Happy New Year, friends!
At least I hope so. I have to say, after spending the week revisiting the news of 2017, I’m already giving 2018 the side eye from the outset. But nevertheless, here’s to you 2017 — your bite was often just as bad as your bark.
But not all bad, mind you. The mighty “In Other News…” column turned four years old. So that was something.
And we witnessed the big solar eclipse, which was pretty darned cool. Especially if you were one of the 100,000-plus who made their way to Hopkinsville, Ky., to view the solar eclipse. Nicknamed “Eclipseville,” Hopkinsville sits at the spot where “the axis of the moon’s shadow is pointed most directly at the center of the Earth,” according to NASA’s Renee Weber.
And we all took a moment to remember the Bowling Green Massacre back in February, which was nice. Senior Adviser Kellyanne Conway introduced that one to the world on “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” saying, “Most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered.”
— Joe Sonka 😐 (@joesonka) February 3, 2017
Mind you, it didn’t get covered on account of it didn’t happen. Unless she was talking about this:
And I got married. I should mention that as a 2017 highlight so I can stay married in 2018.
Co-favorite Always Dreaming won the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. And “So Sharp” debuted on Lifetime, featuring University of Louisville Ladybirds coach, Todd Sharp. No word if it’s coming back for Season 2 that I could find, but people seemed to like it just fine.
— Lifetime (@lifetimetv) June 26, 2017
And we’ll bid a fond farewell to Les Waters.
He announced he’ll leave Actors Theatre of Louisville at the close of the 2017-2018 season.
But man, we had some things shake about this year. In four years, this is probably the trickiest year-ender yet, there’s just so much of so much. So without further ado…
List mania: Per usual, we’re on all kinds of lists. Like, a lot.
Louisville was named one of “America’s 20 Best Mountain Bike Towns” by National Geographic.
CNN Travel put Louisville at No. 6 on its list of “15 charming cities in the American South you may have overlooked.”
Lexington ranked No. 33 and Louisville No. 57 on WalletHub’s “2017’s Best Places for Valentine’s Day.”
Owensboro made its way to No. 11 on a Business Insider profile entitled “Forget New York — millennials are flocking to these 11 cities in droves.”
The Associated Press named Kentucky the “No. 1 college basketball program of all time.”
BuzzFeed named Nord’s Bakery in Louisville the best bakery in the state and No. 18 in the country.
Louisville Cream Ice Cream and Pappy & Company Maple Syrup made it onto Southern Living’s “2017 Southern Living Food Awards: Best Southern Made Products.”
Harvest took the top spot for “Best Brunch Spot” in Kentucky.
Sparetime Belly & Soul in Alexandria claimed the top spot for PureWow’s “Best Diner” in Kentucky.
Louisville came in at No. 1 for “where manufacturing is thriving in the U.S.” from Forbes.
Kentucky comes in at No. 10 on the list of “America’s cheapest states to live in from CNBC.
It’s also not so diverse. Kentucky came in at No. 45 overall, No. 46 in income diversity and No. 47 in linguistic diversity on WalletHub’s survey of “2017’s Most & Least Diverse States in America.”
USA Today gave 21c top honors on its list of “25 must-see buildings in Kentucky.”
The Speed Art Museum redesign made it to No. 8 on Wired’s “25 Masterpieces That Prove 2016 Was an Incredible Year for Architecture.” Yes, it says 2016, but the list was created in 2017, so it makes, it counts.
Politics: We swore in a new president this year, as Donald Trump became president No. 45. Almost immediately, things were shake, rattling and rolling for better or worse.
Take for instance the early days, when Sean Spicer came on board as press secretary, his six-year, one-man war against Kentucky’s Dippin’ Dots resurfaced.
Dippin dots is NOT the ice cream of the future
— Sean Spicer (@seanspicer) April 8, 2010
If Dippin Dots was truly the ice cream of the future they would not have run out of vanilla cc @Nationals
— Sean Spicer (@seanspicer) September 7, 2015
The two made peace later that month.
Sorry for the delay How about we do something great for the those who have served out nation & 1st responders https://t.co/G9BPmVAXKS
— Sean Spicer (@seanspicer) January 24, 2017
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had a topsy-turvy year. He inadvertently created a new feminist rallying cry in February. When Sen. Elizabeth Warren took to the Senate floor to debate the confirmation of then-nominee for attorney general Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Sen. McConnell invoked a rarely used rule to silence her. When asked about the move later, he said:
She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.
And with that, a rallying cry was born:
“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” pic.twitter.com/wx4EwYWx7o
— Shannon Carey (@scmaestra) February 8, 2017
She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted. pic.twitter.com/E0y0vjgFlR
— Janna Zagari (@jannazagari) February 8, 2017
The weeks that followed saw large numbers of women receive “Nevertheless, she persisted” tattoos, including 100 women in just nine hours at a Minneapolis tattoo parlor.
But much of his year was spent attempting to repeal the Affordable Care Act and navigate the new president and administration.
The ACA has been under attack for most of the year. The first vote to repeal it went down way back in January, with an overnight vote for a resolution to start the repeal process passing along party lines.
Senator Rand Paul was against repeal unless there was an immediate replacement. When the House kept their draft of the ACA repeal bill safely tucked away in a secure location, away from prying eyes, Sen. Paul took to Twitter in an epic rant, culminating in a “where’s the bill” search, complete with portable copy machine in tow, just in case he found it.
I am heading to the secure location where they are keeping the House obamacare bill. I will demand a copy for the American people.
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 2, 2017
Portable copy machine KY Sen Rand Paul wheeled over to the Hse to try to photocopy still unfinished health care bill pic.twitter.com/etb5tcQiwf
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) March 2, 2017
That House legislation, the American Health Care Act, passed the House. President Trump came back to Louisville in March, in part to talk up the bill. The Senate put together its own version in June, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act, panned by just about every health care group you could name.
The New York Times said the bill had little to do with health care, but rather gives tax cuts for the wealthy, removes mandates, cuts entitlements and paves the way for further tax reform. That will sound familiar in a second. Moderate Republicans claimed the bill was too harsh and went too far; conservatives complained the bill didn’t go far enough; Democrats weren’t biting at all.
Sen. McConnell would say of the bill: “Failure is not an option.”
And then it failed. Rather dramatically, in fact, with Sen. John McCain walking up to Sen. McConnell to give his thumbs down, gladiator style:
Sen. McConnell’s relationship with President Trump had already been a bit tenuous, as neither much appreciated the other’s way of going about things. This didn’t help. Sen. McConnell said the president had “excessive expectations,” which set the president off, like well, pretty much anything could do.
Senator Mitch McConnell said I had "excessive expectations," but I don't think so. After 7 years of hearing Repeal & Replace, why not done?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 9, 2017
Can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screamed Repeal & Replace for 7 years, couldn't get it done. Must Repeal & Replace ObamaCare!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 10, 2017
Mitch, get back to work and put Repeal & Replace, Tax Reform & Cuts and a great Infrastructure Bill on my desk for signing. You can do it!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 10, 2017
Things further strained the following week after the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Sen. McConnell was reportedly “livid” at the president’s tepid remarks in response to the violent, deadly events that weekend.
Which is fair when one seemingly refuses to full-throat condemn neo-Nazis.
That war continued, albeit by proxy, when former White House senior adviser Steve Bannon declared “war” on the GOP establishment and Sen. McConnell in particular while speaking at this year’s “Values Voters Summit.” Sen. McConnell responded by saying:
Well, you know, this element has been out there for a while. They cost us five Senate seats in 2010 and 2012 by nominating people who couldn’t win in November.
Go and brush your shoulders off.
In January, McConnell told The Hill that the GOP’s success in pushing its agenda depended upon party unity.
The only way you can achieve success in an environment like now, where there’s not much bipartisanship, is for us to have our act together and to work out our differences among ourselves.
That divide deepened yet again over the candidacy of Alabama’s Roy Moore in November’s special election. Mr. Moore had been accused of sexual misconduct from several sources, some claiming said misconduct happened when they were underage. President Trump supported Mr. Moore; Sen. McConnell said if those allegations are true, Mr. Moore should step aside.
Mr. Moore didn’t drop out, but he didn’t win either. Though someone ought let him know.
But the animosity between President Trump and Sen. McConnell stayed put until December, when the tax bill, named the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed Congress. Then it was all congratulations and smiles and “Look, I got you this bat.”
But Sen. McConnell says that passing that bill is only his second best accomplishment as Sen. Majority Leader. The first, he says, is blocking President Obama’s pick to fill the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s Supreme Court pick long enough for it to become President Trump’s pick.
Congress confirmed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court in April.
We mentioned Sen. Paul earlier. Things got a little weird in November, when his neighbor, Rene Boucher 59, a retired anesthesiologist, allegedly attacked the senator while he was doing yard work.
Speculation swirled on the motivation behind the attack, but Boucher’s attorney Matthew Baker said in a statement:
The unfortunate occurrence of November 3 has absolutely nothing to do with either’s politics or political agendas. It was a very regrettable dispute between two neighbors over a matter that most people would regard as trivial.
Nothing’s really come out to clarify that since.
Meanwhile, Kentucky. Retired Lt. Col. Amy McGrath, Democrat, declared she’s running against Republican Andy Barr for the House seat in Kentucky’s sixth district (Lexington, Richmond, Frankfort). She’s been getting a lot of national attention, so that’ll be one to watch this year.
And finally, Dan Johnson, a first-term Kentucky State Representative, killed himself on Dec. 13, two days after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced. He was 57.
He maintained his innocence, but said it was all too much in a post to his Facebook page. Mr. Johnson’s wife, Rebecca, announced she intends to replace him in the legislature
And as our political discourse continues to be nutty on a good day, I refer you once again to AllSides.com, They give you links to how stories are being covered on, well, all sides: right, left and center. And they constantly monitor and let you know how they’re coming down on rating media bias.
Sportsball: Most of the year’s big stories center around basketball here in Louisville. You likely know why.
Your University of Louisville battling basketball Cardinals and University of Kentucky winning Wildcats entered the NCAA tournament as No. 2 seeds, in the Midwest and South Regions respectively.
Louisville lost to the Wolverines of Michigan in the second round, 73-69. Kentucky made it all the way to the Elite Eight before falling to the Tar Heels of North Carolina. The Tar Heels would go on to win it all, beating Gonzaga 71-65.
My dad says that’s the way it should be. If you have to lose, it should be to the team that wins at all. That way, you know at least you were beat by the best.
That same month, the NCAA upheld its earlier ruling against the university and then coach Rick Pitino, saying he failed to monitor his program during the 2015 escort scandal, in which a former assistant provided strippers and escorts for on-campus parties to entice potential recruits.
Mr. Pitino was to serve a five-game suspension at the start of the 2018 season, a punishment which would prove unnecessary by September. The NCAA also demanded “a vacation of basketball records in which student-athletes competed while ineligible from December 2010 and July 2014,” including the 2013 National Championship. Which the university appealed.
But things got so much worse in September when the university’s basketball program and coach found themselves part of a FBI investigation into the “dark underbelly of college basketball.”
The FBI’s report alleges wrongdoing and schemes at several schools across the country. For Louisville’s part, the FBI claims the university funneled $100,000 from its sponsor Adidas to the family of recruit Brian Bowen in exchange for his commitment to play for the Cardinals.
James Gatto, director of global sports marketing for Adidas, was arrested in conjunction with the report. Recruit Brian Bowen, who Sports Illustrated noted as the only player fitting the description of unnamed “Player-10” in the report, was suspended indefinitely. UofL placed both coach Pitino and athletics director Tom Jurich on administrative leave. All three men deny any wrongdoing or any knowledge of said wrongdoing.
The Cardinals named former Louisville center David Padgett the interim head basketball coach and Vince Tyra as acting athletics director.
On October 16, Louisville’s athletic board unanimously voted to officially fire Rick Pitino with cause. A few days later he sat down with ESPN’s Jay Bilas to give his side of the story:
On October 18, the university’s board of directors voted 10-3 in favor of the termination of athletics director Tom Jurich.
Mr. Pitino would go on to file lawsuits against Adidas and the University of Louisville in the days and months that followed. In December, the university countersued Mr. Pitino, seeking losses from business ties and sponsors damaged due to the university’s recent infractions, the loss of records or wins including the 2013 men’s basketball national championship and any bonuses Pitino received during that period.
That suit is not from the Adidas scandal from the fall, but from the escort scandal from 2015.
Last week, Brian Bowen talked for the first time to ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” maintaining his innocence and desire to play, if not in Louisville, somewhere.
Crime and Punishment: Lot of odd twists and turns here this year.
United Airlines had some trouble back in April. On flight 3411 bound from Chicago to Louisville, the airline needed to free up some space for four employees needed on an already boarded and full plane. When no one volunteered, a computer selected four passengers at random, including Dr. David Dao of Elizabethtown. When he refused to give up his seat, they dragged him off the plane.
Which was all kinds of wrong.
United apologized for “having to re-accommodate these customers,” which proved to be pretty disastrous PR.
And on that same day, a scorpion fell out of the overhead on another United flight and stung a guy. That’s not good PR, either.
A couple of weeks later, United reached an “amicable” settlement with Dr. Dao for an undisclosed sum.
Henry Lynch II and Troy Kiphuth were caught stealing the statistics final from the office of University of Kentucky professor John Cain. Mr. Lynch had figured a way to drop from the ceiling Mission Impossible style, only to be discovered by the professor returning from a snack break.
Maybe if they’d studied, they could have calculated the odds of that happening.
Some knucklehead shot out the windows of the Lexington-Herald Leader, which some speculated was an attack on reporters and the media.
White nationalists groups came together in Charlottesville, Va., for the “Unite the Right” rally, to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
Violence broke out between protesters and counter protesters and in the early afternoon James Alex Fields Jr., 20, now of Ohio, formerly of Florence, Ky., allegedly drove his car in the middle of a crowded group of counter protesters, killing Heather Heyer, 32.
Charges against Mr. Fields were upgraded from second-degree to first-degree murder just a couple of weeks ago. If found guilty, he faces between 20 years and life imprisonment.
And Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis made her way back into the headlines late in the year.
In 2015, citing her Apostolic beliefs, Ms. Davis refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of marriage equality. In July, U.S. District Judge David Bunning ruled in favor of eight couples who were denied licenses; that ruling was reaffirmed in October.
The kicker: the state — or rather, the taxpayers — are on the hook for the $225,000 in legal fees rather than Ms. Davis.
One of the men involved in that case, David Ermold of Morehead, Ky., filed papers earlier this month to run against Ms. Davis for Rowan County Clerk in the 2018 election.
Two years ago, Kim Davis denied David Ermold a marriage license because he was gay, despite it being legalized.
Today, she had to watch as he signed up to run against her in the next election. pic.twitter.com/y6HSoThcNi
— Cole Ledford (@ColeLedford11) December 6, 2017
Officials caught fugitive Kentucky lawyer Eric Conn in Honduras this year.
Mr. Conn went on the run in June after pleading guilty to a $550 million Social Security fraud scheme in March.
Conn was apprehended on Saturday, 12/02, at a Pizza Hut in La Ceiba, Honduras. pic.twitter.com/KD6qNeOSFN
— FBI Louisville (@FBILouisville) December 5, 2017
They found him at the Pizza Hut. The free Wi-Fi gave him up.
Fast Food News: So much this year, it managed to get its own category.
Taco Bell brought us the Naked Chicken Chalupa. It’s a Chalupa wrapped in a fried chicken shell. Because.
— Taco Bell (@tacobell) January 11, 2017
If you were in Las Vegas, you could get married immediately after your meal:
And fellow YUM subsidiary KFC released “Tender Wings of Desire,” a romance novella, penned by Colonel Sanders himself, just in time for Mother’s Day.
And my buddy, Lincoln Elementary’s Jordan Price, became the Long John Silver’s spokesperson for “Talk Like a Pirate Day.”
He appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” to help the nation celebrate properly.
The Dark Lord did his part.
John Schnatter, founder of Papa John’s, will be stepping down as the pizza chain’s CEO on Jan. 1. He’ll be replaced by Steve Ritchie, the company’s president and COO.
The move may have come as a result of Mr. Schnatter’s comments last month, attributing declining pizza sales on a decrease in NFL viewership, which Mr. Schnatter contended, came as a result of player protests. Those comments earned Papa John’s a healthy amount of backlash from the general public and the unwanted support of white supremacists groups, with neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer wondering if Papa John’s could be the “pizza of the alt right.”
Jennifer Lawrence: Jennifer Lawrence and director Darren Aronofsky started the New Year together, strolling about New York City.
The two became a couple just as the psyho-horror-thriller-allegory “mother!” wrapped. Here’s the trailer:
The much-anticipated film proved to be polarizing, to put it mildly. Upon release, it became one of only 19 movies to receive an “F” CinemaScore grade.
By the end of the year, the negative response and reviews took a toll on the couple’s personal life. Neither of them have formally confirmed, but the couple seem to have parted ways last month. She talked about the struggles of their relationship during that time with Adam Sandler for Variety’s seventh series of “Actors on Actors.”
Normally, I promote a movie, ask people to go see it, and then it’s just out of your hands,” she said. “I normally just kind of let it go. Dating the director was different. We’d be on the tour together, I’d come back to the hotel, and the last thing I want to talk about or think about is a movie.
He comes back from the tour, and that’s all he wants to talk about, and I get it, it’s his baby. He wrote it. He conceived it. He directed it. I was doing double duty trying to be a supportive partner, while also being, like, ‘Can I please, for the love of God, not think about ‘mother!’ for one second?
While promoting the film, Ms. Lawrence had a notable appearance on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.” The two engaged in an axe throwing contest, which she picked up from Louisville’s Flying Axes.
Speaking of late night, she also took over hosting duties for a night on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” Her guests included Kim Kardashian and Louisville’s own Linkin Bridge.
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) November 3, 2017
And she was politically active, speaking out about the travel ban, signed an open letter opposing anti-LGBTQ legislation in Texas, spoke out about Hollywood’s mistreatment of women, revealing her own “degrading and humiliating” against the backdrop of the spate of allegations in the wake of Harvey Weinstein and she managed to find herself in a weird Twitter thing with Donald Trump, Jr.
And she shot this commercial for Dior:
She was announced for the 2018 class for the Hollywood walk of fame. She received the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award, given annually to a woman who has been a pioneer and philanthropic leader in her industry.
That philanthropic spirit was on display in July when she came in town for the Power of One benefit gala, held at the Frazier History Museum, including a pajama party for kids at the museum the night before.
On the gossipy side of things, she had an incident with a TMZ reporter who attempted to make friends with her dog:
Also she danced on a pole, apparently.
Sam Shepard, legendary Pulitzer-winning writer, Oscar-nominated actor, musician and iconoclast, died from ALS at his home near Midway, Ky. He was 73.
Savannah Walker, a 20-year-old University of Louisville student, was shot and killed at the Tim Faulkner Gallery in Portland. Her father, Dean Walker, says she died a hero, pushing others to safety.
Chris Cornell died in May. He was 52.
We lost former Louisville Mayor Dave Armstrong to myasthenia gravis, a debilitating chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disease. He was 75.
And hip hop engineer extraordinaire, Seth Firkins.
TV’s Batman, Adam West. He was 88.
Don Rickles died in April. He was 90.
Mary Tyler Moore. She was 80.
And the great Harry Dean Stanton, born in West Irvine, Ky., died in Los Angeles. He was 91.
The Great 2017 Media Dump:
How to Have Better Political Conversations:
Corgi talks to cat:
Jax and Reddy:
TV on the Radio:
Chris Thile, “Thanks for Listening”:
Avengers react to Justice League trailer:
Undercover Boss: Starkiller Base:
Darth Maul vs. Obi Wan Kenobi:
Avengers; Infinity War:
The Room/Disaster Artist scene comparisons:
Patton Oswalt’s ultimate crossover:
Mean Tweets #11:
Here’s hoping you have the most spectacular New Year’s Eve and the brightest 2018.
See you next year.