Saturday, March 27, 2010

Big 12 Tournament Trip: The Lost Levels

This blog was re-reading its last few entries (in the process doubling its traffic), and it noted some random minutia that wasn't covered in this month's post series.

As noted in the comments, Pun City sat next to a KU fan named Mark for a lot of the games. He was one of the better and more knowledgable fans this blog has encountered at a sporting event. That was very cool. This blog has had that happen in the past, and it's one of the nice parts of these conference tournament trips - meeting other fans that have a great knowledge of the game, but are located in different geographic areas. Offhand, Pun City thinks of the Idaho fan in Anaheim that rebounded for this blog in the halftime contest, Rodney Carney's old high school coach in Memphis, the other dude (Terry maybe?) that gave Pun City a rundown of where to park and eat (also in Memphis), and the cool couple at Robert Morris that referred this blog to PNC Park (haven't gotten there yet, but it's on the list!).

Another point from the trip that has consistently occurred on previous trips was the following. This one needs a little background. In order to bring back these recaps, primarily the songs bands play, Pun City brings a notebook to all of the games. As one can imagine, this is a little unusual, especially in the stands. Generally, Pun City will have the notebook out and in hand while watching the games, taking an occasional note during the action. This inevitably piques the curiosity of another fan, if not multiple other fans. Over the years, this blog has been approached by many people while taking notes. Usually they pose one of the following questions: "Are you a scout?" "Are you a writer?" "Are you a player?" "What are you taking notes for?"

Pun City doesn't mind the questions, it's actually fairly cool. This blog will willingly answer any questions in this line, and this blog will answer truthfully, usually just explaining that this blog is taking notes to remember what it did on vacation each day. There end up being two groups of inquisitors -

1. The complete skeptic. This is pretty common. The conversation ends up being pretty short, usually something along these lines:

Inquisitor: "Who are you scouting for?"

Pun City: "Oh, (this blog isn't) a scout, (Pun City is) just taking notes to remember (its) vacation."

Inquisitor (in completely unbelieving voice): "Ohh, okay."

Later in the game, Complete Skeptic will occasionally comment after a good play for his team: "Put that one in your notes!"

Complete Skeptic came in to the conversation for some reason wanting to believe that he spotted a scout in the stands, and he then probably wanted to hear some "inside" information from the scout. Then the scout gives him this "made up" line, instead of striking up a conversation with the skeptic where he might give inside information, and skeptic is not really happy with the result. The skeptic chooses to let this reinforce his belief that Pun City is a scout, instead of allowing it to change his mind.

Pun City doesn't really care too much that Complete Skeptic thinks this blog is a scout, that's Complete Skeptic's prerogative. This brings us to the second type of inquisitor:

2. Cool Dude. Cool Dude is a little of a misnomer, since it can be a cool girl on occasion. Complete Skeptic has historically always been a dude though. Here's how the Cool Dude conversation usually goes:

Cool Dude: "Excuse me, I don't mean to bother you, but can I ask why you're taking notes."

Pun City: "Oh, (this blog) just takes a trip to a different conference tournament each year, and (Pun City) likes to take notes so that it remembers what happened while it was on the road."

Cool Dude: "Oh, that's pretty cool. Are you a writer?"

Pun City: "No, (Pun City) has a blog, but mainly it's just this blog's friends that visit."

Cool Dude: "Oh, okay, cool, I just was wondering if you were a scout or a writer or a coach or something since I saw you taking notes over there."

Cool Dude maybe had a guess ahead of time, but wasn't completely married to the idea of whatever the guess would be. That's cool though, it allows the conversation to progress beyond an interrogation stage.

This trip had both types of encounter, but the Complete Skeptic didn't make any snarky comments after the initial contact (this was good, a fairly tame Complete Skeptic encounter). The Cool Dude conversation was pretty cool. There was a group of friends sitting two by four in the row Pun City was in and the one immediately in front of this blog's row for the whole tournament. If this blog recalls correctly, some of them were rooting for Texas, and some for Oklahoma. Despite a first round loss for OU, and a second round loss for Texas, they all stayed for the rest of the tournament. This is a cool move, in Pun City's opinion. No need to let your team's loss wreck a good weekend of basketball.

In this case, Cool Dude approached this blog wondering what Pun City was doing, noting that he saw the notebook and also Pun City switching hats between games. His guess was that this blog was working for the Big 12 as a blogger for their official site. Not a bad guess, but alas, Pun City does not write in an official capacity. Cool Oklahoma Dude was very polite, not wanting to bother this blog, so Pun City appreciated that.

Politeness was a very common theme at the Big 12 Tournament. This was one of the only tournaments where this blog did not see fans getting accosted by opposing fans for wearing the wrong colors. This was pretty cool. If this blog had to guess, it was probably a price issue. Fans paid a good deal of money to get in to these games, and they were going for good basketball, not to get thrown out for being a meathead. But regardless of price, Pun City came away very impressed with the Big 12. This is a great tournament, if you ever get the chance to partake, it will not disappoint you.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Big XII Tournament Trip, Day 6

Kansas won the final, knocking out Kansas State. A drive home would dominate most of Pun City's Sunday. To start off the day, this blog headed to the local Waffle House again. That place is awesome. The particular one Pun City visited (near Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, MO) had extremely good service. All of the employees that this blog encountered were very friendly.

As a final Waffle House meal, this blog got the $5.00 meal of 3 eggs (scrambled), and hashbrowns with two toppings (chili and cheese for this blog). Phenomenal stuff. The staff was nice enough to accomodate this blog's request of having a milk for one glass, but then refilling it with with soda thereafter. The Denny's Pun City visited earlier in the trip was not at all accomodating with the same request. It's possible a language barrier played a part in Denny's' unfortunate decision, but this blog will simply give credit where it's due, which is to Waffle House.

This was a great start to the day. This blog was heading toward Iowa City, to visit Carver-Hawkeye Arena on the University of Iowa's campus. It's a fairly long drive from Kansas City to Iowa City, that probably took around 5 hours. This blog had a Garmin GPS in the car for the ride. This was the first trip this blog had taken with a GPS and no co-pilot. As this blog approached Carver-Hawkeye, it couldn't see the arena anywhere. As it was a Sunday, the parking lots surrounding the arena were free. This blog still couldn't see the arena, but the GPS said it was there, so Pun City parked. What looked like a large indoor swimming pool was next to the lot this blog parked in. This blog somewhat guessed that the large indoor pool building might actually be the arena, so it tried to get in. (This blog needed to use the facilities anyway, so pool or no, Pun City was walking in).

After a number of locked doors, this blog got to a pair that was easy to open. Sure enough, it was Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Everyone enters at the top of the stadium. That's why it looks like a swimming pool, there's nothing on the roof, so one can see all the way through to the other side. The arena was undergoing renovations, and it wasn't easy to walk around the place. The upper concourse (and as far as this blog can tell, the only concourse) was blocked off on both sides of the entrance Pun City came in from. A single deck allowed this blog to walk down near floor level. Unfortunately, the few closest rows of the seating bowl are bleachers, and on this day, they were pushed up.

Realistically, this blog could have probably gotten down to the floor level and grabbed the rim on one of the hoops. Pragmatically, it really wasn't in the cards. Pun City would have had to climb down about 10 feet of bleachers, then head about 100 feet to the rim. If an employee noticed Pun City, this blog would have been close to "stuck in a well." The only way back to the seating bowl would have been to climb back up the 10 feet of bleachers. Definitely a slow getaway if that even were possible. The decision this blog made was that a) Pun City would most likely be back here at some point, it not being all that far away from this blog's home base, and b) Carver-Hawkeye is not historic enough to get busted over.

No big deal. It was cool to see that arena, and as it turned out, this blog was there during Todd Lickliter's last full day on the job. Should be interesting to see who Iowa hires as their next head coach.

During the drive in, Pun City had been trying to find a cool fast food restaurant to have lunch at. Ideally, since this blog had only had dessert at a Sonic Drive-In once this trip, Pun City would be able to find one around there. Alas, the Garmin wasn't coming up with anything anywhere near Iowa City or the route to Iowa City. Fortunately, this blog spotted one as Pun City was driving toward the stadium. After checking out the arena, Pun City headed to the Iowa City Sonic. At this point, it was almost 2:00 CST. Pun City hadn't needed to eat lunch yet, because of the Waffle House breakfast it had eaten (Pun City doesn't usually eat breakfast, this topic could probably merit its own post).

This Sonic stop marked the first time that this blog had ever been to a Sonic during happy hour. As a result, this blog got a half-price drink. The cranberry Coke was a bargain at twice the price. Also, this blog got some sweet fries and a cheeseburger. Very energizing stuff. The final stop of the tour would be Northern Illinois University, where this blog was hoping to see their Convocation Center.

The drive on I-80 across northern Illinois is pretty boring. Not bad, but a little boring. No real cities along the route, but it isn't all farmer's fields either. Definitely some varied terrain. This blog got to NIU in the late afternoon. As is always a risk, and primarily on Sundays, their basketball arena (The Convocation Center) was completely locked up. This blog tried absolutely every door on the building, though. The loading dock, exit only doors, service entrances, everything. They do a good job of locking up at NIU. At least they did this particular Sunday.

The place looks really nice, very new. It was a bummer that Pun City wasn't able to get in there.

The rest of the way home, Pun City heard the Selection Sunday announcements (as well as the end of the SEC title game and the Big Ten title game).

It was a pretty cool trip. This blog was happy to be home, but certainly happy that it had taken the trip.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Big 12 Tournament Trip, Day 5

4th and final day of games. In this case, one game, just the championship. As a result, lots of time to spend away from the Sprint Center.

First on tap was a 9:30 AM tour of Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals. This whole setup was really cool. Pun City will rewind a little to illuminate you. When this blog decided on Kansas City for the tournament trip, it looked into possibly touring either Kauffman Stadium or Arrowhead Stadium (home of the Kansas City Chiefs). Arrowhead doesn't have tours, plus it looked like they were renovating this offseason, so no dice there. Kauffman does offer tours, but they didn't begin until March 15th this season, with the exception of group tours, which could be scheduled by appointment in the offseason.

Pun City had called the Royals to see if they had any group tours scheduled on the Friday or Saturday of this week, and to see if they'd allow Pun City to tag along with a group. The Royals employee that answered they had an 11:00 group tour scheduled, but they would be able to have Pun City tour at 9:30 (as they'd have a guide in the building anyway, with the 11:00 coming up). This was very cool. They did not have to accomodate this blog at all, but they not only did so, but went above and beyond by giving what amounted to a private tour. Very awesome, Royals.

The tour guide, whose name escapes Pun City (embarrassingly), was outstanding. She was also the Royals Hall of Fame curator, so she was very knowledgable on a lot of the Royals' history, in addition to much on how exhibits were constructed. All of Kansas City baseball was spotlighted in the stadium, which included turn-of-the-century teams, the Royals, Kansas City Athletics, Negro League teams, and even some Federal League teams. Very cool stuff. A major bonus of the private tour was being able to ask whatever questions this blog wanted, and getting them answered right away. This was a very good tour, even if it had not been private, and it was a really awesome part of the trip. This blog highly recommends either a Royals game or a Royals tour if you ever get the opportunity. Top-notch organization as far as fan-friendliness goes.

After the tour, Pun City headed over to Arthur Bryant's to get some ribs. The place is great, it's all about the food. A giant pile of rib tips, bread, and french fries covered this blog's plate, and was extremely tasty. This was the first place Pun City had visited that emphasized the "rub" on the ribs, and it was a good result. Certainly a little different than this blog was used to in the rib department, but great stuff.

Next up was a stop at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. That was good, maybe not as great as this blog had hoped though. It seemed like this museum was primarily focused on communicating the story of the Negro Leagues in the form of written word on the wall, as opposed to a large amount of memorabilia. As Pun City knows a good deal of the written story already, the comparatively smaller amount of memorabilia was a little bit disappointing. That said, in hindsight, memorabilia from that era is hard to find, much less in good repair. It's entirely possible that the museum has most of the surviving memorabilia from the Negro Leagues, but there isn't very much that survives to this day. This blog would suggest going to the museum once, but this blog will probably not partake again. Of note, the caretaker of the souvenir shop was very nice and there are some very affordable deals to be had there. If you do go to the NLBM, make sure to go to the souvenir stand.

Two more stops happened between the NLBM and the Big 12 Final. One was to UMKC to check out their bookstore. It's a good bookstore for a school of their size, and Pun City got a hat there. Go Roos! Their bookstore was in their University Square, which housed (among other things) their cafeteria. They had a newsstand set up with free papers for students, including USA Today. Pun City really likes these stands, as it generally means free paper for Pun City. This one was a stand that required a student ID though, so that unfortunately excluded this blog from the proceedings. Kind of a bummer.

The final stop was at Crown Center, a mall at the Hallmark / Crayola headquarters. In this blog's opinion, this is a terrible mall. The food court was underwhelming, the entire place was definitely geared toward kids, and the two sports-related shops were extreme rip-offs that must either be surviving by having little to no rent or a very large amount of uninformed customers. Pun City has seen similar sports shops in the past, but this blog is always offended when it comes across a sports shop selling items well above their actual worth, preying on dumb customers.

It took about 15 minutes to determine that this mall was not the place for Pun City to be, so this blog moved on. On to the Big 12 Zone for picking up some final free stuff and then going in to the game. The Census stand wasn't there anymore, so this blog could no longer load up on their cool freebies like piggy banks and pens. This was probably alright, since this blog had done that a couple days in a row. Chick-Fil-A, in addition to having their normal shooting contests for either mini balls or Pez dispensers featuring their cow mascot, had a really timely giveaway on this day. Not only were they giving out coupons for free chicken sandwiches, but they were also giving away free chicken sandwiches. This, combined with Sunkist's ongoing free soda giveaway provided Pun City with a nice dinner - for free. Not too much to gather besides the free food and soda though, DirecTV was wrapping up their stand since they were about to distribute their grand prize (a TV and tickets to the final). Phillips 66 did have free keychains though, that worked out well. They had a flashlight on the chain, plus some extra batteries. A decent giveaway.

After the free food, it was time to enter the arena, and this blog went around the College Basketball Experience to get to the secondary entrance to the Sprint Center, which was significantly faster than trying the normal entrance. Kansas was playing Kansas State, which was probably a scalper's dream matchup. This blog was thankful that it had purchased tickets as early as it did, seeing as there were most likely prices around $150.00 for just the final at this point. About 75% of the stadium was filled with KU fans. This was a great effort by KSU fans to even get 25% of the stadium in their colors, since KU has one of the more rabid fan bases in the country.

Kansas rolled, putting the game out of reach at the 7:59 mark. Of note:

Kansas's band played "Fun, Fun, Fun," "Tequila," "Sing, Sing, Sing" (The Chips Ahoy 1,000 Chips Delicious song), "Crazy In Love," and "Shake That Thing".

KSU's band played "Smoke On The Water," "Sell Out," "Separate Ways," "Purple Haze," "So Glad You Made It," "Crazy Train," and "Rock and Roll Part II."

Very good trip. The next post will discuss the return home with stops at the University of Iowa and Northern Illinois University.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Big XII Tournament Trip, Day 4

You might notice that there aren't any pictures with these posts. Now, wiseguy might say "Hah, there normally aren't, hadn't even noticed!" And, in fairness, wiseguy would be right. But in addition to Pun City's typical laziness, this blog also added to the picturelessness by somehow losing the camera. Either in Bramlage, Bramlage's parking lot, or around the Sprint Center.

A decent-sized bummer there. Anyway, got back to Kansas City and parked on the street this time. For some reason, Pun City thought this was a Saturday, so it just assumed it was alright to park on the street (given that the signs were only in effect for Monday through Friday also). Fortunately, this blog walked past a police department on its way to the arena, and there were a couple police employees taking a smoke break. Pun City asked if it was okay to park on the street if the signs said only Monday through Friday, and they sort of looked at this blog strangely and asked if it had hours posted. A brief discussion followed, where they probably thought Pun City was a little off, but eventually they decided that Parking Control doesn't work weekends, so this blog would probably be alright. In hindsight, this blog now realizes that the car was in a 2-Hour metered spot for about an hour and a half without any money in the meter. Although it was the last hour and a half of the week, (so workers probably weren't writing out a ton of tickets in this interval), Pun City afterwards realized it was at least a little lucky to have not received a ticket.

Semifinal games were set to have the top 4 seeds playing. This was pretty cool, especially since the 5 seed had gotten smoked by the 12 seed in the first round.

Before the games, Pun City checked out the Big 12 Zone again and grabbed a bunch more free stuff. Those Sunkists were a nice bonus right before entering the games each day, and this was no exception.

Kansas faced Texas A&M played in the first game, and the Aggies were definitely game, staying in the game until there was 6:12 remaining.

Of note: Texas A&M's band played what this blog thought was "Better Now," but this blog wasn't entirely able to decipher much of their songs this game. A main reason was that they played either familiar songs without familiar titles, or unfamiliar songs.

Kansas's band played Respect, Rock and Roll Part II, and The Final Countdown.

In the next game, 2 seed Kansas State faced 3 seed Baylor. This was the best game of the tournament, with the game finally out of reach for Baylor with 1:41 remaining.

Baylor's band contributed Ole Ole, Heartbreaker, Take On Me, a medley of the Imperial March and Kashmir, Kung Fu Fighting, and Eye of the Tiger. Pretty good stuff.

Kansas State's band played Someday Love Will Find You, Kiss The Sky, Everybody Loves Somebody, Rock and Roll Part II, Purple Haze (because they're purple, get it??), and The Final Countdown.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Big 12 Tournament - Day 4

Day 3 of games. The first time there were less than 4 games. In Pun City's experience, this is an interesting dichotomy. On one hand, it's kind of nice to get a little break. Only having 2 games to watch is much less exhausting. You might not think that watching basketball games would really be exhausting, but it kind of gets that way, as one supposes doing anything for a 12-hour period can be. Another side is that you start to notice the games are coming to an end. If there are only four teams left, there isn't much culling left for the herd. To a certain extent, you feel like another game should be starting once the second one ends.

Overall, Pun City thinks it's a good thing though, for if it weren't for the last 2 days of conference tournaments, you wouldn't be able to enjoy the surrounding area as much. That's something Pun City was able to accomplish early on Day 4 of this year's trip.

For the first time in Kansas City, this blog did not start the day off with Waffle House. The main reason was that Pun City had a little road trip planned. Pun City was heading to Lawrence, Kansas, home of the Kansas Jayhawks (and Phog Allen Fieldhouse). If there was still time left, Pun City was going to go to Manhattan, Kansas and check out Kansas State's homecourt (Bramlage Coliseum).

Getting to Lawrence, Pun City found an information booth, and the friendly attendant directed me to a parking lot adjacent to the fieldhouse. Pun City parked ($1.00 per hour) and walked toward the facility. The attendant had mentioned that the lot would have a walkway directly to the arena, and this was accurate. Unfortunately, at least on the level this blog parked on, the doors to Allen Fieldhouse were locked. They also included signs stating something to the effect of "Allen Fieldhouse is a controlled facility and not open to the public on non-gamedays. Those entering Allen Fieldhouse without permission can be charged with trespassing."

That's pretty extreme. Having been to many arenas, Pun City feels qualified to say this is the most strongly-worded warning on any arena in the country. Most likely, they get a lot of hoops yahoos like this blog, so they probably choose to put the huge disclaimer on their doors to keep out at least some of the crowds. Realistically though, Pun City was doubtful that they'd really charge anyone with trespassing (unless the violator was really camping out or causing other problems).

Anyway, not really deterred by the huge signs, Pun City was able to find some open doors. Conveniently enough, the open doors were right next to an open gate to the court. The gate had another sign saying the court was closed, and Pun City heard workers in the court area. Pun City decided that inspite of the warning, and the workers, it should at least take a shot at grabbing the rim inside. Allen Fieldhouse is definitely one of the most historic (if not the most historic) arenas in the country, and coming this far to let a sign stop this blog would be a little weak. (Plus, Pun City had a pretty direct escape route and wasn't likely to get caught on foot unless the workers were former track stars).

Pun City entered the gate, walked on to the Allen floor, and looked up and around at the banners hanging from the rafters. It was pretty cool. For about 5 seconds. As Pun City was strolling inconspicuously toward the rim, one of the workers yelled down to this blog "The court is closed." Pun City responded, "Okay, thanks." Interrupting this blog, the same worker immediately said "The court is closed" again. It's possible he thought Pun City said "What?" but it's more likely he was trying to get me out of there as soon as possible. This blog obliged and walked out. Then Pun City stopped at the Kansas Hall of Champions (probably what it was called, anyway). That place was cool. A lot of history for all sports at Kansas, especially basketball, and the museum showed a lot of high-quality artifacts. Good stuff, Pun City recommends stopping in to that free museum if you get the chance.

On a recommendation, this blog checked out Free State Brewing Company in Lawrence for lunch. Sort of a weird sequence happened there. Pun City parked the car in a metered spot, but only had about 30 cents in change, so the meter only allowed about 24 minutes. Not enough for a sit-down spot. Pun City's first intent was going to be asking the hostess for change before getting a table. Unfortunately, Free State was pretty packed, plus the hostess and host seemed fairly impatient (though professional) and seated this blog as soon as it stated "one but..."

No worries, this blog will just ask the waiter for change. The waiter brought Pun City a water, and this blog ordered a soda and asked for the change to plug the meter. The waiter was cool with it, gave Pun City the soda and walked back with the change. This blog had a couple sips of soda, then walked out to go plug the meter. A quarter bought Pun City enough time to stick around for a normal (unrushed) lunch, and this blog walked back up to its seat in the restaurant. The table was empty. No water, no soda. Pun City looked around, thinking there was a small chance it didn't remember the route back to the seat correctly and was in the wrong place. As this blog was looking confused, a patron at the next table said to Pun City: "They tried to seat someone else at your table, so they cleared it. Your waiter stopped them though." Pun City then located its waiter and headed toward him, as he was near the water pitcher. As this blog approached him from behind, he turned around. Just as Pun City was about to ask what the deal was, he gave a knowing look that totally conveyed "Aren't my co-workers awesome?" Then he said, "I'll get you another soda, here's some more water."

The French Dip at Free State was good. Nothing amazing, but that may have been due to the fact that there was swiss cheese on the sandwich, and Pun City isn't a fan of that cheese. Their ice cream flavor of the day was something weird, so this blog decided to get a Reese's Sonic Blast at a Sonic.

Pun City then had about 4 hours to kill before this blog had to be back in Kansas City. The Lawrence to Kansas City drive is only about 30 minutes, so that wasn't going to do it. One idea Pun City had thought of was heading out to Manhattan, Kansas, home of the Kansas State Wildcats. This blog had heard that Manhattan was in the middle of nowhere, but Pun City was a little dubious of this. When looking at a map, the drive appears to be mostly interstate, with a very short jog on a state highway. Pun City found out that you should believe the hype with that one. The drive on the interstate is long (expectedly), but the jog on the state highway is also extremely long. It felt like you drove to the middle of nowhere on the interstate, then they decided that you were a little too close to civilization, so you should drive for quite a bit more.

Pun City was pleasantly surprised to find that Manhattan has a huge mall though. This blog would have probably went in if it wasn't on a time crunch. As it was, this blog headed to Bramlage Coliseum, "The Octagon of Doom." As this blog parked its car, it noticed a few other cars in the lot. Plus, people walking toward the stadium. This blog soon came to realize that a high school girls' tournament was in progress at the arena. Shucks. The entry fee was $7.00. That was a little steep, since Pun City wasn't going to be watching any games, and pretty much just wanted to check out the building. Oh well, you win some, you lose some, Pun City figured.

This blog was walking to a sidewalk between Bramlage and KSU's football stadium, with the sole intent of taking a picture of the football stadium at this point. But then, this blog noticed a set of double doors on a lower level of the basketball stadium. Might as well check them. Sure enough, they were open. Entering the facility, Pun City saw the basketball offices to its left, and an elevator to its right. This blog hit the up button on the elevator, and walked in, as no attendant was in it. (Not that there would normally be one, there almost certainly wouldn't, but Pun City didn't know what to expect, never having been there before).

Floors 1 and 2 were the only options. As this blog was on 1, Pun City hit "2" to go up. The elevator went up and deposited this blog in a VIP room next to the concourse. No one was really in the VIP room yet, so Pun City just walked out into the concourse, and was able to walk around and get to the seating bowl to take a couple pictures. That worked out awesomely, free entry and no hassles. (Obviously grabbing rim was out of the question, but at this point Pun City was ecstatic with just being able to see the interior of the building without having to pay).

The drive back to Kansas City was next, to see the Big 12 Semifinals. This blog will pick it up with its next installment.

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Big XII Tournament, Day 3

Day 2 of games.

Pun City had tickets for the games already, so this was nice. There wasn't much time to spare between waking up and going to the games.

For the second day in a row, Pun City went to Waffle House. That place rocks. For Pun City's Wisconsin readers, it compares favorably to George Webb's. One might call it George Webb's with better deals and better chili. Also, Waffle House emphasizes hashbrowns as a key menu item. They're magnificent. Pun City went with plain hashbrowns once and hashbrowns covered in chili and cheese another time. Both were great. Their cheeseburgers were pretty good too, typical greasy spoon fare. Highly recommended.

Getting to the game site, Pun City had some time to go to the Ultimate Big 12 Fan Experience across the street from the Sprint Center. This is always something that Pun City hopes for: Free Stuff! As the Big 12 has a big, well-attended tournament, they have well-heeled sponsors giving away free stuff to promote their product. Among the sponsors were: Chick-Fil-A, United States Census 2010, DirecTV, Sunkist, and Phillips 66.

Awesome free stuff included: DirecTV "net head" hat for hitting a reasonable number of shots on their worse-than-carnival rigged hoops; Phillips 66 keychains (of the conference tournament logo and mini-flashlight variety); United States Census 2010 Cups, Piggy Banks, Pins, Pencils, Pens, and Crayons; Chick-Fil-A Pez Dispensors, cans of Sunkist Orange or Lemonade (diet available as well), and Chick-Fil-A free sandwich coupons (and free actual sandwich).

If a certain Ohio reader is interested in the free Chick-Fil-A sandwich coupon, Pun City can send that your way (this blog believes it expires 4/30/2010).

On the far side of the Big 12 Zone was the Kansas City Power and Light District, which was the unofficial party central (read: closest place to get alcohol). This part of the area was sponsored by Miller Lite and Boulevard Brewing Company. Among free stuff here were: Miller Lite Headbands, Wristbands, and t-shirts (alas, Pun City didn't catch any t-shirts); Boulevard headbands and foam fingers; and Sprint "rally towels." The rally towels were extremely weak. You had to give a name and e-mail address, and then you got a flimsy one-color towel that had no logos on it at all. Basically just a small towel of whatever color you wanted. Weak effort, Sprint.

Local radio stations were set up around there, Pun City got some cup for the Jennifer Aniston vehicle "W" there. Random yes, but hey, free cup.

Only the Nebraska-Texas A&M game was especially compelling, with the rule kicking in at the 2:02 mark. The other 3 games had at least 9:41 left on the clock when the game was effectively out of reach.

Like a pediatrician's waiting room, here are your Highlights:

Kansas's band played The Hey Song and Ghostbusters. KU recorded their 2,000th win in this game. That's a pretty cool milestone for this blog to have seen.

Texas Tech's band arrived late (presumably having been at the women's tournament 3 blocks up the road), and played Hey Baby and the Land of 1000 Dances.

Nebraska's band played Come Out and Play, Living on a Prayer, and Slow Ride.

Texas A&M's band played Respect, Hush Hush, the CBS College Basketball Theme, and Someday (by Rob Thomas). Don't quote Pun City on the Someday song, it might have been a different pop song that's out now.

Oklahoma State's band played Basket Case, Hold On (I'm Comin'), Call Me, and Rubberband Man.

Kansas State's band played Crazy Train, Proud Mary, and Hey Baby. KSU's dance team is known as the Classy Cats.

During halftime of the OSU-KSU game, the final of Sunkist's national Dickie V impersonation contest was held. 3 finalists got on the microphone and did their best Dick Vitale impression. Contestant #1 was pretty good but messed up in the last part of his delivery. Contestant #2 was alright, not as good as #1 though. Contestant #3 was great throughout, winning it in Pun City's eyes when he said "I tell you one thing Mista Nessler..." The crowd liked #3 best, but cheered for #1 as well. It seemed to most in attendance that #3 had the loudest cheers. They announced the winner, of course as....#1! Huh? A giant cascade of boos descended on to the court. #3 actually took it pretty well for losing out on $10,000 though, he really just waved his arms to encourage the booing after it had gone on for 10 to 15 seconds already.

Baylor's band played the CBS College Hoops Theme, Zoot Suit Riot, Crazy Train, The Final Countdown, and Workout.

Texas's band played William Tell and Hold On I'm Comin'.

An unusual feature of the Baylor-Texas game was that the ball repeatedly got stuck in the bottom of the net when it went through, prompting a need for a dude to climb up on a ladder and "fix" it at the half, mainly by stretching the bottom of the net horizontally to create a larger gap.

A very cool Day #2 of games, and Pun City headed to Denny's to eat something, as it had neglected to do this after Waffle House in the morning.

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Big 12 Tournament Trip Day 2, Continued

A little more time to post now that the tournament is over. Pun City will start back at day 2, which was really the first day of the games.

Arriving near the Sprint Center, Pun City was able to find a parking lot for $4.00 all day (near the corner of 9th and Holmes). Two minor problems that ultimately didn't dissuade this blog from parking there were: 1. It was a decent walk. Probably almost 2 miles. 2. Had to have exact change, since it was one of those money slot / no attendant lots. Fortunately, this blog had about $9.00 in quarters in the car, so the coin thing wasn't a problem. That was the first time Pun City had ever used such a machine for parking though. It worked fairly well, this blog would try it again.

After hiking to the Sprint Center, Pun City encountered the first scalpers of the day. They asked if this blog needed one, Pun City said yes, worst seat in the house. He showed Pun City a $32.50 ticket, and said $30 would work. Not wanting to miss out on the games, this blog just jumped on it, no questions asked. In hindsight this was probably stupid, and this blog would have had a decent chance to knock it down to $20, possibly even $10 if it was a little more patient. As a postscript, this blog gave him $40, and he only had one $5 and a lot of $20s, so he tried to give Pun City just the $5.00 and "call (the $5.00 he didn't want to give me) a tip." Pun City did say "Uh, no." and the dude got a $10 from his "supervisor."

One weird thing about scalpers is that they have supervisors on site. One wouldn't expect this, but it is definitely the norm. Pun City believes that the supervisors keep an eye on the general market (probably calling other supervisors in different areas around the arena) and pass down price adjustments to the subordinates.

Back to the day - Pun City had some time to kill, and also wanted to see about tickets to other games. This part of negotiations was much better than the inauspicious start this blog got off to. One guy (not a pro) had 2 tickets for the late games that night, Pun City offered $20.00 for one, and he said no since he wanted to keep the pair together. No problem, on to the next dude. This guy (again, not a pro) had a really good seat (like 2nd row, halfcourt) for the late games, and wanted $50.00 for it ($75 was face value). Pun City really just wanted to be in the building, so the quality of the seat was unimportant. This blog told him "It's a good deal, but (this blog doesn't) need that good of a seat." On to the next dude. A pro noticed that Pun City needed tickets to later sessions, and must have figured this blog wanted tickets to all sessions. This was accurate. He offered a full strip of lower level seats for $400.00.

This was a good deal, but there was negotiating to be done. Three things were working in Pun City's favor here: 1. Pun City didn't need lower-level seats. 2. Pun City didn't need tickets to the first session, as it already had those, and 3. It soon became evident that the all-session pass was a single ticket, which is tough to get rid of for a scalper.

Pun City said "(This blog)'ll give you $330 and you can keep Session 1." He said, "No way, you can get $200 for this one alone! (pointing to the semi-final that Kansas was presumed to play in to)". Pun City said "(This blog doesn't) need lowers, that doesn't make any difference for (Pun City). Plus (this blog doesn't) need one for Session 1." His response was to point out that Pun City could sell the Session 1 ticket. This blog replied, "No, (this blog doesn't) want to mess with that." Pun City began walking away, and he said "There's no way you're getting in there for $330." This blog replied, "Then go $350." He said something to the effect of "No, I can get almost all of that just with the semifinals." Pun City replied, "Kansas is going to lose and it'll be easy to get in to those semifinals." Dude must have been a Kansas fan, because he said, "No way! Who's going to beat them?" Pun City replied, "They're going to tank it so they can rest for the NCAAs." At this point, the supervisor must have heard enough, because he okayed the $350 price for sessions 2 through 6.

Not too shabby, $380 for all sessions. The cheapest tickets Pun City had seen for lower level seats online was about $600.00, so this worked. The cheapest tickets Pun City had seen for all sessions anywhere in the building were $420, so this was great.

Pun City was betting on the fact that they wouldn't actually sell that Session 1 ticket, so once this blog entered the building, it proceeded to the location of its Session 2-6 seats, and just stayed there. Sure enough, no one came to the seat, so Pun City got to sit in the lower deck for the whole tournament.

The first day's games weren't especially close, but it was good to see some new teams, bands, and fans.

Among the highlights:

Texas Tech's band played Take On Me, Sledgehammer, Land of 1000 Dances, Dirty Little Secret, Stacy's Mom, and Free Ride.

Colorado's band played Sell Out, Someday Love Will Find You, The Hey Song, Green Day's Holiday, Hey Pachucho, Crazy Train, Kashmir, and Soak Up The Sun.

Nebraska's band played That's The Way I Like It, Land of 1000 Dances, Any Way You Want It, Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire, Knock On Wood, and Heartbreaker.

Missouri's band played Eye of The Tiger (get it, since they're the Tigers!), Sweet Child of Mine, and Respect. Missouri's dance team is known as the Golden Girls.

Oklahoma State's band played Sell Out, Heartbreaker, The Hey Song, Rubberband Man (The Spinners version, not the T.I. version), and Call To Post.

Oklahoma's band played Hush Hush, a sweet re-arrangement of the Sportscenter theme, So Glad You Made It, The Hey Song, and Hold On Loosely. They also played Jim Ross's WWE entrance music a lot.

Iowa State's band played Hush Hush, Basket Case, Crazy Train, Sell Out, The Hey Song, Take On Me, and Kashmir. Also of note, Pun City saw Marquette transfer Scott Christopherson play in this game. Christopherson joins Ron Howard, Ryan Amoroso, and Karon Bradley as MU transfers that Pun City saw play at MU and in conference tournaments for their new teams.

Texas's band played Come Out And Play.

Up Next: Day 3.

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Big XII Tournament Trip: Day 2

Very eventful day today, probably way too much to cover in one post, definitely way too much to cover while just about falling asleep here.

High points:

- Pun City got tickets for the 2 sessions today, plus all the remaining sessions. This was below the StubHub prices Pun City had seen earlier in the year, so mission accomplished there.

- 4 relatively dud games today, the closest one was over with about 7:50 remaining.

- Ate breakfast at Waffle House, never having been before. Phenomenal!

- Tons of free stuff to be had at the Kansas City Power and Light District, and the adjacent Big 12 Zone (or something). Pun City will have some giveaways at its March Madness watch parties this year.

- Failed attempt at getting to Sonic Drive In tonight, reached it just after close.

Overall a great day, this blog feels fairly fresh for having seen 8+ hours of basketball, Pun City is going to get some rest though with another 4 games coming up tomorrow. Based on the first games, in tomorrow's Kansas - Texas Tech game, Pun City will be rooting for... a good game? Neither fan base was that impressive, plus Pun City only has NCAA shirts with Kansas logos on them, and nothing for Texas Tech (other than a newly acquired Big 12 shirt).

In game two, both Texas A&M and Nebraska would be cool to root for, not to mention Pun City's got apparel for both, but this blog will probably root for A&M.

Game 3 - Oklahoma State gets the nod over Kansas State.

Game 4 - Baylor gets the nod over Texas.

Hope to post tomorrow night! The night after the second 4-game day is always the most tiring though, so no guarantees.


Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Big 12 Tournament Trip: Day 1

Good Evening. Pun City is reporting from its hotel in Kansas City tonight. It's been a long day, but a pretty good day.

This blog left Wisconsin at 8:00 AM, with plans to stop at 3 schools before winding up in Kansas City. In hindsight, leaving right as Milwaukee rush hour was in progress was not the brightest move in the world. Fortunately, after getting through that, Pun City didn't see any more traffic the rest of the day (a consequence of driving through western Wisconsin and Iowa, this blog thinks).

The first stop was the University of Northern Iowa, the newly crowned Missouri Valley Conference tournament champs. Visitor parking was relatively easy to find, and very cheap. 50 cents for an hour, that worked. T-shirts were on sale in the Union, so Pun City grabbed one for 10 bucks. The McLeod Center, UNI's basketball arena, is connected to their football stadium (and former basketball arena), the UNI-Dome. It was easily accessible, so Pun City walked in. This blog heard voices, but couldn't place them. Pun City was under the assumption that workers were in the tunnel under the bleachers. Oh well, this blog was able to walk on to the court and jump to grab rim, plus take a couple pictures. When leaving, this blog realized that the voices were actually coming from the catwalk above the arena, and the workers must have either not noticed or cared that this blog was on the court.

The hall that connects the two facilities has a Northern Iowa Hall of Fame and museum that is pretty cool. Pun City walked through that, then got to the dome, where it looked like a track practice was in progress. This blog was still able to get some pictures, so that worked out well.

This blog drove off to Ames, Iowa, to visit Iowa State University. Most of the drive thus far had been extremely foggy, and it probably got even worse this leg. It was bizarre in that you'd see nothing for 20 to 30 minutes, then all of a sudden a car silhouette about a quarter mile in front of you. A nice part about the drive was that Pun City had looked in to which call numbers would have sports radio along the route, so there was no need to constantly scan the dial. Made for a good amount less stress than some previous trips.

Arriving in Ames at about 2:45, and not having eaten lunch yet, Pun City made a beeline to a Wendy's. Good Double Stacks and fries, although the service was slow and they initially gave this blog Barq's instead of Pibb Xtra. Fortunately, they did correct the error. Pun City then went over to the ISU ticket office, on the off chance that they'd have some unused or returned tickets for tomorrow's Big 12 games. As expected, no dice on that. Because of a deluge, and a desire to get out of ISU fairly quickly, Pun City didn't make much of an effort to get in to their football stadium. This blog was right next to it though. On to Hilton Coliseum, their basketball arena.

The Coliseum was a somewhat tough nut to crack. First off, there was free parking near the arena, so that was appreciated. The difficulty was getting in to the building. Most arenas house the ticket office for the school, so one can just walk in to that part and proceed to the rest of the arena. No such luck here. As an extra hassle, there were workers setting up fencing around the perimeter of the arena. This blog isn't sure what the goal was with this fencing. It's possible they have an event there soon that they wanted to funnel foot traffic for, but it was too early in the setup process for this blog to make an educated guess.

After several tries, Pun City finally came across an entrance that was open. It seemed like some administrative offices are housed in the Coliseum, and the door near these offices stays open. This is good, but if one of the workers thought you looked out of place, you could get booted pretty quickly. Pun City kind of slinked past the windowed offices and went immediately to stairs that were marked with directions to "Main Concourse" and "Floor Level." First, this blog checked out the concourse. This was cool. The concourse was empty, so Pun City had free reign on it.

Looking in the seating bowl, this blog noticed the basketball floor was gone, and a bare concrete floor with large curtains hanging seemed to indicate a performance of some type was scheduled. There was a group of people on the floor talking, they were bunched up and all wearing street clothes. Pun City's best guess is that they were a stage crew working on preparing the arena for an event. That said, this blog has no idea. In any case, Pun City didn't want to get thrown out and intentionally avoided them.

Next up, it was time to try and get to floor level. Not wanting to be seen by the office workers, Pun City walked to the far side of the arena, then went down to floor level. Two problems became clear: 1. The basketball hoops weren't in storage on this side of the arena, and 2. The stage crew people were milling around on this side of the arena.

Unfortunately, there is no "floor concourse" that would allow one to walk around the outside of the floor level without being seen. This blog didn't want to be seen by the stage crew, so walking across the floor was out of the question. The best option was to go back the way Pun City came from, then navigate the main concourse to the office worker stairwell, then descend right next to the hoops. At this point, it seemed like the crew would be much more likely to notice this blog than the office personnel.

The assumption proved correct, and this blog was able to descend unnoticed (or at least un-yelled-at) near the hoops. As this blog got to floor level, it noticed that a maintenance worker was waiting for the elevator right along the route this blog needed to take. After quickly considering the situation, Pun City decided to just proceed as if it belonged here, and wave hello to the maintenance guy. A main factor in this decision was that this blog wasn't dressed too much differently than the stage crew group, and also that the maintenance guy wasn't security, so he probably wouldn't care. As this blog walked past, waved, and said "Hi" to the maintenance worker, he said "Yello" back to me. Worked out pretty perfectly. As such, Pun City accessed the hoop storage room, and grabbed collapsed rim. Very cool stuff.

To "cap off" the Ames stop, Pun City bought an ISU cap. That should come in handy tomorrow if this blog is able to get into the second session of games. (Iowa State plays Texas around 8:30, still no tickets for this blog).

A final stop was Drake University. This one worked out pretty well. First off, the bookstore had wristbands in the right size, so this blog picked up a pair. Secondly, the basketball arena (The Knapp Center) was accessible through the student rec center, and Pun City was allowed in as a visitor. Unfortunately, a women's team practice was in process, so this blog wasn't able to attempt a rim grab, but it was a great facility to see up close.

This is a fairly nice hotel, so Pun City expects to be able to update more in the next few days. Stay tuned to find out if any tickets can be had for tomorrow's two sessions. This blog sure hopes so, seeing as probable NCAA tourney teams Missouri, Oklahoma State, and Texas take the floor.

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Friday, March 05, 2010


Pun City is back from the dead. Chances are, not too long, and also not too prolific, but this blog is going on another trip, so Pun City may as well spread the word.

Among the high points of the trip:

Leaving Wisconsin on Tuesday, toward Kansas City. Stops along the way at Northern Iowa, Iowa State, and Drake. Destination Kansas City for the Big XII tournament. Number of tickets in hand? Zero! We'll try the scalping option. In this economy, Pun City thinks it can do alright. StubHub seems to have the cheapest option for all games at $415, and Pun City is convinced the street can do better than that. Should be interesting to find out anyway.

This blog is staying at another budget hotel. Will it be good, bad, or otherwise? Conference Tournament hotels have run the gamut in the past. Could be an interesting plot line.

Lots of good potential side trips, not as much non-game time to do these in. Options include: visiting Kansas State, Kansas University, UMKC, the Negro Leagues Museum, Arrowhead Stadium, some good mall options, and Arthur Bryant's, apparently one of the best rib places in the world. How many of these can Pun City take in?

Definite side trip to Kauffman Stadium. That should be great. As far as Pun City knows, it's going on a virtually private tour. Then again, this information is as of about a month ago, so it's easily possible that time slot filled up.

A new good camera. That will be nice. Not having to turn the thing off every 5 seconds of picture taking will be a bonus. This blog might actually get a few good photos to post as a result.

Sonic Drive-In. Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri are absolutely in Sonic territory, so this blog is looking forward to hitting Sonic for a couple meals at least. So awesome. Hopefully some other nice fast food options are around too.

Nightmarish Kansas City parking. Pun City has heard word of a lousy downtown parking situation in K.C. Hopefully there will be some nice options (or at least nice stories to relay) regarding the parking scene.

All this, not to mention a conference with about 7 solid NCAA tournament teams duking it out. Pun City thinks this will be an interesting trip. Go Milwaukee Panthers tomorrow, hopefully they can knock Butler out and get the Horizon League two teams in the tournament.

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