Some who are in love with athletics and become experts through the Internet are too often these days a collective of contrarians — some disagreeably disagreeable.
Says here that fans throw the word “hate” around too casually these days: “I hate Duke.” “I hate Christian Laettner.” “I hate Bob Knight.” And of course, “I hate sports writers.”
Last week a cartoonist with the Lexington Herald-Leader drew the scorn of online readers who objected to his sketch of John Calipari’s checkered march to an NCAA title. The haters want the cartoonist fired (along with Herald-Leader sports writer Jerry Tipton) and called for “cut off your nose to spite your face” subscription cancellations.
Hate? This week a personal treatise on why nobody with whom I’m acquainted rises to a level of hate.
Reason One: Time. None to waste.
• Fans. I like to believe for every anything-goes-to-win fan there are 10 others bright-eyed enough to enjoy the precious present and move on to other joys.
• Ball coaches. Damaged credibility, too many think nothing of lying to reporters and thus to fans. Control freak (schedule, roster) is ingrained in a coach’s persona, but remains a clear second to multi-year contract con job with directors of athletics. Both sides know it isn’t binding, and sadly kids who sign to play for a coach know it too. Bottom line: Mutually profitable.
• John Calipari. No hate for this guy. One must admire any man who can talk his way into a job that pays $19,583 a day. In 2011- 12, Calipari was clearly best in his profession. That his peers didn’t vote for him is a statement.
• Mitch Barnhart. A pity Kentucky’s director of athletics has so little imagination as to publically announce an 8.3 percent pay raise for a basketball coach already making $587,500 a month. Why not a yacht or a trip around the world on the quiet? Or, buy the man a thoroughbred.
Barnhart has shown himself to be another in a long line of elitist athletics administrators at Kentucky who think in dollar almighty and entitlement, i.e., “WE are the gold standard.”
• Dick Vitale. Who could hate a clown? ESPN’s basketball buffoon with a voice in sand as opposed to gravel has hung around long enough to get himself into a hall of fame. If Vitale verbiage were converted into dollars, he could pay off the national debt by himself. He sticks around despite having not mouthed an original thought since Jay Bilas was prom king at junior high.
• Adolph Rupp critics. No hate from here, despite shameful omission and commission some media create and pass on to another generation as history – i.e., Rupp was racist.
To wit: Last week, a cable network promotion for an upcoming movie feature described Glory Road as “Texas Western … first all-black team to play an all-white (Kentucky).”
The movie title was stolen from a Rupp speech. Texas Western was not an all-black team. And, the Miners-Wildcats game in 1965 was not the first meeting of even a mostly black and all-white college basketball team.
• One-and-Done rule. Close but no hate here either, because it won’t last. Fans can spin it however, but it’s a naked contradiction to college student-athletics and blatant exploitation of almost exclusively black teenagers, for profit.
It is a comfort to me to know there are fans who understand that sports columnists love a feel-good story as much or more than they do. It’s great fun to write about …
• Anthony Davis. Remarkably pleasant and poised teenager who is still living his dream.
• Louisville’s run to the Final Four. Lasting reward? An array of skilled players who know the way back.
• Western Kentucky. The underdog dynamic came to life in Hilltopper basketball with a new coach at midseason and marvelous run from oblivion to the Sun Belt Tournament title and NCAA’s. All the way to “no surrender” against national championshipbound Kentucky, it was a drama in bravery we all revel in.
Steve Kerr. He played college basketball at Arizona, 15 years in the NBA, became an NBA general manager and now is an analyst for CBS Sports.
Kerr wrote recently about raising the NBA’s minimum age for entry from 18 to 20.
“I can’t begin to identify with any college freshmen whose lives would be affected with a higher age limit. I had no chance of making the NBA after my first season at Arizona, much less right out of high school. (The thought actually makes me laugh. As a slow 6-foot-3 white guy, I was lucky to even stick around for one NBA season, much less 15.
“I had the anti–Anthony Davis experience, spending five full years in college (redshirting one season with a knee injury) before entering the NBA at 22. And maybe this wouldn’t be true for everyone, but for me those five years at Arizona were the most important of my life. My teammates from those Wildcat teams remain my best friends to this day.”
And so it goes.