“The Low Spark of High-Topped Boys”
When Patrick Sparks was asked after Saturday’s game what the team was trying to do on the possession of his 35-foot heave, the senior replied cleanly, “Score.”
While he lacks the gift-of-gab of say, Smooth, there is truly no shortage in the Central City product’s panache for theatrics. It’s his shortcomings, after all, that make him such a (un)likable character. We throw our remote controls in anger when he gets schooled baseline, or can’t fight off a screen as fast as our frenzied lives would desire. We scratch spots in our heads larger than what’s hiding under Pitino’s piece, astonished, wondering how a proven shooter with an immaculate stroke can be so streaky. However, when it’s going good Patrick, its mashed potatoes and the gravy (copyright Stuart Scott). For it’s these weaknesses that make his triumphs all the sweeter. This undersized, un-athletic, country boy from Muhlenberg with the Larry Bird smile, has provided wildcat nation with several ‘Legend’-like heroics.
Never to be forgotten, is Sparks standing at the free-throw line at Freedom Hall in 2004, with a chance to cap a miraculous comeback against the embittered rival. With merely a second left on the clock, Sparks calmly swished all three to give Kentucky the win, forever punching his ticket into Wildcat lore. If that wasn’t enough, just ask the fine folks in Tuscaloosa who wears number 22. It was there, last February, which pitted Kentucky against a very talented and equally hungry Alabama squad. With the home crowd spewing ever-so-harshly, Sparks responded by single-handedly gutting the helpless foe en route to an enormous road victory. He drained seven trifectas that afternoon, most of which would have had James Nasmith uttering, “Well, that’s not really what I had in mind, but, wow.”
As February froze ahead to March, and the NCAA tournament’s Austin Regional Final rolled around, Sparks left us dumbfounded with his over-time forcing three-pointer. A play that we will undoubtedly see every March, whether that’s a good thing or not (sure beats the hell out of seeing Laettner’s g…I’ll stop). Not only did he brew the unthinkable, the most special moment in the game occurred when play was stopped. While everyone in the gym, and at home, tried to process what just happened, Sparks did what each and every Kentucky fan (shoot, every fan of the human race) has yearned to do for centuries: tell Billy Packer how much you ‘admire’ his expertise. Oh, it almost provided the chocolate syrup for a Sunday of such heartache. Yet, a tale indeed we will all pass down for generations to come…assuming Packer is indeed an ageless, heartless robot concocted in a lab, late one night.
With so much gallantry on his resume, we lose our patience when he hits a slump. Not anger at you, but for you; because we know just what you’re capable of. It’s also been proven that the team feeds from his plate. When he’s down and slumping, it’s evident throughout the squad. But when it’s good, Patrick, the game again becomes what it should be all along: fun.
Behind the backs, no-looks, 35-foot cold-blooded bombs, all signs of a cocksure and happy Patrick Sparks; and when he is happy, he takes True Blue nation with him. Now, if Rondo had missed that shot…