"Louisville First" vs. "Players First"

I didn't think it was possible, but the Louisville/Kentucky basketball rivalry has grown even more contentious over the past few months, and it's a trend I can't see changing between now and Dec. 31.

The rivalry is back in the news tonight as CBS' Garry Parrish looks at how John Calipari has suspiciously been using the phrase "players first" more and more. It's not a coincidence, Parrish believes, that Rick Pitino has made his theme for U of L's 2011-2012 season "Louisville First." 

But then I started thinking about John Calipari's Media Day on Thursday and the speech he gave at Friday's Big Blue Madness, and I couldn't help but make a connection between Louisville's new slogan and Calipari's favorite new phrase -- Players First. "This is a players-first program," he said over and over again, and it really is classic Calipari. He's always one step ahead, trying to turn somebody's something into something else. You see, once Pitino decided to tout his program as a program that puts the team first, Calipari decided to take the opposite approach and hammer into recruits' heads whatthat he's a players-first coach and only at Kentucky to help prospects "reach their dreams." Yes, Calipari has used the phrase before, but he's never used it as relentlessly as he's been using it lately. Everything is players-first-this and players-first-that. If Final Fours and national championships happen to come with that, well, that's fine, too. But it's players first at UK. Players first. Players first. Players first. Don't ever forget it.

So funny.

I love stuff like this.

He also picked Peyton Siva's brain about all the recent hoopla.

"We don't hear much about it, but our fans are always like, 'That Calipari is this,' and then the UK fans are like 'Rick Pitino is this and that,'" Louisville guard Peyton Siva said with a laugh. "Hey, it's Louisville vs. Kentucky. It's the fans' rivalry, and they feed into it. So anything Coach P says about Kentucky, they're gonna blow it up. And anything Coach Calipari says about Louisville, they're going to blow it up.

"It's fun," Siva concluded. "But we don't worry about it much."

They're the only ones right now.

I really think Rupp Arena might spontaneously combust or something before they can even tip the ball on New Year's Eve.

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