By Matt Jones on ©April 09th, 2017 @ 10:25pm
WARNING: This post does not “stick to sports”…if you are hoping for said sports to be stuck to, scroll to the next post. Thank you
“Matt, I don’t think you could talk for 10 minutes straight without at least once mentioning Kentucky.”
The comment above was made by my Law school friend Mark, and reflected what I am sure was the common view of me across the Duke campus. I arrived in Durham at the age of 21, living outside of Kentucky for the first extended time of my life and eager to challenge myself by experiencing something new. I made friends with my mostly older classmates, but it took me very little time to realize that I was completely different than virtually all of them. Not only was I one of the few Kentuckians (only two others were in the school, one of which was Tucker Max, and our common basketball connection kept us sane amidst all of the Blue Devil love), but I was also one of the very few people who came from a rural, non-coastal background. Duke and similar elite schools often brag about their tremendous diversity and by most normal measures. it was one of the Law School’s strongest characteristics. Duke was a leader in racial, gender, ethnic and religious diversity and its position at the time as one of the best Law Schools in the country for International students ensured that our classes were filled with viewpoints from across the land. But it was clear to me from the outset that my background, that of someone from Appalachia, who spent his time attending a small public high school in the mountains and a tiny college with a weird name in Lexington, was different. I embraced that difference and found myself talking about my home state non-stop. Most of the comments were about basketball (the 2003 team’s run that year was a source of much pride), but I also referenced Kentucky towns, events, politicians, stories, whatever could keep my connection to home. Like a lot of people who leave the Commonwealth, I found that I loved it more from afar than even when I was there and wanted to share all the positivity I felt about it to whoever would listen.
It was clear to me early on however that my classmates didn’t share the same affinity for my old Kentucky home. To them, Kentucky was known only vaguely as a place where they had a horse race, chicken, basketball, bourbon, and some may have driven through it one time and thought it was pretty. Few had been spent any time there and to the extent there were opinions to be had, they were mostly of a mocking nature. Their cluelessness about Kentucky as a whole was only exceeded by their cluelessness about Eastern Kentucky in particular and even though the start of those mountains was less than 4 hours away, it might as well have been another planet for most of my fellow students. Like at most elite law schools, the student body trended liberal and when conversation would switch to politics (as it always did, even then), their knowledge about Kentucky was even more limited and stereotypical. To them, Kentucky was just a “Red State” where people didn’t vote their economic interests because they didn’t understand that people (in their mind, like them) were trying to help them. The comments infuriated me, even as they came from people who shared my side of the political aisle. I often joke that I argue much more with people I agree with than those I don’t, and that mindset comes from the Duke years. I spent many hours defending Kentuckians against the elitist notion that they were too stupid to understand their votes and (even worse) that we were simply intolerant hillbillies who weren’t worth the time. My anger in those conversations would rise quickly and some of the maddest moments of my life have been in arguments with these Duke and DC liberals. Even if I agreed with them on policy, I could see that their disdain for the people I grew up with and loved made them wholly unappealing to me…and if that was true of me, it would be exponentially more true for those who might have different opinions than they.
I say all this as a backdrop to the feelings I had last night when I watched the “Donald Trump goes to Kentucky” sketch on Saturday Night Live. I must preface by saying, I am a huge fan of Saturday Night Live and think that they are the single most consistent source of really good comedy that exists on television. Unlike many haters who love to say “SNL just isn’t good anymore,” I think it actually is and this season has been one of its best. Whether its Alec Baldwin as an arrogant Trump, Kate McKinnon as a desperate Hillary or Melissa McCarthy as an angry Spicer, this season’s skits have been really good and the election of Trump seems to have given the show new life. With that said, last night’s cold open was an example of the elitist-thinking nonsense that not only so frustrated me at Duke, but has also made many in Kentucky give up on Progressive politicians nationwide. The skit is set in Boone County and has Trump visiting to try to get some of his momentum back after a few tough weeks. I encourage you to watch it below if you haven’t yet seen it.
At the core of this skit is one simple notion. SNL believes that Kentuckians are too stupid to realize that Donald Trump isn’t good for them. Person after person gets up, explains the difficulty they are dealing with, Trump suggests he will not help them, and then they say they support him anyway. For all four “Kentuckians” that are shown, the love of Trump is more important than whatever he says and they all sit down looking like naive rubes who just don’t know what is best for them. I am sure the writers were attempting to make a point (that I believe has some validity) that Trump has sold many of his voters a false set of goods, but in so doing they make the “Kentuckians” the butt of the joke, and like many in my law school class, they are to be mocked for not understanding how unintelligent and naive they are.
As I watched the skit, I was disappointed but in no way surprised. The SNL skit is a perfect embodiment of the elitist liberal sentiment that helped Trump get elected in November. The sentiment is what drove many long-time working class people in Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania to switch sides and vote for Trump after years of voting for Democrats. Like the sentiment as a whole, the SNL skit is as patronizing as it is incorrect. First, it showcases at moment one how clueless it is about its subject by setting the rally in “Boone County, Kentucky” and acting as if it is in coal mining country. As anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Kentucky could tell you, Boone County is a Cincinnati suburb that has about as much similarity to the Eastern Kentucky coal mines as I do to Lebron James. Had the skit been set in Harlan, Pike or Perry County, it would have been no less offensive, but it would have at least been geographically correct. But to the writers of SNL, such differences are irrelevant because in their mind all of Kentucky is one homogenous, flyover area, and reference to one county is akin to any other. There is no knowledge that Western Kentucky has Midwestern farmland, Lexington and Central Kentucky are horse farm territory, Northern Kentucky leans suburban, Louisville is a major city and Eastern Kentucky is Appalachia. In making fun of Trump (with a joke that actually contains some truth, suggesting he believes there are only two jobs, Goldman Sachs and coal miner), SNL makes the exact same mistake they mock Trump for making. To them all of Kentucky is a coal mine, so each county is the exact same.
But if the selection of the county were the biggest problem, I wouldn’t be spending my Sunday writing this post. Instead the much more egregious error is the portrayal of the “Kentuckians” as naive rubes unable to resist Trump’s manipulation of them. That this construct is patronizing is obvious, but it is also objectively false. I am not a Trump supporter. I think he is almost certainly a fraud who has made promises he will not keep and whose policies will hurt those I care about (the working class of Kentucky) more than they will help. But I make the distinction between Trump and Trump supporters. Because to me, most Trump supporters aren’t naive at all…instead they are people who are happy to finally have someone, anyone tell them their lives and areas of the country are important. For the last 50 years, virtually every national politician has forgotten about places like rural Kentucky. What used to be a description of a huge part of the electorate, the “Blue Collar Democrat”, is now almost a relic from the past. The reasons why are numerous, but I think the vast majority come down to one word…respect.
I don’t know if Donald Trump truly respects people from Appalachia or working class Kentuckians. But I do know this…at least he voices their concerns and says they are important. Trump is the first politician since Bobby Kennedy to look at the people like those in Eastern Kentucky and acknowledge the truth. The world is leaving them behind and the Government has been complicit in letting it happen. While too many elitist liberals focus on mocking the things that are important to them, like their faith, social values and family life, Trump got up and said “we will bring your jobs back and help make American great again.” I think Trump is mostly full of it but at least he acknowledged the problem and the fact that their situations are in peril. Contrast that with Hillary Clinton, who told Kentuckians she was going to put every coal miner out of work, not realizing the devastating effect the decline of coal has had on communities throughout the mountains. Trump is almost certainly not going to be able to bring coal back to its heyday, but he did at least put forth the truth that these communities need help…a fact that had been lost with a President who in 8 years never bothered to visit the area once and a candidate who only did once in order to try and stop a Bernie Sanders surge.
What many in the liberal elite (and the writers of SNL) don’t realize is that for people in Kentucky loyalty to coal is not the point. As decades of bluegrass and country songs will tell you, the experience of life as a coal miner is a tough one and many wanted to find ways to do other things. But coal mining did help build communities and support families and create work that could help lead to a fulfilled life. Coal miners and their families have a pride in the coal mining culture, the bonds that it created and the area of the state where it was such an important part of life. When Hillary Clinton says she wants to do away with coal miners, she is saying to them that she wants to do away with their way of life. That is a big deal and it is not surprising that when repeated with such brazenness, it will cause strong animosity. It is one thing to disagree with someone…it is another to mock and degrade them and Clinton’s comments did just that.
Contrast that with Trump…most people I know that support him realize he is not exactly a bastion of truth telling. Unlike the four rubes in the video who express their undying loyalty to him, most I speak with aren’t huge fans of him as a person and they acknowledge he doesn’t share their values, especially the moral ones. But what they appreciate is an acknowledgment that they and their way of life matter and exist as something beyond a group that can still be mocked in a PC culture. I think most Trump supporters genuinely WANT him to succeed but I am not sure they genuinely believe he WILL succeed. If their healthcare is taken away with no better alternative, if his budget ends the Appalachian Regional Commission and if coal jobs are not regenerated or replaced with something new, I don’t think Trump support will be ubiquitous. Trump made lots of promises and I do think his Kentucky supporters will expect him to deliver.
However so long as the other side is represented by the mindset showcased in the SNL skit, they won’t be an alternative considered. If portrayals of Kentuckians continue to be that of naive rubes the disdain for elitist liberals will only increase. So long as the true reason for their support is not understood, that Trump has at least given lip service to respecting them and their way of life, other alternatives won’t be considered. There are Democratic politicians who get this…people ranging from Joe Biden to West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin. When they talk about the legitimate concerns of the working class, they do so with an understanding of those they are speaking about and in a non-patronizing tone. Unfortunately their reward for that is often disdain from liberals and their numbers in Washington are rare.
It is just one skit on Saturday Night Live. And in many ways, I agree with the overall premise of part of the skit’s tone. Trump has told the working class one thing and his policies that he is attempting to enact are often the complete opposite. But in making that point, the SNL writers made the easy target, Trump supporters, the butt of the joke. The reason why they did it is simple. Those writing such material don’t know anyone like the people they are portraying and mocking condescension is easier than true understanding. For all the talk around political circles about what working class white people think and the celebration of the memoir “Hillbilly Elegy” (which I did like, but is a memoir, not a piece of sociological research), the correct answer is the simplest. So long as working class people are not represented in Washington, either by corporate Republicans who only care about the top 1% (like Mitch McConnell) or candidates who speak with disdain about their culture (like Hillary Clinton), individuals will always gravitate to those who affirm their worth. This was Trump’s greatest trait and the reason his support in such areas was so strong.
When I was a clerk on the DC Circuit, I took my three co-clerks home with me to Middlesboro one weekend. All three were very liberal, one from New York, one DC and one LA. Needless to say, they had never been anywhere like Middlesboro before. I think they went in part as something of an anthropological experience, and were likely ready to laugh at what they saw. One even said to me with glee before we went, “I want you to take me to the weirdest places in the mountains that you can.” Whatever they came into the experience hoping to see, they left with something else. I introduced them to friends who quizzed them about their hometowns and what it was like growing up in an urban area. They accompanied me to my church where complete strangers hugged and welcomed them in a very handsy mountain way. My mom and I took them driving deep into the hollows of Bell County, where she described the lives of people that no one in Federal (and State) Government even seems to acknowledge exist. My Mother and Grandmother cooked for them, we hiked to the Pinnacle and even went to the Oasis for country music night with my great friend BoBob. As we drove back to DC one of my friends, a gay, Howard Dean supporting liberal from New York, said to me, “I have never been to a more welcoming place in my life. The people were just so kind to me. I wish the rest of the country could see what I did.” I do too. People from the mountains, and Kentucky in general, are some of the most friendly, caring and loving people in the world and their reward for those traits is all too often the mocking disdain of an elite class that knows nothing about them. That has to change and it won’t until those in politics or comedy writing start seeing them as more than just a punchline.
Been awhile since I have written here on the Blog, so I thought I would take a chance to round-up a few thoughts/tidbits going into the weekend. If you get an opportunity this weekend start on the terrific S-Town Podcast that is making waves across the country. It is from the folks that do “This American Life” and while I have yet to finish it, I must say it is one of the more intriguing Podcasts I have ever heard. It starts as a fairly regular “Who Dun It” type story, but quickly moves to something else, an engaging character portrait of an individual (and town) that is enthralling. It is worth your time if you are driving or lounging and need some entertainment.
A few notes:
— The big stories right now are recruiting-based, specifically whether Kentucky will get Mohammed Bamba or Kevin Knox. I am unsure about whether either player will be a Cat, but as I have stated on the radio, my opinion slightly diverges from the consensus on both guys. For Bamba, I have assumed Kentucky was the leader for at least two months, and while I am still in that camp, my confidence isn’t quite on the level of most in the UK Fanbase. Up until three days ago, everyone I had spoken with said Kentucky leads and all of the circumstantial evidence, including his friendship with UK recruits and public statements, have made UK seem the obvious choice. But then I spoke with a source that is very good who said to me for the first time that UK was not getting him. While this person is against the grain and the only individual I know who believes the choice won’t be UK, it is someone with a great deal of knowledge and close to the situation. So I am left unsure of UK’s position. If I were forced to pick, I would still say Bamba to UK, but my confidence is much lower than it was last week (and I get a good test going forward for this particular type of source). As for Knox, I think UK is in a better position than most do…I still would not pick UK for Knox (I am not sure of any of the Big Three get him), but the folks around Lexington feel better about their position with him than the general consensus seems to suggest. Either way his decision comes soon and if they don’t get him, expect UK to go all-in after Pitt transfer Cameron Johnson.
— The main question to be resolved for UK’s roster next year in terms of returning players is Isaac Humphries. The big man is considering going back to Australia and playing pro basketball there. I don’t think that is his preference and Calipari wants him to stay, but he is considering whether coming back to UK will help further his career. I would say his future is a coin toss right now and it is my hope the singing Australian decides to stick it out, as I think they will need his physical presence next season.
— As for 2018, I really like Kentucky’s position with Zion Williamson. The kid is an absolute star and while there is still a ton of time for things to change, I would pick Kentucky for him right now. He would be an absolute explosive talent and is the type of player that you build a class around.
— Kentucky’s schedule for next season is up in the air, as the program tries to figure out what kind of roster they will have. At this current time, the Cats are scheduled to play UCLA, Kansas, Louisville and a Big 12 road game (possibly West Virginia?), but only have one other game locked in (Harvard). I am not sure if the Cats will get another marquee non-conference home game, besides Louisville. There is likely a possibility of getting a mid-level Power 6 team (like a Marquette, Seton Hall or Providence), but I think you will likely see a home schedule that includes no other huge names at this time.
— If you didn’t get a chance last night, watch the video below of Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins hosting “Hey Kentucky” with me (there are more at HeyKentucky.com). The guys were great and a lot of fun…going to really miss those kids at UK.
— Hearing some really good things about the Quarterback play at UK during Spring Practice. A lot has been written about how well Stephen Johnson has been playing but some KSR moles tell me that Gunnar Hoak has also taken major steps forward. He is by far the least known of the current crop of QBs but the staff likes him a lot and while there is certainly not a QB competition for the starting job, there might be more of one for the Backup than people realize.
— Finally, if you have been listening to the radio you know how frustrated I have become from the whole “Roofing referee” story and the idiotic behavior by some of our fans that occurred after the game. My position on this has been clear on the radio and it remains the same. Higgins called a poor game, especially in the first half. That to me is indisputable. However the terrible calls don’t mean that people should invade his personal (or business) life, especially in the form of threatening messages or calls. That is stupid behavior and there is no excuse for it.
With that said, the amount of people who engaged in such behavior is small. Those that attempt to paint those actions upon the entire UK Fanbase are doing it solely for their anti-UK and Calipari agenda and they deserve to be called out for what they are…reporters with an agenda. They have passed on a narrative that this what the UK Fanbase is like as a whole, knowing full well there are insane people in every fan base and terrible actions are ubiquitous. Similarly, I am tired of the narrative that has emerged that KSR had some measure of responsibility for this simply because we talked about the story. Even though virtually every national outlet weighed in, stories about Higgins have continued to include references to a “Kentucky Sports Radio” show that talked about the issue and the impact that may have had. All we ever said on the show was not to call or write and I resent the idea that we are responsible for behavior we had nothing to do with. The people who threatened Higgins engaged in stupid and irrational acts and deserve criticism. But that doesn’t mean every UK fan, media member or the Administration do as well.
You can choose to say the Big Blue Nation is represented by its worst actions carried about a selected few. I choose to think it is represented by people like a man who came to my radio show today. Before our drawing at the end of the show to win a signed John Calipari basketball, an older woman in a bundled up in a large coat walked in carrying a basketball (a rubber one with dimples) of her own in a plastic Kroger bag. She had heard me talk about Calipari and mistakenly believed that he would be there to sign autographs at the show. She was saddened when I told her that Calipari wouldn’t be in attendance and while she sat and listened to the show, it was evident on her face how disappointed she truly was. At the end of the show, I drew a man’s name out of the box and he took the ball, went over to the woman and offered it to her while giving her a hug. She was a complete stranger who he likely will never see again, but he knew having the basketball would mean more to her than him. That kindness and compassion is what the BBN is about to me…not the select actions of a few in anger, but the shared passion of a state that loves its team. That story won’t be written by most in the national media, but is the more representative one worth telling.
Have a great weekend and start watching “The Americans” if you have never seen it…
By Matt Jones on ©March 14th, 2017 @ 9:00pm
Sources tell KSR that Vince Marrow and the University of Kentucky have agreed in principle to a three-year contract extension that will keep Marrow at UK as the Recruiting Coordinator through 2020. The deal will increase Marrow’s salary to close to $500,000 a year, making him towards the top of salaries nationwide for the position. The deal is expected to be signed and made official by the end of the week.
Great news for UK Football as a key ingredient of the success of Mark Stoops and the program is locked in for a few more years.
By Nick Roush on ©February 27th, 2017 @ 9:00pm
This weekend Matt Jones spoke at Southland Christian Church’s annual men’s conference. Matt touched on a variety of topics in the 30-minute discussion. He shared how his parents influenced his life, not being afraid to fail, how his faith helps him in this profession and much more.
Matt and Drew discussed a variety of topics on today’s Hey Kentucky, but the most contentious topic was about the University of Louisville. Surprisingly, hookers weren’t involved (but a lot of money was). A student who won almost $40,000 in prize money for hitting a halftime half-court shot left empty-handed on a technicality. Fair or nah?
Watch the entire episode with Matt and Drew after the jump.
By Nick Roush on ©February 23rd, 2017 @ 8:30pm
Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear took a break from his day job to co-host Hey Kentucky! with Matt Jones. Beshear discussed his first year in office, his contentious relationship with Governor Matt Bevin, and if he’s considered running against Bevin in 2019.
See the Kentucky Attorney General talk about a variety of topics by watching the entire episode after the jump.
To figure out who is fit to fill the hole in Matt’s heart, he got a little help from Maria Montgomery. The girls go through boot camp, things get a little physical and Ryan still doesn’t know what Amanda’s up to in the third installment of Hey Kentucky, the Bachelor.
Watch the entire episode with Lee Cruse after the jump.
By Matt Jones on ©February 20th, 2017 @ 3:38pm
There was no doubt in my mind when I woke up this morning that Colin Cowherd was going to be a major topic of discussion across Big Blue Nation. After his idiotic comments from Friday (where he basically said all UK players in the NBA were either disappointing or “underwhelming”), the batch of young UK pros had a spectacular weekend at the NBA All Star game. Jamal Murray was named MVP of the “Rising Stars” game, Anthony Davis MVP of the big game and Demarcus Cousins was traded to New Orleans to create a Brow Boogie show the basketball world can’t wait to see. In three days, all the insane ramblings of Cowherd had been proven silly and dismissed by performance, as all reasonable arguments should be. A rational sportscaster interested in fairness and normalcy would have come on the radio and admitted he had just taken a “L” and then tried to laugh it off for the future. We all make mistakes, just as I did when I insisted last season Villanova couldn’t win a title. Reasonable people know sports is ultimately irrelevant in the world and thus when we are wrong, we move forward to the next topic. It is what makes sports conversation great.
Colin Cowherd of course chose the opposite approach. When faced with facts (and criticism) showcasing his points were inane, Cowherd doubled down and went even deeper, criticizing the UK program, its history, players and fans. He turned his entire show into an anti-UK rant and got some in the BBN into a frenzy with his nonsense. The reason is of course obvious. It doesn’t matter whether Cowherd genuinely believes his drivel or not (my guess is he doesn’t). He knew it would get attention and having found a morsel of relevance in a post-ESPN landscape where often his words go harmlessly into the ether, he had to pounce. Cowherd is now a story in the largest college basketball fan base and more people sent me links/reactions to his comments in 1 hour than have collectively in total over the past year-plus since he has moved to FS1. In a modern sports media world filled with non-stop, ubiquitous content, Cowherd had found a way to break through…even on a very small, regional level. He had to pounce and more flaming takes were inevitable.
It is always a struggle here at KSR when national commenters troll the Big Blue Nation. On the one hand, the simplest solution would just be to ignore their comments. Over the years I have leaned towards this policy and it is why the names Jeff Goodman and Pat Forde are read less and less on this site. If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears, did it fall? Since Goodman has moved to the “Insider” section of ESPN and Forde when to the nether regions of Yahoo Sports, their most relevance in the world of UK Basketball is when we bring them up. If we don’t feed the trolls, they can remain in anonymity talking A-10 Hoops or covering random swimming meets. It is objectively the best solution.
However sometimes you can’t help it. Sometimes comments are so ridiculous and platforms so large (such as the 2nd largest national sports network and one of the loudest radio personalities) that “not feeding the trolls” simply doesn’t work. Plus, there is the reality that KSR isn’t above the marketplace as well. Crushing terrible takes and spotlighting the worst opinions of those on the other side is terrific for the bottom-line of every media organization. There is a reason that Fox News finds the dumbest liberals to put on TV so that O’Reilly and Tucker Carlson can crush them…their (conservative) audience LOVES to see them bite the dust. It is the same reason liberals love watching Jon Stewart (or John Oliver) make mince meat out of the most simplistic versions of conservative principles…it is fun seeing those you disagree with take losses. So by highlighting the dumbest anti-UK takes, like the one Cowherd articulates, KSR gets traffic, my radio show gets buzz and we have a collective enemy for us all to hate. In reality, everyone wins.
Scratch that…everyone wins, except those of us that like sanity and rationality. What bothers me about Colin Cowherd is that he represents the worst of what sports (and political) media is becoming. Because there are so many outlets, voices and methods for people to get their information and opinion, the main way to stand out is to say something outrageous. It works in politics (see that dude Milo), it works in Entertainment (see Kanye), it works in sports (see Skip Bayless’s entire “Lebron is Overrated” schtick). Sometimes the outrageousness is based on sheer stupidity. That doesn’t bother me as much. I genuinely don’t get upset when people that I think honestly believe their idiotic statements give them on television (think most celebrities who talk politics, Kyrie Irving on the Earth being flat or the cast of “Fox and Friends” on basically anything). As Forrest says, “stupid is as stupid does” and it isn’t the individuals fault their opinions are dumb…it is our fault for caring what they say. But what really bothers me is when otherwise intelligent people KNOW that what they are saying is ridiculous, but do it just to get attention and make noise. Being ill-informed is unfortunate, if understandable, but being fraudulent is indefensible.
This seems to be the current modus operandi of the hiring right now at FS1. I went to FS1 last year for a tryout and I find the people that work there to be really creative and interesting. They have been innovative with some of their programming choices and I think in the long run, they will find more success. But in the short term, it is clear that their hiring practice is to get relatively smart people (or in the case of Clay Travis, very smart) and have them say things they may not even believe to (a) make waves and (b) cater to the uniformed click bait masses. That is what is so disappointing. Colin Cowherd is not stupid…he knows his points are ridiculous as showcased by how he Yuks it up when Calipari and others confront him. He is very talented on the radio and while he isn’t always my cup of tea, like talents as wide ranging as Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern, I can appreciate his talent. When he gets on a subject that he treats with respect and humor, I find him to be one of the best radio hosts in all of sports. But then there is the trolling side.
Faced with the realities of the current marketplace, Cowherd has to troll to rise up the public eye. He says these comments like his UK rant because no longer on ESPN, he has to make noise. He doesn’t have the advantage of being the first “great” show doing opinion in a given field (think Bill O’Reilly on politics or PTI on sports…both shows that paved the way for an entire flock of less talented copycats), so to make noise he has to be outrageous. He knows his opinions about UK are insane (no one who has risen as far as he is can really believe John Wall is permanently immature and a bad human being because he danced during Pregame warmups six years ago), but he has to say them so someone, anyone will pay attention. When you don’t have the top dog platform (ESPN), you aren’t the originator that built the first loyal following (PTI) and you can’t do anything insanely unique (it is sports talk radio after all), you have to create fake outrage. Cowherd does it, we respond, rinse and repeat.
I wish I could say that the next time Cowherd or someone likes him makes an outrageous anti-BBN statement, we will ignore it. But the reality is I can’t. We all live in this new media world and if you don’t adapt, you die. I remember when KSR started, the mainstream media used to roll their eyes and make fun of us for photoshopped pictures, Live Blogs, “Fans of the Day”, being on social media, mocking media members, embedding goofy videos and everything in between. Now they all do it. Why? Because it works. The same thing is true with Cowherd’s trolling. He does it because it works…the unfortunate thing is he could do better. Alas poor Yorick, he won’t.
By Nick Roush on ©February 16th, 2017 @ 8:30pm
If you thought Hey Kentucky, The Bachelor was funny, wait till you see the outtakes.
Check out the entire episode with Chip Cosby after the jump.
It’s rare I get a night off without anything work-related to do and tonight is one of those great evenings. So of course, I felt the need to write a quick blog post and take my restless energy away from more leisurely pursuits (Raw, The Bachelor and my book “Confidence Men” weren’t holding my attention). Since our decision last summer to take our radio show to the GOP and Democratic National Convention, I have gotten more comments about the decision I have made to not “Stick to Sports” on KSR and Hey Kentucky. The question I usually get is some form of, “Matt, why would you want to alienate half our audience and talk about politics/current events when you could just talk about UK Sports?” It is a fair question and one that I think is worthy of an explanation. UK Athletics is a commonality that bonds the vast majority of this state (at least the sane non-UL citizens) and there are some who wonder why I would want to deviate from that topic to talk about anything else, especially something that is seen as so divisive as politics. This blog seems like as good a forum as any to explain my thinking and whether you agree or disagree, at least give my viewpoint:
1. KSR has Never really Stuck to Sports
A common theme around the question of whether I should stick to sports it the belief that somehow we are acting differently than we have in the past. This just isn’t the case. From Day One of KSR, other topics besides sports have been a major part of the site. From the earliest days of the blog, we have written about topics ranging from The Bachelor to Kentucky county reviews to ranking the women of Mayberry on the Andy Griffith Show (still Turkey Hunter’s best work). I started KSR not to become what it has become…the central place for UK fans to get news about the Cats. I started KSR as a place to create a sports community based upon one commonality (UK Sports) that becomes the starting point for broader entertainment. I used to write a nightly post that was nothing but my thoughts on life, about half of which were about UK and the other half about whatever else was on my mind. I was never interested in creating solely a “UK News” site. I wanted a UK Fan community site…and the blog and the radio show after were created to reflect that.
2. UK Athletics is still BY FAR the biggest thing we do on all KSR Forums
Sometimes I will see critics (usually on message boards) claim that “KSR doesn’t even talk sports any more.” That is insanity. The VAST majority of every show is still about UK, the games, the players, the coaches, etc. Except during the summer (when there is little to say about anything sports related), virtually every show begins with UK talk and certain of our programs (like the Post Game Show) are almost exclusively sports-centric. What often happens is that when other topics come on the radio (like politics, or fast food brackets or cantaloupes), people magnify their importance by exaggerating the amount of time we spend on them. With the exception of our shows hosting Debates, I can’t think of a show ever where more than one segment was ever spent on politics or current affairs. The reality is that I know those topics have limited shelf lives and thus we spend small amounts of time on them…just like the Grammys, wrestling, country music, tennis, Ryan’s wife fights, etc, they are things we touch on and then move on. The show moves quick, but the only thing that is continually brought up over and over….UK Athletics.
3. People Like When we don’t Stick to Sports
Which brings me to the main point…whether people realize it or not, I don’t stick to sports because the audience doesn’t like when I do. I am a numbers guy…I study all the metrics of radio, tv, blogs, viewership, listenership, readership, etc with intense detail. When it comes to marketing and studying audience behavior, I am the dorkiest of dorks. I know our audience…and here is the reality. The more we deviate from sports, the more our audience grows. That is the secret to KSR…people ask me all the time, “why is KSR so popular?” Well in part it is because of how huge the BBN is…but there have been a ton of UK radio shows over the years and there are many others now…why has KSR hit the mark? Because we don’t stick to sports. KSR is about our lives…period. IT isn’t just about UK Athletics…any idiot can talk about that and most can do it with more knowledge than I, Ryan or Shannon have. But KSR is about living the fan experience on the radio and opening up our lives to share them with you. If you listen to the show, you know me…maybe not as if we were really friends but what you hear on the air is pretty close to how I really am. The same is true of Ryan, Shannon, Drew, etc. We are authentic and as such, we talk about whatever is important to us…often it is UK sports. But it isn’t always. And the reality is that as we have increased our talk about non-UK topics, our ratings have increased.
In 2016, our highest rated radio shows in terms of ratings and online listeners showcased this variety. Our 5 highest weeks were those of the Katina Powell interview, the NCAA Tournament in Des Moines, the two political conventions we attended and the week of the election. Why were those the highest weeks? In my opinion, because they were the weeks where we were a part of some of the biggest stories in the state and country, either because we attended them, did the interviews or expressed our thoughts. It is that simple. All of you know that if you want sheer expertise on UK Sports, we aren’t the people for you. We are entertainers with a few inside connections and we find a way to present all the relevant UK news in “the most ridiculous manner possible.” But the reality is that to make the show as popular as it currently is, we have to extend it beyond the hardcore UK sports fan world…we have to get the casual fan, the college students, the grandmas, the folks who like to laugh. Leave the hardcore talk for everyone else…we are trying to reach a mass audience…and to do that, you have to get beyond the relative tedium of constant sports chatter.
Bottom line…individuals often dislike a particular topic we might discuss. But it is because we talk about all those topics that there are so many diverse individuals that listen. Nobody is going to like every topic…but we hope everyone can like some topic.
4. The Show is a Reflection of Me and I think variety is interesting and important
All of that brings me to my last point. I think KSR is an amazingly unique situation found almost nowhere else in the country. In the middle of a state with no top 50 metro areas and no professional sports team, a radio show gets record-setting ratings and is nationally relevant while sticking to no obvious sports formula. A show hosted by a (moderate) progressive is listened to by a (majority) conservative audience and both sides (for the most part) respect their differences. Breaking every supposed Radio demographic assumption, a “Sports” show can not only win the 25-54 male demo, but every relevant demo, including females, Seniors and kids. That simply doesn’t happen…but it happens on KSR. On the same television show in one 30 minute segment, the hosts can debate whether White Nationalists holding a rally at a state park, interview John Calipari’s wife and do a parody of “The Bachelor.” There is literally nowhere else in the country where those can all happen in the same place. The same radio show can in one week, debate a UK football win, host a Governor’s Debate, have the Sklar Brothers co-host, fight with Dan Dakich, have a Chester/Darryl debate, interview the UK Athletic Director and host a Fast Food Bracket. I know of no other show that does that, but we do.
At the end of the day, most people who complain about me not “sticking to sports” do so because they are very Conservative, care deeply about politics and don’t want to hear from a “stinkin’ liberal” they disagree with. I understand that. And I acknowledge that expressing my opinions on some issues (especially in the Trump era) may cause some of those folks to not want to listen. I wish that weren’t the case, but I know that it happens. However I believe that the vast majority of people want authenticity and to hear what people really think, even when they disagree. For many of those people, I can be their “one liberal friend”, a description I have been called many times on the road and one I am always appreciative of. I am who I am…a dork from Middlesboro who found his way to a lottery ticket of a life by being in the right place at the right time and getting to live his dream. From day one I have been determined to be my total authentic self on the air and not be fake no matter what. I don’t think my opinions are better than anyone else’s and I certainly don’t feel it is my job to “educate” my listeners on my opinions (liberal sportswriters who use this excuse do make me gag since many are significantly less informed than they believe). Instead, I just share them because like my opinions on topics as far ranging as Sturgill Simpson to tennis, my political views are just sometimes on my mind. But so are lots of other things as well. If you have listened to the show from the beginning, you have heard me really suck initially, laugh consistently, get impatient with callers, cry at listeners’ stories, complain about my bosses, make stupid jokes, be a mediocre Fish and Wildlife Spokesman, fight with Ryan, break up with a girlfriend, eulogize my Grandmother, consider running for Congress, apologize for dumb comments, challenge power, be a mama’s boy, get fired, make plans I never follow through with, celebrate wins, call for coaches’ jobs, create awkwardness, tease John Short and anything and everything in between. The show is me, warts and all…and that includes not “sticking to sports.”
With that, I have some wrestling to watch (April 11 Smackdown comes to Yum Center…see you there!)
After the introductions in episode one, things got much more aggressive in the second edition of Hey Kentucky, The Bachelor. A rivalry emerged following a fight between Crystal and Nicole as they battled for Matt’s affections. See if they received a gold-dipped rose from The Castle in the first elimination round of Hey Kentucky, The Bachelor.
If you haven’t seen this seven-minute segment yet, stop what you are doing and watch it immediately.
A short-list of the funniest moments:
- Matt’s Age: 32 (on Facebook)
- Marilyn’s SnapChat Game
- Ted Cruz
- The Nose Whistle
- Amanda Lemond?
By Nick Roush on ©February 06th, 2017 @ 8:10pm
Instead of discussing the game, Matt and Drew divert their attention to the best commercials from the Super Bowl. Drew is creeped out by Mr. Clean, he reveals his celebrity crush and much more in the video below.
Watch the full episode with Drew after the jump.
By Nick Roush on ©January 25th, 2017 @ 8:00pm
Steve Romines practices law everyday, but this look at the law is a little different than what he’s used to. Matt and Steve say Yea or Nay to house bills in the Kentucky General Assembly you probably haven’t heard about until now.
Watch Wednesday’s episode with Steve after the jump.
By Nick Roush on ©January 23rd, 2017 @ 8:30pm
Chris Tomlin hit the streets this weekend to find the funniest kid in the Bluegrass. There were plenty of punchlines, but not from Chris. Enjoy the laughs and discover who will be on the SNL stage in 2037.
Watch Monday’s episode with Mary Jo Perino after the jump.