After 13 hours of basketball, the state of Kentucky is still surviving. I find it hard to understand, this obsession with UK basketball. It almost permeates from the pores of all those who live here. Not being a native bluegrasser it never took hold, and my wife and I have been working hard too make sure that it won’t. But my underlying distastes for UK aside, I still don’t understand what basketball really meansto Kentucky. Something is always distinctly different on UK tourney days. Blue and white drape every living being. People look for the closest time device, so that they can anticipate the moment of tip-off. I know for many sport junkies there are moments like these. Myself, I adore this time of year but for me it is different.
My allegiances are wide spread, the byproduct of mediocre Gamecock B-ball season after season. Duke because of local radio and UNC is a bunch of whiners. NC State because Jimmy V was a wonderful man. (http://www.jimmyv.org/rememberingjim/jamie.cfm) Purdue, Gene Keady is a great leader and the most underrated Big Ten coach of all time. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_Keady) But for me these are just a special moments to watch what can happen if you just believe that nobody is invincible. 21 days of Cinderella stories and giant killers. Buzzer beaters and last minute clutch shots. The one time when colligate athletics seems to make even the impossible, at least for a moment, possible.
It’s amazing seeing what a legacy can create because basketball is a wonderful game for Kentuckians and is something that transcends time much like the Derby on the first Saturday in May. Every year they relive the stories of champions from the past Rupp and his boys or Pitino and the gunslingers. Kentucky only has a few things to call her own; and UK basketball is one of them. Soon bourbon distillers will have special editions of UK bottles on display for a team that fell short of the dream, but Kentuckians will still flock to buy. Old men will sit around local shop counters and say, “Oh it was a transition year.” “Gillespie will bring it all together with next year’s class.” “We gotta to work on that transition in the fast break but we can do it.” The fans all seem to lean on each other and find comfort in their grief.
I never liked UK growing up and take pride in watching BJ Mackie’s South Carolina team beat UK in 1997. Of course I know that if I grew up here, instead of Columbia, I would wear blue and white on Saturdays, chant C A T S during games, and count the days until next season, which incidentally is just over 240 days away.