Tuesday, June 25, 2013

It's Summer In Kentucky; Jenks

    Well, y'all, it's summer.  Time to swat mosquitoes, drive to Destin, and make up things to complain about with the basketball team.  Yesterday we learned that our friend Kyle Wiltjer would be leaving us.  Sad news.  First, from all I hear, he's a really great guy who's an asset to the University.  Also, even though we have our all-star recruiting class, I feel like there's a spot for Kyle.  He provides experience and shooting.  Remember that damn West Virginia game John Wall and Boogie's year?  If we'd had Kyle Wiltjer, the course of history might be different.
   Anyway, I just thought he wanted to leave for some reason.  That's fine.  It's his life.  I'm not even going to be catty about it.  Kyle played and practiced on a Championship team.  He provided me a year of trash talk and #8 wardrobe options.  I wish him well.
   Apparently I'm naive.  Unbeknownst to me, Cal has shipped Wiltjer off in a nefarious plot to get another scholarship.  Maybe so.  Cal says he wants Kyle to say.  He says he'll hold his spot.  Time will tell.  Personally, I don't think he's telling us a bold-faced lie.  If you know me, I'm pretty gullible.  Not being a basketball coach, I would think Wiltjer might have a nice skill set.  And we have some Kentucky kids on the roster who have a cheaper path to school tuition-wise if we wanted to cut a scholarship.  Who knows?  I guess we'll see by October.
   Here's the thing.  We can bash Cal.  He already has a toenail in the dog house for Bobby Mo.  It's just that everybody does it (almost.)  Apparently a few schools have made a rule that a scholarship is good for four years.  I applaud them.  Others don't abide by that rule.  Let's look at Pitino (only because we're most familiar with him.)  Swopshire-gone.  Nunez-gone.  I'm sure other schools do it, too, I just don't care what they're doing.  The word is Duke neither takes scholarships nor has players leave early for the NBA.  Coach K must have some magical recruiting prowess...
  Even our moral measuring stick, Tubby, took scholarships if he needed them.  See Estill, Marquis.  See other people who I'm not at liberty to discuss.  (And I swear I didn't mean that bitchy.   I love Tubby.  He is a moral measuring stick.)
  Condensed, we're all going to feel pretty silly about our hissie fits when we're buying our #9 embroidered caps in April.  Go fix a Gingersnap.  Chill.

brown sugar syrup
ginger syrup
ginger ale
squeeze a lemon

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Writing the Rivalry

Over the past week, a lot of ink has been spilled about tonight's UK-U of L game.  With two Kentucky teams in the Final Four, the national sports media has subjected us to many trite musings about "legacies" and "dynasties."  We've heard ridiculous tales of old men erupting into fisticuffs.  We've heard stories of houses divided.  We've been taken to rural towns and urban areas.  We've been introduced to hillbilly fans and soon-to-be-millionaire players.  And yet, none of these stories -- and I'm pretty sure I've read them all -- has captured what it actually feels like to be a basketball fan in Kentucky during the most intense rivalry week of all time.

All week, I've known that I had to write something about tonight's game.  With each passing day, it's seemed harder and harder.  With each cliched story about the Calipari - Pitino rivalry or the mania across the Commonwealth, I've felt that I had less to say.  But, I am a writer in Kentucky.  I write a sports column for a Lexington magazine.  I write for two blogs about Kentucky life.  And I am a passionate University of Kentucky basketball fan.  I have to say something, right?

As I sit in front of the computer screen with about an hour until the game, I don't know how to convey a Kentuckian's love of basketball.  How do I explain taking First Grade P.E. classes in the same gym where King Kelly Coleman -- the greatest high school basketball player in Kentucky history -- once played?  How do I explain that a family friend -- one of my town's most prominent citizens -- is remembered not for his civic accomplishments or his well-respected, successful children but for the fact that he played a season for Coach Rupp?  How do I set to paper the many times this winter when my brother and I were terrified to ask our father  (a retired coach) about his cancer recovery, opting instead to joke with him about ridiculous plays and matchups? (Little Brother believes a 2-3 zone conquers all...) 

A few weeks ago, my father and I were walking through the Pikeville Wal-Mart when a little old lady stopped us.  She was riding in one of those store-provided motorized wheelchairs.  Daddy and I were both wearing UK blue which, she said, told her that we were Good People.  She then asked me to get another of the motored chairs and drive it across the Wal-Mart to her husband.  At that moment, it hit me.  Our blue shirts signified a tribe, a bigger whole to which we all belong.

Over the past several days, I've heard the UK-U of L feud portrayed as existing along racial and socio-economic lines.  I've heard that it is a rural versus urban matchup.  To me, it's much simpler -- it's the team into which we are born, the tribe to which we choose to belong.  It's as simple as being born in an Eastern Kentucky county rather than one close to the big city.  It's where your parents attended school, or the team they chose to support.  It's the subtle nuances of which Louisville neighborhood you live in.

I suppose, in the end, there's no way to explain it if someone hasn't lived it.   

(Cross-posted from HerKentucky.)