Thursday, May 17, 2007

A Drive Through Kentucky

It's hard to really understand hot-bed basketball until you've seen it up close and personal. As a northerner who has moved east--not quite south enough to be amid the crazies in North Carolina--it's hard to fathom the tenacity that fans in certain areas aim toward their respective college sports teams.

In Minnesota, we live and die with the Vikings. We lament Joe Mauer's bum calf and Francisco Liriano's elbow. We're one of 3 states that still care about the National Hockey League.

Kentucky could care less. I've known many rabid sports fans, but nothing came close to what I witnessed, or heard rather, via talk radio on a recent drive through the bluegrass state. The commonwealth, to be nice, is insane.

It was local talk radio, much like the boys on KFAN radio, but in Kentucky, there was no smooth transition from boxscores to politics. It was all college basketball all the time. Never mind that the Lousiville Cardinals are fresh off their first Orange Bowl win in school history. Never mind that the state's incumbent governor is embroiled in controversy and being challenged by all sides by Republicans and Democrats for his seat (where an election is just months away).

Instead, the hosts, former Louisville coaching great Denny Crum, and former Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall spent hours taking calls from fans. The topic? Basketball recruting.

Would UK get West Virginia prep standout Patrick Patterson? We now know that answer is yes. Why did Jai Lucas choose the Florida Gators over the Kentucky Wildcats? (Unfortunately there was no discussion of how he passed up a chance to come to Minny!). Some fans were irate. How could new UK coach Billy Gillespie let Jai Lucas escape the Wildcat death grip? Others took turns bashing two players who had already committed to UK. Callers took pot shots at other prep athletes who decided to go to other schools.

It's because of this, I suppose, that UK basketball is among the most coveted coaching jobs in the country. And as a rabid college basketball fan, and a sometimes cranky Gophers basketball fan, this drive through the commonwealth of basketball frenzies made me wonder: Do I really want Tubby Smith to turn the Gophers into a perennial national power? I can't answer that any other way but yes.

But what I don't want is a day where I'm so spoiled by Gopher success that I turn my basketball passion into rage aimed at prep athletes. And more than anything, I don't want sports talk radio in Minnesota (or out East here) to turn into an incessant gab-fest aimed at reading the minds of prep athletes.

KU Fans started numerous blogs and Web sites made specifically to bash Tubby. A nice photoshop piece is pictured above. While I admire that enthusiasm, I promise to never run a coach out of town that wins my alma mater a national title.


Anonymous said...

"Do I really want Tubby Smith to turn the Gophers into a perennial national power?"

I suppose you really don't need to ponder this question for very long, because it will soon become apparent that Tubby Smith can't turn the Gophers into a perenial national power. Tubby Smith systematically removed Kentucky from that national stage over his 10 year tenure.