It became readily apparent to me last night that I am getting old. I did my best to stay up and watch the WKU-UK volleyball game that was supposed to start at 10pm and started what felt like around 3am. But after seeing the first game and the pretty clear difference in talent between the two schools, I called it night. I’ve got a kid. And a job. I ain’t staying up until bars close to watch volleyball. Or any sport for that matter.
But as a Western Kentucky graduate these clashes between the Tops and Cats are always awkward for me. That was probably Western’s greatest volleyball team in school history. They came into the game undefeated and having just knocked off a national seed. I interviewed their coach, Travis Hudson, a couple times during my work at the campus TV station way back when and found him to be a very welcoming, great man. I knew a few of the volleyball players and they were some of the more fun group of athletes on campus. So I’ve always found myself rooting for the Topper volleyball team.
But of course, UK is MY team. Grew up with them, fought for them, write on a blog for them for over a decade.
So how does everybody handle this situation? On the one hand, you have your alma mater. In some ways, WKU has always been a little brother to Kentucky. Even when I went there, the Tops wanted to play UK in football and basketball so much and rarely were granted those opportunities. Still the case today. I came to WKU the year after Patrick Sparks left for UK and I can tell you that stung the Hilltopper fanbase quite a bit. As a sports nut, I cheered for everything WKU during my 4 years there and have followed the school ever since. The Courtney Lee-2008 WKU team might be my favorite college basketball team. Sorry Cats fans.
But how do I reconcile that with my love for the Cats? UK also has its greatest volleyball team ever and one that could legitimately win the national title. WKU wasn’t going to be able to do that. Same goes with much of anything. When WKU and UK played in the NCAA Tournament in 2012, I was there. And felt the whole time I didn’t know where my rooting interests lied. A 16-seed WKU squad beating mighty UK would have been the greatest moment in WKU history. But that UK team was going to win the national title. How do you decide?
So what is the strategy? For those who didn’t attend UK, how do you handle when your alma mater plays UK? Especially if your alma mater is a mid-major school like WKU where beating UK would always be reason to celebrate. And if in this one scenario I cheer for my alma mater over the Cats, is that acceptable. Or is being a Cats fan mean in all circumstances till you die?