Today was a special day.
We’ve had our fair share of special moments over the years. Since Cal came to town, it’s hard to keep count. But for all the National Championships, rings, and banners in the world, nothing may have made more of a difference than this morning’s radio show from West Liberty. What was supposed to be a routine stop on the KSR statewide tour of affiliates turned into a benefit to raise money for the victims of the March 2nd tornado. Thanks to the efforts of loyal KSR listeners like Rose and guests like John Calipari, Joker Phillips and others, a community in need was able to get the attention it so desperately deserves.
I’m not sure people outside of this state will understand how significant this morning was. John Calipari didn’t have to come to West Liberty. In fact, he didn’t have to come on the radio show at all. He’s a busy man with a lot of things to do. But, in what has become true Calipari fashion, Cal didn’t just call in to the show or make a donation. He got in a helicopter, strapped a seatbelt across the National Championship trophy, and flew to West Liberty to help. After surveying the damage, Cal came on the radio show and delivered a heartfelt speech on the damage in West Liberty and the importance of giving back. Everyone says Cal is obsessed with basketball; for his job, he has to be. But, for an hour, Cal acknowledged there are things in life bigger than the game. Things like family, community, and charity. For an hour, he matched every donation coming into the West Liberty Recovery Fund dollar by dollar, up to $25,000. To him, that’s a job requirement:
“The seat I’m in will bring light to something that needs to be out there. The reality is, whoever the coach of Kentucky is owes it to the Commonwealth to stand up and be involved.”
Cal knows this state. He knows that everywhere he goes, he will have people watching, tweeting, following. And he knew that by coming to West Liberty in the fashion that he did, his spotlight would spill over to a community in need. We call ourselves the Big Blue Nation, but Cal said at times, he thinks of us an army, a comparison that rang true in West Liberty this morning. Through Twitter, Facebook, and word of mouth, Kentucky fans raised over $50,000 for the West Liberty recovery efforts, a number which hopefully will continue to rise past today. Even the local media was able to put its petty feuds aside to champion the cause, spreading the word via Twitter and at one point, make West Liberty a trending topic across the nation.
Although he couldn’t be there in person, Joker Phillips called in and described his visit to West Liberty, which was a stop on his Gameday Ready tour earlier this summer. Joker toured the area at the time and met with the Morgan County football team, whom he told Matt he has invited to be his guests at the Western Kentucky game in September.
In a time in which college sports is wracked by scandal, it’s comforting to be a fan of an institution whose leaders put so much emphasis on what’s truly important. Cal and Joker are incredible ambassadors for our state, something that is too often taken for granted. Cal’s appearance in West Liberty this morning, put together at the last minute, is yet another example of his dedication to his job, the state, and the fans. Yet, I doubt you’ll ever read about it in the national media. For them, it’s too easy to paint him in a negative light via anonymous polls and lazy hit pieces. As fans, we find that infuriating and regrettable, but you almost feel like Cal has moved past it. For him, he’s got more important things to do, like recruiting and coaching. Or getting in a helicopter to fly in and give a devastated community hope.
Now more than ever, I’m proud to be a Kentuckian.