John Clay: HD has its advantages, but give me real thing

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistJanuary 29, 2014 

Blame it on Leon.

There are so many winter storms these days they have taken to naming them. And the one that stretched across the South, bringing ice and snow to areas that don't normally see ice and snow, picked up the name of Leon and kept my colleague Jerry Tipton and myself from making it to Baton Rouge for Tuesday night's Kentucky-LSU basketball game.

As it turned out, maybe that was a good thing.

There was an ice storm in Dallas — we both made that treacherous trip — and Kentucky lost 67-62 to Baylor.

Ice storm in Baton Rouge and Kentucky lost 87-82 to LSU.

When it's cold and icy outdoors, apparently UK goes cold and performs as if it's playing on ice indoors.

Back to the travel trouble. About noon Monday, Delta canceled our first flight, this one Tuesday from Atlanta to Baton Rouge in anticipation of the messy weather.

Every re-book was followed by a swift cancel. Every alternative was scrubbed practically before you had left the website.

Not that there was any doubt the game would be played. Kentucky made it to Baton Rouge. The three officials made it to Baton Rouge. Most importantly, ESPN made it to Baton Rouge.

Never mind the fans, most of whom would have trouble getting there. College sports isn't about the fans. It's a TV show. And ESPN needed the programming to fill its 9 p.m. Super Tuesday slot.

So Tuesday night, sitting in my favorite blue chair in my den, I got to watch the TV show.

An advantage: The TV viewer has a better view of the floor than we media types whose seats are being pushed farther and farther away from courtside.

The television viewer gets many more replays — in this case many of the replays were of Kentucky players not hustling back on defense as LSU converted transition buckets.

The television viewer is also afforded the color commentary of the network broadcaster. In Tuesday night's case that meant Dan Dakich, the former Indiana Hoosier, former Bowling Green head coach, current Indianapolis radio host and, as most Kentucky fans see it, very much anti-Big Blue Nation.

I think the guy's good. As an analyst. He knows the game. He can explain the game. And he explains the game without falling back on clichés and pre-meditated catch phrases.

Dakich is a bit goofy, yes, but that's OK. It's a game. You're allowed to be goofy.

His best line of the night: LSU is competing, Kentucky is just playing.

You can hate Dakich all you want, but could you disagree with that?

The biggest disadvantage of not being there was, well, not being there. You don't get a feel for the atmosphere and the crowd if you're not there. You don't get to see the players' body language, or the coaches' body language, on both sidelines. There are many little things that you pick up in attendance that you don't pick up many miles away.

Plus, in our case, you miss the post-game news conference, which are never lengthy, but often telling. A transcript of quotes is great, but seeing facial expressions, gauging the mood for yourself is much, much better.

And I can't imagine Calipari's post-game mood was good.

It's not easy winning conference road games, even in the SEC. And despite its record, LSU has some athletic, talented players who had yet to put it together — at least until Tuesday night.

And, yes, Kentucky is young. We know. Youngest team in the nation. The stats say so. As does Calipari.

Young or old, doesn't matter. Even when this team thinks it's playing hard, it's not really playing all that hard.

And even though I was glad to be away from Leon, and it was interesting listening to Dakich and to see it all unfold in HD color instead of living color, I wish I would have made it to Baton Rouge.

There's still something about being in the gym.

John Clay: (859) 231-3226. Email: jclay@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @johnclayiv. Blog: johnclay.bloginky.com.

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