Levon Helm

People have got to stop dying this week.

Despite April 20th’s counter-culture connotations (if you want that, go over to Louisville Sports Radio), we gather here tonight to celebrate the life of a music legend. Levon Helm, best known as the drummer and singer of The Band, succumbed to throat at the age of 71 on Thursday.

Helm’s soulful southern voice headlined hits such as “Up on Cripple Creek,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and “The Weight.” Helm hailed from Turkey Scratch, Arkansas, and it showed in his music, which, in my mind, was made for summer road trips across the South. During his fifty-year music career, Helm played with many legendary rockers, including Bob Dylan, with whom he frequently collaborated. His most famous work came with The Band, and is documented in the brilliant film, “The Last Waltz,” a concert thought to be the group’s last that was filmed by Martin Scorsese. Helm and his Band mates were joined by over a dozen special guests, including Dylan, Eric Clapton, Neil Diamond, Emmylou Harris, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, and Neil Young.

In a time when most popular music is manufactured on a sound board, it’s nice to look back at the people that truly mastered the craft. Rest in peace, Levon.

Now, take a load off and enjoy these news and views…

Let’s start with two very important packages that Coach Cal received on Thursday: Nerlens Noel’s Letter of Intent (more on that later), and the big crystal NABC National Championship trophy. After its football counterpart shattered due to a pair of butterfingers recently in Alabama, I doubt this one will leave the Craft Center.

However, if you missed the other, non-crystal National Championship trophy during its statewide tour last week, it will be on display from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday before the UK/LSU baseball game at Cliff Hagan Stadium and also at Commonwealth Stadium from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. prior to the Blue/White game. Fans are invited to come take a picture with it. You’ll never need a new Christmas card picture again.

Your Anthony Bennett update: On Thursday, Bennett cut Washington from his list, which leaves Florida, Kentucky, Oregon and UNLV battling for the talented 6’7″ forward. Bennett will make three visits before making his decision, but hasn’t said which schools get the honor. Bennett spoke to Orlando Antigua on Wednesday, which was followed by a “lengthy sit-down” with Florida coach Billy Donovan. Coaches from UNLV and Oregon were also present at Bennett’s workout at Findlay Prep. Florida is considered by many to be the front-runner for Bennett, but there’s nothing like a National Championship and potentially six first round draft picks to sway the decision in the Cats’ favor.

Singer Levon Helm

Perhaps Nerlens Noel can fill Bennett in on what is sure to be an amazing visit to Lexington? Despite already committing to be a Cat, Nerlens is taking his last “official visit” to Kentucky this weekend to deliver his Letter of Intent. After receiving the letter, Coach Cal was finally able to discuss his new player, whom he likened to Anthony Davis (see, even he can’t help it) and Marcus Camby as someone who can have an impact on a game without scoring. Cal reminded Cats fans that like Davis, Noel is not a finished product who has a lot of work to do, but one capable of doing special things that he is “ecstatic to have an opportunity to work with.” I think the feeling is mutual, Coach. And as if the weekend couldn’t get any better for Noel, he was named the 2012 USA Today National High School Player of the Year, an accolade of the likes we hope he gets pretty used to around here.

Cal said that like the 2011 class, the 2012 class will “all play off one another,” and are “all great kids who have a desire to win, have terrific talent and who all complement each other.” If history teaches us anything, it’s that 99.9% of the time, Cal’s kids have character that matches their talent, which is why you should stop worrying about next season.

With Marquis Teague and Doron Lamb making the jump to the big league, Kentucky’s recruitment of Torian Graham is back on. You might remember Graham most for his commitment and subsequent decommitment from NC State earlier this year. Along with SG Archie Goodwin, Graham can bring some much-needed depth to the back court. Graham is ranked 67th in the class of 2012 by Rivals and Orlando Antigua watched him play on Wednesday. Some doubt Graham’s chances at qualifying, but if Cal sent Antigua to watch him play, he must be confident. Graham has until May 16th to make his decision.

Are you ready for some football? Come on…the Blue/White game is this Saturday at 6 p.m. and I can think of a whole squad of blue-clad men who’d love to see you there. Need more incentive? The athletic department is pulling out all the stops for this event, with an appearance by the National Championship trophy, a free poster commemorating the team’s win over Tennessee, and a “Super Surplus Sale” of UK team apparel beginning at 3 p.m. That means your dreams of owning Randall Cobb’s old socks may come true (if I don’t beat you to them).

If you’re looking to make it a day full of Wildcat fun, head over to Cliff Hagan Stadium and take in the Bat Cats’ game against #2 LSU at 2 p.m. It will be the second of a three-game series against the Tigers, with the first Friday night at 6:30 p.m. For those of you unable to make it, the series will be televised on Fox Sports South.

You want more baseball? Okay. The Lexington Catholic/Farragut High School (Knoxville, TN) baseball series this weekend has been selected the “ECoach/Perfect Game National Game of the Week.” Friday night’s game is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. EST, and Saturday’s broadcast is set for 12:00 p.m. EST. Both teams are ranked first in their state; Lexington Catholic is ranked 46th nationally and Farragut close behind at 45th. Both broadcasts can be viewed at www.perfectgame.org and www.ihigh.com (and additionally on Lexington Catholic’s www.knightvision.com).

While the major renovation project remains up in the air, the off-season renovations to Rupp Arena are well under way. Preliminary work on the locker rooms has already begun, with construction set to begin next month. The project is set to cost $2.9 million, and the renovations will include improvements to the training room, the addition of a hydro-therapy treatment whirlpool, a medical room with an X-ray machine, team meeting room, a second coach’s office, team lounge and food service area, along with a new press area.

Drummer Levon Helm

Want to be the next Matt Jones or Radio Ron? Head to Northern Kentucky for Saturday’s KSTV Casting Call! The auditions will be held in Florence at Insight Communications Studio (7906 Dixie Highway, Florence, KY 41042). To try out, you MUST be present at registration, which runs from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. For more details, click here.

Would you rather write about sports? We need you! We’re looking to add new writers to KSRCollege.com for the summer and fall semester. To qualify, you must be a college student (preferably at Kentucky) and send a resume and a writing sample to [email protected]. Entries need to be in by Monday, April 22, and all applicants must be available for an interview in Lexington on Sunday, April 29. It’ll make you popular (just kidding).

Finally, one last “rest in peace” for DeMarcus Cousins’ pup, Roscoe. The 18-week-old bulldog died after suffering an allergic reaction to a bee sting. When asked about it, DeMarcus said: “He just collapsed in his crate while I was on our last road trip. We had an autopsy done and everything because we wanted to know what happened. The (veterinarian) said it was from a bee sting.” Yet another reason to hate bees…

The boys will be back bright and early, broadcasting live from Keeneland. Tune in at 10 a.m. for stories and fail-proof racing picks. Who knows? Maybe they’ll talk about sports, too.