Eli Mitchell: Patrick Towles – the Key to Kentucky’s Success

eli mitchellThroughout the year, Mark Stoops has been adamant that the quarterback competition is still ongoing. The competition features redshirt freshman Drew Barker and redshirt junior Patrick Towles. Throughout UK’s fifteen spring practices both quarterbacks took reps with the first and second teams. Coach Stoops has admitted that Towles has the advantage over Barker but would still not name him the starting quarterback. If Stoops wants to see improvement in SEC play, he needs to name Patrick Towles the starting quarterback.

Patrick Towles comes from legendary Highlands High School where he started for three years and won three state championships along with Mr. Football honors his senior year. During his freshman season at Kentucky he played in five games completing 19 of 40 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown. He had some impressive moments but when Stoops arrived in Lexington the following season Towles was redshirted. Towles was devastated like most people would be, but he decided to make the most of it. The following spring he showed the staff that he had developed into an SEC caliber quarterback. He was named the starter in fall camp over Reese Phillips and Drew Barker.

Towles had some impressive moments during Kentucky’s 2014 season, he threw for 2,718 yards and 14 touchdowns. He showed his leadership in big games against South Carolina and Mississippi State. Some of his decision making against Louisville was questionable but after another year of maturing, Towles is ready for the next step. With playmakers all around him, it should be easy for Towles to put up big numbers this season. Look for Garret Johnson, Dorian Baker, and Ryan Timmons to fill bigger roles. If Coach Stoops and staff want to improve their record from last year they need to rally around Patrick Towles because of his maturity and leadership.

Eli Mitchell: Aaron Harrison: Big shot taker to undrafted

eli mitchellAaron Harrison, along with his twin brother Andrew were regarded as top 5 players in the 2013 recruiting class. `They were expected to shine at Kentucky immediately and be drafted in the lottery of the 2014 NBA draft along with fellow Kentucky signee, Julius Randle. Aaron did shine in his freshman season by averaging 13.7 PPG and hitting huge shots in the NCAA Tournament but it was overlooked by NBA scouts because of his inconsistency and body language on the floor. If Aaron would have entered his name into the draft he most likely would have been drafted in the late 1st round because of a weak draft class. After hearing that from NBA scouts Aaron decided it would be best to come back for his second season at Kentucky to compete for a National Championship.

Coming into his sophomore season Aaron was named the SEC preseason player of the year, it looked as if he was ready for a big season. On a star loaded roster, Aaron lead the team in scoring for the regular season with 12.0 PPG. Throughout the season Aaron’s draft stock moved up and down when his play became inconsistent. Heading into the NCAA tournament with an undefeated record Coach Calipari looked at Aaron for big plays down the stretch. Scouts were again impressed by his clutch shots down the stretch. After a disappointing loss to Wisconsin in the Final Four, Aaron had a decision to make. He could either bet on himself in pre-draft workouts or he could head back to Kentucky for a third season.

Aaron decided to enter his name into the 2015 NBA Draft along with 6 other Kentucky players. At the NBA Combine, Aaron struggled with his shooting and overall play, he looked to be forcing too much. His draft stock plummeted heading into workouts with individual teams. His workouts for interested teams went a bit better than the combine had. When draft night rolled around Aaron watched on patiently as his 6 teammates were drafted before he was. After the draft Aaron went on to sign with the Charlotte Hornets summer league team. Aaron has been very upfront about the chip that he has on his shoulder from being undrafted. After watching him play in the summer league it looks as if the Hornets want Aaron to make the switch from shooting guard to point guard. Aaron will do whatever it takes to make his place on an NBA roster.

David Host: The Right Result – But a Troubling Ruling

David HostI have long been hesitant to write about the marriage equality issue because of my own nuanced feelings on the issue. I have always strongly believed that our society must confer the same protections and benefits upon couples regardless of sexual orientation – and as the current debate has progressed, I have become increasingly persuaded that such benefits must include the civil contract which the law defines as “marriage.” Thus, on a basic policy level, I agree with today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Yet, I remain fundamentally uncomfortable with this ruling for other reasons. First, I do not think that the Court’s evisceration of the democratic process was necessary or wise in this instance. The rapid growth of states which have adopted marriage equality shows a fundamental change in societal attitudes on this issue; a transformation which seems only likely to accelerate as the so-called “millennials” achieve a greater share of political power. I think that the Court could have steered a more moderate course by requiring states to recognize all marriages performed in other states, without directly overruling a particular state’s definition of marriage by judicial fiat. Instead of promoting an emerging national consensus, this ruling seems destined to exacerbate divisions on this issue.

Second, I think the Court short-circuited a vital discussion that needs to occur in our society regarding the entanglement of church and state when it comes to marriage. Given the “wall” that exists between church and state in almost every other instance, I have always thought that marriage offered an interesting display of cognitive dissonance. Many of us have gotten married in a church and divorced by a judge – and ministers who officiate a marriage ceremony frequently proclaim that they act “under the authority of God and the State of ______.”

I certainly hope that this entanglement does not become the “nose under the tent” which leads to a broader intrusion upon the free exercise of religion and the freedom of conscience in America – yet, I cannot not see how ministers who invoke the state’s authority can avoid performing same-sex marriages under the implications of today’s ruling. Perhaps the onus is now upon the churches which do not recognize same-sex marriage; they can always distinguish between “spiritual marriage” and “legal marriage,” and limit the marriage ceremonies they perform to the former. Of course, many couples would have to participate in  two wedding ceremonies – but I think that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has always mandated that result.

My main concern is that today’s decision has steamrolled the dissent on this issue, foreclosing the natural consensus that could have otherwise emerged; a consensus that would have confirmed and strengthened the boundaries between church and state in America. Instead, I am concerned that the Supreme Court’s ruling will further blur the line between private conscience and public responsibility; an outcome which does not seem likely to enhance the long-term health of our nation.

Eli Mitchell: Where will the Cats Land?

Jeli mitchellohn Calipari has preached all season that his main goal has always been to get his players drafted. On Thursday night seven of Calipari’s players will be waiting to hear their names called. Four of those players have been projected as lottery picks and two more have heard their names mentioned in the first round. Let’s look at possible destinations for each Cat.

Karl Anthony Towns will hear his name called very early on Thursday night with Minnesota and Los Angeles as potential landing spots. Towns is recognized as the best two way player in this draft. Whether he is picked first or second on Thursday Towns will make his name known early in the NBA. The other 7 footer, Willie Cauley-Stein has been projected to go as high as 4th to the New York Knicks or as low as 11th to the Indiana Pacers. Cauley-Stein will make an immediate impact on the defensive end for whichever team he is picked by. Devin Booker and Trey Lyles are hoping to hear their names called in the lottery on Thursday night. Booker could go anywhere from 8th to 14th, the Charlotte Hornets and Oklahoma City Thunder are hoping to add his lethal shooting stroke. Lyles is a bit of a wildcard, the Knicks have shown great interest in him but it is doubtful that they will pick him at 4. He could fall out of the lottery and be picked later in the draft by Boston or Atlanta.

The 3 unknowns in the draft are Dakari Johnson, Andrew Harrison, and Aaron Harrison. NBA scouts love Dakari’s size and ability to rebound, he could go as early as 25th to Memphis. Andrew Harrison had an impressive run at the NBA combine and in private workouts with teams. He improved his stock significantly and could be picked as high as 30th to Golden State. His brother, Aaron, did not do as much to improve his stock. He doesn’t have a realistic shot at going in the first round but should be picked in the second round due to his size and shooting ability. As Thursday night comes to a close, John Calipari will be a very happy man because he helped 7 young men achieve their dream.

 

Eli Mitchell: One player away

eli mitchellAs the spring signing period passed John Calipari failed to add any additional big name recruits to the 2015-16 class. The class features big name high school players, Skal Labissiere and Isaiah Briscoe, along with Charles Matthews and JUCO transfer Mychal Mulder. ESPN rates the class second behind Duke. A number two rated class doesn’t seem like it’s missing anything but if you look further into Kentucky’s roster another piece would be huge.

Calipari has stated multiple times that he would like to add another piece to this roster. He tried but failed to add Caleb Swangian, Jaylen Brown, Malik Newman, Cheick Diallo, Brandon Ingram, etc. It was surprising to most Kentucky fans that Cal missed on these prospects to less elite basketball schools like Purdue, California, and Mississippi State. Jamal Murray and Thon Maker are prospects that Kentucky could still add this summer. It seems like Murray is going to reclassify to the 15’ class within the next month, but it is not certain that he would commit to Kentucky at that point. Maker’s recruitment is a roller coaster and no one is sure what he will do.

The 2015-16 roster is filled with elite players and could feature a 9 man rotation. The lone senior on the roster is Alex Poythress, a former 5 star recruit, is slated for a huge season after tearing his ACL just 9 games into last season. Sophomore point guard, Tyler Ulis, will look to continue his success from the NCAA tournament into next season. Marcus Lee, Dominique Hawkins, and Derek Willis will try to increase their roles next season. Calipari will play with multiple line up combinations looking for the best fit but his job will but a lot easier with one more player like Murray or Maker to work with.

Eli Mitchell: The Future of Kentucky Football

IMG_0445Mark Stoops is coming into his third full season as the head coach of Kentucky football. There have been a lot of improvements in every facet of the game since Stoops arrived to Kentucky. Stoops has showed his ability to recruit and sign top talent. Year 3 will be a very deciding year for Mark Stoops and his staff. The 2015-2016 Kentucky football roster is stacked with talent from across the country.

Let’s break down the offense and defense.

On offense, the Cats are returning playmakers Patrick Towels, Boom Williams, Garret Johnson, Blake Bone, etc. The incoming recruiting class has one stud that will likely make an immediate impact at the tight end position, CJ Conrad. The offensive line is young but talented. George Asafo Adjei is an early enrollee that has the body to become an All-SEC performer at the guard position. The offense’s success is dependent on Patrick Towles’ growth from last season as well as the hopeful emergence of Boom Williams as an elite runner.

The defense is going through a transformation year after losing two studs at defensive end, Bud Dupree and Zadarius Smith. DJ Elliot, defensive coordinator, will look to replace those two with a number of guys rather than just one player. Jason Hatcher will be a player to look out for in the SEC if he can maximize his potential. The line backing core is returning with Josh Forrest and Ryan Flannigan leading the way. The secondary is improved with another year of AJ Stamps and Marcus McWilson at the safety positions. The defense’s success will depend on the play of the cornerbacks, last year they gave up a lot of big plays that lead to touchdowns and losses. 3 seniors will start the year at corner but that may change quickly if they do not improve their play.

Will Coy-Geeslin: Alchemy and the Shibboleth of “Amateurism” — My Letter to the UK President

Dr. Eli Capilouto

President, University of Kentucky

Office of the President
101 Main Building
Lexington, Kentucky 40506
                                                    
Dr. Capilouto,                              
I write in my capacity as a concerned UK alumnus. (B.A. 1995, J.D. 1998, M.L.S. 1999) I have recently come to the conclusion that college athletes have an equitable right to a fair distribution of the $6 billion revenue that their labor generates.[1] My goal is to persuade you to lead an initiative to recalibrate college athletics in a manner that achieves social justice for the players and restores higher education’s integrity. This letter will discuss how I became disillusioned with the status quo. I will then share my thoughts regarding a path forward that builds on reform ideas that Joe Nocera outlined in the New York Times Magazine.
I became sensitized to the issue by a thoroughly demoralizing article entitled “The Shame of College Athletics” by civil rights historian Prof. Taylor Branch.[2] I grappled with its implications throughout the 2011-2012 basketball season. Like many UK alumni, I have fervently followed UK basketball for the majority of my life. The inequity inherent in the fact that Rodrick Rhodes received no compensation as a result of my 1993 purchase of a 12 jersey never occurred to me. To the extent that the unpaid labor issue crossed my mind, I figured that the entertaining performers on court at Rupp Arena receive plenty of benefits: free tuition, lodging, coaching, food, travel, access to UK doctors etc.
My thinking evolved after reading Prof. Branch’s article. I learned that the value of the in-kind benefits that revenue sport athletes receive is a small percentage of the money that their labor produces: “[t]he average Football Bowl Subdivision player would be worth $121,000 per year, while the average basketball player at that level would be worth $265,000.”[3]
I finally decided that I could no longer consume college basketball in good conscience. The product is produced on the backs of a young, mostly unsophisticated (mostly black) group who are not permitted to have a voice to represent their interests. I am not content to merely avert my individual gaze. I hope to persuade you to take a public position in favor of UK’s withdrawal from the NCAA, market-driven compensation for the players and ending UK’s support of the myth of the “student-athlete.”
Alchemy and the Shibboleth of “Amateurism”
Prof. Branch eloquently argues that  “‘amateurism’ and the ‘student-athlete’ are cynical hoaxes, legalistic confections propagated by the universities so they can exploit the skills and fame of young athletes.” He expanded this point in an NPR interview: “[t]he hoax is that it’s the only place in American society where we impose amateur status on someone without their consent. They’re not amateurs because they’ve chosen to be. They’re amateurs because we said that’s what you have to be.”[4] Prof. Branch’s article outlines the sad history that explains how the “student-athlete” concept was created to shield schools from workers’ compensation liability for incidents where players died or were paralyzed on the college football field.
Mark Emmert seems to perceive a threat in the expanding criticism of the NCAA cartel. In an apparent attempt to mute calls for reform, he instituted an annual cash stipend for college athletes in 2011. This was met with enough resistance by athletic directors that it was rescinded. The self-serving position that universities are unable to afford to pay $2000 a year to the performers in a $6 billion dollar entertainment industry brings the gross inequity of the status quo into stark relief.
On January 10, UK Athletics announced that it will fund the construction of new buildings on campus. It is hypocritical to suggest that paying the players would destroy the integrity of the competition but that it is okay for UK to spend the money without the players’ consent. I fail to understand the alchemy that leverages the shibboleth of “amateurism” to launder the otherwise corrupting loot into something virtuous when it funds UK facilities.
Recent incidents provide further evidence that the status quo is unjust. It was revealed on January 23 that the investigation of Miami football was compromised by NCAA investigator improprieties. The Miami controversy prompted Mark Story’s January 24 Lexington Herald-Leader column that asks this important question: “What if major college sports dropped all pretense of amateurism, adopted the Olympics model and allowed athletes to make whatever money the free market will yield?”. As Joe Nocera has written, the Olympics thrived after dispensing with silly amateurism absolutism.
Cleansing College Athletics: A Path Forward
Prof. Branch persuasively makes the case that college sports is shameful but he does not address the contours of what a fair system would look like. Joe Nocera added to the conversation by providing a viable path forward in his subsequent article entitled “Let’s Start Paying College Athletes.[5] His ideas for reform strike an admirable balance between fairness and reality. I want to offer some additional thoughts of my own that build on his piece. There are a host of other issues that would need to be carefully considered in any reform initiative. My purpose is to argue for a general paradigmatic shift that hinges on both a literal and philosophical withdrawal from the NCAA. Defenders of the status quo tend to find refuge in the thicket of details that would need to be addressed. My comments are based on a firm belief that the academy has sufficient expertise to debate and resolve them.
I think that we should acknowledge the reality that participating in big time college sports crowds out any opportunity for the athletes to receive a meaningful college education. Tensions between academics and athletics are always resolved in favor of the latter. As one example in a tsunami of others, a 9 p.m. Tuesday UK tip-off in Oxford, Mississippi is obviously incongruous with a reasonable academic schedule.
It is best to dispense with the charade that requires both the institutions and players to engage in Student-Athlete Theater. It is a self-evident facade that these people are equally interested in both athletics and academics.[6] Forcing de facto professional athletes to go through the motions of pursuing a degree corrodes higher education’s integrity. The players refer to this as Majoring in Eligibility: lowered admission standards (“special admits”), no-show classes, less-than-rigorous grading, and even outright academic fraud in the preparation of athletes’ work etc.[7] Rejecting the hoary sentimentalism that requires fealty to the “student-athlete” fiction would remove the incentives that drive academic corruption.
The players should have the same freedom as coaches to earn market-driven salaries and endorsements. Players who wish to become legitimate students can return to campus when their athletic careers end.Conforming to the requirements of the Kabuki Theater of Amateurism degrades higher education’s integrity. It also does great violence to the notion of fair treatment for the players.
In addition to a market-driven compensation that Joe suggests, I propose that revenue sport athletes receive a 1.5 year tuition credit for each year that they perform for universities. I think that a reasonable cap would be 6 years of tuition that can be used at any point during the athlete’s lifetime. The business of college sports can sufficiently fund this benefit if current growth is assumed. A lifetime credit would provide a fair opportunity for the 99% of athletes who do not end up in the NBA or NFL to achieve success beyond athletics. They would then actually be able to “receive [the] quality education” that you said they deserve in the Herald-Leader on June 19, 2011.
Universities should withdraw from the NCAA and bring the management of the business of college athletics into the academy. Universities have sufficient expertise to administer this system. Tenured faculty are expected to contribute to the campus community. Administration of of the business of college sports would fit within a reasonable expectation of their academic duties. Let’s return the nearly $300 million that the NCAA kept in the 2011-12 academic year to the players and universities. Let Mark Emmert find a new job that has a $1.7 million annual salary that is not a product of rent-seeking from powerless young people. Unmooring college athletics from the myth of the “student-athlete” would obviate any ontological justification for the NCAA.
The core fundamentals of a post-NCAA architecture should mirror other American pro sports: 1) roughly 50/50 split of the revenue between players and owner/universities; 2) the creation of a union that negotiates the terms of employment in a collective bargaining agreement; and 3) establishing a trust that will help provide affordable care to athletes that suffer long-term adverse health outcomes from playing college sports.
The tipping point of reform in college athletics appears to be approaching. There has been a rising tide of national criticism that has been published since Prof. Branch’s article.[8] The sordid affair was the topic of Frank Deford’s recent NPR commentary. He said that he seeks one college president to publicly admit that “the NCAA is a sham and we should get out of it.”[9] I ask that you demonstrate national leadership in the areas of integrity, institutional accountability and social responsibility by accepting Deford’s invitation.
In summary, I encourage you to revisit your thinking regarding the morality of the University of Kentucky’s support of a $6 billion dollar entertainment business that exploits young people and corrupts higher education. I ask that you read “The Shame of College Athletics” by Taylor Branch, “Let’s Start Paying College Athletes” by Joe Nocera and watch Frontline’s “Money and March Madness.”[10] The University of Kentucky’s regal college basketball history makes it uniquely qualified to be the institution that leads the movement to achieve social justice for the “student-athletes” whose interests the academic community purports to serve. The prospect of your publicly repudiating the cynical hoax of amateurism may seem difficult for you to imagine. However, the University of Kentucky should never be criticized for “dreaming too little dreams.”
Sincerely,
Will Coy-Geeslin
Cc: Dr. Richard Angelo, The Atlantic, Prof. Lowell Bergman, Jay Bilas, Prof. Taylor Branch, Coach John Calipari, Chronicle of Higher Education, Frank Deford, The Drake Group, Mark Emmert, Patrick Hruby, Romogi Huma, Sarah Jaffe, Matt Jones, Ashley Judd, Prof. Michael LeRoy, Lexington Herald-Leader,  Mike and Mike in the Morning, NAACP, Joe Nocera, President Barack Obama, Prof. Dan Rascher, Jalen Rose, Kevin ScarbinskyProf. Ellen J. Staurowsky, SVP & Russillo, Mark Story, Derek Thompson, University of Kentucky Board of Trustees, Up with Chris Hayes, Dick Vitale, Travis Waldron, Prof. Frank X. Walker, Dan Wetzel, Mary Willingham and Prof. Andrew Zimbalist.

[1] $6 billion is a conservative accounting. Prof. Dan Rascher, an economist at the University of San Francisco, explained to me that he erred on the side of exclusion in his analysis. A broader definition that includes other income (such as merchandise sales at university bookstores) as well as “non-revenue” sports income increases the figure to $10 billion. By contrast, the NBA earned $4 billion and the NFL took in $9 billion. The idea that college football and basketball are amateur nonprofit endeavors is at great variance with any reasonable definition of those terms.
[2] The Atlantic, October 2011.
[3] The Price of Poverty in Big Time College Sport, National College Players Association (2011).
[4] “The NCAA and Its Treatment of Student Athletes,” All Things Considered, September 14, 2011.
[5] New York Times Magazine, December 2011.
[6] Naturally, Ohio State QB Cardale Jones was suspended for questioning the visibility of the Emperor’s wardrobe in an October 2012 Internet post: “Why should we go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain’t come to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS.”
[7] Tutors Knew of Lifted Passages in U. of North Carolina Athletes’ Papers,” Chronicle of Higher Education, October 1, 2012; “UNC Tolerated Cheating, says insider Mary Willingham,” The News & Observer, November 17, 2012.
[8] One notable example among many others is UK alumnus Travis Waldron’s January 25 essay for Alternet entitled “Is The Outrageous Exploitation of College Athletes Finally Coming to an End?”.
[9] Morning Edition, “Dear College Presidents: Break the NCAA’s Vise Grip on Athletes,” February 27, 2013.
[10] PBS, March 29, 2011.

Lucy Waterbury: Dear Mr. President…there isn’t enough bourbon

Lucy_ColorDear Mr. President,

This is your future Ebola Czarina checking in.  You’ve been pretty busy lately, so if you missed my blog about Ebola, you can read it here: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Ebola?  Seems like we have Ebola under control at the moment, so kudos to the current Czar, but if you would like to write in a succession clause, I’m your girl.

But I digress, Ebola is not why I am writing.  Earlier this week, exactly 56.2% of the 46% of Kentuckians who even bothered to show up to vote sent Mitch McConnell to represent them in the United States Senate. (Note: let’s be fair, Lexingtonians and Louisvillians are excluded from this statistic, they actually voted to send Alison to the Senate in the same proportions)

I have to believe that a certain percentage sent him back, not because they liked him, but to bring home the “pork” to Kentucky, as Senate majority leader, because after all, it’s the American way. I’m not sure how I feel about those people as it is this logic that has completely bastardized the resource distribution of our democratic government but that’s a letter for a different day.

Those Kentuckians didn’t send him to represent me, as I promise you that the votes he will cast will never reflect anything that I stand for.  And you know that saying, “You have to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything”.  Yeah, well let’s just say that too many Kentuckians will fall for anything, and evidently that disease is pretty contagious among the voting electorate in the mid-terms of 2014.

On Wednesday, after those Kentuckians who cannot see that they are being lied to and their votes and souls are being bought by fear mongering billionaires, decided that Mitch McConnell, after 30 abysmal years of legislating, was yet again their man, you invited him over for some food, fun & fellowship at the White House. You said, I quote, “I would enjoy having some Kentucky bourbon with Mitch McConnell.” Now Mr. President, I will take you at your word that you meant what you said, but I have to assume it would be the bourbon that you would enjoy with Mitch McConnell, rather than the discourse.

In this state, bourbon flows like water.  We drink it in any manner you can imagine, we’ve built a trail around it, we make candy out of it, we have even been known to light it on fire when served as part of a decadent dessert or two. In a few hours, I myself will be tailgating with it at the UK vs. Georgia game, but I think you get my point.

But Mr. President, this Kentucky girl is here to tell you…there isn’t enough bourbon. You could push Bourbon through the veins of Mitch McConnell intravenously and he still wouldn’t see what you and I see.

  • To see that people are people, and Corporations are NOT
  • To see that inconvenient truths not addressed for decades, could become species ending nightmares at the end of the millennium
  • To see that legislation passed in his name is often exactly what Jesus WOULDN’T DO! (not WWJD!)
  • To see that choosing “Pork” in Washington, in the long run, harms the men and women bringing home the bacon
  • To see that profit maximizers don’t self-regulate
  • To see that ending the “War on Coal” fuels a war on clean drinking water and irreversible environmental damage
  • To see that access to healthcare makes us all healthier
  • To see that Student Loans are as important, if not more important, as Business Loans
  • To see that Planned Parenthood serves low income women in ways they will never understand
  • To see that birth control pills are used for dozens of women’s health concerns, only one of which is preventing birth
  • To see that being Pro Life should mean feeding, clothing, and nurturing these children long after the birth is over
  • To see the importance of funding Sesame Street instead of Wall Street
  • To see that tomorrow’s criminal is today’s abused, neglected, and broken child
  • To see that neediest children come to school to be loved as much as to learn
  • To see that Head Start isn’t just an academic start, it is the ONLY start for many of these children
  • To see that choosing butter over guns is not only the right thing to do but the smart economic thing to do
  • To see that love is defined by the heart, not the type of genitalia
  • To see that government can and should reduce suffering, instead of inflicting it
  • To see that as Americans we are, and should be our brother and sister’s keeper

So now that the Bourbon Summit is over, keep fighting the good fight, please get back to doing what you have gotten really good at, rebuilding a country and economy you inherited 6 years ago that was decimated by 8 years of the policies of the same party that just dropped by for a bite of lunch.

And while these next two years are going to be a nightmare of preventing the passing of legislation that will undo the economic growing, deficit & governmental fraud reducing and consumer protecting accomplishments of your presidency, please know that history will be kind to you.

And Mr. President, if Mitch didn’t bring the Pappy Van Winkle, he brought the wrong stuff.

David Host: Why Baseball’s Pete Rose Question Matters Beyond Sports

David HostI was ten years old when I first became an avid Cincinnati Reds fan. Growing up just over one hour’s drive from Cincinnati, I could not help but notice when the legendary “Big Red Machine” won their second consecutive World Series the year before – but the 1977 season marked the first time that I personally followed almost every game. Staying awake in bed listening to Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall call games from the West Coast remains one of my fondest childhood memories – as do the many trips my dad and I made up I-75 to watch the Reds in person.

Like many kids my age, I mimicked the batting stances of all-time greats like Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, and Joe Morgan. I also tried to teach myself the knee-in-the-dirt pitching motion of Tom Seaver, who joined the Reds at mid-season that year (I tore the cover off several of the baseballs I hurled at the “strike zone” I envisioned on the brick side of our garage). As the years rolled by, it became clear that my athletic skills did not match the profile of a budding big-league ballplayer. Yet, the Reds and their up-and-down fortunes throughout the 1980s remained a central feature of every summer.

I had just started my freshman year in college when Pete Rose broke Ty Cobb’s all-time hits record on September 11, 1985. “Charlie Hustle” had never been one of my favorite players when I was younger. As I matured, I grew to appreciate Rose – his head-first slides; his blue-collar grit; and, most of all, the message he conveyed – that excellence is not always captive to natural ability. Rose looked and played like any of us might if we had the chance to play pro ball, which is why this native son of Cincinnati captured hearts in that city like no one else ever has, or likely will again.

After Rose retired as a player, he managed the Reds to a succession of second-place finishes during the late 1980s. He was an average manager at best, in retrospect; though his prodigious knowledge of the game suggested that Rose possessed tremendous potential in that capacity. Led by stars like like Eric Davis, Chris Sabo, and future Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, the Reds were once again a team on the rise – and Rose seemed like the natural link between this brightening future and the dominant teams of the 1970s.

The Reds won the World Series in 1990, the season after Rose received a “lifetime ban” for betting on games involving his own team. There is no evidence that Rose ever bet against the Reds (his ultra-competitive nature strongly suggests that he never entertained the thought). Yet, Rose clearly presided over a series of underachieving teams. Sadly, we will never know what he could have accomplished as a manager without the distraction of his gambling habit.

The scandal which sundered Rose’s connection with the game he personified seemed to erupt out of nowhere. From all accounts, Rose thought that Major League Baseball officials had already convicted and sentenced him, so he opted for a very public fight. This battle consumed the Reds’ 1989 season – and for the first time I could remember, I lost interest as the team limped toward a fifth-place finish. As saddened as I was by Rose’s abrupt fall from grace, I cannot deny that I was relieved to see him go.

Like most Reds fans, I wanted to believe Rose’s denials. Yet, it was hard to ignore Major League Baseball Commissioner Bart Giamatti’s grim conclusion: “One of the game’s greatest players has engaged in a variety of acts which have stained the game.” Giamatti’s sterling reputation further made it difficult to question the justice and fairness of the outcome.

Major League Baseball never officially concluded that Rose had bet on his own team in exchange for Rose’s acquiescence to the “lifetime ban.” For every other individual in the modern era to whom it has applied, baseball’s “lifetime ban” has, in reality, meant a suspension for a few years. Yet, Giamatti’s death from a heart attack eight days after announcing baseball’s settlement with Rose seems to have fueled a lasting personal vendetta at the game’s highest echelons.

First, the National Baseball Hall of Fame officially decided to exclude banned players from its annual baseball writer’s ballot in 1991, just before Rose became eligible to appear on that ballot. Next came Major League Baseball’s inexplicable and inexcusable refusal to act on Rose’s application for reinstatement, which persists to this day.

To me, the exclusion of baseball’s all-time hits leader transformed the “Hall of Fame” into a farce. Then, when the 1994 players’ strike canceled the World Series and eviscerated a promising Reds season, my attachment to baseball began to fray; particularly when neither the owners nor the players association even bothered to apologize – to the fans who pay their bills, or to the concessionaires, ushers, and other hard-working individuals who truly suffered the effects of the strike.

Baseball gradually recovered after 1994; in large part due to the record-breaking exploits of a bevy of new “superstars,” including Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds. We subsequently learned that these performances may have been the product of steroid use. Meanwhile, no one has ever accused Pete Rose of cheating, and his all-time hits record remains unassailable and, perhaps, unreachable. Yet, McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds remain eligible for the Hall of Fame, while Rose remains the game’s lone outcast.

On its face, this scenario seems outrageous and absurd; particularly when Pete Rose the player remains the exemplar of everything that once mattered about baseball. Yet, I remain initially persuaded by the argument that Rose flagrantly violated a “prime directive,” of sorts – a rule that is prominently displayed in every team’s clubhouse, for which the penalty has always been clear and certain. By contrast, while Major League Baseball appears to have banned steroid use for more than two decades, its enforcement of this policy has not always been consistent.

Gambling is a clinically recognized addiction, just like alcoholism and drug abuse. The late Steve Howe notoriously received suspension after suspension for cocaine use during his 17-year pitching career. Does anyone seriously believe that Howe would have stopped had drug abuse held the same “prime directive” status as the rule against betting on one’s own team? Still, amidst all the judgments pronounced against Pete Rose in the media and elsewhere, I have never heard anyone suggest that an illness might have deprived Rose of complete control over his actions.

Admittedly, Rose has often been his own worst enemy. I cannot help but believe that had he quietly come clean with Bart Giamatti when the gambling allegations first arose early in 1989, Rose might still have enjoyed a long association with baseball after a few years away from the game. Instead, he lied about his actions until 2004, when it became apparent that he might never be reinstated without a full confession. Rose also apparently continues to gamble; though his once-defiant attitude about his circumstances seems to have mellowed somewhat into genuine humility and remorse.

Perhaps Rose’s lack of genuine rehabilitation justifies Major League Baseball’s refusal to consider his reinstatement. After all, no less than Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays spent two years on the “banned list” merely for working for casinos in public relations capacities. But why not make this fact clear? Even at this late date, why not give Rose a very public choice between the game he loves and the habit he seemingly refuses to conquer? Wouldn’t this approach communicate the most productive message to anyone battling addiction: mercy for those who seek help and consequences for those who do not?

Otherwise, it is naïve to suggest that by potentially making Rose the only modern player against whom it has literally enforced a “lifetime ban,” Major League Baseball has protected itself one iota from the influences of gambling. Indeed, the exact opposite may have occurred. Instead of encouraging players, coaches, and managers who suffer from a gambling addiction to obtain the treatment they need, Major League Baseball has sent an unmistakable message of “no quarter;” one which seems destined to drive these individuals further underground. Unbending rules often produce inflexible results – which means that one had better guess correctly regarding the outcome.

During his recent appearance in Cincinnati, outgoing Commissioner Bud Selig addressed baseball’s “Pete Rose question” by reiterating his obligation “to do what I think is in the best interest of this sport” and then reminding his audience that he “was particularly close to Bart Giamatti.” As understandable as these personal sentiments might be, confusing them with an appropriate resolution does no favors for Selig’s legacy or baseball’s future.

Selig’s comments strongly suggest that Rose’s continued punishment has little to do with the rule he broke. Instead, personal animus seems to be driving Selig’s approach to this matter – and that fact says a lot more about our culture than we would like to think it does. Particularly in politics, everything seems to revolve around individual personalities. We cannot have mere disagreements without judging one another’s motives and character – then we wonder why our legislative bodies have become utterly dysfunctional. Instead of debating the practical merits of specific programs and proposals, we back our opponents into a corner and force them to defend their personal honor. Under such conditions, how can they ever give an inch toward compromise?

In short, the debate about Pete Rose’s fate continues to be about Pete Rose, when it ought to focus on what promotes the long-term health of baseball and the general welfare of our society. Whether a “lifetime ban” remains an appropriate penalty given what we know today about gambling and addiction is a much more relevant question than whether Rose has earned “forgiveness.”

My first visit to Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park with my teenage son two years ago lifted my spirits and took me back to a time before player strikes, steroids, and “lifetime bans.” I still follow baseball – but for far too long, baseball’s off-the-field errors have interfered with my genuine enjoyment of the game. By making peace with Pete Rose, Major League Baseball might offer the rest of our society with a desperately needed and realistic model of justice, compassion, and practicality. And it might finally win back fans like me.

David V. Hawpe: Fancy Farm, Mitch McConnell and Blackdamp

david hawpeAlison Grimes ought to remind the Crowd of Fancy Farm that Mitch McConnell is choking the U.S. Senate with blackdamp.

Given what McConnell knows about coal mining, aides may have to explain to him that blackdamp is a mixture of debilitating gases – as one dictionary puts it, a miasma “incapable of supporting life or flame.”

Fancy Farm is, of course, the political picnic in Graves County on the first Saturday in August that traditionally opens the Kentucky political season. St. Jerome’s Parish bills the event as the “World’s Largest One Day BBQ,” where you can get the “best barbequed pork and mutton you’ll ever enjoy.”

At the 134th renewal there will be plenty of ridicule on the menu. In recent years the jeers and the taunts have made it increasingly difficult to hear what the politicians are saying, but nobody seems to mind.

The only violence you can expect at Fancy Farm is the violence that a candidate occasionally and unintentionally does to his or her own campaign. I have in mind two of my favorite politicians. One ranted in front of the picnic crowd as if prepping a Nuremberg rally for the appearance of the main speaker. The other claimed he was one tough son-of-a-you-know-what, when in fact he’s too fine a fellow to qualify as, say, a latter-day Louie Nunn.

I said nobody minds the Fancy Farm faceoffs and dustups, but in fact the Goo Goos don’t like them. Good Government zealots think jeers and catcalls are a threat to political civility. They condemn all the mocking and heckling as if it endangers the democratic process.

I have to smile. If anything, our politics are too polite.

I’m reading a new book by Frederick Brown, “The Embrace of Unreason.” (No, it’s not about what McConnell has done to the Senate.) It’s about France in the period 1914-1940, where civic life was a bit rougher. Opposing groups once turned up at a Paris showing of an ideologically-charged 1930s film called L’Age d’Or, to find the theater lobby decorated in Surrealist art. As Brown describes it, angry right wingers “trashed the premises, splattering ink over the screen, destroying the projector, hurling stink bombs, attacking spectators with blackjacks, damaging the art, and tearing up copies of “Surrealism in the Service of the Revolution” (that were) on sale.”

In America these days we’re much tamer.

A Democratic congressional candidate in conservative Central Washington recently got into trouble merely for airing an online commercial in which he fired a pump-action shotgun at an elephantpiñata . The politically correct folks at Americans for Responsible Solutions condemned Estakio Beltran’s video as “irresponsible and offensive.” As it ends, Beltran rides off toward Washington on a burro.

This is a country where Fox News calls out the Muppets for being“anti-oil” and “anti-corporate.”

The worst damage politically active Americans suffer is Rush Limbaugh boring them to tears or Chris Matthews hurting their ears.

If you make it to Fancy Farm you might hurt yourself, by gorging on pig, but glut and heatstroke are about the only real dangers you’re likely to face. Nobody is going to grab a barbecued mutton shank and thwack you for wrong thought. The stink bombs at this event are likely to be verbal, and thrown from the stage, not at it.

Somebody ought to thwack the McConnell campaign if the senator uses this occasion to once again claim that coal miners need him in Washington. How many miners has he put back to work?

Jobs have plummeted at mines and prep plants in Eastern Kentucky since he was re-elected in 2008 – from 15,418 to 7,332. When he was first elected way back there in 1984, the number of miners working in Kentucky’s mountain coalfields was almost 30,000.

If Kentucky voters send Alison Grimes to Washington, she won’t fix the problem. But she won’t be silent about it either. I expect her to tell both Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to take their anti-coal attitude and shove it – politely, of course.

I’m certain she will join West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin in the Senate’s pro-miner caucus.

Manchin explained his view rather reasonably last year: “It is only common sense to use all our domestic resources, and that includes our coal. Let’s make sure that government works as our partner, not our adversary, to create a secure and affordable energy future, and let’s invest in technology which will have the ability to burn coal with almost zero emissions.” Senator McConnell has been a little more theatrical, charging the President with a “jihad” against coal.

It’s a shame the EPA can’t do anything about partisan emissions.

In the old days, miners took canaries with them underground. They knew they had to run from black damp if the canary died

The Democratic leadership also bears its share of the responsibility, but in Mitch McConnell’s gassy Senate, it’s functional governance that died.

David Hawpe, a native of Pike County who grew up in Louisville, has written about coal and Appalachia for more than four decades. This article was crossposted, with the permission of the author, from The Mountain Eagle.

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