Championships, Memories, Riots, Country Music, Booty Calls and Joey Votto
A memorable Kentucky basketball season ended Monday night with an NCAA Championship game worthy of the season it closed.
The game and its aftermath were filled with memorable moments and images. Anthony Davis picking a lob pass out of the air and starting a fast break was as good a defensive play as you’ll ever see. Doron Lamb’s second half threes barely 30 seconds apart gave Kentucky breathing room it desperately needed as Kansas had closed the UK lead to 10. Marquis Teague’s three-pointer late in the shot clock lifted sinking spirits, putting Kentucky back up 10 with under three minutes to play. His missed free throw up six with 36 seconds to play briefly sunk those same spirits.
After the game there was senior Darius Miller, a Kentucky kid who survived some the of the darkest times in recent UK basketball history, showing up for the press conference with one of the Final Four nets around his neck and clutching the championship trophy. Speaking of the trophy, just as memorable for Cats fans still stinging from the NCAA’s Enes Kanter decisions last season was the sight of NCAA President Mark Emmert handing that trophy to John Calipari.
I loved every one of those moments, but none are what I will remember most about the championship.
The last time the Wildcats won the title, I was slumped on a couch in the small living room of my first house. Lying on my chest, decked out in his Kentucky footie pajamas was my then six-month-old son. When the game ended and the Cats had beaten Utah we got up and I took him outside to listen for the fireworks with me.
Now, because of television needs and for the benefit of people living on the west coast (like they need another break. They already live on the west coast), the NCAA title game starts at the ridiculous time of 9:23, but because this is spring break week, that infant son got to watch the game with me again, this time as a teenager. He’s a lot like me, so he stressed out, panicked and worried right along with me, and when the game ended, he and his brother (who joined us with about three minutes left) screamed and shouted and ran and jumped around The World’s Greatester Basement (my man cave where we watch games) and went outside again with me to hear the fireworks.
And as excited as I was by the game, as much as I’ll remember all of those big plays and has truly happy as I am for Miller, watching my sons celebrate last night’s Wildcats championship — the way I celebrated back when Kyle Macy, Jack Givens and crew won in 1978 – is what I’ll remember most vividly from last night.
Riots Take 2
Local idiots opted to celebrate the win by once again pouring into the streets to set things on fire, and in one case shoot somebody. I don’t feel like writing about it again, but if you want to know how I feel, just go back and read the post from Sunday and change the dates in your head.
The only good to come of it all was this hysterical twitter account.
The Most Unexpected Part of Monday
I’m not a big Jake Owen fan. Of the songs of his I’ve heard, most fall solidly in a range that’s not quite pop and not quite country that I just can’t stand. (Don’t get me wrong. I like some pop and a lot of country, I just like for music to know what it is. I’m also the guy who doesn’t like his food to touch on a plate.) But I really like his current hit Alone With You. The title makes it sound like a love song, but it’s not. It’s a lust song about a guy who desperately wants things to work out with a girl who is only interested in him after she’s had a couple of cocktails. The third line of the song is “You only kiss me when you’re drunk.” And she gets drunk just enough to keep him hanging on.
I think the song resonates because about 95% of all men have had that exact relationship at some point in their lives. For the last 20 years or so, that’s the kind of relationship I’ve had with the Cincinnati Reds. And Monday they went on a bender and ran out a baseball booty call to a fan base desperate to back a winner.
In the middle of National Championship Game excitement Monday, word started to leak that my beloved Reds and 2010 National League Most Valuable Player Joey Votto had agreed to the terms of a 10-year, $225 million extension. For Reds fans, the numbers are so astounding that I did the math wrong and said something to my dad about the Reds paying Votto $10 million per year (an amount that STILL barely makes sense).
After his MVP season, the Reds tried to lock Votto up long term to go with young right fielder Jay Bruce who is signed through 2016 with an option for 2017. The best they could do was three years which would have expired at the end of next season. After that, Votto – who turns 29 in September and is one of the league’s best pure hitters – would be in line to make huge money; the kind of huge money that the Reds generally don’t pay.
The extension locks Votto up through 2023 and with a no-trade clause the Reds can’t just dump him to have somebody else pick up the salary at least without his ok. This is the baseball fan equivalent of dating a pretty girl who’s going to New York for the summer to pursue a modeling career. You’re sure you’re going to lose her until she asks you to marry her and takes you along on the trip.
It’s a very un-Redslike move, but this coupled with the Bruce contract may signal a change in philosophy for the franchise. I saw it somewhere described as paying for future production instead of rewarding past production, which means it’s not the terrible Adam Dunn contract or the franchise-crippling Barry Larkin contract of 2000 (Again, don’t get me wrong, I loved Larkin, but he held the franchise hostage to get one last big deal and it gave the Reds absolutely zero room to improve. He played 45 games one of the three seasons of that deal and 70 another).
That doesn’t mean there’s no risk. Ken Griffey, Jr. was just a year older than Votto when he came to the Reds in 1999 and he missed large portions of five of his nine seasons in Cincinnati with injuries. But Griffey also had a lot more mileage on him, having already played 10 Major League seasons at a breakneck pace. This is Votto’s fifth playing first base.
Regardless of the risk, the idea that the Reds have two reasonably young, incredibly talented superstars locked down for at least the next five seasons is a heartening development for Reds fans just two days ahead of what passes for Opening Day these days. It’s a fan base that has to be hoping the franchise doesn’t sober up soon.