From here, the holiday spirit begins with most precious of all things … your time.” Thank you.
Above all else on the thankful list, our troops. Then …
1. Our Commonwealth had newspaper publisher Tom Gish 82 years. The Mountain Eagle publisher in Whitesburg who died last week was a hero and beacon of straight-forward, honest journalism. Fitting that his alma mater University of Kentucky created a Gish Award in 2004 to honor Tom and wife Pat. What higher praise for a person of words than recognition for courage, integrity and tenacity in journalism?
2. Mike Casey is home with family and friends in Shelby County at Thanksgiving. Before, during and after his Mr. Basketball days at Shelby County High in 1966, Casey was to UK basketball what Larry Bird became at Indiana State. Small town native son who played the game with savvy, passion, team first and never took a possession off. Casey’s 1,535 points is on file at UK. More telling, in his three seasons Kentucky won 67 of 83 games and three SEC titles.
UK Athletics should introduce Casey as its traditional ‘Y’ cheer at a home game. Soon.
3. Soaring above the importance of basketball and football for one long weekend last summer golf was king. We are grateful to a pair of Kentucky small town good guys who helped USA win the Ryder Cup. J.B. Holmes, Campbellsville and Kenny Perry, Franklin. Unofficially, Kentucky co-sportsmen of the year.
4. Thank you J.P. Hayes. Two weeks ago in a PGA tournament, Hayes disqualified himself for a rules violation. Nobody noticed, but he did and presented us with the ultimate moral question, ‘what would I have done?’
5. Good sport Ashley Judd braved Tar Heel hoops mania by sitting in the Carolina student section Nov. 18. UK’s most celebrated fan stuck it out with a smile as her team took a Tobacco Road whuppin.
6. John Asher. For all things Kentucky Derby and horse racing history we are thankful for this articulate and encyclopedic voice of Churchill Downs.
7. Wood Selig. After a bruising football season, Western Kentucky’s director of athletics did not leave coach Dave Elson twisting in the wind, but took responsibility for WKU’s big dog cha-ching schedule.
8. NAIA football prosperity often celebrated in Georgetown, moved to Williamsburg this season. Mid-South Conference coach of the year John Bland led University of Cumberlands to a 10-1 record and counting as the Patriots advanced in the playoffs.
9. Eastern Kentucky won the OVC title, 20th in EKU’s illustrious history.
10. Morehead State took a 4- 6 record against Pioneer League rival Dayton (9-1) Nov. 15 and shocked the Flyers, 14-13, ending Dayton’s 12-game Pioneer League win streak and 13 straight home wins. The Eagles then won their season finale, finished 6-6.
11. Bob Knight. College basketball’s winningest coach showed himself to be an excellent game analyst for an ESPN audience. Knight explains concisely and skips self-promotion and did not yell ‘hey, baybee look at Me!’ once.
12. Bucket lists. A September column prompted several e-mailers who mentioned constructing their own.
13. Bill Keightly’s spirit lives on. UK’s late Mr. Wildcat is probably dreading already January 4 in Freedom Hall.
14. Rick Pitino. Thankfully, sniping by UK fans has declined. UofL’s coach shared his Bucket List with The Sporting News recently and it said much about the man referred to here as Da Coach.
“There’s nothing I really desire to do except do more things with my family,” he said. “There’s no mountain climbing, safari or other experience that I care to do. … Any time spent with family and friends, even if repetitive, is a great time.”
15. Thank you coaches Nick Saban, Steve Spurrier, Urban Meyer and others, who, when flagged down at halftime by an eye-candy sideline teevee reporter asking couple of inane questions, behave like automaker CEOs leaving a Congressional hearing in a rush to get to the corporate jet.
Pssst, ball coach, you’re not that important. Rehearse something funny, take a minute to talk with the pretty girls.
16. Thanks, ESPN for analyst Doris Burke. More, please.
17. Always fun when a dumb newspaper headline makes us laugh out loud. Two games into four month schedule, a Nov. 22 Louisville Courier-Journal headline said, (UK Wildcats) finger not on the panic button.
18. Former UK assistant and Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach sits high in the saddle on the Coaches Carousel this winter. He will balance the pressures on lives of rich men Phil Fulmer, Rich Rodriquez and other ambitious types while weighing a step into a lion’s den in Knoxville.
We are thankful …
19. Walt Allen continues to study for the ministry. Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball 2006 is a junior at Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina. On basketball scholarship he will red-shirt this year as Presbyterian moves to D-I. See www.presby.edu.
20. Patrick Sparks. Former UK Wildcat and Western Kentucky Hilltopper is playing professionally in the Ukraine and “… doing very well,” says Richard Deavers in Central City.
Looking forward …
21. UK rookie Darius Miller. will become Keith Wilkes special.
22. Count on one hand. Number of teams capable of knocking North Carolina off the road to the Final Four including one from Kentucky. Louisville Cardinals.
23. Dear friends, thank you. And be careful out there with cell phone people (behind the wheel).
24. Finally, if you’re still with me, or skipped to the end, click off teevee news this week and think Blessings.
And so it goes.
Have an idea, a question or point-of-view to share, write bob Watkins at SprtsinKy@aol.com