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Champion online exclusive: Steinmeyer's favorite post is about a promising young athlete stricken with bone cancer. Read more »
This article appeared in the Summer 2011 issue of Champion magazine.
By David Pickle
Many coaches are men of their word, but Northwest Missouri State women’s basketball coach Gene Steinmeyer is a man of his words.
Northwest Missouri State women's basketball coach Gene Steinmeyer has written almost 100 posts for his blog.
Steinmeyer has had a good run as coach of the Bearcats, who were among the last teams standing at the 2011 Division II Women’s Elite Eight. He has won 514 games over his 26-year career.
But Steinmeyer’s inner writer emerged a couple of years ago when he started a blog that appears weekly on the Northwest Missouri State website. The posts generally relate to something happening with the Bearcat program, but Steinmeyer’s blog isn’t really a recruiting or promotional tool. It’s more like folksy literature.
He has written on everything from Little League Baseball to challenging experiences with players to bad behavior at basketball camps to former players who have died from cancer. His only formal training is from a single, long-ago journalism course at Nebraska.
Gene Steinmeyer doesn’t believe his former boss read his blog until the great pizza caper of 2009.
A Northwest Missouri State rival came to Maryville and beat the Bearcats by 22 points. It was over Christmas, so the Northwest coaches had arranged for postgame pizza for the Bearcats.
“My assistant, a most pleasant person who never gets upset, comes storming into my office after the game and says, ‘Do you know they stole our pizza?’ ” Steinmeyer said. “Well, it must be a mix-up, I said. And he goes, ‘No, I went down there and confronted them, and the head coach blew me off.’
“Now I’m fired up. So I go down there and say to the coach, what are you guys doing? And he just laughed it off. So to make a long story short – well, I never make a story short – I wrote a blog about it. And I didn’t get mad about it or anything. I just simply said in the last paragraph that they kicked our butts and then stole our pizza.”
The local paper noted the “theft” and then a mention worked its way onto a TV report, which found its way back to the other school – and then back to then-Bearcat AD Bob Boerigter after he fielded a call from the other team’s angry athletics director.
“I get a call – come see Bob,” Steinmeyer said. “So I go trudging in the office thinking I’m really going to get it. And he’s there just laughing his head off, and he said, ‘I’ve got one request. I want you to change one word on your blog.’ I said, ‘OK, what is it?’ And he said, ‘Instead of saying they stole your pizza, I want you to say they took your pizza.’
“So I did, and I think that’s the first blog that Bob ever read.”
“My last story, I got a perfect grade on it,” Steinmeyer said. “It was a first-person story – like a blog. This was back in the ’70s. I was a baseball card collector – I was a kid. The topic was ‘How come I got five Virgil Trucks and I never got a Mickey Mantle?’ And I actually called Virgil Trucks and interviewed him. I called information, and I said, ‘I know you’re going to think this is somebody pulling a prank on you, but I want the number for Virgil Trucks in Birmingham, Ala.’ She took a second and then she came on laughing saying, ‘Do you want Junior or Senior?’ ”
The original plan at Northwest Missouri State was for Sports Information Director Bryan Boettcher to blog about women’s basketball, but Assistant AD Lori Hopkins shamed Steinmeyer into doing his own work. After all, she said, Sherri Coale had her own blog at Oklahoma. Since then, Steinmeyer has cranked out almost 100 posts, managing to keep his confidence in check along the way.
“When I write it, I think it’s awful, and then when I re-read it, I think, well, maybe somebody will like it,” he said. The only exception is Blog No. 81. Steinmeyer liked that one right way.
“My absolute favorite, the one I knew I had nailed the second I wrote it, it was called ‘When the Nets Came Down for Brenda,’ ” he said. “I get a few comments now and then emailed to me about my blog and stuff, but that one, I got a bunch.”
As well he should have. The post was a wonderful 2,100-word tale of a promising young athlete stricken with bone cancer. Like all good stories, it had a beginning, a middle and an especially poignant end.
So far, the only modern affectation for “Stein’s Blog” is its digitally exclusive form. There is no complete archive, and it is not promoted through social media. But Steinmeyer does have his loyal followers.
“A couple of weeks ago, my wife let me know that Gene had posted a new blog,” said Bob Boerigter, Steinmeyer’s former AD and now commissioner of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association. “She really looks forward to them.”
Not every scribe can point to a fan base.