Monday, February 19, 2018

Wichita sports villains: Why Pecher is No. 1

Just look at this picture for a minute.
That's Steve Pecher, former St. Louis Steamer and longtime nemesis of the Wichita Wings. He helped spark the most devastating loss in Wings history. The Steamers remained Wichita's most hated rival throughout the 1980s, and Pecher was there the whole time. He always got rough defending our beloved Andy Chapman, and he once went into the stands to take a swing at a Wings fan.
Look at this picture again. Let's face it. Steve Pecher was a prick.
After interviewing Pecher last week for our Wings documentary (by the way, he's a bigger guy than I thought), I stated on Twitter that when it came to Wichita sports villains, Pecher was No. 1.
Nobody argued with that - the Wings remain the city's only major league franchise, after all - but I do think it's worth considering who his competition might be.

None. Wichita has always been a minor league city, and any opposing player who was a major league prospect wasn't around long enough to really remember.

None. (See baseball.)

None. Never forget, this is a town that let a Division I football program slip away forever.

Now we're talking.
The first guy who comes to my mind is Ben Jacobson, a Northern Iowa guard who always seemed to break the heart of some pretty good Wichita State teams with moments like this.
But that could be because I covered the Shockers throughout Jacobson's career. Cases could reasonably be made for a lot of Shocker conference opponents: Oscar Robertson (Cincinnati), Larry Bird (Indiana State), Hersey Hawkins (Bradley), Doug McDermott (Creighton) - guys like that.
Tulsa coach Nolan Richardson, with his flashy outfits and loose tongue, was great fun for WSU fans to cheer against in the early '80s. But he's remembered mainly for his 17-year run at Arkansas that followed.
The strongest case for Wichita's top basketball villain is probably Greg Dreiling.
First of all, he went to Kapaun Mount Carmel. If there's one thing I know about Kapaun, it's that everyone considers the Crusaders a rival.
Secondly, he was 7-foot-1. As Wilt Chamberlain famously said, nobody cheers for Goliath.
Third, he committed a cardinal sin in the minds of many. He transferred from Wichita State to play for the University of Kansas.
However ... there are plenty of Kapaun and KU fans in Wichita who are perfectly fine with Dreiling, who went on to be a journeyman in the NBA. Besides, Dreiling never owned the sports villain role the way Steve Pecher did. And still does.

You may be happy to learn that Pecher was not a prick when we interviewed him in St. Louis. Yes, he was cocky when talking about the rivalry with the Wings, but it was in a humorous kind of way. He was an absolutely gracious host, and he's grateful that we're preserving a piece of sports history in which he was heavily involved.
We need villains in sports. We also need villains in movies. So to that I say, thank heaven for Steve Pecher.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

"How come you need all this money???"

I imagine there are people who might sit back in their easy chair and think, "How come these fellas need all this money to make a piddly little documentary about an indoor soccer team here in Wichita? Can't they just slap together some old highlight films and call it good?"

No. No, we can't. If we wanted to string together some highlight films and call it a documentary, we'd throw it up on YouTube next week and be done with all this. What we are doing is making a movie that is indistinguishable from the kind of product you would see on an ESPN 30 for 30. We are following the same principles that Frank Carney and Bill Kentling pursued in the early 1980s with the Wings: prove that Wichita can compete with LA, NYC, Dallas, and Chicago. Go big or go home. We're going big.

In a sense, I can understand the reluctance that some people might have about the cost of this project, and contributing to it. "Send those guys to Europe?!? That sounds like a vacation!" If we could somehow avoid the cost of traveling to Europe and shooting all those great Wings, we'd do it. But that's not possible because there need to be people behind those cameras.

I didn't realize the costs involved in this kind of project until I started working with directors Kenny and Adam. Consider these points:

1. The camera package we use to shoot this film cost about $20,000. Much of that came out of the pocket of one of our crew members over the course of the last few years. I mean, we could use cheap stuff...but it would look cheap. Go big or go home.

2. We recently upgraded our sound. Out of his own pocket, a crew member bought a $1,000 wireless mic for our interviews. It sounds fantastic (for that much, I would sure hope so). Our production team rents it from him for each interview, to defray that cost.

3. For the book, I interviewed the lads over the phone. No one knew the difference. But you can bet your bottom dollar you would know the difference in a film. Do you really want to look at a Skype interview with Andy Chapman? No one does. The ladies want to see him in HD! And guess what...Chico Borja is in Florida. Chapman is in Detroit. Terry Nicholl is in Ohio. We have to go to them or they have to come to us. If we go to them, there need to be at least two of us to operate the cameras, monitor the audio, and conduct the interview. Either way, there will be plane tickets, hotel rooms, equipment rental, and car rental expenses. 

4. You want to see Mike Dowler, right? He's in Wales. How about Erik Rasmussen? When he's not in west Africa, he's in Denmark. 

5. You don't want to pursue an endeavor like this without forming an LLC, and one with multiple partners to boot. That means you need an operating agreement...which means you need an attorney. Even with discounted rates, "that's not nothing," as a friend of mine likes to say.

6. Do you just want a series of interviews (zzzzZZZZ) or do you want something innovative? We came up with a music video concept, complete with models dressed as Wings Angels. Even when we wing it, it's not cheap...ask Kenny about his redneck smoke machine. And those ladies don't work for free. But the film crew does. We don't get paid a dime unless this film makes money. At least we have some incentive to create a cool movie!

7. Also, do you know how much it costs to hire stormtroopers? Their overtime pay is through the roof...

When it comes down to it, we're going to make this film regardless of how much money we raise. It means a lot to all of us. We know it means a lot to the people of Wichita. But it also can mean something to people who never experienced it. A quick story: At our recent event at Aero Plains Brewing, one of our promo models, who was born too late to be a Wings fan, said to me, "I'm sad that I couldn't see it all happen when it did. I wish they were still here!" She was excited about a defunct indoor soccer team because the story is worth telling. We hope that sentiment catches hold when our documentary film is released. And if you are able, we hope you can help contribute to the cause!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Wichita Wings: the Hollywood blockbuster - Part I

We're not hiring Hollywood stars to make a fictional version of the 1980s Wings story. But what if we were?

Roy Turner would be portrayed by...

the English actor Dominic West (from HBO's The Wire)

 Kim Roentved portrayed by... 

Game of Thrones star Kit Harington

General Manager Bill Kentling portrayed by... 

Hangover star Zach Galifianakis

Star forward Andy Chapman portrayed by... 

Hawaii Five-0's Scott Caan

To be continued...

Saturday, October 21, 2017

What my book looks like

This is the copy of "Make This Town Book" I obtained when we agreed to take on this Wichita Wings documentary project. I hope the co-authors aren't too upset with me. It's been dog-eared to death, with coffee stains and placeholders all over the pages.
Really, they should take that as a compliment. This book is a blueprint for the documentary, after all. This is proof that I've not only read it, but I've studied it for scenes.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

A Milestone: 600

Of all the people that attended Wings games in the '80s, how many are still interested in the Wings? How many are readers? How many have the disposable income to buy a big fat book? How many will hear about its publication? All these questions were unknowable a couple years ago. Needless to say, I am pleasantly surprised to have just sold our 600th copy of Make This Town Big: The Story of Roy Turner and the Wichita Wings.

It makes me wonder how many people will see our film upon completion. A lot more people watch movies than read books, so the film is bound to be more popular. We do not yet know how the film will be distributed (hey, ESPN's 30 for YOU doin'?) Regardless of where it ends up, it's reasonable to assume more people will watch the documentary film than read the book. Since we are evangelists for the Wings, our utmost desire is to spread the indoor soccer gospel far and wide. All I know is that as the producer of the film, I have seen most of the footage we have shot so far. Let me tell you folks, you will not be disappointed in the final product. I promise you that it will do justice to the memory of the Wings and what they meant to Wichita. It will show the rich history of the team, but it's not just a history. It will make you laugh (in a good way!) and it might even make you cry. Am I overselling it? I hope not!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Our mini-flyers

Here are the mini-flyers that co-director Kenny Linn and I had last weekend at the Austin Revolution Film Festival, where our previous documentary "Out Here In Kansas" was incredibly well received.
We also passed these out at our event at Aero Plains Brewery a couple of weeks ago (although we hadn't put the stickers on them yet). I'm pleased to say that I gave out the very first flyer to Wichita Wings legend Kim Roentved, who drove down from Kansas City for the festivities.
If you'd like some flyers of your own, just let us know.

Monday, September 25, 2017

The future of Wichita pro soccer

From 1979 to 2001, pro soccer in Wichita meant "The Wings." After a 10 year absence, the return of the Wings heralded new beginnings for professional soccer in Wichita. The four years of the new Wings and the B52s whet the appetite of soccer fans in this town. The 2011-12 season yielded several sellouts of Hartman Arena. Talented players from around the US, and several from Brazil, gave old Wings fans something to celebrate. It seemed that pro soccer might be back for the long haul. As we know, it didn't last. The Wings and their successor team, the B52s, were gone by 2015.

But thanks to Blake Shumaker and other investors, our city gained a new team in the form of FC Wichita. Though this team has thrilled its fans with excellent play on the field, it plays in the NPSL, which is a league composed mainly of amateur college players. Recent news that the city of Wichita will be constructing a new dual-use stadium to replace the venerable Lawrence-Dumont ballpark has the potential to change the soccer landscape in this town. The USL has expressed interest in bringing Wichita into its new Division III league that targets cities between 150,000 and 1,000,000 people.

The USL requires that owners have $10 million in assets. That is certainly a wise decision on their part. Consider this: the Wichita Wings never made a profit in their 22 years of existence. What made the Wings work, in a financial sense, was that prominent local businessmen saw the team a point of Wichita pride. They were willing to continue to lose money as long as the people of Wichita were willing to come out to see them play. The diminished salaries of modern indoor soccer put profitability within reach for a new team. But make no mistake, professional soccer in Wichita is not a business one should enter in order to make money.

What to do? Wichita is underserved when it comes to professional sports. An affiliated baseball team and a professional USL team would go a long way to help that problem. But where does indoor soccer fit in? In Cedar Rapids, the Rampage compete in the Major Arena Soccer League and also field an amateur outdoor team in the summer. That model could work for Wichita; a USL franchise coupled with an indoor team. Players could live and play here year round. One management team could run both franchises. We already know that FC Wichita wants to grow into a professional team. Soccer fans could spend their winters at Hartman (or maybe even Intrust Arena) and their summers on Roy Turner Field in Delano. I believe that an outdoor team needs the Wings brand to help build success. The 2011 Wings managed to sellout Hartman Arena several times with very little marketing. The Wings name helped make that happen.

The backers for this already exist here in Wichita. Our community has a multitude of wealthy businessmen who could afford to make this a reality. But they would need support from the fans. Numerous season tickets would need to be sold. Perhaps most importantly, the right management team would need to be found that would guide these franchises forward. The Wings had Roy Turner and Bill Kentling. These new teams would need a similar duo who could promote and manage these clubs with skill and efficiency. When the Wings returned in 2011, the team missed an opportunity to promote individual players in the way that the old Wings did in the 1980s. Sure, none of those guys were Chico Borja, but they had legitimate talent on those teams. People want to connect with individual players and follow their progress. Kids want posters in their bedroom. The fans in Wichita deserve quality professional soccer. But those regular folks, and the business community that serves them, need to show that they will spend the money to make this happen.