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Louisville + Kentucky = Basketball!

It's so much fun not talking about Duke this time of the year

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Published on: Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Brian J. Karem

Okay, kick back, I’m gonna let the Blue Grass out just a bit.

This week The Louisville Cardinals meet the Kentucky Wildcats in the Final Four of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

Headlines have called it everything from Armageddon to a Civil War.

I call it Justice.

Kentucky is known for its beautiful women, the finest two minutes of horse racing on the planet and the best basketball in the Universe.

I admit it, I’m a Kentucky expatriate who’s been force fed a steady stream of Duke basketball b.s. since I moved to the east coast. Enough is enough.

The state of Kentucky didn’t invent basketball, as wiser pundits than I have already noted. But we did perfect it and this week for the first time in history two of the most storied teams in college basketball meet in a game with national repercussions.

Sure, the ‘Cats and the ‘Cards have met annually since God and the Kentucky state government made it pass following a Louisville victory over Kentucky in the NCAA regionals in the early 1980s.

But nothing is like this game.

And right now there’s no better place to be on this planet than the I-64 corridor running the 70 odd miles between Louisville and Lexington. The Makers Mark and Woodford Reserve are flowing smoothly, and the parties and arguments are reaching a fevered pitch.

The Big Blue Nation and the Cardinal Crazies are going at each other in what the outside world will say is some sort of hillbilly-crazed St. Vitus dance. But for those of us born and raised in the Bluegrass state it’s very understandable.

The problem is, of course, who do you like in the game?

Loyalties are divided in families, as in mine.

There was a time when Kentucky had all the bragging rights, and some Kentucky fans think they still do or should still.

In the early 60s my dad was the public announcer of the basketball games at local Bellarmine college, now Bellarmine University. The “Big Game” every year was the rivalry , one-sided as it was, against the hated Louisville Cardinals. That’s as big of an in-state rivalry as was seen in Kentucky in my youth.

Then along came Denny Crum and he elevated Louisville back into a national spotlight that had been unseen in River City since the days of Wes Unseld – a Seneca High School graduate who took the Seneca Redskins to two state titles before helping Louisville go far enough in the NCAA tourney that pro scouts saw Wes and sent him to a great NBA career.

The Bellarmine rivalry was over when Crum came to Louisville and Kentucky loomed on the horizon. It seemed to be an unyielding mountain to scale. Kentucky basketball was everything and everywhere. One of my high school gym teachers was “Red” Hagan – a legend at Kentucky who made the longest shot field goal in the old Alumni Gym. I found a picture of him in the “Rupp Years” a book about the legendary Adolph Rupp published by the Louisville Courier Journal. The fact that my high school also produced the Louisville Cardinal’s greatest basketball player was never lost on me.

But lots of Kentucky fans never wanted to see Louisville rise. They were upstarts. They were city-bred, smooth talkers while Kentucky was Americana. The Fiddlin’ Five and Rupp’s Runts were legends. Louisville had the Derby. Kentucky had basketball.

Make no mistake; basketball runs deep through the veins in Kentucky and at times even the staunchest Cardinal fan cheers for Kentucky – and it is rumored the reverse is true also. I bled U of K Blue like everyone else when a certain player from Duke made “The Shot” because I knew he should’ve never been in the game. He should’ve been tossed for stepping on a Kentucky player a few minutes beforehand. The mention of Duke is anathema to this day.

I bled Louisville Red when the year after Louisville won its second NCAA title, the heathen Hoosiers from Indiana won it and Bobby Knight encouraged his hooligans to go and tear down a sign on one of the bridges from Southern Indiana into Louisville that proudly proclaimed Louisville to be the home of the NCAA champions.

The entire state of Kentucky has always suffered the “little brother” syndrome. It has had a minor league baseball team, but never a professional football team, and its one major-league franchise was the ABA Kentucky Colonels – lost forever when the NBA and the ABA merged.

The basketball crazy denizens have had to be content with college basketball and at times have suffered through scandals, coaching changes, changing loyalties and disdain from the rest of the world who for some reason felt they were Kentucky’s equal in basketball.

The fans also listen to the criticism of others who say Kentucky and Louisville take this rivalry too seriously – never understanding that for the most part it is the best natured most wholesome rivalry in all of sports and many obnoxious fans in other parts of the country, like say North Carolina, D.C. and Philadelphia to name but a few homes to obnoxious fans, could learn a thing or two from the crazies in Kentucky.

So, Kentucky and Louisville suffer through the slings and the arrows, and are ready to battle each other now on a national stage, with the winner advancing to the coveted National Championship game.

Could anything be better for either Kentucky or Louisville basketball?


And whoever wins this game, I sincerely hope goes on to take the national title.

I’ll bleed red or blue for them. But in this game?

What are you nuts? I’m from Louisville, Kentucky. The ‘Ville comes first baby!


Reader Comments - 1 Total

captcha e36cfdf56124437f9a5a51fc0a6d0bd4

Posted By: andy wild On: 3/28/2012

Title: the game

who ever wins the game louisvill or kentucky and makes it the final game monday night i will be for them ijust want to see some eles win the game besides duke the tare heals go big blus


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