Good morning. Please rise and place your hand over your heart for a wholesome, red, white and blue edition of your Wednesday News and Views. Tuesday, of course, marked election day in this fine nation of ours and at least 50% of our population rushed out to their polling stations to get that little sticker that would earn you a seat at the cool table in the cafeteria and decide whether they should vote for someone less deserving of a public office than them or simply write in “Free Enes”. But, this year also meant a healthy mix of sports and politics as former NFL lineman (and early Madden great) Jon Runyan won his bid for a New Jersey congressional seat, NFL bust Heath Shuler earned a shot to again put up 0 points as the quarterback in the congressional football game and Linda McMahon bowed out of her Senate race to the applause of Triple H. The sports race that I’m most intersted in, though, is the tight battle for Oregon’s governor between some guy named John Kitzhaber and the greatest set of chest hair in NBA history, Chris Dudley. At the moment, Dudley leads by only 1,000 votes, or roughly one for every 3 points he scored in his 16-year NBA career. If you follow the NBA, you remember Dudley as one of the first truly awful contracts handed out in free agency, as he fleeced the Portland Trailblazers for $11 million over three years after averaging 3.5 points per game in 1992-93. It’s this ability to provide the least for someone else’s money, along with his NBA-record 13 straight missed free throws and five missed freebies in one trip to the line, that earn him KSR’s endorsement for the governor of Oregon. Hopefully, by the time you read this, Dudley will have his tie off, his top three buttons open and his chest hair will be accepting Kitzhaber’s concession speech. Chris Dudley, you’ll be getting my vote for President in 2012.
Now, onto some UK notes….
– It seems only fitting that on a night where the eyes of the nation are affixed to the future in Washington, D.C. that the future of the District was on full display against the Philadelphia 76ers. Former Kentucky point guard John Wall went for 29 points, 13 assists and a team-record 9 steals in the Wizards’ home opener, which turned out to be their first win of the 2010-11 season. The game, which went into overtime, carried a college-like atmosphere in front of a raucous home crowd desperate for a reason to believe that things were changing and Wall responded with a college-like performance in taking over the game and carrying the Wizards on his back. Though the season is only three games old for the rookie, he now ranks as the NBA’s third-leading assist man (10.3 per game) and as the second-highest scoring point guard (23.7) behind Derrick Rose. He also entered the NBA record books as his 31 assists tie Damon Stoudamire for the best start to an NBA career. Yes, Tuesday night did bring hope for the future to the nation’s capitol.
– As Kentucky fans anxiously await the final exhibition game Friday against former Cat Dale Brown and his retail warriors, some were taken to their usual over-analyzing. On Tuesday, the fix came from an incident on the sideline where freshman Terrence Jones apparently smacked a water bottle from the hands of a manager when offered some ice cool refreshment after being subbed out. Despite the “smack” being slightly more violent than a “no thanks”, some saw it as an offensive move that served as a reason to take to the internet and declare him a problem. But, in reality, it’s nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction out of frustration by a kid who was struggling to find consistency on the court. And, it was a water bottle. And slight nudge. Big deal. An act of frustration doesn’t make Terrence Jones a bad guy any more than a dunk makes him Dominique Wilkins. Let’s focus on what we should really be complaining about – Reggie Evans comparing himself to Karl Malone.
– Coming out of what Joker Phillips called a “grueling six-game stretch”, the Cats are banged up and trying to heal themselves before finishing with two very winnable SEC games. No injury is more important, though, than runnign back Derrick Locke’s nagging shoulder injury, which is still causing issues. Locke practiced with the team on Tuesday, but Joker Phillips has still listed him as questionable for the Charleston Southern game as he battles fatigue that makes it difficult for him to carry the ball late in practice. The smart money would be on almost no action on Saturday for Locke, but it seems to be a little more promising that he will be available for the final two games of the year.
– Even with what seems to be a gimme game against Charleston Southern on Saturday that should raise the record to an even .500, there are concerns that the program is not where it needs to be and that simply making a bowl game is not a reason to celebrate. While there is a certain truth to that and you could look at a couple of games on UK’s schedule that could have drastically changed the course of UK’s season, let’s not overlook how important a bowl game is for a program. Sure, heading to Birmingham and playing a team that you could probably tailgate through on a normal Saturday is about as sexy as BTI in fishnets, but it is still imperative for the future success of the UK program. The effects on recruiting are probably overstated, but the extra month of practice is what remains as the most important piece of post-season play. For a program that has done so well in developing two and three-star recruits over the last half decade, getting those extra reps are as important as anything they do throughout the year. This program is already playing behind the rest of the SEC in a lot of ways. If they lose that, then they fall even further behind. So, Birmingham Bowl or not, it’s a reason to be happy. For this year, at least.
– For a game that will probably hold little interest for the casual UK football fan, Saturday’s showdown with Charleston Southern will at least provide an interesting look into a question that has been lost in the last six games. What is this team’s offensive identity? I talked about this some on the UK football pre-game show Saturday (I know you were listening) and I think it’s an interesting quandry. Joker Phillips said throughout the preseason and the early slate that UK was going to be a running team, for better or worse. But, because they’ve consistenly found themselves in such large holes, they’ve developed on of the most potent passing games in the conference behind Mike Hartline and three very good receviers. Finally faced with a game where they should be ahead from the start, it will be interesting to see how they call their offensive plays. With Derrick Locke injured and the team lacking a consistently effective defense that complements most running teams, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Cats passing the ball still. But, nothing really surprises me anymore. Nonetheless, it’s a storyline worth following as UK gets ready for two crucial SEC games.
– Across town, U of L freshman Gorgui Dieng, now eligible, is apparently making his mark for the Cards. Somewhat. From his athletic departmant mandated 500 feet away, Terry Meiners Tweeted Tuesday that after Dieng whipped a pass errantly, hairbrush monger guard Preston Knowles said of his teammate, “He thinks he’s throwing one of those spears”. We can only hope there’s a microphone nearby when Rick Pitino dribbles one off his leg while explaining a drill in practice.
– Finally, it’s my Wednesday morning post, which means this is your weekly reminder to make sure you’re watching Sons of Anarchy. If you aren’t, I hate you.
That’s it for now. I’d encourage you with some lies about how great our UK coverage will be the rest of the day, but I know you’re only going to start a political nerd fight below. Have fun with that. See you in a few..