Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mark Story and John Clay Are Outraged. Color Me Unimpressed.

Mark Story, who wrote a column for the Lexington Herald-Leader in March 2009 arguing that Kentucky should keep Billy Gillispie as the men's college basketball coach, is now on a crusade over UK's non-conference schedule at Rupp Arena. According to Story, UK's non-conference home schedule "is about as attractive as unwanted belly fat."

OK, so let me get this straight. From 1999 to 2009, Kentucky never made the Final Four, and in 2009 Kentucky didn't even make the tournament. But Story was fine with that. In fact, he argued against those of us who wanted to make a coaching change. But now that Kentucky has been to two Final Fours in a row, and only a few months after Kentucky won the national championship with a record of 38-2, Mark Story is outraged -- outraged! -- that the good people of Lexington would have to make do with a non-conference schedule that's not up to Mark Story's standards.

And he's not alone. John Clay, a columnist at the Lexington Herald-Leader who spent most of the Tubby/Gillispie years trying desperately to avoid saying anything controversial -- no matter how many games UK lost -- is furious that he will have to watch so many cupcakes at Rupp Arena.

So there you have it: Kentucky basketball teams that lose games they shouldn't? Well, that's just part of life. Coaches who can't get top-10 recruits? Deal with it. Lexington sportswriters being denied the chance to see a highly-ranked Indiana team in their home town? Bring me my smelling salts!

No wonder the fans don't pay attention to these guys. No wonder Kentucky fans get most of their information about the team from ESPN, or from Coach Cal's web page -- or from any source, really, that's not so obviously biased against the Cats.

Here are some facts to keep in mind:

1. Kentucky will play a very difficult schedule next year -- they play Duke, Maryland, Baylor, Louisville, and Notre Dame, and they have added Missouri and Texas A&M to their conference schedule.

2. After next season, Calipari has said that he intends to play Louisville or North Carolina in Rupp Arena every year.

3. Calipari believes that this year's schedule gives this year's team the best chance to reach the Final Four. That's a lot more important than making sure Mr. Story and Mr. Clay get to see great games in December at Rupp.

4. There are lots of Kentucky fans who don't live in Fayette County. Some of us don't even live in Kentucky. Personally, I've been rooting for the Cats since 1975 and I've never even been to Rupp Arena. By playing games in settings like Atlanta, Calipari is giving thousands of Kentucky fans -- fans who could never see a game in Lexington -- a better chance to see the Wildcats.

5. Kentucky will almost certainly sell out every game at Rupp -- just as it always does. No one -- not one single person -- is likely to drop their season tickets due to this year's non-conference schedule. And if they do, there are tens of thousands of Kentuckians who will be happy to take their place. (So what if Kentucky raised ticket prices? They just won the national championship! Of course they raised ticket prices.)

6. I know it's a big deal to sportswriters in the Bluegrass, but most UK fans just don't care that much about the Indiana rivalry. Playing games against people who constantly accuse you of cheating -- even when their own team is coming off of probation -- just isn't that much fun. If you want to cover the Hoosiers, go get a job in Indiana. If you want to cover mediocre teams with very weak fan support, you should try to get a job with the Washington Post.

One final thought for Mr. Story: If your guy Billy Gillispie were still in charge, this would actually be a very dramatic home schedule. After all, he lost home games to VMI, Gardner-Webb, and San Diego. He would certainly have had problems with the likes of Baylor and Morehead State. Obviously, your complaint isn't that the schedule is too weak, it's that Kentucky is too good. That's too bad for you and your friends in the press. You had your fun watching us suffer back during the 2000's. Now it's our turn.

UPDATE (2:37 P.M.): Remarkably -- or maybe it's not so remarkable after all -- Mark Story is still on the Billy Gillispie bandwagon. The line in that story about Gillispie's "unconventional motivational techniques" is one of the best examples of euphemism you'll ever read.

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