Two to tango
By Jason King, Yahoo Sports
February 20, 2008
"He made us better, too," Steve Welmer said.
Don't feel bad if you don't recognize Welmer's name. Heck, he'd probably tell you that's a good thing. As a referee Welmer's job is to monitor the game, make the right calls - and avoid the spotlight.
"I've been in denial since his announcement," said Dale Kelley, a Division I official from 1970-85. "He's been such an integral part of college basketball for 40-plus years. It's a sad thing, but at the same time I'm happy for him. He's certainly deserving of a rest."
Considering their amount of run-ins with Knight, you'd think officials would need a break of their own.
Referee Ted Valentine was nearly bumped by Knight after he ejected him from a game in 1998. Another time Knight refused to let his team finish an exhibition contest when Jim Burr tossed him in the second half.
Knight was fined $10,000 in 1987 for banging a scorer's table in frustration after being assessed a technical foul. A year earlier Knight grabbed a megaphone and yelled at Indiana's cheerleaders for disrupting Steve Alford as he shot a free throw.
"You definitely didn't want to feel his wrath," said Welmer, a Division I official for the last 27 years. "He made you concentrate. In his own way, he made officials become better referees. Especially younger officials, because they knew they had to concentrate for 40 minutes of basketball.
"He wanted officials to strive for perfection. He wasn't demanding anything out of us that he wasn't demanding out of himself or his staff and players."
Knight's most-publicized incident came in 1985, when he flung a chair onto the Assembly Hall court as Purdue's Steve Reid prepared to shoot technical foul shots. He was ejected and later suspended for one game by Big Ten commissioner Wayne Duke.
Duke said Knight hung up on him when he contacted him about the one-game suspension. He also refused to shake his hand when the two crossed paths at the Final Four.
"We didn't talk for a long time," Duke said. "The perception was that we were mortal enemies. I used to tell him, 'I raised two kids and now I feel like I'm raising a third – you.'"
Knight made amends with Duke a few years later when he presented him with a 1987 national championship ring. The two became close friends and remain so today.
Welmer cherishes his relationship with Knight, too. He recalled a celebrity golf tournament years ago when he and Knight were in the same foursome. Knight appeared to slice into a bunker, but as Knight turned his head in disgust, Welmer noticed that Knight's ball skipped out of the sand and rolled down a hill into a playable spot.
"Welmer," Knight said loud enough so the gallery of fans could hear, "it's just amazing to me that you can see a golf ball trickle out of a sand trap from 250 yards away, but you can't see a player travel right in front of your nose."
Welmer said he always enjoyed working Knight's games at Indiana and Texas Tech.
"It put a little bit of electricity into the atmosphere," he said.
"Not that you're ever going to work a perfect game, but you really tried not to miss the calls (against Knight).
"I always found him to be fair. He knew that if our crew missed one, I was going to tell him we missed it. I wasn't going to B.S. him. On the other hand, he thought enough of me that if we got it right and he questioned me about it, I'd say 'Coach, if you check the film, you'll see that we got it right.' He'd respect that."
Welmer said he's happy that Knight ended things on his own terms. Selfishly, though, he wishes he were still on the sidelines, making everyone better.
"He's one of those guys that will always be a legend in college basketball," Welmer said. "In any sport, when one of the all-time greats retires, it feels like the passing of an era."
D.J. White – It's a shame that Cell-vin Sampson's goof-ups will overshadow a spectacular season for a senior who came back to school for all the right reasons.
Speaking of Cell-Vin Sampson – The Indiana coach should look on the bright side. If he gets fired he could probably land a posh gig as a spokesman for T-Mobile.
Tennessee at Memphis – Still don't think the Tigers are the country's best team – but I will if they hold off Tennessee in the season's most-anticipated game Saturday.
Coke – I usually drink diet, but every now and then nothing tastes better than the hard stuff on draft.
Midwest Express – After spending half of the last year on Southwest planes, I felt like I was in my captain's chair on my way back from L.A. Tuesday. All I needed was my ottoman, a Miller Lite and a bag of Spicy Cheetos.
Santa Clara – It may not be long before Gonzaga and St. Mary's have some company atop the West Coast Conference. The Broncos are 13-12 under first-year head coach and former UCLA assistant Kerry Keating. But their last four losses have been by a combined 17 points.
Marcus Hall – Kansas forward Darnell Jackson is the Big 12's Most Improved Player – but Hall's performance for Colorado this year makes him a close second.
Sobe Adrenaline Rush – I'm not big on the taste but, without it, you wouldn't be reading this column right now.
Porky's – Continuing with theme of reliving classic moments from '80s movies, how funny was Kim Cattrall's "Lassie" in this legendary flick?
Duke – Are the Blue Devils a good team? Hell yes! Is there a chance in hell they can win the national championship? Hell no!
Nancy Grace – Her schtick may be appealing to some but to me she's becoming unwatchable.
Mississippi and Baylor – The Rebels and Bears – two of the biggest stories during non-conference play - have lost six of their last seven league games.
Cherry Chocolate Dr Pepper – Uh, is this a joke?
Meteorologists – Schools close and businesses shut down when these folks have their snowgasms, but rarely does the white stuff come in the amounts they say it will.
Michael Beasley – No question Kansas State's freshman is the best player in college basketball, but he doesn't bring it every night like North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough.
Prices in L.A. – Spent Saturday night in Hollywood hanging out with my high school buddy, Bryan. Two vodka-sodas, 24 bucks, before tip, each trip to the bar … DAMN!
Valentine's Day candy hearts – Didn't get any this year, but luckily I found some chalk in the locker room after a game last week. It tasted about the same.
(Photos courtesy Cacee Cobb)Cacee Cobb, at left, former assistant to Jessica Simpson, is working with Simpson on her new record at Sony Music.
Last weekend I flew to Los Angeles to watch Kevin Love and the UCLA Bruins avenge last month's loss to USC. The game was about as exciting as a Tupperware party, but the trip was still worth it because it gave me the chance to re-connect with my good friend, Cacee Cobb.
Cacee and I spent many a night drinking Big O's at George's during our days at Baylor and remained close until she moved to Los Angeles about five years ago to become Jessica Simpson's assistant. Even though our line of communication had broken down, I'd always get irritated with the way Cacee was portrayed on "The Newlyweds" and with the inaccurate stories and cheap shots directed at her by gossip magazines.
Anyone who truly knows Cacee will tell you she's impossible not to like. Much like the missus, she's as positive and upbeat of a person as I've ever been around, and it's obvious that she's an extremely loyal friend who is driven in her career. A buddy of mine back in college once described Cacee as "a breath of fresh air." I'm sure you'll agree after reading this interview.
KOTR: First things first: Bring me up to date on what you've been doing since leaving your job as Jessica's assistant.
Jessica wanted to make another record and she told her label that she wanted to make it with me. So they put me on the project and it's been great. I'm working with so many wonderful songwriters, publishers, producers … it's been an amazing experience.
She knows this is my passion and that this is what I love doing. But she also knows that I've always believed in her. We've been through so much together – both good and bad. We make a great team and we want to make a great record together.
KOTR: When will the record be released, and can you give me any hints as to what it may sound like?
KOTR: What do you mean by that?
KOTR: Are you referring to the situation with her boyfriend, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo? A lot of fans and media said she was "bad luck" after a few of his subpar performances, including a season-ending playoff loss to the Giants.
(Photos courtesy Cacee Cobb)Cobb with boyfriend and "Scrubs" star Donald Faison.
KOTR: I understand Tony spent some time in Los Angeles about a week after Dallas' playoff loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants. Tell me about your dinner with him, Jessica and your boyfriend, "Scrubs" star Donald Faison.
KOTR: Sounds as if Jessica and Tony aren't the only happy couple these days. Tell me how you met Donald.
KOTR: But eventually you caved in, right?
The big key is that we support each other. Whenever you're in a relationship you always root each other on. But this is on a whole different level. We bring out the best in each other.
KOTR: Along with being an outstanding basketball player, I understand Donald is pretty passionate when it comes to following sports.
He also loves Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. And there's a guy that plays for the Lakers, Derek Fisher. He loves him – I think more as a person than anything. I know he likes Nate Robinson a lot, too.
KOTR: You're a sports fan, too, correct?
KOTR: One more thing about Donald: I'm officially stunned that your man starred in "Remember the Titans" – one of the greatest sports flicks of all time – yet you haven't even seen the movie.
KOTR: Switching gears a bit … Having grown up in Texas, how have you liked living in Los Angeles?
KOTR: Even the paparazzi? As Jessica's BFF, I'm sure you've had some run-ins with them.
The whole paparazzi situation can be really dangerous. I hit a photographer with my car one time. He wouldn't get out of the way and he was on the hood of my car. I said, 'If you don't move I'm going to run over you.' He wouldn't move, so he ended up on the ground. He got up and spit a huge lugee on my window and slammed his camera into the hood of my car. I filed charges against him and they arrested him.
Just the other day Britney Spears ran through a red light and 30 cars followed her. The whole thing could've killed someone. Donald came and picked me up and he was all distraught. He said, 'Britney Spears almost ran me over.' Some things about Hollywood I'll never understand.
KOTR: Like Britney Spears, for instance?
KOTR: What about gossip magazines? How much attention do you pay to them?
Sometimes magazines will hire people to follow you around and sit close to you at restaurants so they can eaves drop. I've even seen them use little kids. They would come up to Jessica at restaurants, ask for an autograph and then say, 'What are you going to do the rest of the day? Where were you before you came here?'
I can't even fathom how annoying it would be for someone like her who has to deal with it regularly.
KOTR: How did you and Jessica meet, anyway? Some "publications" have said you were childhood friends.
So I started working on Jessica's records. I worked on two of them before we even met. I would book studios and book travel and deal with different aspects of scheduling and planning and other stuff.
Then, after we met, we built a phone friendship while I was still working at Sony. I think she just liked working with me on a day-to-day basis, so she offered me a job as her road manager. So I still lived in Dallas, but I would meet her in other cities and travel with her and handle all of her shows and appearances.
KOTR: I've got to think those were good times.
I remember the first night I ever went to work with her, I met her in Atlanta. She was going to do a radio show the next day and I was a little nervous. I knew her but I didn't have a close relationship with her. We got to the hotel late, and they only had one room with one bed. So we ended up having to share a bed in this small-ass hotel room the first night we ever hung out.
Early on, before she got famous, rather than spend money on hotel rooms, the record label would just fly us on red-eyes every day. We'd brush our teeth and wash our face in airport bathrooms. It was crazy. One time we went four days without a hotel room. We were changing and showering at the venues. It was weird but I loved it. It was a great experience.
KOTR: Why did you decide to move from Dallas to Los Angeles?
Everyone thinks that I lived with Jessica and Nick for such a long time, but it wasn't like that. I did stay there for a little bit, but when I moved out here I was only going to be here for a couple of months and then we were going on tour for four months, so it was like, 'Why would I want to go rent an apartment when I'm going to be gone for the next four months?' So I camped out there for awhile, but we were hardly ever home.
(LM Otero/AP Photo)Jessica Simpson wearing a Tony Romo jersey as the Cowboys play the Eagles on Dec. 16.
KOTR: So the MTV show "Newlyweds" wasn't exactly the most accurate portrayal of you?
I even remember my dad saying, 'Why don't you change your clothes. You wear that same sweatshirt everyday.' But it wasn't like that. They take that one shot of you sitting on the couch and they put it on every episode, which makes it look like all I do is lie on the couch.
KOTR: Anything else about the show irritate you?
KOTR: Some of the tabloids insinuated that, at one point, you and Nick had a "thing" going. One publication printed a picture of you "flirting" with him in a swimming pool.
KOTR: Do you still talk with Nick?
KOTR: I seem to remember him introducing you to his buddy, Matt Leinart. The two of you dated during his time at USC, correct?
Every now and then you have to make a sacrifice or two to get the most out of life. Sometimes job opportunities force people to move to strange new towns. Other folks give up their social lives to marry and have children. Then there are sacrifices like the one I made Sunday.
Some how, some way, I managed to get out of bed before 10 a.m.
From what I was told I had no other choice if I wanted to score a seat at The Griddle Cafe, one of the hottest breakfast spots on Hollywood's Sunset Strip. I had read reviews on the joint the night before and learned the crowd was often as large as the flap jacks for which they've become known.
So there I was at 9:45 a.m. Los Angeles Times in hand, I was ready for a full dose of the best eggs, pancakes and chili – yes, chili – that this place had to offer. Unfortunately the line was too long and I felt like a complete yay-hoo standing there by myself, so getting up early was for naught. Luckily, though, I returned in the afternoon and was seated after only a few minutes.
First off, let me just say that if you're going to do breakfast – even if it's at 2 p.m. – this is the place to go. I ordered "The Golden Ticket" pancakes and they were an absolute delicacy. I ate all three of the steering wheel size pancakes that covered my plate. In retrospect I should've eaten just two and saved the third. It would've made for a helluva Frisbee for my dog, Eddie.
Anyway, the "Banana Nana" pancakes were doused with caramel, walnuts and streusel and then topped with whipped cream. I just about ordered the "Scotch on the Rocks" flapjacks, which featured coconut, pecan, oat and butterscotch chips. Seriously, I can't get over how big these suckers were. My waiter told me that a lot of people order just one.
That may be the route I take next time – and there will be a next time. That way I can try the "Peanut Bubba" Crunchy French Toast or perhaps the Baked Potato Omelette.
If you show up at lunch, you may want to remember that The Griddle Cafe touts 30 different kinds of chili, although not all of them are available daily. Still, you can bet whatever they dish up will be good. There's a reason this place is so packed. I'll definitely make it back – only next time I'll be with the missus or a friend.
A few years ago, after I began my quest to become a licensed wing aficionado, I swore that I'd never dine at another chain wing joint. Not that I had anything against BW3's or Wing Stop or Wing Zone. I just wanted to be sophisticated in my craft. I mean, hey, it's not like a barbeque conossiuer hangs out at McDonald's and eats McRibs.
Sometimes, though, a man gets desperate. And so it was on Saturday - as my taste buds yearned for wings and Miller Lite - that my buddy and I spotted a Hooters across the street from the Renaissance Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard and Highland.
I'll be honest: I couldn't have had a better experience.
I've motored through quite a few Hooters wings during my career, but being that it'd been a while since I set foot in the place, I didn't realize that a few new flavors - including Cajun – had been added to the roster. Obviously, I had to partake.
After just a few bites into a decent-sized drummie, I realized that the Cajun wings had brought meaning to what could've easily been a mundane night. I tried not to let my friend know how tasty they were, instead letting him feast on a batch of mediums. But he eventually caught on and I only got about a 60-40 share of the Cajun wings.
Either way, the bottom line is that a little creativity and willingness to think outside the box earned Hooters a spot in my little black (wing) book. Its digits may not be on Page One but, hey, when times are tough, every wing lover needs a booty call. And there always seems to be a Hooters around that's willing to put out.
Nutty Bars – A staple of my lunchtime diet back at Dan D. Rogers Elementary
Yogurt Pretzels – Kind of like Lay's: No one can eat just one
Frank's Hot Sauce – Used to just put it on my wings, but now it's going in black-eyed peas, chili and ranch style beans
Peanut M&M's – Great ball game candy due to a lack of potential meltage
Movie Popcorn – No one serves it up as good as AMC; now if only there were some good movies to go watch
THIS WEEK'S FOOD POLL
Believe it or not, there are times when I go to sports bars and order something besides wings. Actually, let me re-phrase that. There are times when I go to sports bars and order things to go along with my wings. For instance, Jason Whitlock and I make bi-weekly trips to Tanner's each summer for their chips and queso and teriyaki wings. If you had to pick an appetizer to accompany your bird, what would it be?
LAST WEEK'S FOOD POLL
Best Fast Food Chain (non-burger)
A few random thoughts about the people and places I encountered during last week's travels:
(Danny Moloshok/AP Photo)UCLA's Kevin Love defends USC's O.J. Mayo during the Trojans' 72-63 win.
1. Spent Friday afternoon on UCLA's campus getting to know Kevin Love who, by the way, is one of the most personable college athletes I've ever met. As much as I enjoyed our hour-long lunch at Rubio's, the most memorable moment of the day – at least for me – came as we were walking back to the media relations office. Seems there was a group of high school seniors taking a tour of the campus, and one of them requested to meet Love. What made it strange was that the kid was wearing a blue shirt that read: "Duke Basketball." I just can't fathom why someone would, a:) wear that shirt onto the campus of a rival, Top 10 school and, b:) flash it in the face of the program's top basketball player. Fortunately, Love is also the nicest, so he shook the dude's hand anyway. "There's a spirit shop right around the corner," Love chuckled as he walked away.
2. Meeting up with my friend Cacee Cobb gave me the chance to get introduced to her boyfriend of two years, Scrubs star Donald Faison. A great guy – and a huge sports fan. We only got to talk for about five minutes, but during that span we pretty much dissected every major basketball conference before critiquing some of the country's top freshmen. Donald, for the record, believes the Big 12 ranks ahead of the Pac-10 this season, and although he's a huge O.J. Mayo fan, he believes another season at USC would do the freshman some good.
3. I have to agree with Faison about Mayo – although I don't think there's a chance in hell he'll be back at USC, especially if Tim Floyd bolts for LSU. With a few weeks remaining in the regular season, I don't think there's any question that Mayo is about the fourth-best guard in the freshman class. I'm not sure who I like the best between Indiana's Eric Gordon, Memphis' Derrick Rose and Arizona's Jerryd Bayless. But all of them are out-performing Mayo.
4. One other quick note about Faison: He's appeared in a bunch of good movies such as Remember the Titans, Juice, Can't Hardly Wait, Sugar Hill and Waiting to Exhale. But my favorite one is Clueless. It was an incredibly well-made yet underrated movie and, to be blunt, I thought Alicia Silverstone was at her all time best appearance-wise, much in the same way that Cameron Diaz was at her best in Any Given Sunday. Same thing for Drew Barrymore in The Wedding Singer.
5. Ran into WWE star Shawn Michaels while checking into the LAX Marriott Sunday night. He had just arrived from Las Vegas, where he'd wrestled in the "No Way Out" pay-per-view earlier that evening. Any of the talk show hosts who joke about the physicality of wrestling being "fake" would've changed their opinion had they seen Michaels that evening. His forehead was stitched up and, as he waited for his luggage, he continually moved his lower leg back and forth, grimacing as he tried to work out some obvious pain before the next night's show in Anaheim. These guys routinely fight through injuries that would keep football players on the shelf for a year, yet they get no respect for their efforts because ill-informed blowhards like Nancy Grace trash their careers and create a public perception that simply isn't true.
6. Speaking of getting no respect, I think people are beginning to take North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough for granted. He's been doing his thing for so long that folks simply expect huge numbers from him and no longer sit back and appreciate the heart with which this kid plays. I'm not saying that anyone is intentionally disrespecting him. I just think we need to remember how good kids like Tyler are for the college game.
7. I usually make it out to Las Vegas four or five times a year – and, yes, there will be a "King of the Road: Vegas Edition" sometime this spring – but I've never stayed at Planet Hollywood. That may be the case on my next trip. Anyone have any opinions of that hotel, particularly the pool?
8. Al Toby, one of the top editors at Yahoo! Sports, suggested that I use this space to "address" my exercise habits. "Otherwise," Al said, "people are going to think you weigh 400 pounds with all the food you're eating on the road." Al's idea is probably a good one. I actually stand a tad over 6-1 and weigh about 210. I lift weights three times a week with a trainer at "Body Coach" in Overland Park and run about five miles a day, four days a week. Granted, the travel sometimes makes it tough to keep a regular workout schedule during the basketball season, so my weight usually fluctuates between about 195-220. I may lose a bunch of weight and then gain it all back, but at least I have fun in the process.
Jason – Very nice, well-written article on Kevin Love. I thoroughly enjoyed reading such a POSITIVE article about someone with so much promise and heart! It's so refreshing to read about someone like Kevin, who is about to embark on a stellar career, instead of all the negative issues in sports lately. I hope to see Kevin in person one day soon!
KOTR: Thanks so much for the kind words, Sherry. It's hard not to be impressed by a guy like Kevin – especially after you get the chance to meet him and his family. I thoroughly enjoyed reporting the story.
Jason – Loved your article on UCLA's Kevin Love. The only question I have is: Can he sing?
KOTR: Heck, yes, he can sing. He's a hit at all the Los Angeles karaoke bars. Kevin also gives break-dancing lessons on Monday and Wednesday. He spends his Tuesdays and Thursdays manning the kitchen at In-N-Out Burger and on Fridays he mows the lawn at the Playboy mansion. On weekends when he's not playing basketball, Kevin can either be found juggling for tips on the corner of Hollywood and Vine or helping little old ladies across into their pews at church. Not a lot this guy doesn't do, folks.
Jason – Anyone who quotes Ric Flair is No. 1 in my book.
KOTR: Heard last night that Flair will be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame the weekend of Wrestlemania. Amazing that His Highness can still wrestle – and wrestle well – for his age. Like he says: "Space Mountain may be the oldest ride in the park. But it's still got the longest line."
Jason – I disagree with In-N-Out being the best fast food burger place in the country. Over here on the east coast there is Five Guys, which is rapidly expanding now that they finally started selling franchises. I'd put their burgers against In-N-Out any day, and the giant bags of peanuts put them over the top.
KOTR: You did a nice job of selling me, Marshall. Whenever peanuts are involved, I'm intrigued.
Jason – The appeal of a Jumbo Pretzel is the cheese dip. The pretzel is merely a vehicle.
KOTR: Wow, I guess I should've given the situation more thought before doggin on the Jumbo Pretzel for its dryness and lack of taste. A vehicle, huh? A vehicle. You know, Jason, the Zen philosopher Basho once wrote, "A flute without holes is not a flute, and a donut with no holes is a danish."
Jason – Since you're such a barbeque buff I figured you'd been to Salt Lick. It's amazing. It's out in the hill country about 25 minutes outside of Austin. You have to get the family style, which is all you can eat. They bring out a plate with ribs, sausage and brisket plus all the sides. And they keep refilling the plate until you're done. Usually it's pretty crowded, so BYOB and wait at the picnic tables outside.
KOTR: You're not the first guy to hype up the Salt Lick, Nicholas. But you may have done the best job of it. It's 2 a.m right now. Think they're open? One thing I need to admit about beer as it relates to food: When I'm truly on a mission – in other words, when I'm ready to "Do Work" like I would at the Salt Lick – I usually go with iced tea instead of Miller Lite, which takes up valuable space that could be used for an extra rib or four. Hope that doesn't damage my credibility.
Updated on Wednesday, Feb 20, 2008 7:21 am, EST