Sports Column: At least I’ve got United


By James Russell

My father-in-law is in from out of the country this week. Having lived his entire life between England and Europe, American football is not something he’s been exposed to regularly. It’s an alien game to most people on the other side of the pond – a distant game that makes little sense despite its similarities to rugby.

But approximately three years ago he and I agreed upon what seemed a decent trade. I agreed to adopt and support his hometown football club, Manchester United, and in turn he likewise adopted both my beloved Jayhawks and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Man, did he get the short end of the clichéd stick on that one.

He has remained as faithful as could possibly be expected from someone living in a country with a seven hour time difference and little-to-no coverage of the sport. He has consistently attempted to learn its rules and nuances and whenever during football season he happens to be in the States, he watches the games with me.

He has faithfully worn the KU jacket and Chiefs hat I gave him long ago to countries the world over. That Jayhawk and Arrowhead have silently evangelized Luxembourg, Germany, France, England, Belgium and even South Africa.

Poor guy.

Sorry, Dad. I inherited through our deal a team that is arguably the best to have ever played the game of soccer (football, I know – but it gets confusing to differentiate in a column like this), and in return you have been gifted two football teams that are – currently, at least – an outright embarrassment to this great American game.

Our showing against the Raiders on Oct. 28 was just one more echoing thud of what I am becoming more and more convinced is yet another damned nail in an unexpected coffin.

No one has any idea what is wrong.

No one.

And therein, perhaps, is the answer. What is wrong with this team is that we still don’t know what’s wrong with this team.

We are 1-6 in the NFL, and are the laughingstock of the entire league. We’re a joke.

Our fans are in mid-mutiny. An injury to our starting quarterback was recently met with cheers. A ridiculous and media-hungry banner was flown over the Mecca of Chiefs Kingdom, Arrowhead Stadium, calling for firings and benchings.

My opinion of these “fans” aside, I believe this is Crennel’s fault.

He has no idea what is going on, nor does he seem to have the slightest clue how to fix it. There is no fire within this teddy bear of a man. He is proving, week after week, that he does not have the ability to be the general we need in an head coach: he can’t make these guys care.

After the loss to the Raiders, Crennel spoke to the media about the lack of any true running game for an entire four quarters (by the way – guess who our leading rusher was in that game? Matt Cassel. Wow): “You also have to be cognizant of where the game is, and what’s happening in the game, which may allow you to run the ball more. When you’re ahead, you can run it more … but when you’re behind, you try to throw it to get chunks of yards,” he said.

Romeo, Romeo… how can you say what we can do when we’re ahead? We haven’t had the lead in regulation a single time in seven games. Can I repeat that, Mr. Crennel? In seven games, in 28 quarters of professional play, the team you claim to coach has not once had even a single point more than their opponent.

Things could still turn around. I really am the eternal optimist. But if it does it won’t be because of Crennel. It will be despite him.

In the meantime I need to catch up on Man United’s latest exploits. Despite not playing at their best this season they have managed to remain only one point behind Chelsea for first place in the Premier League.

Thanks for that, Dad. At least I have one team that doesn’t manage to rip my screaming, flailing soul from my body with each game they play. At least I have United.

Contact James Russell, sports columnist, at


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