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“Backstage at the Final Four” Piece Talks KSR

It’s Sunday – not exactly the day of the week you expect to spend reading a massive wall-of-text article from which quotes Matt Jones, Pat Forde, and Pete Thamel (amongst other notables).  But it happened.  Check out this piece from Brian Weinberg titled “Backstage at the Final Four”.  The title may be a bit misleading, as you don’t get the backstage scoop on athletes and coaches.  Instead, you see the behind the scenes sports-journalism world, from the feuds to the cliques.

I woke up a bit late, posted the morning links, and came across a tweet from former KSR-er Fake Gimel featuring this article.  Before I could digest the whole thing, I had to prepare a cup of coffee and take a deep breath.  By the end of this piece, I’d further realize my reaction to long articles is a sign of the shifting dynamics in journalism – from long print piece to quick, digital news bursts.

In fact, reporting on this article is kind of a ‘sportsblog Inception’ moment.  I’m writing a blog post about an article, quoting it instead of people, and commentating around it.  To make matters more interesting, the piece talks about the site that I’m writing for and the man who called me in early 2011 to offer me this particular position at

But what exactly is my position?  I’m a writer, but I make no claims of being a journalist.  I know what journalism takes – I date a journalist, and she’s heading to Northwestern for graduate school.   She kicks my ass when it comes to writing journalistic pieces.  However, the writing on this site is journalism in many ways, but we bring it in ‘the most ridiculous manner possible’ and admit out biases, as Matt says in the article.  We are a fan-site that just so happens to be pretty huge thanks to a few strokes of luck and the rise of a new era of sports media.  The fun-loving approach that started as a podcast with MJ and friends has turned into an full-blown media entity, or as Weinberg calls it, “media villain #1 at the Final Four”.

Here’s a long excerpt when he begins to discuss KSR:

“Now that U of L made it to the Final Four,” somebody says sardonically, “Matt Jones has to admit Louisville exists.”

Matt Jones is the chief media villain at the Final Four, the creator of a fan website/blog devoted to the University of Kentucky. The misleadingly named gets up to 150,000 unique visitors per day, and, as Jones likes to brag, it looks like it was produced on an Atari. It’s worth a visit for non-Kentucky fans for an advertisement link to Boone’s Butcher Shop, where you’ll find the following grammar: “Boone’s offers custom processing of your beef, hog, lamb, goat, buffalo, wild game and a numerous amount of other animals.”

A cherubic 34-year-old with a Duke law degree, Jones and his KSR writers popularized the slogan “Louisville doesn’t exist.” But Jones is a smart, media-savvy guy, and it’s his relentless criticism of nationally esteemed basketball writers like Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports and Pete Thamel of the New York Times that has earned him outcast status in arena workrooms.

Not that Jones is trying to be one of the guys. At the second and third rounds of the NCAA tournament at the YUM Center in Louisville, he tweeted out to his 46,000 followers that Forde was in the workroom “openly cheering” for teams playing on TV, a “yearly tradition.” This was in reference to the 2010 tournament, when Jones “called out” Forde for allegedly buying a round of drinks after Kentucky lost to West Virginia. Forde has been one of the more outspoken critics of Kentucky’s head coach, John Calipari, the only coach in history to have not one, but two Final Four appearances “vacated” by the NCAA for rules violations. On KSR, Jones and writers, under the guise of journalistic ombudsmen (but acting as what others might call fans with a press pass), regularly accuse Forde of having an agenda to attack Calipari. They claim he mentions Calipari’s checkered past whenever possible in his national articles, and that he yearns to “take down” Calipari through investigative reporting. Basically, they remind Kentucky’s fan base, known as the Big Blue Nation, to hate this writer. The most extreme segment of Kentucky’s fan base is notorious for sending hate mail and, in rare cases, issuing death threats. Forde lives in Louisville and has no geographical buffer. Here at the Final Four, they’ll share a workspace, representing two very different approaches to modern sports journalism.

It’s fair to say that this writer came in with viewing KSR and Matt as the ‘villain’ as what he had been told by the media ranks.  As the article progresses, you’ll see the perspective shift.

Weinberg notes that the court is mic’d to get that old-school fieldhouse ambiance inside the Superdome.  He points out that Jerry Palm was charging Jay-Z’s phone (#teamblackberry it seems).  He also discusses seating arrangements and points out that the print and online friction, specially with fan sites, causes a visible divide in the media rooms.  He interviews the ‘incendiary’ yet always wonderful Gregg Doyel and states this after Matt comes by to say hello…

For the first time in the workroom, I feel self-conscious about the company I’m keeping.  If Jones and Doyel are friends, is Doyel media villain No. 2? I like Doyel, and am keeping an open mind about Jones, but I want others to talk to me, like Pat Forde.

Next, Weinberg chats with Seth Davis, who utters to of the most incredulous and painstakingly awkward lines in history to some ladies: “Hey gorgeous, times two” and “Hey there, hot lady.”  Wow.

But quickly after that, Weinberg is interviewing Pat Forde.  Forde refused to talk about Matt and KSR specifically, but he did comment on how he can do more ‘investigative’ stories at Yahoo without interfering with the broadcasting right interests and that he questions the legitimacy of all these fan-sites getting press access (shocking!).  Check out the article for more.

Eventually, Pete Thamel gets his interview with the writer, where he doesn’t say much of anything interesting.  I laughed at Weinberg’s descriptions of him though…

After checking with his editor at the New York Times, and perhaps doing a background check on me, Pete Thamel has agreed to chat – but declines to talk about fan sites specifically. (“It doesn’t do me any good,” he says.) He’s 34 with a dark nefarious brow, or maybe it’s an inquisitive sleuth’s brow.

Matt Jones was next on Weinberg’s plate.  Check out his bit here:

A few tables away from Thamel, I sit down with Jones.  I tell him what I’m writing, and how surprised I am at the candor I’ve encountered.

He jokes, “If there’s one thing the media likes to talk about more than sports, it’s themselves.”

How does it feel? You’re pretty much the villain here.

“It’s like the JFK quote: ‘Dogs don’t bark at parked cars.’ A lot of them don’t even like that I’m here. I’m an outsider because I didn’t go to journalism school. They like to think of themselves as unbiased reporters, but I think that’s bogus. Everyone has biases.

“It’s the lawyer in me.  I like to face my critics.” He nods in the direction of Thamel. “There’s Pete Thamel from the New York Times. I’d like to talk to him, but he won’t talk to me. He acts like he doesn’t know who I am, but that’s a lie.”

During our interview, Jones and I will discuss his relationship with Forde, how things went so terribly wrong. As he talks, his face reddens from what I take to be embarrassment. He says he wants to patch things up with Forde, and seems to understand that stopping his “gotcha” tweets might be a good place to start. At the same time, he’s not going to stop being an outspoken lightning rod.

“These guys are failed athletes. Who do they hate most? The retired pro-athletes on TV getting paid millions of dollars [as commentators].”

Assuming you’re not getting paid millions, what do they hate about you?

“That I admit my bias. But I criticize Calipari all the time. I’m not a guy who sees things in black and white. Most of them have been doing this so long they’re jaded and not fans anymore. I’ve had a few guys say I’m my own boss [acknowledging his freedom] and that I don’t have to adhere to anyone else’s [journalistic] standards.

“The one thing I have to be careful about is when I report bad news. There was a quarterback who got arrested for marijuana possession, and because I was a lawyer at the time, I heard about it before anyone else. I had it verified to 98 percent, enough to post on the site, but on the 2 percent chance I was wrong, there was no incentive to rush to bad news.”

How does KSR do financially? I ask.

“In two years time we expect to be doing pretty well.” He names numbers he doesn’t want published, and I’m taken aback. The blog currently has two other paid employees, one fulltime, and Jones expects to hire more. “It’ll take some corporate sponsorships. And we need Calipari to stay at Kentucky. It helps when the team is good.”

Is the media ever going to accept you?

“Professors [at Kentucky universities and colleges] will invite me to speak to their classes. I’ve spoken to classes in leadership, sports marketing, business … but never journalism.”


Later, out in the concourse, I spot Matt Jones talking on his cellphone, doing a post-game radio call-in show for fans back in Kentucky. He gives me a winning smile and a thumbs up, unabashedly ecstatic about Kentucky’s eighth national championship.

This is a pretty great piece that contextualizes the place for sites like KSR in the sports-journalism world.  I think the writer came in very wary of Matt and all of us at KSR, but Matt’s interview came off as the most rational and reasonable.  Definitely give this solid piece a read if you’ve got the time.

Article written by Chris Thomas

42 Comments for “Backstage at the Final Four” Piece Talks KSR

  1. nassau65
    1:09 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    aw man, Jones’s head will be bigger than a rockford cantaloupe now. oh wait……..never mind

  2. I don't care bout this...
    1:15 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    I don’t .. Really. Any word on Anthony Bennett? That’s what I care about. Have we fired Joker yet?

  3. UK Homer
    1:15 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    This is great. No other university has something quite like KSR. Admitting biases…something sports and news commentators can learn from. I love shows like Around the Horn because of that.

  4. CatGrad7072
    1:17 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    #1 I’ve been to Rockford several times and have never seen a cantaloupe or any size but it still made me chuckle. Well done!

    The article was long but interesting. It’s clear that the landscape is changing and the young guys that work for the Old Guard don’t like losing their clout.

  5. Paratrooper
    1:30 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    I am a HUGE and RELENTLESS critic of Matt Jones and his slobbering worship of putrid puke Obama and all things liberal and lunatic. However, when it comes to slime like Pat Forde, Pete Thamel, ad nauseum he has my support and my respect and he routinely calls them out, which they hate They’re not “journalists,” they’re HACKS with an agenda. This anti-UK stuff started in the 60’s with Curry Kirkpatrick and Frank Deford at Sports Illustrated, Furman Bisher at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and others who found Adolph Rupp such an inviting target since he had the unmitigated gall to win with white players. None of these villains ever had the courage to wonder out loud what would have happened if Rupp had taken black players into Starkville, Birmingham or Baton Rouge. And it continues to this day even as we win with 5 black starters. Its nothing less than remarkable what Matt Jones and his ragtag bunch have managed to accomplish in such a short time.

  6. nassau65
    1:32 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    4. well that may be because i fat-fingered the spelling. it’s actually rocky ford cantaloupe, but most people never heard of them either. It’s the mental picture that counts!

  7. The one
    1:37 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    Your an idiot paratrooper

  8. nassau65
    1:50 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    7. Hey Stupid (well, you said that was your name), I like to aggravate Matt Jones, because i know him, but i think he’s good for the BBN, and UK, and i think when you say half the fanbase hates him, you must be counting Loserville fans in the mix, although they are far from half.
    46% of all statistics are made up, where does your data come from?

  9. JP7
    1:51 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    Thamel and Forse are dinosaurs and a dying breed. Newspapers are losing out more every day to the Internet. These guys are hacks who have to resort to sensationalism, and finding anything negative they can to gain readers, all the while hiding behind the name of journalism. I get tired of seeing their negative stories-there’s enough of all that on the network news every night. Whe I read about sports I want to see positive things, not that crap those guys publish. They can look down their noses at Jones all they want, but how are they any better? I don’t like some of the arrogance of KSR and the pounding of Louisville, but I’d still rather read it than Forde and Thamel.

  10. hahahaha
    1:52 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    love it when someone says “your an idiot”

  11. Kristen
    1:54 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    this is very meta. my head hurts a little

  12. nassau65
    2:06 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    13. wasn’t he the one that broke the story about Pitino and the cheerleader?

  13. nassau65
    2:07 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    oh and L2K4!

  14. Paratrooper
    2:12 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    Well, looks like my detractors and haters are at it again. Its tough being the voice of truth and reason. I was actually being NICE to Matt Jones and his band of idealogues and I STILL get the hostility. LOL By the way BBN fans, the national championship game is being replayed tonite on CWKYT at 8 pm. Enjoy !! I will.

  15. MCaron
    2:17 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    I’m not a hater. Keep doing what ya do boys… I’m jealous.

  16. Leave it to me
    2:29 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    Richard P, I agree with you 100% on the cult like following of Matt Jones and I’m a UK fan. Not sure how any UK fan can listen to him when he didn’t even attend UK as an undergrad or a grad student. A true die hard UK fan would of gone to UK for a least one of those. He’s a joke and a con artist.

  17. The one
    2:31 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    “Hahahaha” your an even bigger idiot.

  18. NotSatire
    2:33 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    Observations: 1. I don’t think KSR looks like it was designed on an Atari. 2. Matt doesn’t look “cherubic”. 3. KSR isn’t best known for “Louisville Doesn’t Exist”. Just ask the Bama fan who hates TN. 4. Objective journalism is a misnomer. Just look at News broadcasting: it’s agenda-driven. I can name on one hand those journalists who report news that are truly objective.

  19. dave
    2:34 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    never thought of the sad world sports journalists may live in.
    -real journalists don’t respect them.
    -former athletes take their jobs.
    -perceived unskilled & bias bloggers take their jobs.
    -players, coaches & fans dislike them after any critical or “hit” piece
    thamel, forde, tipton are still dbags tho

  20. Steve
    2:37 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    To fight back against the anti-UK bias is fine, but to have the trash-talking, sh*t-disturbers like M.Jones & KSR do it kind of ruins the credibility. This site has constantly bashed Louisville & Pitino, and ex-coach Gillespie (but not the beloved Tubby), and everyone else. I have always thought, as a KY native, that when Pitino came to L’ville it would help the state and could change the center of the college bball universe from the constant media focus & adoration of Duke & N. Carolina to the state of Kentucky, and this year you saw it, with UL & UK making the final four and most of the final four buzz being on the UK/UL matchup.

    Why the great bball program of UK has to bash UL is stupid. UK doesn’t have to trash talk anyone, we’re UK dangit. And to constantly throw an ex-UK coach under the bus shows no class at all. To have the great UK program stoop to such classless & tasteless trash talk just demeans us and lends credence to the criticisms of KY fans.

  21. catfan
    2:43 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    Thank you 11

  22. InternationalPhilosophy
    2:44 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    Parapooper is down to his last functioning neuron…and I use the term “functioning” loosely here.

  23. Leave it to me
    2:49 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    Steve, preach it brother.

  24. Paratrooper
    2:55 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    Bravo, #24 !! An excellent post, SPOT ON and straight to the point. We really are the zenith of college BB and all this attention to lesser programs only drags us down to their level. The best revenge is DOING WELL and we certainly have. All the trash talk in the world about Pitino ad nauseum cannot even come close to winning national title #8. Let UL and IU and the rest do the bad mouthing; we’ll just look at that trophy. Steve, you are a beam of light in the darkness. Are you listening, Matt Jones ? I doubt it.

  25. Han
    2:59 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    I thought Steve Fisher had 2 Final Fours vacated at Michigan

  26. WeareKENTUCKY
    3:01 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    Matt jones went to duke because they gave him a scholarship. He hates duke just as much as any other fan, but when a school like duke gives you a scholarship you take it. You people criticize him for that but MOST of you could NEVER have a chance at what Matt did. Matt is an intelligent guy who I am thankful for. If it wasn’t for this site and his radio show, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with all the happenings around KY basketball and football. Quit bashing the man who has done nothing to none of you.

  27. Leave it to me
    3:12 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    WeareKENTUCKY, a true UK fan wouldnt of been able to find it in their hearts to go there. I know personily I turned down other school because I couldn’t find it in my heart to go there so I went to UK. That’s why Matt Jones is a joke an has it colt following fooled.

  28. Crawman37
    3:14 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    The reason people visit KSR is because it is entertaining.
    Matt does a good job of balancing real news with occasional jabs at
    our rivals and haters. If you don’t like it, go somewhere else,
    nobody makes you visit this site. I appreciate Matt, and all that
    he does for BBN.

  29. WeareKENTUCKY
    3:18 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    31, ok he went to duke, that was probably not something a uk fan would do but when you get a chance at going to college for FREE, and no other school offering you that, you will not tell me you would say no, otherwise you would be an idiot.

  30. lol
    3:20 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    Matt can be arrogant, but are we REALLY knocking on him for graduating from Duke’s law school? You realize that anyone at UK’s law school would transfer immediately if they had a chance at a scholarship, right?

  31. CatDaddy
    3:25 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    OMG!!! He went to Duke so what I’d be willing to bet if he went to Duke basketball games (which i would of done had I went to duke) he was wearing his UK gear Like i do when i go to U of L sporting events with my card fan friends does that make me a NON UK fan hell no!! Get of of Matt’s back he is one of the best things that has happened to UK sports in a while.

  32. exedfan
    3:55 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    Wow! Where is all this hate coming from. I live out of state and KSR gives me the chance to join in on the fun fans have. And please, since when are the only truly fans those who go to that school? I went to 3 schools none of which was UK. I love UK basketball.

  33. Linda Taylor
    4:05 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    31 – Are colts the only followers fooled or can fillies be fooled too?

  34. Richard's Mom
    4:17 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    Thanks to all that turned out to search for my ignorant crackhead son. We found him under the I-75 overpass. I’ll keep my laptop locked up from now on. Enjoy number 8.

    Sorry again I had such a reject son.

  35. here ya go
    5:55 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    kind of funny.. people defend matt jones as he criticizes the ncaa for not paying athletes while he refuses to disclose how much money ksr makes and offers up that he only pays 2 or 3 people while using the UK writers for free. Meanwhile, he’s raking in the dough enough, that he is golfing at his country club and complaining about having to mingle with “common” folk on public courses. UK fan or not, he certainly has that Duke elitist attitude.

  36. John Lampe
    6:15 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    I notice several things missing from the article.

    A. No mention of Forde’s past job at the local Courier-Journal and his journalistic stumble involving getting the dirty birds in trouble for how it recruited / treated recruits. So, couple that with his obvious disdain for both Coach Cal and UK and what it’s basketball program currently represents and you have a very “below the bar” past and present attitude towards “responsible journalism”.

    B. The author may want to list some of Thamel’s borderline prevarications concerning what he reports about the UK program not to mention the rest of college basketball. Thamel seemingly doesn’t just report the news, he makes it up or at minimum juices it up a little, when it doesn’t fit what he thinks is going on.

    3. The purpose of any business endeavour is to ultimately make money. If you don’t, it’s either an expensive hobby or a failed business endeavour. I guess the guy thinks you shouldn’t make money if you run a website. Make no mistake. What Matty J and his cohorts are doing is a business. They just happen to love what they do so much that it doesn’t seem like work. I’m guessing by saying he was “taken aback” by the amount that was mentioned he really meant that he was jealous. AS we know, that is one of the seven deadly sins.

    An interesting look, but ultimately a load of crap. Matty J, keep being you. Haters gonna hate ya’ll.

  37. macon_volfan
    6:31 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    when pointing out about Matt’s education, why does no one mention that his undergrad (like mine) is from Transylvania? That’s not UK, either. UK is actually ‘little brother’ to Transy….If a Top 5 law school lets you go to school for free, who’s gonna turn that down? Sports are indeed important. But if you would turn down a free ride to an awesome school because of a sports rivalry, you are an idiot who doesn’t deserve to even be in college….

  38. Paratrooper
    6:56 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    Whew! Just another day at the office of whack job extremist. Now, y’all know I forget my meds (post traumatic stress), and I’m not very bright. I just hope you all ignore my intellectually devoid posts and accept my apologies. I hate the world, my anger issues are getting worse and well I’m just old. Like Bobby Knight. Thanks for listening. Maybe one of you kind folks can bail me out of jail when I eventually shoot everyone in my office. Or a school.

  39. Brad
    7:14 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    Paratrooper, not funny at all. Calm down dude

  40. Earl
    7:38 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    Speaking of journalism, Anyone saw this article from last year. What a jackass hater, I did leave a comment for this douche. .

  41. Paratrooper
    7:53 pm April 15, 2012 Permalink

    Not funny? You must be a socialist commie liberal. You should try living in a black and white world. It’s so much simpler. You don’t have to think.

  42. Leave it to me
    10:14 am April 16, 2012 Permalink

    I guess I’m an idiot for turning down other school to attend UK. Doesn’t look that way with the way my life turned out now. Get on my level