Friday, November 09, 2007

My totally dorky brush with the stars

When you're in Kansas you don't really have much of an opportunity to meet many celebrities. Sure we may have produced Kirstie Alley or Paul Rudd, and Allen Ginsberg lived here until he died, but I've never seen those people and it's not exactly viewed as the national hot spot so the famous people here tend to be athletes. Obviously in Lawrence they're usually basketball players but once in a while you'll get someone else.

Today I decided to go do some studying at the Borders bookstore coffee shop and after a while this guy walks past and I think to myself, "wow, he really looks familiar." I see him again and think, "yeah, he totally looks like Mitch Holthus." My suspicions were pretty much confirmed when they called the name "Mitch" when his coffee was ready.

Now, 99% of you are saying, "who the fuck is Mitch Holthus?" Well, I'll tell you.

Mitch Holthus is better known as "The Voice of the Chiefs." I've been listening to him since I was kid when he was first doing K-State games and then those and the Chiefs until finally moving just to the KC games. When I'm driving at night I love to search the AM dial until I find some random game from somewhere across the central US so I've heard a lot of broadcasters and I really feel like I've been lucky to hear two of the best around call my teams in Pete Taylor and Mitch Holthus. I mean, he's so good that I never listen to the TV announcers for Chiefs games and I always have Mitch and Hall of Famer Len Dawson on the radio while I watch the games.

So, there's Mitch, drinking his coffee and flipping through what looked like some big charts. I can hardly focus on my work as I stare at everything he's doing. He goes up to ask the barista for something and it sounds just like he does on the radio. Awesome.

As I'm about to leave I know I need to go talk to him so I walk up and say something like, "excuse me, I listen to you every week and I just wanted to say hi and maybe peak over your shoulder at what you're working on."

"Oh, thank you," he says. "Let me show you."

So, he's got a couple of charts on his table. They both feature big numbers colord in red and gold for the Chiefs and orange and blue for the Broncos. Next to each number is the player's name, college, years in the league, etc., grouped like a depth chart. He explains that he does this all week and Tuesday is the opponent's offense and Wednesday is their defense and Friday is the day he puts it all together.

He says he lays out the stats and interesting facts in different colors. One color for careers numbers, one color for stats against the opposing team, and another for this season. He says, "let's find something interesing."

"Oh, here we go. Jason Elam. He's killed the Chiefs over the years. He holds the record for the longest field goal with that guy from the Saints in 1970. He hit game winners against the Chiefs in '94 and '98 (those years are made up, I don't remember what they were), and he's 46 for 56 in his career. He's scored more points against the Chiefs than any other human.

Here's Tony Gonzalez. He's having an amazing year and he's had 21 career 100 yard games. But...the Chiefs are only 10-11 in those games so what does that mean? It means he can only take you so far but you've got to have help from some other guys" as he points to Dwayne Bowe and some other players. This won't make sense to anybody that hasn't listened to him but it was exactly like he sounds when he is on the radio. I mean, I can almost guarantee that I will turn on the radio on Sunday and he will say almost exactly the same thing at some point. So, we talk a little more about that stuff and what all he tries to do with it all. He said, "so, it's kind of like I'm preparing for my final exam. Except it's open book. But, it's extemporaneous."

"Yeah, and you've got thousands of people grading it" I say.

He asks if I'm a student and I tell him that I went to ISU and now I'm at KU and he asks where I'm from. I say I'm close to Hutchinson and he starts naming off smaller towns and asks which one. I say, "Inman."

"Ah, the Teutons. What year did you graduate."

"Wow, I guess I should have known that you would know it. I graduated in '99"

"OK, didn't you have a guy that went on to play at West Point?"

"Umm, he actually played at Navy but his sister played at West Point."

"Oh, OK, what was his name?"

I tell him the name and he remembers him. Then I say I played with another guy that went on to start at Air Force and he remembers him as well. I felt bad being such a huge fanboy so I said I'd let him get back to work and of course he said it was great meeting me and all that crap but wow. I mean, he was such an awesome guy with such a great sports memory. One of the things I love about him is that in every game if there is a player from either team that grew up or played college in what he calls the "Chiefs Kingdom" (basically Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, and Oklahoma) he always brings it up. What makes it especially cool is that he grew up in Smith Center, Kansas, whose football team was, honest to God, a front page, full color picture, story in the New York Times today. I could post all kinds of crazy stats about them but I won't right now (except they've outscored everyone 704-0 this year).

Anyway, I know it makes me sound like such a huge nerd that I'm this excited that I got a chance to talk to him but I think he's really one of the best broadcasters out there and he was such a cool guy to talk to. I really think if I wanted to be an ass and monopolize his time he would have let me because he just seemed like that great of a guy. So, in honor of Mitch here's what I consider his signature Chiefs call (although one of his K-State calls was immortalized on a t-shirt this is what he will be known for) "Touchdown Kan-sas City! Touchdown Priest Holmes!"

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2 Comments:

Blogger Shawn said...

That sounds wayyy better than any "celebrity" run in I've ever had. Not only is he a local celebrity, but one doing something that is interesting, worth talking about, and looks like the coolest job in the world.

And he knew the Teutons? Serious? This guy sounds like a stud. And I bet you weren't really bothering him- it likely helped him to articulate some of the facts he was processing. The Cheifs Nation thanks you, B Combs.

9:51 AM  
Blogger Shawn said...

And I went ahead and misspelled the Chiefs. Nice.

9:51 AM  

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