Half a century of covering Louisville sports for Ed Peak

Our man Ed Peak (left), a veteran sportswriter, teams up with Gary Graves of the Associated Press to cover the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May, as well as many University of Louisville games.

Editor’s Note: More on Ed Peak from the man who knows him best, Ed Peak. I first met Ed while we were young sportswriters at the Courier-Journal; he was part of the Friday night high school sports crew, I was on the copy desk. He reminisces about some of the high and low points along the way of a 50-year-plus career of covering local sports.

By Ed Peak

I have been involved in reporting sports since my freshman year of high school. That’s 50 years. I take pride in reporting the facts. I try not to slant the news right or left.

Taking solace that in all my years I have never once jumped out of my seat in a press box to show my emotions for a team I was covering with a loud yahoo. I have never withheld information about a team or individual. Good or bad. I learned old school.

I was covering a Kentucky Colonels basketball game for my college newspaper, The Quadrangle, of Jefferson Community College. The late Earl Cox, then Sports Editor of The Courier-Journal sat next to me. He said to me.”Ed, how would you like to work at the C-J taking high school games on weekends over the telephone. We pay well.”

I jumped at the chance. The C-J was one of the top newspapers in the country at the time. I got to work with one of the greatest Prep Sportswriters in Bob White. I got to work with Dave Kindred, Dick Fenlon, Billy Reed. Mike Sullivan, Tev Lauderman, Jim Bolus, Russ Brown, Ron Coons, Johnny Carrico, Rick Bozich and Eric Crawford just to name a few. I learned from some of the best.

About the same time, 1972, Wayne Perkey, asked if I would do a high school “Game of the Week” for his morning radio show on WHAS 840. I was also asked to help with the Saturday, “Telescore84” scoreboard show that preceded University of Kentucky football games. It was all sports scores and information. I was very fortunate to have these gigs. I learned a lot and appreciate all the help along the way. I learned to be “Fair and Balanced”.

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Scandal turns fan’s Louisville basketball world upside down

When I was a child, we played a silly game called fruit basket turnover.   These last few weeks, I have felt as if I have been in a fruit basket,  turning topsy turvy.  My emotions about “SkankGate” are all jumbled.

At first, I was stunned with the news reports.  Shocked.   Thrown back against the wall.

Mystified.  How could this have happened?

Barbara Springer wonders what hit the program.
Barbara Springer among many UofL fans reeling.

Angry.  How could this be truthful?

Disgusted.  Wall-to-wall media coverage, conclusions reached prematurely.   Guilty until proven innocent.

Betrayed.   By her.   By Andre McGee, maybe.  By players we cared about.

Aggravated.  By media attention spotlighting a brazen, money hungry  prostitute.

Outraged.  By a mother who puts her children in harm’s way.  And brags about it.

Sad.  That a whole student body, a fandom,  and a city itself are smeared by her outrageous  story.

Skeptical.  If the scenarios in the book are true,  is  UofL  the only school where this happens?

Curious.  How could this go on for several years with not one “leak” on any social media?

Embarrassed.  By some fans calling for Coach Pitino to resign or be fired; some  threatening to no longer wear their red and black.

Ashamed.   Of those “fans”  for rushing to judgment.

Frustrated.  The investigation process will drag on a long, long time.

Impatient.   For answers.  For rebuttals.  For explanations.

Encouraged.  That there is at least one local sportswriter (Eric Crawford) in the mainstream media who tries to be objective and thorough.

Charmed.  By two teammates who brave a media storm to answer questions about a scandal of which they had no part.  And their honesty and good humor.

Hopeful. The season still can be a success.  And fun.  And even laudatory.

But  mostly  tired.   Of the whole mess.

Wayne Blackshear passed on opportunities

Whatever, Wayne.

Wayne Blackshear telling the Chicago Tribune, “I sacrificed my game a lot at Louisville for team success. I tried to fit in too much. I really couldn’t show what I could do.”

Blackshear averaged 31.4 minutes per game for the University of Louisville, plenty of time to show what he could do.

Wayne Blackshear
Wayne Blackshear

Coach Rick Pitino made him a captain before the season began, indicating that Blackshear had finally put in the work over the summer to move to the next level, become a team leader, more assertive on the court. Pitino taking issue with fans at times when Blackshear failed to live up to their expectations.

But Pitino also was among Blackshear’s most severe critics, saying after 2013-14 season: “The only player I’ve had in the past four years that hasn’t had substantial improvement is Wayne Blackshear. We’ve got to turn over a whole new leaf. For his own sake, he’s got to wake up and understand that the world will pass him by if he doesn’t live in that gym.”

Blackshear finally got the message, showing up at the gym during the summer months, Pitino proclaiming, “He’s been working twice a day, every single day, since school ended. He’s the biggest surprise and the biggest change.” Before the 2014-15 season began, Pitino named the soft-spoken Blackshear one of the team’s co-captains, hoping that would further motivate him.

But halfway through the season, Blackshear was as inconsistent as ever, hit and miss, a player with an NBA body and NBA skills playing with a passion that seemed to come and go. He would seem to make a breakthrough, only to regress the next game, disappearing for long periods at a time.

The low point came during a 69-59 loss to Syracuse in February when Blackshear fouled out in 19 minutes, with zero points, zero assists, one rebound, zero steals and two turnovers. The high point may have been his final game, a 76-70 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Regional final.  He scored 28 points, playing through sickness at half time and a bloody nose during much of the second half.

Probably the best game of his career, saving his best for the end. Had Blackshear played with the same passion throughout his career, he may have played himself into a high draft pick. Pitino gave him every opportunity to do that, encouraging him to be more aggressive, wanting him to take advantage of his abilities.

When push came to shove, however, the burden was usually on Montrezl Harrell, Terry Rozier or Chris Jones (before he left the team). Wayne, maybe. Some of the time.

As Eric Crawford observed about Blackshear’s comments, “They don’t jibe at all with the way things here, and they don’t serve any useful purpose for Blackshear.”

Sadly, Wayne, for whatever reason, was slow to take advantage of his opportunities at Louisville. If he didn’t show what he could do, that’s on him.

Adidas remains right choice for Louisville basketball

The latest recruiting fiasco in which a basketball recruit chooses the University of Louisville only to quickly change his mind may have some administrators and fans wondering if UofL made a mistake in renewing their apparel and shoe contract with Adidas.

Antonio Blakeney so excited and committed when he announced, only to turn a cold shoulder 11 days later.3nikevsadidas

Back in April, UofL and Adidas agreed to a five-year deal valued at almost $40 million, placing Louisville among the top five athletic departments nationally in footwear and apparel rights among all brands. Tom Jurich said Adidas was the only company he had considered. Whether Nike would have wanted to be the provider will probably never be known, but the deal did not go unnoticed by Nike.

Nike is to tennis shoes what Marlboro is to cigarettes, the dominant market leader, with the inherent ability to set the rules and control the marketplace.  Only in this case, Nike apparently is able to exert its control even further, imposing its will on players, coaches, schools, amateur leagues and fans. Without any repercussions from the NCAA.

WDRB analyst Eric Crawford writes: “If you’re looking to fight the war of shoe company involvement in college sports, you missed it. It’s over. The shoe companies won.”  Then he goes on to suggest that it’s a good thing for players since coaches and schools receive millions of dollars from shoe companies.

While one may respect Crawford, he’s off base on this one, considering that college players aren’t supposed to be receiving extra benefits from anyone. Why not just go ahead and let the boosters fill the players’ pockets because they also donate millions to schools and athletic programs? Open it up for everybody.

While it may require a major sea change and considerable time, Nike’s pervasive influence in collegiate athletics can’t be allowed to go unchallenged. It makes a mockery of the amateur system, rewarding only those who perpetuate the deception.

If the ultimate objective is to preserve the integrity of college athletics, Louisville made the right decision in going with Adidas. If it’s anything else, everybody loses.

Crawford on Petrino and the fear factor

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Some long-awaited insight may have finally been provided into the dramatic shift that occurred in the University of Louisville’s football fortunes after Steve Kragthorpe succeeded Bobby Petrino as head coach. 

Eric Crawford, former Courier-Journal columnist and current WDRB analyst, interviewed several former UofL players off the record for an in-depth analysis. Petrino apparently instilled such fear in players that, even now, they need assurance their identities will be concealed. 

The piece also sheds some light on possible reasons why players under Kragthorpe were mysteriously being benched for games or later dismissed from the team without any explanations.

The logical conclusion is that Petrino and Kragthorpe had different approaches for dealing with substance issues. Doing it the right way may have been the wrong way for one and the wrong way the right way for another … with strikingly different results in the wins and losses columns.

Link to must reading for U of L football fans.