There was a time when every high school kid with a decent two-hand set shot dreamed of playing for Adolph Rupp at UK, or Peck Hickman at Louisville.
And their mother might look up from her sewing, might even turn down Jack Benny on the radio, and say, “That’s nice, Bobby, have you done your homework?”
The NBA? The kid could probably make more working construction. No, it was the love of the game and the glorious tradition of the bluegrass. Alex Groza or Charlie Tyra if he were tall and lanky enough, Frank Ramsey or John Turner if he were athletic and clever, Cliff Hagan or Junior Bridgeman if he were truly gifted.
And the boy’s mom? She’s gone from “Have you done your homework yet?” to “Have you sent your video to Rick Pitino yet?”
Mothers at their sons’ sports activities used to be seen and not heard. It was the fathers who screamed and yelled. That’s clearly changing.
And reality TV, which will be as much a guide to future cultural historians as cave drawings and papyrus scribblings, is about to be right there to record everything.
According to The New York Times, a new reality TV show is percolating around six Kentucky mothers whose sons are playing high school basketball.
The Times reports that the six women have signed a deal with NorthSouth Productions (“Wrecked: Life in the Crash Lane”; “Paranormal Cops”; “Ugliest House on the Block”) to make a show.
The Times says, “It is unclear if the project will appear on the screen any time soon, but the producer Blaine Hopkins called the mothers perfectly suited to reality TV, describing them as ‘hysterical, passionate, real and competitive.’ ”
The article goes on: “The mothers say they want to draw attention to their sons in hopes of drawing a college scholarship. But their zeal has raised the eyebrows of the boys’ coaches, as well as the boys themselves.”
So let’s meet our cast:
Michelle Green, come on down. Michelle (Lexington) has been known to get escorted from the stands by security guards. “I turn into a complete different person (at games),” she told the Times writer. “I am an animal. I heckle everybody — the parents, the players, the referees.”
She outshouts the cheerleaders, leading the student section in the chant: “I’m blind! I’m deaf! I want to be a ref!”
She put her Bryant Station house up for sale so son Jordan could play at Henry Clay High in Lexington. The sale fell through, though, so Michelle filed for bankruptcy — and then moved into the Henry Clay district.
“He’s got to get a scholarship,” Green said of her son. “When in sixth grade, they start talking about scholarships, it became business for me.”
As for 18-year-old Jordan, he told the reporter, “Sometimes, I’ve wanted to know what being a regular kid was like. From Day 1, all I’ve known is basketball.”
Susie Walker-Byrd, come on down. Susie (Louisville) has already moved son Bryce to three different high schools. “I know I’ve been talked about,” she told the Times. “I don’t even care because I’m going to do what I’m going to do for mine.”
She said the whole family sacrificed for Bryce, 17, now a senior at Eastern High School. The Times reported she did not let her daughters participate in after-school activities for several years because all extra resources were going to pay for Bryce’s basketball.
And what’s Bryce’s take on all this? He told the paper, “I don’t want my children to go through what I’ve had to go through.”
Carmelita Clay, come on down. Carmelita (Louisville) doesn’t quite fit the pattern. She is a single mother sending son Craig Owens Jr. to Trinity High School. And she had to become the parental rooting section for Craig Jr. because Craig Sr. is in prison for selling cocaine.
According to the article, “It has been a trying time for her family. Her younger son was recently found to have spinal stenosis after a football injury.
“The family sees basketball, and the college degree it could bring Craig, as a possible lifeline, even if Clay knows that her son is probably too small to play power forward at a competitive program. ‘He’s good,’ she said, ‘but he’s behind on where he should be.’ ”
“I’m not trying to let my mom spend more money on something I can control,” said Craig. “I want that scholarship bad, especially a D-1 scholarship.”
He may not get that scholarship, though proceeds from the show may well pay for college, because the chances of basketball success are a long shot. Rick Bolus, a scout who specializes in Kentucky high school ball, said none of the sons had a real shot at that Division I scholarship, let alone the NBA.
The article didn’t discuss the show’s other three principals, but it did interview Daniel Brown, Jordan Green’s coach at Henry Clay, who said that he would not participate in the television show.
“It does individualize the kid when you’re talking about a team sport,” he said.
When the high school basketball coach becomes the voice of reason, you know you’re swimming in the deepest, murkiest part of the pond.