By LARRY VAUGHT
Any Kentucky basketball fan has to know who ESPN sideline analyst Shannon Spake is.
Last March she practically became a part of the UK program she spent so much time following the unbeaten Wildcats. She is a sideline reporter for Saturday primetime college basketball and Super Tuesday SEC basketball games. She is a sideline reporter for Saturday college football games.
She’s also an avid runner and even though she’s on the road most of the week still finds a way to train — and run long-distance events regularly.
This week she worked the Kentucky at Tennessee game. She also brought one of her twin sons, Brady, with her to the game. She takes each boy on one road trip each season and this was Brady’s treat.
During UK’s shootaround, someone took a picture of her talking to UK guard Tyler Ulis as her son looked on. “One day I’ll explain to my kids how far ‘playing with heart’ can take you and use this guy as an example,” Spake posted on Twitter along with the picture.
I always enjoy talking to her and had a chance to visit a few minutes before the game. She was a bit worried about her pregame preparation because Brady’s iPad had broke and he had used her laptop during the day.
“I feel so nervous because I am not prepared like I usually am,” Spake, who also covered NASCAR at one time, said.
About an hour before game time, she got ready to say goodbye to her son and gave him his pregame instructions about where she would be, what he could, what he could eat, etc. Then she smiled at him and gave him a kiss. The grandfather in me could not resist taking a picture of that touching moment that I posted on Twitter and tagged Spake.
Here is the response I got from her: “I so appreciate it! My favorite moment EVER! And thank you for your kind works and support,” Spake said.
There’s no ESPN analyst I respect more than Spake. Her work is always terrific and she does it in a charming way. She has to conduct halftime interviews with coaches who are not always eager to talk. She has to give in-game updates. But coaches and players all like and respect her and from my perspective fans do as well — and should.