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Those of you who consider what happened on Saturday to be a dream game are, well, dreaming.
You know who you are, wearing either red or blue and yelling like a banshee at that basketball cum football game you watched.
Yes, Kentucky vs. Louisville – to let winners go first – was for decades a dream for fans of both schools, but except for the winning part, Saturday was something more akin to a nightmare for those who most wanted to see it played.
To put it simply, sports fans, this was pure ugly.
Now, we understand that this was college basketball as the game now is played, a smash-up, jam-up affair that is at least a few court lengths from the era of the pure shooter and the sleight-of-hand of Pete Maravich.
And let me be clear that I love college basketball, consider its tournament to be among our greatest inventions and watch dozens of games each season.
But this was not UK-UofL as we all “dreamed” it would be.
In fact, as UofL Coach Rick Pitino pointed out so simply in the post-game: This was no big deal from the players, because almost none of them are from Kentucky.
To them, perish the thought, this was nothing but another regular-season stop, like playing at Marquette or Mississippi State – tough but not so meaningful as the folks in the expensive seats see it.
See, back when we started envisioning this rivalry having an annual celebration, almost all of those in shorts were from the Bluegrass.
That was during the reigns of Adolph Rupp, Peck Hickman and John Dromo, back when Denny Crum wore polyester and didn’t chat daily with Joe B. Hall.
If you ever called Chuck Taylor All-Stars your basketball shoe, you know what I mean. You remember wondering how Rupp’s Runts – who, yes, had a couple of pretty good out-of-state players – would do against Wes Unseld, Butch Beard and those guys from the city.
Up until about 1983 – when the NCAA Tournament threw together these two feuding families with a Final Four fix on the line – most of the players at least came from Southern Indiana.
In fact, in that game in 1983, the decisive heroes for the Cardinals were from New Jersey and Mississippi (guards Milt Wagner and Lancaster Gordon).
The trend started to change about the time UofL missed its shot to play UK for all the marbles in 1975, when only about four of 10 starters were Kentucky-born, and the guys Saturday hailed from everywhere from Brooklyn to Oregon, with stops in Chicago and New Jersey and Texas, to name a few.
Thank heavens Darius Miller and that Elijah Justice got onto the court and saved the reputation of basketball’s best state, otherwise, our pride would be a bit more damaged today.
Don’t get me wrong that the talent that John Calipari and Pitino employed was superb, probably better than any of those teams back in the day, but still it makes you wonder how intense this rivalry would be if more of the players were grown at home.
Our commonwealth used to have an immense flow to major colleges, but now that seems a trickle, with the best players not automatically wanting to stay home (witness Shelby County turncoat Darryl Hicks, who dreams of playing at Duke! Duke?!?!).
It used to be players had faced each other in meaningful high school games, not AAU talent shows. They wanted to beat the other guy year after year, not just because they were told they should want to. They made their college choices based sometimes on family tradition and prayed they could see their dreams fulfilled.
Don’t you think that Mike Casey and Butch Beard, who played two dreamy high school games in 1964-65 would’ve liked to have matched up at the next level? It would’ve been a thing of beauty.
In fact, the five perhaps best players to play at Shelby County High School – Casey, Charles Hurt, Terry Davis, A.J. Slaughter and Matt Simons – all went to state schools.
Jim Simons and Jobie Miller slipped away, but Bill Busey, Mike Popp, Lowell Ashby and a host of other Division I signees stayed home.
That’s just the way the game was played before recruiting gurus were discovered buried under popcorn bags in the bottom of some gym.
You may not recall this, but in the time of Unseld and Beard and the Runts, Western Kentucky came within one bad call of playing UK in the NCAA regional final, and all five of its starters were from Kentucky. In fact, when the Hilltoppers made the Final Four in 1971, all five were then, too.
Believe it or not, WKU was a national power in those days, no Cinderella. Its successes were not Butler’s. It was for real.
And Western also shared one other thing with UK and UofL: It didn’t get its dream to play the other guys, either.