Why Even Kentucky Fans Should Cheer Against Their Own Team

  • Why would Kentucky fans ever cheer against their own team? Isn’t the motivation behind fans all about their team dominating their sport?

    Simply put, yes it is. But let’s face it, our drive for supremacy isn’t a realistic one. Does anyone in here really believe Kansas can win, say, 5 out of the next 10 National Championships? Don’t be silly… of course not. But Kentucky can.

    I know I don’t want Kansas to win 5 of the next 10 National Championships. That would turn our fan base into the biggest bunch of ego-bloated maniacs on the planet. I’m not making a character slam on Kansas fans… but fans in general… because that is what happens to humans who win too much. Then fans like me walk away. I will not be a member of a group filled with sloths. Or in the case of Kentucky, being a member of the organisation that killed dreams for future generations of children.

    At this point I need everyone to reach up with both hands, firmly grip the crimson/blue glasses you are wearing, and remove them from your eyes so you can see where I am about to go because we will be departing Jayhawk basketball land for just a minute.

    Kentucky is on the edge of destroying college basketball. If they can win two more games this weekend, they will advance their future dominance on the game. There is so much more to this than the actual game being played… however… everything happening behind the scenes is a drive to win games being played in March. The goal is to dominate March. The goal is to monopolize March Madness trophies at any cost, including removing the magic of the game.

    Over the last few weeks, even though our Jayhawks failed to advance past the first week, we’ve been blessed with true basketball euphoria; upsets all over the place; monumental programs falling to small ball and a record-breaking amount of games going down to the wire to decide a winner. We could hardly ask for more had our Jayhawks advanced beyond week one!

    Once again, mainstream media is asleep to the real story of March this year. The story isn’t WSU setting record wins, a record number of close games, Wisconsin advancing to the Final Four or Florida back in the spotlight. The story this year is a question: Will Kentucky advance their dominance agenda?

    First. I want to explain what I see as the damage caused by Kentucky building complete dominance in basketball. If the future of basketball involved Kentucky owning every other National Championship the entirety of college basketball will suffer devastating consequences.

    Kentucky has already become the quintessential broker of the OAD. This year’s class of Kentucky freshmen not only own their starting five positions, one five-star recruit sat most of his year on the bench as a reserve. We only have to go back to yesterday’s game with Michigan to realize that a bench player like Marcus Lee can step onto the court and totally dominate the game. Kentucky’s one main contributor non-freshman is sophomore Alex Poythress. This IS the best group of freshmen ever to play on one team, hands down! Their shortest starter is 6’6" with excellent ball skills and they have (had) two legitimate 7-foot skilled players in the post. The only hope of beating Kentucky rests in the hope that Kentucky beats Kentucky.

    Winning another National Championship from play of basically all freshmen is a step forward to the thinking that the future of college basketball dominance will not come from players who work hard through years of effort in a college program and by developing ultimate team cohesion. The future of college basketball dominance will be focused on 90% recruiting and 10% coaching ability (to basically get out of the ego-way of your all-stars so they can develop just enough team bonding to win a title). I’ve been sickened lately by hearing media people talk about all the trials and tribulations Kentucky has suffered over the past few months and how their sacrifices has earned them a real shot at another title. What about all the teams stocked with 4 and 5-year seniors? What about going through 5 years of trials and tribulations, effort and sacrifice, only to lose to a team of all-stars thrown together for a few months? This John Calipari formulation for winning, if successful now and in the future, will tear apart the very fiber of what makes college basketball great. The fiber of college basketball isn’t just about winning (we have pro ball for that). It is the character stories it provides us to teach our children. That is what college basketball is truly about. Our society needs examples to show children what are the right and just paths to take with their lives, along with stories of loss and sacrifice and all things that build character and drive to become victorious.

    I know some in here don’t care too much for Wichita State University basketball… but we should all appreciate their hard work and determination that helped them accomplish the season they had. Their story is one to be told to children everywhere… how a team of juco players rose to the quality level of top D1 programs. They deserved better than to go down in a loss to an all-star team thrown together for a few months. Just like two years ago. We didn’t have one of our most-talented teams, but we made it to the championship game largely because of the heart of a group of guys who came together because of the loss of Thomas Robinson’s mom. That was the chip we needed to drive us to the promised land. They deserved winning that championship. Both of these stories are ones that build the character of college basketball itself, but we all were robbed of those stories becoming immortalized because those stories never went to completion due to a bunch of one-and-dones who will leave absolutely no mark on the game of basketball. The only mark they can leave is “best recruitment class ever.” The Kentucky class of 2012 are long forgotten, even (for the most part) in Kentucky. I can only recall one word from that class… unibrow! Wow… what a story to tell our children… success is created when you recruit a unibrow.

    I have a son and I’ve been hopeful, from day one, that my little tike will grasp all the magic of basketball. I’m not sure I care anymore. I’m looking at him being thrown into a future where he either is in that very top elite recruit status and on his way to another cookie-cutter Kentucky Championship team, or he is nothing. His story, and efforts, will die on page-10 after falling into the shadows of another illustrious Kentucky recruiting class.

    Many of you (and I put myself into this group), believed Calipari would be brought down eventually for cheating, like his past history infers. I don’t believe that any longer. Calipari has too much to lose now to induce a player with a Rolex Presidential watch. And to be honest, he doesn’t have to. Let’s now look at Calipari’s sales pitch moving forward.

    Why the top talent in college basketball should attend the University of Kentucky:

    1. You will play for a coach (and a system) that is geared towards the maximizing of showing your talents for the next level. Look at how many successful Kentucky players have gone in the NBA first round over the past years.

    2. You will have the best chance of winning a National Championship in the one year you will give to the college game.

    3. You will be playing with a team full of the who’s who in your class. You will improve your game most by practicing every day with players of the same caliber that will be headed off to the pros with you.

    4. You have the very finest dorm facility, custom-built to accommodate our basketball team. You’ll even have your own trained chef to whip you up your favorite foods anytime you want.

    5. You’ll soon play in the most-modernized, decked-out arena in all of college basketball. Imagine bringing your family to the NEW Rupp Arena!

    6. You’ll train in the very best, new, state-of-the art training facilities specifically tailored for basketball.

    7. You’ll play for a colossal basketball fan base that is huge, completely committed, and growing faster than any fan base in America!

    8. You’ll be playing for one of the few elite blue-blood programs in America. Look at our history and compare. We lead the nation in most-wins of any program!

    No program can compare with Kentucky’s offer.

    I’m not totally sure about #7 right now… but give it a few more years. There are two types of fans; those that support underdogs and those who support proven winners. As Kentucky builds their new dominance, what percentage of new and fair-weather fans will jump on their bandwagon? I’d say… a HUGE number! I’ve experienced it right here in Kansas and have run across a lot of Kentucky fans right here in Kansas. These aren’t Kentucky alumni… just fans drawn to the top talent shelf. Even I watched most of their games this season to see how the greats advance.

    We need to wake up from our dream. Leave the Jayhawk glasses off our heads. This isn’t about Kansas falling back a distant second or third behind Kentucky. This is about our game of basketball, brought into existence by one Doctor James Naismith, falling into demise after one entity becomes owner of the crown. Gone are the lost examples of character (which has always driven college basketball), replaced by a grouping of top talent playing together for only a few months.

    We should change the University of Kentucky Wildcats to the Franchise of Kentucky Wildcats. Their future will be guaranteed an entire team full of McDonald’s All-Americans… they might as well sell french fries from their huddle.

    If this continues to go in the direction I lay out here… I’ll advise my son to play baseball. Why would I direct him into a sport that is removed from the principles of building character? It’s all about recruiting the most talent now and you can kiss all the character and character-building stories good-bye. Immortalized stories exist in our country only from winners, and we define college basketball winners as one team going all the way in March.

    Calipari has had this plan ever since he landed on the Kentucky campus, probably sooner. He’s slipper. Am I the only one who noticed how Calipari pulled off us in 2012 to make it a modest win for the National Championship? He has intentionally manipulated the game to not attract too much attention until they completely own college basketball. It has worked perfectly so far. If they win this year, and they dominate the championship game, you will see Calipari throttle down the finish once again, to stall media attention away from his dominance plan. Mainstream media isn’t talking about the story I’ve posted here today. They will come around after it is too late.

    I’ve removed my Jayhawk glasses. I have mixed feelings about recruiting OAD players to Kansas, but to this point, we do not possess the Calipari plan of recruiting 6 or 7 OAD players and having a revolving door policy every year. But I do believe Bill Self is convinced that the Calipari method is now the future, or maybe he is just trying to slow down the Wildcat surge to complete dominance. Just imagine now if Wiggins had chosen Kentucky? If Kentucky can win this year without Wiggins, Calipari will be glad Wiggins didn’t pick Kentucky, because it helped keep the spotlight off of his plan for future complete dominance. I’m glad we are not Kentucky. We won’t be the program that destroys college basketball. We built college basketball.

    I’m not against OAD players. They represent a bunch of talented kids who are just looking for the right path for themselves and they operate in a system that forces them into playing a year of college basketball. I’m against any team (not just Kentucky) who want to send a different message to our kids; either suddenly grow to 7’ and become dominant, or you can forget the big dream, because the future is owned by just a few recruited on one team, and once the recruiting period is over for a year, the game has been decided. This is different than what we did this past year. At the most we will lose 2 players as OADs in a year where we were forced to rebuild our entire starting five that was lost with only one player being a one-and-a-half and done. However… I’m not sure our future direction will differ from Calipari’s. If we ever get to the point of replacing our starting five every year with OADs, I’m gone from KU! As we stand today, sprinkling in a couple of top talent players won’t create total dominance of college basketball and, more importantly, won’t eliminate dreams for those who aren’t in that exclusive top shelf.

    “Danny and the Miracles” wasn’t just about winning a National Championship. What was special is the story of what earned them a National Championship. I said “is the story” because their story has been immortalized and will be told to Jayhawk kids and all kids who read their story for generations to come. We may have owned the #1 pick in the 1988 NBA draft, but we were not the most-talented team that year and it showed in our record leading up to March. Our story was about adversity, and what those kids had to do to win it all. And 4 years of adversity and fortitude went in to building our #1 draft pick. He didn’t get there in a couple of months dribbling a ball. That is the magic behind “Danny and the Miracles.” The magic is the story you can tell your kids to never give up, fight hard and you can beat the Goliaths of the world.

    I am holding onto a thread of hope that my future view of college basketball is wrong, and my son will have the same opportunities the game offered before the Calipari-Kentucky marriage. But I’m doubtful. It will take a vast majority of our population of all college basketball to come together to defeat one common enemy. We want the game back the way it was, where a group of juco players from a city university could win it all, or a team without a single McDonald’s All-American player could win it all because the players’ hearts were driven for the love of one of their players who tragically lost his mother. Those are the stories that help build character in future generations… not the story of who can collect the most OADs. These character stories are the stories I want to tell my son. I guess for some of these stories I’ll have to dig back to page-10 in the press to find them, or will I even be able to find good print stories about Thomas Robinson and his story that brought a team, fan base and nation together through his loss. Heck… do WE still remember Thomas Robinson and the tree dedicated to his mother that is planted on campus? I will take my son to that tree with plenty of time to tell the story.

    Maybe I have to focus on another sport that will continue to offer those kinds of stories to my son.

    Batter up!

  • Interesting and disturbing read Dragon. My hope is that the NBA will impose some sort of rule that allows HS kids to opt into the draft, but if they don’t they have to commit to a college for 2-3 years at least.

    As for your son, I have two boys and when they were young I dreamed of them growing into good baseball players. I love baseball more than college hoops if that’s possible. However, life has changed for youth sports. It’s all about specialization. I see kindergartners coming to the park with bat bags for goodness sakes. I see their coach acting as if they’re Tony Larussa. My sons tried playing and both hated it. The coaches, the players who were made to think they were special, everything. And I didn’t care they didn’t like it either.

    I am disgusted with much about sports these days. When I see kids at the park on a school night playing baseball at 8:30 or 9:00 and they’re 2nd or 3rd graders it looks like somethings wrong. To be ‘good enough’ to play for the high school team, you’ve got to play on all sort of out of season teams. This isn’t just baseball, but soccer, basketball, etc.

    I hope some order comes back into our beloved college game. I know the old days of a Danny Manning playing four years of college ball are long gone, but it’s sad in a way.

  • drgn: I like your main idea thrust in this essay. Well said. One question though: What would you say about last year’s “no chemistry” Kentucky team NOT making the Tournament and getting beat in 1st round NIT? What would you say (analytically) about this year’s KY starting off pre-season No.1, then sliding out of the top25?

    I watched KSU take on KY, thinking KState’s solid D gave them a chance against the inconsistent, outta-top25 KY team I watched most of the season…nope, KY handled them.

    Then I watched KY take on WSU, and it was a game for the ages. WSU was good enough to beat a suddenly-very-good-KY team, but there was NO margin for error: 1 missed Cleanthony Early alley-oop dunk, and 2 blocked Ron Baker layup attempts, and an 0-2 FT trip for Wessel, and an 0-2 FT for Nick Wiggins. I couldnt expect more inside game from WSU against KY’s size. Nope. And we got dazzling 3pt shooting by Baker and Early. But those 5 plays that all should have been 60+% scoring plays, didnt deliver a single point. WSU left 8pts out there and lost by 2. They absolutely were good enough to beat even this resurgent KY. They just missed.

    Louisville looked overmatched at times, but gamely battled. KY closed strong, again surprising me, for this wasnt the same KY I watched all season.

    Same story vs. Michigan. Michigan absolutely was good enough, and it was a sparkling game. But what PTP’er shooting by Harrison twin, wow. It was like watching Wiggins vs. WVU (but Wiggy got little help from his teammates). Glenn Robinson of Michigan answered, but in the end, a “freshman” KY squad was poised enough to trade punches and close strong.

    My main point about KY and Calipari’s system is that it is a real freshman rollercoaster for Calipari and KY fans most of the season. Will they find team chemistry, or not, in time to make a run in March? That is the main question. Last season, KY rollercoaster never found chemistry, and crashed and burned in the NIT. But this season, simply from an analytical eye…KY seems to have found “it”, and is a team firing on all cylinders (minus Cauley-Stein).

    A word about KY’12 Champs. A special team that returned 2 or 3 key players (Doron Lamb was key, hit 4 x 3s against KU in the natl.champ game). That team actually had a blend of experience. Calipari’s Memphis team also had a nice mix of experience in 2008, and frankly FT shot their NChampionship away, like KU did in 2003 vs. 'Cuse. Of course this takes nothing away from the heart of the KU '08 kids, who had to make their own plays for the FT misses to matter, and we did! And lets not forget the heart and execution of the '12Tyshawn/TRobHawks who got all the way there with no real bench, and closed to within 5 pts…yet missed 3 dunks, and 3-4 key FTs, leaving 12pts out there, everything else being the same. So even no-bench KU’12 was “good enough” to beat KY’12 in that game, just didnt have much margin for error.

    Summary: You really cant pack a roster with more than 5 or 6 OADs, as KY has done this year, and it is NO guarantee Calipari can get 5 OADs for EACH SPECIFIC position every single year. It is a system with a ton of frontloaded uncertainty, as well as a real unknown regarding how the chemistry unfolds during their season. So I say: LET Calipari have his system. Man, I wouldnt want his job, starting with zero every year, trying to craft a contender…he looks like he’s aged 5yrs this season. For that matter, dealing with such a new team, Bill Self has aged too, as Ive noticed our man has gained like 20+lbs in a few months?

    Bill’s system takes 2 yrs to get good at. Our guys are expected to play tough. So they also need the physical tools growth-under-Hudy gives. Our system beats the hell out of Roy’s. 3 times straight in the Tourney–with 3 different Self/KU teams. That is system dominance.

    Let Calipari experiment with his system. I’m happy with our team-building, system-building ways of Bill Self. Which also proves that this season’s KU product was a VERY “unfinished” one…not a true Bill Self product.

    The other reason I am OK with Kentucky, is I dont think 5 OADs could ever learn and execute Selfball to its fullest, most devastating effect…because they dont gain enough experience before they leave. See the inexperience this season, same analogy–> we LOSE the edge that Self’s system is supposed to give us through experienced execution. Sure enough, this year we could get beat by anybody, and did.

    Let Calipari run his experiment at KY. I am totally content with Self’s ways, but realized with these TharpeHawks if we cannot execute our own system, we wont be a usual Self-type dominating team. Just because of this fact, KU will be very dangerous next season. And Final4 good if Embiid returns. The defense and PG play will get better…it has to.

  • On another note, drgn, I actually visited a KY blog (just to read), about a month ago, and the mood was 70% disdain and weariness, and about 30% were still loyal BigBlue types. The recurrent theme was that Calipari’s schtick had wore thin, and some sentiments were: “we miss rooting for the same guys for 3-4yrs and watching them improve”, or “we want players that actually care about Kentucky, not just using us as a 9month stopover”.

    The funny thing would be to ask those same restless fans what they think of Calipari and these KY kids right now, in the Final Four?? I think results change the tune quickly.

    I think this resurgent KY will blow the hell out of Wisconsin, as they out-man them at EVERY position, and are playing like a team. What more can you ask for? Its about matchups, and I dont know if even FL matches up well with KY. And as far as UConn goes, other than Napier and Boatright, UConn is overmatched too.

    Of course, KY could pull out a regular season-game type of lackluster outing, and they could get beat by anybody (S.Carolina and Frank Martin even beat them in late Feb…). But if they keep bringing their A-game, I think KY’s matchups show no weaknesses. But even an upperclassmen-laden team like '08KU show that its VERY hard to bring it for 6 straight games. Will KY have a “Davidson”/gut-check type of game? Or were WSU and Michigan those types of games? I say no they werent, because KY’s game was still working. Unlike KU vs Davidson, where the only thing KU had working was its D and Sasha Kaun for a few brilliant minutes.

    KY Dynasty? Not really worried about it. There are MORE good college players now. They keep talking about parity, and how lesser school players have played AAU vs the OADs, and believe they can play with them (because they have). Again: send the obligatory 5 OADs to KY, and we’ll keep getting our 1 or 2 top20 guys and 2 or 3 top 50guys, and LOVE rooting for our guys for 2, 3, or 4 yrs. And we will have a better product, as it takes more than 1 yr to master Selfball, as we now have seen.

    Enjoy, like I do, the differences between KU, KY, UNC, and Duke. I sure do. Let Calipari/KY do his thing. If they win the NC, I’ll be happy for them. I do think the game might have left Roy behind a bit: Notice all the teams in the Final Four play nasty defense. Defense wins. Bill Self is, of course, correct. And he is double correct in getting athletes to buy-in to the defensive philosophy, because you get a superior product at both ends, provided our guys develop all the things Self’s system requires.

    Calipari’s system is simpler (it HAS to be) for the frosh that try to execute it. They beat people with athleticism, which is off the charts, of course. Those 2 hustle blocks on Ron Baker’s 2 almost-certain layups, were just a perfect example of 2 buckets Baker scores in 34 out of 35 games…

    As a basketball fan, I am enjoying this special run KY has put together, simply because I didnt think they had it in them!

  • As a basketball fan, I am enjoying this special run KY has put together, simply because I didnt think they had it in them!

    @ralster As I watched them get beaten repeatedly throughout the season by more veteran teams, crumbling down the stretch in many cases, I came to appreciate that these kids were getting their comeuppance. Before the season, when Dakari Johnson said he thought he could beat Michael Jordan in his prime, or the twins disrespected Wiggins by talking smack about how they didn’t need him, or Calipari talked about chasing history (and I’m sure the kids parroted his words to other potential recruits), I just wanted them to get humbled, over and over again. They were stupid kids. I don’t think they’re quite as stupid any more, and that’s good. They’ve had to work hard, play as a team, and earn it.

    I don’t have to root for them, but I respect that they’ve gritted it out.

    Go Badgers!

  • @drgnslayr That may be the best post I’ve read on this site. What an incredible story.

    I was a year and half old in 1988, so I didn’t get to experience Danny and the Miracles. But I was a junior at KU in 2012. I do vividly remember that season. That is a season that I hope to tell my son about someday. With Mizzou stabbing us in the back for money, and KU getting the last laugh over our bitter rival, to a tournament run that took us all the way to the NC. That is the year that I was proudest to be a Kansas Jayhawk. I wasn’t (that) upset by the loss to UK. But I do remember vividly talking on the phone with my mom the next day, in the bowels of Watson Library, and holding back the tears as I explained to her how much it all meant to me. These were my friends. They were my classmates. I could honestly say that all of our players that year would be leaving KU with a college degree. It was a representation of what is pure and powerful about college sports, against what is so disjointed and sickening about them. It was the year that I will forever think, if only we could have won that game, we would’ve won the war (so to speak).

    This is why I’m proud to be a Kansas Jayhawk. Kentucky fans don’t have this. Hold onto that @drgnslayr , not the skepticism. Because you will always have that. As KU fans, we will never be a cookie-cutter blue blood like Kentucky. UK may someday have the best college arena every built, but it’s an NBA stadium. It’s nothing special. There’s a million like them. Taking your son to AFH is what I hope to someday do with my own (hopefully). I will tap him on the shoulder and point up to that beautiful sign that some students made out of a shower curtain long ago that reads: “Pay Heed All Who Enter: Beware of ‘The Phog’.” Then I’ll explain to him the stories of Phog Allen, Wilt Chamberlain, Jojo White, Clide Loveletette, Danny Manning, Kirk Heinrich, Mario Chalmers, and Thomas Robinson. Guys who still live and die with every KU win or loss. I can’t wait for that day. I pray to god that it someday comes, because that is what makes sports so great. That is what fosters the bond between a father and his son. That is to me what KU represents…and I wouldn’t trade that for the world. I KNOW, that you share that same sentiment.

    Rock Chalk, Jayhawk. Forever and Always.

  • @ralster

    "drgn: I like your main idea thrust in this essay. Well said. One question though: What would you say about last year’s “no chemistry” Kentucky team NOT making the Tournament and getting beat in 1st round NIT? "

    That’s why I built my premise around Kentucky winning 5 out of 10 championships. If they win this year, they will be 2 out of the last 3. Then they can crumble again next year, and be back the year after. It works out as good math for Kentucky, because their fan base has expectations far exceeding ours. Their fans do expect to be national champions every year, so a bad year in between builds plenty of chip for the following year. Who would think this year’s Kentucky team is carrying a chip! To some degree it is there. That came out in the WSU game.

    What really sticks out to me when reading my post over is how invisible Thomas Robinson has become and what a legend Danny Manning still remains. All over the outcome of one game.

    Winning a National Championship does not make a story to tell your children and grand children. Kentucky has proven that in 2012… However, NOT winning a National Championship when you have a story ALSO does not make a story last through time.

    These franchise Kentucky teams do nothing but erase great potential history from occurring. No one should be for that, including Kentucky fans.

    I’ve always seen Calipari as a threat. He seems to only care about his own bank account. But I’ve never had anything against Kentucky, and I’ve always maintained a high level of respect for Kentucky basketball and their fan base, who has always stayed charged up even under some pretty tough extended years of bad basketball.

    I don’t know if I’m too much a fearmongerer or just ahead of the game in seeing what is to come. I’ve heard Calipari talk about his goals to have 8 or so 5-star top prospects as a goal. I think we could make quite a blog on Marcus Lee, and if he made the right choice by attending Kentucky. He had quite the “coming out” party last weekend… He could have played an entire year of 30+ PT mpg if he had gone to really any other program in the country, including KU. On the other hand… he had to battle all that UK post talent every day in practice.

    I did leave out one gigantic part of Calipari and the UK future in basketball…


    Calipari’s biggest goal is to make huge expansions for UK sports. This goes beyond the existing BBSN (Big Blue Sports Network), with goals to be a world syndicate sports media outlet. This is the final step for UK expansion, involving so much more than just Kentucky basketball games and a coach’s program. The expansion will hide behind education as it will bring education into the fold by promoting most educational areas at UK.

    I don’t see how any other university will be able to stand up and compete with UK. We are the closest thing they have to a competitor because we own a big chunk of history (and the rules), and we have a far superior brand logo (the Jayhawk). Funny thing… our mythical bird is a big part of our power leverage moving forward…

  • Let’s talk about basketball, Kentucky and character development.

    The best players winning won’t ruin basketball. It can’t. Talent will always have an enormous influence on who wins in basketball because one or two transcendent talents can move the needle in college basketball more than in football, or baseball, or any other sport.

    To say that UK’s new concept of recruiting a large conglomerate of talent will somehow make college hoops devoid of character development is, in my estimation, unlikely. If you remove the Jayhawk bias we all carry for a moment, think about the season that Aaron and Andrew Harrison, Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee, Julius Randle and James Young have had for a second.

    They arrive in Lexington as the greatest recruiting class in the history of the free world, or whatever they were called. Maybe they had it in their head that it would be easy. The world was going crazy around them.

    If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you

    Maybe they had dreams of coasting through the season and having vanquished opponents fall at their feet right after the opening tip. But that’s not what happened. The season was hard. Their bravado was mocked across media reports. Their work ethic was questioned. Their dedication. Their commitment. Their character. Their heart.

    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too;

    Everytime they struggled, someone, somewhere was writing an essay, or a blog, or a news story about how they were overhyped, undeserving, too cocky, etc. The success didn’t come immediately. They had to wait. Wait and listen. Listen to everything being said about them on every channel and in every newspaper, and on every sports show.

    If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

    There were probably times where those initial lofty ideas, the ones about going 40-0, seemed like a fools errand. I’m sure those dreams seemed like cruel nightmares. I’m sure in a lot of those moments both they and their coaches felt like everything was falling apart and everything they had worked for was just a joke.

    If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
    If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same; If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

    Character is built through hardship, and revealed in the most trying of times. I’m sure that there were some hardships for that freshman class, many that we observed and probably quite a few that we didn’t see at all. I’m sure that on the morning of March 2 when those freshmen woke up after losing to a South Carolina squad that was sitting at 11-18 on the year, and just a few days removed from a loss to an Arkansas squad that was very much on the outside looking in at the tournament, those kids probably had to question themselves a bit.

    If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings And never breathe a word about your loss; If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone,
    And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

    But isn’t that what makes you grow up? Isn’t that what makes you into a man. Just because they were McDonald’s All Americans when they arrived in Lexington didn’t forestall the potential for growth. I don’t know any of their parents, but I would estimate that the sons they left in Lexington back in August are much different today than they were then.

    If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch, If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, If all men count with you, but none too much; If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
    Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

  • @justanotherfan I really enjoyed every comment on this threads. If I may, I’d like to add something my father told me. "Son, I want you to be able to walk with kings and paupers and be comfortable in the company of both.

  • @justanotherfan

    Good post!

    I guess my post voids out potential for character stories coming out of Kentucky and the franchise mill. I have watched most of their games and taken a liking to all their players, similar (but not quite) to how I favor our guys. I’m sure many or all of their guys are of decent character and made sacrifices to get where they are at. But it seems like they have quite an advantage once arriving at college. I would like to be a coach with the problem of getting 6 McDs AAs to play well together in one year. I’m sure it is a challenge… but they all have miles and miles of upside. Compare that to a players with a lot less height and natural athleticism… how do you make those players competitive with the top athletes? It is a much harder climb. But it is possible. That is the story that needs to continue throughout college sports.

    My entire premise is built on the hypothesis that Calipari will pull this monopoly off. There is no guarantee Kentucky wins 5 of the next 10… or even another championship in the next 10 years.

    I’m with you in that character is built everywhere and isn’t determined by one team doing whatever. I just think as a society, we seem to only cling on to those who win it all, and the big risk is we undervalue great character stories that get plowed under by a franchise team (or teams).

    I was impressed this year by WSU… much more than what I saw at KU. The Shocks margin of error was like zero, but they put together a heck of a run and I can’t imagine any team besides this Kentucky squad playing about perfect could have stopped them. To this point, they were clearly the toughest win for Kentucky in March. Their story was about team work and team attitude, and leadership. I don’t think anyone is talking about the Shocks now. Their season has already been marginalized. I have a hard time thinking I can find a story within this Kentucky team that will match theirs. These were juco boys squaring off equal to a team full of 1st round lottery picks that had a huge size advantage, too… along with years of top notch coaching camps, tournaments and AAU ball.

    The old adage, “it isn’t the size of the dog in the fight, but more the size of the fight in the dog” can be put back in the book and hidden to the back of the book case again. In this case, it was the size of the dog.

    My fear (or fearmongering) wouldn’t differ had WSU won that game. It would have just prolonged (slightly) the development of the super franchise of Kentucky basketball. That is real… and we are experiencing Kansas react in fear by trying to keep up with Kentucky and at least develop modernized dorms with copycat features to entice recruits.

    Next, will we be able to add 100k sq ft of perimeter space to AFH to compete with the new Rupp Arena?

    Will we be able to build a media outlet to match what Kentucky will be producing over the next 10 years?

    Okay… let’s say we match Kentucky, tit for tat… what about the 400 or so other D1 institutions? How many schools will be keeping up with this race for talent?

    The money and power is colossal.

    I’m not sure Calipari is the problem. He may just be the messenger with faster feet that got the message out before anyone else.

    I don’t think we are that far off where basketball fandom becomes too centralized. Where the chances for small schools finishing at the top of the heap in March goes from slim to none. This year was a great year for little schools stinging blue bloods. I think many fans from across the country loved the experience that lead up to the Final Four, mostly because the little guys were standing a chance. That single ray of hope is about all it takes to create magic everywhere. That small ray is all it takes to light up our entire country for a few weeks!

    I hope we don’t lose that. Big college entities developing into huge business franchise models will make it a smaller and dimmer light for most college teams. I mention Kentucky because they are ahead of everyone on this. But we are involved, too. It is a race to the top… a competition… a capitalistic approach of devouring competition to gobble up market share.

    I am a capitalist. I grew up in this country and appreciate everything it has offered me. But I also see the eventual end result of where it goes… one entity monopolizing and eating the rest. Because the money has become so huge in college sports, I don’t see how we slow it down now. Kentucky will build gold and ivory sleeping vessels for it’s basketball players similar to the great pharaoh tombs in Egypt, because these players will be treated like Gods. That is where we are headed.

    Back in my KU days, I lived a distance from campus and rode a bicycle up the hill of Naismith Drive every day to class, regardless of the weather conditions. That was a different time. I didn’t have my own chef and specialized, customized accommodations. I had a dump apartment. But those long, freezing bike rides up hill is part of what built me to what I am today. It was an honor and privilege to freeze my testicles every day on Naismith Drive. I was kept warm by realizing how special that was. How do I tell my son a story like that and have it count, after he reads about the luxury apartments we are building to adorn our athletes?

    That is my dilemma. Watching our society crumble further into decay because the focus on character is marginalized and sold out for a big pile of cash and a false dream. Sure… anyone can win the lottery. That is what society is focused on… the big winner. But the big winners are everywhere, often in tiny dwellings with limited resources. People who fight hard every day to better their lives and their family’s lives. This is where the stories are. And historically, these stories have passed on through basketball, too. That is where my connection is to basketball. Otherwise, it is a dumb game just tossing a silly ball into a cylinder in a loop of redundancy. I believe I will have a harder battle on my hands to parent through the future of basketball when the public focus is only on big bucks and NBA draft choices. I want me kid focused on the stories like WSU had this year. That is where the realism is that will help my son throughout his life. He WILL be peddling through snow up hill on Naismith Drive to AFH every day. Some things you can’t learn any other way.

  • @drgnslayr

    I understand your fear. I don’t have any children (yet), but I do remember a lot of the things my parents taught me that I’d like to pass on to the next generation.

    One of the things I remember them teaching me was that it was important to appreciate the things you had been given and the people that were around you. One of the saddest things I see in society today is that so few people appreciate the individuals that got them where they are today. You hear so many people talk about how hard they worked to be successful, without ever mentioning the teachers, coaches, mentors, parents, friends, siblings, spouse, etc. that made them into the people they were, and that allowed them to succeed. There is an attitude of ungratefulness that is pervasive in today’s society.

    I think that’s where character comes in. You built character riding up Naismith Drive on your bicycle because, as I can tell from your posts even without you saying it, you sincerely appreciated the opportunity you were given and, even more, the sacrifices that people in your life had made so that you could pedal up that hill and pursue your dreams.

    That’s why I wouldn’t worry too much about your son - if he has learned your sense of gratitude, he will understand the sacrifices that people make so that he can be successful, he will appreciate that and live accordingly. That is something that, no matter whether he is the most talented at something or the least, he will have with him forever.

  • @justanotherfan Thank you for saying how grateful you are to have a sense of gratitude!

    One of the teachers for which I am most grateful quoted an atheist in class: " the worst thing about being an atheist is having no one to thank."

  • Of course I’m reading a lot of the final four right now with my Badger interest and I’m learning that the nation really is disgusted by Kentucky. These are the fans who live outside of their realm of influence and just see them as a bunch of kids with no intention of attending classes beyond what’s required and running to the league the first chance they get.

    I am hopeful that the college coaches and AD’s will rise up and force some changes for the benefit of their game. Because what they are doing is no good for the game. We really learned the hard way this year.

    Imagine all of this OAD crap didn’t exist. Can you imagine our team in two years? Wigs, Selden, Joel, Perry, Lucas, Mickelson, Cliff, Connor, Mason and a few others with two plus years of coach Self’s training in the Jayhawk way? That’s what is being taken from us. The glory years of college hoops from the mid 70’s into the '90s when upperclassmen laden teams became household names, the games written down into sports lore. Lousville-Houston, Ralph Sampson and Virginia banging against UNC and Michael, Sam, James. GTown (I hated them like I hate Kentucky now) with their menacing college version of the Pistons Bad Boys. Magic-Larry never would have happened in 2013. Even Michigan’s Fab 5, despite the cheating, were something to behold, so much talent on one team, but they couldn’t win because they were going against more talented experienced teams.

    I know, I’m showing my age, just as @MoonwalkMafia showed his age. The old days were always better right? What will the old guys say about this era regarding college basketball? I’m not sure they’ll get all nostalgic will they?

    Of course if sane college hoops takes precedence this year, then a very experienced Florida, or Wisconsin, or even UConn will win it, following a win last year by an experienced team in Louisville, who PTL, returned this year. So maybe Kentucky is the anomaly and experienced teams (who lack OAD’s) will continue to win this thing.

  • @wissoxfan83

    Great read! Thanks! I feel like such an old boot in here sometimes… And when I mention the good old days around my wife (who is a generation younger) I’m met with some major eye rolling.

    I hope you are right… and I hope one of the three experienced teams wins this year. My skeptical opinion keeps telling me (however) that it doesn’t matter. In a ways, it may even benefit Kentucky more to lose this year. Keep the focus off of what they are building in Lexington. They will continue their march to separate themselves from the pack by offering athletes more. The drive is to recruit not only the very top 5 players for starters, but to go at least 8 deep with that top shelf. I think that is what the difference is from where Kentucky has been the past few years. Having more depth and that depth improving the entire team through more competitive practices as well as having more depth for games. It also takes 2 or 3 more top tier players out of the hands of their competition… like Kansas.

    In their best case scenario, I still don’t see them winning more than half the NCs. But I think that is enough to control the game. Wooden’s run will never repeat.

    I’d like to see the pros let kids go straight from HS. Then I’d like to see the NCAA put tough restrictions on scholarship athletes, making them show high attendance and good grades even in their first semester. Then… you clean up a lot of this stuff. And then why let them stay in luxury apartments? For top athletes, let schools pay them something beyond their scholarship and stipend and put it in a trust for them and release it when they are 21. And give them extended insurance that covers permanent treatment for any injuries caused during college play.

    College sports is one big mess because the NCAA is nothing but a fascist regime.

    So… instead of something fair and smart coming out for college athletes… it will take a total transformation into unionization… which, in the end, just makes everything a bigger mess.

    No one in here is talking about Northwestern football winning the right to unionize…


    It is the start of the end…

  • @justanotherfan

    Thanks, so much, for your kind and assuring words!

    Today I will spend a big part of my day taking care of my elder aunt and uncle, who have largely been neglected by their own child and grand children. I’ve respectfully tried to explain to my cousin how important it is to be there for his parents, and how it also sets the example to his kids… but I couldn’t make an impact.

    It all starts with respecting elders. Sometimes it isn’t easy because there can be plenty of tough history surrounding the situation. But you have to see the broader picture.

    Anyone who has changed my diaper has earned my respect and attention to changing their diapers when the day comes.

    It all starts with family. Then… it is very easy to look out the window and see other areas in the world that deserve your respect, too. Like Naismith Drive… I always felt like I was in a dream riding my bike! I wouldn’t trade those moments for all the tea in China!

  • It’s already been said, but this continues to be one of the best threads I’ve read. I never liked OAD, but it is what it is, and I’m happy we had Andrew this year. I agree Kentucky is hurting the game, and I sure hope they go down first in the FF.

    As for the Northwestern union-nearly started a new thread on that-I could write all day. It pisses me off- but on the other hand people are making a ton of money on kids. In the end, I hope some kind of compromise be worked out-maybe some extra,stipend for. Expenses-or escrow accounts like Dwight Stones (high jumper) had. He was competing against professional athletes in a multi-event TV show-won $30,000 and had to put it away to keep his armature status.

  • @drgnslayr Good for you Slayer. I’ve seen the elderly care issue in my own family. The sibling with the greatest resources did squat while the one with the least did the most. Raised by the same parents you’d think it would be,different.

  • @drgnslayr-When A Harrison nailed his game winner, it was appx a $333,000.00 shot. That’s what CBB has morphed into. The glasses are off slayr, & we all know first hand that SZ is on the money train just like everyone else with the Jayhawk tv deal.

    Though I enjoy good hoops in March, I too believe that the money & glitz of the Madness has completely changed the rules regarding all aspects of being a "student athlete, or the value & journey of the regular season. Even multitudes of guys who have supposedly been students for 3-4 yrs, some even with degrees, give the impression when publically speaking they may hardly be competent of reading & writing. Makes me think at times that it’s just a smokescreen for the NBA minor leagues. Who calls the March & April games now? Smith, Barkley, Kerr & Anthony (who the latter 2 I enjoy the most). In the early 90’s we had several golf/business dealings with a former reserve player who was a bus manager at a casino, from the Rebel teams in Vegas & met a lot of those players. Anthony was a very polite & articulate young man & was very pleasurable to be around. I also was astounded by Kerr’s impartiality when he called the Wisc AZ game & I think Anthony is dead on most of the time. But whether we like it or lump it, the “show” has evolved into our educational system & CBB & there’s zilch we can do about it.

    When my guys were small & played city league sports it was only baseball & basketball. Even in OP & Olathe which are now 200,000 plus populations, there was very little soccer & no FB. That came about when they were in school sports a few yrs later. Now, little kids have it all, to the absolute max, which is indicative of our societies’ mindset. Most of the coaches they played for in city leagues were so obviously all about their own kids & little more, & it was pretty much a relief when they entered middle school for that reason. The words that were fast becoming attached to various teams like “premier, select & all star” were definitive enough for anyone to understand the emphasis was not on team building, chemistry, or character enhancement of the youth. It was quickly becoming a win at all cost phenom & made me angry enough to the point that I became involved to try to derail some of the process. I coached LL & BR baseball off & on for 10 yrs, & when a friend was doing his master thesis creating the YMCA program for Olathe, agreed to coach for them. That was really enjoyable then because the "Daddy Ball’ jerks had not come on board yet. Didn’t take long though & after about 4 yrs I could no longer stomach the system.

    I have to just look the other way at most all of sports these days, so I can still enjoy the aspects of athleticism & sportsmanship. There’s very little of the latter remaining. A kid with his head on straight like Perry & the impression we got from Wigs, is really something I can sink my teeth into & try to. I truly have to let the krappy stuff & denigrating headlines go so I can do this & like HEM says, still enjoy the ride. At this point I still can & do, but who knows, nothing stays the same at all anymore.

  • @drgnslayr While I don’t like the guy I give a ton of credit to Calapari. He has done an incredible job with his talent this year. I concur that teaching OADs is not easy, last year was a disaster for him. I would not have been able to recognize his amazing job I had not witnessed our own challenges with OADs and understand how challenging is to win with Frosh regardless of talent.

    Every coach in America tries to recruit the most talented kids, our own coach is no different. Calapari is landing more and more OADs and he is getting into Final Fours and hanging NC banners. The OAD rule is not his but he is maximizing it to his advantage and a ton of joy for the KY fans, hats off to him.

    I hope that Self can learn a few things from his coaching style and hopefully we will hang a few more NC banners in AFH.

  • I guess I am not the only one who sees the potential for a separation soon of David and Goliath… Dan Gavitt of the NCAA sees the potential from the broader scope of regs changes to offer college athletes more benefits.

    Now if we could zoom in tighter to specific programs, like Kentucky, then ask ourselves… “is this good for college basketball?”


  • @drgnslayr Just to clarify–> Here’s my favorite royalty programs in MY favorite order: KU, KU, KU, then a distant second is Duke, then KY, then UNC. But this year, I saw those KY kids struggle, gave em up for dead, then see them put it together now…so, while I do NOT like the OAD concept at all for college ball (should be 2yr minimum…which is exactly what Self and Calipari BOTH want)…I do enjoy watching talent + hops.

    I am a guy conditioned by years of growing up watching MJ, and loving the uber-athleticism, and high flying dunks, as well as the jaw-dropping crossovers. But I like defense, too. I am less of a fan of the Stockton, Bird type of nonflashy player, although I applaud their greatness with 100% respect as well.

    So when I see a team like KY, I see possible future stars…but can they play as a team? Because it takes a TEAM to win. MJ alone couldnt win the big one. Some kid from Canada dropped 41pts in a loss to WVU, but his team still lost (although I had tears watching him try to win it alone, without any help, it seemed). So I see the KY kids coming together, like KU couldnt this year, so Im pulling for them out of curiosity. My picks this season were KU, then WSU, then whatever BigXII team got the farthest… I was actively rooting AGAINST Syracuse, Arizona, Michigan…and maybe Baylor (because of Scot Drew). I was ambivalent towards everybody else…but KY earned my attention with their turnaround.

    Calipari’s recruiting workload almost gets cut in half if kids must be 2AD instead of OAD. That’s why he likes it. He knows what experience means, and his past 2 champ game appearances he had blended teams of OADs + 2-3 key returning players (Memphis08 and KY12). THIS KY team is in rare waters. Not since the Fab5 of Michigan over 20yrs ago.

    So my watching KY now has to do with this set of players, and not the macro concerns you have outlined so well. Regarding all of that, I do not think Self should try to copy that. All that love Jayhawk Nation shows to its 3 and 4yr players even after they leave, would naturally get diluted, as you’d feel the OADs really dont/didnt ever “care” about their 1yr university once they are gone. There is no diploma on the wall (or at least a few years of sweat and floorburns) to tie them to Lawrence (or Lexington or ChapelHill or RaleighDurham) forever, is there?

  • @ralster speaking of scot drew, he’s pretty excited w/his players tonight!

  • @Crimsonorblue22 Hmm, I dont know anything recent about Baylor–what happened with his players “tonight”?

  • @ralster dunk and 3 pt shooting contest. Heslip won 3 pt, Jefferson was 2nd in dunk. Coach drew looked like a cheerleader. Little overkill!!

  • @Crimsonorblue22

    A good thing he was not coaching them. otherwise they would have underachieved.

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