Sunday, March 29, 2009

My Sunday Feeling

There are some things about sports that just aren't fair. Take for instance the latest example of why golf is such an exquisitely cruel mistress.

Sixty-two year old Unni Haskell recently took up the damned game. She had only 8 half hour lessons before she decided to take this accumulated knowledge out to the course. Naturally, she made a hole-in-one on her first swing taken in anger. And of course it was one of those hope-to-Jesus numbers. Her drive went all of 75 yards and then rolled through the grass up to the green and in.

I have been playing golf for @ 11 years now. I am pretty awful but I can scrape it around well enough to keep up with my buddies on pretty much any course. I have come close to a hole-in-one 3 times. I have seen one live. My buddy PM has made one. But he was screwing around by himself and hit his with a range ball. Doesn't count unless you have a witness. Shouldn't count with a range ball.

"I didn't know it was that big a deal," Unni told the St. Petersburg Times. " I thought all golfers do this."

No Unni. Not all golfers do this. And with all due respect, may you be struck by lightning during your next round.

Another recent example of the essential unfairness of sports is to be found in the NCAA tournament pools that abound this time of year all across our fair nation. I played basketball as a kid. I have watched it all my life. I still attend a fair number of high school and college games. I am a knowledgable fan.

And yet, my friend and colleague Laurie Peterson went 16-16 the first day despite knowing no more about basketball than a cow knows about the Gnostic Heresy. She picked Maryland because she thinks turtles are cute. She picked Western Kentucky because she felt sorry for the plight of the coal miners in Appalachia.

You get it. The scientific method. I wonder if Unni Haskell entered a pool?

Then there's the ongoing psychodrama at the University of Kentucky who just fired Billy Gillespie after only 2 years. First a little background. The Kentucky Wildcats are the winningest program in Division I. Their fans are also the functional equivalent of football fans at Notre Dame. They both live exclusively in the past and have completely insane expectations for their respective coaches. Gillespie went 40-27 in his two years there. Which might have been sufficient for a 3rd year at most places. It might have been at Kentucky as well. Except for two things. Kentucky didn't make it to the NCAA tournament for the first time in my lifetime while not on probation. And Billy Gillepie is a jerk.

The Kentucky brass were horrified when Tubby Smith decided he had had all the fun he could stand in Lexington and jumped for the vacancy at-gasp!-Minnesota. They decided they needed to make a quick hire to reassure the faithful that, yes indeedy, Kentucky was still the pre-eminent job in the land. They went to Billy Donovan at Florida who politely declined as did Texas's Rick Barnes.

Gillespie was the up and coming Next Big Thing down at Texas A and M. Kentucky knew that Arkansas was after him after it had fired Stan Heath because Dana Altman decided to stay at Creighton after allegedly accepting the Razorback job. So Kentucky decided to offer the job to Gillespie before Frank Broyles could get him to the altar.

Funny thing happened after that. Or so the rumor goes. Supposedly, no sooner than he had accepted the Wildcat job, it is said that Gillespie tried to pull a Dana Altman on them and tried to go back to A and M. I would have said no sooner than he had signed a contract except Gillespie never signed one. Which certainly gave his superiors every reason to doubt that Gillespie was in it for the long haul.

But A and M said, " Thanks but no thanks." And Billy Gillespie and UK were now stuck with each other.

Gillespie's brusque and aloof ways rubbed the Wildcat fans the wrong way. A confirmed bachelor, rumors swirled about his personal life. Rumor had it that he liked the ladies. Rumor had it that he would drink one with you. Rumor had it that he was not Adolph Rupp. Of course, none of this would have mattered if Kentucky was 30-3 and still playing.

Naturally, Kentucky Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart would have you believe that they are far more high-minded in Lexington when it comes to such matters.

"There is a clear difference [between he and Gillespie] in how the rules and responsibilities of overseeing the program are viewed," Barnhart said, presumably with a straight face. " It is a gap that I do not believe can be solved by just winning games."

Which is bullshit. Gillespie could set fire to the campus library and everyone would look the other way so long as the Wildcats were winning big.

But it is all, for a lack of a better word, academic now. Gillespie gets to leave a place he probably didn't want to be at in the first place. Kentucky has said that they don't plan to honor the six million dollar severance package since Gillepsie never actually put his signature on anything other than a Memorandum of Understanding about the contract that he never signed. I hope he sues to get the severance. Discovery would be great fun.

Come to think of it, maybe there are some things in sports that are fair after all.

These people deserved each other.

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