Kentucky loses to Wisconsin, but the Andrew Harrison postgame issues are fine by me

by Kent Sterling

Kentucky's perceived lack of sportsmanship not an issue - at least not to me, and who respects Kentucky less than me?

Kentucky’s perceived lack of sportsmanship not an issue – at least not to me, and who respects Kentucky less than I do?

Twenty year old kids are going to behave erratically when forced to shake hands and answer questions immediately after an emotional loss.

When Kentucky’s dreams of an undefeated National Championship run were ended late last night at Lucas Oil Stadium, the Wildcat players were crestfallen.  They knew their run to perfection had ended, and their behavior belied their immaturity.

Andrew Harrison used language in front of live microphones in response to a question about Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky that should never be uttered anywhere, and he and a few teammates decided the ridiculous ritual of shaking hands immediately after a game’s end was not worth their effort.

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Some are saying that Kentucky players revealed themselves as classless.  Nonsense.

I may be the last person on this planet expected to defend any perceived negative regarding Kentucky Basketball, but in this case, I have only one issue and that is Harrison’s use of the 100% repulsive use of the N-word to describe Kaminsky.

The handshake line is an ill-conceived attempt to codify the notion that these young men play sports without ill-temper and can be best buddies immediately after a hard fought game.  Nothing like vacuous utterances of “Good game. Good game.  Good game…” to make those watching believe that basketball is just a well-intended diversion for the players.

Forget that many of the players who both won and lost last night work many hours every day to refine their basketball skills from age six through yesterday just for the chance to play in a game as meaningful as last night’s.

Many never get over the disappointment of losing a game like last night’s classic in an hour, a day, a year, or ever.  Fans and the media expect kids to get over it in fifteen seconds.  “Tough loss boys!  Shake hands!”  Yeah, right.

As for the “F**k that n***r,” comment from Harrison.  Do you expect Harrison to send Kaminsky a bouquet of flowers to congratulate him.  Minus the n-word, I have no problem with that either.  The media and fans always blather about their fatigue for players and coaches sticking to the postgame script.  They want honesty – until they get it.  Then they eviscerate the guy who has the temerity to say what pops into his head.

Harrison is a competitor who had a chance to be a part of something that has not been done in 39 years.  This Kentucky team would have been welcomed into a very small club of immortals, but because they took their foot off the throttle and allowed Wisconsin to stay in the game longer than they had any business being in it, the kid’s dream was crushed, and he muttered ill-tempered invective near a live mic.

I’m good with all of it.

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Kentucky lost last night in a hell of a basketball game.  They flirted with disaster against Ole Miss, Georgia, and Notre Dame, and they finally came up against a fundamentally sound and experienced team that played a great final five minutes.  Goodbye 40-0.

That chapped Harrison’s ass.  I would expect it might.

If I were putting together a team, Harrison and his twin brother would be among the first in college basketball I would go get.

And for those thinking Kaminsky might harbor ill-will against Harrison, that’s even sillier.  Players know how deeply disappointed they are after a loss.  If Kaminsky liked Harrison before the comments, I’m sure he still does.  If he respected him, that probably hasn’t changed at all either.

If you think all of these players are good-natured choir boys who understand basketball is just a silly game, you’ve never invested the time needed to be great at a team sport.

Don’t let this media-created maelstrom shade your feelings about Harrison.  He’s the same kid he has always been, and similar to the way most are.  He was just more honest at an inconvenient time.

(Kent hosts the Kent Sterling show afternoons from 3p-6p on CBS Sports 1430 in Indianapolis.)

23 thoughts on “Kentucky loses to Wisconsin, but the Andrew Harrison postgame issues are fine by me

  1. Jeff Gregory

    Not buying it, Kent. They are adults; they are expected to act like respectable young men. If college kids are unable to handle a situation like that, this wouldn’t have been news. Everyone else seems to be able suck it up and act with class. Why should UK being any different? I’m not saying it isn’t understandable, just not excusable.

    Would you be fine if it was your boy that conducted himself that way?

    1. kentsterling Post author

      I still don’t shake hands after softball games myself. I saw my son run into a riot at Arlington HS to try to rescue teammates after a fight started in the handshake line. Want to get kids together for handshakes, hugs, and maybe a meal after a ten minute cooling down period, I love it. Shaking hands at midcoast immediately after a game, you are for trouble and put the kids at risk for making tough decisions.

      As for the silliness at the press conference, 99% of players would think similarly – maybe in different language.

      1. Jeff Gregory

        I would have no problem with a ten minute waiting period. But short of that, we have this post game ritual that reminds all of us that a GAME was just played and no one was fighting cancer or going to a foreign war. It is a lesson on perspective and sportsmanship. I don’t think that it is too much of an expectation for young ADULTS to be able handle it. I certainly wouldn’t base my philosophy on the post game handshake by universities during the NCAA tournament on an incident at an inner city high school. Your point would hold a little more water if the post game handshake wasn’t adequately performed 99.5% of the time at the college level.

        I have less a problem with the news conference because he was thinking “out loud”. I understand feeling bad and burned. That, I consider, a private frustrated thought that unfortunately found a hot mic.

        1. kentsterling Post author

          Here’s the thing with the postgame handshake – it’s a completely meaningless ritual to 99.9% of the people who perform it. “Good game,” 20 times with handshakes performed without passion or even interest is only done to convey to a false sense of sportsmanship. Those Kentucky kids lost millions in that game, and anyone who thinks they didn’t is goofy. It’s not curing cancer, but it sure is more than throwing an orange ball through to hoop.

  2. Doug A

    Love your site Kent but I am calling bullshit………if Frank said the same thing I doubt he would get to play Monday night……..not to mention death threats and a lot of backlash……. A real double standard here.

    1. kentsterling Post author

      The double standard is absolutely correct. The n-word, which repulses me regardless of the race of the person delivering it – is interpreted differently depending upon who says it. That’s the prerogative of the African-Americans who were derided (and continue to be) thru its use. We weren’t there to beat the hell out of people using in as they lynched blacks, so if blacks want to claim sole ownership of the word, it’s a small price to pay. That said, when it’s used, I cringe, and if used on Twitter I unfollow the user.

  3. TalG

    Why is it that we apologize for the behavior of the Kentucky players, when in Hockey there is a long-standing tradition of shaking hands between the teams, especially during the Stanley Cup. Whether you win or lose, you STILL get in that line and shake the hands of your opponent, in recognition of the effort that they gave in the game. As brutal a sport as hockey can be, in many respects they (the players) could teach many in this country the meaning of sportsmanship and competition combined with the appreciation of the effort given.

    Was Kentucky’s players wrong in refusing to shake hands? I think so. They should have swallowed their pride, acknowledged the effort that Wisconsin’s players gave in the win, shook hands and go on from there. (The fact that most of those Kentucky players thought that they were ordained to win the championship then move on to the NBA will probably remain with them as a sore that will never heal *because* of the way they behaved.)

    1. kentsterling Post author

      I don’t know that they shook hands near the locker rooms, but I’ve seen it happen many times. Once the team gets together, showers, and collects its thoughts, the players can usually be seen talk to one another in a very friendly way. That’s genuine. The handshake line is a charade.

      Not sure why seeing the teams shake hands has any meaning at all for fans. It doesn’t for most players. I’ve asked dozens of players about the handshake line, and can’t find one who finds meaning in it.

  4. Pauly Balst

    The KY program and fans completely revealed themselves for what they really are. From the frustration punch, to the post game walk off, to the Harrison “statement”, to the chants, to the fans in Lexington burning stuff down, really an unfortunate ending. Embarrassing for a portion of their fan base.

    This team will not be remembered.

    1. Warren in TN.

      Was the IU program and fans completely revealed for what they really are back in 2002? Or is that conveniently forgotten in writing such drivel as that opinion you just made?

      Pauly, I really like you, and usually respect your opinion, but you’re WAY off base this time. Perhaps its’ more revealing of you and what you really generally think of UK fans, instead.

      I’ll let that thought go, though.

      As for not being remembered, I suppose the 2002 IU team has been totally forgotten for like reasons?

      My apologies, I’d forgotten that IU had completely “dis-remembered” about that year and what happened in the aftermath of a defeat. No banners for a Final Four or title game appearance, all of that was stricken from not only memory, but the record books, right?

      I thought so.

      My bad.

      (you deserve to have your chain pulled on HARD for that post)

  5. Franklin

    Shame on you for making excuses for this kid. He could have said something like “Losing hurts, but we were outplayed.” Open mike or not, “F**k that n***r,” is thug language right out the hood and is indicative of what a myth the term “student-athlete” is for so many collegiate football and basketball players in big-time programs. However, once Wisconsin’s season is also over, win or lose, let’s compare what academic work those players will be doing compared to Harrison and his Kentucky teammates. There are academic expectations at Wisconsin for these guys.

    1. jon

      I am not a big fan of saying because he is black he can use that word. That seems to be the consensus. However the way he used was entirely derogatory, if he would have said “that N***R was good ok but he F that…. so if you say F that person I would think he was wrong. He showed no class at all. I have lost some heart breakers in my time and I agree a cool down period would be good. I say let the kids shower and make themselves presentable. 40 min would be good in my opinion, most NFL players shower before a press Conference. Let the media wait they are getting paid. I believe it was Michael Jordan who insisted on wearing a suit for Press Conference’s, but I may wrong.

      1. twine time

        A line needs to be drawn such that the word can only be hurled by one black at another; a black should not be able to use the word against a white guy cause the white guy cannot respond in kind. The black person who does this should be punished accordingly. Solid

  6. Bill Robinson

    Kent – There is BS in your article that, at best, reveals you to be a UK homer, and, at worst, exposes you to be a writer who is entirely incapable of writing an observant and impartial piece. “…allowed Wisconsin to stay in the game….” Please, Kent, do inform your readership: When was the last time that a team’s defense caused the Wildcats to commit three consecutive shot-clock violations this season? Please do, Kent. The clock is running….

    1. Bill Robinson

      By the way, Kent, as was noted it IS a game. These folks are not dodging IEDs; they just finished a very emotionally-packed game of hoops and a hand-slap is not too much to ask. Yes, I did play college ball (certainly not D1, nor on any team that could be mentioned in the same breath as the word “renowned”) and must say that we did suffer our share of excruciating losses. As much as I hated losing, it was part of my maturation process (read: like Harrison, I was not yet mature) but it was still part of the game to give the victor his due.

    2. kentsterling Post author

      That is the first time I have ever been called a Kentucky homer. People in Kentucky will find that quite amusing. Wisconsin’s defense had nothing to do with Kentucky turning it over three times on shot clock violations. That was all Kentucky deciding to willfully eating the first 20 seconds.

      I love Wisconsin’s team and have been a big honk throughout the season, and while its fundamental execution was astounding, Kentucky beat Kentucky.

  7. Twine Time

    a less colorful young man would be suspended, expelled and attending sensitivity training with the rev. al and jesse. equal is equal and the word should stay in huckleberry finn

  8. Kevi

    That may be the most apologetic defense for unacceptable behavior that I have ever read! All of the UK offenders, not just Harrison, made a very poor choice in a very public place; they clearly need to have a few behavioral and sensitivity classes. Had the colors or the teams been reversed, the press would have gone wild.

    Next time, take a deep breath and reevaluate whether you want to post something as foolish as your diatribe. “It’s O.K. to have nothing to say…just don’t open your mouth and say it!”

  9. Warren in TN.

    Andrew apologized to Frank and it was accepted and then dismissed, as it should have been. It seems to me like this fact has been completely overlooked by the readers of this site. Some of you appear to be more offended than the person it was directed at and are hanging onto your own negative feelings rather than simply letting it go and moving on! In other words, get a grip. (apologies if that offends anyone, or is taken as being overly harsh, it’s just my personal take)

    Nevertheless, it was the wrong thing to say at an extremely difficult moment of frustration and disappointment.

    Now, who among us has said something we regret and should not have said in a difficult and trying moment? If you’re a sinless saint and have never done so, then go ahead and cast that first stone. I suspect that when you take an honest assessment of yourself, you’ll quickly come to the truth. Maybe you all should heed wiser words in simply not casting that first stone to begin with. Shame on you that already have.

    One should also recall the reaction of Indiana fans in Bloomington following the 2002 title game loss. That, too, was embarrassing for a portion of the Hoosier fanbase. (lest any of you forget)

    As for Pauly’s comment about this UK team not being remembered, hogwash. That Indiana team has been remembered regardless of the pitiful actions in Bloomington after that 2002 title game performed by the Hoosier faithful. Likewise, there will be a banner hanging in the Rafter’s for this years’ UK team. 17th Final Four. 38-1. Definitely will be remembered, and for many, many, good reasons. (as it should be)

    Deny that, or dislike that all you care to, it will not change the truth of what I just said.

    The real truth of this whole matter is simple. People react in various ways both in victory and defeat, as teams and as individuals – some with class and respect, others letting the emotional immediate after-effects color their judgment in a very negative way, and sometimes it brings out the best and most positive side in individuals. Realize that for what it simply is : human nature.

    My advice for the responders to this article is to take a long, hard look at how you, yourself, have reacted to similar situations you have experienced in the past, and to react with proper understanding in that light. Perhaps, only then, can you attain the proper perspective that I would say (judging by the responses I’m seeing here) could lead you to write with better responses in the future, as Kent has done with his opinion in this article.

    sincerest respects,
    – warren
    (ps – and thank you, Kent, for being a voice of reason)


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