We are a fanbase that celebrates big wins as much as any in the country. But we haven’t always been the best losers in the world. Most fanbases aren’t by the way, but we can be pretty bad losers. Fans can turn on coaches and players (and officials) pretty quick and excuses are plenty. It’s not always our brightest moments after losses. But let’s flip the script for this post because there have been those rare occurrences when even though the Cats lost a game, I walked away with it HAPPY. Obviously not happy that we lost but content with that. Below are 2 example of what I am talking about, 1 in basketball and 1 in football. I wonder if there have been other losses than actually made you happy to be a UK fan that day:
2008: #1 Tennessee 63, Kentucky 60
-Why: That UK team had struggled all year long under 1st year coach Billy Gillispie. Ramel and Joe had done what they could but were not always consistent. UK went into that game with a 16-10 record. Tennessee was the top ranked team in the country with Chris Lofton. But that isn’t what made it special. What made it special is before the game it was announced star freshman Patrick Patterson would be out for the year with a stress fracture in the ankle. Patterson had, more or less, been UK’s best player consistently. So not only was UK not a great team WITH Patterson, they then had to go into the #1 team in the country’s gym without him. Add to that: UK trailed by 15 points just 10 minutes into the game (20-5). They trailed by 7 points at halftime. But the fight that team showed in the 2nd half, taking the lead with just 4 minutes to go, was an incredible thing to watch. I remember thinking after that game “if Billy can get THIS team to perform like that, he is the right man for the job”. Whoops. Nonetheless, I remember that game ending and not being disappointed at all. I remember feeling proud of my team.
2008: #2 Alabama 17, Kentucky 14
-Why: Look, that UK team was 4-0 entering that game, having only given up 22 points in 4 games. But those opponents were Louisville, MTSU, Norfolk St, and WKU. Alabama would go 12-0 in the regular season and would be national champs a year later. UK had sophomore Mike Hartline at the helm. Alabama had Julio Jones. And, UK fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter. Everything leading up to the game and after 15 minutes of action said blowout. But then something strange happened that we don’t often see in UK football: no quit. UK fought hard despite having no offense, hit 2 big plays in the 2nd half and almost pulled the upset. Much like the basketball game above, it’s all about effort. That team wasn’t the best having lost Woodson, Burton, Tamme, and Co. from a year earlier. But they had heart and it showed in that game.