Andy Russell came from Ocean Beach—or as he calls it, Baja La Jolla. Retired Kaiser-Permanente Dr. Steve Schaefer and his wife, Lynn, drove out from their home on Mount Helix. Dotty and Dick Hanger, perhaps the oldest in the room, live in Topeka but also have a boat docked on Harbor Island, so they made it, too.
Their Kansas Jayhawks were playing for an NCAA basketball title Monday night, and San Diego Barbeque downtown was the place to be.
With owners and KU alumni Cindy and Martin Blair watching the game and their packed “sleazy bar” of Top Gun movie fame, at least 100 Kansas alumni packed several rooms of the 2,000-square-foot restaurant on North Harbor Drive.
Russell, a 1970 KU grad in aeronautical engineering who moved here in 1979, hoped for the best—a furious Jayhawk comeback. But no “Mario’s Miracle” appeared this year as Kentucky won 67-59 in New Orleans.
But Russell still led several dozen fans in a Rock Chalk chant after the game, and Steve (class of 1968) and Lynn (1970) performed the waving wheat (arms high, swaying back and forth) as diners made their departure. A retired teacher (from La Mesa Middle and La Press middle schools), Lynn wore a blouse with a tiny Jayhawk embroidered.
Others wore caps, sweatshirts and even stickers on their heads with the red-blue-and-yellow Jayhawks, including Jon and Kelli Connor of Bay Park and their school-age son Connor, who kept up a steady patter throughout the game.
The Hangers—world traveling sailors and Dick being a former county commissioner in Kansas—were connected to KU by their son, a 1960s Kansas graduate.
The Blairs were just happy to have a bar. It was closed for five months in 2008 after a fire gutted the interior. Martin Blair says it reopened Thanksgiving Day four years ago—with free meals served to the military.
Kansas City Barbeque turns 30 in May 2013, he said. Time enough for another run at a Final Four.
Ken Stone is a 1976 graduate of the University of Kansas.