As I was looking through some old papers this weekend, it occurred to me that today, July 1 actually marks the Third anniversary of Kentucky Sports Radio. It was on this day three years ago that Rob Gidel and I met in my old apartment off Tates Creek Road in Lexington, to attempt to record our first “radio show”, which at that point meant he and I with one pair of headphones, talking into the computer and passing them back and forth after each comment. As we sat at my table filled with half-empty bottles of Mountain Dew, we agreed that we couldnt produce this “radio show” for anyone to listen (although I still have it and plan on putting it up here one day), but that we did want to try and pursue something in the future. With both of us frustrated at the insular nature of the Lexington media market, we began “Kentucky Sports Radio”, a rather presumptious name since we didnt have a radio show, or really a media outlet of any sort. We neverthless used our naivete to our advantage, began producing shows at a local station, started this blog soon after, and three years later, have enjoyed a great deal of good times thanks to it. I spent a lot of Sunday reminiscing over the times of the last three years and realized that I wanted to write the best moments that have happened during that time. It may be of little interest to most and admittedly, it is centered fairly heavily on my life. But it has been a great deal of fun and some good stuff has happened along the way. So without further ado….
(20): McDonalds Game 2007: One of the great things about doing this stuff over the last three years has been getting to see great athletes close up at the top of their games…and nothing compared to the 2007 McDonalds Game in Louisville. As Rob and I did a pre-game radio show live from Freedom Hall and Rob did the official play-by-play for the radio telecast, we got to see up close an amazing amount of talent, the likes of which I may never again see on one floor. OJ Mayo, Michael Beasley, Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin, Patrick Patterson, Jarryd Bayless, Anthony Randolph, JJ Hickson, Kevin Love, Kyle Singler, etc all on one court and all playing right in front of us. Before the game we were able to interview Mayo, Beasley, Love, Patterson and Lucas on our show, which will undoubtedly rest as the best guest list that we will ever see in one day.
(19) 1570 The Zone Radio: Dont get me wrong…I love our new FM station on ESPN in Louisville. But there was something about the old shop in Louisville. With a signal you would lose if you sneezed too hard, 1570 was a place only a momma could love with microphones that Brian Dufresne famously said “smelled like strep throat.” But even with all the limitations, the radio we produced there was unique and entertaining…it was there you could hear Patrick Patterson make his announcement for UK over a cell phone placed next to the mics at the press conference….it was there that all of us chipped in when Tubby left and spent hour upon hour speculating about his replacement….it was there that I yelled at Andy Katz and it was there that I called the Kent State football coach a jerk, not knowing he was on the phone line. The callers ranging from Hink to Tyler in Shelbyville to Scott in Shelbyville to Carolina Steve all “got” the show and appreciate it for the “Little Engine that Could nature of it.” Whether it was “Nasty Nate” trying to get buttons to work that wouldnt or Katherine the Intern flirting instead of working, one never was exactly sure what they would get on a daily basis. While it was by no means a well-oiled operation….it was fun and I do miss it.
(18) Mosley/Jones Nike Shootoff: If you were to point to the one most important decision we made in building this site, it may have been the decision to attend the Nike Camp in the Summer of 2006. It was there we met Patrick Patterson and Jai Lucas, got to interview Billy D and Brucie Pearl, and had our first (of many) negative interactions with Jerry Tipton. But most importantly, it was there that I beat Mosley in a game of one-on-one in my flip flops, with multiple college coaches watching. After sitting and watching one of Patterson’s games close to the Duke coaching staff (and hearing them break down his game….they loved him), Mosley and I walked onto the court and began our rivalry. As I proceeded to take Mosley to the basket, we looked and noticed that Tommy Amaker, for reasons I will never understand, was taking in our game. We played on, and Amaker continued to watch…..culminating in my victory and request for a scholarship from Michigan. It was then I knew the Amaker era was doomed….rather than spending time like other coaches watching the top players in America, he was watching Mosley and I play a Porter-Couryesque battle to the death. One year later he was fired.
(17) White Castle Contest: For two years running now, we have held the grossest event I can think of….a speed White Castle eating contest on a hot October football Saturday. Both events have been fun, but the first was epic. There, a guy who we didnt know, showed up for the contest after hearing about it from a friend….wearing his Valvoline Oil Change uniform. He was on his lunch break and was a big boy….with an oil stain on his cheek, he declined my offer for water (“I wont need it”) and proceeded to destroy the competition, eating 25 burgers in under five minutes. He was so far ahead of the field, that he began to taunt them by putting condiments on his final burgers and stealing some food from his fellow competitors. After the contest, he walked off into the sunset….never to be seen again….a memory that for me, will not fade.
(16) WOO: Is there anyone better than Woo? (answer no). And is there anyone that has been a bigger part of the KSR era than Woo? (also, no). Our Polish hero has been there every step of the KSR way, beginning in his Junior season, giving us great quotes (“It was so loud that I thought the roof would come off…..but luckily it didnt”)….to then becoming the single great radio guest in history on “Woo Radio” (“Woo, Do you like bears?….”You mean gummi bears? Yeah, I like gummi bears and other fruity snacks”)……to becoming one of my good friends in the last year and being a star on the Barnstorming Tour. Whether it is watching him relate to the kids or hearing him tell Shagari stories, NO ONE is a better guy than the Woo. And if you ever need lady advice (“Turkey Hunter, needs to learn to CLOSE THE DEAL”) or comments on Kentucky’s geography (“Matt, I hate to tell you this, but you live in the HILLS”), Woo is always your guy.
(15) Blog Fans: People often ask me why I keep writing the blog essentially for free day after day and I always tell them the same thing, “because people read it.” There really is nothing better than meeting people and them telling you how much they enjoy your work. Over the last few years, I have had the pleasure of people as far ranging as Richie Farmer, Tom Leach, Dick Weiss and Tara Conner tell me they are blog fans. Add to that multiple politicians, former players and media types and it is a good feeling. However the best thing is when people come up to me, as many of you did at the Barnstorming Tour, and simply tell me that you check it every day and that you enjoy it. I can honestly say that every time someone does that, it makes me smile and makes me happy. There is a lot of crap you deal with in writing these things and I sometimes get close to burned out….but every person I meet who likes it, lifts my spirits up again and does make it all worth it.
(14) Marshall County Suckfest: If I were to point to the most fun day in the history of Kentucky Sports Radio, it would without question be the 2006 Marshall County Hoopsfest. After convincing Hubby, the Turkey Hunter, Tomlin and the Intern to get up at the crack of dawn and drive to Marshall County to broadcast a radio call of AJ Stewart play basketball, we were treated to arguably the worst day of basketball ever created. As we sat through an ENDLESS string of blowouts, waiting for AJ Stewart to take the court, our guys got cranky, Hubby got a little drunk and I nearly got kicked out of the Marshall County Hospitality room. But when AJ’s game began, the fun really started. Within minutes the game was a rout, Teeng Akol was shown to be the worst player in America and the radio telecast turned into an hour of hilarious and sometimes risque commentary that still ranks as the funniest thing I have ever heard this group do. When the group is together, we often pull that broadcast out….you should do it too….if the kids arent around.
(13) Player Interviews: One of the more frustrating parts of doing the radio part of this site is the player interviews. Most kids have nothing to say and talking to them is at best, awful (or in the case of Beas Hamga, arguably the worst interview ever put over the public airwaves). But occasionally, some nuggets can be created. Over the last few years, we have heard multiple players cite “Bad Boys 2” as their favorite movie….Josh Minton show off his skills as a beatboxer….Micah Johnson do an interview from the Hardees restroom….Marshall Moses do his best Dick Vitale impersonation….and Jai Lucas break down who would be the better dancer between Tubby, Jeff Capel and Gary Williams. Who will be the next to strike comic gold….
(12) Doyel/Bomani: When I started this blog, I thought most media types were unbelievably conceited and boring…and I was right. But I have been able to make a few friends. I am deeply indebted to local people like Tom Leach, Ryan Lemond, Alan Cutler, Chip Cosby, Larry Vaught, Keith Taylor, Kenny Walker, Brett Dawson, Victoria Sun and others who have helped me along the way and been very friendly. However as good as those local guys have been, no one has been better than Gregg Doyel and Bomani Jones. These two guys have both become true friends of mine, and in the case of Bomani, I talk to him every couple of days and have still yet to ever meet him. Every single time I have asked these two to come join me on the radio, they do (likely over 50 times each at this point), and they never complain and are always great. While Gregg would never admit it and Bomani would make fun of me for saying it, both are my good friends and without this site, that would have never happened.
(11) Meeting Heroes: On the Barnstorming Tour, I talked to a guy who said to me, “the reason I like your site is that you are one of us and you approach it like a fan.” I hope that true, because I certainly am still a wide-eyed fan in most respects. As a kid I would have never dreamed that I would have the chance to meet Kenny Walker, Tubby Smith, Rick Pitino, Richie Farmer or Rex Chapman. Everytime it happens, I still find myself amazed. When the 1958 and 1966 teams came to Rupp in recent years, I stood in awe at the names of the past. When I sat with Bill Keightley before one game and he told me to “tell him about this website you have”, I smiled the entire way through. At its core, I am just a fan who is amazed at how all this has worked out….and I really hope that doesnt change.
(10) UK-Florida 2007: Yes the Cats lost when the Gators came in #1 on the Saturday night in Lexington. But what a day it was. Gameday was in town and we did a pregame show with Ravi Moss that featured Kenny Walker, Jay Bilas, Mike Decoursey and Gregg Doyel stopping by in the Hyatt lobby with us. We made signs that were passed around Gameday, including our favorite about the Woo “Tubby has a big Pole”. Then came game time and the ten minutes prior to the start was the most amped I have ever heard Rupp Arena. The sound of the pre-game introductions still gives me shivers today just thinking about it. I have never been more excited for a basketball game in Rupp and the old Arena showed that when it comes to the big ones, no one does it like Lexington.
(9) Brandon Wright Comes on the Show: You might look at that and say, “who cares that Brandon Wright came on the show?” And that would be a fair question. But Brandon was our first guest on our very first show and proved that we could produce a podcast, without a radio station or an affiliate, and guests would come on. Rob and I wondered who would agree to come on a podcast, but Brandon (and Jay Bilas) did….and after that first show we were rolling. I remember after we told Brandon goodbye, Rob and I (sitting in the production room at 630 AM, where neither of us would even be let in nowadays) just looked at each other and laughed, baffled that he had agreed to talk to us.
(8) Adam Duritz: In the summer of 2007, Rob and I were doing our show from Sully’s on Fourth Street, when we saw Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows walk by. After being baffled at what he was doing here, we yelled at him and asked if he wanted to come on our show. At first he wasnt sure, but when we told him it was about sports, he came on over. Over the next two hours, Adam stayed on the show, talking to us about his favorite Cal Bears and our Kentucky Wildcats. Because we didnt hassle him about music or his girlfriends, Adam was comfortable and stayed until the end, giving us backstage passes to his concert after the interview. At that concert as Adam walked off the stage, he gave the “Sports Mob” a shout from the stage, a moment I will not forget for some time.
(7) UK-UL Football 2007: By far the happiest I have ever been at one moment at a sporting event. The second that “Stevie Got Loooooose” the stadium erupted like I have never heard it before…I got tackled by Chris Mayer (hurting my leg)….and the party was on. It was such a great day, thanks in large part to the leadup (a summer of Louisville fans calling our radio show and yelling at me for picking the Cats) and the thrilling nature of the night. The celebration lasted way into the hours and included me sending a text to every person in my phone book about how happy I was about the win. The two best responses came from (who else) Woo “Dont mess with the Blue” and (of all people) Jai Lucas from Gainesville, who I had forgotten to take out of there and who wrote: “Go Big Blue/” A great, great night.
(6) SEC Tournaments: I have been doing the SEC thing my whole life and it is the highlight of my year. The last few years have been no different. The SEC granted this site media credentials before UK did so we have been to the last four events, seeing Chuck Hayes will UK to a victory over LSU, Dale Brown pass out, Renaldo Balkman pronouncing Humpty with an “umpty”, Joey Waldrop’s mug up close, Rekalin Sims get very upset in the locker room when I asked him about a girl he knew, media members eat like there is no tomorrow and then of course the craziness that was this year’s tornado and game in front of no fans. Nearly all of my best friends in one place (except the Turkey Hunter who believes there are too many games) means that there is no four days I look forward to more…..even if I cant imagine eating in that CNN food court again.
(5) Patterson/Lucas: Everytime we cash a check for an advertisement or I make some sort of media appearance, I feel I owe a residual check to Patrick Patterson and Jai Lucas. The recruitment of these two young men captivated this state and helped make this blog from a site for friends into a 75,000 person a day location. Both of these young guys are great young men and I root both of them on and wish their success. Their availability for interviews, refreshing personalities and (yes) decision to wait until the last minute, helped grow this site like nothing else. As Jai said to me wiht a smirk when Florida played at UK this year, “when you gonna interview me again…..I might have a new leader.”
(4) Billy Clyde Press Conference: An email came at 6 AM saying that a new coach had been hired and a press conference would be taking place just after lunch. I called in sick (now that I have left, I guess the law firm can know) and sprinted to Lexington….grabbed the Turkey Hunter and parked myself at the Craft Center. It was an exciting moment….old players, coaches and administrators were there to meet the new coach. Billy Clyde stole the show with great answers and his charm. I made the (now infamous) decision to ask a question with a haircut that could be deemed “questionable”. The press conference played live on ESPN, my text messages blew up with comments ranging from “you are on TV” to “cut your hair!” and “Matt’s Haircut” became a joke that I still get to this day. But watching only the sixth coach of the modern era of Kentucky basketball take the helm definitely was a “how cool is this” kind of moment and one I wont forget.
(3) Barnstorming: We have talked a lot about this in the past and (I promise) will have my journal later in the summer. However it was one of the true highlights of my adult life. Getting to travel with the players and see parts of the state where I havent been was a great experience. Bobby and Woo are two of the best people I know and Ramel and Joe were wonderful throughout the experience giving me (and my journal) stories that one could sell. The best part of the whole thing however was watching the fans in each little city as they met the players and seeing the excitement from the kids as they waited to get their autograph and meet their favorite player. I was that kid at one point and that sight never got old. Plus Ickey Woods had a dance contest with Woo….it doesnt get much better.
(2) UK-Louisville bsketball 2005: My first ever game with a press credential at Rupp Arena could not have been much better. The Cats came in struggling and UL was ranked too high. The Cats jumped on the Cards early and led by the performances of Rondo, Woo and Sheray and a dunk by Joe C that I can still feel, the Cards got run out of the gym. I walked onto the court before the game amazed at being in such a situation in Rupp and found myself seated next to Gregg Doyel, who I met for the first time during the festivities. Add to the fact that in the post-game press conference Rick Pitino snapped at me (not for the last time) and it was quite a start to covering UK games.
(1) MUSIC CITY BOWL 2007: I dont know how many sportswriters admit to crying on their job, but I am not a sportswriter so I guess I can do it. This past New Years Eve in Nashville for the Music City Bowl was a moment like none other. Until his death when I was in high school, I watched all UK football and basketball games with my grandfather, who was as big a UK fans as I have ever known. We watched every miserable UK football loss and during the late 80s and early 90s, I adopted (for the both of us) Florida State as a winning football team we would both root for. My grandfather began liking Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, finding his comments humorous and we always made sure to watch the big Seminole games in addition to the Kentucky contests. As I walked onto the field for the game, I saw the Big Blue nation surrounding the stands and on the other sideline nearly bumped into Bobby Bowden. For a moment, the thought of my grandfather and how much he would have enjoyed that moment hit me hard. Our two favorite teams playing each other, with me fortunate enough to get to stand on the field and cover the game….I knew he would have been proud. There may be greater victories or more important games, but there wont be a moment I will cherish more.
So there you go….thats the list. If somehow you found yourself getting through this entire list, reward yourself with a delicious Fresca. Its been a wonderful three years around here and now its time to keep moving on to whatever is next. I appreciate all the support you have shown to this site and to me personally and I cant thank you enough for having come to this site and reading it all this time. We dont know what the road is that lies ahead, but I certainly have enjoyed where we have been.