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Character assassination as 'critique'

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One of the more upsetting elements of fandom for any team is the tendency of a few loudmouths with an axe to grind -- be it personal, professional or otherwise -- to resort to character assassination when reality, facts or simple logic fail them.

Exhibit A is Kentucky's departed point guard Rajon Rondo.

After leading the Cats in points (for the season), rebounds, assists, steals and minutes, Rondo decided to move on. He has his reasons, and Tubby Smith was gracious enough that whatever the reasons, he wanted to help his charge get a better draft slot and appeared alongside him at his press conference.

There is, of course, upside for Tubby to appear jovial and helpful as well when it comes to future recruiting and to appearances. But by all accounts, no matter the frictions within the program, Rondo performed his best, and was clearly the best talent on the floor for the Cats, flaws and all.

One would think that the Big Blue Nation might then feel that they saw one of the great UK point guards for two years -- as long or longer than most even expected -- and that having once been a Cat, Rondo was due some unconditional love.

Apparently, times have changed.

Since leaving campus, the rumormongers online and on the airwaves have accused Rondo of, at differing times:

  • Causing dissention amongst players
  • Shaving points
  • Being implicit in a fathering of a child
  • Being gay
  • Sucking at basketball
  • Not trying his hardest
While the most outlandish of these seem laughable, the more benign are actually the most aggregious. What games were these idiots watching all year?  Rondo was the team's best, most consistent and hardest working player. Sure, there were lapses ... but a man who leads your team in every category can hardly be asked for more. And if he is, then you can hardly then fault him for being miffed when his best simply isn't good enough for fans whose entire well-being seems predicated on the performance of 19-year-olds playing a game.

And it doesn't stop there.

Exhibit B is UK coach Tubby Smith. Recent message board postings have posited that the NCAA title winner has (a) poor speaking skills -- a poorly veiled racial slur against a man well known for his interpersonal acumen -- (b) no care for whether his team wins or loses because he's just collecting a paycheck and (c) no idea what he's doing.

Ignoring the fact that some of these suggestions are made by internet heroes on the other side of a computer screen whose lives are miserable, thereby necessitating the destruction of public figures' names in order to make themselves feel better; These are simply not true.

If a fan wants to criticize a player or coach for what he or shez believes to be poor plays, poor decisions, poor effort ... fine. But at least get your facts straight, otherwise you end up looking like something worse than a mean-spirited asshole -- a dumb fan.

Tubby Smith is a winner.  He has always won, and he will continue to win. Whether he wins your way (asshole fan) or his way (NCAA title), is certainly something you can suffer through. Most importantly, he's not going to phased by your (asshole fan) commentary on his job performance.

Smith's last UK team was terrible. It exhibited poor fundamentals, even poorer effort and a lack of on-court discipline. The thing that made it so glaring was that it seemed so utterly different from a Tubby Smith coached team.

Why then, continuing the logical progression, would one expect the anomaly year to be the norm rather than the exception? An intelligent person would not.

As for Rondo, I wish I had the ability to apologize for his treatment by the UK fanbase. The kid has all-world talent, and his performances against Iowa (17 rebounds) and Louisville (25 points and a dominating floor game) will always be considered among the best ever posted by a UK guard.

He has rough edges, but that's why these guys are in college: to learn. And as for the other garbage following him, if it's true, it will affect his legacy accordingly. And if it is not -- which any true American would assume before assuming him guilty -- then he should be offered the warm affection afforded all UK players, no matter how long or short their tenures.

It is the weak mind which relies on personal attacks when reality rears its head. I thought for much of my life that Kentucky fans were beyond this stuff.

Apparently, I was wrong.