Bias in the Bluegrass?

Tony Vanetti: All right, let’s start with Kentucky football – the first time you’ve got a little pressure on the line this Saturday. It’s been a couple of years since a football game kind of mattered for you all. Your thoughts on Vandy?

Matt Jones: That’s a very good point. It is the first time they go in favored, which is really sort of crazy. They haven’t had a game that mattered that they were favored in since 2011. It’s all set up to have a huge game in two weeks against South Carolina, a chance to get that marquee win. But first they have to beat Vanderbilt this weekend. And in the history of Kentucky football, when there’s a “but first…,” it often doesn’t happen. That’s why I’m slightly nervous.

Vanetti: This is why people and fans are scared of coaching changes. Vandy’s out-scored you guys, triple digits to whatever?

Jones: 78-6 in the past two years.

Vanetti: OK, 78-6 the last two years, one coaching change, and now you guys are double-digit favorites. I mean, it’s unbelievable, college football today – coaching is so important, getting the good players – but do you think they cover the double-digits? Can that offense and defense put together four quarters?

Jones: I think they win, but it’s going to be close. I’m not as convinced. I know the spread went from 2.5 to 16.5. That strikes me as kind of crazy. I think it’s going to be close. I think Vandy is better, although they just suspended their running back indefinitely, and he was probably their best player. So now I don’t think they’re in quite as good a position, but I think this Kentucky team is not as great as a lot of us hope. I think they can get there. I just think it’s going to be a tougher game than maybe people think.

Vanetti: I think UK and UofL had good football games this past weekend, but the story that’s really stuck with people is the cover of the sports page of the Courier-Journal with John Calipari, and that thing has now resulted in an apology letter from the Courier-Journal.

Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari, shown here not crying, addressed campers at the Madness camp out at Memorial.

Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari, shown here not crying, addressed campers at the Madness camp out at Memorial.

Jones: You didn’t like that, did you, Tony?

Vanetti: I thought the picture was funny. I didn’t like the apology. I didn’t think it was needed.

Jones: Yeah, I mean, I did. Not because it offended me, but just from a business perspective. I think it was an unbelievably stupid thing to do. It’s a tough spot for that newspaper to be in with half on one side and half on the other. But you almost are just intentionally making it worse with that. And I firmly believe that media in this town will not do a similar thing about Louisville. They won’t. Now, how it happened – who knows? I think the apology shows one thing: it shows how different today’s media market is. Fans matter. Twenty years ago, Tony, I think you’d agree, there’s no way a newspaper would apologize to a coach for something like that.

Vanetti: No, they don’t apologize. But do you think this is the direction that newspapers need to go in to save their industry?

Jones: Need is irrelevant. If you’re going to be an unbiased entity, then be an unbiased entity. I’m a firm believer that the Louisville media is not an unbiased entity. So, if you’re going to be biased, then say that. If you’re going to be biased, I’m OK with that too. If you want to say “Look, we’re the newspaper in the city of Louisville, we tend to favor the city of Louisville,” then that’s fine. At least I know where you’re coming from. But I think about what happened a couple of years ago when Nerlens Noel got hurt, tore his ACL. They did a cartoon that had Nerlens Noel, had his doctors with his X-ray, and he said “What does that say doc?” and they said “NIT.” And then Kevin Ware got hurt and the cartoon was him on crutches, and a Louisville bird throwing up the “L” heroically. It was the same thing, a season-ending injury, treated completely differently. What made this cartoon bad wasn’t that it was bad; it confirmed it to UK fans if they didn’t think that newspaper was unbiased.

Vanetti: At this point, at where we are as a society and where we get our news, who’s unbiased? Does that exist?

Jones: It’s almost nobody. I don’t think anybody has ever been unbiased. I think people like to think they are unbiased, but they can’t help it. So what you end up having is biased news sources like myself come about as a response to the fact that I don’t think people have ever been totally unbiased. Is it good or is it bad? I don’t know. But I do think the worst situation is to have an entity that says it’s unbiased, and then it’s not. That to me is the worst.

Vanetti: Well, it went down party lines, that’s for sure. UK fans hated it, UofL fans loved it, and Calipari got a jab back in the Herald-Leader.

Jones: I think the lasting legacy of this is that they apologized. I can’t believe they apologized. I mean, I really can’t. I understand why they did and it was probably smart business to,  but I can’t believe it. It’s never happened, even five years ago.

Vanetti: Well, it’s one more time than you’ve apologized.

Jones: Listen, the only think I apologize for is only being right 90 percent of the time. I wish it was 100 percent. Before we stop, let me ask you a real quick question on the football side of things. For you guys, you’re not going to get a real game again – well, I guess you could lose to Syracuse – but you’re probably not going to get a real game until your sort of murderous road stretch. What do you think of this team? Is it what you thought it would be, or behind?

Can Will Gardner step up for the Cards in time for #1 Florida State?

Can Will Gardner step up for the Cards in time for #1 Florida State?

Vanetti: No, I think this team is behind where we thought it would be. The offense is struggling. It’s not even efficient. It was efficient through the first two games. Now they’ve fallen off after the last two games. So the defense is playing lights-out awesome. But the offense has got problems. And when you don’t have a good quarterback, when you don’t have good quarterback play, you’ve got problems. And you know that as a Kentucky fans, the last couple of years? Let’s put Teddy Bridgewater on the UK team with Joker Phillips and see how different the results would’ve been.

Jones: If you don’t have a quarterback, you don’t have nothin’. Especially in college football.

Vanetti: Here’s the thing: Louisville is not guaranteed that the offense is going to get better. It’s not guaranteed. I think if it does, they’re going to have a fine season. But let’s the say the offense stays the same. That really could be a 6-6 season.

Jones: Could be. I’ve been impressed with how good their defense is, but their offense is bad. And you know, Bobby Petrino has got to have a quarterback. Everything he does is predicated on him having good quarterback play. If he doesn’t, then they’re in trouble. The hard part is, I don’t know who the quarterback is coming up. I think Reggie Bonnafon can be OK, but I don’t think he’s a top-level quarterback. I know they’ve got a commitment from a kid down in Florida and maybe he’s Teddy 2, but I kind of like. I like where the UK football program sits, vis-a-vis UofL games in the future. Maybe not the game this year, but in the future, I might rather be Kentucky.

Vanetti: You know, I swear, I think both of them are going in a good direction. And I hope that both of them get back to where we were in 2007, even though Louisville lost that year, where both schools are beating good teams and they’re winning ballgames. That’s where I hope the programs go.

Jones: I think we’re headed in that direction.