You may have noticed this morning that the hair on your chest was a bit thicker, that your voice was a bit deeper and more intimidating, and that your 15-inch pythons have miraculously been upgraded to 16s. The reason, of course, is that this is the first day of the manliest of manly days in the Derby City, the day the Keg of Nails comes out of hiding and makes all other rivalry trophies sh-t their plaques.
I've never tried to hide it, I love the Keg of Nails. Officially, it's my fourth favorite keg, just behind keg of beer, keg of money and keg of Gorgui Dieng.
The keg will bear its burly mug for the 53rd time Thursday night when the 10-1 Louisville Cardinals and the 9-2 Cincinnati Bearcats battle for the right to hoist it in triumph for a solid 15 minutes, and then quickly put him back in his case because the dude's a bad ass and does not enjoy being touched.
According to Wikipedia, the trophy is a replica of a keg used to ship nails. The exchange between the two programs is believed to have been initiated by fraternity chapters on the UC and U of L campuses, signifying that the winning players in the game were "tough as nails."
The present keg is actually a replacement for the original award, which was misplaced by Louisville, ironically lost during some construction of office facilities. It is adorned with the logos of both schools and the scores of the series games.
Cincinnati players, excited and frightened by the sensation of touching the keg for the first time in nearly a decade, damaged it in 2008. According to Art Carmody, there are no actual nails (or anything) inside of it. He also ruined Santa Claus for me.
Unattributed facts: The keg changed the tide of World Wars I and II, brought Hemingway out of depression and inspired the cure for polio. It was once entirely consumed by Howard Schnellenberger.
Let's admit it, there was a time when we took having the Keg around for granted. We made jokes that were in poor taste in front of its friends, openly flirted with the Little Brown Jug, and used store-bought nails from Home Depot to hang up that picture of us with the Governor's Cup Trophy.
I think I speak for all of us when I say that we've changed. We've seen what extended life without the Keg of Nails is like and, quite frankly, it's miserable.
The folks in Cincinnati are calling this their biggest rivalry game ever and one of the biggest games in the history of Nippert Stadium. They're probably right, not just because of the conference title or bowl implications, but because we have no idea when the Keg is going to be up for grabs again...or if it ever will.
Keep the Keg. Forever.