Let me ask you a question: Do we consider Florida to be a rival in football? I think most people consider the Gators to be one of our rivals on the gridiron. Certainly not to the level of Louisville or Tennessee but I think most would say they are #3.
Now let me ask you a 2nd question: Do Florida fans consider Kentucky to be a rival in football? The answer is almost certainly no. The Gators don’t circle the game against UK on the calendar. Ever. They put Tennessee, Georgia, Florida State, Miami, and LSU as rivals. Kentucky? Way in the back of their minds.
So what is the difference? The difference is that Florida has traditionally been a winning football program. And Kentucky has traditionally been a losing football program. That’s it, plain and simple. We play them in every single year in football, our fans have watched the same games year after year, and yet the mentality of the fanbases is vastly different. And it simply has to do with winning and losing.
Now let me bring it back to UK and our rivals. I recognize that I am in a very small minority here but I think I am in the right. The fact is that I don’t cheer against our rivals, namely Louisville, Tennessee, and North Carolina (basketball). Now, let me be clear, I don’t cheer FOR them either. But the reality is those teams and the rivalries with them is significantly better when they are good. It is far better to play a Roy Williams UNC team than a Matt Dougherty UNC team. It is far better to play a Charlie Strong UL program than a Steve Kragthorpe UL program. Wasn’t it better to play Rick Pitino teams than David Padgett’s team?
Now ask yourself why? The only reason that it was better is because those programs were WINNING. And it made the wins against those programs that much sweeter. So while I am not actively cheering for Louisville when they are playing, I would much rather have an 11-0 UL football program coming into Kroger Field over a 2-9 UL program. I found the win over Lamar Jackson’s Louisville squad exponentially more enjoyable than beating the 2-10 UL team by 500 points two years later. But it was only sweeter because that was a good UL team.
I don’t think it makes you less of a fan to admit this fact. Rivalries only work when two teams are successful. I want Scott’s Tots to keep improving the UL program and then I want us to drub them each and every year. I want Chris Mack to keep UL in the Top 15. And then I want us to rip their hearts out each and every December. I don’t want to beat up on Little Brother when they are down. I want to beat up on Little Brother when they think they are good. So no, when UL is playing on television I am not putting on Cards gear and rooting for them. But I also don’t hate it when they win. In fact, it is my preference. And it’s actually selfish of me. Because their winning improves OUR rivalries and improves our experiences when we play them. Think of the big picture and it’s not that hard to rationalize wanting good rivals.
I’ll conclude with this though: Screw Duke. I hope they lose every game, every practice game, every exhibition, every dunk contest, every NBA draft, every everything. That I just can’t give up.