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Get Your Rivalry On….

It has been another strange day in the world of UK fandom. Practice-gate 2008 reared its ugly head as fans everywhere channeled their inner Allen Iverson and debated the merits of taking time off from the practice grind. But such diversions are not surprising, as we are in the midst of a rivalry week and tensions are high. Rivalry games are like none other, as the opponent you play is not just another roadbump to success, but rather is a arch-enemy upon whom you wish harsh punishment and retribution. In fact the word “rivalry” comes from the Greek word “rivo” which means “I hate that guy and want to beat him with a copy of Plato’s “Dialogues” right across his Sparta-lovin’ face.”

Thus hating one’s rival and wanting to see them tortured is not only common, it is a normal and healthy part of life. And this week, one of those rivals our stupid pant wearin’ friends from the North are coming into Rupp Arena yet again. Aww yes, the Hoosiers, that hated rival from the 80s and early 90s that kind of became pitiful in the late 90s and early 2000s and now is really pitiful and a bit pathetic here in 2008. A lot of people really hate Indiana….but honestly, I am not one of them. They are a rival, but I have always found Bobby “I am Sick and Tired of Losing to Purdue” Knight to be a loveable old fart, was joyously baffled by Mike Davis’s insanity and loved the fashion sense of “All Denim, all the time” Kelvin Sampson. And now that they are coached by Dwight Schrute, how can you hate the Hoosiers.

Which got me to thinking……who are My Ten Most Hated Rivals in the world of UK Sports. Here is what I came up with:

(10) Vanderbilt : It is kind of hard to hate Vanderbilt. I mean at the end of the day, Vandy fans are relatively mild-mannered, generally intelligent and undoubtedly dorky. I mean its hard to gather up energy to hate future accountants and middle managers, especially ones who have the misfortune of cheering for the one school in the SEC with no possibility of ever winning anything. But when it comes to basketball, I can still get some rage. They play on a stupid court, with stupid sidelines, have way too many white people (especially the tall ones that only shoot threes and refuse to rebound) and their coach has the hair like a middle school principal (just shave it all Kevin). Add to it the fact that they always beat us in Nashville (unless Nazr Mohammed is involved) and some Vandy ire is necessary.

(9) Marquette: Seriously, it was cute the first time when Jim McIlvane was around. Then with Dewayne Wade, I kinda understood because Bogans was hurt and he became an icon in the game. But this last year simply crossed the line. I mean I have nothing against a Jesuit school in Wisconsin that has the misfortune of having arguably the ugliest female student body outside of the Ivy League, but lets be real. We cant keep playing Marquette in the tournament, and if we have to keep playing, we certainly cant keep losing. I dont want to see any Deiner or Novak or any other three point shooting bomber come up against us in March again. Do you understand me? NCAA Selection Committee….do I make myself clear?

(8) Memphis: EDITED…..Because now I love Calipari!

(7) UCLA: This is purely a numbers game for me. I cant really hate UCLA or their fans. UCLA fans are sort of like Braves fans….you know they exist, and they follow their team….but they arent die-hard and most just like to have something to do. But the problem is that thanks to John Wooden (who I like), they won like 430 titles and are the only program who can truly compete with UK for best ever, and solely because of their gaudy title numbers. Thus I have to root for them to lose every year, because they cant win another one. I still like watching their games, kind of like their colors, and was genuinely star struck when I met Wooden. But they simply arent allowed to win any more titles, so they must be hit by a catastrophic plague. It isnt personal, just business.

(6) North Carolina: Truth be told, I envy UNC. They are set up to go on a 10-15 year run with Roy Williams that could only have been matched by a fired-up Rick Pitino staying at UK in the late 90s. They get all the players and unlike Duke (who once got all the players they wanted), they are considered a “cool” school and have street cred….meaning the world is their oyster. They have a chance to win the 5th title this year and if Roy continues doing what he is doing, a couple more could come. UNC fans arent awful, but they arent good either. They are generally intelligent, but that manifests itself in a belief that they are on a much higher plane than the rest of the college basketball world. Their fans like basketball, but lack UK fans’ passion….but they see that as a badge of honor, while I see that as a badge of posing. They get some points for hating Duke, but generally they are tough to tolerate because they may dominate the college basketball landscape for the near future, all the while with Roy Williams crying and gag-inducing talk about the “Carolina family.” UNC is like your successful cousin that is going to school at Emery and isnt nearly as smart as he thinks he is, but you know that even though he doesnt deserve it, life will deal him a good hand of cards. You think you have more to offer than he does and life may turn out better for you, but you secretly envy him a bit, and wouldnt mind if he got clubbed in the knee. That is UNC.

(5) Indiana: I put them here because I think I am supposed to being a Kentucky fan, but I admit to not having a great deal of passion against the lollipop gang. For the past 15 years, they generally have been irrelevant (besides the bizarre run to the title game in 2002 that kept me from having to endure back-to-back Duke titles when I was living in Durham) and their fans are the only ones nationally that match UK fans’ passion. Still yet, when they were winning and Knight was a complete turd, I can see how people could hate them. They have a tendency to hire strange coaches, either really mean, really crazy, really cheating or really strange looking. And when you combine that with their pants, it is clear that normal is not valued in Bloomington. This particular group this year is like the 1990 Kentucky team in that they are so bad that you cant hate them…and their energy is fun to watch. But still yet, there is the potential that their program might get better, and if they do their fans will return to their obnoxious ways. So we might as well keep our hatred up, just to be safe.

(4) Florida: Ok now this is starting to get serious. I really hate Florida….not just a little bit, but a lot of bits. I hate that for a long time Billy Donovan couldnt coach, but people said he was great even though he underachieved. But then I hate that he got a great core group of players and won two titles, and I still am not sure he can coach but I have to say that he can so I dont sound like a raving lunatic in an alley making claims about martians invading. I hate that the Gators had the single most objectionable force to ever play college basketball (Joakim Noah) and that they have the greatest group of d-bag white shooters outside of Durham ever assembled (with Nick Calathes the most recent addition). I hate that their fans dont deserve their success and cant sell out games in their tiny arena, even after a national title. And I hate that after we won like 100 straight against them, they came back and won 90 in a row against us. I wish Billy Donovan had gone to the Magic, because the day he leaves, that program returns to irrelevancy. But until then, we gotta beat them or my head begins to explode.

(3) Duke: Now if we are just talking sheer, unadulterated hate, Duke is #1. I cant stand Duke with a passion that is unmatched in any other arena. But a lot of that is personal, having spent three years dealing with Duke fans, nearly every one of which I wanted to personally lock in a room with an angry Jeff Snedegar. But rationally, I recognize that we only play Duke like once every five years and there is no reason to hold them in the regard of the top two. But seriously, can there be anything more objectionable than the Blue Devils? Coach K is as obnoxious as he can be (and once yelled at my girlfriend after she wrecked her car into him….the best thing she ever did btw) and the Cameron Crazies have such a large dork quotient that Vandy fans kick sand on their shoes as they walk by. But nothing is worse than the players. From Hurley to Collins to Wojo to Redick to Paulus to Scheyer to every floor slapping, no heart-having, mama cuts your steak playing dude to wear those evil colors, no one is cool when they come from Duke. I truly cannot tolerate them. I think Patrick Patterson said it best, when he commented after making his decision for UK that when it came to the players at Duke, “I just wasnt feeling those guys.” Damn right Pat!

(2) Tennessee: If this were football, it would be different. But for basketball, the Vols are a solid #2. Since Bruce Pearl has arrived, he has taken the great Chris Lofton and replaced him with every wannabe rapper and headband-wearer imaginable in order to produce one of the most unlikeable collection of players that I can imagine. While Bruce Pearl is objectionable in almost every way imaginable, he can occasionally be funny and is the kind of guy that you like from afar….as in a far away from my wife/girlfriend/younger sister. But his players are simply impossible to root for. Their yamakuh-like headbands and on-court demeanor make the early 90s UNLV teams look like a bunch of choir boys. They do play a fast-paced style and at times their games can be fun to watch….but then you look at their football fans in the crowd, wearing that “puke inside of a pumpkin” Orange and you realize that there is nothing positive about this team and their success is helping the terrorists win. The rise of UT basketball is like Bruce Pearl’s orange coat….hideous and unnecessary.

(1) Louisville: Who else could it be? I mean seriously. Before I moved here, UT was my most hated team. But then I entered into the Louisville zone. And now they are by far my least favorite group. Why….well here are a few reasons: Freedom Hall, Derek Caracter, Rick Pitino, Steve Masiello, Terry Meiners, Rick Pitino, T-Will, EC-45, Edgar Sosa, Rick Pitino, everything about the awfulness that is Tom Jurich….the list goes on. The fans at Louisville are frustrating, but especially those who try to act like UL is a better program than UK. It isnt…..that doesnt mean the Cards are bad, they are one of the top 10 programs of all time, but they arent UK. There is no measure (besides amount of loss of Pitino’s hair while on campus) in which UL outranks the Cats. But rather than accept that, many delusional fans argue for UL superiority….and then lose to Western Kentucky with a team that is (to hear them say it) “as talented as the 96 Kentucky team top to bottom.” Combine that with the kings of unlikeability (Pitino and Tommy Turtleneck) and you get a program that is so easy to hate, it isnt even worth trying. Yes, Cards you have our former coach and our least favorite player in history (yes that is you Steve Masiello), but you dont have our program and you never will. But you do have our hate, and that is worth something.

Corey Robertson brings his Blogger Finalist work today in the afternoon. Stay tuned….

Article written by Matt Jones