With a couple of days left still until the frenzy of Derby Week, I warmed up with an active schedule of interesting activities available only in Louisville, Kentucky.
First, you can listen to my conversation with Darren Rogers, the big man on campus (at least as far as 2,000 media members are concerned) at the new and improved Churchill Downs. Here’s a link to our show, which also includes Kentucky Derby Festival board member Jill Bell.
The biggest improvement is the massive new scoreboard you’ve probably heard about on the backside. Of course, the infield has changed a lot since I ended my eight-year stretch of consecutive Infield experiences in 1989. And I’m not a fan of most of the changes (all that concrete), but the new scoreboard is a big improvement no matter what your vantage point. Pull out all your synonyms for “big” to describe it. I can’t wait to see it in action.
And a new area of the track that Darren showed me, with an elevated view of the Derby starting gate, will be an awesome place to watch. It reminds me of the area above the South End Zone at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. The new facade facing Central transforms the look of the place. It’s in a spot where Rogers told me Downs president and South End resident Kevin Flanery used to cut the fence and charge a reduced entry fee to his friends.
I think all my liberal progressive friends and Bill Maher fans showed up at the Library Wednesday to hear from journalist Matt Taibbi. He spoke for 90 minutes about injustices in the American justice system, specifically contrasting how white collar financial criminals manage to avoid jail time while committing crimes that affect millions versus the minor offenses that put the less-privileged behind bars. His book, The Divide, is high on my reading list.
On Firday, I took my son Luke out to a basketball game at Freedom Hall, where we marveled at how old and out-of-date the place seemed, having experienced the Yum! Center on a regular basis. The game was the Kentucky Derby Festival Basketball Classic, and featured three U of L recruits. It’s the oldest of these all-star games in the country. The highlight may have been U of L recruit Jaylen Johnson taking a feed from his Mom in the Dunk Contest, but we were also impressed by Ballard recruit Quentin Snyder’s court presence.
For those of you who follow local media, I had two interesting stories at Insider Louisville. Check out my piece on the new political show on WHAS-TV, hosted by Joe Arnold. And I had the only local story on the sudden departure of Claudia Coffey from the WHAS-TV anchor desk. Both have been guests on the Rusty Satellite Show.
So all in all it was a great week, not including playing golf with my girlfriend Paula on Saturday. And one more thing I never expected. I walked into the Westport LAC for my regular racquetball game Friday afternoon. I noticed the guy on the court, by himself, looked like he was pretty good, but I couldn’t see him clearly. So I got dressed in the locker room, thinking maybe I’d challenge this stranger.
But when I got over to the court I recognized that it was none other than Kane Waselenchuk. Now that may not mean much to you, but Kane is the best player in the world. See for yourself in this New York Times profile.
He hasn’t lost a professional match in four years, and has been #1 since 2009. He’s married to a Louisville girl, Kim Russell, a champion on the court herself. I used to play her Dad, Rick, in the 1980s at the YMCA. I compared it to Tiger Woods hitting balls at Seneca, or maybe LeBron James showing up unannounced at a U of L basketball practice to get some work in. But neither superstar dominates his sport the way Kane does.
There were only three of us by the courts, and Kane, who’s a really cool guy, agreed to play my friend Travis in a game that was as lopsided as you might expect. I asked Kim why they were here, and her answer tells you a lot about how someone can become a dominant force in any sport. They were in town to visit her family, and when she asked Kane what he wanted to do, he said he wanted to practice. And that’s how the #1 player in the world ended up hitting balls at my club.