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I cried when Michigan beat Kentucky in the 1993 Final Four.
I watched the last few minutes of the game from the top of the steps in my parents’ house.
My team would never win the championship, I thought.
I was 10.
They’ve gone on to win three times in my lifetime now.
When they won, finally, in 1996, I celebrated by painting my bedroom blue and white. I found wallpaper that matched Kentucky’s denim-inspired uniforms. I framed magazines that celebrated the Cats’ championship.
In 1998, I watched the game with my girlfriend. I was 15.
I was excited about that championship, but it didn’t mean as much. Kentucky had won in ‘96, nearly won in ‘97 and then won again in ‘98. The newness of a championship had worn off.
On Monday night, I watched the game sprawled out of my couch. My attempt to take a nap before the game didn’t work. Maybe I was more excited than I realized.
Earlier that day, I told our sports writer, Brandon Mattingly, that I wasn’t very excited.
My wife made it until halftime, barely. She staggered off to bed while I impatiently waited for the second half to begin.
When Kansas started closing the gap in the second half, I got upset.
I was more excited than I thought. The idea of losing the championship just wouldn’t do.
Obviously, the Cats overpowered Kansas in the final minutes.
While I’m not going to convince my wife to paint our bedroom blue and white, I do feel lucky to have had the chance to watch this team play.
I still think the ‘96 Cats were more dominant, deeper and the greatest Kentucky team I’ve seen play, but this championship team is the best defensive unit I can remember.
Sports don’t mean as much now as they did when I was 10, but mostly because they meant everything then.
The game, though, does bring back good family memories.
There was a time when my family would drop everything to watch a Kentucky game, night or day.
My family didn’t always have sports on their radar, but the Cats, and a few other teams, drew them in.
I’m not that diehard now. I’m a much more casual fan. But I can still appreciate a great team when it comes around.
I didn’t cry tears of joy on Monday night. But I did smile and have a hard time falling to sleep.
The Cats had won again. With that, they brought back fond memories of a time when sports was everything and losing hurt.