L’no, not UT
The scuttlebutt surrounding Thursday night’s hate-fest between Kentucky’s two chief rivals has been a question of forced allegiances, and the lesser of two evils. Imagine a doctor’s prognosis sounding something like, “Good news, she‘s not pregnant! But she does have the clap.” Either way, you’re going to be left scratching, so you might as well take the cream and make the best of it. In case you’re still on the fence, here’s a background. It’s just like choosing a President, people.
This is a touchy one. It’s certainly understandable why many UK fans detest ol’ Bravo with every fiber of their being, but I’m pretty much over it. I tried to hate the guy, and for a while, I even made myself believe it. Alas, I do not. The Dream ‘Weave’r happened to produced the most dominate decade of Kentucky basketball in the colored film/no-belt era. It was the absolute pinnacle of entertainment. Although stunts like the Tony Montana routine certainly make him easy to root against.
Every hero needs a villain, and as pro wrestling and The Joker have proven, it’s a lot more fun when they’re grotesquely over-the-top, paint their chest, and Incredible Hulk their oxford. Pearl has dutifully bellied up to the bad guy table formally occupied by the swashbuckling Dale Brown and the dashing Nolan Richardson. The parallels between Pearl and a spray-paint era Pitino, cannot be ignored. I will never like Pearl; not just for his incessant referee browbeating, incomprehension of role within history, and ‘bark >>> bite’ results, but damn it if he doesn’t make it fun. Word out of the mountain is Phil Fulmer plowed through the Picadilly Cafeteria last Sunday without being stopped once.
Tennessee: The resurgence of the program has proven much more than fluke, as the Vols were unquestionably the most talented team in the SEC this season. So talented, they managed to precisely time their exit in the SEC Tournament almost to the hour of their average stay. The Kentucky/Tennessee border war is older than the SEC, and is, historically, the cause of much bloodshed…ok, so the bloodshed is actually a sterile, philanthropic blood-drive, but it gets nasty.
Louisville: Just like Tennessee, geography and fanbase offer convenient fodder for this healthy hatred betwixt the Bluegrass. Kentucky fans ask themselves just before bed every night, how an individual from the state of Kentucky can not cheer for Kentucky. Louisville fans ask themselves before bed every night why Kentucky faithful think they’re superior, and where can I get one of those new English L sweatbands that I’ll wear even when I’m not partaking in athletics. We’ve been over it before, and although it never gets old, I we all know where we stand.
Tennessee: Not quite the familiarity of the immortal Harris/Yarbrough/Hathaway/Black age, as the steady stream of Smith’s makes it a little more difficult to direct jeers. The Lofton factor cannot be ignored, as perhaps no other UK opponent has, or will ever be as discussed as he. Wayne Chism certainly has all the makings of a seemingly ten year UT career, but lacks the overall charm of a Major Wingate, and the charisma of a Ron Slay.
Louisville: Relatively speaking, this really isn’t the most hatable batch of Cards we’ve ever seen. David Padgett seems genuine, and by all accounts is, and to be honest, most of these players have only beaten UK once, so the hate has not really had ample time to breed. And if you can’t appreciate Derek Caracter for who he is, then you haven’t a soul, nor have you ever had to babysit a 21 year old man.
Gotta go for the SEC. Nobody said it was easy, but it’s simple geopolitics folks. Even if your wife or your best friend cheer for Louisville, or you find yourself overcome with Commonwealth pride, you just can’t do it. Stepping out on the SEC for the Big East? You might as well trade in your wife for a prostitute. UT will still suck just as hard Friday.