Whitesburg KY

Team supporting casino gambling may lose to clock

With the shot clock turned off and the final seconds ticking away, the proposed constitutional amendment to legalize casino gambling still is on the bench in the House of Representatives, hoping to at least get some playing time before the game is over.

The pundits on the sidelines are saying it will take a miracle to pull it off, something akin to the incredible three-point heave made by Western Kentucky’s Ty Rogers that gave the Hilltoppers a 101-99 overtime win over Drake in the NCAA tournament’s first round.

Back in the 1970s, the Hilltoppers were coached for awhile by Jim Richards, whose brother, Jody, currently is the long-term Speaker of the House. In fact, there was a year when Jim coached Western to an NCAA tournament win over a Syracuse team that had a young assistant coach named Rick Pitino.

You can look it up.

So now Richards – Jody, not Jim – is responsible for getting the casino amendment out of the first round (that would be the House) and into the second, where its opponent would be a powerful Republican machine coached by wily veteran David Williams, who rules the Senate with all the grace and subtlety of Bob Knight and Bob Huggins at their collective worst.

Williams’ desire to win at any cost makes Adolph Rupp look like a weenie. If he can’t overpower you, he will hold the ball until you beat yourself with silly mistakes. His tactics are especially effective against a team that’s rife with dissension, discord, and discontent.

That would be the House Democrats. Team Dissension.

The starting five, which bills itself as leadership, can’t even agree on what color uniform to wear. Everybody is out for himself. Nobody is willing to give up the ball for the greater good. Ugly squabbles that should have been left in the locker room have spilled into the public arena.

The pundits are gleeful. Even when the Democrats tried to shake up their lineup, bringing in a new point guard from Dawson Springs, the team chemistry only got worse. Maybe he’s rattled by suddenly being thrust into the spotlight, and maybe not, but he keeps throwing the ball away or dribbling it off his feet out of bounds.

On the other hand, not even Richie Farmer in his prime could help a team that’s so impossible to lead. Everyone puts his own agenda first. Nobody wants to sacrifice. At one point, the boosters representing the horse industry broke out into a fight among themselves in the stands, much to the amusement of Coach Williams and his team chaplain, the Rev. Nancy Jo Kemper.

Bored by the non-action on the floor, the media gets distracted by a fan who jumps to his feet during lulls in the action and waves $100 bills at the floor. He is wearing blue face paint and says his name is William Yung. His behavior becomes so embarrassing that he clears out a whole section, forcing him to sit by himself.

As the clock ticks steadily toward 0:00, the Republicans’ fans and cheerleaders already are celebrating and singing, “Nah-nanah na, nah-na-nah-na, hey, hey, good-bye.” But they’re quickly drowned out by boos. The vast majority of the crowd, at least 80 per cent according to the polls, wants the proposed casino amendment to move forward so they could vote on it.

When an attractive female reporter asked him about the polls during a timeout, “Big House” Williams, quoting beloved mentor Dick Cheney, said, “So?”

The reporter looked aghast.

“You mean you don’t care about what the public thinks?”

“The game should be decided on the floor by the players, not by the little folks in the cheap seats,” Williams declared. “The poor things are so far away they can’t see what’s going on. They need to trust me to think for them.”

“So you’re protecting them from themselves?”

“That’s right,” said the coach. “Everybody knows that if we ever get casino gambling in Kentucky, it’ll turn us into a state of degenerate gamblers.”

“You mean casino gambling is worse than gambling on horses or buying lottery tickets or playing Bingo?” said the interviewer. “And since we already have casino gambling just across the river in Indiana, Ohio and West Virginia, don’t you think whatever citizens are going to get hooked already have been hooked?”

Williams smiled smugly.

“My dear,” he said, condescendingly, “we’ll have so many new degenerate gamblers that we probably could fill up a whole section of Rupp Arena with ’em.”

The interviewer persisted, as only the most despicable media types can.

“Glad you mentioned Rupp Arena,” she said. “When you consider all the Kentuckians who would be helped by the hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue from casinos, you could fill Rupp Arena 20 or 30 times. This revenue would be used to improve schools, build new roads, upgrade health care, and stuff like that. Isn’t that worth at least giving the public a chance to vote on it?”

Williams turned so red you could see it on TVs across the commonwealth.

He was beginning to answer when the horn sounded to send the teams back on the floor for the closing seconds. Looking at the scoreboard, Williams smiled. His lead looked insurmountable. The only question was how embarrassing the final margin would be. He smiled when he heard a fan bellow, “Don’t call off the dogs…you can’t let them beat the spread.”

The whistle blew and Team Dissension put the ball in play.

Billy Reed, a member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, is former sports editor of The Courier-Journal in Louisville and a former columnist with Sports Illustrated magazine and The Lexington Herald-Leader.

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