Right off of his committment to the University of Kentucky, Drew Barker and his father Terry, joined Mark, Anthony, and Larry on Sunday Morning Sports Talk. Click the link to listen to the segment: 2013-5-12 - Drew and Terry Barker
There was never any question who the heart of this Kentucky basketball team was. He (likely) ended his UK career with 8:03 to play Tuesday night lying on the floor of the O-Dome screaming in pain (maybe the saddest, most horrible sound I’ve ever heard). If that was the last play for Nerlens Noel as a Wildcat, he ended his brief but stellar UK career the way he had spent almost of all the 23-plus games before the injury – hustling and blocking a shot. As the heart of the team he also played his last play the way he had all season – like the heart of a fat man, beating harder than it should have had to trying to will a body farther than it seemed like it wanted to go.
And as this UK team plays its first team without its original heart, it’s high time that it spends some time searching its soul.
The second most disheartening part of the video of the Noel injury that Julie Quittner of the Gainesville Television Network posted Tuesday night (after the injury itself, of course), is the fact that when Noel’s knee buckled, he was the only Wildcat on his end of the court. Go on. Watch it again if you dare. I’ll wait.
Julius Mays – one of maybe three players who DIDN’T spend all of Tuesday night playing like an extra in a Walking Dead episode – makes a bad, lazy pass that gets intercepted and leads to the trouble. He comes closest to making mid-court. Archie Goodwin gets up to a jog. Kyle Wiltjer doesn’t even run. And I can only assume there was a fifth player on the court; he never gets in the shot (given the camera sweep, the only place he could have been was SO deep in the left corner as to have never been in the play in the first place).
The entire sequence is a fair metaphor for how this season has looked. Outside of Noel, Willie Cauley-Stein and Jarrod Polson this is a team that has all too often looked listless, disinterested and – for some – more concerned about what comes next than what’s happening now.
Without Noel to fall back on, The Cats are faced with a choice about who they want to be and how they want to finish a nearly lost season. We’re no longer talking about having to “turn the corner.” This team is now on a completely different street. They can either reinvent themselves, play with the kind of energy that we have seen far too little of this season and find their way into the NCAA Tournament. Or – if the recent mock selection media exercise is an indication – decide whether they want to play their NIT games in Rupp or Memorial Coliseum.
An NIT trip would be a long way to have fallen from a Top 5 pre-season ranking (that Cal rightly insisted was too high) and a season that started with a great deal of hype surrounding another ballyhooed recruiting class and bizarre alpha-numerical constructions like “D9asty.” (How do you even pronounce that, Dee-NINE-a-stee? What’s that even mean?)
Maybe it’s appropriate that the Cats will play today in an alternate uniform –one they haven’t played in so far this year. Their only hope to move this season forward is to show as a different team from any they’ve been so far this year.
Sometime shortly before the Presidential election, unfunny comedienne/trollbeast Lena Dunham (whom I had legitimately never heard of to that point) produced a creepy, hypersexalized video encouraging young people to vote for the first time. It was SO creepy that it was released by the President’s own YouTube channel. Because it’s what I do, I railed on about how it was disgusting and inappropriate (which it kind of was). I thought I was just bitter because it clearly promoted the candidate that I didn’t want to win and who I knew was going to win easily.
As time went on though, I realized it was more than that. I realized that it was because I had wasted my first vote all those years ago on a bad candidate with a giant, bushy eyebrow who was destined to lose himself (Michael Dukakis). I wasn’t put out by the Dunham video because it was trashy (it was) or because my candidate was going to lose (he most certainly was). I was put out by that trashy troll video because for years I had carried the scar of wasting a vote on that undeserving unibrow, hoping one day to have the opportunity to make it up to unibrowkind.
You may have noticed there aren’t many chances to vote for a unibrow candidate. I’m not sure what it is about the political process, but since Dukakis they’re sort of all been weeded out. That’s why I was so excited when I received an e-mail from Mark Story of the Lexington Herald-Leader with my ballot for the 2012 Kentucky Sportsman of the Year (or maybe it was because it was the first sign of validation of me as an accepted member of the local sports media…I mean seriously, not even ONE celebrity golf tournament — hint, hint?).
So vote I did. We were asked to pick 10 sports figures with Kentucky ties from a list of nominees and rank them in order, with comment if we saw fit. Here’s my ballot, 1-10. Redemption is finally mine.
Anthony Davis – Davis not only had the best year of anyone involved in sports in Kentucky, he may have had the best year of anybody in the country. NCAA title, running the Player of the Year table, top draft pick and an Olympic Gold Medal? That’s a solid effort.
Mitch Barnhart – Lexington’s biggest fan lightning rod has built an athletics department that few could have imagined and he reinvigorated a frustrated football fan base with a home run hire.
So finally — a mere 20 years later — I have finally paid my debt to unibrow society. My voting mind is finally at ease. That said, I still think Lena Dunham is a trollbeast.
The Kentucky Sportsman of the Year will be announced Thursday, Jan. 31, at the second annual Bluegrass Sports Awards at the Marriott Griffin Gate. Also that night, First State Financial Sunday Morning Sports Talk co-host Larry Vaught will be honored as the recipient of the Tom Hammond Kentucky Sports Media Award. Anybody who listens to the show or reads Larry’s work at the Danville Advocate-Messenger or at vaughtsviews.com knows how richly deserving of the honor he is.