Now that we've elected a governor, negotiated a deal intended to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weaponry and discovered liquid water on Mars, let's move on to something important: recruiting.
The week-long November signing period begins Wednesday. 'Tis the season of hype and hope. Coaches, recruiting analysts and media types will assess, package and label teenagers. That's the hype. The ticket-buying public, which pays ever-increasing attention to recruiting minutiae, has its enthusiasm stoked by hope.
A cynic would sense an element of carnival barking. Step right up and see our amazing swingman of the future! Football is not immune. This linebacker is from Ohio, so you know he's good!
"As coaches, we learned how to play the game," Texas A&M Coach Billy Kennedy said at SEC Media Day last month. "To hopefully make us look good and our program look good."
Never miss a local story.
Ole Miss Coach Andy Kennedy (no relation) acknowledged an element of marketing in recruiting.
"Hey, it's all about if the team is doing great, that's great. But wait to what we're going to do next year," he said. "And if the team is doing bad, it's been a bad year, but wait to what we're going to do next year."
At the heart of recruiting is a paradox. It's vitally important for any program to sign promising players. Duh. But it can be difficult to know exactly how good an individual player is until he competes on the college level for a year or more. Not that this pauses the hype.
Several SEC players dismissed the importance of the ever-present rating system. Five-star to no-star is, at best, an educated guess, they said.
"I really think it means nothing," Mississippi State senior Craig Sword said. "You have to prove it once you get out there. You have to get out and growl with the big dogs."
Alex Caruso, a senior guard for Texas A&M, agreed. "I think that's more for the fans ... and for people who caught up in that stuff," he said of recruiting buzz. "Once you get to the school and the players are there, that's when it matters. ... Until they actually come in and play in a college game, I can't say anything about them."
A&M teammate Jalen Jones said that references to the rating system should be in the past tense.
"It means he was, obviously, good in high school, you know," Jones said of a five-star prospect. "But like any other guy that's playing in college, you have to prove yourself on the college level. Once he gets a couple games under his belt in college, and I see him do something, that's when you kind of look and say, 'OK, this guy might be the real deal.'"
Mississippi guard Stefan Moody said that the recruiting hype is largely meaningless.
"To me, it doesn't really mean much of anything," he said. "The No. 1 player can get knocked off by the 150th player. It's just a number."
To support his contention that recruiting is more art than science, Andy Kennedy used Moody as an example. The Mississippi coach said that Moody, a member of this year's All-SEC pre-season team, did not make a game staged for the top 100 junior college players.
"Thankfully, he didn't," Andy Kennedy said, meaning he liked that rival recruiters would not watch Moody play.
So, how many stars did analysts attach to Moody as a high school prospect?
"I'm not sure he had a star," Kennedy said with a smile. "It was a foggy night."
One of his former players, Chris Warren, was a two-star prospect, Kennedy said. Warren became one of four players in SEC history to score 2,000 points and get credit for 400 assists. He joined Pete Maravich, Allan Houston and Litterial Green.
Several SEC coaches downplayed the importance of recruiting services and player ratings.
"We're not going to recruit anybody off somebody else's ranking ... ," Tennessee Coach Rick Barnes said. "There are so many guys out there who can play. You've got to have a staff that knows what we're looking for."
Barnes questioned the wisdom of rating middle-school players.
"C'mon," he said. "They're not even grown yet. I think it does more harm than good."
LSU Coach Johnny Jones, whose school based its season-ticket sales campaign this year on incoming freshman Ben Simmons, said the recruiting hype has limited importance.
"I never get caught up in the three-star, four-star or rankings," Jones said. "I really get caught up in our evaluation of players."
Jones recalled a year when he congratulated LSU's iconic baseball coach, Skip Bertman, for recruiting what was deemed the nation's No. 1 class.
"He told me, it's not where your recruiting class is ranked coming in, but where the team is ranked when they're going out," Jones said.
Not that the recruiting buzz lacks importance.
"What is good is giving your fan base a reason to be excited," Jones said. "You'd much rather be on that side of it than the other side where people aren't expecting anything from you, and you prove them right."
Auburn Coach Bruce Pearl reminded reporters that his success has not been the result of recruiting five-star prospects (although Kentucky has shown that's a fine path to success).
"I've only had two McDonald's All-Americans," Pearl said. "I'm proud of that."
The two were Tobias Harris and Kentuckian Scotty Hopson. Each played for Pearl at Tennessee.
Of course, recruiting is presumed to be wildly beneficial to one ever-growing group of people: the analysts.
"It's a cottage industry," Andy Kennedy said. "People who profit off that industry have done a terrific job in maximizing (its profitability). Kudos to them."
As UK fan complaints go, Alan Bohanon's wins the Big Blue ribbon. He delivered his grievance in a light-hearted tone. He seemed to understand and accept that there is no fix.
Maybe best of all, Bohanon laughed as he said he was complaining for two. Mike Etherington, a co-worker at Cox and Interior in Campbellsville, had the same complaint.
Bohanon and Etherington wanted to watch Kentucky play Ottawa last week. But they couldn't because the game was available only through digital option called SEC Network Plus.
"I don't do Internet. so that doesn't help," Bohanon said. "I don't have a iPad watch or whatever."
Bohanon, 64, said he has been a Kentucky fan for 57 years.
As UK Deputy Athletic Director DeWayne Peevy explained it, the move to SEC Network Plus for the game was reluctantly made. To meet program needs, the game was moved to a date and time when no television windows were available. The same is true for Kentucky's regular-season game against New Jersey Institute of Technology on Nov. 14.
Bohanon accepted this explanation.
"I understand things happen," he said. "We're not stupid."
Bohanon likened UK schedule makers to being president. "You're not going to please everyone," he said.
While acknowledging that not all fans had the means to watch the games digitally, Peevy noted that tickets were available. But that would not help Bohanon and Etherington. "We're out here in Campbellsville," Bohanon said.
Not watching games against Ottawa and NJIT won't diminish Bohanon's rooting interest in Kentucky. He could laugh at how technology has affected the fan experience.
"As I grew up, they only had replays of Kentucky games," he said. "You could not watch one live. A friend came back from a date. He was going to watch the replay. They had lost. I told him, 'Edward, there's no point in watching it. They lost.' He said, 'Well, they might play better in the replay.'"
Reader and frequent email correspondent Ernie Henninger found comfort in the Kansas City Royals winning the World Series.
"The KC Royals have made baseball enjoyable and watchable again ... ," He wrote in an email.
Henninger, who lives in Harrodsburg, says that baseball over-emphasizes power pitching from the likes of Clayton Kershaw and Jake Arrietta and power hitting from players like Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Jose Bautista and Giancarlo Stanton.
"All of which gets dull and tiresome after a while," Henninger wrote. "Finally, the victory comes to those who play the game the way it should be played, with swinging the bat and hitting line drives, fielding gracefully, and running with smart aggression."
Henninger hoped that playing a game "the way it should be played" could be contagious.
"Who knows?" he wrote. "Basketball may also become watchable if more teams move from slam dunks to the crisp passing and clever playmaking."
Depending on who you talk to, and depending on the context, coaches either like or don't like so-called "gamers." That would be players who might waltz through practices, but are reliably competitive in games. Bill Russell would sip coffee and read a newspaper during Boston Celtics practices.
"I have had some who look really good in practice," UK Coach John Calipari said recently. "Then when they smell the popcorn, they don't (play as well). If you're going to be any good, you have to have one or two game guys."
Calipari defined "game guys" as players not afraid to miss decisive shots in the final seconds. He cited Brandon Knight as an example.
Tennessee's new coach, Rick Barnes, did not embrace the idea of gamers. "I don't think coaches like to use the word 'gamer,'" he said. "Because we want practice to mean something."
However, exceptions can be made. "You like players where the bigger the stage, the better they are," Barnes said.
To former UK Coach Billy Gillispie. He turned 56 on Saturday. ... To Trey Lyles. He turned 20 on Thursday. ... To Doron Lamb. He turned 24 on Friday. ... To Dwight Perry. He turns 28 on Monday.