Hope you enjoyed it, smug bastard
For all of us here in the Big Blue Nation (map it!), a victory tonight in Columbia would of course be a rewarding treat on a multitude of levels. The Cats will maintain the sheen of that cherished number 1 ranking, move the tally to 20-0, and complete phase I of a two-part redemption after being inexplicably swept by the Cocks a year ago, including the 77-59 woodshedding last February in Columbia. Now, I just recently moved back to KY but spent the last 2.5 years living in the Palmetto State and dutifully made the 100 mile trek from Charleston to the unmitigated hell-hole that is Columbia with a few fellow Bluegrass transplants, falsely confident that our tradition and Jodie Meeks’s hot hand could overcome the hyped, unfriendly confines of the stately Colonial Life Arena. After all, just a month prior the Cocks came into to Rupp and stole a W from the clammy, heavy hands of Billy Gillispie and surely we would see a professional approach at vengeance here in the hen-house. With the football team’s uncanny ability to successfully fall short each and every year to the Cocks, needless to say, a Cats fan in the Lowcountry must have the reliance of basketball in their pocket to counter the trash talk regularly spewed from the creatures of Cock.
With guarded optimism on our big blue sleeves and bourbon on our breath, we took our seat not in the rafters, but above them, in what had to be the highest peak in all of South Carolina. Orestes Meeks sat nearby, as did the Ramon Harris family. A speck of blue in an otherwise fired up and unwelcoming ocean of garnet and black, and some downright disgusting concoction of Gamecock camo T’s that they handed out to the riled students before the game.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Gamecock “faithful”, allow me to expound: take a man, any man, and remove all fibers of sports knowledge from said brain. Then, eliminate the ability to think logically, and follow it up by cutting out any remaining semblance of discretion. Now you’re ready to add your ingredients, which include a false sense of accomplishment, entitlement, and hygiene. Season to taste. Bake in the unrivaled humidity of a South Carolina summer, and your Gamecock fan should come out piping hot and rough around the edges (ed. note: for you lonely souls, simply pepper in some estrogen during the mixing stage, and voila, a woman! Also, adding a chip to the shoulder and a flat-billed cap makes a killer UofL fan).
With the ESPN all-access cameras rolling and the house rocking, Billy G & his Bandits immediately looked painfully unprepared; the result of an alarmingly uninspired, clumsy, borderline incoherent pre-game speech (as ESPN soon after revealed), not to mention the browbeating that probably went down off camera in the locker room shitter. Seemingly every shot Kentucky attempted in the paint was swatted, Devan Downey reveled in the defense and ball-handling of his Caucasian foe (even found it to be quite funny, famously), and Jodie Meeks looked on from the bench, much to the bewilderment of everyone and the chagrin of Orestes who could only muster a caustic chuckle. By halftime it was clear that any chance at taking the crowd out of the game had passed, and the fact that we made the 4 hr. round trip hike in the first place stubbornly kept us in our seats. My heavy bladder and empty stomach was not even enough to coax me from my position and into the waiting storm of catcalls and conceit.
When the 30th blocked shot reached the 3rd row, the Gamecock lead nearing the 30 point mark, the crowd at its crescendo, and the smirk from Gillispie visible for miles, we tucked our tails in and headed for the exits. There would be no “wait-til-next-year”s or “you-got-lucky-this-time”s, just a heavy helping of depression in the face of rock-bottom reality. Thinking back through the past few seasons, there were numerous times in which I thought the program had reached the ultimate low, and of course the worst had yet to come, but that night last February in Columbia took us on a detour to the bedrock of the abyss.
We drove home in silence. Only the occasional f-bomb and a quick jaunt to Zaxby’s broke the collective hush, and then, fittingly, the sirens from South Carolina’s finest flashing the universal sign for “you’re f*cked.” I wanted to tell the officer the carnage we had just witnessed and that we were actually speeding away from a catastrophe, but I realized the cruel hands of reality were not going to relent until the sodomy was complete. The sobering loss had quelled the pre-game bourbon, a silver lining if it must, but I went to bed that night balled in the fetal position, out $150 bucks and devoid of my manhood, wondering if UK’s vacay from national prominence was indeed overlapping into residency.
So while we’ll all be rooting for the win tonight, I’ll settle for nothing less than complete and righteous payback, sparing no grisly detail. Nothing short of a gory removal of their Gamecock hearts like a spiteful Redcoat in the Last of the Mohicans or Calipari feeding Darrin Horn a bowl of human chili shall suffice, for Kentucky basketball is back, back like, how do they say in Columbia? Ah yes, cooked crack.