CORBIN — Published Saturday, April 12, 2014
By Brad Hall
“Raise your thoughts a
Use your words to inspire,
Joy will fall like rain,
When you speak life with the things you say.”
I want to start out by saying that even though this is a column about a sports team, this is not necessarily the opinion of our Sports staff here at the Times-Tribune.
So if you agree or disagree, feel free to discuss this with me but don’t hold my buddies Chris Parsons or Les Dixon responsible.
With that being said, after the Kentucky Wildcat basketball team came up just a bit short of winning their ninth NCAA Championship this past Monday night, I was pretty bummed like a lot of us were.
Of course as a fan, I selfishly wanted it for myself so I could puff out my chest around fans of rival teams.
But even more than that, I wanted the championship for those Kentucky Wildcat players.
If you’re not real familiar with the team, it was an up and down season for the Wildcats to say the least.
They began the year as the preseason No.1 ranked team with many folks expecting them to go undefeated the entire season.
Coach John Calipari had recruited an elite class of freshmen for this year’s team including All-American players Julius Randle, James Young, Dakari Johnson, and twin brothers Andrew and Aaron Harrison.
However, the season did not go as well as planned as they lost several games and finished the season unranked.
That’s just the way it goes with your favorite sports teams though. Sometimes they win a lot of games, and sometimes not so much.
But the worst part of it all for me was how fans reacted on the Internet on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Fans would send tweets directly to the players themselves telling them how awful they were playing and how they were a disgrace to the University of Kentucky.
The Kentucky fanbase is one of the largest in sports with fans spread out all across the country and even parts of the world.
But I believe the folks who send players these harsh tweets were a very small minority of Kentucky fans.
However, even if it was just a handful of people, it probably seemed like a lot more to these players when they had to look at those negative messages after every single game.
I feel like it definitely took a toll on the players, and I would venture to say it made the regular season a bit less than pleasant for them.
You take the pressure that comes from playing at a program like Kentucky, which is massive, plus the direct feedback on social media from the fans. That had to wear on these players all season long.
But luckily, things turned around completely once postseason play began.
The Wildcats made it all the way to the SEC Championship game where they took No. 1 ranked Florida down to the last second before falling by one point.
This gave the Wildcats some momentum as they headed into the NCAA Tournament to play for all the marbles.
They advanced to the third round of the tournament where they beat the undefeated Wichita State Shockers in one of the best games I’ve ever watched.
After that, we saw a string of three games where Aaron Harrison made back-to-back-to-back last second three-pointers to help Kentucky advance to the title game.
It was such a turnaround from what we had seen during the regular season. The team was playing really well, and the fans were finally excited about the team, where as they had given up on them just a few weeks prior.
It was one of the most amazing tournament runs I had ever witnessed, and likely the most amazing run I ever will witness. But sadly the Wildcats came up just a bit short as they fell to Connecticut in the championship game, 60-54.
So it was a bitter ending but I was so happy for the players because it seemed like they had a great time playing their final games together.
As I write this, I’m not sure which players will decide to leave school early to enter the NBA draft, but I believe they made a lifetime of memories during those big wins in the tournament.
More importantly, I hope it helps them to forget that small portion of the fanbase who felt the need to personally attack these players online.
I understand as fans we pump in a lot of money to the program with our ticket purchases, donations and merchandise sales. But that should not mean you’ve earned the right to directly attack the character of a group of 18- and 19-year-olds.
Online insults and malicious attacks help nothing except making you look like a fool. It’s not going to motivate these guys to play any better — it’s only going to make their experience in college worse.
I remember when I was a freshman in college, I was still making trips home every other weekend to have my laundry done. I was just a year removed from activities like youth group and prom.
I’m sure that’s how many of us were too at that age. I don’t know what I would have thought if I had a bunch of 30- and 40-year-old men telling me I was terrible at my job.
So if you have words to say to people, make it something that is uplifting or inspirational instead of something that’s just going to bring the other person down.
Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”
I’m just as big of a fan of my sports teams as the next guy, but it’s important to understand the difference between the results of a ball game, and the results of real life. Be a light for everyone with kind and uplifting words, and leave the rest unsaid.
Brad Hall is the nighttime editor for the Times-Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit his blog at hallthingsconsidered.blogspot.com