Well, well, well, 2016. We can call you a lot of things, but boring isn’t one of them.
Lexington’s Chris Stapleton took home a couple of Grammy awards for “Best Country Album of the Year” and “Best Country Solo Performance.”
Kentucky legend Wendell Berry won the National Book Critics Circle lifetime achievement award.
The amazing Jennifer Bielstein departed Louisville’s Actors Theatre for the illustrious Guthrie Theater of Minnesota.
Shakespeare’s First Folio, “the book that gave us Shakespeare,” paid a visit to Louisville. It was here at the Frazier Museum back in November.
Speaking of, your Kentucky Shakespeare represented America at Shakespeare’s big legacy celebration in Stratford Upon Avon and received a bevy of coverage. Huge thanks to Catherine Fannin Peel and Shakespeare Birthplace Trust for making that all happen.
KFC introduced edible nail polish based on the “Finger Lickin’ Good” slogan.
That video is just hypnotic is all there is to it.
And Extra Crispy Sunscreen, which they were careful to say was not edible. Also, Colonel Sanders wrestled a giant chicken at WWE’s “Summerslam.”
In July, The Ark Encounter, a Noah’s Ark theme park, opened its doors in Williamstown, Ky. There are dinosaurs aboard.
Listmania: Per usual, we’re on all kinds of lists. Like, a lot.
Louisville ranked No. 18 on OpenTable’s “25 Most Romantic Cities in America for 2016.” Lexington came in at No. 24.
The Culture Trip named Louisville No. 6 on its list of “The 15 Best Cities In The World For Food.”
Kentucky Science Center ranked No. 5 on Tripping’s list of “best children’s museums in the U.S.”
Against the Grain’s 70k named Kentucky’s top beer, says RateBeer.
Forbes named Centre College the best in Kentucky.
Real Estate site BuildFax named Louisville No. 1 among the “Top 20 US Cities for Commercial Remodeling.”
Country Living gave us the “11 Incredible Historical Homes You Should Visit in Kentucky.”
No. 18 of the “25 Best Cities for Jobs” according to Glassdoor.
No. 3 by Conde Naste Traveler on its list of “Airbnb’s 10 Most Hospitable Cities in the U.S.”
No. 9 on Bankrate’s list of “The 10 best cities for homeowners.”
Louisville’s El Taco Luchador named the best tacos in Kentucky by BuzzFeed.
Louisville’s Belgravia Court listed as the “most charming street” by Southern Living.
American Planning Association named Old Louisville one of America’s great neighborhoods.
The Human Rights Campaign named Louisville among its 37 “All-Star Cities,” exemplifying best practices in inclusive health care and city services along with policy procedures like nondiscrimination laws.
Sports Ball: Former University of Louisville quarterback superstar, No. 5, Teddy Bridgewater started his first NFL playoff game for the Minnesota Vikings. And he made it to his first Pro Bowl, despite being ranked No. 22 of NFL passers.
Things looked promising as he headed into this season, as he turned in an amazing performance in a pre-season outing against the Chargers of San Diego:
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) August 28, 2016
But it was not meant to be. Just days later and not a half an hour into practice, Mr. Bridgewater suffered a season-ending knee injury.
But it was around about that time, when Mr. Bridgewater’s year came to a sudden halt, that current University of Louisville fighting football Cardinals quarterback Lamar Jackson started to ascend into rarified air, beginning with a 70-14 victory over the Charlotte 49ers. Jackson accounted for eight touchdowns: six in the air, two on the ground.
Meanwhile, WKU had trouble getting out of the tunnel.
The Cardinals continued their tear going into September’s matchup with Florida State, which brought College GameDay to town, reserved for the biggest of the biggest games in college football. Louisville won that one too, 63-20. How can you lose when you run this at the start of the game?
"That's one of the greatest cities in America, Louisville, KY."
— LouisvilleFootball (@UofLFootball) September 17, 2016
It wasn’t until October’s loss to Clemson that we saw the soft underbelly of the Cardinals. Clemson beat them 42-36, and some say the team never quite looked the same again, losing another must-win game to Houston in November and a rivalry game to Kentucky in December.
But through it all, Lamar Jackson’s dominance continued, as he remained a constant lock as the NCAA’s top player all the way through December, when he claimed just about every individual achievement award out there, including the Heisman — the first Cardinal in history to win.
Turning to basketball, in the fall of 2015, a tell-all book, “Breaking the Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen,” claimed a former University of Louisville basketball assistant hired the book’s author, Katina Powell, to set up parties on campus with strippers and escorts from 2010 to 2014. Head coach Rick Pitino said he had no knowledge of the events or his staff involvement. An NCAA investigation ensued.
In February, the Cardinals issued a self-imposed ban on post-season play, sitting out the NCAA tournament. In October, the NCAA formally charged Rick Pitino with failure to monitor a staff member. The university received no violations resulting from the investigation.
However, the battling basketball Cardinals are seeing some light at the end of a long dark tunnel. They’re off to a great start this season, including a 73-70 victory over the Kentucky Wildcats just a week or so ago, only the second time they’ve beaten the Wildcats since John Caliper took over in 2009.
Politics: At the start of the year, we were still deep into primary season, as the 347 candidates vying for the GOP nomination slugged it out. Sen. Rand Paul, despite struggling in national support, made a good run of it for the presidency of these United States, finishing strong in his final debate in January, said The Washington Post. President-elect Trump did not participate.
Said Sen. Paul:
“I think that he has brought the debate, the presidential debate, the tenor of the debate to a historic low, and so yeah, I think it’s fine if he misses because it does bring up the respectability of the debate when you don’t have a guy that’s talking about things that really are inappropriate even in mixed company.’”
Justice Antonin Scalia died in February, and filling his vacancy became one of the biggest political narratives of the year. On the day he died, Sen. Mitch McConnell pledged not to accept any nominees from President Obama, taking the gamble on his successor.
Said Sen. McConnell:
“In short, there will not be action taken.”
A few weeks later, there was even a song about it:
And it was around that time, Mr. Trump was surging past just about every other GOP candidate in the primary. I made this observation on Feb. 19:
Not for nothing, this kind of clear whakadoo is how we get a Trump doing so well. Because again, regardless of our political sides, people see all of this for the posturing nonsense it is, and they’re rightfully frustrated and looking anywhere else for a solution. “Well, we tried all the sensible things we knew how to do to fix the leak in the kitchen — why not let crazy uncle Donnie give it a try? I don’t think the sledge hammer is the way to go, but what’s the worst that could happen? If he busts it up too much, at least we’ll get a new kitchen.”
Mr. Trump visited Louisville back in March. And this happened:
And he came back in May to speak at the National Rifle Association’s national convention, where he also received the organization’s endorsement, though he still struggled to get strong support among Republican leadership, such as Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. McConnell.
Said Sen. McConnell:
“I object to a whole series of things that he’s said – vehemently object to them. I think all of that needs to stop. Both the shots at people he defeated in the primary and these attacks on various ethnic groups in the country…I think he’d have a much better chance of winning if he would quit making so many unfortunate public utterances and stick to the script.”
Sen. McConnell would spend most of the campaign in that particular zone. This kind of “I don’t like what he said but I still endorse him because I sort of have to” while keeping his focus on down-ticket races.
By October, Sen. McConnell wasn’t talking about the presidential race at all. While attending an event in Danville, Ky., McConnell said:
“If any of you are here are thinking I’m going to elaborate on the presidential debate, let me disabuse you of that notion. If you’re interested in anything else, please stay. If you’re interested in the presidential election, you might as well get up and leave, because I don’t have any observations to make on that.”
It wasn’t until just days before the election that Sen. McConnell gave a more strident endorsement for his party’s candidate.
“We need a new president, Donald Trump, to be the most powerful Republican in America. If America votes like Kentucky, we’ll be fine.”
Which is pretty much what happened.
In Kentucky, Gov. Matt Bevin was sworn in back in December of 2015 and right out of the gate, kept his promise to “wind down and cease operation” of Kynect, Kentucky’s health exchange. The New York Times noted it a strange move for a governor against federal overreach to turn the state’s health care over to the federal government.
He also dismantled the University of Louisville’s Board of Trustees — a move halted by the courts — which led to the resignation of university president James Ramsey. The university is now on probation with its accrediting agency, citing its board instability.
While attempting to get his budget passed, Mr. Bevin posted a video to his Facebook page designed to embarrass state representatives for not being at work.
Imagine my surprise when I went to see how the budget debate was going…and found this…#Get2Work #PassTheBudget
Posted by Governor Matt Bevin on Monday, March 7, 2016
The Internet was quick to let him know — and the representatives themselves — that they were over in the Capitol Annex, as they were supposed to be.
— KY House Democrats (@KYHouseDems) March 7, 2016
The move prompted “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” to call Mr. Bevin the “elected paperweight of the month.”
Louisville’s Attica Scott became the first black woman elected to Kentucky’s state legislature in 20 years. The man she defeated held that seat for 34 years.
Crime and Punishment: Rodney Brown of Monticello, Ky., allegedly stole 25 roosters, a goat, along with some farm equipment and tools. According to police, Brown offered to return the man’s property in exchange for sex.
WKYT says Brown is out on bond under the condition he doesn’t attempt to contact the victim.
When a friend said he didn’t believe in God, Laura Reid of Louisville allegedly beat him with his own metal cane until it broke and stole his keys, cell phone, credit cards and $50 on her way out.
The man crawled to a nearby gas station for help; Reid was taken into custody and charged with assault, robbery and unlawful imprisonment.
Police arrested University of Kentucky fullback William Thomas Collins for allegedly stealing a parking meter. He was charged with criminal mischief, theft, fleeing and evading, and as one might expect, intoxication.
According to WKYT, the report says Collins admitted to taking the meter “because it was there.”
“Mr. Social Security” Eric Conn was indicted for allegedly making millions on false disability claims, along with Social Security judge David Daugherty and Dr. Alfred Bradley Adkins, a Social Security and clinical psychologist. Together the three men were charged with 18 counts of fraud and conspiracy.
According to ABC, Conn established his practice in a Stanville, Ky., trailer and went on to make it a $20 million enterprise.
Chris Cornell of Sound Garden and Audioslave was in Louisville in July. So was his stalker, Jessica Robbins. She was arrested in 2014 for harassing the singer, but she figured out how to lose her ankle bracelet and fell off the grid until resurfacing in Louisville, where police picked her up at his concert.
Ethan Buckley, 21, sat with his father David Buckley, 40, at the 9:30 a.m. service at Hillvue Heights Baptist Church in Bowling Green. When the altar call came, the younger Buckley produced a knife and began stabbing the elder Buckley in the neck.
A police report cited in the Bowling Green Daily News says Ethan Buckley told police he was “moved by the message” and thought to stab his father in the jugular so his death would be swift and painless. He said he’d thought about killing his father before.
David Buckley survived the attack.
Michael L. Carter, 26, and William D. McKee, 32, were killed and five others hospitalized after a shooting during a football tournament on Thanksgiving Day at Shawnee Park.
The most prevalent reports suggest the altercation began when one man bumped into the motorcycle of another man who was armed with a gun; words were exchanged and the gun was fired. That prompted others nearby to enter the fray with more shots fired.
Something a little more lighthearted: Stanley the raccoon stole a cell phone from Bellarmine University student Guy Williams. Mr. Williams attempted to video his encounter with the raccoon; the raccoon had other ideas.
A RACCOON JUST PICKED UP MY PHONE WITH ITS TEETH AND TOOK OFF
— Guy Williams (@ThatShamuGuy) October 12, 2016
I WAS TRYNNA VIDEO A RACCOON AND IT JUST PICKED UP MY PHONE AND TOOK OFF pic.twitter.com/sFWxdnkxbw
— Guy Williams (@ThatShamuGuy) October 12, 2016
He snatched the phone and took off into the woods surrounding campus. He eventually dropped the phone, allowing Williams to retrieve it.
And we ended the year with holiday cheer from racist Aunt Sally at Jefferson Mall. She’s facing a ban for life if she can be identified.
In January, she took home her third Golden Globe win. This one for “Best Actress in a Movie, Comedy or Musical” for her performance in the film “Joy.” She also made history as the youngest person to receive a fourth nomination for an Oscar, though it was Brie Larson winning this year for “The Room.”
Not to be confused with this “Room”:
She had two films come out this year. “X-Men: Apocalypse” hit theaters in May to mixed reviews, and “Passengers” in December. Early looks at “Passengers” were all very positive. Unfortunately, the movie wasn’t as well-received upon release, underperforming with critics when it opened at No. 3 at the box office.
And while she wasn’t directly in the latest Star Trek movie, “Star Trek Beyond,” writers Simon Pegg and Doug Jung named a new character after her. So I think that counts.
It looks like 2017 and 2018 are filling up fast as well. She’s signed on to play Marita Lorenz, Fidel Castro’s lover and would-be assassin in “Marita,” she’ll be playing Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of Theranos in “Bad Blood” with Adam McKay (“The Big Short”) directing, and Russian espionage thriller “Red Sparrow” is due out next year with Joel Edgerton. In October, she signed on to play Zelda Fitzgerald in “Zelda,” with Ron Howard rumored to direct. I’ll tell you what she’s not doing — she is not playing Mulan in the live-action film.
She also appeared to take a break from dating, at least in the early part of the year.
In April, she told Extra:
“What dating life? No, I’m not, it’s really sad. I haven’t felt the touch of a man in…”
But by October, that had all changed as it seemed she was “casually dating” director Darren Aronofsky.
— E! News (@enews) November 2, 2016
And here’s something else she did in 2016: She gave. A lot. In February, she donated $2 million to Kosair Children’s Hospital to establish the Jennifer Lawrence Foundation Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. In October, she gave $200,000 to support the Arts in Louisville. And she continued her annual visit to Norton Children’s hospital, something she’s been doing since 2103. And that’s just a few of the things we know about.
In Memoriam: We’ve lost a lot of great people this year, that’s for sure. I think it’s always a shock to revisit these lists at the end of a year, but this year seems a little extra rough. Here are but a few, in order of their passing.
Harlem Globetrotter Samuel “Sammie” Moore of Louisville died of cancer at the age of 82. Mr. Moore had returned to Louisville to teach physical education. He served as recreation director for Southwick Community Center.
Alan Rickman, age 69.
David Bowie, age 69. Here’s a clip from a great Bowie documentary I ran in January, “Sound and Vision”:
Both men also died in January of cancer. So cancer can just go right on and take a leap.
Prince Rogers Nelson, age 57. Prince was known for a great many things, deservedly so, but man, he could play like few others. Once again, I present this all-star performance of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
My Morning Jacket’s tribute:
The Champ, the greatest of all time, Muhammad Ali died on June 3. He was 74.
Gene Wilder, actor, writer, director and philanthropist, died due to complications of Alzheimer’s disease. He was 83.
Leonard Cohen, songwriter, poet, singer, artist.
And Carrie Fisher, just this week. She was 60.
There are so, so many more notables, unfortunately. CNN has a fairly thorough list.
To quote Mr. Bowie once more, “The stars look very different today…”
Goodnight and godspeed, my friends.
And I wish you, as always, my greatest thanks for stopping by. May 2017 grant you a life fulfilled, touched by greatness, hope and love.
I leave you, as I did last year, with a massive “greatest hits” of the songs and clips featured in 2016.
See you next week.