The Matt Jones Podcast makes its triumphant return with Dr. Ricky Jones. The outspoken UofL professor provides a unique perspective on the tumult surrounding the university and its athletic department. Highlights:
— “It is no longer an academic institution,” Jones said.
— The crazy story of how Vince Tyra became UofL’s acting AD.
— What’s wrong with the backwards system we call “higher education.”
— Ricky’s real problem with athlete protests.
— Why Ricky supports Calipari.
You can have every podcast delivered straight to your phone by searching for “The Matt Jones Podcast” on iTunes and clicking “subscribe.” If you aren’t an iTunes person, you can also stream every podcast on Podbay or check it out on the Stitcher app.
In the very near future, likely as early as tomorrow morning, Rick Pitino will no longer be the coach of the UL Basketball program. This is a decision that should have happened long ago, but didn’t because of a combination of success, hubris and denial that engulfed everyone from the Card fan base to the University President. Simply put, Rick Pitino was too successful to question. He made massive money for a University rising in prestige, won at the highest levels coaching a program desperate for success and helped put Louisville basketball in a national spotlight that everyone involved adored. Over the course of more than a decade, he cultivated a loyal group of supporters, ready to fight all of his battles and defend his honor, no matter how bad the transgression. The Pitino Army included powerful government officials, connected corporate friends, wealthy local businessmen, hardcore Card lovers and loyal media enablers. Regardless of the behavior, they had an answer and those who went against the #L1C4 shield were seen as enemies who must be destroyed. Pitino made himself out to be the most powerful and important person in the city of Louisville and through success and sheer will, he achieved his goal.
But tomorrow all of that will likely come crashing down. The unchecked arrogance of the Pitino dynasty has seemingly finally hit its tipping point thanks to a new Louisville leadership regime and overall fan scandal fatigue. The Pitino defenders have jumped ship, with donors holding their wallets, fans complaining in disgust and former media friends calling for resignation. It is the end of the line and even though Pitino refuses to recognize reality (as seen by his unbelievably tone-deaf statement this evening), there is simply no longer an army to defend his castle. The question now only becomes how many people will he take down with him? Does Louisville clean out the entire basketball staff and find an outsider to jump in and try to coach the team on the precipice of the season? With talk of the dreaded “Death Penalty” being whispered, how harsh a punishment does the men’s basketball team receive? And in the process of cleaning house does Pitino’s latest transgression take down the AD many believe to be one of the best in the country with him? Being a Pitino friend/associate has for years been the ticket to success in Louisville and around college basketball. Will it now be a ticket to unemployment, ridicule or worst of all, federal prison? Time will tell.
There will be plenty of time to look back at Pitino’s tenure in Louisville and Lexington for that matter, and try to process what it all means. TJ Beisner wrote earlier today that Pitino ends his career as one of the biggest sports personalities in our state’s history, yet will likely be shunned from both campuses that he called home. In some ways that is truly sad and a Greek Bluegrass sports tragedy of unrivaled proportions. But it is also a direct result of a lifetime of skirting standards, both professional and ethical, and yet finding a way to come through unscathed in the end. I often took to calling Pitino “Teflon Rick”, as it seemed nothing could stick to him and his job was saved after behavior that would have ended the career of virtually any other coach. Pitino lied about everything, from the serious to the trivial, and now with no one left to believe his most absurd assertions of all (“I was SHOCKED to learn”), the door will finally shut.
After UL self-imposed probation two years ago (a decision that privately Pitino and UL Athletics people sought to have fans blast then-President Ramsey for), I and others said that the only way for UL to get past the Katina Powell scandal was to clean house and bring a new regime. At any other University in America, that decision would have been obvious and immediate. Yet for reasons that now have become clearer, UL decided to deny and persevere…keeping the entire regime that led to the problems in the first place. Over the last two years, the effects of that decision have been made clear. The University has seen its President resign in disgrace, its Foundation has been raided of millions of dollars that are still missing and unaccounted for, its donor base has eroded to the point that paying the daily bills of the University is in jeopardy and now, an even larger basketball scandal that involves the FBI and pay-for-play has tarnished the University for decades. To an entire generation of college basketball fans, when you one thinks of scandal and rule-breaking, Louisville basketball will come to the forefront. With one quick rip of the band-aid off, this could have been avoided. But now even more pain is ahead.
Thus while I feel no sympathy for Pitino or other UL Athletics administration members, I do feel sorry for the fan base and University as a whole. It is true that the enabling by these fans helped prolong these issues, but if we are honest, most fans of schools (or politicians) they support seek to initially justify their actions when trouble occurs. UL fans wanted to believe in Rick, Tom and Bobby, and the wins and income clouded their judgment. However what is next will punish them disproportionately to whatever guilt they may have. The Cards are probably looking at a massive rebuild of early-90s Kentucky proportion and may find themselves without postseason play for multiple years. The words “Death Penalty” have been thrown about and there was probably a time I would have rooted for such a result. But the reality is that the city of Louisville and the state of Kentucky need UL Basketball to exist for the betterment of the economy. Downtown Louisville and the Yum Center without UL games will be unsustainable and if that area fails, it will have a dramatic impact on the local and state economy. Even though they are our rivals, they matter also as our neighbors and while I do not pity their plight, I hope the comeuppance they receive shows some degree of mercy for them and our state.
Tomorrow the Pitino era likely ends and with it, a decade of UL sports that saw some of the greatest successes the University has ever known. Rick Pitino will stomp off into the sunset, likely angrily shouting his innocence of all charges, ignorance of the facts at hand and overall unfairness of the situation to him. But he is no victim and he certainly is no martyr. His fall is great because his scandalous reign sustained solely by absolute power and fear, inevitably led to his ultimate downfall. He will leave the University in worse shape than when he arrived and with a second fan base that once adored him, now looking away in shame. Rick Pitino, one of the top college coaches in the history of the profession, is now destined to be remembered mostly as a cheater of epic proportions and a punchline to sexual stamina jokes. It is a sad ending, but unfortunately one well-earned.
Everyone in Kentucky media is scrambling right now as rumors are running rampant about what may or may not happen tonight. Here is what we know:
— Louisville reporter Joe Sonka, who has been on top of the story from moment one says he has a source that says the announcements from UL are not done for the day.
— I have been told by a good UL source that “if you are doing your TV show tonight, you might need to go live because of what is coming.” We normally tape at 4:30 and thus we making contingency plans to potentially go LIVE at 7:30.
— Terry Meiners just said on his radio show that Rick Pitino texted him and said, “I don’t know what the hell is going on.”
At this point, its all smoke. But it is billowing. We shall see. Stay tuned…this afternoon/night could be quite a ride.
Hello everyone, this is Matt and I hope you are enjoying the end to your Labor Day weekend. I interrupt this Tennessee losing effort (at least at Halftime while I am writing this) to ask all of you to join me in welcoming KSR’s newest Contributing Writer, Aaron Torres to our site! If you have been around KSR for awhile, you are almost certainly familiar with Aaron and his work. He has been a guest on our radio show, has written columns that we have linked and has even hosted for me during my vacation. He is probably best known to UK fans for his tremendous book “One and Fun” (which you can purchase at this link), the definitive chronicle of Calipari’s first UK team, the awesome 2010 group. The book is one of the best collection of UK stories on a team of all-time and since working on it, Aaron has made himself known to UK fans everywhere as a great chronicler of all things Cats.
We recently reached an agreement with Aaron to have him join us for a couple of reasons. One is obviously Aaron’s talent. I truly believe Aaron is one of the best young writers in college sports today and his thoughts and opinions are amongst the best in the country. But second, I think it is important that KSR have a voice talking about UK and college basketball/football that isn’t simply a lifelong UK fan. Aaron will bring us a little bit of an outsider’s perspective (he lives currently in LA) and allow us some views from outside the bubble that I think will be great for the site. He will be writing two columns a week for us, doing profiles of basketball related topics and eventually starting a podcast on the KSR Podcast Network. We are very excited to have him on board and I know he will join Drew, Tyler, Nick, Jack, Freddie and the rest of the gang in making the best UK site on the internet even better.
So welcome Aaron when he begins writing, enjoy his features and thanks for being a reader on KSR.
By KSR on ©August 28th, 2017 @ 8:00pm
The Matt Jones Podcast makes its triumphant return by previewing the 2017 college football season with ESPN’s Marcus Spears. Following the football talk, Ryan Lemond and Matt peel back the curtain to give you an intimate look behind the scenes of KSR. Highlights include:
— Why Mark Stoops was “did as good a job of coaching a football team as anybody in the country last year.”
— Spears’ stance on Greg McElroy’s Matt Elam comments.
— When Matt might potentially run for political office and what would happen to KSR.
— Matt’s relationship with the UK coaches.
— “In the entertainment business, the worst thing you can do is be predictable.”
You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise. You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to “Kentucky Sports Radio” on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.
By Matt Jones on ©August 22nd, 2017 @ 11:29pm
Tomorrow on the radio show, we begin our 3rd Annual Quest for Greatness. A simple question teases us all…What is the best Fast Food/Chain Restaurant in America?. The last two years we have approached this contest on KSR Radio and we have reached vastly different (and controversial results). From the amazing QDoba defeat over rogue entry Subway to last year’s Outback/Cracker Barrel debate that went all the way to the Republican Convention, the KSR Restaurant Bracket never ceases to add excitement. Tomorrow Drew will have the below match ups in bracket form but for now, here it is….the four finalists from the past are #1 seeds and the rest are ready for an August to remember. Get your picks in now:
Steak N Shake
Chuck E Cheese
Buffalo Wild Wings
California Pizza Kitchen
Hello everyone! It has been awhile as I have been out and about around foreign lands, but I have returned and am very excited to get back. For the past 5 weeks, KSR Radio has been hosted by guests hosts of all types and I thank all of them for taking the time to do it. But after a summer sojourn, it is now time for the full KSR Crew to reunite and get back on the air tomorrow morning. I will be in studio with Ryan, Shannon and Drew and we will go over the last 5 weeks worth of news, tell stories from the trip and other chatter. Plus, a special surprise contest for everyone listening with first prize being two tickets to Big Blue Madness.
10 am-Noon on one of 40 radio stations around the state or streaming on iHeartRadio.com. And if you haven’t yet done it, make sure you are subscribed to our NEW KSR PODCAST FEED, which we created a few weeks ago. The shows are now available there.
I assume most of you are in the midst of watching the Nashville Predators hockey game now (or if you aren’t you are tweeting about it), but I thought I would use this time to update a couple of notes. I have just returned from Charleston, SC, where my friend (and former law partner) Johnny Bruce was married. It was a great trip but it included a moment that I felt the need to apologize for to a random UK fan in the BBN. Moments before the beginning of Friday night’s Rehearsal Dinner, I realized that I had left the clothes I was going to wear at the WLEX studios in Lexington. Faced with nothing to wear and likely to now be late for the event, I quickly ran out of my hotel to find a sports coat and pants for the occasion. I was told a clothing store (the Dumas you see above…which is very nice but also very Charleston) was a block away and since I would have to leave from there to go to the dinner, I walked out of my hotel room wearing a dress shirt, basketball shorts and brown dress shoes with dark socks…a look that is nothing but bizarre. But assuming I would see no one I knew, I said why not and ran towards the store. I immediately bumped into a person who was a UK fan and who said “hey are you Matt Jones? I love KSR!” It was one of many BBN fans I met down there (Charleston is heavily tinted in Blue), but I must say that due to my clothing choice and the time, I ended the conversation rather abruptly. I apologize for my haste, and just say this…thanks for not snapping a picture of me. It would have been good blackmail material.
A few quick things:
— The biggest story of the weekend is the UL Audit that came out on Thursday. I will talk more about this on the radio tomorrow and maybe even write more about some details later in the week. My big picture takeaway however is this…for years, UL was run like a kingdom by a set of royal leaders who thought they could do no wrong. President Ramsey and all of his lackeys in the administration provided over an absolute swindling of the University that is as shameful as anything I have seen in education in this state. The amount of money either wasted or simply taken by the leadership at UL is astounding and as the days continue, I think you will see the serious consideration of criminal charges against some involved. The money spent on salaries (which were egregious…from the President to his secretary to Tom Jurich to random Administrators), athletics, private donors’ projects funded through the Foundation and simply waste is shameful and those who have given money to the University over the years should be livid (and many are). There are specifics that deal with the sports side that we will deal with, but one thing is obviously clear. When I named UL the University of Scandal, I thought it was only about serious, but ultimately unimportant things like basketball strippers, Bobby Petrino shenanigans, etc. But over it all was a regime that basically swindled millions of dollars from a public University, while hiding it from view of anyone, including the Board of the University. The failure to monitor that occurred, for a variety of reasons ranging from money to friendship to athletic success to “don’t rock the boat” syndrome, from the Administration, the media, fans and the state is a black eye on a lot of people and should be a lesson for everyone that ever argues people need to “shut up” and simply do whatever leadership of an institution, government or athletic program says with no questions asked.
— The UK Basketball team is on campus and playing pickup games with each other. I have heard no reports of how guys look or that type of summer gossip but one thing is clear…the team has good chemistry and is going to get a lot of summer training together. Arguably the three best players on the team at this point, Hamidou Diallo, Kevin Knox and PJ Washington, could end up on Team USA with Calipari, while the Quade-Alexander-Baker backcourt will get reps together here as well. Nick Richards will be working out with Wenyen and Sasha and the hope is Jarred Vanderbilt will as well as the summer continues. It won’t be a perfect summer of play, like with the 2015 team, but this will be as much Preseason work as UK has gotten since and I expect that to pay huge dividends.
— It is a broken record now to say, but the 2018 recruiting class for UK is going to be beastly. I think UK leads with two superstars (Bol Bol and Zion Williamson) and is end the top 2 with at least one other (Romeo Langford). Throw in the fact that Calipari usually only zones in on guys in July and this should be a very eventful month or so…UK is going to load up and since some of these guys may end up back next year…it has the feel of a super team in 2018-2019.
— The HEY KENTUCKY CASTING CALL is this weekend at Fayette Mall. We have had a lot about it on the site and the video below can explain more about the details. We did this a few years ago and it was a great event…think American Idol, but to be on TV as a sports or news commentator/reporter. It is a great chance to break into the business and will be a set of summer TV shows we do on Hey Kentucky. The first round is Saturday from 10-noon at Fayette Mall and folks will be invited back to come in the afternoon and do an on-camera tryout that will be used on the show. I hope you will come…it is a real chance to do something cool in sports, entertainment or news (we are looking for different types of people) and the winners are guaranteed spots on the show. Plus everyone that comes has a chance to win a fairly huge prize (which we will announce this week). Come take your shot…it could change your life.
— I am hearing from folks at UL that the Cards expect a decision from the NCAA This week. We shall see…I expect Pitino to get hammered and the NCAA to find a way to let them keep the banner. Either way, we will know soon
We head off to Prestonsburg in the morning…right outside of Eric C Conn territory as he runs from the FBI. Maybe he will show up…add that and the UL audit talk. It will be a definite must-listen. We are at Sleep Outfitters in London on Tuesday, Russell Springs Wednesday, Somerset on Thursday and Lexington Friday. Giving UK Basketball tickets away each stop. Come join the fun. Until then….
UPDATE: I meant to write this earlier and I forgot. For reasons that I am not entirely sure of (mostly because Lee Cruse suggested it), I have found myself watching The Grand Tour on Amazon, which is the spinoff of the Top Gear show from the BBC. I don’t know why I like it or even why I watch it, but I do find it oddly mesmerizing. Anyway, Richard Hammond from the show had a terrible wreck this weekend during filming in Switzerland and there is now video of it. He is apparently ok, but it is amazing he walked away basically unscathed. The show is ridiculous but I do recommend it if you either like cars (which I don’t really) or like good television (which it is not)…forget it, there is no reason to watch it…but it is admittedly sort of entertaining
The one and only Big Mick is a meaty masterpiece in its
own right. Composed of two quarter-pound patties* of never-fresh, frozen,
mostly beef raised close to the processing plant. Only McDowell’s
has the frosted beef and processed cheese to give you a major reason for
the afternoon trip to the secret bathroom only you and Debra know about on the 9th floor that is under construction.
You can be a part of McDowell’s KSR Top 10 Tweets by using hashtags like #KSR #BBN or #KSRtop10. You can also nominate tweets by mentioning them with the hashtag. If we like what we see, it could be posted the next day.
If you are interested in sponsoring KSR’s Top 10 Tweets, please contact us at Via Email
Now. On to the tweets:
#10 Luke D
– Luke D (@lmdxn) May 16, 2017
This would be fantastic.
#9 Travis Freeman
– Travis Freeman (@tfreeman63) May 16, 2017
Anything with Matt is epic though.
#8 Tim N
– Tim N (@narbstang) May 16, 2017
He’s going to need several Harry’s Razors.
#7 Darrell Hughes
Almost wrecked listening to the @KySportsRadio podcast & hour 1 at 25:25 mark Matt’s voice changes. Made me laugh so hard.
– Darrell Hughes (@DarrellMHughes) May 16, 2017
Should we require listeners to fill out a waiver now?
#6 Awkward Fuzzball
– Awkward Fuzzball (@awkwardfuzzball) May 16, 2017
#5 Steven Keen
– Steven Keen (@TheSBK13) May 16, 2017
Next they’re going to be everyone’s Super Bowl.
#4 Adam Webb
– Adam Webb (@RadioAdamWebb) May 16, 2017
Believe it or not, we do not control the weather.
#3 Tony Ray
@KySportsRadio Someone would want to earn those pants?
– Tony Ray (@TDKYRay) May 16, 2017
I certainly wouldn’t.
@KySportsRadio They’re going to put Brad on the popcorn boxes next. Let’s just hope they don’t confuse him with Ryan.
– Zach. (@MrZachWright) May 16, 2017
How could they?
#1 Brandon Gracheck
– Brandon Grachek (@TheGrachek) May 17, 2017
Haters gonna hate.
Image by 24/7 Sports
Some thoughts on a windy day here in Lexington:
— Lot of stuff going on but probably the most important right now are the decisions that will make up the 2018 UK Basketball Roster. Hamidou Diallo has been invited to the NBA Combine and from what I am hearing, will be making the trip. It is an interesting scenario for Hamidou, who wants to get the best information possible and try out the process, but also doesn’t want to ruin a potential first impression in front of the NBA folks. The NBA Combine gives two types of invitations, those that are invited and can choose not to participate in the 5 on 5 (these are the top players) and those that are invited on the condition that they play 5 on 5. Monk, Fox and Bam got the former invite and Briscoe received one of the latter. From what I am told, Diallo initially got an invite that would require him to play 5 on 5, but this was changed soon after to the invite where he is not required to play. For Diallo, this is an ideal scenario as there is a good argument that his first public game in over a year shouldn’t be in such an environment. Diallo could still choose to play, but my guess is that he will not. I continue to hear that Hamidou only wants to go to the Draft if he knows he will go in the First Round (I know this is contrary to some other reports, but just passing on what I am hearing) and that he is more likely than not to return. However, if he gets good reviews and feels like a late first round team is guaranteed to pick him, he could leave. Bottom line…I think the “scuttlebutt” on Diallo will have a strong impact on what his final decision will be.
— The decisions of Knox, Bamba and Johnson will likely decide just how good Kentucky will be and on all three, UK is in a holding pattern. Mohammad Bamba is down to Kentucky and Texas according to most of the folks I talk to and depending on who you ask, you get different views. The folks who follow Duke have all been putting out that Texas is the leader, but I think that is more about Duke coaches projecting their hopes, rather than an accurate statement about reality. UK has led for Bamba for a long time and I can’t imagine what would have changed that fact but I do believe no one is certain what he will do, including the folks in Lexington. It is truly up in the air. As for Kevin Knox, he is scheduled to decide this week and once again, it is a mystery. Most believe that Duke is the leader, but I haven’t gotten a sense that anyone knows that with certainty. My best sources tell me they believe the kid’s favorite school is Kentucky but the parents lean Duke (specifically his dad). If that is true, it is a repeat of the Bolden situation and we know how that ended. Finally, Cameron Johnson visited Arizona and will still visit Ohio State. I am hearing it is either UK or Arizona in the end and the Cats are in a good spot. UK has made Johnson a priority (likely because they don’t feel confident on Knox), and want to take him no matter what the other recruits choose to do. He said initially he would take all his visits and the plan hasn’t changed. His decision could come any time after his last visit and I like UK’s position as of this moment. Bottom line on all these guys…between Diallo, Bamba, Johnson and Knox, I think UK needs at least two of those guys to be on the roster next year. A week ago I thought that was all but certain…I still believe it is likely, but I am not quite as confident as I was a week ago.
— The Kroger deal at Commonwealth is one that has been in the works for the past few months and was finally made reality mid-week last week. Kroger has been negotiating with JMI and was very close to reaching a deal two weeks ago (when the initial reports came out), but only after a change last week was it finalized. The money for the deal all goes to JMI, who paid the University of Kentucky money three years ago for the right to sell the name. It was part of the overall media rights package JMI bought and the assumption has been that it is a major money loser for JMI. This deal, which was for far less than what the naming rights were initially shopped for three years ago, represents a step for JMI to recuperate some of their initial investment in the deal. Kroger Field isn’t ideal to many but it honestly doesn’t bother me, in large part because the initial name was a placeholder anyway. While the announcement was today, the decision to allow this to happen occurred three years ago at a time that everyone realized investment in the Football program was needed. Kroger Field doesn’t roll off the young, but my guess is that we will eventually get used to it.
— Finally, a big shout out to my alma mater Transylvania University for the way the community came together following the machete attack on campus last week. From the President to the campus police to the women who worked in the coffee shop, the way the community handled the situation and the aftermath was great. I was proud hearing of their actions and have to give a shoutout to the entire Pioneer community for making what could have been a tragic situation, something that can be positive going forward.
OK it is that time of year again…as we head into the Dog Days of Summer, thoughts turn to topics that don’t solely include UK Sports. And with that in mind, the radio show begins the summer Bracket chatter with our first ever attempt to pick the KSR Radio Best Movie Bracket Contest. Now we have thought about undergoing such an endeavor in the past, but a number of things have gotten in the way, most importantly the fact that not everyone has seen every movie. So with that in mind, I tried to limit the scope to pick the KSR Best Movie under these criteria:
1. All Movies Since 1980
Look I know people love Casablanca, On the Waterfront, Citizen Kane and a host of other movies from another generation. That is nice. And it is very likely that the 1970s produced the best decade of movies of all-time. But I am looking for a contest that virtually everyone can participate in…the 1980s seemed like a good starting point.
2. Movie Must Be Well-Known and Watched by Many
I am in no way going to try and argue that these are the BEST movies since 1980. There have undoubtedly been many that have higher quality than most on this list and I could do a complete different bracket with just the movies that I prefer. But I wanted to pick movies tha most everyone has seen, and thus this list seems to work best.
3. No Comedies Are on the List
I realized as I began that comedies are hard to compare to other movies…how is “Billy Madison” like “Schindler’s List?” It isn’t. So we will do those in another bracket at another time. Where a movie could have a couple of labels (like “Lost in Translation”), I went with what I thought was the best description.
So the 64 movies below are what I have come up with…there are very few superhero movies because I haven’t seen many of them and am not really into them (sorry). Movies with many sequels, even the good ones, are combined into one listing. The 64 below make up my first stab at the list…the radio show tomorrow will give people a chance to replace one movie off the list with another one if they can make a good case for it. My guess is a few will be able to, so once that is finished, we will have the final list to put into a bracket for the shows on Thursday and Friday. The list below is not in any order beyond decades and wont be the four brackets. Let the movie watching begin:
Back to the Future
Do the Right Thing
Full Metal Jacket
Blair Witch Project
Boyz N the Hood
Good Will Hunting
Saving Private Ryan
Lord of the Rings
There Will be Blood
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Lost in Translation
No Country for Old Men
Gangs of New York
Walk the Line
Field of Dreams
Silence of the Lambs
Zero Dark Thirty
Wolf of Wall Street
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.