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Marla Ridenour on Sports

Remembering Martin Luther King and other thoughts of the week

By Marla Published: April 4, 2011

While it may not be etched in the memories of other Americans like the assassination of John F. Kennedy, I can still remember where I was when I heard that Martin Luther King Jr. had been gunned down 43 years ago today on the balcony of a hotel in Memphis, Tenn.

I was a seventh grader at Seneca High School in Louisville, Ky. and was distraught that I wasn't able to go to school after fainting in the bathroom on the morning of my birthday. I can't remember what kind of sickness I had, but I was laying in the darkness of my parents' bedroom listening to the radio when the report of King's death came in. While I may not have appreciated King's place in the world at that time, I had a hint of his significance or I wouldn't have been so dismayed to hear the news.

Perhaps it was his "I Have a Dream'' speech that moved me. My family was one of those that never missed the nightly news and my mother constantly had the television tuned to the "Today Show'' in the mornings.

There have been notable sports events on April 4. What stands out to me was Jim Valvano's N.C. State team upsetting  Phi Slamma Jamma Houston in 1983 and Wayne Kirby's 11th-inning heroics in the Indians' 4-3 victory over the Mariners in 1994 that christened Jacobs Field. But in my lifetime, the most memorable day in history came when the world lost Dr. King in Memphis.

Other things I want to get off my chest:

  • While I grew up in Kentucky and loved the Wildcats during the days of Dan Issel and Pat Riley, I couldn't bring myself to root for UK coach John Calipari against UConn on Saturday night. I'm not the only one. Of the Louisville die-hard Ridenour family watching together in the Bluegrass State, only 1 of 4 supported the Big Blue. I realize some believe UK vs. UConn was the cheater bowl, I'm still smitten with Huskies guard Kemba Walker and hope he has something left tonight against Butler. I also loved the story about Walker performing at the Apollo Theater as a dancer when he was a child. (My rooting interest has nothing to do with the fact that I picked UConn to win it all in one of my three brackets on Amazing though, that I'm in the 97th percentile with only one Final Four team alive.)

  •  Butler and VCU getting to the Final Four and proving they belonged there should give hope to other s0-called mid-major schools. With so many one-and-dones at the major programs, the NCAA Tournament may see parity as never before.

  • Count me as one of those who believes Jared Sullinger knew what he was saying when he vowed after Ohio State's loss to Kentucky that he was coming back for his sophomore season. Some NBA writers think Sullinger would go much higher this year than next, when the draft class is expected to be deeper. But in the brief encounters I had with Sullinger during the NCAA Tournament in Cleveland, he appeared to be a fun-loving young man who truly enjoyed the college experience and was in no rush to reach the NBA. He may be costing himself millions if he slips from the fifth pick in 2011 to the 10th in 2012. Apparently he doesn't care.

  •  To me the comparison of Sullinger to OSU's Mike Conley Jr. in 2007 doesn't fit. Conley said he was staying after the championship game loss to Florida, only to declare for the draft. But Conley said later he had no idea he could be the fourth overall pick in the draft (by Memphis) when he said he was staying.

  • Although I realize Bradley Universisty made Geno Ford an offer he couldn't refuse (a raise from $300,000 to $700,00o in base salary), I wish he had called director of athletics Joel Nielsen back on March 27 to tell him the deal was done. I also wish the Golden Flashes' players hadn't found out about it on Twitter or on the Bradley U. web site.

  • Phil Mickelson shot 16-under par Saturday and Sunday to win the Houston Open by 3 strokes. His 63 on Saturday was his best round in two years. That makes this week's Masters all the more interesting. While Mickelson's focus has been spotty of late, he's the last player to win the week before the Masters and capture the green jacket. That happened in 2006, when he claimed the BellSouth Classic and won his second Masters.

  • Jack Nicklaus fans should get ready for a media blitz of memories on the 25th anniversary of his 1986 victory at Augusta.

  • "What's happened since -- I don't care where I go -- I always run into somebody and (they) say, 'I was in an airport in '86 and I cancelled my airplane and sat there and watched it because I couldn't leave.' Or 'I had to do this or I had to do this or I had to stop this or I had to stop that,''' Nicklaus said on March 2. "Amazing the number of people that just told me those kind of stories. I said, 'You've got to be kidding. Pandel Savic, my close friend I stayed with, he got in the airplane and left.' It was a neat win and one that I guess nobody really expected me to be in contention at that point in my career, particularly even me. I had not really prepared all that great for it that spring. But once I got myself in contention, muscle memory and knowing how to play golf came back.''

  • ESPN will air a one-hour documentary on the historic Nicklaus victory on Wednesday at 6 p.m.

  • A response from Circle K about its new Strikeout Meter in Progressive Field after I mentioned there was nearly not enough room after the White Sox whiffed 14 times on Friday. "After the 14th strikeout it goes back to the beginning and a number 14 drops down,'' a company spokesman said.

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