John Calipari throwing out a first pitch at a ballgame might seem like pretty tame stuff, but somehow, everything the newly-titled coach does creates some kind of controversy.
When Coach Cal hurled a ceremonial ball before the April 24th Cincinnati Reds game, the city’s fractured alliances were on full display. In other words, Calipari got booed, vociferously. This ticked off Reds announcer Marty Brennaman, and he let fans know it right then and there.
Since then, Brennaman has kept talking (it’s sort of his job, after all), and he’s leveled his ire at just about everyone who was at the game, and even several thousand who weren’t. We’ll pick up the story as told by the Lexington Herald-Leader:
“We’re a regional franchise,” Brennaman said later in a telephone conversation later in the week, “and Kentucky is a very important part of that region. I said, ‘You people ought to be ashamed of yourselves.’ ”
As Brennaman recalled, the Reds have recognized teams in the region at least as far back as 1999, when John Cooper and Jim O’Brien, Ohio State’s football and basketball coaches, respectively, took bows.
Of course, the Reds invited Calipari to throw out the first pitch because Kentucky won this year’s NCAA Tournament.
For whatever reason, the invitation was unpopular with some people.
“That’s just stupid,” Brennaman said. “For people to get upset over it, it’s the most ludicrous thing that I’ve ever heard of.”
Seldom shy about speaking his mind, Brennaman also criticized Kentucky fans, presumably those living in Northern Kentucky, in particular, for not attending the Reds-Giants game Tuesday in greater numbers.
“All I hear about is Big Blue Nation, and Big Blue this and Big Blue that,” he said in recalling his on-air comments. “I said, I’m frankly surprised and disappointed at the number of Kentucky fans who showed up at the ballpark tonight knowing (Calipari) and his staff and the trophy were all going to be here.
“I guess you’re Big Blue fans as long as you don’t have to go into your pocket and buy a ticket.”
As William F. Buckley might say: Oh, snap! You got told.
In defense of Big Blue Nation, a quick look at the photo above would seem to indicate that ennui about the Reds is a regional epidemic, and not reserved for residents of the Bluegrass State. At least Calipari provoked some kind of reaction.
Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.