Cats and Cards: It’s a Governor’s Cup half empty

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Fans aren’t as excited for annual UK vs. UofL football this year

By Todd Martin

It’s not surprising that University of Louisville fans are looking at this year’s annual Governor’s Cup game through rose-colored glasses, but what is surprising is that a lot of University of Kentucky fans are seeing red, too.

At Main Street Barbers – the epicenter for pregame trash talking in Shelbyville – the picks are lining up in favor of the Cardinals.

Both teams are well represented throughout the three-chair shop with photos, posters, schedules and memorabilia, but this week there has been more much more red than normal.

“Oh, red is going to rule,” said Kenny Mickey, one of the shop’s barbers. “In fact, red is going to rule in both this year. They’re going to go up to Commonwealth and win, and they’re going into Rupp and winning, too.”

Mickey, a self-professed Notre Dame football fan and Louisville fan, said the shop has seen many Louisville picks coming through. In fact, the unofficial line set by patrons is a lot higher than the Vegas opening line of Louisville by 6.5 or the 14 points to which the wise guys have pushed the spread.

“I’d say people are hovering around seventeen points [in a Louisville victory],” he said.

Tommy Hayes, the shop’s owner and a UK fan, didn’t argue that point much.

“This is just a chance for Louisville fans to stick out their chests,” he said. “With Kentucky this year, you just don’t know what you’re going to get. With Teddy Bridgewater under center, you know what you’re going to get – a balanced offense that can put up some points.

“We’re just going to hope for the best.”

But the one thing the two did agree on was that the excitement level was much lower this year.

“I know some guys going to play golf during the game,” Mickey said. “They’re crazy. It’s a rivalry game, so who knows what will happen? But most are saying it’ll be Louisville.”

Added Hayes: “Let’s just get this over with. Of course he’s going to say Louisville, he always says Louisville.

“He said Louisville was going to win when we won the national championship [in basketball at Kentucky in 2012]. He says it when UK wins.”

Jeff Johnson came in to get a haircut and jumped right into the discussion.

“Oh, I think UofL, 35-14,” he said. “You got a once-in-a-lifetime QB – a Heisman candidate – at UofL [Teddy Bridgewater]. I do think there will be a little fighting going on, though.

“I think the lack of discipline and experience will be the undoing for Kentucky.”

Hayes who seemed lost in a sandwich at the time, jumped back in.

“No, wait a minute, the lack of talent is what’s going to do them in,” he said, causing a round of laughing and nodding.

“I’ll tell you one thing though, with [new UK Coach Mark] Stoops, looking ahead we’re going to have a defense. That’s what’s going to make the difference. We know we’re going to have a real defense in the next two or three years.”

An always-optimistic Kentucky football fan is not unusual; it’s like meeting a Cubs fan whose confident that his team will break through next year.

Stoops has gotten a vote of confidence from Cats fans across the commonwealth with his recruiting efforts. Many are already focused on next year.

But, as things always do in these parts, the conversation between Hayes, Mickey and Johnson switches ever so briefly to basketball.

“I already told you, red’s going up to Rupp and win, too,” Mickey says.

Hayes, shaking his heard turns up an imaginary dial.

“Oh, I’m going to be bringing it then,” he said. “I’m going to be talking then. We’ll see, we’ll see.”