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Is Kentucky a College Basketball Villain?

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.

Article written by Corey Nichols

51 Comments for Is Kentucky a College Basketball Villain?

  1. wildcat
    9:07 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    everybody hates a winner kentucky has always been the guys in the black hat cause god bless it. we have the greatest tradition college basketball, 8 chanmpionships 2nd only to UCLA, (wich will change one day.) all time most wins and the GREATEST fans in the entire world we eat breathe live and die basketball when we was born mom and dad but a toy basketball in our crib with us to play with eat one lol and sleep with as tina turner said we are “simply the best better than all the rest.”

  2. That Guy
    9:10 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    I agree with you #1. That being said, your education level must be 2nd grade….

    Horrible grammar…

  3. GP
    9:18 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    And I’ve been waiting for that Krispy Kreme line to end up on the site forever!
    Well done, sir.

  4. mike
    9:19 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    Machiavelli, “Better to be feared than loved.” No one hates Northwestern and Washington State.

  5. BillGar
    9:19 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    UK is a polarizing force, in the same manner as the Yankees. People love to hate the Yankees, but the Yankees also manage to have more fans than anyone else. They sell out ballparks that haven’t been sold out for years. But they will always be the “big, bad Yankees.” When a team has been a dynasty, they automatically become the “popular kids” or the “bullies” that everyone wants to see fall. Its the price of success. I didn’t think this was anything new?

  6. Clam
    9:22 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    To outsiders, I am sure we are thought of as villains. In fact, most probably dislike us more than Duke. The only thing Duke has going against it is its arrogance. UK is just as arrogant towards “lesser’ fans and programs, plus we have had more success, plus we have Cal (who 80% of fans hate), plus we have a stigma of cheating (point shaving with Rupp, “Kentucky’s Shame” with Sutton, perception of Cal), plus we take the sport WAY more seriously than anyone else, plus our state is considered by non-Kentuckians to be a redneck shit hole. It’s almost like UK was scientifically created to drive people like John Fiensteinn insane.

  7. emlang08
    9:25 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    #6 – Awesome Post!

  8. ktmiln2
    9:28 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    #6 nailed it

  9. FroggyFresh
    9:30 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    It’s not Krispy Kreme no more. It’s Froggy Fresh. Different name, same kid.

  10. go
    9:31 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    Haters gonna hate.

  11. Still the best
    9:32 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    “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”
    he was the best at doing something that was fake, what they do is not wrestling!

  12. Skeller03
    9:35 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    Haters gonna hate, Cayts gonna Cayt.

  13. Bubba Earl
    9:36 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    I always felt sorry for Goliath, David to me was a “bully”

  14. shields eyes
    9:37 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    11 Thanks so much for educating us to the fact that wrestling is fake.

  15. GoCats2
    9:39 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    No offense to Cory but we should replace his post with comment #6.

  16. Scout
    9:39 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    Krispy Kreme is awesome! The tosh.o episode with them was great. I am a fan of the video “The Baddest”.

  17. KBF
    9:39 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    Haters gonna hate, cayts are gonna cayt, and Kate on State’s gonna…

  18. Matt
    9:44 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    The reason we are different from Duke is that we have long winning tradition and I think outsiders respect us more for that. I would compare us more to Kansas or UNC because they too have a tradition of success. Duke has only been good under coach K. UK, KU, and UNC have all been elite under multiple coaches which gives us better ground to stand on when it come to talking about our winning tradition. People that hate us, hate us because we are good and it stems from jealousy. People hate Duke because they are unlikeable.

  19. ThankfulCat
    9:48 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    Sneering blueblood?

    You bet

    I like it

    Do you ever think Lousiville would be called that?



    Would Pitino give his right testicle to be called that?


  20. DCS195
    9:52 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    The difference between UK and Duke is that UK has one of the biggest fan bases in all of college basketball, Duke does not. They are alike in that, if you are not a fan of their team, you don’t like them at all. I agree with 18) that UNC and Kansas are a better comparison.

  21. lonnieb
    10:07 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    @11 still the best……….
    He does what 99% of americans call wrestling……you are referring to what “athletes” do when they cannot cut it in the major sports……I have a few friends that talk like you because they “wrestled” in high school and at some small NAIA school.

  22. 44 Stitches
    10:09 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    Coming from someone who has only lived in KY as a little kid and then again during college I would say us and duke are the most hated b’ball schools by far. When UK plays on the road in the SEC most of those people show up because they hate UK b’ball and hope we might lose. Their hate for UK basketball is almost greater and in some cases is than the love they have for their own SEC b’ball team.

  23. lonnieb
    10:10 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    I think people hate us because we are 14-6 and all our fans do is bash our own players b/c they are not producing like X fan thought they should……and after reading multiple posts our players are also stupid for thinking they should go pro. I hate UK fans and I am a diehard UK fan… wife makes food and a bunch of people come over…..even for most of the crap games

  24. RICK
    10:13 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    Its great to be hated, it means you are the best.

  25. Ky over
    10:16 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    So we are the “Snidely Whiplash” of college basketball!

  26. Are you serious?
    10:19 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    I seriously hate articles like this. “ARE WEEE DA VILLAINS?! HURRR DURRRRR?!” -the person who wrote this article

    Did you just become a Kentucky fan? Of course we’re the villains. We’ve been the “villains” since Rupp coached here. Our villainy is perpetuated by having coaches like Pitino and Calipari. People love to hate Kentucky because we win, and they can’t seem to keep us from doing just that, winning. Seriously, it’s not even a question.

  27. Leo D
    10:19 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    “nice guys finish last”. Sneering at you Seth.

  28. big blue goliath
    10:19 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    I feel like I’m pretty well traveled since graduation…having spent time living on both coasts, and sadly, in indianapolis as well. I think “average sports fan” in most places viewed UK moreso with a respected indifference (like they would Kansas, UNC, Packers), than hatred (which seems reserved for Duke/Yankees/Patriots). That said, I think the decade of Mediocrity (99-08) helped skew the opinion toward ‘respected indifference’. But as Cal continues to score Top Two recruiting classes year-after-year and makes deep runs in the Tourney, I’m definitely feeling the pendulum swinging over towards the “Duke hatred”. At this rate, I think we’ll be hated well beyond that of Duke in three or four years. I’m ok with that. #WeWant9,10,11,12,etc

  29. Juan4UK
    10:21 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    Cory has reading comp issues. Over-thinking Goliath. The term Goliath is used to compare perceived size, that’s all. Nothing to do with the Biblical character.

  30. Felipe
    10:26 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    I think #23 is right. Most UK fans bash their own players, which is not only sad but just wrong. I also think #24 is way off base. Being hated doesn’t make you the best. People say Duke is arrogant, but I think some UK fans need to look in the mirror. (NOT ALL, but a lot!) I think people hate UK more because of the fans than because of the team. It’s one thing to be proud of your team, and it’s another thing to repeat “we have 8 championships, how many does your team have?” every where you go. And those fans are normally the loudest so that’s what other people see/hear. To me, that kind of superiority complex is why people hate UK. Be proud, but remain humble. That’s the key.

  31. Jon
    10:27 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    I never did or never could understand the hate thing until I thought about the New England Patriots. I hate them! They win all the time. I’m not from that state. So what? The So-What is that I despise them.

    Then it hit me…

    That’s the way it is with Kentucky.

    We are the best. We have the best fans. We are the winning-est program of all time.

    Simply, the best.

    And it feels, for us, wonderful. Quite wonderful in fact. And some of us wished everyone liked us. And some don’t care. And that’s neither here nor there.

    But this whole ‘villains’ thing is nonsensical. Now, you can, in your pettiness, think of us as villains if that is what helps you cope with your life and all. But in truth, we are far from that criminal moniker. I am a Christian. Christians “win” in the end. We triumph. We were born and made to prevail. Not get ‘close’ or achieve the ‘almost’ standing. No! On the contrary, we make it, we defeat foes. We win; always and forever! Period…

    So, Kentucky wins, Kentucky is the gleaming bellwether in all things Big, Blue and Basketball!

    And what?

    That makes us bad?


    It makes us Kentucky.

  32. DerbyDemon
    10:28 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    UK’s villainy has a lot to do with the constant negative spin that’s puked about the UK/Texas Western game–the white school against the black school, Adolph Rupp was a racist, and all that other BS. The fact we have won more games than any other school also helps bolster people’s negative view on the team.

  33. We Hang Banners
    10:37 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    Everybody hates us because their grandfathers hated us. Since the 1940’s people everywhere, every fanbase has hated us. Duke isnt even close to that kind of hate.

  34. UK_Spunk
    10:38 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    #9 speaks the truth! Froggy Fresh!

  35. Joncat
    10:42 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    Juan: Goliath means UK has more perceived size? Is UK taller or is the campus bigger? Or are you using that as a metaphor to show that Kentucky is (like Goliath) strong, powerful and the “favorite” in a “underdog vs favorite” contest? Outside of UK, I nearly always root for the underdog (especially in March), I think most do. Related Question: Do you think Cinderella teams are called that because strangers give them shoes that fit well?

  36. henry earl
    10:46 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    go to heaven, Corey

  37. LeX
    10:48 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    If you just gathered that were one of the biggest villains in sports you have got to be the most delusional person ever.

    The reason people are excited to see us to come to town is because they hate us so much theyre excited to see their team possibly humiliate us. God you guys are dumb.

  38. Big Whoop
    10:55 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    Uh, Corey, you do know that Seth Davis is a Duke grad who’s daddy got him the job he has now, don’t you? Goliath is a bad comparison. I prefer for us to be known as the Evil Empire. That has a much better ring to it, don’t you think. Cal is the Darth Vader of college coaches. Ashley Judd is Princess Leah. Noel is the Sith.

  39. WeAreEverywhere!
    10:57 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    #6 for president!!!!

  40. holler baller
    11:13 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    Other fans look at UK like we look at UL or UNC.
    We all have one common thread though and that’s hating Duke.

  41. RealCatsFan
    11:16 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    To continue on the thoughts that #18 posted, is there another program that has won as many national championships under as many different coaches as UK? We have won titles under FIVE different coaches. I don’t think anyone else comes close. THAT, to me, is what sets UK apart from other schools. Continued excellence through the years under many different coaching styles.

  42. HS Observer
    11:23 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    We’re not hated like Duke. Not close. Did UK administrators have to buy the domain out of fear that others soon would? No? Well, Duke admins did the same. We do have a huge, sometimes overly loud fan base. But I think being a successful state school is different than private organizations like Duke or Yankees.
    Fans from around the country Duke. While I don’t pretend people in Lawrence or Chapel Hill cheer FOR UK, I believe they have a special place reserved for Duke hatred. Heck a book was published this year by UNCLE fans titled “Duke Sucks”. It’s a pretty fun read btw.

  43. catsfan1965
    11:38 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    I live in DC and am often wearing UK gear and I meet very few people who hate UK. Duke haters are all around. Duke is far behind NC State and UNC in fanbase and merchandise sales. The ONLY reason that Duke draws ratings is that people tune in to see them lose. There is not that kind of hatred for UK. I think UK hatred will increase because of Cal and increased success not because our fans are hated douchs like Duke fans (see Dukie article about attending Miami game).

  44. Mr. Wrestling II
    11:43 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    With his Rock reference, Corey has now shown that his understanding of “sports entertainment” is as deficient as his understanding of sports. Ted Dibiase and Butch Reed, both of whom I had the distinct pleasure of getting whupped by in the Mid-South territory, are “villians”, the Rock was more of a “cool heel”.

  45. Will S
    11:57 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    6) You just killed it.

    18) Duke was good before K, just not great. Final fours in ’63, ’64, ’66 and ’78. NCAA championship games in ’64 and ’78. Coach K became coach in 1980 and the program took off afterwards.

    People love to hate great teams. Since 1980, there haven’t been any 2 programs better than Duke or UK. That’s why people hate the Yankees, Lakers, and Patriots.

  46. KYWCAT
    11:59 am February 1, 2013 Permalink

    I think our hatred is regional. And we live in that region, so it is in our face. I travel widely across the US and I can tell you most people don’t care, sport fan or not. Some don’t even know if we are UK or KU, the name of our coach, and especially not the name of our players. We live in the backyard of IU, OSU, UL, WVU, Cincinnati, etc. The fans of these teams hate us tremendously.

    We talk about hating Duke, only because we HATE Duke. I would agree that most believe them to be arrogant, etc and easy to hate. I don’t hate Duke, and often I like watching them win and I love bball so I like watching them play.

    Having Coach Cal at the helm has not helped others perception of us. People these days don’t equate us with Rupp, being racist etc. Some old gray hairs may spout about those things but not modern fans. They simply hate us because we are basketball elite. Not elitist as fans. As a matter of fact their is an obvious perception that Kentuckians in general are less than cerebral peoples so that is only another reason they hate. “You guys are so dumb, yet yuck on all the time about your Wildcats, you didn’t even go to college” etc, etc. Like someone said before Northwestern, etc aren’t hated because they never beat enough people to get on their bad side. Respect is not a character held by many in today’s society or I would feel the dislike comes from an envious respect, but no it’s just ignorant hate!

  47. bluecoat
    12:20 pm February 1, 2013 Permalink

    I have lived outside of Kentucky for 20 years now and can confirm that UK is hated by far more people than I would have imagined. Amazingly, many of these people went to schools with power sports programs as well, including Michigan, Duke, North Carolina, Penn State, etc., and cannot for the life of themselves understand how their school engenders equal amounts of hate. Hey, at least UK is worthy of hate.

  48. Cats Fan in Ohio
    12:23 pm February 1, 2013 Permalink

    #46 summed it up pretty well and said about everything I was going to. I will add that, as someone who has lived outside Kentucky for a long time, UK is definitely disliked by many fans across the country. Now that Cal is our coach and we attract many players who wish to be one-and-done (although I hate that term, it should be “one-and-ready-for-the-NBA”) the actual hate has been ramped up quite a bit.

  49. Hudgie DeRobertis
    12:41 pm February 1, 2013 Permalink

    You boys should have been around in the 50’s and 60’s. During those decades it was common to hear the Wildcats and the Yankees combined in the same sentence preceded by the words “Everybody hates…”.

  50. bluebiscuit
    1:17 pm February 1, 2013 Permalink

    Davis is a sneering blueblood who went to Duke.

  51. Seth=Gotlieb
    3:06 pm February 1, 2013 Permalink

    He just wants hits…easiest way to do that is add Kentucky basketball to any story.