Why winning Saturday is important, but the other team isn’t.

Maybe it’s just me.

Let me begin by saying I want our boys in red and white to stomp the kitties tomorrow. I don’t want us to win by two, five or even 10 points; I want us to step on their throats when they get down in the second half and force Calipari to sweat so much he has to take off that nice Armani jacket and roll up his sleeves before finishing the game. This game has been a long time coming since the Calipari-era began, and we owe them a good thrashing.

Now that that’s out of the way, I’d like to explain why I believe beating the Wildcats this year is about as important to me as it is to beat Syracuse, Cincy, Memphis, Georgetown, Duke, etc.

Maybe it’s just me, but there’s been an incredible lack of hype surrounding this game; while you may hurl playful insults at your blue-blooded next door neighbors, and while the folks with UK mugs/backpacks on their desks/backs at your workplace/school (Seamless integration of multiple demographics there. Boom.) might make a little jab here and there about who’s taking home the "W" this year, for whatever reason I’m 100% positive that there will be no dialysis fights this year. Or ever. But you get my point. Man will I miss those that one…

Yes, we got our obligatory ESPN BBall front-page post like we do every year, and it was a solid read. Yes, WDRB and the CJ (which as of 11am PST is still alive) have been covering the pregame stuff all week this week for those like myself who finally retire to those sites after refreshing CC 15 times in an hour without finding any new material to gloss over.

I’m not saying this game isn’t a big deal, I’m just saying it is absolutely not more important, emotionally or otherwise, than any other marquis game on our schedule this year. And here’s why:

Who the hell are we playing again?

On the current UK roster, Kyle Wiltjer played 15 minutes in last year’s regular season game. Twany Beckham (Louisville native, senior guard) played two minutes, himself. That’s it. Seriously... Nobody else on the roster as far as I can see that stepped on the hardwood during the 40 minutes last New Year’s Eve. Do I really need to say more?

OK I’ll say more. Say what you want to say about Kentucky’s recruiting cycle, about how one-and-done is not a healthy attitude, or how it diminishes their sense of "tradition" by reloading every single year; the only way this directly affects Louisville fans is we have absolutely zero emotional attachment to any of the players that will be running the floor for the bad guys this year. Zilch.

As a UL fan I can’t tell you how little I care about Nerlens Noel, how the name "Poythress" means nothing to me besides a coveted recruit that they won last year, and Goodwin was… again, such a great grab on the recruiting trail? Really, I’ve got nothing.

As an all around basketball fan I know they’re fantastic ball players, and that’s wonderful; however, as far as rivalries go, why should I care about them if I’ve never seen them play us before now, and after this Saturday we’ll likely never see them again? When you reload every year, your rivalries are going to mean less. You can argue whether that’s a lot less or just a little bit, but I don’t think you can argue that strangers on the court get you as riled up as a classic villain. And every hero needs a villain. I saw that creepy Bruce Willis movie, and damn it, Samuel L. was right.

With the other guys squandering in the early season, we have little to gain.

I’m not going to end that statement with the hackneyed "and everything to lose" because it’s simply not true. As far as standings go, yes, the other guys would be able to build a ton of momentum on a win and would have their desperately needed (at this point I believe it) OOC win; on the flip side, if they lose, big deal because they were supposed to.

As far as we’re concerned? This game will be under the rug by the time March rolls around, win or lose. If we win, it will be because they weren’t "developed enough" and they got "much better as the season went along". If we lose, it will be the start of their "coming together as freshmen" and while yes, it would certainly hurt fan sentiment, it really won’t mean much in the big picture because this is a fantastic team and I won’t lose a bit of faith if our boys fall tomorrow. It likely wouldn't be held against us later because of the same reasons it wouldn't go to our credit if we won, as mentioned above.

Sugar Bowl, baby.

That’s right, I believe the Sugar Bowl is distracting the University of Louisville Cardinal basketball fans from the annual UK/UL annual rivalry game, and I could. not. be. happier.

HCCS and the boys deserve it, the culture around here is changing, and with immense success in a major sports program it’s going to draw a little of the attention away from the others, and that’s fine.

I want to clarify, just in case anybody is confused, that if making the Sugar Bowl every year means a little less vitriol in the rivalry, sign me up. Championships also fit nicely into the "acceptable" category here.

Last year was exhausting.

Maybe this is just me but after an incredibly hyped regular season matchup, and with that same regular season culminating in a Final Four showdown, last season’s excitement between the two teams was just downright emotionally tiring. I wouldn’t give a second of it back, obviously, but I think it’s worth mentioning that with the incredibly dramatic antics that went down last year fans on both sides are just a bit drained.

I still hate you, wildcats, but instead of throwing solid jabs and uppercuts this season I’m ashamed to say I’ve been reduced to flailing an arm at you occasionally as if I were Ace Ventura. Don’t worry about it kids.

…No, you know what, screw that. Worry about it. I don’t care how young and hip you are, go find that movie at a Blockbuster. No? They’re done? …Find it at a damn Netplus or Holo or whatever you’re using these days. I remember when we used to get by with a regular-sized iPad alone. None of this mini mumbo-jumbo. Kids, right?

What was I saying?

To go back to the beginning of this post, the game IS important to me. It truly does mean a lot; but I can say with some level of comfort that due to the reasons listed above this game is no more important to me than playing a top 15 team, playing somebody in the second round of the BE Championship, or winning a 3-hour game of Monopoly against my family because damn it, I sat here for three hours and built my empire slowly while I watched you try and take advantage by getting the Boardwalk monopoly for the reds with somebody who didn’t know any better and you STILL lost because I built hotels on the oranges and you just kept going to jail without passing go and I’m never playing this stupid game again because I won and I just retired and "WE ARE ALL WITNESSES".

So maybe it’s just me. Maybe everybody else has been sporting their Cardinal Bird face stickers or Wildcat blue wife-beaters, and maybe people have been mowing UL’s in each other’s lawns or cutting UK’s into some outhouses; I just get the distinct impression that this game does not have the same level of intensity we’ve come to enjoy, and maybe that’s OK.

Soapbox time

"Vitriol" has been ruined. You killed that word, national media (I’m looking at you, ESPN).

It used to be the perfect term for what exists between UL and UK fans because it seemed to encapsulate what we felt for each other without going quite so far as to say "hatred"; but you took it out of the dictionary, blind-folded it, put a pillowcase over its head and whispered sweet nothings into its ear each while you beat the ever-living crap out of it with a whiffle bat. That’s right, it was creepy. Thank you. Thank you for killing that word and turning anybody who now utters it into a tool. You jerk, media.

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