If you aren’t from or ever lived in Louisville, you simply don’t understand. That’s just reality. You can still hate the Louisville Cardinals if you aren’t from Louisville, sure, don’t be ridiculous. However, to have a true grasp of the volcanic vitriol and utter disdain that exists between the Kentucky and Louisville fan bases, Louisville had to be your home at some point in your life. As a kid growing up in Louisville I learned that the rivalry isn’t just a single football and basketball game, it’s a year ’round affair. I can’t even begin to guess how many arguments between classmates erupted during school. Arguments that sometimes nearly came to blows between kids hell bent to protect their respective teams. This happened. All. Year. Long. As a UK fan, constantly hearing the relentless L1C4 smack talk, it begins to wear on you to the point your hatred could fuel a thousand burning suns. To the point you watch every Louisville game on TV in hopes they lose so badly they no longer have a reason to maintain an athletic program. When they do lose, it’s a great feeling and when the team that beats them is Kentucky, there isn’t a thing on Earth capable of removing that snake oil grin that emerges on your face.
Saturday was the most satisfying win over Louisville of my lifetime, in football or basketball. I was a junior in high school the last time the Cats won the Governor’s Cup (which by the way is the lamest name for a rivalry game ever. Alabama/Auburn gets a badass name like the Iron Bowl, and we’re stuck with the “Governor’s Cup”, yeesh). Six years without a football victory over Louisville is almost enough time to forget what it feels like to win. It wasn’t just the relief of finally getting a win that made it so special for me, however. Like it always has been, it was the joy of a Louisville loss coming at the expense of the Kentucky Wildcats. It was the dumbfounded faces of all the Cards fans I got in so many arguments with growing up. Only this time it was an even greater level of joy, a level of joy I had never experienced with this rivalry before.
You see, I am a student at the University of Louisville. I ultimately chose to attend UofL because it was the best financial option, before you make any further judgements. So over the years I have made friends and attended class with virtually nothing but Louisville fans. Oh boy, the things I’ve heard. This year was particularly awful with Louisville emerging on the national scene in football. Such national prominence emboldened my, UofL fan, peers to the point where I saw a fan base, three years removed from being a mid-major college football program, believe they became Notre Dame. They’d stick their noses up at just the very mention of UK football like a hipster who is too cool shop at Wal-Mart. Kentucky was a joke to them, a silly kids game they were too big for now. Their lack of self-awareness just added lighter fluid to smoldering hate charcoals that existed in my soul.
I would often have conversations with them about their football team. Sometimes, I would sneakily quiz them during these conversations, just mentioning facts regarding the history of Louisville football. Most of them did not know about Howard Schnellenberger or his significance to their beloved football team. Some of them were completely unaware that UofL had spent many years in the basement of college football, giving tickets away at Burger King, and almost getting rid of their football program completely. The pre-Bobby Petrino era (before he “wrecked his motorcycle”) seemed to not exist to these young Cardinal fans and that ignorance just made me want the Cats to beat them that much more. They’d continue mocking Kentucky football, jabbing at how inferior the Cats were to their Cards every opportunity they got. Then Saturday November, 26th came.
All those smug comments went away as they watched a second string, JUCO transfer, quarterback outplay their beloved Heisman candidate. Their noses that had been pointed to the sky, so high they couldn’t see the game, turned down in concern as they watched the unthinkable happen on their own field. They shrieked as their savior fumbled with the score tied at 38. Then they wept as Austin MacGinnis’ kick sailed through the uprights to give them their third loss of the season. The joke, Kentucky football, had just beaten them at the game they thought they knew best and there was nothing they could do about it. I simply grinned and cracked open an ice cold domestic brew in celebration.
This is why Saturday’s win meant so much to me.