Sports in Kentucky by Bob Watkins

Posted November 27, 2013 at 4:03 pm


Has the intrinsic value of the holiday become a hiccup until 12:01 Black Friday? Is it a series of YouTube images of a shopper stampede past pushed back glass doors into retail stores for “pictures at six news?”

Last week I was standing at a drugstore in a front aisle where the first display to get shopper attention might have been a pilgrim or a cardboard turkey, but was instead a life-sized Santa Claus.


Has Thanksgiving become a meal and afternoon nap while the Detroit Lions muck up the television screen?

From its rather odd origin, Thanksgiving Day has gradually shucked off traditional definitions we knew or thought we did last century. Abraham Lincoln declared in 1863 the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving. Odd that, considering it was in the middle of a (Civil) War.

Roll the calendar forward 114 years and what have we got? Thanksgiving in Kentucky, what’s it mean to you?

Age mellows us, I think, and sharpens our appreciation for delicious memories related to Thanksgiving we did not recognize until later. Today, we ought resist businesses that would bull-rush us on to Christmas, with no pause to recount and be thankful for blessings at Thanksgiving.

My gratitude begins with: America, I love this place!

This week, random items for which I am privileged and grateful to be around to share.

1. You.

2. This newspaper. For privilege to share a point of view for your consideration.

3. Critics. Appreciate them always. Disagreeable ones clear the fog from a good rhetorical spanking. And, constructive critics with ideas, point-of-views to move one to say “hmmm.”

4. Options. Asked last week if I’m considering retirement, I’m grateful to have one. Ask my wife to choose.

In athletics …

5. Blessing. Can a Thanksgiving football weekend be any better than – Tennessee at Kentucky; and cream of the crop survivors still standing in the state high school playoffs?

6. I’m grateful my path crossed those of Calvin Bird (Corbin) and Howard Crittenden (Cuba). They left us this year. All-American athletes, but each was more an All-American human being.

7. Legacies. Dean Smith was a recipient of the President’s Medal of Freedom recently. A Hall of fame ball coach gave North Carolina 36 years, prepared teams for 879 wins. Smith insisted his Tar Heels be college men and they revere him still. Smith’s legacy, 96 per cent of his players graduated college.

8. Player awards. My favorites in 2013 are A.J. McCarron (Alabama) for the Heisman, Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville) for John Unitas Award, and Antonio Andrews (Western Kentucky) for the Paul Hornung Trophy. Good players, good young men.

9. Keepin ‘em Honest. Two months ago an internet columnist expert on hoops recruiting wrote: “After landing (Jabari) Parker, Duke doesn’t have any other recruits still considering coming to Durham.” Having added three 5-stars by last week Duke leap-frogged Kentucky for best class.

10. Hunch Dept. Tall, talented and promising kid and with a name like Elijah Sindelar, quarterback at Caldwell County High has work to do, but is drawing raves like this from Todd Griffin in Princeton, “… “there are times when he unleashes passes you usually only see on Sundays. … Sometimes it’s difficult to believe he’s just a high school junior.”

11. Pittsburgh Pirates. Gave me joyous days of summer and autumn in 2013. Blessing, the good guys. Manager of the year, Clint Hurdle and National League MVP, Andrew McCutchen share more than honors. Both are community activists to betterment of people.

12. I’m grateful that, at 77, Bill Mazeroski sold his treasured Pirates memorabilia for others to enjoy and his charity and family to benefit.

13. I’m grateful for Vanderbilt and Northwestern. Universities where scholarship is for scholar athletes who deem sports as part of education and future.

14. For chest thumping braggarts in college and professional sports who believe their success was achieved solo, these sobering words: “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” – Warren Buffett, billionaire.

15. Augustine Rubit, All Sun Belt performer at South Alabama receives his college degree next month. Nominated for Senior CLASS Award for Division I seniors who reflect ideals in community, classroom, character and competition, Rubit grew up in Houston without a father and mother battling substance abuse. He failed sixth grade. Then the light came on. “I’m still just amazed to have the opportunity to play college basketball and get my degree,” Rubit said the other day.

Beyond the chalk lines …

16. Good hands people. Because of their good work, sports editors Kevin Patton in Henderson (The Gleaner), Todd Griffin in Princeton (Times-Leader) and Dan Manley in Mt. Sterling (radio and Advocate), I am heartened to know sports journalism is in good hands and thriving above the ga-ga in Kentucky.

17. Dept of Genuine: prep prospect Justise Winslow committed to Duke last week with no mention of the NBA, “The tradition, what Coach K has done,” Winslow said. “I loved the family environment on the official visit. It just felt right.”

18. University of Kentucky displayed designs for changes at Commonwealth Stadium recently. No state tax dollars will be used and, a new science building will be partially funded by athletics.

19. The internet. Beyond twitter or Facebook, click a switch and Planet Earth wonderments are ours instantly in photographs and film and information. Other cultures, ideas, good people, and music. All to give us hope over heads of self-serving politicians.

20. Ken Burns. How richer we are that this dynamic filmmaker came along to give us – Baseball, The Civil War, and The National Parks and more.

21. Friends. Thank you. My cup runneth over with a few and I look up to each with enduring reverence and admiration.

22. Doris Kearns Goodwin. Historian, Pulitzer Prize winner, remarkable writer and unabashed Red Sox fan, thankfully she shared a reason why. “My continuing love of baseball is inseparably linked to memories of my father.”

23. And, Worth Repeating at Thanksgiving: “There never was a man who did anything worth doing, who did not receive more than he gave.” Amen to Henry Beecher Ward.

24. Mother. Celebrating her 94th Thanksgiving Day, Mom is as shiny as a new dime.

Happy Thanksgiving to you.

And so it goes.