The best laid plans of mice and men….I started this journal on October 2, with the goal of writing in it every week day for the course of this basketball season. However the very next day, the health of my grandmother took a turn for the worse and now here we are 11 days later for the reboot of the journal. I want to thank the unbelievable number of fans who have sent their condolences over the past few days. I can’t even begin to count how many emails, tweets, text, cards and personal well-wishes I have received from all of you. It has been a wonderful help for me and my family to receive such love and I do thank you with all of my heart. For all of the occasional ugliness that a life in the public eye may expose one to, the opposite is a gift that has been both humbling and powerful. Friday at Keeneland and then last night at the game, countless numbers of you came up to a stranger and said you were praying for him and his family concerning the death of a person that you don’t know. That is a wonderful expression of the human spirit and the decency of so many in the Big Blue Nation.
One of those people is John Calipari and I want to share here a story I mentioned on the radio the other day. After my grandmother’s funeral on Tuesday night, some friends and family and I went out to dinner at the Middlesboro Pizza Hut (when in Middlesboro past 9 pm, your eating options are limited and I personally believe Pizza Hut is the best chain pizza available…and I will not debate you on this). On my way home, I received a phone call from John Calipari, who wanted to express his sympathies about the passing of my grandmother. I thought this was an extremely nice gesture and considering he had already sent a tweet of a similar vein, I was really touched by the action. But after making that comment, he went a step further and said to me, “tell me about your grandmother, what was she like?” Think about that for a second. We all know Calipari is a charitable guy and he has always been wonderful to me, but who takes the time to ask such a question? Very few of my closest friends would even think to ask such a thing, and especially on the night of her funeral, I couldn’t help but be genuinely touched by his action. Many people say many things about John Calipari and I know that personal stories such as mine will matter little to his critics. But the great thing about Calipari is that there are hundreds of folks all around the Bluegrass, most of which have no connection to covering the team or are anyone who could have such a forum, who have experienced similar gestures of kindness. It is because of acts such as these that I totally agree when Seth Greenberg says, “Calipari is the most misunderstood person in college basketball.” I misunderstood him before he arrived in Lexington, but his true personality has been shown to me by acts of kindness such as the one on Tuesday night.
With that, a couple of random things before the week starts:
— I was telling everyone and their brother to go and see “Gravity” if they got the chance, and that was before I actually made my way out to the theater. Now that I have been, I am doubling down on that review. While the storyline has some holes and there is at least one massively cheesy moment, the “Holy Sh**” factor of the visuals makes the movie something that you simply have to see. Don’t wait until its on television (I am not sure it will translate well) and make sure and see it in 3-D (which means skip it in your local theater in a small town…I am sorry, it won’t be the same). Go feel the movie in person. It is like nothing you have ever seen…and it has the preview for “Bad Grandpa” in it, which I also have to see.
— Heard through the grapevine on Saturday night three interesting tidbits from the UK-Alabama game:
1. The locker room at halftime was not a pleasant place to be in. One person who has been around the program a long time was in the vicinity and said to me, “there had to be paint coming off the walls after Stoops got done with them.” I am not sure any of the coaches in their hearts of hearts thought that Kentucky had a shot at winning the game. But they did think they would play better and could keep the game within a 20 or so…losing Whitlow hurt but so did some stupid penalties and decisions. That was apparently expressed…aggressively…at halftime.
2. There were some strong words on the sidelines between Stoops and Defensive Coordinator DJ Eliot. I witnessed a bit of this myself and to be fair, this is not uncommon in any football environment. But Stoops was not happy with some of the defensive alignments and personnel packages that were being utilized, especially in the 2nd and 3rd quarters. This was expressed in a very public, and loud way. I like that fire from Coach Stoops and can understand his frustration. He is a defensive guy and UK got manhandled on that side of the ball. Some of that was to be expected, but some clearly frustrated him.
3. There is still a strong sense of optimism around the program. While the coaches sounded down after the game (why wouldn’t they), the optimism is still there. Players heads are not down, the recruits are still saying they are all in and there were compliments from the other side. Nick Saban told at least two folks I spoke with, “give these guys a couple of recruiting classes and this will be a completely different deal.” Nearly every former player I ran into thinks Stoops is going on the right path and as one said to me, “they don’t make errors that can’t be corrected with more coaching and better personnel.” The next six games are big, but I am still on board, and more importantly, so is everyone else that is actually making this thing happen.
With that said, the music in Commonwealth is awful…AWFUL. But that is a rant for another day (and it is coming).
Tom Brady just threw an absolutely amazing game-winning touchdown pass, so it is time for me to end this. He is rich, athletic, handsome, with a beautiful wife, a million Super Bowl rings and great hair. But hey, I know Ryan Lemond…so eat it Brady.