The news has been coming from all directions in sports this week. Some of it actually matters, much of it—the breathless updates on Brett Favre’s relationship with his new teammates come to mind—does not.
Let’s talk about Favre for just a moment. I believe ESPN now has 43 people assigned to the NFL which means there are 43 people getting yelled at regularly for getting beaten on stories by Jay Glazer. One of the 43 put something out the other day about a rift between Favre and his new Viking teammates. My guess is three or four of the Vikings have grumbled—not for attribution of course—about Favre’s Hamlet act and all the attention he has been getting since he rode into camp. (I’m also guessing none of them actually reference Hamlet).
Gee, that’s a surprise. So here’s the deal: Favre produces wins, everyone will love him; he doesn’t the grumbling will grow louder. Someone may actually go on the record. There is truly nothing more meaningless in sports than the month of August in the NFL, unless it is the month of July in the NFL. But because the sport is an obsession in this country, training camp workouts are actually analyzed. In New York, they are STILL talking about Mark Sanchez’s first pass in an exhibition game a couple weeks ago as if it was Eli Manning to Plaxico Burress for the winning touchdown two Super Bowls ago.
The NFL will matter—a lot—beginning September 10th. Until then, everything, including what Michael Vick did in his EXHIBITION debut last night, tells us nothing and matters about as much as the Mets 34 remaining games. (No truth to the rumor that they’re bringing Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman back to pitch, although I do think they could help).
If you want news right now the state of Kentucky is the place to be.
As a reporter, it is tough to criticize Rick Pitino for actually meeting with the media and taking questions on the soap opera that his life has become. Most guys in his situation would hide behind the, “it’s under adjudication,” excuse. And yet, listening to Pitino, it was hard to feel sorry for him—his family, yes—Pitino, no.
This is on him, even though there seems little doubt that he got himself involved with someone who isn’t playing with all 52 cards. Maybe not half a deck come to think of it. The notion that the media is in any way responsible for this is simply ridiculous. None of the media were in that restaurant six years ago. For Pitino’s sake, I hope he’s telling the truth and the whole truth right now. If any hole at all is punched in his story, as popular as he is at Louisville and as successful as he has been, he’ll be gone. My gut says this one isn’t going to have a happy ending for anyone.
On the subject of unhappy endings: how about the sage of Billy (the kid) Gillispie. Just a few years ago he was one of college basketball’s hot coaches. He had taken downtrodden programs at UTEP and at Texas A+M and built winners and that got him hired at Kentucky. That meant a lot of money, a lot of glamour and a lot of scrutiny. Gillispie didn’t win enough at UK and got fired this spring. A coach with his resume can certainly bounce back from something like that.
But he had two DUI stops along the way, plus the weird story about the lawsuit that happened because he never got around to actually signing his contract at Kentucky. The other night, he got stopped for DUI again. He refused to take a breathalyzer and spent the night in jail. Not good. The worst part may have been the cop who made the stop referring to him as “Billy,” when describing his condition. My guess is most police in Kentucky would NEVER refer to Coach Calipari as “John,” or “Cal,” at this point. Then again, he’s never lost a game at UK.
Can Gillispie come back from this and coach? Sure. He’s won before so someone will take a chance on him someplace. But if the police description of his condition is accurate, he needs to get some help before he thinks about coaching again.
As for Coach Cal? He’s started off-season workouts at Kentucky and is as happy as a hockey fan when a fight breaks out. My guess is John will win a national championship—or two—at Kentucky. If he does, his on court resume should make him a lock Hall of Famer. The question is this: With two Final Four appearances vacated at two schools, will he get in? Other coaches convicted of crimes by the NCAA police are in the Hall, how will the voters (whose names are kept strictly secret by the oh-so-sanctimonious people who run the Hall) treat Calipari when the time comes?
One other Kentucky note I’ve been meaning to get to all week: In writing my Washington Post column earlier this week I repeated a mistake I’ve made for years. I always thought it was $10,000 that fell out of the envelope en route to Chris Mills’ father. It was actually $1,000. I apologize for the mistake I wish it was my first, I’m pretty sure it won’t be my last. I will say this though: it seems to me that sending that kind of money is even STUPIDER than sending 10 grand. If you’re trying to buy a player, BUY him for crying out loud.
There’s a guy who runs a website listing the all-time enemies list for Kentucky basketball. (Talk about needing a life). I’m proud to report I’ve been number one on that list for many years ahead of such villains as Sports Illustrated, Billy Packer and Bob Knight. He was absolutely right to complain about me getting the dollar figure wrong. I’d also say he’s sort of missing the forest for the trees but that’s another story for another day.