There is nothing more important in Kentucky than basketball.
University of Louisville logo
There. I’ve said it.
You can say, “Oh, no! There’s the Derby and bluegrass and bourbon.” But the Derby’s once a year and it doesn’t take much skill to look at bluegrass or drink bourbon. The residents of the state live for basketball, and this weekend, in the NCAA Division 1 men’s Final Four, the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky are going to have it out for a shot at the championship game, and more important, the designation as the state’s best basketball team.
The rivalry is like Ohio State-Michigan, or Army-Navy, without having to cross state lines.
If you take a statewide poll, an overwhelming majority are going to be rooting for UK. Mainly because they consider Louisville Sodom on the Ohio River. I’ll be rooting for Louisville because that’s home, now, and that’s where my son goes to school.
When I worked at the newspaper in Louisville (a lifetime ago), I remember the complaints we got during basketball season when we wrote about the teams. If Louisville story was an inch longer than the Kentucky story, fanatics would threaten to end their subscriptions because of our big city bias. If the Kentucky story was an inch longer than the Louisville story, fanatics would threaten to end their subscriptions because our managing editor was a UK graduate and was bias.
Folks, it didn’t matter. We were just trying to get the stories to fit on the pages.
The Washington Post sent a reporter out to Kentucky this week to capture the insanity. He wasn’t disappointed, coming up with this snippet of insanity:
These two schools don’t like each other. Never have. The game is still a couple of days away and tension is already heated. Local police, in fact, had to respond to a fight earlier this week — at a dialysis center, of all places.
“I didn’t talk to him about the ballgame,” one of the combatants explained to WKYT-TV. “I was talking to another guy about the game. He was meddling and told me to shut up and gave me the finger!”
Rick Pitino, the Louisville coach who actually won a national championship as UK’s coach back in 1996, said last week that if Kentucky loses, they’re going to have to build fences around bridges so people don’t jump off. John Calipari, the current Kentucky coach, said of his team’s fans:
“They are piranhas. . . . If you’re going to attack Kentucky, just be right. . . . I’m just telling you, piranha — womp, womp, womp,” he said, using his hands to bite the air in front of him. “They’ll come and eat your yard, your house, these people are nuts.”
UK Basketball logo
This is one of those games where politicians have to weasel their way around, not directly answering questions on who they’re rooting for. Gov. Steve Beshear and Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson (the former Louisville mayor) are going to the game and one will sit with Kentucky fans and one will sit with Louisville fans for the first half, then they’ll switch seats in the second half. C’mon guys, take a side!
I remember years ago in New York, when the Yankees and the Mets met in the World Series, and politicians wore hats that had half Yankee symbols and half Met symbols. I admired Rudy Giuliani when he essentially said, screw the hat, I’m a Yankee fan.
That was a profile in courage.
Anyway, come Saturday, I’m going to be out of pocket for a couple of hours watching the game. And I’m not worried about fences over bridges.