A trifecta of bring-out-the-bestin us sporting events took place across America last week. v IN PHILADELPHIA, football fans came from Annapolis, Maryland and West Point, New York, marched together, cheered mightily against one another, then, at the end, sang together.
Army versus Navy is the essence of us: My fellow man first, no look-at-ME show-off and no place for “show me the money” either.
The theme and pageantry combine to stir our better angels. We see America’s best. Best discipline, best character and genuine scholarship men to remind us again of our good fortune thanks to their pledge: duty, honor, country.
The football game was entertaining enough. Navy won, Army didn’t, but showed us how to handle both. Then they all sang together. v IN NEW YORK CITY, Aflac jokes aside, a Duck won the Heisman. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota became the 80th college man and first Hawaiian to win The Trophy.
Fascinating, a college quarterback whose coach calls “an absolute perfectionist” is accustomed to stepping to a line of scrimmage, reading defenses, barking signals in front of thousands of fans every weekend, then, stands at a podium for a Heisman ceremony … is scared to death.
Footnote. I was heartened to see the media herd got it right this time after last year’s shameful sham. Florida State’s Jameis Winston didn’t make the list this year. His name was not on my ballot either time. v IN LEXINGTON, No. 1 ranked Kentucky brought out the best in North Carolina (defense), but the Tar Heels took their December whuppin’ and seemed to signal “maybe we’ll see you again.”
The star of this show, however, was outside the lines — the University of Kentucky students. With CBS television in Rupp Arena the fans pulled on “Roar For 22” t-shirts in a thoughtful nod to Alex Poythress. Endearing and refreshing too, the departure from paint-faced loons jostling to “get me on TV!” The Poythress salute was classy.
Willie Cauley- Stein, roommate to Poythress, was classy and thoughtful too. To keep his out-for-theseason teammate engaged, Cauley-Stein will acknowledge Poythress at the bench each time he substitutes out. It’s an act that promises to impress kids everywhere and embrace Poythress as a rally point.
This week, Kentucky is 11-0 and ranked No. 1 in America. With Louisville close behind in the rankings, Kentuckians stand a little taller this week.
And, by their collective concern for an injured ball player, Cauley-Stein’s support for a teammate (and his decision to stay in school), UK students make all Kentuckians proud too.
The compassion shown Alex Poythress at Rupp Arena last week was inspiring. What we saw from fans, students and Cauley-Stein constitutes, I believe, a quiet repudiation of John Calipari’s money-based logic, “… I am about making dreams come true.” I think students and fans recognize oneand done for what it is, selfpromotion and exploitation.
Poythress’s knee injury ought be seen as tragic rather than a delay or even re-direction in life of a 21-year-old.
It is opportunity to step back and realize that greatest among his natural gifts is not ball- in- hand, but between his ears — a mind educated. Could be providential that Poythress will become rich on a different plain, farther into his life than Calipari and his ilk can comprehend.
Roy Williams on UK
North Carolina coach Roy Williams was rightly impressed with Kentucky after the Wildcats gave his good team a whuppin’ last week. Skipping the accolades, the under-an-NCAAcloud coach got to the heart of why.
“(Kentucky) had 19 assists and 15 turnovers in an up-and-down game. … Their defense was so much stronger and I think that was the dominating thing in the game. And Willie was the spearhead.”
Louisville at Western
As Western Kentucky prepares to host Louisville at noon on Saturday on FOX Sports 1, a fascinating array of questions may find answers. v How will Rick Pitino’s team (9-0) handle a hostile crowd? The Cardinals have played no ranked opponents on the road and none overall worthy of UofL beyond Ohio State and Indiana. v WKU. Which Ray Harper team will show up? Will it be the Toppers who won on the road against St. Joseph’s and Ole Miss?
Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota was asked what he thought the award would mean back home.
“In Hawaii, if one person is successful the entire state is successful,” he replied. “It’s family.”
And so it goes.
You can reach me at bob. Watkins24@aol.com.