As we move ever closer to tip time on the latest edition of Cats-Cards, one (kind of) national writer has said what many in the Bluegrass have believed for a long time…that UK-UL is the best rivalry in college basketball. In the interest of full disclosure, the writer is Mike Rutherford, and in addition to being the college basketball editor for SB Nation he manages the UofL site ‘Card Chronicle’. Some might say that his work in the state makes him biased on the subject, but what it really means is that he has experienced the rivalry firsthand and thus knows better than most in the media what this game means to the people of this state. It’s simply a bigger deal to us than any game is to any two fan bases, and combining that with two coaches who don’t like each other and its once-a-year occurrence makes it better than any other rivalry. Yes…even the one ESPN spends the entire season telling us about.
The article is pretty long but a great read, so I’ll give you a brief excerpt and then turn you loose on it to get you even more pumped than you were already, as if you needed the help.
Louisville vs. Kentucky is the best this sport has to offer.
The game might not get the “full circle” treatment, it might not garner a week of over-hyped advertising, and it may not feature a man on the television screaming like the fate of the Middle East is at stake, but it simply means vastly more than its top rivalry competition. It means more to the players involved, it means more to the coaches involved, it means more to the fans involved and it means more to the state involved.
Barring a meeting in the NCAA Tournament, the Cards and the Cats get just one crack at each other every year. Forty minutes for 12-months of bragging rights. Forty minutes to avoid embarrassment and harassment at work, in school, or in your own bedroom for 365 days.
If Duke drops the first of the minimum two meetings with North Carolina, then the Cameron Crazies can retreat to their dorms, talk about how they’ll get ’em in a few weeks or in the ACC tournament, pop in season one of BattleStar Galactica (I know, nerd joke) and call it a night.
When the final horn blows in the Battle for the Bluegrass, an entire fan base is instantly forced to come to grips with the terrible truth that they will now be heckled unmercifully for an entire year by friends, co-workers, family, teachers, etc. whom they would undoubtedly stab in an exposed appendage if it weren’t so frowned upon.
Don’t get it twisted, there is no intended exaggeration or hyperbole in this post (except maybe the stabbing part…maybe). There are Kentucky fans who will still discuss the “shame” involved in the 1998 Wildcats falling – in Lexington – to a U of L team that would go on to finish the regular season 12-19. While the national championship > no postseason argument would seem like an effective retort to the uneducated outsider, being able to claim victory in this rivalry is like a one-year unlimited get out-of-jail free card.
The use of “hate” is excessive in almost any context, but this rivalry brings the utilization of the word closer to the cusp of appropriateness than any other.
As a Cat fan that has to live in Louisville, I couldn’t agree more. There’s nothing like the joy of beating the Cards, and nothing like the anxiety of knowing you’ll eventually have to face your friends and coworkers after a loss. And, as we’re reminded by the feeling this evening, there’s nothing like the night before this game. Only one more night’s sleep before we get it going again. I can’t wait much longer, and fortunately I won’t have to.
Go. Big. Blue.