Its rare that a man’s path to the top of his profession includes a pass through the London, Kentucky Optimist Club, but such was the case for a man that I will get to see in action tonight, the WWE Champion coming to Louisville for Monday Night Raw, The Miz. Five years ago, I was working for a Federal Judge with a long trial in London, Kentucky and one weekend, the Turkey Hunter, Mosley and some of our other friends made their way to the best town in Laurel County to watch a little pro wrestling. OVW was in town and at the time, it was the Developmental League for the WWF. The night we watched the show in London, a number of wrestlers that went on to WWF careers, including CM Punk and those big Scottish dudes, were there, but we were most impressed by The Miz. See if you are a fan of “The Real World” or the offshoots “Real World/Road Rules Challenge”, then surely you know “The Miz.” He was just a random guy who was on the shows, created a character of himself as a pro wrestler and then when he was done with the shows, he became a wrestler. His gimmicky catchphrase (I am the Miz, and I am awesome), became his calling card in the minor leagues and he was later called up to the WWE, where he recently became the champion. Now I freely admit that I havent followed wrestling these last few years…some will say that is a good thing since I am now over 30 years old, but I would suggest that it is something I have missed. I have had good times watching fake sports and tonight I get to see “The Miz”, for the first time since that fateful night in London, this time in the Yum Center, and once again with the Turkey Hunter. I am not going to lie, I am excited. It will be my first trip to the Chicken Hut, my first appearance at a wrestling event since the great “Invasion” Pay Per View in Cleveland in 2001 and (potentially) a place for an Enes sighting. I dont know what your Monday night involves, but I venture to say it wont be any more (a) fake or (b) awesome.
To the news:
(1): Even though basketball was the story on Saturday, today was a football day around UK land. The biggest news was the confirmation that Kentucky will play Dave Wanestadt’s moustache and the Pitt Panthers in Birmingham on January 8th for the BBVA Compass Bowl. While I am not sure if the SportsPickle site was correct in saying that because we are playing on January 8th, it means we are 8 times more awesome than the teams playing on New Years Day, it does give the Cats a chance to get a LOT of extra practice time. The Cats will be one of the last three college football games of the year and will get a game against a BCS opponent from another conference. That is really all the good news I can muster. The bad news is that the game is in Birmingham, on the same day as a UK basketball game, in a part of town that isnt exactly wonderful, in a stadium that once had part of its foundation condemned and against an opponent that is known for perenially underachieving. With all of that said, it is a Bowl Game, only the 15th in UK history, it is a chance for younger guys to get run, potentially the last time to see Randall Cobb play and an opportunity to finish with a winning record for the fifth straight year. Thus I will go, visit my high school friend Trevor, see the Civil Rights Museum and watch the Cats take out Pitt and the Big East. Positivity is my new mantra.
(2): Unfortunately there wasnt a lot of positivity to come from the UK football news conference today as the theme involved talented players making exits from the program. Donald Russell is going to leave the program, which isnt a surprise after the outspoken tone his mother took earlier this year. What is not known by many fans is the other issues Joker and company had to deal with from Russell and we will talk more about that in a post later today. But for now, losing Russell means losing talent, but it is at a position (RB) where UK does think it has some depth for the future. Where the Cats dont have depth is at Defensive Line and thus the news that Elliott Porter is homesick and considering leaving the program is not good news. The former LSU commitment was a potential building block on the line for the next three years and to lose him, would be a blow. The Cats do however believe they can get Mister Cobble back for the Bowl Game if he gets his classwork finished strong this semester. He would play, as he has lost the year anyway and there is no downside to taking the field if eligible. So if you know Mister Cobble and see him between now and the end of Finals, hand him a book and make sure he is studying.
(3): I was surprised to see as little complaining as we saw from the fanbase after the 75-73 loss against North Carolina in Chapel Hill. While the Cats lost the game and clearly have a GREAT deal to work on, I did not find the loss to UNC all that concerning. The Cats played well in parts and easily could have, and probably should have, won. They were up six points late and couldnt find the way to make the lead extend to 10-12…had that happened, they probably win. Doron Lamb had a floater that if it had gone down, UK may very well have gotten the victory. Instead, Kentucky put the Heels on the line a great deal at the end and UNC didnt have to hit any big field goal down the stretch. More than anything, what we learned on Saturday about this team is what we probably already knew. The Cats cannot beat a good team if EITHER Jones or Knight has a bad game. They both must play well for UK to play well…otherwise the other deficiencies that UK has that they will not be able to fix (lack of depth and interior defense) will simply be too much to overcome.
(4): One complaint I have heard a great deal was with the officiating in Chapel Hill on Saturday. For me, this was a non-issue. There were some bad calls against the Cats on Saturday, but they also were the beneficiary of some bad calls. The problem for UK is that two of the worst block/charge calls came late against Knight and Vargas and stick out to UK fans. However, that is just what happens in a close game on the road. The foul discrepancy did exist, but it was only six and is clouded a bit by the fact that UK had to foul four times late to stop the clock for free throws. A two foul differential is not a huge issue…it just so happened that for UK, those fouls were on fewer people and the bench caused UK to have to finish the game with the ball in Jarrod Polson’s had and 3 seconds left on the clock.
(5): Can we just go ahead and say that Gus Johnson should be the voice of college basketball. No man makes a game sound more exciting than he does. I got some complaints from people thinking that he was “cheering” UNC, but that is just missing the point of Gus. His voice rises in emotion as the game rises in emotion…and that happens usually when the home team is on a run. Watch Gus call a game at Rupp (like when he did the call below of Ramel’s shot against Vandy…which includes a good Mark Coury sighting) and you will see that he is THE MAN for excitement in college basketball.
(6): The loss by the UK Hoops team to Louisville 78-52 is somewhat depressing. It is a bit of a payback for the loss the Cards took to the team in Memorial last year, but in front of a huge crowd that will likely be the biggest for a women’s game all year (over 22,000), it would have been good to see a better performance from the UK group. Hopefully the season will improve as this is still most likely the best overall team in school history from top to bottom.
Finally, if you missed this picture on Twitter, check out an Auburn home basketball game today, 10 minutes before tipoff. I guess not too many hurried home from Atlanta to be there today:
More all day, as we get ready for Notre Dame on Wednesday, learn more about the BBVA Compass Bowl (its a Spanish Bank) and talk about Enes. Stay tuned….