In case you’re just joining us, I do not like Louisville. Conversely, and unlike most former girlfriends, I do not like the taste of my feet. You see, my pre-football game rhapsody was born not only out of sheer detestation, but confidence as well. I’ve felt many things about the Kentucky basketball team so far this season, not one of them confident. Losses to Gardner-Webb, San Diego Community College, et al have a way of reducing said confidence to a modicum of hope. So I will hedge my hatred of City U this time around, refer you to my previous tirade, and instead offer a little evidence as to why this is indeed THE rivalry in college hoops.
If ESPN completely had their way (expected to be fully realized by 2011) our children would not be allowed to pass grammar school until they could correctly spell Krzyzewski. The Duke/UNC propaganda would be taught in textbooks, dramatized at recess, and reiterated by parents unwilling to stand up for personal freedom for fear of persecution, or even worse, a lecture from Il Duce, Dickie V.
Dad: “Hey sweetie! What did you learn in school today?”
Daughter: “Um, I learned that 3 is a primary number, and that Donte Calabria was a great on-ball defender.”
Dad: “Great honey…that’s, that’s great…listen, you know there’s more to basketball than Du…(looks out his window to see a man in a Kentucky t-shirt being caned by police)…nothing sweetie, I’m glad you’re learning.”
The Duke/UNC rivalry is certainly the most relevant on the national landscape as it’s often played with the conference championship hanging in the balance. The cast of characters who’ve participated in this game reads like a who’s who of basketball greatness, and we’re treated to the spectacle twice, sometimes three times a year. Not to mention the multi-channel coverage and weeks of sheer yelling into the television to get you to care.
But here in the Bluegrass, away from the milieu of professional sports and firm grasps of reality, there’s only one. 364 days in preparation for two hours of civil unrest and territorial slander. In the Bluegrass, this is all we’ve got. Duke fans, although loud and collective, are rarely inhabitants of the war zone. They’re imported from the ‘burbs of New Jersey and the lowlands of Punjab, given a T-shirt, drenched in blue face paint and taught some cheers. Upon graduation they flea Tobacco Road to begin their lives as software engineers or lawyers with a sports blog.
Not only does the UK/uofl rivalry match the tradition of our ACC adversaries and trump its local significance, how can it compete with the Rick Pitino angle? Until Roy Williams marches into the Dean Dome leading his band of Blue Devils against the Tarheels, I’ll keep my blue ribbon pinned on the Dream Game.
Although neither team has fulfilled their part of the bargain thus far, those proclaiming tomorrow’s dream game as irrelevant and futile are mistaken. Looking past obligatory bragging rights, the winner gets an extra boost of rejuvenation just in time for conference play. The loser…perhaps a boost of heroin to mute the agony as the proverbial salt seeps into the mortal wound. Beating Louisville has an emotional attachment that even goes beyond a tournament game. It’s like the feeling Derrick Caracter must get when he flops onto a brand new recliner for the very first time. Satisfaction, pride, jubilation. Louisville will forever be little brother. A pimple on the ass cheek of a greater cause. But they certainly offer a challenge tomorrow, and perhaps, as they did in the 80’s and early 90’s, they’ll be a challenge for years to come. The better the two teams are the more national attention the game recieves…like that matters here in Kentucky anyway.