As we prepare to settle in for a couple of relaxing days with kith and kin to enjoy Christmas fellowship, I was thinking of a few things that Kentucky fans have to be thankful about. For me, there are really too many to count, but I thought I might as well write down ten things I'm thankful for, in reverse order.
10. That I'm not a Penn St. Nittany Lions fan. Joe Paterno and others including the leadership may have acted unethically in a lot of ways, but the fans don't deserve to have scarlet letters branded onto their foreheads. Guilt by association is one of the most unfortunate aspects of the human psyche.
9. That I'm not Jim Boeheim. The Syracuse Orange coach will be dodging questions about Bernie Fine all year, and it's pretty clear from a post-game interview the other day that he is very frustrated with those questions. I hope the bitterness from this affair doesn't turn him into another Bob Knight.
8. Speaking of Bob Knight, I'm thankful that it has been 251 days since Darth Knight last hated on John Calipari and Kentucky. What are the chances we make it to 365?
7. That I'm not Josh Pastner. After having his team ranked 11th in pre-season, all the Memphis Tigers have done is lose 5 of their first 11 and 4 of their last 5 games including a double-digit loss last night at Georgetown. If there has a more disappointing team this season, I'd like to know who.
6. That Chuck Hayes is still a professional basketball player. Some would consider a contract with the Sacramento Kings the equivalent of coal in the stocking, but who knows? Perhaps Chuck will bring them some luck.
5. For being a Western Kentucky Hilltoppers alumnus. The Hilltoppers have made me awfully proud this year. They turned their football program into a winner, and last night, they came very close to knocking off the vastly overrated Louisville Cardinals in the Chicken Ranch with a bunch of freshmen. Kudos to the 'Tops for their outstanding year in football, and for making me a proud alumnus yet again last night.
4. For Ashley Judd. Not only does Ashley occasionally tweet A Sea of Blue posts, for which we are very thankful, but also for the fact that she is a wonderful celebrity "face" for the University of Kentucky. The fact that she's also hot is a bonus.
3. For John Calipari. In three years, Coach Cal has completely restored Kentucky to its rightful place in college basketball, much like Roy Williams did for the North Carolina Tar Heels after the Matt Doherty epic fail. That experience for them was even more bitter, in terms of wins and losses, than the Billy Gillispie Experiment was for Kentucky. In fact, but for Matt Doherty's reign, there is no doubt whatever that North Carolina would have beat UK to 2000 wins ... by a lot. So perhaps we should be thankful for Matt Doherty also ...
2. For Kentucky Hoops head coach. What a Godsend he has been for Kentucky women's basketball. When Mitchell came to Kentucky, I had very few hopes he could successfully replace Mickie DeMoss, who had restored a struggling UK Hoops program to respectability. In three years, Mitchell has taken Kentucky from respectability to national contender, and is one of the great coaching successes ever at UK. The rise of the women's team has been as spectacular as that of the mens.
1. That I'm not a Louisville Cardinals fan. Since 1961, Louisville is the most overrated college basketball team in America, #3 since 1980, and #11 since 1990. They are currently breaking new ground in that area, having narrowly fended off Kenpom.com's #108 team in the Charleston Cougars and #265 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in consecutive games in the KFC Yum! Center. Rick Pitino is certain to play the Grinch to the Cardinals team this Christmas.
That's ten things I'm thankful for, but I could come up with many more. What about you? What are you thankful for, in a sports sense, this year?