COLUMN: Sports talk: The good, bad and ugly

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By John Shindlebower

The Derby’s over, and a long summer awaits. But there’s plenty of sports talk and chatter for fans. Some news is good, some is bad, but there’s always something for sports fans to discuss, argue and gripe about. I’m no different.

THUMBS UP:Word is that Spencer County High School senior Ros Goodwin and Trey Wyatt, a senior from last year’s Bears’ squad, were to sign to play basketball at Kentucky Christian University next season. That’s great news for both guys who have a chance to play at the next level and get a college education. Good luck to both!

THUMBS DOWN: The rush to link the tragic suicide of football great Junior Seau automatically with football-related brain injuries is premature. No doubt football is a dangerous sport and those at the college and professional level need to address the rash of concussions and increasing violent collisions, but speculation that the game killed this man began before his body was loaded onto a gurney. Let’s wait and see.

THUMBS UP: The NFL apparently is taking violence seriously and has imposed serious fines, suspensions and other penalties against those involved in a bounty program, whereby members of the New Orleans Saints could earn bonus money by seriously injuring opposing players. It’s a good sign that the league realizes that further scrutiny about the safety of the sport must be answered with significant efforts to protect the players.

THUMBS DOWN:For the better part of a decade, Albert Pujols was arguably the most complete hitter in the major leagues. He was a legend in St. Louis, already having won two World Series rings. However, bigger money came calling and Pujols left the Midwest for the bright lights of Los Angeles to play for the Angels. However, Pujols certainly isn’t lighting it up out west. He’s hitting under .200 for the season with only one home run. What price can be put on contentment?

THUMBS UP: Somebody other than the Red Sox and Yankees were on national television Sunday night. I know Boston and New York are huge media markets, but no sport does a worse job of spreading the love to other teams like Major League Baseball. ESPN, FOX and others who select big-league games to air but really should look toward the future and realize they play the game in other cities too.

THUMBS DOWN:Every season since 1969-70, Kentucky and Indiana have met on the basketball court. It’s truly one of the great rivalries in all of sports, especially given the importance of basketball in those two states.

That rivalry ends this year, thanks to UK’s insistence to no longer have it an on-campus game. This year, the game would have pitted the Hoosiers, preseason No. 1, against the defending national champions in Rupp Arena. Who wouldn’t love such a game? Apparently Kentucky Coach John Calipari.

The coach/king went to his website to spew some propaganda to the blind UK followers about why UK needs to be non-traditional in scheduling now.

“It’s time we learn and come to grips with the fact that we are not a traditional program,” said Cal. Not sure what that means, except to say that traditionally, college programs have recruited kids, built them up for four seasons, and played other teams who did the same. In his scheduling manifesto posted on his site, he seems to suggest that recent success warrants UK the right to set and play by its own rules. And to think some people have been turned off by UK because they think Big Blue Nation is elitist?

He further defends watering down the schedule based on the fact that his perpetually young teams will not be up to the task of facing more seasoned teams so early in their college careers.

“This is a players-first program and you cannot put a young team into situations that is not fair to the players,” wrote Cal. Skeptics will translate that into a veiled admission that Cal is backing out of playing top-tier opposition because his fresh-out-of-high school recruits aren’t ready to play big-time basketball. They need a few months to adjust.

So, Kentucky fans, instead of being treated to home games against powerhouses like North Carolina and Indiana, you’ll get to pay premium bucks to watch the likes of Lamar, Rider and Sienna. Who cares that Kentucky fans have enjoyed the traditional rivalries – coach said UK is non-traditional and who dares argue with the great and powerful Cal?

“If eight guys leave and go in the first round, and we’re not the type of team that can play a ridiculously hard schedule, then we shouldn’t be locked into contracts we can’t adjust,” continued Calipari. Those are words written by a man who once boasted an “I’ll play anyone, anywhere, anytime” attitude, but now suggests that he wants to cater his schedule around how good his team is. As a lifelong UK fan, I’m embarrassed to admit it – but that’s cowardly.

But Cal is adamant about his “nontraditional approach,” suggesting he’s not playing to win games in the regular season, but preparing for the postseason.

“It’s either we do that or we over-schedule and put our players at risk,” he continued.

Risk of what – losing a regular season game or two? Instead, Cal puts UK at risk of losing all respect and integrity by padding the schedule.