Kentucky Basketball: Cheap Shots And the Media


Ever since I graduated from the University of Kentucky, many moons ago, I’ve had the daily newspaper delivered. From the Lexington Herald-Leader to the Louisville Courier Journal, I have enjoyed the feeling of reading over the daily news while eating my breakfast. Like my father before me, it’s always appealed to be to have the physical paper in my hands. Local and national news somehow felt legitimate and more important if it was on the front page. There was a certain gravitas to the bold headlines plastered above the fold. That is, until recently. After nearly 15 years of continuous service, I finally cancelled my subscription to the Courier Journal.

Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

I believe that a newspaper (and other media) is necessary to act as a watchdog, acting in the public interest. From Watergate to the NSA spying on American citizens, newspapers have been at the forefront of investigating abuses of power, which in turn has made the media just as powerful as the institutions that it covers. As Uncle Ben famously told Peter Parker/Spider-Man, “With great power comes great responsibility. And as the calendar is set to turn to 2015, it’s obvious that those in power at some newspapers, particularly the Courier Journal, have abdicated that responsibility.

On Friday, September 19, the CJ published an article by Tim Sullivan about UK head basketball coach John Calipari allegedly whining about Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski getting an unfair recruiting edge by being the head coach of the Men’s National Team. While the whole situation, in my opinion, boiled down to some catty coaches and he said/he said, the accompanying picture simply went too far: a photoshop of Cal’s head on a baby’s body. The implication being that Calipari is a whiny baby. In the big scheme of things, such an illustration wouldn’t be cause for alarm. But at the Courier Journal, it’s just one more instance where something or someone related to the University of Kentucky has been needlessly shamed within its pages.

Perhaps the most start difference is the infamous cartoons that appeared in the editorial pages. When Kentucky standout Nerlens Noel was injured during the Florida game in 2013, the next day the CJ ran with a picture that simply used a student-athlete’s injury to take a cheapshot at Kentucky. Later that season, when UL’s Kevin Ware was injured, a starkly different picture was in the CJ, using Ware’s injury as a rallying cry. It’s hard to to look at the two photos and pretend that the editorial board is objective and impartial.

Nearly daily within the CJ, the stories and articles about Kentucky will allude to Calipari and his vacated Final Fours. Or that the members of the Big Blue Nation are nothing but a bunch of illiterate rednecks that want to win at all costs. What’s never mentioned? Rick Pitino’s or Bobby Petrino’s off the court issues. While UK is demonized for it’s ornate practice facility and coal sponsored dorm, barely a whisper is made about the UL’s deal with the Yum Center and how the city (and all taxpayers) will end up footing the bill while the UL basketball team brings in record profits.

At some point, enough is enough. There are too many media outlets that cover the University of Kentucky and its athletics programs to pay to read cheap shot after needless cheapshot. While I don’t think it’s up to the Courier Journal, or any newspaper, to be a cheeleader for any university, I don’t think it’s out of the ordinary to ask for simple fairness. To its credit, the Louisville Courier Journal publicly apologized to John Calipari. And to his credit, he publicly acknowledged it. It’s time to stop doing things that warrant apologies. It’s time to stop taking cheap shots.