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Ode To The Keg Of Nails

In four days, Louisville and Cincinnati will once again duke it out for the right to claim the most manly trophy in all of sports.

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 week in the Derby City, the week 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 Will Stein.

The keg will bear its burly mug for the 52nd time Friday night when the undefeated Louisville Cardinals and the once-beaten 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, after having it around for half a decade, we took the Keg of Nails 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.

Charlie Strong said earlier today that this will be the biggest game the Cards have played since he's been at Louisville. I don't think there's any question that he's right. U of L has an opportunity to make a statement on national television, move to 8-0 and reclaim its rightful prize.

It's time for The Keg of Nails to come home to Louisville.