Why the Mary Tyler Moore Show was the best sitcom – ever

Dear Generation Z,

Late Boomers here. Hey, we know you don’t want to hear this over and over and over (I’ll spare you the “walked uphill to/from school both ways” story), but yesterday we were reminded once again of a powerful force that entered our homes 40 years ago. 

We didn’t even realize it at the time, but it was right there, on our TV sets. We didn’t have remote controls or even cable but we did have an antenna the size of a Yugo on top of our houses, and if that didn’t work we had rabbit ears on top of our TVs. What we did have was Weezie, Archie & Edith, Maude and yes, Mary Richards. 

We’re sorry all you have is Sheldon, Penny and those mind-numbing two broke girls (you’d think they would have saved up some money by now) when we had George Jefferson, Fred Sanford, Hawkeye and Sue Ann Nivens; almost makes us feel guilty. We didn’t even realize our sitcom creators were poking holes in discrimination against minorities, women, gays, you name it by portraying the discriminators as stone-aged buffoons. We start to think that, unfathomable as it may seem in 2017, you might need to hear some of those messages again. 

And oh, we had theme songs; lyrics that are permanently stuck in our heads, that we can sing verbatim even when we can’t remember what we had for supper last night. Give us “Oh the way Glenn Miller played…”, “Well, we’re movin’ on up…” or “Lady Godiva was a freedom rider…” and we’ll take it from there. 

Today you may be wondering why we’re making such a fuss about this lady named Mary Tyler Moore. For many of us, her show was the greatest of all because of its brilliant cast and messaging were more subtle than we inferred from “All in the Family” or “Maude,” but just as memorable. Mary inspired us all but I suspect she particularly struck a chord with women. She was, after all, a female character whose lines were written in large part by women because, you know, women generally understand how women work better than men understand how women work. What a concept. 

Long before women’s marches and gay pride parades, Mary was making her mark as a strong female in an all-male newsroom, one who was not fixated on getting married and took it in stride when she learned a friend was gay. Believe it or not, there was a time when strong females were a rarity and, well, hardly anybody took it in stride when they learned someone was gay. 

For these and many more reasons, we’re sad today. I’m not certain but I suspect that, 40 years from now, you’re not going to be mourning Sheldon Cooper because he rocked your world. We didn’t know it at the time, but Mary Richards did rock our worlds; mainly, though, she turned the world on with her smile. Rest in peace, MTM, love is all around.

The Simply Super Matty Nice

cam-matt-2016If we are very fortunate, we grow older. That first gray hair triggers an avalanche, wrinkles are the uninvited guests who just won’t leave. Cynicism begins to invade spaces in our brains where excitement used to live. It happens to all of us; it has happened to me.

If we are extremely fortunate, we’re able to cling to wonderful things that never grow old, even as we do. Rubbing my dog’s belly. That springtime green. Reminiscing with my mom. Sticking my toes in the sand for the first time each year. All very personal moments; the thrill is never gone.

If we are incredibly fortunate, our professional lives spill over into the personal and gift us with things, moments and people who never outstay their welcome. I love a sea of Kentucky blue in an opponent’s basketball arena, a stinging barb from the old ball coach and a muggy Saturday evening at LSU. Painful as it was, I love saying I had a front-row seat at the greatest college basketball game ever played. And I love talking about Matt Ryan.

Before I became a full-time realtor, I was the media relations director for Boston College, where Super Bowl-bound quarterback Matt Ryan (how I have longed to type those six words) earned his degree and became a football star. I am very, extremely, incredibly fortunate to have met Matt Ryan. Though it may seem quite the opposite, I write this in all humility, not in a name-dropping “I-know-the-NFL-MVP” kind of way (although that’s fun, too), but in a “how lucky am I?” kind of way. To brag about knowing Matt Ryan would be disingenuous simply because Matt Ryan would never brag about anything. He is the essence of humility. But someone needs to brag about him, because in a world that sometimes seems to have gone mad, in a sports subculture that seems even madder, we’re very, extremely, incredibly, enormously fortunate to have Matt Ryan.

At first, I thought he was an above-average quarterback, at best; we all did. In 2004, BC’s starting quarterback was Paul Peterson (whose character is just as stellar). In the last game of the regular season, BC was playing Syracuse for the outright Big East championship and a Fiesta Bowl bid. Paul got injured, Matt got the start, and any BC fan who claims they were not nervous is lying. Although BC ended up losing that game, no BC fan would claim it was Matt’s fault. And so it began.

Any skepticism about Matt’s ability was turned upside down early in the 2005 season, BC’s first in the ACC, at Clemson. Matt took a hit in that game that would have staggered Ali but dusted himself off and led BC to its first-ever win in its new conference. It was on. My intention here, however, was not to talk about what a great player he became; there will be a trillion of those stories written in the next two weeks. I am writing to talk about what a great young man he was and what a great grown man he is now. I know this for a fact, and I want you to know it, too.

Matt’s senior year, 2007, was one of the most successful in BC football history (thanks to Matt but also a VERY talented supporting cast recruited by Tom O’Brien). The Eagles started the season 8-0 and were ranked No. 2 in the nation; my fingers must have typed those words 12,000 times in the past 10 years. Early that year, we played an ESPN Saturday night game at Georgia Tech, and Matt was brilliant. He threw a “No-He-Didn’t” touchdown pass to our nifty wide receiver Brandon Robinson in a game that really thrust him onto the national radar (ironically just a few blocks away from his professional home at the Georgia Dome).

The wins kept coming and, with each one, the media attention was ratcheted up a notch or 20, to the point that Matt had a standing appointment to come to our office a few days a week. I was the primary football contact so technically he was coming to see me, but he would get sidetracked along the way. He would fling open the front door to be greeted by our secretary, Stephanie O’Leary. “Hi, Steff!” was invariably followed by a peck on the cheek (and a “if I were only 30 years younguh” exclamation from our Boston-bred Steff). He would turn to his right and open the door to the area where our interns were working. “Hi Meredith. Hi Zanna. Hi Ben.” I mean, who does this? Steph Tunnera and Tim Clark received identical greetings before Matt would adjourn to my late colleague Dick Kelley’s office (Dick tragically succumbed to ALS a few years ago) to talk politics for a good 10 minutes. Dick would critique Matt’s press conferences, once famously telling him “you have a degree from Boston College. Talk like it.” Occasionally I’d manage to work in a conversation about the day’s media requests.

In 2007, college football was rife with big-name quarterbacks (Tim Tebow, Colt Brennan and Chase Daniel, among others) so we knew it would be an uphill battle but, midway through the season, the word “Heisman” started being tossed around. On one of Matt’s routine visits to our office, we took him to the conference room and sat him at the head of the table, surrounded by our entire staff. “Matt,” I said, “you know, you’re not half bad. We were thinking it might be time to put together a Heisman Trophy campaign for you.” The next thing I remember is seeing the top of his head after he turned 50 shades of red and looked down in embarrassment. My colleague Steph Tunnera started laughing and said “come on! You know you’re good.” It took arm twisting but he let us do it.

Arguably Matt’s defining moment occurred on October 25, 2007 in a sopping-wet Thursday night ESPN game at Virginia Tech. BC was 7-0 and ranked No. 2 but played like anything but for the first 57 minutes and 49 seconds. Matt threw two touchdowns in the final 2:11, the Eagles won, and Kirk Herbstreit called it “Matt Ryan’s Heisman moment.” Afterwards, he was graciously and patiently speaking with a media mob when wide receivers coach Ryan Day emerged from the coaches’ locker room. Day had an emergency appendectomy the day before, then checked himself out of the hospital against doctor’s orders to fly to the game. Upon spotting Day, Matt said “why are you all talking to me? THAT man is the real hero of this game.”

In the small world department, Tom Brady and his wife Gisele live in Chestnut Hill, Mass., 1.6 miles away from the Boston College campus, where Matt the young woman who would become his wife, Sarah Marshall (not THAT Sarah Marshall). Boston College draws the cream of the crop in the first place and at the risk of making your eyes roll, these two rise to the top. In Sarah, Matt met his match, both as an athlete (she was the starting point guard for the BC women’s basketball team) and in the character department. Matt may be the MVP of the NFL but he’d be the first to tell you Sarah would take him in a game of horse four out of five times. And if Sarah were playing in the Super Bowl, this story would be about a woman of unimpeachable character meeting her match in a dude named Matt Ryan. How can you make this stuff up?

Now, about Matt and Atlanta. I lived in Atlanta for seven years before moving to Boston, and I adore the place, but there were times when I thought Atlanta didn’t deserve Matt Ryan. Admit it, Atlanta – you didn’t want Matt. The night of the NFL draft in 2008, I sat at my computer for hours angrily reading icy Matty posts in the comments section of AJC.com and responding to many of them. “Just wait,” I wrote, and, to Atlanta’s credit, it has waited through some undeniably frustrating seasons. For this reason I now feel Atlanta does deserve Matt Ryan, admittedly while whispering “I told you so.” For their patience, Atlantans have been rewarded with a Super Bowl. Forgive me for ever doubting you.

Sunday afternoon I watched nervously from my couch as the Georgia Dome rocked one last time. The Dome lived a relatively short life, but it lived hard, even withstanding a tornado. Here I watched SEC and NCAA championships and Elton and Billy performing a masterful “Piano Man” duet, nirvana for a child of the ’60s. It’s where a gimpy Kerri Strug nailed that second vault (“you can do it!”), But Atlanta famously grows tired of its buildings after a couple of decades, and today’s NFL stadiums need room for sushi stands and scoreboards the size of Rhode Island, so she’ll be deflated to make room for the massive blooming onion next door. That her final act involved Matt Ryan standing atop a stage with an NFC Championship trophy, well, mic drop. When it became obvious the Falcons were going to win, I received a text from Steff O’Leary, whom Matt treated like a queen when she was my secretary: “This is just plain great.” As Matt was about to be interviewed, I closed my eyes and imagined my friend Dick Kelley saying “you have a Boston College degree. Talk like it.” He did. And I cried.

I have at least 58,000 more Matt Ryan humility stories but I’ve narrowed it to a final two. After he was drafted third overall and became a gazillionaire and an NFL star, Matt came back to campus for a game on a Falcons bye week. Before the game, I grabbed him to come with me to the media suite to meet with our media. As we were about to enter the building, a security guard who did not immediately recognize Matt told him he could not enter without a credential. “Oh, man, okay; I’m sorry, sir.” When he realized it was Matt, the guard was mortified, but it would take a helluva’ lot more than 70 million bucks to coerce Matt Ryan into demeaning a guy making minimum wage.

One final thought. Each year Orlando hosts two bowl games, the Capital One Bowl and what’s generally considered the undercard, the Citrus Bowl (in our case in 2007, the Champs Sports Bowl). My intern Meredith Cook (as in “Hi Meredith! Hi Zanna! Hi Ben!) and I took Matt to a fan event for both bowls, with four sets of fans. We were playing Michigan State the next day with Florida set to play Michigan a few days later. Matt was treated respectfully but the star of the show was Tim Tebow. There must have been 800 people waiting in line to get Tebow’s autograph; Matt signed maybe a dozen before walking relatively anonymously past the Tebow throng out the front door. I remember thinking “just wait.” With all due respect to Tim Tebow, well, hello. The wait is over.

I always wondered what it would be like to know a famous person, and I guess I do now, but it doesn’t feel like it. Matt Ryan would be the last person to call himself famous, so who am I to brag that we know each other? Besides, it’s not that I’m proud that he knows me; I’m grateful that I know him.

Very, extremely, incredibly grateful.

Dear Ryan Lochte

Dear Ryan Lochte,

On behalf of all Americans, I offer my sincere congratulations for accomplishing what none of us thought possible – catapulting over Donald and Hillary to become the most hated person in the USA. You’re the best thing that’s happened to the world’s perception of Americans as spoiled brats since the Kardashians. And, as you have so many times in the pool, you accomplished this in record time. You acted recklessly (haven’t we all?) then concocted a whopper of a lie and left your teammates behind to face the samba music. For this, we are awarding you the gold medal of selfishness and a silver for stupidity. How ironic that you are drowning in your self-made pool of lies.

Has the world overreacted? Maybe. For a country with such alarming murder statistics, Brazil seems awfully touchy when it comes to world-class athletes lying to the cops. At this one moment in time, however, you must accept that you are chum in a sea of sharks.

But there is hope for you, and the rest of us. Americans love humility, are quick to forgive and crave comeback stories. Before crawling out of this hole, however, you need to dig a little deeper. Here is my unsolicited advice:

1. Admit you were wrong. Now. There’s no time to waste.

2. Apologize. Now. Tell “your people” to call a press conference, if only to give us a glimpse of a scene from Rio where the stands are not half empty. Don’t issue a statement, look the world in the eye and apologize.

3. Speak. This problem is not going to be solved by an Instagram post. Anyone brave enough to stand on the world stage in a speedo should be able to handle a press conference. Hang up your swimsuit, put on a real suit, look the world in the eye and talk. Don’t take questions but be there. “I stand before you here today to admit I made some very bad decisions this past week. I made up a story about getting robbed at gunpoint after a night out of partying. I behaved very badly that night, then continued to lie about it to the Brazilian authorities. I was wrong. This incident never occurred, and I am here today to accept responsibility for my actions and to say I’m sorry. I would like to apologize to the wonderful people of Brazil who worked incredibly hard in less-than-ideal conditions and a struggling economy to host these Olympic Games. I apologize to the Brazilian authorities to whom I lied. I apologize to Team USA and, in fact, to all of America for letting you down. To my family, friends, Gator Nation and everyone who looked up to me as a hero I say I’m incredibly sorry. I realize I was a role model and I squandered this opportunity; I hope you will give me a second chance.”

4. Go away. Get out of our sight. Avoid the temptation of seeking more fame via the Fallon-Kimmel-Colbert-Ellen circuit. This is the wrong kind of fame. Dive in to a deep pool of self-reflection, prayer, meditation, whatever it takes. Get over yourself. Shave off the bleached hair that makes you look like a punk and start over. Make regrowing your natural hair a metaphor for your life.

5. Set a goal of representing the USA in Tokyo in 2020 and get to work. Your age is no excuse; you are, in fact, out of excuses. At age 36, you would be five years younger than your fellow Gator Dara Torres, who made the Olympic team when she was 41. You’re one of the most talented athletes of all time and have made more money just because you know how to swim than the rest of us have made in a lifetime of working multiple jobs to support the simple pleasures in life, such as watching you on TV and cheering you on. Train harder. Paint a picture of Michael Phelps on the bottom of your pool if this is what it takes to motivate you. Choose to do what you know best rather than heading down a road to self-destruction. You’ve let us down once, don’t do it again.

6. Re-surface in a few years. Polish your physical appearance and get some coaching on how to speak without looking like an idiot. You need it. You have a degree that I assume was free from one of the best public universities in the country so I’m guessing are smart although, frankly, at times nothing seems farther from the truth. Train as hard in public speaking as you do on the backstroke. Then it’s okay to make the Fallon-Kimmel-Colbert-Ellen circuit. This is the right kind of fame.

7. Come back. Make the Olympic team. Reflect on 2012 and channel all this negative energy into every stroke, breath and turn you take. Touch the wall, pump your fist in the air. Stand atop the medal stand with your hand over your heart and sing every word of the Star Spangled Banner while Old Glory is hoisted. Cry, and we will cry with you, for you will have made us proud again.

Until then, dear Ryan Lochte, you’ll be drowning in the deep end.

Swim for your life.

The one and only Rena Vicini

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In Journalism 101 they teach us to tread lightly around the word “unique” to avoid the pitfall of calling something or someone somewhat unique, sometimes unique or very unique.  The word “unique” does not require a modifier because it means “one of a kind.”

At the risk of the University of Kentucky rescinding my journalism degree, I must say Rena Vicini was the uniquest person I ever met, and there aren’t enough modifiers in the English language to describe how shocked and saddened we are to learn of her passing at 62.

Rena was a journalist and writer at heart and I first met her when she was a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader and I was a student working in the UK sports information office.  When there was an opening for a “women’s SID,” as it was called back then, Russell Rice hired Rena with little sports information experience.  She was known to say “Chris taught me everything I know” about sports information (a blatant exaggeration), but really Rena taught all of us more than she will ever know.

When I returned to UK as her boss in 1988, she began calling me her “bossy-wossy-moo-moo,” or “BWMM” for short.  Nonsensical, of course, but also brilliant in the way it connoted both respect and affection and described our good-natured relationship.  I began calling her “Gracie” when she adopted a hairstyle that hinted of Susan Dey’s character on our favorite show at the time, L.A. Law.  We got very little work done on Friday mornings until we finished discussing the previous night’s episode.  I’m not sure she ever recovered from Diana Muldaur falling down that elevator shaft.

Rena was at all times smart, witty, thoughtful, fun and funny.  She never missed a chance to remind you she was a Catholic coal miner’s daughter from Lynch or that she had a nephew nicknamed “Puddin’ Bear.”  If you knew Rena you also knew Joey, Ginnie, Mary Beth, all of Rena’s extended family, and odds are you spent hours at her little white frame house on Clays Mill Road drinking beer and listening to oldies on her jukebox.  She loved UK football and was the eternal optimist, forever convinced next year would be season the Cats would break through their decades-old wall of frustration.  Her friends became family, a huge family, there were so many of them, too many to name.  She introduced her great friend Melanie to one of Rick Pitino’s assistants because she thought they would make a great pair, and she adored Melanie and Herb Sendek and their three beautiful daughters.

Rena was with me in Philly for the infamous UK-Duke-greatest-ever game and if you look at footage of what would have been the most famous play in UK basketball history if not for you-know-who, the Sean Woods shot with 2.1 seconds remaining, you can see Rena looking up at the scoreboard and erupting behind the UK bench.  Totally unprofessional but uniquely Rena.  Later that night, when a macabre group of devastated fans (some of them crying) swarmed the team in the lobby of the Warwick Hotel, Rena and I grabbed Pelphrey, Feldhaus, Farmer & Woods and led them through the restaurant kitchen and out the back door.  Rena was staying at the media hotel so we convened in her room, raided the mini bar and toasted the “Unforgettables” and each other.  We couldn’t get away with that now, but I’m sure glad we did back then.  Cheers.

Although Rena was very good at her job, she would be the first to admit she’d rather be napping, something she did every day at lunchtime and then immediately after work. Everyone knew not to poke the sleeping bear at that Clays Mill Road house until after 6 p.m.  Her lack of fondness for working became a topic we joked about openly with her, and she would laugh the hardest. “Chreeees,” she would say, “you know I don’t like to work.”  We all snickered when she would say “I’m going to (UK) Printing,” which was code for “I’m going home to nap.”  Rena holds a world record that will never be eclipsed for trips to UK Printing.  One night we stayed up until 3 a.m. talking on the phone about work ethic and life in general.  At that time I was on one end of the spectrum and Rena was on the other; we had vastly different definitions of work-life balance.  I vaguely remember saying something about taking pride in our work, but I clearly remember Rena’s words: “Chris, in the end, all that really matters is your family, your friends and being loved.”  She was right, things really should tip off balance in that direction.

When I left UK in 1993, C.M. Newton asked me to recommend a replacement. Rena really wanted the job but I was torn because I knew of another great candidate who had applied. I asked Rick Pitino for his opinion and he said “Chris, that’s a no-braina. Rena is your friend. You always have to go with your friends.” Of course he was right. Rena got the job, and today I’m so grateful to Rick Pitino for giving me the advice that spared me from years of regret.  Not sure I have enough room in my heart today for both sadness and regret.

In the end, Rena got her wish.  She was loved until the moment her heart stopped beating and we will love her until ours give out.  I heard she was found on the couch with the TV on.  A part of me hopes she had been watching a rerun of L.A. Law.

So goodnight, Gracie.  You were the uniquest person I knew, and the world just became a little more dull.

Love,

BWMM

My Own Mike & Mike

In my world they were Mike and Mike before the ones in the morning ever hit the airwaves. When I arrived at Boston College in IMG_0443 (1)1998, Mike Vega and Mike Shalin were the BC beat writers for the Globe and Herald, respectively.

It’s 9:00 on a Saturday morning and Mike Vega just arrived to cover the 9:15 football scrimmage.  This is significant because Mike is so notoriously late that we have coined a term for it, “Vega Standard Time.” I give him credit for self-awareness because he has bought right into it. Mike’s been known to announce “let’s kick it off!” upon his arrival for a noon football game at 12:01.  Right on time.
Mike Shalin is the comedic half of Mike-squared, to the extent that we actually seat him directly in front of us in the press box for the entertainment value. He’s known to quote a great line from classic comedies such as the Mary Tyler Moore Show – “I hate spunk” in his Lou Grant voice – but had come out with his own masterful lines as well. Once when BC scored a touchdown at Notre Dame, hushing what is notoriously a partisan press box contingent, “Shales” said “BC just took the press box out of the game.” Spunky.
It should come as no surprise, then, that combining Shalin Spunk with Vega Standard Time has produced some memorable moments. “When Mike dies,” Shales once said, “they’re going to refer to him as ‘the early Mike Vega’.”
One day Shales had stood patiently through another routine football practice in order to grab a few lines afterwards from then-coach Tom O’Brien. After TOB finished his media responsibilities, he had just reached the locker room door when Vega arrived and snagged him for a private interview. “I suffered through practice to get two sentences,” Shales quipped. “Now Tom’s over there telling Vega who shot JFK.”
Shalin’s favorite VST story involves former BC hoops standout Uka Agbai, who once suffered a mid-season disk injury that we scurried to explain shortly before tipoff of a game – without Mike Vega there. As he tells it, Shales was content to go with our press release version of events until he saw Vega, whose serendipitously late arrival resulted in an unplanned hallway encounter with our team physician. “So I’m writing from a press release,” Shales said. “Meanwhile Dr. English is going over the actual X-rays with Mike in the training room. I get scooped for being on time!”
Shales left the Herald a few years ago but still makes semi-regular appearances at our athletic events.  He has a permanent press row seat in front of my staff.  Vega is back on our beat after five years in which his shoes were filled by the ever-punctual Mark Blaudschun. The fact that Mike was on time for this morning’s football scrimmage leads me to believe he may have fallen back instead of springing ahead two Saturdays ago when we switched to daylight saving time. EDT is the new VST.
Mike and Mike in the morning may be more famous, but mine are definitely more entertaining. And good friends.  And by the way, Mike – who did shoot JFK?

Ode to the Winter of Our Discontent

 

 Look outside, all ye children, from Hull to Revere,

Snow banks melting away must mean spring is here.

‘Twas quite surely the winter of our discontent.

More snow in one city than three continents.

One foot if by land and two if by sea,

Constantly checking for closings on WBZ.

Harvey, Cindy and Jeremy please, Pete Bouchard,
Please say it ain’t so; no more snow in our yards!
The stockings were hung on the ice dams with care.
Single digits were common, double digits were rare.
Olympics in Boston? Why not; bring ’em on.
They can ski off my roof and curl on my lawn.
The potholes were land mines consuming our tires.
Water froze in the hoses before reaching the fires.
Pounding waves, wicked cold, snow piled up to our necks.
Crashing roofs, buried cars, collapsed awnings and decks.
The T? A disaster. Freezing people were stranded.
“Fix this now! Not tomorrow,” Charlie Baker demanded.
Frayed nerves, blocked curbs, kids in school til mid-summer.
Sore backs, heart attacks, this was really a bummer.
One day on my rooftop there arose such a clatter
When a man hired from Craigslist climbed up on a ladder.
He shoveled my shingles and cleared off the ducts.
For two hours of work it cost 500 bucks.
This winter from hell left us all on the brink.
Recession, depression, someone please call my shrink!
If I have to shovel one more single flake
You might find me in August face down in a lake.
Oh what did we do to deserve such a fate?
Global warming or karma? It’s up for debate.
With a winter like this one I can’t help but wonder
If Deflategate’s the reason for snow mixed with thunder.
Mother Nature, are you mad we messed with those balls
And won the Lombardi with one bonehead call?
Get over it, woman. We’ve suffered enough 
It’s officially spring so get off your duff.
Bring us sunshine and warming and flowers and trees!
Forsythia, jonquils and gold honeybees.
Time to break out the shorts and show off our pale legs.
Snow has fallen; time for pollen and bright Easter eggs.
All New England agrees, Western Maine to the coast,
This springtime’s the one we’ll appreciate most.
From snow-damaged rooftops the people will shout:
“It’s been real, Mother Nature. Now get the hell out!”

11 Reasons Why America Will Never Root For Kentucky

 
This past week, I couldn’t help but notice how many of my Kentucky-bred Facebook friends had reposted the article “11 Reasons Why America Should Root For Kentucky” by Mrs. Tyler Thompson on Kentucky Sports Radio.  It was an enjoyable, feel-good read for Kentucky fans, and I believed every word of it, especially about how great the kids are.  But I couldn’t stop thinking “there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that’s going to happen.”  I mean, talk about wishful thinking.  There’s a better chance Mitch McConnell will marry Barack Obama on the steps of the Alabama state capital than there is of convincing the rest of America to form a literal Big Blue Nation.

It was one thing for my diehard blue-blooded friends to “like” this article, but I reached my breaking point when it was reposted by Dr. Mark McPeek, professor of biological sciences at the esteemed Dartmouth College.  Dr. McPeek (may I still call you Mark?) was my high school and college classmate and is brilliant. Mark and I went to kindergarten together, which was obnoxious because even then he was doing advanced trig while the rest of us were memorizing the months of the year. He was our high school valedictorian to my yearbook editor and I can picture him sequencing genes at UK while I’m three buildings away memorizing the AP Stylebook.  So obviously I’m thinking “Aha! It’s taken 50 years but I finally have the opportunity to take down McPeek.” When you see a chance, take it.  Hello, McPeek.

First, in order to clear up any confusion, I must explain why I chose the first-person plural “we” to Mock McPeek (that’s how we Bostonians pronounce his name).  I have not lived or worked in Kentucky for 22 years but I grew up in Ashland, graduated from UK in ’82 (same year as Mock) and worked in the UK sports information as a student and a professional.  I feel my career path entitles me to use “we” to discuss the Kentucky Wildcats, the Florida Gators, the Boston College Eagles and my adopted New England Patriots. This past year, for example, “we” beat USC and Georgia, won the Super Bowl, hired Colorado State’s coach and were accused of deflating footballs. Now “we” have a chance to win a national championship in women’s hockey and make college basketball history.  But trust me, there’s no way “they” are going to root for Kentucky.

So now, tongue planted firmly in cheek, I give you my 11 Reasons Why America Will Never Root For Kentucky. And spare me the Calipari quips; this is humor, folks.

  1. We’ve won more games than you. We even fell into second place once (gasp) and still we’re back on top.  What’s that you say?  We’ve won more games because we’ve PLAYED more games than you?  Um, our winning percentage is better than yours, too.  Math genius, you are.
  2. We’ve won more titles than *you. The asterisk, of course, denotes You-Know-Who-CLA.  But 10 of their titles were won by one coach, so shouldn’t those just count as one? And come on, pre-Kareem Lew Alcindor never had to face Jahlil Okafor and Bill Walton had yet to go from bad feet to good feet. 
  3. We have more fans than you. Did you see how many of us turned up in the Yum! Center last night for a practice?  It was a PRACTICE and it would have ranked 30th in the nation in college basketball attendance.  We’ve been called needy, greedy, insane, insecure, classless, worthless and toothless.  Thank you, sir, may I have another?  I’ll agree, we can be insecure; we want people to like us, to really like us.  But Sally Field is not going to win us another championship.  Go ahead, make our day.
  4. We have more bourbon than you. Without us, there would be no Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, Betty Ford Clinic or “Intervention” on A&E.  So go ahead and hate us; we’ll drink to that.
  5. One-and-Dones. I hate it. You probably hate it, too. I’ve worked in education all my life; college kids should get a degree, and Kentucky players should run through paper hoops after four years. But until the system is changed, hate the sin and not the sinner. We do one-and-dones better than you.  Don’t hate us because we’re beautiful.
  6. They named fried chicken after us. Having an entire food group named after you is usually reserved for countries, not states.  Have you ever had Duke fries? A Villanova muffin? Wisconsin wedding soup?  Of course not; they’re French, English and Italian.  Even then, nobody ever called a broth with green vegetables and meat finger lickin’ good.  Our name (or at least the first letter of it) is in neon in 115 countries.  Aller grand bleu.
  7. We have beautiful horses and fast women. Wait, I always get that wrong.  We have beautiful fast women and fast beautiful horses.  And bourbon.
  8. We care more than you. We hear you calling us hillbillies and making fun of the way we talk. We know we rank low in education and high in poverty, obesity and smoking. But we’ve won more games than you and have eight titles. And bourbon. So kiss our basketballs.
  9. We have Mr. Wildcat. Yes, he left this green earth a few years ago, but his huge blue spirit (and hatred of Louisville) live on. Besides, have you ever heard of a “Mr. Tiger” or “Mr. Lion,” other than on a rerun of Captain Kangaroo?  Odds are there’s literally a “Mr. Jay Hawk” or two in the world, but it’s not the same.  Bill Keightley was the greatest fan ever.  And had more bourbon.
  10. We have The Judds. Ashley (at long last) gets more attention these days, but mom and sis have sold 20 million freakin’ records, people.  With Ashley, Wynonna and Naomi, we have every base covered – actress, activist, singer and age-defying hot mama.  And they’re from Ashland, home to all good people.  Who else can match our star power?  LSU?  Have you heard Shaq’s album? Terrible.  UNC?  Have you seen MJ’s acting in those Hanes commercials?  Too bad he quit his day job.  Yeah, yeah, I know Jennifer Lawrence is from Kentucky, but she jumped our shark when she showed up for that Louisville game.  We’re glad she tripped at the Oscars.  Twice.
  11. We have Miley. The fact that she is so polarizing is actually a good thing; either people will want UK to lose because they hate her or because they’re jealous of us for having her.  Either way, we want her on our team so she can stick her tongue out at the rest of college basketball. We’re coming in like a wrecking ball, baby.

So there you have it, McPeek, my 11 Reasons Why America Will Never Root For Kentucky.  Do we care? Probably. Should we care?  Of course not.  Tonight at 9:40, pass the extra crispy, drink two shots of Maker’s and stop wanting everyone to like us.  It ain’t gonna’ happen.  Ever.

Go. Big. Blue. Deal with it.

p.s. – we did not deflate the footballs!