As I sit here and watch the latter stages of the NFC Championship game, it seemed like as good a time as any to get back to the writing world. Its been a big weekend for UK Basketball and there is a lot to get to, but lets start with this. We are launching Wednesday night trivia at KSBAR beginning this week. Every Wednesday night, we will have team trivia at the restaurant and everyone is welcome to come try it out. I will be reading the questions for the first couple of nights, then Drew and Ryan will take their shots, and later in the year we will have some pros and guests as well. At the beginning it will be general trivia, but we also plan on doing some specialized nights as well. So get your team together and come join us. Should be a lot of fun.
With that, some thoughts:
— I think Saturday’s win over Auburn represents confirmation to me that this Kentucky Basketball team has a chance to be as good as anyone by the end of the season. If you look at the three best wins Kentucky has this year (UNC, at Louisville, at Auburn), you can make a strong case that they are the team with 3 best Neutral/Road wins of any group in the Top 25. Auburn is the most hostile environment currently in the SEC and Kentucky went to the Plains, got a massive lead on the Tigers and then were able to hang on with big plays down the stretch after their opponents got absurdly hot. I absolutely love how this team plays when all 5 starters are clicking. The Hagans-Herro-Johnson-Washington-Travis group have a weakness as a five some, mainly the ability to protect the rim inside, but all 5 can score, all have high basketball IQs and when playing together, they are a matchup nightmare. That group I saw on Saturday can win the whole thing in March and if that doesn’t make you happy, I don’t know what will.
— I was really impressed with how Kentucky made great, clutch plays down the stretch of the game with multiple players. Herro hit huge shots, from the top of the key three, to the mid-range jumper to his decision to push the ball and draw the late foul. Each play was crucial to the game and it became clear that he loves having the ball late on the road in such situations. But there were also big post ups by Travis that led to free throws, a strong take by PJ Washington to shut down the crowd and even a big jumper by Quickley in traffic. The difference between this team and the last few for Calipari is that all five guys can make plays in key situations and no one is a weakness on offense. That will make them very hard to defend in March.
— It was also nice to see the development of player leadership from this group. The clip of Ashton Hagans telling Keldon Johnson to “wake the f*** up” has now been seen by virtually everyone but it is an important step to this team reaching its maximum potential. John Calipari is a great coach and someone the players love but I would also imagine at some point that playing for him can be kind of exhausting. He yells constantly and one can only hear about “servant leadership” so often before you start to check out. But Calipari knows this and that is why he really tries to develop teams where the players end up coaching each other. Hagans taking the initiative on Johnson (which Keldon said afterwards was warranted) is a good step in that direction and a way for this team to continue to maximize its ability going forward.
— If you have been online at any point in the last 36 hours, you have certainly seen and read more about the Covington Catholic controversy in Washington DC than anyone could ever imagine possible. After watching all of the videos out there on the situation (at least of which I am aware), I wrote on Twitter some of my thoughts. But I will add to them here just with this. The entire situation is an example of why the mix of social media and a toxic political environment in this country are dangerous. When I saw the initial video yesterday, I was disappointed in the boys’ behavior and the school (and am still disappointed in the lack of supervision of the Covington Catholic chaperones). However I was careful not to vilify the young men, because I think often groups of kids act without thought in large groups and people can make dumb mistakes…especially at that age. Thus even though many national folks were berating me on Twitter that my comment (“it is an unfortunate situation and a great school needs to make a statement”) didnt go far enough in condemning them, I believed then that one has to be careful to make large-scale judgments about people based on small behaviors.
That belief was showcased even more today as other videos of the situation came out. It seems as if the elderly Native American man came to the Covington Catholic group while playing his drum and thus the initial take by many (that the boys surrounded him to intimidate him) was incorrect. The first video (which was the only one out at the time of our KSR post and thus I have taken our post down) didn’t show the beginning of the situation and thus wasn’t complete. Nevertheless it did show the boys clearly did mock his playing (and him), while doing chants and the tomahawk chop. There have been some reports that individual boys said derogatory things to the man, but although it may have happened, I couldn’t hear that in the videos. Some individuals made decisions I think were mistakes and acted immaturely, including the young man who decided to “stare him down” while smirking. Had they (or adults with them) acted with more respect towards the man, the situation would have been diffused. But they didn’t and what came next was a very unfortunate situation where people looking to cause trouble (and hurl offensive, derogatory terms towards the Covington Catholic students) took over and overwhelmed the situation. The new videos showed that those who initially condemned the boys as awful human beings were wrong…as are those now who said they did “nothing wrong.” They acted like immature kids and unfortunately a bad situation gained national spotlight.
I firmly believe that the reason this entire issue blew up was simple. Because the young man at the center had a MAGA hat on, it became a political issue. Our entire culture is now centered around politics to a degree that I think is unhealthy. Too many people base too much of their lives on politics in a way that I don’t think happened even 10 years ago. And people on both sides of the political aisle (yes, both sides) want to “win” every advantage over the other by making the other side look bad. We are all out, not to embrace our commonalities as Americans, but to embrace our separation. I blame this on our current leaders and our partisan media…but citizens are taking the mantle and running as well. It is sad to me. Rather than looking at this situation for what it is my view…a group of kids acting insensitively to a situation that could have been far better handled by everyone involved…it became a symbol of Trump, liberals, MAGA, snowflakes and everything in between. It could have been a teaching moment about respect to different cultures, the elderly, veterans and what to do when confronted with awkward situations…instead it became one side wanting to vilify the young men as a symbol for all they dislike about Trump and the other side wanting to have their latest example of “fake news” and how nasty all Liberals are. What got lost in the rush to judgment was what always gets lost when we vilify each other by group association, the humanity of the Native American man and the individual kids. That was a mistake on everyone’s part.
I know that for certain segments of society, nothing will change whatever visceral reaction this story has placed in them. They are on a political war path and annihilating those on the other side is the most important goal. But hopefully for the vast majority of the rest of us, it can be a learning experience for everyone involved. People aren’t as good or as bad as you think they are. They are just human beings, all of us faulty. It would be good if we all could remember that sometimes, especially in the most tense of situations.
Have a good week and make sure and tune in tomorrow…it is time to talk “You”