It was summer of 1985 and I was eleven years old. As we sat in the drive thru of the Arby’s on South Third St. in the city’s south end of Louisville I was challenged with a question I hadn’t given much thought to. The store was giving away promotional drinking glasses. “What’s your choice son, U of L or UK?” As I sat, perplexed about the inquiry, I received some advice from my father; “your mother goes to U of L, I suppose we should cheer for them.” Solid logic, fandom selected.
Now, thirty years removed from “the selection,” I can tell you that what was as innocent as a red or blue trimmed Arby’s glass, has grown into something much deeper. It is something that has ebbed and flowed over the years, but that only describes my level of disdain. I have gone from white hot hatred, to a much cooler loathing, and appear to be on the uptick towards unhealthy rage once again.
You see, while it was a simple choice for me early on, it grew into a cause. I learned to love the University of Louisville long before I stepped foot on the campus, and I learned to hate the University of Kentucky before I had ever travelled to Lexington.
The reasons for my love were simple. As described, my mother went to U of L. She graduated dental school in 1986 as a non-traditional student. (Any institution that monopolized as much of her time as the U of L School of Dentistry did, couldn’t be all bad.) I remember watching NCAA basketball games on a small black and white television in a dental lab on campus one evening as a child. I remember when she won the opportunity to buy student tickets for the 1986 Final Four, and I remember my family driving through the night and running out of gas in Texarkana, Arkansas en route to Dallas in 86. I recall watching the 34 point dismantling the next year as one of Denny Crum’s ball-boys.
As I have aged, I have been blessed with the good fortune and the means to impart my love of U of L to my son. He too has seen a National Championship and two Final Fours in person. He has been to the team’s hotel and met the players, and he has seen his share of “the rivalry.” Although, to be fair, he never got to choose his side. I assume he likes all the red and black his closet is lined with.
While the memories mentioned above shaped my love for U of L, they only tell half the story. Every story needs a villain, some cause to rail against, and mine has always been the University of Kentucky. Specifically, the fan base from the University of Kentucky has always been a pain in the neck, or lower, and has fostered an unhealthy hatred for all things blue and white.
Growing up in the Beechmont neighborhood of South Louisville, I was surrounded by more blue than red. The lines of allegiance at St. John Vianney grade school were pretty well drawn, and while some of my best friends were UK fans, it was our closeness that allowed us to dig at each other daily about how bad the other team sucked, or how much the other side cheated. It was glorious. Rarely did we ever get legitimately mad about it, but we always railed on each other. It allowed me to develop thick skin and quick wit. These traits have served me well over the years, and they are almost exclusively a product of the U of L/UK rivalry.
As I have aged, I have come to learn that there are some rational UK fans. They are few and far between, but I know of at least two that I work with who take the rivalry in the right spirit. They have helped me mature and make me a more well rounded person. However, as I have read the internet lately, I have seen that the childhood idiots of my youth are still out in full force as well. The remainder of this post is directed at them and them alone…
I hate you. I hate your team, your University, your ugly ass colors, and your mouth breathing fan base. I despise your Twitter profiles, your radio show, your phallic mouthed mascot, and your annual devastation to our football strength of schedule. I loathe your old school jokes with references to “black birds”,”little brother”, and “over promising and under delivering.” I specifically despise your new school jokes with references to Katina Powell, Minardi Hall, Karen Sypher, and Bobby Petrino’s motorcycle.
You are a classless lot. You are the types who cheer at broken legs, (Bush, Ware, etc.). You are the ones who couldn’t find the library on Lexington’s campus with a GPS, and a campus map. (You do realize that these are schools don’t you?) In traveling the state, I see your UK flags flying high. I also see your Confederate flags right next to them. Out in the state you are the dip spitting, overall wearing crew with minimal education and even less life experience. You receive the benefit of the economic engine that is Louisville, and you despise the fair city.
In the city itself, you are harder to spot. You may have even received some education from the University of Kentucky, but you are no less despised. You attend U of L games dressed in blue. (While your team is playing an actual game in another location.) You complain about the KFC Yum! Center, until your team plays there in the NCAA Tournament, then you tear it up, because you are classy like that.
If it were just the fans, I may be able to cool my hatred for UK. It’s not just the fans. Last year the UK football team came to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium and acted like… Well, they acted like their fan base. At someone’s direction, they came onto the U of L side of the field, started fights with our players, and flipped off the fans en masse in the Crunchzone. The behavior was instigated by the players and endorsed by the coaching staff. It adds fuel to the fire between the schools, but it did nothing to help UK win the game. 44-40, five wins, seven losses, and no bowl. Cardinal fans were good with that outcome. This year’s UK team is equally as inept. Five wins coming in, and seven losses going out. Another season of no bowling and a Senior Day loss for UK will be the cherry on top of yet another failed episode in the Mark Stoops era.
There are good UK fans, I like some of them, I am even related to some of them. However, the vast majority of my experiences have painted a different picture. You are an easy group to loathe. You deserve the losses that pile up, and you deserve the turmoil that will come from yet another losing season. You deserve to be looking for your third coach in less than eight years when Stoops is eventually fired. You deserve the non sell-out crowds and the apathy that the nation has for your football team. You are a train wreck. I look forward to your losses, and your whining. It couldn’t happen to a nicer fan base. Go Cards!!!