It's been almost three weeks since I've written anything for this blog. That's sort of unusual, but my job involves writing and being on the internet quite a bit, so I just don't feel like doing as much with this as I used to. That said, I would be missing a golden opportunity, perhaps a once in lifetime chance to comment on Louisville and Kentucky playing each other in the Final Four. Yes, they have been in the Final Four together before. In 1975, Louisville lost 75-74 to eventual National Champion UCLA, and John Wooden's last title team, preventing a Kentucky versus Louisville championship contest. Of course, no one can forget the dramatic 1983 NCAA tournament game between the Cards and Cats. A very tight game most of the way that saw Jim Master hit a last second jumper to send the game into overtime. In the overtime, Louisville's superior athletic talent won out and the wear and tear from the press took its toll on Kentucky.
Here we are, almost 30 years after the "Dream Game" and we get to one up that contest. This one is not for the right to go to the Final Four, but for the right to play for a national title. This is easily the most important match up between these two teams since the 1983 game.
You've read all the articles and heard all the talking heads, so you don't really need a breakdown from me. I'll take this from a bit of a different approach. How do the fans seem to be doing in regards to smack talking and dealing with the anxious feelings about their favorite team squaring off against their most hated rival? All I can go off of is based on what I've seen on some TV coverage and from what I've read on the internet. So, I'll take a look at that and tell you how I think you should feel about this game!!! That's why you are reading this, right?
If you are a UK fan, you were expecting to be in the Final Four. And, let's be real, you are expecting and have been expecting all along that your team will win its 8th national title. Nothing wrong with that. Kentucky is clearly the most talented team in the tournament and they play with very unselfish attitudes, which I believe is one of the biggest reasons they only lost two games. They don't pout and they don't mind playing defense, even when the offense isn't in full gear. With Anthony Davis leading the way, UK looks like a team that can only stop itself. I think they will be the NCAA champions this year. As a Louisville fan, I hope not, because I want my team to be there. As a basketball fan, I simply know that UK is a great team. And I don't use great loosely. So, how can I pick on some of the UK faithful? Easily. Hey, folks...yeah you arrogant UK fan.....enjoy this!!! Do you really need to remind anyone that your team is the best? Do you have to tell fans of other teams how bad their teams are? And if you do, then doesn't that lessen the accomplishments of the Wildcats? If Baylor, Indiana, Louisville, North Carolina, are all terrible, then why feel good about winning? The absolute inability for many UK fans to give credit to other programs is why so many people root against UK openly across the country. This should be a celebration for you guys. Instead, I hear all this ranting about how Louisville doesn't deserve to be in the Final Four, yadda yadda yadda. Why? They won their regional tournament. Why cheapen the accomplishment with disrespect? And don't you get tired of being relieved to win, instead of actually enjoying it?
UK fans have great passion and love for their program. Rightly so. I just don't get having all that and feeling the need to run down everyone else. It's not necessary. Part of being a fan is actually enjoying the battle. Going into a game knowing that your opponent might win should put your mind in a place where you can immerse yourself in the game and be truly excited. Everyone knows you have a great team, now live up to that by being great fans.
Louisville fans......stop bellyaching about the analysts picking against the Cards. The Cards are not flashy. They don't have a lottery pick (yet, Dieng in 2013?) playing and the offense is very average. They don't have a play of the year candidate. There is a reason these people pick against Louisville, because on paper, Louisville doesn't look that appealing. Yet, Louisville wins games. Be happy with that. The one thing that UL fans get to experience (generally speaking), that UK fans don't, is the pure joy of the win. Going into every game, it's hard to expect Louisville to win. It's not a foregone conclusion, so the anxiety is higher and it gives us an elevated sense of drama. That's something you should enjoy. Having a target on your back that stems from expectation dampens some of the fun. It's pressure. The Yankees are always good. Their fans expect to win. And when they do win, it's great, but it's not like when a team that comes from nowhere does. It can't be. And please, don't waste your time telling UK fans how overrated their team is and such, because it's not true. Why detract from your own fandom by trying to make someone else angry?
Louisville fans should be having the greatest of feelings right now. A team that had lots of pre-season promise had troubles with injuries and was written off. Then they came storming back and fulfilled the promise of November with a run in March! That's awesome and it's fun to watch materialize. Soak it in. You don't need a UK fan, or Dick Vitale to tell you that the Cardinal program is one of the best seven or eight of all-time. It is and no amount of smack talk can change that. Maybe we can turn our attention towards just enjoying watching this team bring their lunch bucket to work! You know that Siva, Behanan,and Dieng are going to play as hard as they can. If they win, great. If they lose, hell....they made it to the Final Four! No matter if it's UK or anyone else who stops the winning streak doesn't take away from what the team accomplished. Expectations left the arena weeks ago. Ride the tide!
I know some of that stuff won't be agreeable to you guys.....maybe none of it will be. I am simply trying to soak up the media attention this game is getting and the excitement of a rare event. And, this is truly an event. There is no way that a Duke / UNC game would have created quite this type of drama (unless you left the TV on ESPN 24/7, with their ACC fetish). This is special. I hope both teams play great. I hope Louisville wins. If they do, it won't change my mind a bit that UK is a top notch program. The Wildcats and Cardinals have both proven that they have staying power and have put together a run when it counted most. No team gets to the Final Four with an easy path and no team makes it that doesn't deserve to be there. This week will be looked back on (or should be) by fans of both schools for years to come in a fond manner. The rest of the country will watch two schools, within 75 miles of each other play for the right to get to the championship game. How special and exciting is that?