A Declaration of Existence

Andy Lyons


Tomorrow will not be nice. Nor will this post. It’s a rivalry. This is Card Chronicle. Guess our allegiance.

You're no doubt, by now, familiar with the message:

"’It’s a unique thing,’ Calipari said. ‘There’s no other state, none, that’s as connected to their basketball program as this one. Because those other states have other programs. Michigan has Michigan State, California has UCLA, North Carolina has Duke. It’s Kentucky throughout this whole state, and that’s what makes us unique."

Or, if you prefer pictures:



Louisville, it was said, doesn’t exist.

Louisville, it was said, doesn’t have eight titles—soon to be nine—40-and-0, or 2000 wins, or John Wall, twins, a dance, a haircut, and a t-shirt.

It was even said that Louisville didn’t have a prayer.

And now?

Julius Randle:

"Everywhere we go, that's all they talk about," Randle said. "I've heard it since I committed to when (Louisville) won the national championship to when I first got here in the summer. And now I'm really about to start hearing about it."

Everywhere they go. Every blue shirt, blue airwave, blue tie, blue barn, and blue car flag from Fulton to Harlan—from Monroe up to Campbell—and back won’t. shut. up. about. us.

In the history of athletics in this state, this game has been bigger. 1959. (Louisville won.) 1983. (Louisville won.) 1984. (Louisville lost.) 2012. (Louisville lost.) ACC. SEC. Name on the front. Name on the back.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that the Louisville Cardinals and Kentucky Wildcats were not created equal. You don’t need me to remind me you of the breaks that university up the road received. You don’t need me to remind you of how their most legendary coach claimed "safety" and sidestepped the chance to allow everyone a chance to play the game. You don’t need me to remind you of all those times we were told our titles "didn’t count," our city "didn’t matter," our tradition "didn’t rate."

We didn’t settle for flash. We looked past the numbers coming into the program and cared about the numbers coming out of it. We didn’t dance. We didn’t get haircuts. No madness here. We stepped away from that. We were content with the slow fluorescent hum of gym lights, the smell of fresh finish on the floor, the squeak of shoes, and—always—the yelling and the running. Oh, the running.

We expected nothing given and took everything in return.

It took us a whole year to prove ourselves, but we did. And we did it by shaking once again the world of college basketball. We showed them the special bond this city has with its team. We showed them the special bond this city has with its history. We showed them how a two-star athlete goes from a transfer to accomplishing the ridiculous. We took a walk-on who shocked, mixed in a bit of old school head fakes, and the sheer brute force of a dunk, and ended the year with confetti.

We boomed them.

While others walked off a small gym floor in Pittsburgh. 0-1? More like 0-and-uh-oh.

Now, suddenly, we matter. But make no mistake, existence can be fleeting. We are not the favorite tomorrow. We never were. We never will be.

The history of this rivalry is one of unending sleights, usurpations, criticisms, and insults. The red and black have been called dirty. More recently, we’ve been called cheaters. A player breaks his leg, and all a nation can do is go to Twitter to yell obscenities about rings, cars, tickets, and court dates.

A Nation awakens? A Nation acted like it always has.

And now they have the nerve, the audacity, and the outright gall to dictate to us? To tell us that tomorrow the game has never meant more?

Oh, I’m sorry I thought Louisville doesn’t exist. I thought basketball dominance in this state was established. I thought there were more Kentucky fans than Louisville fans in our city.

Looks like you were wrong.

This game may be on your floor. But, for once, the narrative is ours. It is on our terms. And ours alone.

We may win another title this year. We may not. We may make it to the Final Four—again—we may not. But one thing remains certain, one thing remains secure: the bond between this city and this team is the strongest it has ever been. When those players take the floor with Louisville across the chest and the Cardinal on the leg, they do it for themselves, for our university, and for us.

Champions rise. Champions fall.

But the City and University endure.

This is a declaration of our existence.

As for those up the road, I repeat yet again:

We are not you, and we do not want to be you. Ever.

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