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Read all the Intern’s offbeats Insights and Observations
Seven years ago today the KSR crew embarked on its maiden road trip to Marshall County’s Hoopfest. The events that transpired are now etched in KSR lore, though remain largely unknown among today’s audience. Until now. Take the ride with the crew here in Part I and look for part II sometime tomorrow or next week or never.
It sounded good in theory: some dudes from an emerging weblog/podcast promising UK sports and recruiting news in the most ridiculous manner known to man taking their act down to Marshall County’s renowned HoopFest. It was to be a cultural and spiritual immersion in the high octane environs of prep hoops; an opportunity to establish the orange circle with headphones brand among the national elite with hard hitting reporting and unique commentary.
Once there, we would abuse our media credentials, gaining access to the country’s top coaches and prospects while getting fat off comped bologna sandwiches and Check Cola. Today Marshall County, tomorrow Letterman, so the script read.
But even the soundest of theories cannot account for the whim of unpredictability. The milkman, the paperboy, the evening TV.
December, 2006. Justin Timberlake was in the process of bringing sexy back, even though Oh Napier had already done so a few months earlier with the hit, “Tubby Cain’t Coach.” Borat was on the big screen carving permanent emotional scars on people who watched the movie with their parents over the holiday. Kentucky football was going Music City Bowling. A gallon of gas set you back a nickel. A shave and a hair cut was still two bits. The US staked its fortunes in foolproof mortgage-based securities, and a website called Kentucky Sports Radio was wrapping up its first full year in operation. The Salad Days, to be sure.
Matt Jones sat in a chair in the corner of an old warehouse turned recording studio beneath the neon glow of downtown Shelbyville. Cloaked in a West Virginia hoodie and slicker pants that neither matched nor jibed, he was exhausted. The toll of the day’s podcast left him tired and he wore a look of mischief then spoke of the same when he asked the crew to join him on a roadtrip to Benton.
See, before the days of jetting off to the Final Four, The Masters and playing patty cake with Roger Federer, KSR had to swindle and shake its way through even the smallest of doors. But the Hoopfest really did seem like a great idea. After all, it was our best chance to watch and interview UK-commit A.J. Stewart, and well, at that point in time that was worth celebrating. Plus Derrick Rose would be there along with Oak Hill’s Brandon Jennings and Nolan Smith, and who knows how many top-level D1 coaches just waiting in line to talk into the KSR microphone that was rescued from a trash can at the WLAP studios. And it was all happening right here in Kentucky!
The crew assembled, westward ho. Matt Jones. Tomlin. Turkey Hunter. John Dubya. Hubby. If Gen. Patton himself had lined us up for close inspection I think he would have come away unutterably pleased. Five 20 somethings driving 3.5 hours to spend a weekend evaluating and chit-chatting high school boys. We were unstoppable.
The purpose of the trip was to find A.J. Stewart. What we found however, was a little piece of ourselves. Battles were fought, hard lessons learned:
Not all high school basketball games are created equal, or even remotely entertaining. Not all bologna sandwiches, are free. And two Leeks don’t always make a right.
Don’t miss TV’s newest hit reality show coming to Bravo on Wednesday Nights:
PITINO & CHAIN
Series synopsis: A wealthy narcissistic coaching icon (Pitino) recruits, and eventually adopts, a lovable but troubled basketball star (Chain). They have nothing in common…except the house they share! WILL these two ever get along? And WHAT will they do next?
Here’s a taste of what to expect from ol’ Pitino and that rascally Chain in Season One.
Clip #1, from Ep 1: “Pilot”
[Pitino arrives home and pulls into his garage. It’s late, around 9pm, and he’s exhausted from a 14 hour day at the office. Loosening his tie he walks in the door.]
PITINO: Chain? I’m home. Did you see the money I left on the counter for pizza? Chain? Chaaaaiiinnnn? You better not have gone to that high school dance, you know that’s against the rules.
[Pitino walks upstairs and knocks on Chain's door. With no response, he opens the door and is instantaneously hit by a falling bucket of water, leaving him drenched from head to toe.]
CHAIN: Ahhhh hahahahahaha, ohhh no, hahahahaha.
P: CHAAAIIIN! This is a $12,000 suit! Bona fide alpaca wool for crissakes!
C: Sorry Coach, it’s just too easy. Your face though, hahahahahaha!
P: Yeah, well you know what else is easy? Suspension. As in you…are uh…suspended…until further notice, end of discussion, good night.
C: Aww come on Coach, I–
P: GOOD NIGHT.
[The next morning, Pitino is up early, startled by a strange noise coming from downstairs.]
P: What the–is that a goat?
[He rushes downstairs and finds Chain in the living room holding an alpaca by the halter.]
C: Surprise! I felt bad for ruining your suit Coach, so I got this alpaca for you to make a new one.
P: Chain–what were you…how did you…where in the hell did you get–you know what, nevermind, I don’t want to know.
C: So you love it? He’s got a good coat, coach. Real nice. Named him Lonny but obviously you can call him whatever you want.
P: [buries his face in his hands and sighs] Yeah Chain, he’s real nice. That was very thoughtful of you, thanks. NOW WILL YOU GET HIM OUT OF THE HOUSE? That Persian rug he just crapped on, that was Dean Martin’s rug. It’s worth more than your projected first year contract!
C: My bad coach. So, does this mean I’m not suspended anymore?
P: Yes, BUT, I’m watching you. No more crap, got it?
C: Aw yeah Coach, don’t worry, lesson learned.
[Fast forward to the following morning when again, Pitino is awakened by commotion from downstairs. He's greeted in the living room by Chain and a strange Persian looking man.]
C: Felt bad bout the rug coach, so I got you the best Persian dude I could find.
P: Shake my head, Chain, shake my damn head.
[End Clip #1]
Clip #2, from Ep 4: “Papa’s in the House”
Aside from being universally loathed, unabashedly biased and comically out of touch, Bob Knight is a good color analyst and an all around sagging sack of joy. So it came as no surprise when the network that willingly writes large checks to Skip Bayless and Dan Dakich revealed earlier this week that Knight will be back baby, for Thursday night SEC action.
Knight has been with the network since 2008, when he stepped away from the self-inflicted ruins of what was once a legendary head coaching career spanning 43 years. It was reported back in February that ESPN would not renew his contract when it expired at season’s end, probably due to the fact his approval rating was in the red coupled with the daily hell he likely inflicted upon colleagues and bystanders.
It made sense to everyone. Out to pasture, I think it’s safe to say.
So why, ESPN, do you choose to purposefully alienate your audience? Why put us through this auditory waterboarding? It’s hard enough watching Auburn and South Carolina do…whatever it is they do on the basketball court, but now you douse us in flammable grouch and light the match?
Oh, he traveled. Got away with a travel. See how he palms that basketball? They should call that every time.
Some of you will ask, “so what?” Others will say, “turn the sound off or just don’t watch,” or, “your the worst on this site this was an epic fail and your just dumb.” But just think of the number of competent analysts currently living on this planet. There’s gotta be, I don’t know, at least 100k. Or, think about people that are not professional commentators but are simply insightful, maybe even objective humans more adept to handle this job. There’s gotta be like, 6, 7 billion. Really, dead air is better than Bob Knight. Your annoying little yap dog that won’t shut the hell up and eats inedible objects including its own poop, is better than Bob Knight on TV. It’s actually not even close. Meanwhile, the otherwise superb Reece Davis is relegated to the role of VA clinic caretaker.
Bob Knight is the absolute worst as an analyst which comes as no surprise, as he is the absolute worst as a human. Which is what makes this all the more puzzling, considering how often the network is perched on its sanctimonious high-horse and force feeding viewers blanket denouncements of the latest unflattering episode from The Week in Sports. You know, like its been doing this very week with collective condemnation of the alleged bully culture in the Dolphins locker room. Hmm. A touch hypocritical maybe, considering there is, once again, a bona fide bully on payroll.
That’s not this man’s opinion, rather, the opinion of the very university whose basketball program he built all the way to the top. Verbally abusive to the media and faculty; verbally AND physically abusive to players and students, and Joe B. Hall. The General? Nah, The Bully. On ESPN’s payroll. But please, don’t let this get in the way of Herm Edwards’s poetic waxing of the Dolphins and if Payton Manning would be a better three point shooter than Kevin Durant would be a pocket passer.
What this team needs to do is stop trying to score. Crisp chest passes. Move without the ball. See, that’s a terrible sho…well, that one went in but bad bad shot.
This is not jaded Joe Wildcat talking. For one, put me squarely in the camp that doesn’t think the media holds secret underground conferences to formulate a plan to alienate UK and its fans, and wouldn’t care anyway. I understand Knight hates Kentucky, despises Calipari, and that’s just dandy. Best case scenario, actually. The only things Bob Knight does not hate are good entry passes, crisp flex cuts, and Ulysses S. Grant.
I’m speaking on behalf of human beings that like to watch college basketball without the added element of a confused, disgraced, cantankerous bully with an agenda. For the world’s largest sports network, now holding the SEC hostage, that was simply asking too much.
Make no mistake: tonight’s “exhibition” will shape the city of Lexington for years, possibly generations to come. The Wildcats of Kentucky and the Pioneers of Transylvania. Two teams, one city. Who will wear the crown to this kingdom some call Lex Vegas (vomits in trash can)?
In this corner, the University of Kentucky. Dr. Flagship. State U.
In that corner, ‘cross the woods, Transylvania. The Little Old Man. Statesman U.
Separated by the slightest buffer of city blocks, fundamental ideologies and like, two dozen stop lights. The North (Broadway) vs. the South (Limestone). The Battle on Broadway, it’s been dubbed, but we’re not here to sell posters and lollipops.
The tension in this town is ripe, ready to be picked from the tree and baked into a holiday cobbler. Lexington is a city divided; friendships on ice, families torn, the Atomic Cafe engulfed in flames. It’s as if the ghost of Henry Clay just drove a big ol’ wedge right down in the heart of town…then, realizing he didn’t quite know what to do next, planted some grass, put up a fence and built his own personal jungle jim.
It’s hard to pinpoint the origin of this great Lexington rift. Some historians date it back to the Streetfight of 1902, when a particularly prickly melee between rivaling fraternities erupted near the town branch brothel, leaving dozens with tattered hair and bloody noses. Other scholarly texts point to a more recent scuffle around closing time at Redmond’s. All can agree however, that it is here and it is real.
So we settle it the best way us Kentuckians know how: a duel, on the basketball court, now for the third consecutive year, the sixth such occurrence all time. Kentucky has owned this series of late but you can bet Calipari, the ol’ master motivator that he is, had the box score from the 1911 contest displayed prominently throughout the Craft Center this offseason.
There it is boys, let it soak.
Still want to call it just an exhibition? Oh, it’s an exhibition alright, and the featured demonstration will be hell.
The ball will be tipped, bounced around, swatted and tossed, and one team will put it in their opponent’s basket more times than the other. Sounds pretty simple when you break it down to the bones. Heck, almost sounds fun—like a game. But this ain’t a game and this ain’t about you, BCTC.
To the victor, everything. The loser, banishment to a satellite campus out past Hamburg where minivans go to breed and linger then disappear. After that, who knows?
Two nations, one city. Something’s gotta give.
You want it? Come and get it.
Each year in late October, college football is set ablaze by a war that’s waged on the Southeastern front as the nation turns its lonely eyes to Lexington, or Starkville, woo, woo, woo.
Fueled by vitriol and venom, the annual showdown between Kentucky and Mississippi State never wants for sex appeal, fireworks and carnage. These titans are not simply playing for a win, but often fundamental ideals like Liberty, Independence, and Music City. Just like the bald eagle, this rivalry is protected.
This rivalry is deadlocked, 20 wins apiece.
This rivalry…this rivalry…ohhhhh, this rivalry…
What is this rivalry? This thing doesn’t even have name, or a trophy, or a Hate Week. Do we even hate? Do we even know a Miss State fan? Maybe we should get out more often. Rural Mississippi has charm, and plenty of aquaculture for the whole fam.
If we’re going to keep doing this dance every single year then it’s high time this rivalry became A RIVALRY, by gum.
Let’s brand this bad boy, shall we?
Starting with a name. The SEC is full of em: Iron Bowl, Egg Bowl, Magnolia Bowl, Third Saturday in October, The World’s Largest Cocktail Party, Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry…
But this? We’re really just going to keep belittling this rivalry by calling it by its birth name?
Just a few ideas, trademarked of course, to get the convo started:
Battle of the Barns. Horses (us) and cows (them). E-I-E-I-O. Along these lines, could also consider: Steers vs. Steeds or the Shit Bowl (of the bull and horse varieties, respectively).
The Dog and Pony Show.
The Truth About Cats and Dogs. Shamelessly borrowed from one of the great cinematic achievements of the 1990′s.
The Battle of Who Could Care Less. Let’s face it, outside of the respective fanbases, this game hardly moves the needle. But even a self-defeating name is still a name, and thus, an improvement. A marketable improvement.
Now that we have the ball rollin, what on earth will they play for? A great brand needs some sort of tangible icon attached to it. Playing for pride is nothing more than Depression-Era propaganda and a win is great but doesn’t show well in a trophy case.
But you know what does? A RUSTY PITCHFORK, that’s what.
Now that it’s all coming together I feel like this rivalry is bound for a breakthrough. I feel proud. I feel hate. I feel a sudden urge to cow tip.
This is mutually beneficial and it needed to happen. One day, maybe 20, 30 years from now, bellied up at the ol’ waterin hole swappin’ stories, you’ll say, “You all remember the Dog and Pony Show of 2015? Man, we really got after em that day. Was about time we brought the rusty pitchfork back to our house.”
That’s what this great rivalry is all about. That’s livin, man.
In the middle of the 2010 season, I wrote this scathing review on the pitiful state of affairs within the confines of SEC basketball. It was harsh, sure, but also hopeful that the conference could get its collective act together for the sake of humanity because no way could it get any worse, right?
SEC basketball is still a garbage tsunami steamrolling its way to the season’s opening tip, and for a lot of folks with a Big Blue Nation mailing address, that’s perfectly fine. All these flightless birds around the league are seemingly easy prey for the preseason’s top ranked team and what’s wrong with gettin’ fat off wins?
I feel ya. I like to see Kentucky win too. I typically hoot/holler and throw things when they lose which complicates the relationship I have with my dogs, and possibly some humans (ohhhh welllll).
I also like to be entertained however, and sometimes that goes beyond a January Tuesday Night drubbing of whatever it is Auburn has patched together. The best entertainment evokes the gamut of emotions, from sheer hatred and anger, to anxiety, and of course immense pride and excitement.
I know most here in the Big Blue Nation wear their Big Blue Blinkers and see this ineptitude as an opportunity to devour the landscape AND GO 40-0! I’d love to see it happen, no doubt. But you know what else I’d like to see?
Bruce Pearl parading around the court in Knoxville like a glistening sideshow barker shouting instruction to a team of nothing but Bobby Maze and Ron Slays.
A team other than Florida join Kentucky in making a significant postseason splash every once in a while.
Marshall Henderson go 3 for 27 in Rupp, snort a line off the scorer’s table and talk trash to your grandparents in the third row.
Give me Nolan Richardson’s pretty face, Runnin’ Hogs and a hostile Bud Walton Arena. Sure, they got the upper hand a couple of times, but my lord that was fun.
Da Meat Hook, Big Baby, Chris Porter’s afro, Stansbury’s blue eyes crying in the rain, soft but skilled tall white guy at Vandy, a character, a villain, something, anything…
These days there are but a handful of SEC battles each season that truly impact the national landscape. The remaining majority are Jefferson-Pilot blooper reels in poorly lit gyms half-filled with friends and family and boozed up fraternity pledges just happy to steal a couple of hours away from captivity. Sure, maybe there’s a 10-seed on the line, or first round NIT bye, and sometimes—as if by accident—the games are even close…tied at 57, 10 seconds left, the coach calls time out to draw up the SEC’s hallmark play: point guard isolation which will result in one of three things: a turnover, a forced off-balance heave at/after the buzzer, or a terrible whistle.
It’s important to remember that outside of this Nation we call Big Blue, there are maybe 20-30 people who invest more than a passing “hmmph” in the outcome of an SEC basketball game. This is the conference that took college football mainstream after all, which pays everyone’s bills and takes them out to dinner from time to time to show that they’re still committed to this just don’t talk to me too much please.
We here at KSR all lust for the same outcome and in the grand scheme of the hangin’ banners game, conference RPI is indeed meaningless. But I for one remember the days when the SEC brought the occasional hype of a heavyweight bout that wasn’t exclusive to Rupp Arena. I remember when the SEC brought the (relative) funk. Here we are, SEC, entertain us.
7 AM: Wake up call. It’s Big Boy Day. Christmas in the Fall.
The Keeneland+Commonwealth Daily Double. As Kentucky as Boone and bourbon and burgoo. A veritable rite of passage for anyone in the Bluegrass and a faraway fairytale to those outside. The sun is shining, autumn leaves a-fallin, baccer’s in the barn, and you have a date with the country’s premier racing meet at the sport’s most bucolic venue capped off by an evening with SEC football. Hot damn. It’s your cake and eating it too. It’s two birds with one stone. It’s the power and the glory. The hustle and the flow. A day to make memories best told to grandchildren.
7:42: That sport coat with this tie and those slacks. Look out.
8:03: [Ding!] Sausage biscuits are ready.
8:04: Burn the roof of your mouth on sausage biscuit.
8:30: Confirm ride to Keeneland with your crew. Pick ups at 10:00 sharp. Drop down for 50 push-ups to get your mind, body and spirit aligned…23 will have to do.
9:25: Whip up a bloody mary and catch up on Homeland.
10:45: The crew’s here. Hop in, roll out.
10:47: Roll back in. Forgot your shades, rook.
11:20: Arrive at Keeneland, park, and immediately put out the vibe. It’s a strong vibe, a tone-setter that says “today is my day, and while you are all here to share in its perfection, I’m the director/executive producer. Action!” You sip an ice cold beer because today, just like the 5th race going a mile and ⅛, is all about pace. While browsing the racing form you drop keen remarks to your friends like, “Big tip from my guy. 3 horse in the 4th. All-in.” You throw your half-empty beer away. Bourbon time.
Noon: The second bourbon is always the best.
12:15 PM: But the third is making a push.
12:45: Time to get inside and throw down some exotics. Leaving the tailgate vibe behind you stroll in like you own the joint. “Sir, you have to pay, $5 to enter,” groans a green-blazered grandpa. You chuckle. “No, it’s all good, I’m Mr. Keene and this is my land.”
“I’m a horseman.”
“I don’t think so.”
1:15: They’re at the post. You feel good about your trifecta. The one you told the crew you picked based on pedigree and workouts but in reality was chosen from your favorite club jam from back in your prime. “3-6-9, damn she’s fine.”
1:18: That’s alright, you’ll get the next one. Tough to handicap on an empty stomach. Double bourbon and brat for dad.
1:40: You spot a cluster of Bama fans. “Welcome to heaven, folks. Nice jeans. Please don’t kill these trees.” After some light-hearted back n’ forth you step up the hospitality game with a round of beers because this is no time to think about that stockpile of debt and looming mortgage payment. Here, we’re all drawing from a clean slate.
1:44: If you were lost in the desert for three weeks and happened to stumble upon a crystal clear mountain stream, it still wouldn’t be the most refreshing sip you’ve ever guzzled. That distinction belongs to Keeneland Beer, and you’ll need a couple more.
2:30: The 3 horse in the 4th finishes last. “Needed more distance.” Right.
2:38: Chugging contest with some frat bros near the paddock. “Y’all are 21 right?…So anyone got an e-cig, or an aspirin?”
2:43: The day’s first pronounced yawn comes in hot. 5-Hour and vodka, please.
3:10: You celebrate a winning show ticket like you just hit a game 7 walk-off. Reel it in big fella, reel it in.
3:15: Ice cream cone is calling your name. You answer.
3:38: No two ways around it, you’re about 3 exits from Sloppsville and your crew seems to have taken heed as they are nowhere to be found.
3:50: With only a minute to post and the window lines stretching beyond the horizon you hop over to the $100 minimum window and bet on the wrong horse in the wrong race.
4:12: You feel a buzz in your pocket. WIFE CALLING with the reminder that you’re to meet her and the in-laws in the red lot NO LATER THAN 5. THEY NEED MORE ICE AND ALSO A BLANKET CAUSE SHE WILL GET CHILLY SHE ALWAYS GETS CHILLY. You had honestly forgotten about her and you feel pretty awful about it.
4:13: You notice your phone battery is running on grit. A familiar harbinger of imminent doom.
4:15: Where the hell did your crew go?
It’s Gameday. You’ve been faking it all week. Another 8-5/M-F consumed with grown-up anxiety and schoolyard optimism. You simply don’t have time to fret over meetings when you’re worrying about the offensive line against that blitzing front 7 and the rookies in the secondary. The most you can offer is a factory installed smile and an “Oh wow, that’s great” to your co-worker describing her ongoing battle with a particularly stubborn kidney stone. You live for Saturday, and it’s finally here. So too is the crisp autumn air, and nature’s first litter of leaves. What a day for tailgating. What a day for football.
What a day for a, white wedding.
Yeah. Like chicken pox and jury duty we all eventually fall prey to the Gameday Wedding. Weddings are typically on Saturday, which is funny because so is football…weddings are popular in the late summer and fall, which wouldn’t you know, so is football, by damn what in the hell are we gonna do?
It’s a predicament facing 20 to 30-something diehards each year as ‘save the dates’ are ratcheted up and planted in mailboxes like little football bombs. Odds are, a good number of you—readers of this blog—find youselves staring down the barrel of this very bind this weekend. For the groom-to-be’s, who historically have little-to-zero say in the matter of dates or details or much of anything at all, it’s like watching a puppy manuever, adjust and eventually come to terms with his newly nuetered life.
I would know. One year ago this weekend, I was the Gameday Groom. In fairness to my sweet and lovely Mrs. Dubya, September 29, 2012 was originally Kentucky’s bye week. She “gets it,” this one. Appointments were set, venues were booked, cards were printed and tattoos inked…and before it could dry Mizzou and Texas A&M joined the SEC, effectively reshuffling the entire conference schedule and the balance of my life. It’s never an easy pill to swallow when you become That Guy.
I of course lobbed that hanging slider of a suggestion over the heart of the plate: “Well, we can just cancel the reservations and save the dates, right?” Which was gobbled up like a wounded seal in shark infested waters. My discomfort with the situation proved to be fleeting, however. After all, it’s just football…Kentucky football at that, and I felt comfortable that my friends and family would not be left playing the ‘what-if’ game at our beach wedding as UK’s worst team in decades played host to South Carolina (though it was an interesting first half…that I knew nothing about…).
Not all weddings are created equal of course, and neither are its guests. Some weddings are merely ceremonial sendoffs to a train bound for derailment. Others are far away, and some are closed casket. Are you a long lost T-Ball teammate? Skip. Are you an adopted 3rd cousin? Skip. Will there be booze? Are you skipping to watch from the stands or on TV?
There’s a lot going on in that head of your’s, I know. Here’s a handy tip sheet for those of you who may find yourselves on the Gameday Wedding fence:
You are in the wedding. If you have agreed to be an ELITE member of the wedding party I would strongly encourage showing up. Yes, that means showered, groomed, ironed, and if not sober, functional. Hey, this is real talk, not Candyland.
You RSVP’d. Again, this is entry-level courtesy here. People who intentionally shade on an RSVP are the same ones who have no use for a turn signal. Also known as The Worst.
You’re a +1. If you have no real connection to the couple outside of kind-of-dating/talking-to an invited guest, the world is your oyster, bud. Do what you want to do and don’t look back. Congrats on that by the way.
Beverages. Apologies to my Baptist, Mormon and wagon squatter friends, but the drink situaish can single handedly turn the tide for better or for worse. Open bar is an open bar. Even if just beer and wine, it’s bottomless beer and wine.
The other piece to the puzzle is, of course, tunes. Plop down a live band (preference to Motown) in any situation and the fun quotient skyrockets.
Free food and drink + live band (preference to Motown) with friends and love in the air, well that’s not a bad night, ya know?
We can all agree there’s nothing like an early autumn evening with SEC Football. No amount of weak vodka tonics, mini-hot browns and “Mustang Sallys” will change this fact. Sure, there’s a chance you may miss an historic performance or dramatic upset, but you’ll probably just end up leaving early. The divorce rate is over 50%, can you say the same for your team’s chances of winning?
The bottom line: life is all about sacrifice. If you were invited by the bride/groom, then take it as a testament to your character. Or your fun-fat-guy persona, or your dancing skills…something got you on that highly scrutinized roster, and the least you can do is show up on their big day and join in the dance. With a TV.
“ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?!” No Hank, I’m ready for some commitment.
(Bristol, CT, ESPN HQ. In a large corner office sits The Suit, and The Man)
Suit: I’ve been listening to the tapes you sent in. …good stuff as usual, Jimmy. Classic Dykes. I really think we can get some mileage out of Jimmy’s Jeep. I just hope you save me a seat!
JD: The Jeep is for bubble teams, not executives, hombre.
Right, anyway, the higher ups, they want you to go balls out this season. See, we all know Dickie V is on the back 9—hell, the 18th green, and that’s gonna be a pretty cushy seat we’ll need to fill…if you know what I’m sayin. Now, you don’t need any lessons—you’re a pro—your schtick, I don’t know why but the numbers love you. Your jargon, it’s hot! So let it all hang out this year, Jimbo. Let her rip. We’ll hav–”
Pop the zit.
That defender, he’s a reeeeal zit. You gotta pick, and then you gotta pop that sucker. Pop that zit, amen.
Hm. As unsettling a visual as that is, by god it’s catchy. And relatable–we all have our zits, after all. You’re on fire, Jimmy, on fire!
Nessler lays the tracks while I pay the tax.
(He jumps up, kicks his chair across the room, pulls a pair of shades from his coat pocket and puts them on)
Sauté the filet. I said, SAUTÉ. THE. FILET. Oscar’s style. Stir those grits partner, stir em up, nice and creamy like. Yeah, we’re cookin with Jimmy now.
He put that kid on the paleo diet with that dunk Brad, served him a face full of meat and nuts.
Jiggle the handle. The door to the rim ain’t always gonna open up easy, sometimes you gotta jiggle the handle.
Free your mind, and the rest will follow.
That’s En Vogue.
Sure is Jack, sure as heck is.
Cut the grass. Build a fence. Command your land.
That’s the ol’ fake, shake and pattycake, right there.
(The door opens and in walks another suit. He points at his watch but is quickly waived off. The Man doesn’t even flinch)
Dog biscuits. I don’t know where to put this yet, but give this dog some biscuits.
Right now this team’s a tuna fish without a salad, and that’s a recipe for the NIT.
You want a seat in Jimmy’s Jeep? Just remember to put your seatbelt on or that thing’s gonna beep for 5 minutes, and don’t lose at home.
This kid is a real sweater vest. Classy AND sleeveless. Didn’t even plan that one, just came out.
This team’s like a continental breakfast, they’re always around but never that go–”
Jimmy, I’m hungry. There’s a Red Robin down the street… (leans in and whispers) they actually let you eat all the fries you want. Let’s call it a day, eat some fries and harrass a waitress. We’ll resume this discussion soon, but in the meantime, remember what I said, and keep on firing that red hot jargon.
Pleased to be joined by ESPN’s master of emotion, Tom Rinaldi, who brings us a story that hits close to home. Too close to home. Like, watching you shower and stuff.
For sports fans around the world, this is their day. A day, for them, the sports fans.
The anticipation, the anxiety, the confidence, the trash talk…it all leads to today. Gameday.
In college football, gameday goes by another name: Saturday. Here in Louisville, it can also be known as Tuesday, or Wednesday, maybe Thursday, but typically Saturday, when tens of thousands of University of Louisville fans flock to Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium to do what fans do: root, root, root for the home team.
They come in red, in black, meshy tank tops and weathered wife beaters. They paint themselves like warriors on the precipice of battle, or like birds with yellow beaks and bright red feathers, hoping for a chance to fly.
Then there is the ubiquitous hand signal that unifies them all: known simply as L’s up. Louisville fans use this sign like a badge of honor, a fraternity handshake of sorts that lets everyone know that they indeed belong. That they, are home. That they are in fact L, and at least in this moment in time, up.
But what would you do if you could not L?
The book was already written, the movie already shot. The “unbelievable true story” of the boy who started from the holler and rose to the rafters, then state office. Mix in a love story subplot and tab a way-too-handsome albeit believable leading man for the part and Disney would have its next big thing.
Then it all went to hell of course, and suddenly Disney’s feel good movie of the summer became the Coen Brothers latest black comedy of errors and ultimate tragedy.
In many ways, Richie Farmer was the face of The Unforgettables. That regal mountain ‘stache first sprouted around the age of three, the hustle, the clutch, the fundamentally flawless free throws…the prototype of a Fan Favorite. Of all the salutations in this state none carry the esteem of Mr. Basketball, which Farmer earned with his Sweet 16 heroics that make a ho-hum out of Hoosiers.
While there was nothing statistically legendary about his UK career it was more than respectable, considering his physical limitations and the state of the program at the time. Really, that’s all it needed to be to further cement his status as Kentucky Hoops Legend.
This is the part where Richie saddles up his horse and trots off into a lucrative sunset of car dealerships, a steakhouse, milk commercials, instructional videos or coaching. When you’re a legend, the possibilities really are endless.
Or, public office. Why not, right? Frankfort can be pretty cushy when you have an approval rating of 100% and your jersey hangs in Rupp Arena. The task seemed simple enough: bank your popularity, put that hard earned Ag degree to use in where else but the Department of Agriculture, shake hands, smile for pictures, say a few words about the Unforgettables and how it relates to sustainable farming techniques, defer decision making to the handlers, just whatever you do, KEEP YOUR HANDS OUT OF THE COOKIE JAR.
That’s it, good luck.
Mountains tower proudest,
Thunder peals the loudest,
The landscape is the grandest,
And politics–the damndest
“In Kentucky” by Judge James Hillary Mulligan (1902)
One could trace long trails of corruption at any level of politics. It’s simply a by-product of the power grab to which no state is immune. Certainly not Kentucky, where back-room dealing and front row swindling is almost a point of pride. Even with today’s scoop starving media digging through the muck and vindictive sources leaking out from both sides of the aisle, it really takes major transgressions to stand out. You have to be leaving a pretty large and reckless pile of shit to get taken all the way down. With a little bit of tact, lots of manipulation, a few bags of money, the occasional fall-guy and perhaps the right last name, one can usually find shelter from the political storms, provided of course, you’ve learn your lesson (or, found a better way to hide it).
Richie has many skills, such as the bounce pass, the jump shot and, well, that moustache, but political savvy, not even an ounce. Elementary school valedictorian can only get you so far, kids.
Look, the last thing I want to do is pile on. This isn’t a violent, dangerous, conniving individual here. There’s simply not enough ‘tools in the shed’ to connive much of anything outside a pick n’ roll. He’s just a simple man who got in way over his head and resorted to the Clay County ways of doin’ bidness, which is none of your damned bidness, see yall at church.
Even by Eastern Kentucky’s rugged, wild-west standards, Manchester stands out as an epicenter of corruption. A town where just a few years ago the FBI nabbed several of the county’s top officials in a bid-riggin’, vote-buyin’, drug-dealin’, cold blooded game of musical chairs. I’m sure that’s how their daddies did it, and their daddies before em, on down the line.
It’s a sad reality for the honest, hard working folks of Clay County who are as appalled as the rest of us looking in. Richie likely didn’t set out to game the system and reap the rewards, it just came natural. What separates crooks from straights is the ability to recognize that what comes natural ain’t always right. That, and a conscience of course, which he’ll have plenty of time to reconcile with. But that’s why Richie deserves no sympathy, and why we can comfortably laugh at the absurdity of it all.
Just picture the man up there in his big State office, boots flopped on the desk, fiddlin’ around with his phone, aimlessly looking in all the drawers and cabinets. Belly laughing at the baby who blows snot bubbles on Youtube. Of all the glaring transgressions and swindling, my personal favorite is the charge of driving around in the state issued vehicle with his tax-payer bought rifle and shooting a deer with said tax-payer bought rifle out of the window of said state issued car then sending in a staffer to field dress said deer, because what in the daggumed hell is a deer season any-ol-how?
So goes the story of Richie Farmer. Folk Hero. Unforgettable. Commissioner. Felon. Hopefully this latest chapter, is not The End.
Required Reading: The Legend of Richie Farmer
Another chapter of SEC football draws nigh; 13 straight Saturdays (with the occasional ‘look-at-me’ Thursday nighter) of pure pigskin paradise. Will the SEC make it 8 national championships in a row? The short answer is ‘probably,’ the long answer is ‘yes, probably.’ Be thankful you were born unto a team with SEC allegiance, folks. Whether your team is chip leader or perennially short stacked, you’ve still got a seat at the table. As we speak, babies are hatching in places like New York, California, Ohio, and Shively, who will live entire lives devoted to some NFL bureaucracy and the Big 10 and will one day plan road trips to places like Piscataway, NJ and East Lansing, MI, never tasting the sweet n’ spicy origins of collegiate football as it was meant to be, birthed from the loins of Mary herself…Mary Bryant that is, mother of the Bear.
SEC football is a damned circus.
A whistlestoppin, grandstandin, travelin freak show of overindulgence and slow-cooked hostility barreling down the tracks at speeds never before seen or imagined. Parading through otherwise idyllic College Town, USA, with its acrobats, marching bands, Clowneys, exotic animals, magic and illusions while its patrons hoot n’ holler with plastered on southern charm that’s instantaneously transformed into frenzy. SEC football was once the greatest show in the South, now it’s the greatest show on earth.
On paper, its value is in the billions but in reality, there’s not enough ink. There’s oil money, coal money, textile money, corporate money, smart money, new money and money so old it predates the books. On paper, it’s a series of showdowns among member institutions of higher learning, and that’s funny. For its investors it’s an arms race to an undetermined finish line. It is, quite simply, the ultimate measuring stick of superiority. A barometer of life itself. There are no pro-sport allegiances here to supplement bragging rights, and dueling is still illegal in most parts of the South. Victory, you see, is much more than another notch on the needlepoint belt.
SEC football is beautiful.
From the stately brick and lush green campuses and all those sundressed lassies, the troughs of bbq and deep fried anything, to the sight of 90k boozy parishioners gathered on hallowed grounds surrendering to the whim of unpredictability. A confluence of righteous and evil, of sophisticated and simple, of khakis and jorts, of folk heroes and scoundrels, of statesmen and Bubbas. A little bit NASCAR, a little bit country club, with a strong pour of the boondocks on top.
A storybook of athletic marvel coached by characters straight out of A Confederacy of Dunces. More than a league but a battle hymn sung from down in Dixie to the Rocky Top, through the Plains and in Between the Hedges. This is the trailhead to the National Championship. And it’s a damned circus.
Drove up on a fender bender the other day between a pickup with truck nutz and a Lincoln Town Car and thought this is something you’d see in Florida, which led to thoughts of the Florida Gators, which quickly served up that dangling hunk of inedible and ever so indelible gristle we know as the Great Kentucky Losing Streak.
With the ghosts of Tennessee and the Ol Ball Coach exorcised, we can now fully focus our futility on Florida. An NCAA leading 26 losses in a row, at the time of publication, and no end in sight.
The modern day Kentucky/Florida series is played under the hypothesis of, when really fast and strong object (a) collides with much slower and smaller object (b), object (a) will be victorious. It’s sort of like the tortoise and the hare, except there are no life lessons in store and the hare just steamrolls the tortoise, backs up, and runs over it again.
Typically a merciless slaughter…
Visions of The Visor coldly calculating a play action deep post off a 4th quarter turnover to put the Gators up 56. Flashbacks to the days of Urban and Tebow that looked as if UK showed up to the track at Daytona on horseback.
…with the sporadic heartbreaker mixed in for added cruelty.
The Wuerffel to Doering, 1993. I was at this game. The oh so familiar “stand up and holler” for a 25 yard skinny post game winning touchdown with no time on the clock. Florida literally tried to give Kentucky this game in the form of 7 interceptions, and still, Kentucky refused. Too proud, us Cats, we don’t need your charity we’re doing just fine things are really lookin up. I vividly remember a bourbon inspired man in front of me loudly cursing the sky, and perhaps Bill Curry. A sweet old lady kindly asked him to watch his language and get over it, to which he replied, “shut up, bitch.” It was lovely. I entered the stadium an impressionable young boy with a ballcap and a bag of peanuts and left a hardened cynic with a drinking problem. On the plus side, I was equipped to handle the improbable, if not expected heartbreak we’ve endured through the years. Gators 24, Cats 20
The Abney, 2002. Florida tried valiantly once again that season to bury the hatchet when they selected Ron Zook to replace the Ball Coach. Derek Abney went off in the Swamp, catching a TD, returning a kickoff 100yds for a TD, and adding in a 49yds punt return for a score. He failed to rush for a TD however, and that proved to be the difference, Gators 41, UK 34
The Flip, 2003. I was at this game. A piece of me never left. Pappy Brooks did his best in year one to light some fire into a depleted roster, and UK entered the 4th quarter with an insurmountable 21-3 lead. Until Kentucky got all Kentucky, J-Lo flipped a ball over his head and into the the hands of the white shirts and the streak unfathomably marched on. Gators 24, Cats 21
There was a glimmer of optimism in 2007. College Gameday, an offense that could score on anyone still swaggin from the LSU win. But Tebow, yeah, that Tebow. Gators 45, Cats 37.
Nothing but your text book woodsheddings and blocked punts since, and the road just seems to get more impassable each year. Say what you want about the ’93 collapse, that was still Spurrier vs. Curry. Come on. Not pouncing on Zook was the deathblow, and while Muschamp’s Gators are far from juggernauts, they’re still Florida, they’re still fast, and Kentucky’s still a couple years off from making weight.
So we count, and we wait, we hope, and we dream for that one day when the talent gap doesn’t jump out at you, smack you in the face and fondle your woman, and perhaps a lucky bounce or two, conflux into a pool of overdue upset.
Until then, see ya in March. Right BBN?! Right!?
Now Hiring: Chief Cool Officer (CCO)
NCAA Headquarters, Indianapolis
You don’t walk into a boardroom, you glide. When you speak, you’re wearing a bluetooth. And people listen. Your energy is infectious, your optimism, contagious. You’re a trendsetter. A jetsetter. An Irish Setter? You work hard, play hard, and think hard. Your Pandora is hot. You approach life like Ashton Kutcher. You approach greens like Matt Kuchar. Your all-time favorite president is Calvin Coolidge. You’re a real wildcard, you. When someone asks you for the time, you promptly respond “beer thirty.” You’re passionate about students and/or athletes, and you love you some bylaws. You own a car. You are not a (multiple) felon. Is your name Chad, by chance?
If this describes you, then you just may be the person we’re looking for. We’re here to talk, let’s talk, ok?
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has an immediate opening for the newly conceived executive-level position, Chief Cool Officer (CCO).
Look, the NCAA has been getting some bad press for a while now (it’s lonely up here on the mountaintop!) and though we appreciate the growing interest and enthusiasm for collegiate athletics, we want to get the word out that the NCAA is pretty darn cool, too.
Sure, we’re not perfect, but we strive to be. Have you seen our Pinterest page? We’re getting there.
Essential Duties and Responsibilities:
-Actively promote the NCAA’s coolness through various multimedia channels and communities.
-Develop and maintain relationships with key members of the media, NCAA institutions, and respective fanbases. Some cool-calling required.
-Develop and implement a cool communications and outreach plan.
-Dress for success. Vibe.
-Attend trade shows, athletic events, conferences, etc., and play things cool.
-Email blasts on the reg.
-Produce internal and external webinars, webisodes and webshops. Cool ones.
-5-10 years of demonstrated cool. Ice-cold, preferred.
-Bachelor’s Degree (because nobody’s too cool for school).
-Knowledge of NCAA Athletics and NCAA bylaws.
-Sweet Jos. A. Bank threads.
-Special consideration given to individuals with prior experience working in a totalitarian regime.
We take our work seriously, but not ourselves. Work hard, play hard. All that and a side of kettle chips. YOLO. We offer comprehensive benefits, paychecks, and ample opportunity for professional and personal growth. Here’s what a typical week at NCAA HQ’s looks like:
Manic Mondays. Like the hit song, only in real life. Leave your sanity at home, por favor!
Tailgate Tuesdays. Join us in the parking lot at lunchtime for a simulated collegiate tailgate experience. We’ll have non-alcoholic craft beers, sodas, Kenny Chesney’s Greatest Hits, bean bag tossing and grilled meats, available on a first come-first serve basis. Weather pending.
Whisper Wednesdays. Speak softly, carry a big stick!
Thirsty Thursdays. Come to work thirsty, stay thirsty, leave thirsty!
Freestyle Fridays. The NCAA is a strong proponent of individuality and encourages employees to be themselves at week’s end. Whether it’s rocking sneakers and jeans, chewing bubble gum, busting out the acoustic guitar in the breakroom or bringing your surfboard to work, this is your day to be you! No turbans or cats, please.
The NCAA is an EOE. Salary commensurate with experience. Must be a legal resident or know the Pledge of Allegiance. Must pass background check. Must put on a cone hat, ride a unicycle and pee in a little cup for the audience.
While Johnny “Football” Manziel continues to accumulate headlines, I spent some time recently with a confused young man with a famous name just trying to make it in this world. This is a story about finding yourself when everyone wants you to be someone else.
Somewhere down in the hills of Texas there’s a dusty road sign at the edge of the city limits proclaiming to all who come and any who listen that this town, and only this town, is the Home of Johnny Football.
Hundreds of hard miles away in Livingston, TN, a blossoming bedroom community custom built for the Memphis nouveau riche, you will find no such sign, even though it too, is the home of Johnny Football.
They say the key to life is to making the most out of the hand you’re dealt. That it’s the individual who holds the keys to his or her own virtue. Still, we cannot control everything, such as where and to whom we are born, and what we are named. When Todd and Pamela Football gave birth to their second child seventeen years ago, forgive them if they couldn’t foresee what would be in store for their son, Johnny Fitzhugh Football.
This Johnny Football doesn’t even play football.
“I like Minecraft. Oh, and CoD Black Ops.” The greasy-faced but unassumingly handsome high school senior tells me over lunch at the Livingston Zaxby’s.
You can imagine what his life’s been like these past few months, what with his namesake dominating the headlines for all the right and wrong reasons.