COLUMN: A short sports wish list

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Getting back to the game tops what I want for Christmas

By John Herndon

My wish list is not long, but I really wonder if Santa, or anyone on earth for that matter, can really give me what I want this Christmas.

I could be cute and offer what I think would be a good wish list for others, but this year, I am going to be selfish. If these four things would just come to pass, I can’t guarantee the world would be a better place – well, number four maybe it would – but I know my job would be a lot easier.

The recruiting of high school athletes no longer overshadows the game.

I realize this is about as likely as O’Reilly getting a place in Obama’s cabinet but I can wish, you know.

For years, I have publicly (some) and privately (a lot) ranted about how the college recruiters treat high school athletes like a herd of cattle, picking out the ones they want and culling the rest. But fan interest has made recruiting its own world, on par with the football or basketball games.

A case in point is during the King of the Bluegrass tournament last Thursday at Fairdale High School. As I took my place along press row, someone asked what media outlet I was representing.

When I replied, “The Anderson News,” there was little interest in the Bearcat team. It was just, “C.J. Penny hasn’t signed yet, has he?”

No question about the rest of the Bearcats, how they look against the Eighth Region or anything of that sort. Just a variation of “Where is the star heading to college?”

At Ballard, the first week of the season, Anderson’s girls had just demolished the Louisville team, but a Ballard supporter stopped me in the lobby, asking, “Where is that Fultz girl going to college?”

On the one hand, I don’t begrudge those who ask that. Most of the time, they are just doing their job of getting information that readers would be interested in. And certainly I don’t begrudge any kid getting a chance at a college education. Anderson County has some kids that are big-time performers, yet sometimes seem almost embarrassed by the limelight.

But for the life of me, I just wish we could enjoy high school athletics for the game and not what might happen in the future. As a journalist, I am often torn when it comes to recruiting, knowing that some are keenly interested in the subject, but at the same time, trying to respect the privacy of the individual.

It would be a wonderful Christmas if the game, not recruiting, once again became the focus of high school athletics.

The days of specializing in one sport becomes a thing of the past for high school athletes.

When I watch Anderson County’s Jacob Russell play, I marvel. I saw someone throw for over 300 yards one November night, then the next night scrimmage with his basketball teammates.

But in this day of specialization, such a feat is rare. Finding a kid who excels at three sports in high school is rare. Part of it is undoubtedly a result of everyone trying to get a kid to pick a certain sport, but where is the kid in this equation?

If he or she wants to play one sport year-round, great! But he should be aware of the research that suggests doing so is not the best thing physically or emotionally.

And if someone wants to play a different sport every season, that should be great too! And if a kid does that, coaches of other sports should never hold it against them.

The bottom line is that most athletes won’t play organized sports past high school and the choice should be theirs.

Anderson County makes it to at least one Sweet 16, preferably two.

It has happened just five times – three for the boys, two for the girls – since Kavanaugh and Lawrenceburg High Schools combined for the 1949-50 school year. It’s been a 12-year drought for the boys and 31 years for the girls.

Both have what it takes to be playing the last weekend of the basketball season, except luck. That has to come in March, but should be the result of what goes on in the season. The bottom line, though, is that I can only hope the Bearcat and Lady Bearcat basketball teams duplicate the rare feat of the baseball and softball teams last spring. If even one makes it out of the region, Lawrenceburg will be buzzing.

Both? I would like to find out.

I go a week without hearing about Britney Spears or Paris Hilton.

OK, that has nothing to do with sports, but my TV gets things other than ESPN at least an hour or two each week.

Can we go just a week without hearing something about those airheads? Puh-leeeeeezzze?

For that matter, how about a UK basketball game without the camera zooming in on Ashley Judd? She’s not an airhead, but haven’t we had enough?

How about zooming in on the guy that drives in from Whitesburg or Fulton County just to sit at the top of Rupp Arena to watch the Cats?

Bah! Humbug! And Go Big Blue!

Most of all, I wish you and your family the most blessed Christmas ever.