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A lot of you of both the red and blue heritage have been trying lately to put the University of Louisville’s stunning victory over Florida into some sort of perspective, to make sense of the sensational, to find order in a moment of chaos. I’m talking about the recent football game, not the Elite 8 encounter in basketball last spring.
You are debating from dawn to dusk whether routing hallowed Alabama two decades ago with an upstart bunch from nowhere was a bigger deal than throttling a team many thought was the best in the country. You argue whether winning the Sugar at 11-2 is sweeter than the taste of Orange at 11-1. You split hairs and write formulas.
You miss the point.
I have been with you, siding with those who suggest beating the tar out of the Tide in 1991 was far more impressive than skinning those big green lizards and selling their hides to the guys from Duck Dynasty. I thought surprise No. 1 was far superior to surprise No. 2. First was foremost.
And now I’ve changed my mind.
I have two simple, unassailable and even incomparable reasons that, when I state them for you right here and now, you will turn to your friend and say, this guy has just written the perfect reasons to end this debate, and he hasn’t said anything about Schnellenberger, Petrino, a Brohm, Tim Tebow or celebrating until you are skunked.
Those two reasons go like this here:
1. A discussion of a football team from the commonwealth remains an important topic to review ad nauseum long after the last piece of fruitcake has been carved for the mail carrier and right smack in the middle of basketball season.
2. The Cardinals’ impressive and resume-building victory over the ever-improving Kentucky Wildcats in a basketball game that was played, oh, 11 days ago is almost totally irrelevant.
You certainly are welcome to disagree with those points. You are welcome to jot down your reasons for disagreeing and send them along for consideration. You can call me names or wad up this page and throw it in the garbage can. But you won’t be changing my mind.
A football game played in January has dominated the public consciousness in Kentucky for a solid week.
Read that sentence again, slowly, aloud if it helps. Write it down a couple of times. Ask a friend to translate it into whatever language you prefer. Parse the words into grammatical stew. Put them into verse and pluck your banjo along with the words. Sing loud and long, but you won’t be heard by these ears.
The point won’t be changing: Football in the first week of the new year has been king in a state where for more than a century it has mattered so little.
So far in 2013, football has been a bigger deal than basketball.
I assure you I never expected to type those words. On the grave of Adolph Rupp I swear I thought basketball our 9-month passion and football a necessary distraction. Today, on my honor as a Cawood devotee, I think otherwise.
At least for the moment.
Remember that if you have been a football fan of either UofL or UK for more than two decades, optimism and emotional investment were not really part of your culture. UK died the day Rupp’s ego ran Bear Bryant’s ego out of Lexington, and UofL wasn’t born until a handsome Italian huckster named Corso started selling snake oil at the fairgrounds. There were some fun times before and after each of those epochal passages, but even the best of times were like a nice dessert after a bad meal. There was no real value, but you were left a nice taste.
Basketball was our sport, the opposite of the culture in Alabama or Georgia or Texas (where Southern football passion really was born). Florida was a Johnny-come-lately, too, some forget, but when coaches and administrators realized all they had to do to win was to keep most of the millions of players in home uniforms, everybody in the state suddenly became a power and earned the glory.
But now we have a new epoch, perhaps, a new shifting of the athletic plates and rending fissures in the image of King Basketball. Something is different, like it or not, because there is no arguing with this.
On Tuesday morning, I read a mile of Twitter messages covering about 18 hours. I went through page after page of Facebook posts from all manner of people around the nation.
I read and read and you know what I didn’t read: Word 1 about basketball. Nothing about Dieng’s wrist or Noel’s hair. Not even a word from Coach Cal, the man of a million words.
No, UofL may have the best basketball team in the nation and be the true frontrunner for a national championship, but all anyone has talked about since Jan. 2 was its football team. And I don’t hear that tune fading anytime soon.