Jan 19, 2013; Louisville, KY, USA; Syracuse Orange forward Jerami Grant (3) shoots against Louisville Cardinals center Gorgui Dieng (10) during the second half at the KFC Yum! Center. Syracuse defeated Louisville 70-68. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Big Brother/Little Brother

Syracuse University defeats the number-one ranked University of Louisville Cardinals and all of Big Blue Nation rejoices at the misfortune that has befallen Little Brother.

Jan 19, 2013; Louisville, KY, USA; Syracuse Orange forward C.J. Fair (5) blocks the shot of Louisville Cardinals center Gorgui Dieng (10) during the first half at the KFC Yum! Center. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

We can thank former University of Kentucky men’s head basketball coach Eddie Sutton for a term that has outlasted his time in Lexington.  In the early 1980s, Coach Sutton referred to the University of Louisville as “Little Brother” – two words that have essentially come to define the relationship between the two flagship universities in the commonwealth.  Standing by itself, the basketball history at U of L is spectacular.  There are the two NCAA titles, the 9 Final Fours, the All-Americans and the Hall of Fame-level coaches.  Easily, the Cardinals are one of the top 10 programs in the history of college basketball.  Unfortunately, the Cards just happen to play 75 miles from the best program in the history of college basketball.  So, it’s easy to see how such a Big Brother/Little Brother situation can arise among the two rival fan bases.

I live in Louisville, Kentucky which is Ground Zero for trash talk between Big Blue Nation and Card Nation (I’m still not convinced such a thing exists, but the PA announcer at UL home games makes reference to it).  The past 12 months have been pretty rough for the blue-clad folks in Kentucky’s largest city.  Despite winning the school’s eighth NCAA Championship in April, times have been tough for Kentucky fans.  As soon as the basketball season ended, Louisville fans have gone out of their way to belittle the championship, trying desperately to somehow attach an asterisk to it: “With Cal, you know it’s coming down!” “It’s going to be vacated!” And then, the season began.

If you’re a member of Big Blue Nation, you know that the record of the 2012-13 men’s team isn’t what we thought it would be at the beginning of the season. Despite another stellar recruiting class, the team’s youth and inexperience have been more difficult to overcome than in John Calipari’s previous three UK teams.  Coach Cal finally lost at Rupp Arena (twice!) and finally fell to the Dirty Birds for the first time in five tries.  And with the team’s obvious struggles, the vultures have come out in full force. None are more passionate than the fans of the University of Louisville.

“Champs to Chumps.”  I’ve heard this phrase tossed around by a lot of Card fans lately. It’s usually followed up with “…that NCAA championship was LAST year..” And, I suppose these things would have credibility if the Louisville Cardinals’ men’s basketball team had won a title recently. I’d even give these things credence if UL had won a title in the last decade. Or two. But for a program that hasn’t won a championship since 1986 to be crowing about anything… it just leaves me confused.  I was going to list everything that has happened since UL last won a title, but my editor has only given me so much room and no one has time to read all that.  Here are the highlights:

  • 3 months after the Cards won the title, the University of Connecticut hired Jim Calhoun as its head basketball coach: the same Coach Calhoun that just retired after winning his third title.
  • Speaking of NCAA titles, since 1986, Duke has won four NCAA Titles. North Carolina has won three, UConn has won three and your own Kentucky Wildcats have won three titles.
  • The three point shot was adopted the year AFTER the Cards’ last NCAA title.
  • The shot clock was introduced into college basketball during the 1985-86 season (45 seconds, lowered to 35 in 1993)

The college basketball world has changed a lot since 1986. The shorts are longer, the game is faster. I remember Cardinal fans when I was growing up (of which I was one) always saying that UK’s titles before 1978 not counting because the game was dramatically different WAY back then.  You think the game played today is the same as in 1986?

I’m a little brother. I understand the mindset of seeing your older brother get something that you think belongs to you. I understand wanting to do everything he wants to do. I understand wanting to step out of his shadow and have your own merits recognized. I get that. But still, at the end of the day, there’s a Little Brother and there’s a Big Brother. That’s just the way it is.

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