Saturday, November 29, 2008

Turkey and giblets, giblets and turkey

Murray State University men's basketball fans were apparently still hung over from their Thanksgiving feasts Saturday night when the Racers played St. Catharine.

Either that or the noisy ones went on vacation.

The 0-9 Patriots were supposed to be a tune up on the way to the Racers' Ohio Valley Conference opener Death Valley trip, a three-day swing to play at Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State this coming weekend. It was supposed to be the kind of game where the end of the bench could achieve career highs.

The Racers struggled to pull away in the first half, leading just 39-35. When the first-year NAIA program (last year a junior college), took the lead, Racer fans had nothing to say. A steal or a basket were met with light-hearted golf claps. Hearty yells didn't come to the game until eight minutes into the second quarter, and hearty could be an understatement and certainly short lived.

Against Western Kentucky, a rout against an admitted arch rival, fans were rabid. But playing a team, at home, where a loss would mean certain embarrassment and a big L, Racer fans had little to say. Even coach Billy Kennedy, who is never very animated, sat quiet until about 10 minutes left.

While the Racers' performance wasn't exactly noteworthy, the game, a 76-66 win, was the last home game for the Racers until January. The Racers have a hard enough road schedule this season without making home a neutral court.

The no-win former JUCO just scored the most points in the Regional Special Events Center. That's certainly not something to cheer about.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Extras from MSU's two-win weekend

Murray State football coach Matt Griffin mentioned in his 11-17 press conference that a win against Tennessee State that following Saturday would be great not only for morale but give them a springboard into the final weeks of recruiting.

The bowels of Roy Stewart Stadium welcomed several recruits after Saturday's 24-17 win over TSU in colorful letter jackets flanked by hopeful parents.

MSU coach Matt Griffin said he's already had some soft commitments out of some players, but isn't ready count them as signed. He's said some of the targets also have had offers from other top OVC schools.

But. The eight weeks that remain before signing date are plenty to get things accomplished.

Outgoing senior Quinton Hankins had some thoughts for the possible recruits.

"I’d tell them don’t look at the record," Hankins said. "When it all boils down, it’s all about family and coming together and playing together. Once you can do that and build team cohesiveness, the sky’s the limit.

"If you want to be a part of a good team, Murray State is a place to be."


Amidst near turmoil and heartbreak at Western Kentucky, coach Ken McDonald had good things to say about Murray State's team.

"I think they have really good focus on offense, too," McDonald said. "They run their sets with really good precision, and they don’t beat themselves, and that's a sign of a good team and well-coached team. They defend well. They don't have a ton of turnovers. The fact they have 18 assists in a game with almost six guys playing going into double figures says a lot. They share the ball."


It seemed like the Racer fans had endless things to cheer about Saturday. Dale Beach, of Graves County, made a half-court shot worth $10,000 sponsored by Perkins Motor Plex out of Mayfield. It was the first time a contestant had made the shot offered at every game.

“I’ll use it to pay bills,” Beach said. “We’ll have a better Christmas. I’m thinking I might need a new car.”

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Be the coach...

In my near daily perusing of the Murray State sports message board (, someone posted a link to a basketball simulation game on the Internet.

The point is that you get to be the coach and manage a team throughout the season. Really, the only thing you manage is recruiting and tryouts, which is by far the most exciting part of the game.

So, for the past 45 minutes, I played as coach Pineapple McGee, coach of the University of Missouri, where in three seasons, I was 26-18.

My second and third seasons, my team was conference champion, and received a ticket to the Big Dance. My first year I was knocked out by Maryland Eastern Shore (who?), and the second year, I made it to the second round before getting beat by Florida A&M. The NCAA tournament was devoid of perrenial favorites North Carolina, Duke, Kansas and UCLA. Kansas was left out, partly because I whooped them in the regular season. Take that.

Overall, the game was fun. Obviously, or I wouldn't have just played it for nearly an hour. I gave up when my All-American senior graduated, leaving me with some mediocre talent. I just didn't think I could recruit well enough to win another conference championship. So I retired.

One of the messageboard posters just typed in to say he played the game until he went to "basketball heaven." That was over 50 seasons. Incredible.

Anyway, give it a try on this rainy day. The game could be loads better, but is still good for a relatively amateur setup.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Common Denominators

Even before the regular season begins, the Murray State men's basketball team got a good measure of how the Ohio Valley Conference season could go.

The Racers faced Bethel in their exhibition match Tuesday, an 82-45 win. OVC opponent UT Martin also played the Wildcats in an exhibition, a 90-71 win.

So. If Martin beat Bethel by 19 points, and the Racers beat Bethel by 37, that means the Racers will beat Martin by 18 points in January.



Wildcat coach Jeff Britt, a Sedalia, Ky., native, had the privilege of comparing the two teams for the small media panel present after the game. He provided a very diplomatic analysis.

"I think with Murray, overall, much better defensive team, than UTM. I think probably a little bigger inside. I think they're a little crisper on the offensive side of it, to compare the two. I think they're both two good basketball teams, I think you're going to see them battling for your top two or three spots in the conference, maybe both for then No. 1 spot. They both got depth and good size, and both blessed with some good quickness. I'm going to give Martin just a tad bit of edge on the shooters I think Murray's probably got one or two guys that can shoot. I think Martin's got several that can shoot."

The OVC picked the Racers to finish first in the league, but other publications and outlets predicted UT Martin right up there with them, sometimes picked as high as first.

Britt said the Racers obviously put in a lot of time on the defensive end of the ball. Compared to last season, the Racers seemed to have more of a sense of a mission, Britt said, as if they were trying to achieve a conference championship.

"It appears they know they're batter and it appears they're confident in their play and they feel like they can win the regular season and the conference."

Jan. 5, 2009 and Jan. 31. That's when you can find out how well Britt pegged the two teams.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Who's excited?

Murray State men's basketball opens up its season Tuesday night against Bethel College in an exhibition game.

I'm excited for two reasons.

1.) It's the start of basketball season which, other than dirt track racing, is God's sport.

2.) I briefly thought of going to Bethel College because of family and religious relations. Bethel is supported by my church denomination, Cumberland Presbyterian, and I have a slew of family to graduate from there. My dad, who I seem to be talking a lot about lately, attended for one year in the late 1950s and played basketball for them as a freshman.

His thoughts on Bethel? "I couldn't play on the B team in high school, but I started at Bethel."

Take that as you will.

It's a 7 p.m. tipoff. Totally pumped to be hitting the hardwood.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Post-election day thoughts:

In 2004, my first year being old enough to vote for president, my first ballot was special. That was the year my dad ran for a seat on the county commission back home.

That was his fourth time running for office. The previous three times he was unsuccessful. We were and still are members of the minority party in that county. The majority doesn't much vote outside party lines. In 2004, Dad lost again.

I was heartbroken. That year, I was his "campaign manager," designing newspaper ads and recording radio ads. That was the first and only year I had ever and will ever cast a vote when my last name was on the ballot. I will never forget the pride I felt choosing my dad over his opponent.

What a year.

This year, my dad got to the polls long before the 6 a.m. opening. He was the first voter at his precinct. That's my dad.

And this year, we witnessed the most historic election in the history of our country.

What a year.


I love the assumption that sports writers and sports folks don't care much about "real news." I get a chuckle and sometimes get rankled when the other side of the building makes an offhanded comment about what we know or don't know.

All I've got to say is I've had some of the best political conversations with Joey Fosko these past few months than I have with other "newsy" folks I've met.

I originally started my journalistic career with the thought of pursuing a political or health-related beat. I eventually chose sports because this is where all the fun happens, not because my mind is incapable of wrapping itself around charged topics.

We might know stats and figures and game histories, but don't ever think we're out of the loop.

Same for athletes. Check out this story written for the Columbia Missourian about Mizzou's football political discussions:


Good reporting by The Associated Press. Athletes going professional in something other than sports:

By The Associated Press
—Kevin Johnson, NBA, Sacramento mayor.
—Heath Shuler, NFL, North Carolina congressional seat.
—Sam Wyche, NFL, Pickens County Council in South Carolina.
—Baron Hill, college basketball, Indiana congressional seat.
—Norm Dicks, college football, Washington congressional seat.
—Jason Chaffetz, college football, Utah congressional seat.
—Todd Thomsen, college football, Oklahoma Legislature.
—Tad Jones, college football, Oklahoma Legislature.
—Anton Gunn, college football, South Carolina Legislature.
—Mufi Hannemann, college basketball, Honolulu mayor.
—Joe Mesi, boxing, New York Legislature.
—Joey Browner, NFL, Eagan (Minn.) City Council.
—Bob Heaton, college basketball, Indiana Legislature.
—Greg Hopkins, Arena Football League, Pennsylvania Legislature.
Race Undecided
—Peter Boulware, NFL, Florida Legislature.