KERRI BROOKS: A time to give thanks

As Thanksgiving rolls around, we all have visions of eating turkey with stuffing (or dressing, depending on where you are from) around a table of family and friends. We can gather around the television to watch some exciting football games as our favorite teams near the home stretch of the season. But we can't lose sight of what is really important during this time of year, a time to remember all that you have to be thankful for. The Brooks family has many things to be thankful for this year.

First and foremost, Rich Brooks is thankful for being given the opportunity to continue building the program at Kentucky. WE ARE ALL THANKFUL! I was so distressed that it could possibly be my father's last game at Kentucky.

I had not had a Thanksgiving with my family in about ten years, and if it were inevitable that it was his last game at Kentucky, I was going to take the weekend off from covering my NFL game, and go down with the sinking ship. (We figured the whole family could be miserable together!) My sister had concluded that she would not spend Thanksgiving in Oregon with her own family, but instead fly to Kentucky to be there as well. The kids would have gathered in mass, to be there in support of our father's dream, as that dream came to an end. Wow, are we thankful that is not going to happen! I mean, WE ARE THANKFUL!

Just writing about that stressed me out as I relived the anguish that had been building for the last month or so. Oh what a relief it is. You think about a guy like Chuck Smith, who left his content life behind to join Kentucky; only to be involved in a struggle for his job, with just a year under his belt. That is enough to make you go nuts. All the football families who would have once again been uprooted and possibly unemployed are thankful this year.

Being the daughter of a coach, I likened my childhood to being a military brat. Once every year or two, Dad would call a family meeting to tell us we would be moving. Oh, the horror of those family meetings. The Brooks are thankful that none of those meetings are going to be held this holiday season for any of the football staff. The chance to spend more time in a great place like Lexington is certainly something to be thankful for.

The thought of the Archer family spending this holiday season sitting down to have a "family meeting" would have been awful. Coach Archer has one son, Jeff, a senior on the team; and a daughter, Betsy, who is a junior, and a student equipment manager. It would have been such a complex mixture of emotions with a stir up in the coaching staff. I am very thankful they didn't have to live through that. As coaching families, we have spent too many holidays down that road. It is nice to be able to get through the holidays with no impending relocation, or change of schools for kids, and loss of friends you have made.

The Brooks are thankful for the dedicated fans who have continued to show up to support this struggling team. It is hard to stay upbeat when things seem to be rolling downhill, but the good news is, the road eventually levels out. The Wildcats are not going to be rolling downhill forever. Could the win against Vanderbilt have been the bottom of that hill?

I would certainly like to believe it is in the realm of possibility that on this given Saturday, the Wildcat football team can play at the top of their game and pull out an unexpected victory. The Brooks are thankful that this is even the slightest of possibilities, in the back of anyone's head, because two weeks ago it might not have seemed attainable.

The Brooks are thankful for players like Tommy Cook, who remains an inspired man despite the adversity he has suffered through. Tommy Cook has been through three different coaches at Kentucky, suffered a devastating knee injury, had surgery, won the right to have a sixth year at Kentucky, suffered another knee injury this year, and is still out on the field giving it everything he has. Tommy Cook is the kind of football player any coach would want to have playing for him. The fact that Tommy is back out on the field this year is something to be thankful for. When he went down at the beginning of the season, it looked like his dream to play a sixth year may have ended. We are thankful it did not.

The Brooks are thankful for the players who have chosen to play at Kentucky. As a coach, you spend much of your time trying to help mold these kids into players who are respected on and off the field. You want to help teach them lessons in life so that they don't learn the hard way. As much as coaches are trying to teach and help young athletes, coaches can learn a lot from their players as well. The Brooks family is thankful for all the lessons we have learned from players we have known and loved.

What the Brooks family wants to be thankful for this weekend is some top notch officiating. With blaring erroneous calls against the Cats this year, the SEC officiating committee is going to have to reexamine their policies on instant replay. Why is it even in use if they don't utilize it to correct poor calls on the field? In all my years watching and covering football games, I know one thing to be true: officials make calls in favor of winning teams. When you are a winning and successful program, the calls are going to go your way. Why this happens, I don't know, but it always does. As the Wildcats get better, those calls will start going our way.

The Brooks family is also thankful to the writers who give Kentucky football a fair shake. No need to pontificate here, because every person who reads this article will know immediately who we are not thankful for! HA! I am so hopeful that they will be forced to write an article about how we pulled off an upset over a ranked team

Going into the last few games, there is hope that we might pull one out. In fact, there is even the possibility that we could come up with two. Our players are gaining experience every game, and now they are learning how to win. When you are used to losing, you have to change your mindset to become a winner: and Kentucky is going to learn that lesson real fast. We can win. We will win.

In this Cat and Dog fight, the only one with a bone is Kentucky. We have a bone to pick with people who don't believe in us, but we are also thankful for you; you motivate us to prove you wrong. Beat the Bulldogs!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Kerri Brooks is a CBS camera operator with substantial college football and NFL experience. Her job takes her to venues throughout the country, and she is fortunate to have met and formed relationships with many football coaches, analysts, and other experts in the field. And yes, she is the proud daughter of UK head football coach Rich Brooks. Visit with "BrooksDaughter" on the KSR Premium messageboard, where she appears to talk football, answer questions, and just be another UK football fan.


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