(photo credit Matt Kryger, Bankers Life Fieldhouse)
Anybody remember the tagline in that TV commercial back in the late 1980s? It was for a medical alert system for seniors who had fallen and needed emergency assistance. Poor Mrs. Fletcher. I still have haunting images of her sprawled all alone on the bathroom floor, wondering when help was finally going to arrive.
All of BBN feels a bit like Mrs. Fletcher after Kentucky’s disheartening 65 – 62 loss to Kansas last night in the Champions Classic. The Wildcats shot 26.7% in the second half, hit on only 3 of 21 three-point bricks, and committed 16 turnovers while stumbling to a 1 – 2 record (the worst start since the Billy Gillispie era).
HELP…WE’VE FALLEN AND WE CAN’T GET UP!
Lifelong Kentucky fans don’t just cheer for their team, they’re invested in their program. That’s why—only three games into the season—we’re already in near-panic mode. You think you stayed up and suffered? I drove over three hours across state lines in a raging pandemic to watch the latest version of the unfolding debacle.
What’s worse, everything was magnified in the eerily empty Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Every errant pass, missed assignment, and blown layup amplified by Coach Cal ranting on the sidelines like an abject madman. With no fans in attendance and thankfully no piped in crowd noise, about ten of us media members were treated to an exclusive and surreal two-hour virtuoso performance of creative cursing, arm waving, and clipboard throwing unbecoming of the man in charge.
“This is a no-excuse program,” Calipari said afterwards. “You want to make excuses? You shouldn’t be here.”
He’s right. There’s no excuse for jumping out to an early 13-point lead, only to see the all-too-familiar bugaboos signaling an eventual tooth-gnashing collapse. Over dribbling, easy missed layups, block out blunders, foregoing easy plays, lack of toughness, and atrocious 3-point shooting—we hear and see the same things year after year. Is it just me, or is it actually getting worse every year?
Leaving the arena, it finally dawned on me that preserving my personal sanity requires a radical 2020 mindset change. If I want to continue “enjoying” Kentucky Basketball under Coach Cal, I might just need to turn a blind eye for a little while. I’ll excuse myself from fretting over all the horrible offense, questioning the puzzling lineup decisions, and agonizing over all the disjointed performances through the first two months of the season.
I’ll leave the bridge-jumping to the Michael Bennetts of the world and just sit back and watch the Cats play as an unbiased neutral observer. Then in February, I’ll hook back up emotionally with the team for another fabulous tournament run after Coach Cal has worked his usual magic.
For Wildcat fans in this one-and-done era, it’s called survival mode. Those blowout wins over overmatched opponents are a thing of the past. Don’t ever fall for the preseason hype. Simply relax, take deep breaths, and go to your happy place. Keep that blood pressure firmly in check. Enjoy the journey.
No need to push that “LifeCall” button just yet.