Basketball gave them com­mon purpose

Lexington Herald-Leader (Sunday) - - Sports - BY JERRY TIPTON

This week­end proves that the basketball gods have a sense of hu­mor. They also ap­pre­ci­ate irony.

At the same time that Ken­tucky and Louisville re­newed their blue-red, Big Brother-Lit­tle Brother, taste great-less fill­ing clash of al­ter­na­tive re­al­i­ties, an ex­am­ple ap­peared of how basketball can unite “us” and “them.”

It seems fit­ting that Repub­li­can con­gress­man Andy Barr, who won re­elec­tion in Novem­ber by a 51-48 mar­gin, would play a key role. He and Demo­cratic con­gress­man Richard Neal of Mas­sachusetts worked to­gether on a fund-rais­ing ef­fort to ben­e­fit the Naismith Me­mo­rial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Barr and Neal co-spon­sored a Com­mem­o­ra­tive Coin Act, which the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives passed in Septem­ber

2017. The Se­nate passed the bill this month. It now must be signed by ar­guably the most di­vi­sive fig­ure in the coun­try, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

“This is ad­mit­tedly a po­lar­ized time in Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal history,” Barr said Wed­nes­day. “This was truly a bi-par­ti­san ef­fort be­tween a lib­eral Demo­crat from Mas­sachusetts in Richard Neal and a con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­can from Ken­tucky.”

The same kind of co­op­er­a­tion played out in the Se­nate where El­iz­a­beth War­ren of Mas­sachusetts and Mitch McCon­nell of Ken­tucky helped steer the bill to pas­sage.

“It’s a good story to tell about how basketball can bring to­gether the coun­try,” Barr said. “I think it’s great that this process to com­mem­o­rate basketball was done in such a col­lab­o­ra­tive and bi­par­ti­san way.”

The two-year ef­fort also saw con­tri­bu­tions from the win­ningest col­lege basketball pro­gram (Ken­tucky) and the pro­gram with the most NCAA Tour­na­ment cham­pi­onships (UCLA).

For­mer UCLA Al­lAmer­i­cans Bill Wal­ton and Ka­reem Ab­dulJab­bar were among those who lob­bied House ma­jor­ity leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to bring the Com­mem­o­ra­tive Coin Act to a vote.

UK Coach John Cali­pari made calls, lob­bied McCon­nell and even coached in a game pit­ting mem­bers of Congress against lob­by­ists. McCarthy was one of his play­ers.

“It was funny,” Barr said. “I got to wit­ness Cal coach our team. And it was in the first hud­dle, the guys said, ‘Hey, Coach, what do we need to do?’ And he said,

‘Well, the first thing you guys need to do, you guys need to get back. You’re not get­ting back on de­fense.’

“And the sec­ond thing he said was, ‘You guys have got to breathe. You’re not breath­ing out there.’”

In a game for char­ity, the lob­by­ists beat a team of House rep­re­sen­ta­tives that Barr de­scribed as “mid­dle-aged men pretty out of shape.”

Lex­ing­ton busi­ness­man Jim Host, who is one of 13 life­time Trus­tees of the Naismith Me­mo­rial Basketball Hall of Fame, first ap­proached Barr two years ago about spon­sor­ing the Com­mem­o­ra­tive Coin Act. Host thought it was ap­pro­pri­ate for a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from basketball-ob­sessed Ken­tucky to co-spon­sor with a col­league whose dis­trict in­cludes the Hall of


It also helped that Barr is chair­man of the House Fi­nan­cial Sub­com­mit­tee on Mon­e­tary Pol­icy and Trade, which over­sees the U.S. Mint.

As­sum­ing Trump signs the bill, the coins will be avail­able in 2020. The tim­ing is some­thing of a com­pro­mise. The spon­sors were hop­ing for 2019, which will be the 60th an­niver­sary of the Basketball Hall of Fame. But the Mint makes no more than two com­mem­o­ra­tive coins each year, and 2019 will have coins mark­ing the 100th year of the Amer­i­can Le­gion and the 50th an­niver­sary for Apollo 11.

The coins, which are le­gal ten­der, will come in the form of $5 gold coins, $1 sil­ver coins and 50 cent clad coins. There is a sur­charge of $35 for the gold coins, $10 for the sil­ver and $5 for the clad.

In the past, com­mem­o­ra­tive coins have been minted to honor such peo­ple and en­ti­ties as Mark Twain (2016), the Base­ball Hall of Fame (2014), the Civil Rights Act of 1965 (2014), the Girl Scouts (2013), the Lewis & Clark Bi­cen­ten­nial (2004), Jackie Robin­son (1997), the Statue of Liberty (1986) and sev­eral Olympic Games (1984, 1988, 1992 and 2002).

Pur­chases can be made by Democrats and Repub­li­cans, plus fans of UK and U of L, North Carolina and Duke, etc.

“Richard Neal and I are now friends,” Barr said of his co-spon­sor. “We can work to­gether on tax leg­is­la­tion, on trade, on other things be­cause we had this ex­pe­ri­ence. That’s kind of a great side ben­e­fit to this whole process.”


Of course, Ken­tucky played Duke on the night of this year’s mid-term elec­tions. Yes, Andy

Barr said, UK’s 118-84 loss to Duke put a metaphor­i­cal wet blan­ket on the cel­e­bra­tion of his elec­tion vic­tory.

“Any­time Ken­tucky loses, es­pe­cially to Duke, it puts a damper on things for sure,” Barr said.

Barr said that Ken­tucky’s game against Duke played a part in his elec­tion strat­egy. Know­ing a num­ber of UK fans would be go­ing to In­di­anapo­lis for the game, his cam­paign alerted sup­port­ers of the like­li­hood of long lines of vot­ers. The cam­paign ad­vised get­ting to the polls early and re­minded vot­ers that an ab­sen­tee bal­lot could be used.

An­other prob­lem arose when Barr was de­clared the win­ner. The start of the Ken­tucky-Duke game was near­ing.

“My cell phone was blow­ing up, and I was re­ceiv­ing a lot of text mes­sages,” Barr said. “And not just con­grat­u­la­tory text mes­sages, but fans and sup­port­ers of mine who are very anx­ious, en­cour­ag­ing me to get down­stairs and give my vic­tory speech be­cause tip-off was only 30 min­utes away.”

When asked if this was hum­bling, Barr said, “I love it be­cause it re­in­forced that my con­stituents have their pri­or­i­ties straight.”

Barr was among those Ken­tucky fans want­ing to wrap up the pol­i­tics and watch the game. He got back to his room near the end of the first half. “And it was al­ready a very dis­ap­point­ing game,” he said.

Barr, 45, was philo­soph­i­cal about UK’s 34point loss.

“I’m one of those Ken­tucky fans who live and die with ev­ery game,” he said. “But I guess in my older age, I’ve come to ac­cept early-sea­son losses a lit­tle bit bet­ter. As Ken­tucky im­proves over the course of the sea­son, if we can make it to the Fi­nal Four, maybe we can get a re­match with them.”

Oh, Barr added one other thing about the UK-Duke game. “I wish we’d got­ten Wil­liamson,” he said in ref­er­ence to the re­cruit­ment of Duke fresh­man Zion Wil­liamson.


The UK-U of L game in the 1983 NCAA Tour­na­ment, which was dubbed “the Dream Game,” stands out in the mem­ory of Lex­ing­ton busi­ness­man and sports mar­ket­ing pi­o­neer Jim Host.

Host as­signed an­nounc­ers to call NCAA Tour­na­ment games. In this case, a momentous game had an iconic play-by­play an­nouncer.

Marty Glick­man, who called New York Knicks games for 21 sea­sons and New York Giants games for 23 sea­sons, worked the Ken­tucky-Louisville


Sports­writer Scott Cac­ci­ola of The New York Times re­cently ex­am­ined the Los An­ge­les Clip­pers’ good start to the NBA sea­son de­spite not adding high­pro­file free agents. Two play­ers who have helped the Clip­pers re­main com­pet­i­tive are first-round pick Shai Gil­geousAlexan­der from UK and for­mer U of L for­ward Mon­trezl Har­rell.

In a re­cent vic­tory over de­fend­ing cham­pion Golden State, Har­rell scored 23 points, “then ap­peared for his postgame in­ter­views in a de­signer life vest,” Cac­ci­ola wrote. In that same game, Gil­geous-Alexan­der played 38 min­utes and scored 18 points.

“Har­rell and Gil­geousAlexan­der have been rev­e­la­tions . . . ,” Cac­ci­ola wrote.


To for­mer Arkansas coach Nolan Richard­son. He turned 77 on Thurs­day . ... To Kansas Coach Bill Self .He turned 56 on Thurs­day . ... To for­mer UK as­sis­tant coach Jim Hat­field .He turned 75 on Fri­day . ... To Travis Ford. He turned 49 on Satur­day . ... To Eloy Var­gas. He turns 30 on Sun­day (to­day) . ... To Aminu Tim­ber­lake. He turns 46 on New Year’s Day . ... To Irv­ing Thomas. He turns 53 on Wed­nes­day . ... To Ran­dolph Mor­ris. He turns 33 on Wed­nes­day . ... To for­mer UK pres­i­dent Charles Wething­ton. He turns 83 on Wed­nes­day.


Con­gress­men Andy Barr, a Ken­tucky Repub­li­can, and Richard Neal, a Mas­sachusetts Demo­crat, teamed up on a fund-rais­ing ef­fort to ben­e­fit the Naismith Me­mo­rial Basketball Hall of Fame.

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