In-State Hate, or Lack Thereof
I have a confession to make. It turns out that even I can only manage so much sports hate, and it seems that I don’t actually hate Louisville, at least not unconditionally.
Maybe it’s my age, but since my college fandom pre-dates any meetings between Kentucky and Louisville, I don’t have the same animosity for the Cardinals that I have for, say, the Michigan Wolverines and for professional teams like the Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens (old Browns — hahahahahahahahahaha) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (the Reds’ rivals of my childhood). In fact, my first college football game wasn’t a Kentucky game, but a Louisville game at Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium. I cheered for Howard Schnellenberger and Browning Nagle against Alabama in the Fiesta Bowl. I really liked Denny Crum’s basketball teams through the 80s.
And it’s not like I’m not capable of finding hate in my little sports heart for a new rival. Since Major League Baseball pissed away decades of history and realigned into three ludicrous divisions (not to mention adding interleague play) and separated my beloved Reds from the sub-human Dodgers, I have learned to hate the St. Louis Cardinals just as vehemently as I ever hated Ron Cey, Davey Lopes and Steve Garvey (as a catcher Yeager was exempt from all hate and I try not remember that current Reds manager Dusty Baker was on those teams).
I just can’t seem to work up a good, solid, consistent, hate-filled lather for Louisville.
Oh, there have been (and continue to be) times when I have hated Louisville football and basketball, and I’m sure there will be more in the future. It’s just that my hatred of the college Cardinals is more personality-driven. I can’t stand Louisville basketball now — not because I dislike them in general, but because I can’t stand Rick Pitino, and not because he left Kentucky and went to Louisville. I honestly couldn’t wait for him to leave Kentucky when he was in Lexington, both for the way he handled Rod Rhodes (a move he has repeated endlessly at Louisville) and for his constant denial of NBA interest like everybody in Central Kentucky was stupid.
And oh how I hated Louisville football during the Bobby Petrino era. And I don’t just now think he’s a jerk after his flameout at Arkansas. I sort of feel sports hipsterish about my Petrino loathing. The first time I ran across him (at a press conference for a Governor’s Cup Classic golf outing) he just oozed jerkishness. It wasn’t Elliot Uzelac-level jerkishness to be sure. I mean, he never yelled at me, but it was jerkishness just the same. When Petrino left (under cover of darkness or whatever), my Louisville hatred waned (because hating a Steve Kragthorpe-coached Cardinals team would be like hating puppies or some other harmless thing).
Here’s the thing. Just because I don’t spend all my time obsessing over how much I “hate” Louisville, it doesn’t mean I don’t desperately want Kentucky to win Sunday’s football game. I do. And I really believe that they can. I explained why last week in my post relaying my increasing optimism about this season. If anything’s changed since then, I have only gotten to be more hopeful about the upcoming campaign. Here’s a quick recap.
1) Maxwell Smith: He was the better Kentucky quarterback last year and he’s a year farther along in the program now. If you aren’t excited by everything you hear about him out of the UK camp – from both players and coaches – then you don’t want to be excited.
2) The receiving corps: Embarrassed by last year’s performance and joined by some players of the playmaker caliber they lacked a season ago, expect them to be greatly improved.
3) The offensive line: Healthy
4) Overhyped opponents: I don’t buy that Louisville and Vanderbilt have somehow gotten so far ahead of Kentucky that those aren’t games Kentucky can win. I watched most of the South Carolina-Vanderbilt game. Nothing either of those teams did – other than one hit that drew a penalty – was all that impressive.
I can’t wait to see what happens Sunday.
Me and the Governor’s Cup
Believe it or not, I actually know what it feels like to lift the Governor’s Cup. Once upon a time I was one of the first people to lift the trophy. During my years working for Host Communications (now IMG College, which runs the Big Blue Network) I was one of about four people to help carry the trophy into a photo shoot for the cover of the first Governor’s Cup game program. It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. Imagine dropping that bad boy a month before the game. Plus it is danged heavy. An old Trivial Pursuit question claimed that the Davis Cup was the heaviest trophy in sports. I have to believe that was written before the Governor’s Cup came into existence.