Hate, disgust, loathe….they’re strong words, but common vocabulary among heated rivals. The final four is always a treat, but this final four will be especially interesting when Louisville and Kentucky meet up this weekend. It seems like basketball has most its historical roots in Indiana; when I think of the history of the game the first team that comes to mind is the Hoosiers. Modern day basketball seems to be focused around Carolina, with powerhouses like North Carolina and Duke constantly producing NBA talent and legends like Coach K and Roy Williams captaining both ships. But make no mistake…the mecca of college basketball is in the land of thoroughbreds and blue grass (for everyone that lives under a rock that means Kentucky).
I was watching a Sportcenter Special yesterday, the show was documenting the relationship of Rick Pitino and John Calipari (or lack thereof), and the rivalry between the Cardinals and Cats. Both men (Pitino and Calipari) acknowledged the existence of the other… but that was about it. And if your a true sports fan, you have to love it. If there is any realm for hatred to exist, it should be between bitter rivals. Rivalries like Louisville-Kentucky, Ohio State-Michigan, and Yankees-Red Sox makes sports so much fun to follow. Woody Hayes would not even say the the word Michigan, he would refer to them as the “Team up North.” All that aside, can you imagine a bigger stage for a rivalry to take place than in the final four with a chance to play for the National Championship?…it’s hard to imagine a more interesting scenario. But the storylines for saturday’s slug fest get even more interesting.
Most people know that Rick Pitino (Louisville’s present coach) won a national championship for Kentucky back in 1996. Which basically makes you a God among the blue nation. But that has all changed now. For those who don’t understand the Rivalry, if you’re kentucky…Pitino now coaching at Louisville would be like having your supermodel wife cheat on you with your absolute worst enemy. Yeah, it’s that bad.
In my opinion, neither guy is that likable (Cal or Pitino). However, each has established that they are among the best coaches in the country, so you have to respect their resumes. I also really don’t care who wins this game, I don’t have a connection to either team, coach, or school. Nevertheless, regardless of my lack of affiliation, I can’t remember ever being so excited to watch a final four game. If you want to understand why… you have to understand the number one rule in all of sports, “You don’t ever lose to your rival…ever.” With that in mind, I understand that every point scored in that game will mean just a little bit more, every sway of momentum is that much more exciting, and that win or lose may as well be life or death. For forty minutes on Saturday that state of Kentucky, and every person associated with each institution, will be in a state of utter chaos. So although I have no connection with either team, I will thoroughly enjoy every minute of this game. Because I know what a rivalry means, and I know what it stands for. It’s about being the best, it’s protecting your turf, it’s about metaphorically flipping the bird to your worst enemy in front of the entire nation. What could be more fun than that? Throw the records out the door, forget who has the most McDonald’s all-Americans. And if your like me, and you don’t care who wins…feel the excitement anyway! Because it’s about Louisville-Kentucky, it’s about the essence or rivalry, let the slugfest begin!