I was standing at my best friends house the other day, enjoying bourbon and the smell of a grill. A bright eyed little two year old playing on his swing laughing and high fivin’ on each return swing as his dad and I talked hoops…and then it began. In mid swing, that smiling little boy blurted out “Go Cats”, his dad laughed, and in a playful reaction I yelled, “NOOOO, GO Cards”. He giggled and continued on to draw out my opposition. To those outside the state of Kentucky or even worse those in the state that say, “I don’t go one way or another”, this was no more than a playful encounter. Yet, this is how it begins. This is how sides are chosen. This is the struggle between Red and Blue.
Little boys are impressionable and before the age of 10 they may find they have lots of favorite teams in other sports but in college basketball, by that age, they have chosen. For many it’s genetic, you get your daddy’s eyes and his fervor for UL or UK. For others it’s the influence of one of their favorite people, and for me it was my grandmother. Mamaw was a baseball nut. She had season tickets to the Redbirds/Bats until the day she died. She kept a scorebook during World Series games on tv. She made it to every little league ball game she could and if you played at Prairie Village you knew where she lived. You could even find her out back joining in for a few swings during a whiffle ball game. As much as she loved baseball, she had one true passion…Louisville Cardinal basketball.
My parents divorced early and my dad always claimed my mom made me a Louisville fan out of spite…I think he was joking. Yet, my love for the Cardinals was forged in my grandmother’s passion. This church going woman full of joy and kindness did find time to talk bad about one group of people on a regular basis. I don’t think it was the actual basketball team that ruffled her feathers but rather those fans clad in blue. She would say the same things that we say today about either side, “you can’t be around them” , “you can’t talk any sense to them”, or just plainly “a bunch of idiots”. These are phrases that can be interchangeable no matter what side of the table you sit.
This week is something Mamaw never experienced. This week is something we have only imagined. Yet, the week leading up to the “Dream Game” is anything but a dream. From the time Kentucky finalized their victory over Baylor the upset stomach began. The tension as you see Wildcats shirts walk by is high. The winner will have a life time of bragging rights because now, more than ever, the stakes are high.
Friendships will be tested and families will be torn. If you care about someone then limit your conversations to things other than basketball. The only thing I have talked about with my friend is what time should we start the steaks on Saturday and if he was watching Tiger win for the first time in over 2 years….oh and he told me his boy was yelling at him, “Go Cards” and laughing (no worries Cats fans, his fate is sealed)! Being a real fan in the Bluegrass is so much more than buying a t-shirt or rooting for whoever your spouse likes, it’s a life-long journey rooted in love, hate, and usually a disappointed family member.
Filed Under: Basketball
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