One of my frustrations as a sports follower in Kentucky has long been our lack of major-league pro sports, especially NBA basketball.
Across the years, I've heard enthusiasts of big-time college sports here in the commonwealth outline a laundry list of reasons that they wouldn't want elite-level professional teams here.
Many seem to hold the pros in disdain.
As one of the more surreal sports years in Kentucky history has unfolded in 2009, I've been thinking about the objections I've so often heard to pro sports.
In pro sports, the critics say, all they do is wrangle over contracts.
This year in the commonwealth, Billy Gillispie and the University of Kentucky spent their second season together without ever agreeing to a formal contract.
After the coach was removed from his job by the school, Gillispie and UK have sued and counter-sued each other in a dispute over whether the university owes its former men's basketball coach a $6 million buyout.
In pro sports, the critics say, salaries continually escalate with no relation to the economic real world.
This year in the commonwealth, during the worst economic downturn in most of our lifetimes, the University of Kentucky made its new men's basketball coach the highest paid in college hoops at just under $4 million a year.
In pro sports, the critics say, the rampant bad behavior of the participants off the floor/field makes it difficult to identify with and support them.
This year in the commonwealth, the men's basketball coach at Louisville has been caught up in a sex scandal of such magnitude that even CNN and NPR have covered it.
In pro sports, the critics say, the purity of competition has been ruined by the widespread use of performance-enhancing substances.
This year in the commonwealth, one of the University of Kentucky's best football players was lost to a full-year suspension when the NCAA flagged his drug test.
In pro sports, the critics say, there's no room for loyalty or sentiment. Players are treated as easily discarded pieces of meat once they have no value to the team's record.
This year in the commonwealth, UK "waived" at least five scholarship men's basketball players with eligibility remaining because it had recruited what it believed were more talented replacements.
In pro sports, the critics say, teams have an exceedingly quick hook for coaches who don't produce victories immediately (see Curry, Michael, and Pistons, Detroit).
This year in the commonwealth, UK discarded a men's basketball coach after only two years (though, in fairness, there was more than his record involved in that decision).
Meanwhile, many U of L backers are presently agitating to remove a head football coach yet to start his third season.
If nothing else, this bizarre year in Kentucky sports should have removed any remaining illusions about the true nature of big-time college athletics programs.
The poor college players at the big-time schools are still prohibited from reaping the commercial benefit of their labor. But in most other ways, they are every bit the employees of a billion-dollar entertainment industry as are the players of the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Which is why I'm through hoping for major-league pro sports to come to Kentucky.
Why pine for what we already have?