That’s not me in the picture. But honestly, for the better part of the last 4 months or so, it could have been. Every night around 9 pm, I sit at this exact desk and try to come up with topics for the next morning’s KSR Radio Show. It is usually a fun, relatively easy task. One of the best parts of KSR as it is currently constituted is that Ryan, Drew, Shannon and I can literally riff on almost any subject, whether related to sports or not, and have a blast doing it. Because we are friends in real life, discussions on the show reflect the conversations we would have in our normal existence, and that breezy dynamic makes the show run.
But recently, the hour or so I spend in preparation for the next day’s radio show has been a form of torture. I believe KSR is a unifying force in Kentucky and my goal every day is to use the show to make people think, laugh or smile, but most of all, to make them entertained. However lately that has become exceedingly difficult. As I run through the list of potential topics, it becomes clear that most are a barren wasteland of depression. Normally there are three types of KSR talking points…sports, current events and our lives. There are no sports that I could even stick to…literally nothing meaningful has happened in UK Athletics in months (probably since Olivier Sarr committed) and one can only stretch the “who was the greatest UK player whose last name started with “L” question so far. Sports is a vast morass of nothingness right now and it isn’t clear when that will change.
When I try to go to the news or current events, virtually all possibilities are sad or depressing. There has been almost no news of significance over the last three months that hasn’t been about (a) Coronavirus (b) Protests or (c) Trump. All of these topics have been depressing on a level so high that is hard to even find a recent parallel. I can’t remember a video that has disturbed me more than the killing of George Floyd. I can’t think of a personal story that has saddened me more than that of my friend Dewayne whose mother passed away in a nursing facility after he and his father were unable to visit due to Covid. I can’t think of a time I have been more worried for my state than in the days and weeks after the senseless killings of Breonna Taylor and David Mcatee in Louisville. These topics dominate virtually all other forms of media and when we try to engage them on any level, the audience tends to just get mad. On Tuesday, a simple question about whether the rising numbers of Coronavirus cases would mean college football was less likely to come back led to an hour of calls that made even me depressed. Society has become so politically divided on issues (even public health) that even discussing them rationally leads to abject anger. It is sad and hard to overcome.
So with sports and news basically off the table, what’s left is our own personal lives, the discussion of which I believe forms the basic of what truly makes KSR great. The listeners to the show know all of us, know what we are like as people and thus when we tell our stories, I think listeners enjoy living vicariously through them. But here’s the problem. Nothing is happening in our personal lives either. We are all, like you, basically stuck at home. There are no fun interactions with people, no road trips to cool places, no adventures in New York, wild nights at KSBar or really anything beyond our regular daily existence. And what has happened, at least for me, has been pretty terrible. My father had serious health problems, my girlfriend was quarantined a thousand miles away, my book tour went out the window, my chance to host the NCAA Selection Show disappeared when the Tournament got cancelled and all of our businesses lost their main topic and income generator. It has sucked fairly royally, and I am sure for many of you, the feeling has been similar. When I go to bed at night, the fact is that most of the time I realize I have accomplished almost nothing of importance outside of watching Breaking Bad, reading part of a book and tweeting about pro wrestling. When you can’t go anywhere, you can’t really do anything communal and there are no events to attend, life is sort of boring and monotonous. And making that fun on the radio is…well, its difficult.
While these problems have all existed for the last few months, they reached a crescendo with me in the last 48 hours. The combination of the first local candidate I have ever really gotten behind losing (barely after an amazing late run), the bizarre calls on Tuesday, a trip from my girlfriend to Kentucky being cancelled by her work and a larger than usual dose of online criticism coming my way (something must have been in the water) has led to me being uncharacteristically down. I am at heart, an optimist. But right now, optimism is very difficult. With each passing day, the idea of sports returning (and along with it our regular lives) seems to diminish. The bickering and nastiness that is infecting our country not only seems to grow, but the people engaging in it seem to only take more glee in its rise. A national election is coming that will be brutal on our collective psyche and likely disbelieved by many on the wrong side of the result. And future moments in Kentucky (most significant of which will be the decision whether to charge the officers in the Breonna Taylor case) seem almost certain to lead to more collective sadness and turmoil.
I don’t say any of this to say that I have some magical answer. I wish that I could tell you that I think we all will be at Kroger Field or at least KSBar in September to start rebuilding our lives back to normal. But I just am not sure if that is the case. When the request to put a piece of cloth on our mouths is received by some as an affront on their God-given right to eat at Applebee’s unhindered, it becomes difficult to see a future positive outcome. However, I do think it is important for me and those of us at KSR to be real and honest. For better or worse, what separates what we do from lots of other outlets is that we are our true selves to you on a daily basis. And honestly, this has all really sucked.
I remain optimistic. At some point, life will get back to normal. I don’t think we are hopelessly divided forever and I do think the collective joy we all felt when Lynn Bowden through that Touchdown in the Belk Bowl will come once again in a variety of forms. But for now, I bet many of you are like me, bummed at what an absolute shitty year 2020 has been. If so, you aren’t alone. When you hear me cranky on the radio or frustrated about something, understand that is probably a larger reflection of this time as a whole. Andy Beshear said (I hear Shannon doing the voice when I think of it), “we will get through this, we will get through this together.” I know he is right, but I bet I speak for a lot you when I say…I sure hope it gets here pretty soon.