Merlene Davis: No one person is to blame for Cats' inability to get to the NCAA tourney

Herald-Leader columnistMarch 18, 2013 

I love basketball as much as the next fan. I shout and scream and applaud when things are going well. I turn the channel when the score is tight or going badly for the University of Kentucky men's or women's basketball teams, thinking I'm bringing them bad luck somehow.

A lot of that has to do with being a mother of two young men who still have a lot of emotional growing to do, and a mature daughter who we've helped guide past that stage of life.

When I saw sophomore point guard Ryan Harrow inconsolable after the UK men's team lost to Vanderbilt University during the SEC Tournament last week, my heart broke.

Harrow was taking the blame for the loss, saying that if he had played better, the team would have won.

"It's just on me," he said, his head hung low, covered with a towel. "I'm the reason we lost."

When asked by a reporter why he said that, Harrow replied, "That's how it always is. If I play well, then we play well. If I don't play well, the team just doesn't produce."

That is far too big a burden for a young man to bear alone.

Yes, the loss killed all hopes of UK getting into the NCAA Tournament, which is the dance most teams strive for, but it was sad to see Harrow so despondent.

His teammates said the whole team, not the point guard, lost the game.

It is tough playing for the Cats. It's getting that way for the women's team, the UK Hoops, as well.

The UK fan base is faithful and true for the most part, but there are times when we can be too critical of these young people who are playing a game for our entertainment. Are we putting unrealistic pressure on them?

Stress is a major factor in the lives of all college students, but when classes are coupled with practices and games, that stress is multiplied.

We sometimes forget that. These young men and women are college students. Look at your own kids at that age as an example. How much could they take?

These kids are not our employees and in fact are not anybody's employees. They are given scholarships to further their educations just as a student gifted in chemistry is. It is their specialty.

In either case, that talent should be nurtured, not publicly criticized by the groomer or the public if it falls short of expectations.

The reverse is true as well. Cheer for them, but don't make them gods on Earth. Just treat them as you would your own kids, who have good days and bad days, because, like us, they will mess up sometimes.

We should criticize those who are employed and receive paychecks to take that talent and make it better.

Teachers at all levels have to change their teaching methods to bring out the best in their students. What seemed brilliant with one class may be ineffective with the next.

Still, nurturing should be the same regardless.

The reason we see pictures of young athletes crying after a defeat far more often than we see red-eyed coaches is because coaches have experienced the hurt before. Their wisdom should be shared with their players before they lay their souls open for all to see.

As a fan and mother, I will tune in to watch the Cats play in the NIT, hoping, for Harrow's sake, that the team wins and pushes through the recent disappointment.

I will also watch the University of Louisville Cardinals, cheering them on to win the NCAA tournament this year, as the Cats did last year. Having our state represented by back-to-back championships would be awesome. And I will be watching the UK Hoops as they advance through the bracket and make us proud.

But if each of those teams loses, someone needs to tell the players no one college athlete is to blame. Losing hurts, but it is not the end of their young lives. We've said that many times to our children.

I hope I don't ever see any athlete as devastated as Harrow was last week.

Merlene Davis: (859) 231-3218. Email: mdavis1@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @reportmerle. Blog: merlenedavis.bloginky.com.

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