I just don’t get it. Maybe I am naive, maybe I am wearing blinders, maybe I just see through rose-colored glasses. All of this hate for the University of Kentucky basketball program, I just don’t understand. Maybe it’s because I am a UK fan and it’s hard to feel hate for the Big Blue, at least for me personally.
I begin my story late last Friday night as the Cats were pulling out a thrilling win over last year’s national champion. I made the mistake, though I was warned by my spouse, of keeping up with the social media during and after the game. Bad move! After what I read, it is safe for me to assume that Coach John Calipari is the reincarnation of Satan and that every official in the game was secretly wearing a UK jersey under their black and white stripes. Not one single soul could bother to notice that they had just witnessed a group of young men, on both sides, play their hearts out in a win or go home scenario. No one noticed a group of coaches and players, again from both sides, who handled themselves with class before, during, and after the game. Nope, all they could manage to do was spew the hate. (But oddly, it was quite quiet after the win over Michigan on Sunday. Ran out of arguments I guess.)
Now, granted, there have been players, coaches, and teams in my life that I haven’t cared for, but never have I “hated” a team like those who “dislike” UK. I am an Ohio State football fan, so I assume that I am supposed to hate the Michigan team. Sorry, I don’t. In fact, I think Michigan has really cool uniforms and a great fight song. I am a Notre Dame football fan, so that means I must hate their biggest rival, the USC Trojans. Again, sorry. I admire the USC tradition and they also have a super fight song.
I am a Cincinnati Reds fan, therefore I am supposed to totally hate the St. Louis Cardinals. Well, I am not a fan of the present-day Cardinals, but I don’t hate them, though Yadier Molina can get under your skin but that is just because he is so darn good. In fact, when I was growing up, I loved to watch the Cardinals of Bob Gibson and Lou Brock. If ESPN Classic is showing an old Cardinals game with Gibson pitching, I’m watching. I am a baseball fan, not a baseball hater. That’s one of the things I love about my son’s passion for baseball. Though he is a fan of the forlorn Mets, he enjoys watching players from every team and his knowledge of the game, its teams, and players is remarkable. No hate, just enjoy the game.
Now back to the UK haters. I must say that the “Calipari is a slimebag” argument is getting quite old. Go read Seth Davis’s new book on John Wooden and you will see that the revered UCLA coach was no God. Personally, as a UK fan, I could care less what happened at Massachusetts and Memphis, which by the way no one has ever proved that Coach Cal had anything to do with, but that fact seems to be easily tossed aside. I only worry about the UK team that is on the floor each year. That’s who I am rooting for. I’m really not cheering for the coach. And then we hear, “it will all be vacated in five years”—perhaps the stupidest comment ever. Five years from now, I will care less, I’m just enjoying this moment.
So I know what the haters are thinking right now. It’s a different UK team out there each year. Yes, it certainly is, but that’s the way it is and I learn to live with it. As long as “Kentucky” is written across the front of the jersey, that’s all that matters to me and true UK fans. I have heard and read numerous interviews with Calipari where he will tell you that he is not a big fan of the “one and done” system either, but he plays the game as it is presented. He is a fantastic recruiter and that just makes all the haters jealous, simple as that. Don’t even try to tell me that your favorite team wouldn’t have taken Randle, Young, and the Harrison twins if it gave you a shot at the title this year.
Then I hear that all UK fans are just plain obnoxious. I get a real chuckle out of that one. I am sure that some UK fans can be quite overbearing, but so can Duke fans, Louisville fans, Kansas fans, Ohio State fans, well you get the point. When you want to hate, you see and hear what you want to see and hear. I can be be quite obnoxious at time, just ask my wife, but when it comes to UK basketball I’m not. I am just a True Blue fan who is enjoying this Final Four run, probably because it was so unexpected. I will proudly wear my UK blue every day this week and likely spend some money on some Final Four shirts because I am a fan, simple as that.
Of course, the haters have to throw in that Calipari can’t coach. Well, let me tell you that in the opinion of this writer, this year is one of the best college coaching jobs in history for any team. It took Coach Cal a long time to get these guys to buy in to the system but when they did, well the results are painfully obvious for the haters. Like them or not, if you are actually a basketball fan and not just a UK hater, you have to admit that the last three UK wins were three of the most exciting NCAA tournament games in a long while. Of course, you won’t admit that because UK won them all.
Of course, the main reason that the haters are out there is because of simple jealousy of the winningest college basketball program in NCAA history.That’s OK, I have no problem dealing with that one. It’s a shame though that some of you cannot just enjoy a good basketball game without trying to think of a million reasons to spew venom at one coach and one group of young men, It’s sad really but I’ve learned to laugh and just let it roll off, but I have learned that every other college basketball program in the country (besides UK) is just perfect. That’s knowledge I will cherish.
Let me close with this. UK fans are kind of expected to hate Duke and I am sure you know why-some dude named Laettner. Well guess what, I don’t hate Duke at all. I don’t mind when they lose but I don’t hate them. In fact, Coach K is a good coach whose team was also lead by a likely one-and-done star. Coach Cal is a pretty good coach in his own right. He saved Marcus Lee for just the right moment and did you notice something else on Sunday? He covered the inbounds passer. Go Cats!
Mark Carpenter can be reached at 937-544-2391 or on Twitter @adamscosports.