'We’re kind of proud of it. It’s just what you’ve got to do around here to make a living.'
A photo of Kentucky coal miner Michael McGuire, 29, went viral because it was a moving example of a hardworking guy doing whatever it takes to be with his family. As The Athletic reports, on Saturday, October 22, McGuire worked a long shift that was supposed to end at 4 p.m. but he didn't get off until 5 p.m. He had tickets to see the annual University of Kentucky Blue-White scrimmage game at Appalachian Wireless Arena with his family so he went straight from work, covered in coal dust, to the arena.
McGuire couldn’t miss his 3-year-old son’s first basketball game. Plus, the Blue-White game is a Kentucky Wildcat tradition where the team splits in half and plays each other. This year, proceeds from the game went to benefit flood victims in eastern Kentucky.
“It’s normal for us,” his wife, Mollie, told The Athletic. “It’s nothing for us to go out to eat or him to come to our son’s tee-ball games or family events covered in coal dust … So we’ve just gotten used to it, coal dust everywhere. We’re kind of proud of it. It’s just what you’ve got to do around here to make a living.”
What wasn’t normal was the public’s reaction to his sooty appearance.
When Kentucky’s coach, Basketball Hall of Fame member John Calipari, saw a photo of the miner at the game it struck a deep emotional chord. “My family’s American dream started in a Clarksburg, WV coal mine, so this picture hits home,” he tweeted, adding that he wants to locate the family to give them “VIP” treatment at Kentucky's Rupp Arena when the regular season starts.
\u201cThank you everyone for your incredible response to this. No one rallies like the #BBN!\n\nWe are looking forward to hosting @mcguire_mollie9, her husband Michael and their family at a game soon!!\u201d— John Calipari (@John Calipari) 1666632598
Word got to Mollie who responded to Calipari’s tweet.
This is my Husband Micheal McGuire with our son Easton! Sorry I had to create a new twitter account. Lost access to my old account since I rarely use twitter. We can be reached by Instagram, Facebook or this Twitter account!— Mollie Gail McGuire (@mcguire_mollie9) October 24, 2022
Calipari called Molly and they talked for a half hour. "I was stunned," Mollie told ESPN. The coach shared that his grandfather was a coal miner and how their ethics taught Calipari a valuable lesson about teamwork. “We go in together, we come out together. No one left behind, because we’re one crew,” he told Mollie. “That’s what I teach my team—that we’re one team and we can only do it together.”
The funny thing was Michael had no idea that the photo had gone viral because when it happened, he was working deep in the mine where there is no cell reception. He found out what happened when he was approached by his co-workers at the end of his shift.
“Shew, it caught me off guard big-time,” McGuire told The Athletic. “Everybody was saying, ‘There comes the celebrity! There comes the famous guy!’ I had no clue what was going on.”
Calipari told the family to pick a Kentucky home game at Rupp Arena where they will get to have dinner with him, hang out at the pregame shootaround and enjoy the action from courtside seats.
All of the attention is a great reminder for Michael of how he's appreciated by his family and community.
"It's not just his immediate family that appreciate him. It's everyone," Mollie told USA Today. "It's all of eastern Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee. Everyone. He is appreciated. And I'm hoping that he feels that appreciation and that love once he realizes, you know, everything that's happened."