I tend not to comment on politics, religion or Cards vs. Cats. I have in the past, and whatever you write, someone is going to get angry. You’ve seen the recipe for an argument meme on Facebook; 1 Express an opinion. 2 Wait. Nothing causes it faster than religion, and in the Commonwealth that includes basketball.
I find The Big Blue Nation’s obsession with The Cards to be both thrilling and very complimentary. UofL today enjoys a powerhouse reputation but years of being in lackluster conferences doomed our teams to NAIB and NIT titles. Granted those tournaments were much bigger in the past but whenever analysts talk about storied programs, it’s always North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA, and Kentucky.
In our lifetime, that has come to include Duke and has dropped UCLA. Still, Louisville is not included and for good reason. They do not belong on that list. A list of past greats where UK domination was, even more, overshadowing than Cal’s one and done’s.
Pre Denny Crum Cards may have been a little brother, but that little brother has now grown up and become a 6’10”, 250 lb monster who give the Cats fits. Perhaps not always on the court but certainly off. It doesn’t matter if The Cards go in unranked with four starters hurt, playing with 3rd stringers and get beat by 40; Cat fans will extol on their program as if they just won the championship.
This I have never understood. With UofL it is easy to comprehend the vitriol, the buildup, they have much to prove. Even in their hometown, they have fewer fans than there are avid members of The BBN. Perhaps amid all the boasts and swaggering they know what is all too evident. Adolph Rupp, Pat Reilly, Dan Issel, Jack Givens, Kyle Macy, Sam Bowie, Rex Chapman, etc..are not walking through that door. The days of college basketball dominance is over, and there are no more teams like that. Even if they do roll in a fresh crop of lottery picks each and every year. UK has a glorious past, one in which every Kentuckian can take pride.
Both UofL and UK have a brilliant future and are now as equal as can be. So why does Rick Pitino always fall to John Calipari? I think we all know it has more to do with UK than Calipari. Just as Cal’s recruiting skills get enormous boosts from where he coaches. Rick is not comfortable in that game. He plays differently; he substitutes different, his analysis is odd, his behavior is sometimes inexplicable. I honestly think it is because once you are UK, it is hard to be anything else. He has done an incredible job of rising above the media hype, but we all know Rick became known at Providence, but he became a legend at UK. If he had not left Lexington how many records would be his? How many more banners would be hanging in those rafters?
It is hard to understand why The BBN is torn between liking and hating him. Unless you’ve ever been dumped. I don’t wish any of my ex’s ill will, but I do not necessarily want to see them dating my little brother either. Imagine then if when the opportunity to return was there, my little brother was chosen instead of me. Even though if you knew my little brothers you would agree I was an infinitely better choice. (Sorry Mark, Joe, Charlie, and Matt) UK is a program unlike any other in the country. It seems if you succeed there is no better job, but if you Gillespie out, nothing is more abhorrent to the BBN and your existence will become a living hell. UofL is different. We love to win, but a loss is something we deal with employing much less ferocity than the BBN.
I enjoy the rivalry, I am proud our arch rival is always a top rated team. If you want to be perceived as successful, then hang with successful people. The game on the 26th and previously against top-ranked Michigan Stare proves that UofL can play with anyone. To deny it is to deny UK has no chance to win the title, and they do. As do the CARDS. I like exchanging barbs, and mostly I like that people can get so excited over 40 minutes of throwing a ball through an iron ring in a game that in the end means nothing more than who can look over at the other color in the hall and yell, “Naa-Naa-Na-Na-Naa.” I love Kentucky, not a better state anywhere. Now if we can just get the blue color replaced by red, we’ll be right as rain. After all, the state bird is the Cardinal, not the bluebird.