This game is about the players who play for both UK and UL from other states who have been indoctrinated into this rivalry, and all the hatred and animosity that goes along with it. It’s also about Darius Miller, Jarrod Polson, John Hood, Chane Behanan, Elisha Justice and Zach Price, all of whom either are from or played some high school basketball in Kentucky. Think they don’t know how deep this rivalry runs?
This game is about Rick Pitino and John Calipari, two coaches who like each other about as much as the two fans bases like each other. It’s about Rick Pitino helping build the “roman empire of college basketball,” and trying to be the man who helps it stay dormant since 1998. It’s about John Calipari who has always came to the college basketball table screaming for attention for his lesser recognized programs, yet now sits at the head of the table receiving more attention than he could have ever dreamed. It’s about Louisville, who has always been viewed as second tier and little brother and their struggle to get respect. It’s about Kentucky, who has always been viewed with hatred and the poster child for what college basketball purists think is wrong with the game, trying to stay a cut above the rest and silence the doubters.
This game is about Ed Wilson and Charles Taylor, the two elderly men who got into a fist-fight at a Georgetown Dialysis Clinic over who would win the game. It’s about the Big Blue Nation that is made up of so many small towns in the state against the Card Nation which is mostly made up of fans from the biggest city in the state. It’s about the two fan bases who care more about college basketball than any other fan bases in the country. It’s about bloggers and columnists, and a state that likely has more sports blogs and radio shows devoted to college teams than any other state. It’s about small towns against big cities, and the bragging rights and pride one fan base will have until December. It’s about those who can’t be happy their team is in the Final Four because they can’t stand the thought of losing to their rival. It’s about the people who will call in sick on Monday because they can’t face their co-workers who cheer for the other team.
This game is also about the pride that both fanbases, coaches and players silently feel right now because two teams from one of the smallest states in the union are playing on college basketball’s biggest stage. It’s about bets and trash talk between Mayors of cities and declaring holidays in favor of the school in your city. It’s about the scores of Kentucky store owners who will shut down on Saturday early and hang a sign on the door reading “Closed, watching the Final Four.” It’s about a Louisville fan, Jeff Duncan, hoping Kentucky wins so his die-hard Kentucky fan dad, Gyp Duncan, can see UK win one more championship because he knows the happiness it would bring him (Pat Forde article).
This game is about every part of this post being true, and all the stories of fights and broken friendships that will come as a result of this game also being true. This game is about outsiders not believing how heated and intense this rivalry truly is, and then finding out on Saturday night. This game is about Louisville fans swearing Patrick Spark’s walked before he was fouled, Kentucky fans swearing DeMarcus Cousins didn’t really throw that elbow, and no other fan bases having a clue what either statement is talking about.
Some say it’s just a game and it should mean nothing, but to this state it means everything. As my mother said Monday night in her infinite wisdom: “This is more than just a game, it is much, much more.”
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