Louisville’s game against WKU recently got me thinking about just how much UK fans hate U of L. Watching this game, I actually found myself “cheering” for Louisville – blasphemy, I know. This was unchartered territory for me. But my reasoning was this: If Louisville lost to the Hilltoppers (who are a mighty 4-9 so far), then what kind of respect would Kentucky get if they simply do what was somewhat expected and beat the Cards? If the Cats won, it was just because they were supposed to; if they lost, fans would have to endure the “Western beat U of L, but you guys couldn’t!” comment all year long. I’m certainly not saying that winning is the expectation now – Louisville is coming off a close loss to Georgetown and will be looking for blood when they come to Rupp Saturday.
I think there are two sides to anyone’s fanhood (and hatred) in college sports, and I find myself caught between them sometimes. Do UK fans root for Louisville, ever? On paper, there are a couple of good reasons to hope the Cards are actually somewhat decent year in and year out. The Cats get a quality opponent each season, so fans don’t have to sit through constant cupcake games or hear talk about Kentucky “not playing anyone.” Also, there’s just something about a good rivalry. The reason UNC-Duke is such a great rivalry isn’t just because they’re located so close to each other, but also because the games between them are relatively balanced. When both teams are successful, the rivalry is just that much more exciting. When Louisville puts forth a good team, you have to admit that watching them play the Cats is more fun.
All that is on paper, but what about what’s in the hearts of UK fans? Would we rather have a quality rivalry each year, or would we rather beat the Cards to a pulp any chance that we got? The worse that Louisville is, the weaker our schedule is and the less exciting our main rivalry is. But, Kentucky is hardly a bubble team, to say the least, so why would strength of schedule be all that important? And would fans sacrifice an exciting rivalry if they got to see UK blowing out Louisville every single year?
Believe it or not, I’ve seen both kinds of fans. My dad, who has been a Kentucky fan for decades, will actually root for all the teams that UK plays (including Louisville) because, in theory, it makes the Cats look better. The more quality our opponents are, the more quality our wins are, to put it simply. Not only does UK earn the respect of the college basketball world, but fans just hold their heads a little higher knowing that the Cats can beat the good ones.
On the other side of it, I have a friend who is one of the biggest UK fans I know, and he won’t cheer for Louisville under any circumstances. If the Cards play someone like UNC or Tennessee, he’s of the “Let’s-hope-a-plane-crashes-into-the-building” kind of mentality. I’ll take this opportunity to give a small shout-out to this friend, who wore a UK shirt in the Louisville student section last night and was given a police escort out of the Yum! Center after the game. Apparently, Louisville fans were getting a little too rowdy. But, I digress.
So what kind of a fan are you? Do you wish a loss on our opponents every time they step on the court? Or do you swallow your pride for a couple hours and hope they win, as long as it’s not against the Cats? I’m really curious to find out what everyone thinks about what constitutes a good rivalry and how deeply the hatred runs in our (blue) blood.