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My Personal Top Ten Moments of 2012

It is New Year’s Eve, which of course means a time of anticipation of the year to come, but also a reflection on the year that has passed. And what a year 2012 was for those of us in UK and KSR land. The national championship ensured that 2012 will live forever in the minds of Big Blue Nation, but it was also a special year around KSR as well. Drew Franklin will be around a little later with the Top 100 Moments of the Year for UK fans, but this afternoon I hope you will allow me to be a little personal (this is a blog after all) and give some stories/pictures from an amazing year that has passed. So in a year full of great times and moments, here are my picks for the Best 10 events of the year the Mayans said would end us all:


10. Salon.Com on KSR at the Final Four

The Final Four was a pretty amazing time for those of us at KSR (more on that later), but one thing we didn’t expect was to be a large part of a “Behind the Scenes” look at the media covering the event. Soon after I arrived in New Orleans, I met Brian Weinberg, a writer for who told me he was writing about sports journalism in the new media age. We had a nice conversation and saw each other at various points during the week. I looked forward to reading his article (which can be read here if you missed it), but was a bit taken aback when I saw this section in its initial paragraphs:

Matt Jones is the chief media villain at the Final Four, the creator of a fan website/blog devoted to the University of Kentucky. The misleadingly named gets up to 150,000 unique visitors per day, and, as Jones likes to brag, it looks like it was produced on an Atari. A cherubic 34-year-old with a Duke law degree, Jones and his KSR writers popularized the slogan “Louisville doesn’t exist.” But Jones is a smart, media-savvy guy, and it’s his relentless criticism of nationally esteemed basketball writers like Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports and Pete Thamel of the New York Times that has earned him outcast status in arena workrooms.

Besides teaching us all what “cherubic” means, the article actually is a good look at the current sports media world and includes some great anecdotes for fans (the Seth Davis interaction with teenage girls is priceless). I had never before been called a “chief media villain”, but if the shoe fits, I guess one should wear it.

9. Getting to Know Vitale

We all grow up with childhood heroes, people you look up to and hope to emulate. For many of us, those heroes are athletes but I realized at an early age that my future was not going to be playing the sports that I so loved to watch. So my heroes were those that athletes and commentators who made sports fun to be around. Every time I knew that Charles Barkley, John McEnroe, Tony Kornheiser or Dick Vitale would be on a television screen or radio dial, I found a way to watch or listen, because I found each endlessly entertaining. This year was the year that I became fortunate enough to get to know one of those people personally. Dick Vitale is known nationwide as the voice of college basketball, an infusion of energy into the sport who has created his own universal vocabulary of “Diaper Dandy”. “PTP er” and “Its AWESOME BABY!” But I know him as one of the kindest souls that I have ever been around, who devotes his life to helping children struggling with cancer and other diseases. Vitale has come on our radio shows, spoken in Lexington and sent shouts out on Twitter, but more importantly to me, he has opened my eyes to what true kindness and generosity is in a public position. Listening to him break down on radio talking about a child with cancer is humbling and it has been a pleasure this year to get to know a man who was once my hero because of his tv persona, but now is because of his life’s work.

8. UK Pregame Show Excitement

How many people get to live their dream? Unfortunately, not many but I can honestly say that it has happened for me. When I sat down with Oscar Combs before the Norwood exhibition game and was able to host the official UK Pregame Radio Show, a moment beyond my wildest imagination was realized. I grew up listening to Cawood on the radio and reading Oscar in print. Two mountain boys who grew up to be Kentucky legends were my lifelines to the team I loved more than any and both were part of the games I so enjoyed. Now as an adult, not only do I get to be a part of the same show, I get to do it while hosting as one once did and sitting next to the other. It truly is a dream come true and the fact that I get to share it with a man as kind, thoughtful and hilarious as my friend Oscar Combs…well it doesn’t get much better than that.

7. Stoops Press Conference

Football was beyond depressing for most of this year and with the possible exception of doing the KSR Pregame Show, attending the games became a tedious affair. However the end of the year saw life in the program after the hiring of Mark Stoops. I always liked the idea of Stoops when I first heard about him and after the hire, I became completely sold. Then, nearly five days after we found out his name, he arrived on campus and things just felt different. The press conference was packed with former players and alumni, and there was a palpable feeling that things could be different. He said all the right stuff, his family looked sweet decked out in blue and the players seemed excited about their new leader. But most importantly, a new energy found its way into UK football with a spirit that hasn’t really been evident since KSR has existed. For the first time, I am genuinely pumped for a new football season and am even following football recruiting (something I swore I would never do). Mark Stoops has arrived and with it, the idea that UK football can be relevant. That is a heck of an achievement.

(I found this picture and had to use it, as it represents a happier time with the Boogie that UK fans fell in love with)

6. Calipari Fantasy Camp

Don’t get me wrong. I know what you are thinking because I thought the same thing. The Calipari “Fantasy Camp” sounds like the lamest idea in creation, with a bunch of old men reliving their youth (or the youth they wish they had) by acting like Kentucky basketball players for three days instead of living in the real world. I was totally with you. But then I was fortunate enough to be asked to participate and I have to say…it was one of the best experiences of my life. Yes, the whole facade of being a Kentucky basketball player was amazing. We got the uniforms, the shoes (which gave me bloody feet), the locker room, the game at Rupp Arena, working out with the former UK stars, being coached by coaching legends (in my case John Lucas, who never stopped yelling at me) and being pampered as never before. It was awesome. But it was also great to once again play on a team, meet a number of fascinating people and get a behind the scenes look at what a program like UK is really like. Throw in a Dick Vitale speech that made me cry, a chance to have my shot blocked by Walter McCarty and a radio show in which John Robic crushed my basketball game to a statewide audience, and it may have been one of the best four day periods of my life. I can’t wait to do it again.

5. KSR Statewide Radio Tour

While 2009 was the year that the KSR blog took off (thanks to Billy Gillispie firing, John Calipari hiring and the Wall/Cousins phenomenon), 2012 was the year that the Radio show hit its stride. We added affiliates across the state, totaling 20 by the end of the year. We saw the online users hit record numbers and we remained the #1 college sports show on iTunes. And for the first time, we won our time slot in Louisville, beating all music channels and talk shows in the key demographics. But the best part of the experience for all of us was the tour across the state to 15 of our affiliates. During three weeks in July and August, we traveled from Pikeville to Madisonville to Somerset to Morganfield and all points in between to do shows throughout the state. From a boat dock in Monticello to a country kitchen in Morgantown to a Burger King in Columbia, we visited the entire state and got to see how many KSR fans exist throughout. Crowds ranged from 25 to 125, and each show gave us a chance to meet fans who listen to us every day. There is nothing I like better than going to small towns across the state and seeing the quirks of each one. The radio tour was a great chance to do that and meet all forms of UK fans, including our Sons of Anarchy friend above who showed up at Mr Gatti’s in Somerset and was immediately hired as the official bodyguard of KSR for all future UL games.

4.The West Liberty Relief Show

As we were trying to determine how to end the radio tour, one of our favorite callers “Rose” suggested we come to West Liberty and do a show from the town devastated by the March tornado. We loved the idea and turned it into a fundraising tornado relief show that could be used to help in the rebuilding. I asked John Calipari if he would call into the show, and he did what John Calipari always does…that and more. He suggested he fly in and do the show live, and in so doing, he created a great moment for the area. The town turned out to see the coach and he showcased his amazing generosity by agreeing to match up to $25,000 in radio caller donations. The KSR fanbase exceeded that call, raising $65,000 and producing what was the most rewarding day of radio that I have ever been a part of. The sights of the town of West Liberty coming out to see their coach, John Calipari interacting with the Morgan County football team and the tears of joy from Rose as she got to hug “her man John” after the show are all moments that I will never forget. KSR has created a ton of memories for me with its fun and ridiculousness, but there may not be a memory I cherish more than that Friday in August in West Liberty.

3. Final Four Week in New Orleans

I am not sure there will ever be another week like the one we had in March/April in New Orleans. After waiting for a title for 14 years and then having to beat Louisville to do it, the anticipation of that week was unlike any other. Throughout the five days in New Orleans leading up to the UK-UL game, I was a nervous wreck. The thought of losing to Louisville was more than I could bear and the group of Card fans who were lining Bourbon Street and yelling at Drew and I did not help. But the Cats got through the rivalry game and things immediately got fun. Even though a game with Kansas remained, Cats fans knew our destiny. We flooded New Orleans on that Sunday and Monday for what was a pre-celebration to #8. The scene above was at the bar Walk-Ons on the Monday of the national title game, as we did our morning radio show. As Drew and I walked to the bar and saw fans literally lined up around the block, we looked at each other with a shocked expression and then just smiled, a memory I will keep for a long time. A crowd of nearly 500 packed the bar at 9 am local time in Louisiana to listen to the show, while others were turned away due to space. The party during that show is one that I will never forget. Fans knew what to come and the place was electric. During the show, I got a text message from Ian Eagle, who was listening in New York and just said to me, “sit back, look around and remember this moment.” I did…and it was only the second best one of the night.

2. Trophy Tour Across the State

After the Cats won the Championship, John Calipari did his customary “above and beyond the call of duty” action by deciding to take a bus tour across the state to show the trophy off to the Big Blue masses. I was invited to document the trip and over the course of two days, the blue bus rode to Ashland, Pikeville, Hazard, detoured to get on a train to Midway and Frankfort, then kept going to Elizabethtown, Bowling Green and Owensboro. At each stop, thousands of people arrived to get their picture taken with the trophy and shake hands with the coach who made it happen. It was fascinating to watch Calipari genuinely thrilled to meet the fans and share this with them. He often stopped the bus, just so he could run into a random gas station, McDonalds or Shoneys, and show it off to another group of unsuspecting fans. I have never seen him happier and more energetic. And the fans of the Big Blue Nation responded as well. At each stop, people were thrilled, hugging the coaches, Assistants, trainers and anyone else that was a part of the entire process. While there were a number of funny moments (including the terror at one point when people thought the trophy had been lost), the trip was most memorable to me for how it showcased just what this program means to the state and its people.

1. National Title Night

During both games of the Final Four, I was a nervous wreck. The UK-Louisville game was too much for me to handle, so I left the arena and watched it at a bar (they did better as soon as I exited). The UK-Kansas game was a bit less stressful, but I still spent the whole second half pacing in the aisle. However after it ended, the elation of everyone involved was something to behold. We were on the court as the trophy was presented, nets were cut down and tears were shed. As Kentucky fans stayed to chant “Go Big Blue” into the night, I was able to do something eight year old Matt Jones would have never imagined…stand on the court while Kentucky celebrated a national title. After it was over, Oscar Combs came up to me with the biggest smile imaginable on his face and said, “cherish this…it doesn’t happen too often.” I certainly did and the aftermath of that moment, the postgame show after (where Calipari, Tom Leach, Mike Pratt, Seth Davis and others spoke to UK fans and multiple callers shed tears while talking) and the Bourbon Street celebration into the night will live with me forever. I took two of my favorite pictures I of the year occurred that night as well. I caught Calipari, Doron Lamb and John Robic watching “One Shining Moment” on the big screen.

And then, moments before the postgame show started, I saw Darius Miller, sitting by himself, clutching the championship trophy. I shook his hand and asked to take a picture for KSR. His eyes lit up and he smiled. It was a perfect symbol of an amazing year and my top moment of 2012.

Article written by Matt Jones

37 responses to “My Personal Top Ten Moments of 2012”

  1. soggyUKgrad

    articles like this are why I come to KSR everyday. well done!!! what a fantastic year!!

  2. CatFanInSTL

    Awesome read Matt. Your podcasts & this site make the days brighter in this miserable city. Thanks for all you and your crew do for us.

  3. jimmy dinklewinker

    Thank you Matt, great article, great year thank you to all you guys at KSR for sharing UK with us. You are so fortunate, but stay so grounded. Awesome year, I hate to say goodbye to it!

  4. Drew Blue

    Nice job Matt and keep up the good work. Great summary of 2012. Here’s to 2013 and #9 !!

  5. Ryan Harrows Flu Bug

    Great article Matt!

  6. mark

    2012 was a great year to be a Cat fan. Thanks for helping us relive it!

  7. CatfanInO'boro

    great article, great year..
    like #3 says, you are living the dream, thanks for covering the Cats from so many perspectives for all of us to hear/read.

    love your #1 pic of Darius Miller. Talk about someone who lived thru some of the high’s and low’s of Kentucky Basketball.. Not to mention a Kentucky kid who grew up a Wildcat!

  8. Maxwell

    Such an amazing read. It’s funny how number 8 never really sank in for me, and all of a sudden it’s another season and another year. I was so nervous during every game I could barely enjoy it!

  9. tyrus

    Thanks for taking us fans places we’ve never been before. I really enjoy your behind the scenes reporting. Keep it going Matt the Villain.

  10. Harry

    Your ability to narrate championship experience feels like I was there through it all. Thank you!

  11. BigBlueFan

    A story I would like to share is that of the Trophy Tour. While I live in Northern Kentucky and was unable to have this opportunity to see the trophy a good friend of ours had one amazing story about it. She has a younger brother who has a severe case of down syndrome. When the time came for the trophy to come he was unable to attend because of his disability. He lived very close to the celebration so he was able to watch from afar. As the celebration ended Orlando Antigua noticed him sitting at the end of his driveway. Coach O walked up and he knew exactly who it was. He look Antigua in the eyes and said, “Meet Coach Cal.” Antigua smiled and said he would be back. As the bus started to pull away it stopped in front of his house. The bus doors opened and there was Coach Cal with the trophy in hand. Our friend said she had never seen her brother grin so large in her life. Coach Cal took a few pictures and then told him, “Keep on cheering for our Cats.”

    This is a story I felt is important to tell because most college coaches would not do that. It is a close second for my favorite part of 2012. Please remember to cherish every moment you get and have a very Happy New Year.

  12. Buckets

    No radio show today? Booooooooo! I need my KSR podcasts!

  13. Radio Ron

    Excellent post Matt! Thanks for taking this UK fan (since 1946) along for a fantastic ride on KSR and KSTV in 2012! Here’s to an even better 2013, if that’s possible.
    Radio Ron

  14. We Hang Banners

    Matt, all i can say is wow. Great post as always, BBN lets ride the hype all the way in 2013.

  15. bluetooth

    thanks matt for a great year on ksr . keep it up . continue to grow and prosper

  16. bigabes4uk

    It was a hell of a year! Thanks for Matt for going back over it all with your unique views and insight to all that goes on behinds the scenes. It’s especially awesome for out of state fans like myself! Happy New Year All and here’s to another great one in ’13!

  17. KSR Fan

    Thanks, Matt, for making it even more fun to be a Wildcat fan! I felt like I lived those moments with you by listening to your show and reading the blog multiple times each day! May 2013 be another banner year for KSR!

  18. kramer

    Thanks Matt for this, I found myself in tears remembering how much fun this past year was!!!! I hope that KSR, UK and all BBN have many more to come!

  19. ukcatfan36

    Matt, thanks a lot for KSR, both radio and website–I spend more thim here than anywhere else online. Your article describing the top 10 events of 2012 was so great! It made me feel happy and proud to be a Wilcat Fan and a member of the BBN–you know ther’s nothing else like it in sports. The trip to West Liberty, and the trophy tour–Awesome moments exemplyfying the love the fans have for BIG BLUE. You want to know how great UK fans are? Ypu may be too young to remember this but in 1982-Jerry Claiborne’s 1st year at UK-we were 0-9-1 (or clost to it) and we took 10.000 fans to Knoxville for the final game. NO OTHER school with that record would travel that well. I’ll never forget that!! GO CATS!!!

  20. Nashville Cat Mama

    Great post, Matt. My favorite show of the year was the day after the trophy tour. I’ve saved that podcast to savor it. Yes, the morning after the championship was special, too, but the stories of the trophy tour made me laugh more. Thanks for all you do and especially for this post and re-living it helps us do.

  21. sgt. stadenko

    #7. Hell yes. I love that Darius Miller picture with the net and trophy. To me Darius is up there with the unforgettables….A ky boy like many of us, grew up dreaming he could one day play for UK. He realized that dream only to be a victim of circumstances beyond his control. Freshman year was the BCG experiment. Then in comes Calipari with a new offense, recruiting philosophy, etc. Miller, again, keeps his nose to the grindstone, doesn’t complain not one time, and makes the best of it. By his senior year, most of us didn’t realize how important he really was to the UK program. We found out during the 2011-2012 season though. He was the glue and veteran presence that helped keep this team tight through thick and thin. He was also known to make a play or two from time to time :). He is one of my all time favorites, up there with hayes, walker, mashburn, and macy. I would love to see him get into coaching one day when his playing career is over. Always a true ambassador to the University of Kentucky and its bball program. Good luck Darius in 2013 and beyond.

  22. Bigcat4453

    If stories like that, Bigbluefan, don’t well up pride in you, then you better have your pulse checked.

    I’m very proud that we have a man with Coach Cal character in charge of our program!

    Thanks for sharing your story! 😉

  23. Jordan

    teared up just reading all of that. GO BIG BLUE!!!

  24. Captain Wildcat

    Thanks for helping us feel a part of it Matt.

  25. Bama84

    Matt, thanks for sharing your experiences. I look forward to your posts daily. I appreciate your views and am thankful you are a proud member of the BBN.

  26. spookykim

    Great read & this is why this is the best UK website out there. Look forward to spending 2013 right here on KSR. You’re the best, Matt; thank you!

  27. Class

    Good job Matt! I teared up a little just at the memories! It has been a great year for us, and I am blessed to be apart of the Big Blue Nation!

  28. Blake

    Great year. It’s great to see someone thankful of their lot and appreciative of the moment. Keep up the great work.

  29. LuckFouisville

    Wow. Great article Matt. Literally brought me to tears reliving all the great moments.

  30. GrumpyOldDude

    Will post it again, since it was censored….thanks SO much for reminding me about how NKY got hosed on the trophy tour. Try remembering there is a section of the state north of Lexington next time and try coming here when you’re not being paid.

  31. Brady

    Articles like this make me appreciate bleeding blue. Thanks Matt, love the work.

  32. howdy doody

    Is this a personal bragfest for Howdy Doody Matt Jones……I think so ….. why do all the kids work for free for you is it the candy?…..One day Matt you just might make it stepping on the backs of others and using people and politics for your own personal gain….but then again the inmates might get smart and overtake the asylum like some of your former cronies did….This is a wake up call to you Drew, you have more talent in your pinkie finger than this self diluded, image obsessed diva you and Tyler T and the kids bow dow to. Get out while you can! You have the talent…don’t let Howdy Doody Jones use you for his personal gaines.

  33. Stevie

    Just want to thank Matt for posting this again so everyone can tell him how great he is. #annoyed

  34. Joe

    I keep going back to that photo of a young Darius Miller with Tony Delk. How prophetic it turned out to be.

  35. PinkUKfan

    2012 was the year I discovered KSR from a friend/fellow UK alum. I listen at work when I can, and as an out-of-stater, it has made me a more educated, involved, and passionate fan than I was before. This article was great, Matt. Keep up the great work in 2013, and Go Cats! #datememattjones

  36. Zo

    Good job my friend.It hit was a great year for all sports at the University of Kentucky.Darius Miller deserves that trophy more than anybody on that spuad last year.When these dudes step their game up,and learn each others strenghts and help your brother,we will see a scary team come March.Scary good.I get the idea that we haven’t seen nothing yet.I could be wrong.People need to get off Coach Cal’s back.People that hate don’t really see the big picture here.We have paid our dues and now it our time to shine,so sit back and enjoy the ride and build memories.Poythress” will be fine”….lol

  37. alexcCATS

    Great article Matt. This is why i came to love reading KSR, because of your Sunday night recap posts, and now you occasional insights. But really the love i have for the site is because of the articles like today. Where you write about the fan base, and your perspective as a fan, because it touches us all in the same way, and gives us hope/joy to hear one of our own experience everything we dream about.

    Thanks and Keep it up.