We’re all comfortable calling Kentucky a college basketball powerhouse. When a “down year” is a year where we fall just outside of the Top 25, it’s pretty safe to say that expectations, and typically results, are pretty lofty. But while we use words like “powerhouse,” “blue blood,” or “Greatest Tradition in College Basketball,” Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated used a different word: “Goliath.”
While the term “Goliath” may be flattering at first, the more you think about it, the worse it gets. After all, I don’t know if you remember, but Goliath was very definitely the bad guy in that story. He mocked and antagonized an entire group of people before trying to kill a little kid. Like, legitimately murder. But he was (literally) head-and-shoulders above everyone else. So, is that how folks see Kentucky? A giant they’d love to see fall? Here’s how Davis describes it:
Is a sport better when there’s lots of parity, or is it better when there’s a single powerhouse? The debate may be age-old, but it isn’t much of a debate. Goliath has always been best for ratings. Why else would my bosses over at CBS preempt their regular programming on Monday to show Tiger Woods running away with a golf tournament? It’s especially helpful when that powerhouse is a sneering blueblood like Duke or Kentucky. The only thing better than a dominant team is a dominant team that everybody loves to hate.
I’m a little surprised with the use of “sneering blueblood” (seems a little derogatory) but I’m most upset that we were compared with Duke. Do other people see us like we see Duke? If so, I apologize. But there’s no doubt that the “Goliath” is typically the bad guy, and certainly not the guy that casual fans root for. It’s not a pretty picture that Davis is painting, especially when the picture is of other people’s perceptions.
But, even if we are one of college basketball’s biggest “sneering” villains, is that all that bad? I don’t know about you, but on the few occasions I watched wrestling, I always rooted for the bad guy. The Rock was one of the best wrestlers to ever do it, and folks hated him for the longest time. Probably because he was a pompous jerkface, but he could be that way because he was the best. Even looking at basketball, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and a few others (Reggie Miller) were known for their ridiculous trash-talk. For all their ability, if you weren’t a Bulls fan or a Celtics fan, it was hard to root for them when they were actually playing (or when giving their Hall of Fame speech, in Jordan’s case). But even if you didn’t root for them, you had to respect them.
So is a loss of affection worth the increase in respect, even if we’re painted as a Goliath? Or do we have a “Michael Scott” like desire to have the best of both worlds? Even in a down year like this one, there aren’t a lot of people rooting for us. That’s the price that comes with being “the greatest tradition in college basketball.” We can’t expect people to feel bad for us when we’re down.
But like the great rapper Krispy Kreme said, “All the haters wanna be me. The only problem is, they can’t even see me. Ball so hard, record labels wanna sign me, life is a race and everybody’s behind me.”
Amen, Mr. Kreme.