored with one second to go in the game to beat Alabama 35-31 Monday night — or was it Tuesday morning — in Tampa.

Alabama, mashing Clemson with a thug defense early on, took a 14-0 lead. The Tide rolled, hammered, socked, battered and bruised Watson. He became the veritable punching bag. They blitzed him, they distracted him but they didn’t beat him. He wound up throwing for 402 yards against a defense heralded as one of the best ever.

The Tigers scored twice on what is euphemistically called a rub route.  Defensive coaches call it a pick. Whatever you label it, you’re talking about a play that is fast becoming as controversial as the block-charge referee’s decision in basketball. Or maybe the problems of determining pass interference. The disrupting officials’ replay can’t even determine the accuracy of some calls. And they won’t even review the pick for interpretation.

Watson called the touchdown play a pick. Coach Dabo Swinney called it a rub. According to officials, even if you call the play a pick it is not necessarily offensive pass interference, even though those terms are often used interchangeably.

Aye, here’s the rub. The outside receiver on the play runs a quick slant, and the outside cornerback initiates contact and grabs him. This forces the inside cornerback to take a circuitous route to cover the inside receiver, who initially fakes inside, only to quickly cut outside. He is wide open. The throw is perfect. Or it was for Clemson.

If the outside receiver had initiated contact, or had not made an attempt to run a route, offensive pass interference could have been called. Here is what NCAA coordinator of officials Roger Redding passed along to reporters after the game on the final TD: “What we saw was contact was either initiated by the defense or mutually initiated.”


One second to go. What drama. Watson rolled right, watched the rub-pick unfold and hit Hunter Renfrow with a nice, nifty toss. The ecstasy of victory.

By the way, a couple of Clemson players surely must have lit up the social media crowd — Renfrow and linebacker Ben Boulware. Baby-faced Renfrow is going to play on Sundays. The guy has great hands, quickness and smarts. He caught 10 passes for 92 yards — clutch yards. Bearded Boulware was everywhere on defense; if he wasn’t tackling someone — he was credited with six for the game — he was in a Bama face or gleefully bumping a teammate.

So, would you draft Watson. He had 463 total yards against the vaunted Alabama team. Does that effort transfer to the NFL? He’s not the stereotypical pro quarterback. But who cares, right, if he can do the things he does on the football field.

Here’s one scout’s analysis of Watson: Before the 2015 season, the question came up whether Watson was the best quarterback prospect in college football. Cal’s Jared Goff got the nod from many, but then came the observation that Watson’s all-around tools were difficult to match. He has the strong arm to drive the ball into tight openings, though it’s his touch on two-level throws that impresses most. There’s still room to grow from a quarterbacking standpoint as he can learn to get through his reads better and his accuracy wanes at times. He’s the early favorite to be the first quarterback off the board. The Cleveland Browns have the first pick.

NFL action is still among us. But for the colleges, you gotta wait for spring practice, Oklahoma’s No. 2 sport.

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For Chiefs, Forget the Weather, Remember Week 4

The weather has been less than delightful for the Chiefs down the stretch but they are oh so comfortable and toasty with the ways things have gone.

On Sunday, it may be rainy. It may be icy. Inclement or not for the second-round NFL Playoff game at Arrowhead, you can be sure the Chiefs can recall what happened the last time they met Pittsburgh. In Week 4, the Steelers dismantled the Chiefs 43-14. The home crowd loved their Steelers that day as Ben Roethlisberger passed, Le’Veon Bell ran and Antonio Brown caught.

Where was Justin Houston when the Chiefs needed him? He was hurt. Mostly rehabbed now, he says he will play Sunday. Will he be ready? Will it matter?

Everything went wrong in that Week 4 game. So why all the Chiefs optimism now?

Well, for one thing, the Chiefs have lost just twice since the Steelers debacle, both of them head-scratchers and both by 19-17 scores at home, to Tampa and Tennessee.

Another thing is that  Coach Andy Reid has this thing about winning with his team coming off a bye week. During his career as a head coach of the Eagles and Chiefs, he has gone 16-2 straight up and 13-5 against the spread after a bye during the regular season. He has also hit in this spot in the playoffs as his teams are 3-0 SU and 2-1 ATS after a first-round bye. In a game that features the weekend’s tightest spread — Chiefs minus-2 — will a memory of a loss matter?

The Steelers have plenty of good stuff going their way, too. They have won eight straight, including a wildcard 30-12 victory over Miami. They’re healthy, too, all except possibly for Roethlisberger. He created concern when he showed up at last Sunday’s post-game press conference wearing a boot.

Coach Mike Tomlin said Roethlisberger’s foot injury wasn’t expected to limit his action against the Chiefs.

The Chiefs are coming into the playoffs with five wins in their last six games. They have done the job against some of the top teams in the league, beating the Raiders twice, Broncos twice, Falcons in Atlanta, as well as a big comeback win in Carolina where they erased a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter.

The Chiefs must continue to utilize Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. Quarterback Alex Smith has been throwing and running better of late. Spencer Ware is expected to be healthy and provide solid running.

Questions remain on how well the front seven can defend the run — Bell is that good.

The  game matches the Chiefs No. 13-ranked offense (24.3 PPG) against a Steelers defense that ranks No. 9 at 19.94 PPG. The Chiefs passing attack has averaged 233.85 yards per game, less than the Steelers give up through the air (243.2 YPG on average).

In comparing defenses, the Pittsburgh Steelers own the league’s No. 4-rated front 7 in terms of stopping the run, allowing 89.98 yards per game when on the road. Kansas City, on the other hand, rates No. 18 this week in generating rushing yards at home.

I’m going to trust the Chiefs memory of that loss at Pittsburgh and will seek revenge. I’ll go with $22.

                       PR        HF        HD         RF        RD       Cover    Streak     APF      APA       Record

Pittsburgh   19.5     5-3-0     0-1-0     5-2-0    0-1-0     10-7-0      c1         25.2       19.9         12-5

Kansas City 21.0     3-5-0     0-0-0     2-0-0    4-2-0     9-7-0       c2        24.3       29.4         12-4

Okay, you’re an Atlanta fan. Or maybe a Seattle fan. Back in October when the Seahawks played in Atlanta did you think the game was a playoff preview? Well, it was. The Seahawks survived 26-24.

There was rationale for thinking that of the Falcons. They were hot but so were they the season before, starting 5-0; they didn’t even make the playoffs.

The Falcons have a little something to remind them of that last Seattle game. They were more than a little upset that a flag wasn’t thrown on Richard Sherman against Julio Jones in the final minutes  — who knows what might have happened.

Well, the Falcons are the real deal this season with Matt Ryan having an MVP type year. The Seahawks have been rather inconsistent and have suffered key injuries, like Tyler Lockett, the former Kansas State receiver; he suffered what was described as a gruesome leg injury in December and was lost for the season.

The Falcons are giving 4½ points and although the home field is important in the second-round action, I just think the Seahawks will cover. Maybe not win, but cover. I’ll go with $22.

                    PR       HF         HD          RF        RD       Cover    Streak      APF       APA       Record

Seattle       18.5     5-4-0    0-0-0     1-5-0    2-0-0      8-9-0       c 1         22.4       17.5        11-5-1

Atlanta      18.5     2-5-0     1-0-0     3-0-0   4-1-0      10-6-0      nc1        33.8       25.4         11-5

Houston quarterback Brock Osweiler got a big confidence boost in the 27-24 victory in the wildcard game against Oakland. Oh, but maybe something a little tougher this week, huh — on the road at New England. The Pats are playing well on both sides of the ball.

There’s a little something the Texans defense may be able to throw at Tom Brady. Their pass rush comes in hot — in fact, the defense is giving up just over 20 points a game. But Brady is oh so difficult. He can neutralize that rush with his short-and-intermediate passing game, with pepper-pot Julian Edelman managing to find open space.

Will the Patriots simply pound the Texans? Well, they’re giving 15½ points. Yeah, the home teams are tough in these playoffs but I got to take a chance with that many points. Bet $11 on the Texans.

                           PR       HF        HD        RF        RD      Cover    Streak     APF      APA      Record

Houston          14.0   6-0-1     0-1-0     1-2-0    1-5-0     8-8-1        c1         18.0       20.1       10-7

New England  23.5   4-2-1     1-0-0     5-2-0    1-0-0   11-4-1        c3         27.6       15.6        14-2

And here we are again: Dallas vs. Green Bay. Oh such classic games with these two.

When Dallas beat Green Bay 30-16 in Lambeau Field in Week 6, the teams were headed in different directions. The Cowboys racked up their fifth consecutive win in the middle of an 11-game unbeaten streak, setting up their NFC-best 13-3 record. The Packers dropped four of their next five after that game before rallying to take the North with six straight victories.

Make it seven in a row after the Packers took out the Cowboys’ biggest nemesis, the East runner-up Giants, 38-13, on wildcard weekend. What does that mean for both teams in the divisional round rematch?

Good question. The Packers are really beat up, including Aaron Rodgers’ favorite receiver, Jordy Nelson, who suffered rib injuries and had to leave the game in the first half.

At home. Packer injuries. Good offense and defense. So, what’s the problem? Go with the Cowboys laying the 4½ for $55.

                         PR        HF         HD         RF        RD       Cover    Streak     APF      APA    Record

Green Bay     18.0     4-4-0     1-0-0     1-4-0    2-1-0     8-9-0        c3         27.6       27.6      11-6

Dallas             21.5     4-2-0      1-0-1     2-2-0    3-1-0     10-5-1      nc1        26.3       19.1       13-3

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Let’s Get Ready to Rumble, Ah, Make That Ramble

  • An old saying: Never trust a man with two last names.
  • How about a guy with two fish names, like Marlin Trout.
  • You ever wonder why your back hurts as you pile out of your recliner after a long afternoon nap.
  • I’m never lost but sometimes I don’t know where I am.
  • Do you feel sorry for a couple who head South in the winter and the high temperature there is 45 degrees?
  • One of my favorite eating and drinking places is the North End in the North End.
  • After Betty’s closed, PT’s in Oak Grove has taken over as the No. 1 breaded pork tenderloin sandwich.
  • You need to go to Grinder’s in the Crossroads District. Great atmosphere. Super Philly cheese-steak sandwich.
  • Why would someone waste good booze — like mixing Crown Royal with Coke or Seven-up with Maker’s Mark.
  • Well, Tanqueray and tonic is okay.
  • This is the way a buddy of mine ordered at the bar: Give me a Tanqueray and tonic and keep ’em coming.
  • Why oh why did I leave Las Vegas to come back to this weather!
  • I got reasons. The culture is so much better here and the family is closer. Enough said.
  • Whatever happened to dressing up to eat out on Saturday night?
  • Did I tell you the one about eating at Jasper’s one evening and a family walked in — man was in shorts, woman was in sun dress, girl was in shorts and tank top and boy wore cut-off jeans and tank top.
  • There’s casual and then there’s casual.
  • Think about this: There’s a gun for every single person in the United States — 325 million of ’em.
  • I recall flying on a TWA Connie and having all the room I wanted.
  • Oh, and folks used to dress up to travel, too.
  • The Union Station is still a pretty damn impressive building.
  • Wish the Royals front office would have been receptive to promoting our book, From Worst to First … Kansas City Major League Baseball 1955-1985.
  • We have about sold out our first printing, though.
  • Oh for the good ol’ days when Nebraska played Oklahoma, Kansas went against Missouri.
  • Wonder if Missouri and Nebraska are really happy after leaving the Big 12.
  • Hell, I loved it when they were just the Big Eight.
  • I wonder if Mizzou will ever make it in the SEC. Recruiting difficult. Texas out of the picture because the Tigers play there just every other season in football — against Texas A&M.
  • Gary Pinkel did a good job plucking players from there.
  • Are you getting fired up about the Royals?
  • I won’t have Jarrod Dyson to kick around anymore.
  • Remember when cab rides really didn’t cost all that much. Lots of Yellow cabs back when. Might as well rent a car now as to take a cab.
  • Oh, you’ve been drinking. That’s fine. Way cheaper to take a cab in that instance.
  • I still snicker when thinking about Northwestern University football players threatening to form a union and go on strike when they were on scholarship at $60,000 a year for five years.
  • Pass along a name of someone who is a really big-time civic leader in Kansas City.
  • Is there one who can keep the city moving forward?
  • We went to visit where the Scout looks over downtown, the West Bottoms and the area at the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri rivers. What a great view. What a great choice of placement.
  • Can you believe all the area that was used by the stockyards. What an era.
  • If I had lots of money, I would develop big-time dailies in Kansas City and in Jackson, Johnson and Wyandotte counties. Or, at least, zone the KC paper to focus on the counties as separate entities.
  • Print media can live. Just give the readers the news and the service.
  • As a kid, the grocery store was Milgram’s and the chain drug store was Katz.
  • Anybody remember Velvet Freeze?
  • Sears is hurting and closing stores. Interesting. Sears & Roebuck’s earned their bucks as a catalogue store. Now Amazon, an on-line retailer, is siphoning the profits.
  • Do you feel safe and satisfied ordering something without trying it on or taking a look at it?
  • Back in the old days, folks went to Miami, Florida, to escape the winters and Miami, Oklahoma, to bypass the marital red tape.
  • Is that the way it is now?
  • Do you ever wonder what drivers did before there was Interstate 435?
  • Has anyone done a really in-depth piece on the psychological effects and neighborhood amity of school bussing?
  • Would you like another story on how I used to walk miles to school? And how we walked in snow? And how we didn’t wear a hat in the cold? Oh well.
  • Speaking of walking, will another retired President ever be able to stroll without guards like Harry Truman did in Independence?
  • After watching TV shows about astronomy and physics, I feel overwhelmed. Damn, so many smart people.
  • So why can’t they cure my cold? Huh, invent something.
  • Are you a little apprehensive about driverless cars on the road?
  • Well, yeah, I’m a little concerned right now with a lot of drivers on the road.
  • Who will be the next John Grisham?
  • Dan Jenkins sure wrote great and clever books. One of the best he wrote: Dead Solid Perfect.
  • We need a little humor in our lives.
  • Do you pay attention to words? The late John Bremner wrote a book, Words on Words, that is the bible for wordsmiths.
  • I’m either getting dumber or the New York Times crossword puzzle is getting harder.
  • Maybe it’s the rap music questions or the puns or colloquial expressions. Something. I can do the Saturday and Sunday puzzles most of the time but then they have those arcane operas and Broadway shows. Yuck.
  • Is this a screed or just random thoughts?
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