There are many things that make the Big Blue Nation great. A loyal group that is basketball savvy (a.k.a. basketball bennies), wherever the team is playing, blue will get in. Just like everything in life, with the good, there is some bad. For a select few, the torches and pitchforks can be ready at moment’s notice, ready to throw their coach and team under the bus.
Freddie Maggard has taught me a valuable lesson: “Never tell fans how to fan.” I can’t tell adults how to treat their team, but I can tell adults they’re being stupid. These are the times “you people are crazy” acted as a double-edged sword.
* Admittedly, some of these “controversies” are not entirely contrived by Kentucky fans.
10. Cal Sends Obama a No. 44 UK Jersey
Calipari’s first major controversy was a controversy I did not know about until today. Before coaching a game for Kentucky, the head coach decided to send POTUS a UK jersey. Naturally, people were EXTREMELY upset.
Calipari responded on Facebook, but deleted it shortly after due to “negative comments.” A small portion of that response: “Don’t you think it’s a good thing if we get some Kentucky blue in that White House?”
500 458 Wins
After the Cats defeated Florida, Coach Cal was awarded the game ball for his 500th win. Technically, it wasn’t his 500th win. “Take it back, take it back!” The NCAA demanded. They couldn’t let Calipari receive recognition for the 42 games that were vacated after Marcus Camby hired an agent and Derrick Rose sketched through his ACT.
8. 2012’s Free Throw Gate
During the UofL game, Pitino’s first win over Calipari at UK, Alex Poythress took a pair of free throws that should’ve gone to Nerlens Noel. The error was by the officials, not an attempt for the coach to cheat. Still, he was forced to defend himself.
“I thought Alex got fouled. Why would I put Alex at the line? He can’t make any shots? I would have had more confidence in Nerlens at that point,” he said a few days later. “I wasn’t on the grassy knoll in ’63…I wasn’t even in Dallas.”
7. Willie Cauley-Stein’s Hair
People tolerated Willie’s antics, but many could not contain their takes once he went blonde. Did it affect his play? Of course not. Still, people believed it was an unnecessary distraction.
6. Cal’s Sweatsuit
This was a silly, unnecessary jab. What makes it even stranger is that the column condemning Cal’s postgame attire came from UNC’s official website.
You can hate the game because the opponent was Kentucky and being in the same building with them reminds you of exactly how differently things work in Lexington. John Calipari arrived at his postgame press conference with his tie off, top two buttons on his shirt unbuttoned, and having changed into blue jeans. There are not two top-level programs in America right now that arrive at the end result off the court more differently than Carolina and Kentucky.
Somebody was mad Monk went for 47.
5. & 4. Andrew and Aaron Harrison
I don’t know what exactly it is about the Harrison Twins that rubbed fans the wrong way. Maybe it was their body language. Maybe it was all of the squinting. Maybe the expectations were too high. Except they did go to a National Championship and lead the team to a 38-0 start before finishing the season in the Final Four. And Aaron Harrison did the most clutch thing anyone’s ever done in a Kentucky uniform…THREE times.
The most magical moment of my life gets me teary-eyed every single time, yet there’s still animosity from some fans for the way it ended.
3. Malik Monk’s Smile
Aside from the fact that the Florida student-section was objectively hilarious, those who question Monk’s will to win conveniently forgot the cojones he displayed just three days earlier, scoring 31 second half points and forcing overtime with 10 seconds to play. The 47-point performance against UNC should be enough proof, and that isn’t the only time he’s put the team on his back.
2. Calipari Forgot His Daughter’s Birthday
Of all the silly outrages, this one is the silliest. Cal wished his daughter Megan a Happy 25th Birthday on Sunday November 22, 2014. Her 25th birthday was actually November 23, 2014. The first Google search result is from ABC News. Imagine how much press he would get if he caddied for his daughter…
1. The 2010 NBA Draft
“I’d like to say it’s the biggest day in the history of Kentucky’s program.” That hyperbole sparked anger from plenty of fans and former players, including Dan Issel. “The dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” Issel told Jerry Tipton.
Instead of accepting his statement, many will never get over it. Hopefully that’s changed after a couple of All-Americans, four Final Fours in seven years and a National Title, but that’s probably just wishful thinking.
An essential component to being a fan is the irrational, emotional response invoked each time you watch your favorite team play. However, there’s a fine line between being a fan and a fanatic.
Today is February 6. It was March 1 when Aaron Harrison said after losing to a mediocre South Carolina team, “We know what we can do, and it’s going to be a great story.”
If that lesson still hasn’t sunk in, enjoy being angry. Just please keep your torches and pitchforks away from my timeline.