As many of you all over the internet have often repeated, no one would mistake me for a top-notch reporter. While the Larry Vaughts, Rick Bozichs and Victoris Suns of the world know how to do a great job at getting stories and meeting deadlines, I am often on the lookout for something else after games. Specifically, I try to get the players to offer up tidbits that are somewhat different and to give information that may often be away from the beaten path. Thus I am not the best at asking questions like “What is the mentality of this team going into a pressure road situation” but am good at asking, “so tell me what you were saying to Ron Slay when you punched him in his junk?” The reporters around me know those are the types of questions coming from me, for better or worse.
Normally my questions produce nothing but a collective eye roll. However on Tuesday night, that quality gave us one of the more interesting tidbits of the season. Ramel Bradley, in all his smoothness, was holding court with reporters (he is BY FAR the best talker on the team) and I asked him about the jawing before the game between the Tennessee players and the Kentucky student section. Normally the UK students like to tell the players from the other team how bad they are, but rarely do the players respond. The Tennessee group, who seemed very relaxed and somewhat lackadaisical, got into it with the UK students and jawed back and forth. When I asked Ramel about the incident, he got riled up and said, “We were focused and intense before the game and then during the pregame shootaround, when you see guys still got their earrings in like they arent taking it seriously, well I thought they were being disrespectful.” He wasnt smiling or joking in any manner. The fact that the Tennessee players were warming up with half-effort and wearing earrings made Ramel mad….it signaled to him that they werent taking the game seriously and he wanted to show them how wrong they were.
That tidbit then became the focus for the story on the game in the Courier Journal and was the basis for an entire ESPN column by Pat Forde. It seems clear that to Ramel and many of the UK players, the greatest motivator for the game may have been the wearing of jewelry accessories. How can this be? Have times changed so much that the decision to wear earrings is more important than the record in the SEC and the view of Kentucky on a national stage. I was thinking today about this fact and my thoughts went back to my grandfather, who introduced me to Kentucky basketball. A fan of the Fabulous Five and the Fiddlin Five, I wonder if he were alive today how he would react to the news that the wearing of earrings was the dividing line between two teams. I am sure he would have been baffled by the mere decision of men to wear earrings in the first place, much less the decision to keep them in as a sign of disrespect.
But then again, maybe this is simply normal and just a different age. Perhaps the fact that Rodney Dent left in his comb in his box cut motivated a past Florida team in Rupp Arena? It could be that Jack Givens old bell bottoms caused Indiana to fell like they were being ignored as a top team in Rupp Arena. Did the fact that Ralph Beard didnt wear his belt in pre-game activities motivate teams of yesteryear? Could the decision by Alex Groza to put on Dapper Dan hair cream during warmups have motivated upsets of years past? You just never know. But I do know this….of all the things I felt like would come out of a player’s mouth after the game to explain the great victory, the fact that Tyler Smith had on earrings was not one that popped to the front of my mind. But that is the glorious era we are in folks and it certainly is ridiculously awesome…..