I’m not saying they’re dishonest, but they were certainly putting a political spin on the importance of Saturday night’s NCAA game between the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville.
“We can’t lose, because someone from Kentucky is going to be in the final game,” Gov. Steve Beshear said after he crashed a press conference between UK President Eli Capilouto and UofL President James Ramsey on the Capitol’s terrace in Frankfort. “It’s great to have the eyes of the nation focused on these two great universities, and regardless of the outcome of the game, we all win.”
Presidents Capilouto and Ramsey said all the right things. They talked about academic and research accomplishments and joint projects and ventures. They talked about how the rivalry is something fans enjoy, but how the universities have found numerous ways to work together in a challenging economic environment.
Yeah, right. That’s fine and dandy, but we’re talking basketball, which is far more important than any medical breakthrough. Yeah, yeah, Louisville is great as long as the Cardinals play nice and don’t put up much of a fight in New Orleans. An unexpected Louisville win will shake the limestone foundation upon which our Commonwealth is situated. The spirit of cooperation and community will go out the window. The state motto is “United We Stand, Divided We Fall,” and unfortunately we will all stand—red or blue—behind the Wildcats in Monday’s championship, but not the other way around.
UK Coach John Calipari tried the other day to play up UofL’s importance. He said that Louisville, being Kentucky’s largest city, guides the state, and UofL, being Louisville’s university leads the city. Who is he kidding? Yes, UofL has emerged as a force to be considered on the national stage, but not within our own borders. Back in the days of the Cardinals’ 1986 NCAA Championship I was a student at the University of Louisville. More than half my fraternity brothers were UK—not UofL—fans. I actually had one fraternity brother who was sent to UofL as a punishment. As much as things have changed at UofL and all the improvements made, little has changed in the minds of UK’s faithful. When you’re raised to bleed blue, you bleed blue. Consider the Kentucky Monthly staff: Among our 12 full-time employees there are two graduates of each UK and UofL. A poll of allegiances, however, swings 9 to 3 in favor of the Big Blue Nation.
Of the three speakers Monday, UK’s president is the only non-UK graduate. Yes, even the Cardinals’ president is a Wildcat alumnus.
“We’re facing a huge challenge on Saturday against a great team,” said UofL’s president, sporting blue Oakley sunglasses. “If, however, we lose, the sun will still come up the next day in Louisville …”
“I’m not so sure that would be the case in Lexington,” said Capilouto, who apparently is the only one with enough detachment to see how things truly are.