Like many of you, I spent a good deal of today watching the Masters on television, live from (stealing Grantland.com’s analogy) the living embodiment of “Mad Men”, Augusta National. However as happens every year, the sounds of birds chirping couldn’t keep my attention and thus I spent a good portion of the day watching old interviews from Mike Wallace, the former 60 Minutes journalist who passed away today. From my youngest days, I can remember hearing the clock ticking at 7 pm on Sunday nights as voices would say, “I’m Mike Wallace, I’m Morley Safer, I’m Ed Bradley, I’m Lesley Stahl”, signaling the beginning of 60 Minutes at my house in Middlesboro. Mike Wallace was always the star of the show, the reporter who got the best assignments, asked the toughest questions and had the thickest black hair dye. His career spanned nearly 60 years, starting as a television spokesman for low-level commercial products and ending as one of the most feared journalists in America. My favorite Wallace moment I saw today was the one, in which he famously asked the Ayatollah if it was correct to call him a “lunatic”, as Egyptian President Anwar Sadat had done. Watch as Wallace asks the question wit the quote and then says, “forgive me, his words not mine” in order to soften the blow:
Wallace accused Nixon staffers of federal crimes to their face, was sued after suggesting US military leaders had lied before a Vietnam battle and aired the live administration of a physician assisted suicide drug by Jack Kevorkian. Wallace was the king of the tough question and over the years, he interviewed literally everyone who was anyone over the last half of the 20th century. He had a connection to Kentucky, as his reports on big tobacco in the 90s (and the subsequent decision by CBS not to air most of the interview of whistleblower Jeffry Wigand initially) were centered around Brown & Williamson in Louisville and became the basis of the movie “The Insider.”
Wallace also suffered from depression throughout his life, and became one of the first famous public figures to speak openly about his dealings with it. He spent the final couple of years of his life suffering from dementia, leaving behind a lifetime of work, some of which I watched today while Jim Nantz whispered in the background. If you are of a similar predilection, check out this University of Texas link of Wallace interviews from the late 50s, that includes fascinating conversations with Frank Lloyd Wright, Eleanor Roosevelt, Salvador Dali, Margaret Sanger, William Douglas and others, who left virtually no other television appearances. You also can see his fascinating documentary, “The Hate that Hate Produced” here, a look at the rise of the Nation of Islam in the late 1950s, that included the first televised interviews in America with Malcolm X. I spent much of the afternoon admiring his work beyond the ticking clock on Sunday nights, but even if that were all he had accomplished, he would still be considered one of the giants in television journalism history. He was 93 years old.
To the news:
— On a weekend where the Big Blue Nation collectively exhaled after a long ride to a national championship, the building blocks for the future continued. John Calipari visits across the land, the Nike Hoop Summit and transfer decisions kicked off what will be the biggest recruiting week of the year for Kentucky. Both Shabazz Muhammad and Nerlens Noel will both make their decisions on Wednesday and speculation continues to run wild as to what each will do. Both were part of the Nike Hoop Summit this weekend, with Shabazz breaking Enes Kanter’s point record for the event by scoring 35 in a loss. Speculation is everywhere as to what the players will do, although most still think Noel is a Kentucky lean with Shabazz split between UCLA and the Cats. Shabazz said this weekend that he wanted to win a championship, a result that seems unlikely in Los Angeles. But at this point, all analysis is simply guesswork based on tea leaves and has little basis. If UK gets both guys on Wednesday, they will potentially be preseason #1 next year and will fight to repeat. Get one and the Cats are preseason top 5. Get neither, and then Kentucky may have to scramble a bit and the season is more up in the air…although with Calipari, worrying seems to be a waste of time.
— Technically speaking, the NCAA Draft deadline is on Tuesday, but Kentucky players are all taking until April 29 to make their decision. The NCAA says that players must let their schools know if they are returning by Tuesday, but UK is likely getting around that by having all the players say they are returning and then the ones that want to go on the 29th simply just leave then. At this point, it seems most likely that UK gets no returning players out of the top 6, but glimmers of hope still exist with Marquis Teague (the most likely to return), Doron Lamb (potentially the lowest projected player of the group) and MKG (the player whose projection in the draft might most affect his decision). In the end, I think all go, with the possible exception of Teague, depending on how the next three weeks play out. MKG would like to return, but like with Cousins and Knight before him, it may simply be the case that he is so good, no other choice but leaving makes sense.
— I dont want to spend much time on this, but it is worth noting. Bobby Knight took another shot at UK this weekend, saying that he saw no problem with calling Kentucky “that team from the SEC”, but guessing that UK fans got upset because they didnt know that was where they played. It is a dumb and unfunny remark, but I found it interesting because it showcases just how much the narrative about UK and Calipari has changed in a year. 12 months ago, mainstream journalists like Pat Forde, Jeff Goodman and Pete Thamel would regularly take such shots at Calipari and were rarely called on it outside the state of Kentucky. Now, even they have to agree that Cal/UK is worthy of praise, and all we are left with is old, irrelevant codgers like Knight taking shots at casino speaking events. It actually makes me chuckle.
— Today on Twitter, Antoine Walker announced that he is retiring from basketball. Walker has made various attempts at comebacks over the last few years and he is now ready to hang it up at last. Walker is one of the more interesting figures in UK lore, a player that at his peak was the most talented individual on maybe the best team in UK history. He was an NBA All Star and could score in droves, at times being one of the 10-15 best players in the NBA. But he is not always remembered fondly due to his odd on-court behavior, weight issues and the way his career ended in Boston. Still, while at Kentucky, Walker was a beast and he still has my favorite quote in UK history. When asked why he shot so many threes, Walker said, “because there ain’t no fours.” We wish Antoine the best and I just did a little shimmy in honor of his basketball playing days.
We will get you ready for the biggest three-day recruiting period of the year for Kentucky tomorrow morning on the radio from 10-noon. Lots to talk about, including who we think will end up wearing the Blue and White next season. Until then, watch some Mike Wallace interviews, or just go to Keeneland and bet on whatever horse “Worldwide” Wesley Ward trains. He made KSR some good money this past weekend.