Photo of soot-covered miner sitting with son at Kentucky basketball game goes viral

PIKEVILLE, Ky. — Basketball is king in Kentucky, and so is a father’s desire to sit at courtside with his son.

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A photo of a soot-covered coal miner sitting in the stands with his 3-year-old son during the University of Kentucky’s annual Blue-White game has gone viral. Wildcats coach John Calipari was in awe of the man’s determination to be a good father and be there for his son for Saturday night’s game in eastern Kentucky.

“It hit me right between the eyes when I saw it,” Calipari told reporters. “He wanted to be there so bad that he was willing to leave without showering, without changing, just get in his car and go. He wanted to be there with his son. That’s why he did it.”

Micheal Joe McGuire, of Pikeville, has a red beard -- but you couldn’t tell from the photo, as he was still covered in coal dust from his job at Excel Mining, which operates out of Pike County in eastern Kentucky, the Louisville Courier Journal reported.

McGuire works as a roof bolter at the coal mine, WLEX-TV reported.

“I started about a year ago and it kind of blew my mind. I was like, ‘Wow, I didn’t think people really could go through stuff like this,’” McGuire told the television station. “It’s literally just like a big, giant cave.”

McGuire grew up loving Kentucky basketball, watching games with his father.

McGuire’s wife bought tickets to attend the Blue-White game with her husband and son WLEX reported. Their son, Easton, had never seen a basketball game before.

“They had posted the presale link and I hopped on and grabbed some tickets because I knew it was important to him and his dad,” Mollie McGuire told the television station. “I thought it would be a great experience for him to share with our son.”

Micheal McGuire worked late Saturday and went straight to the game from the mine to meet his wife and son, the Courier Journal reported.

Easton loved the game and the atmosphere.

“When the guys would slam-dunk or they would shoot a 3 and the crowd would holler, he would get excited and clap his hands,” Mollie McGuire told the newspaper. “And every time they would have a timeout, I mean, then they turned the music on, he would get down on the floor and dance for everybody. Our entire section had a show every time the music would play.”

Calipari posted the image of Micheal McGuire sitting with his son on his social media pages, offering tickets to the family to be “treated as VIPs” during a game this season at Rupp Arena in Lexington.

Calipari said his family’s “American dream” started in a Clarksburg, West Virginia, coal mine, so the photo of McGuire and his son “hits home.”

McGuire was working in the mines on Monday and had no idea that the photograph had gone viral.

“When I made it out and got (cellphone) service, my phone just started blowing up,” McGuire told the Courier Journal. “I called my wife to figure out what was going on and she said, ‘Glad to see you’re figuring it out now!’”

The McGuires later received a telephone call from Calipari.

“The phone rang and I had no clue who it was. I answered and (Micheal) was like, ‘Hey, it’s Coach Cal!’ and I just sat there, like, ‘Uhhh.’ It was a complete shock!”

“We tell (Micheal) all the time, as his immediate family, we appreciate you and everything you do, but just to see everyone else sharing their appreciation, their stories, it’s been wonderful for him to see it’s not just us. Everyone appreciates it,” Mollie McGuire told WLEX. “It’s hard work. It’s a blessing.”

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