Sports fans - boy, we sure love our teams, don’t we?
I’ve always loved my favorites - the Kentucky Wildcats, the Cincinnati Reds, the New York Yankees and Indianapolis Colts - but it dawned on me over the weekend just how personally many of us fans take wins and losses.
If you’re a UK fan, you have no choice but to hate Duke, so you had to be rooting against the Blue Devils to get beat this weekend. It didn’t work, but you had to be rooting for it. As any UK fan knows, that nasty taste that comes into your mouth when you hear the word “Duke” spoken is the result of nothing but the 1992 NCAA Tournament, and what they did to us and our hopes of reaching the Final Four with the Unforgettables.
As I watched my Wildcats lose this past weekend, I listened to my own words, then thought about the words of others describing the loss, and I realized just how funny we fans can be.
“We” lost to West Virginia. They beat “us,” and now “we” can’t win our eighth championship this season. Oh, and from now on, we’ll look back on this and root against them every chance we get. It’s our duty as Kentucky fans!
Did you catch those personal pronouns? I’ve never worn a UK uniform, and I don’t think you have either, but many of us still lump ourselves right in with the team. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just funny when you think about it, and how we talk about our teams, as well as the favorite teams of others we know.
At my church, there are two groups – Kentucky fans and Louisville fans – and when you walk in and see each other following a big game, inevitably, one fan will say to the other, “What happened to you guys? You got beat!” Even if your team didn’t beat their team, you have to let them know how much you enjoyed their misery. It’s a right of passage, and a responsibility of fandom.
I’m not the only person I know who feels this way, but while I’m a die-hard Kentucky fan, I can still root for the other teams who are typically rivals of my Wildcats. For example, as long as we’re not playing them, I have no problem with Louisville winning, and I was rooting hard for Tennessee to win and reach the Final Four, although that didn’t work out, either. Still, as a Kentucky fan, you want to see an SEC team do well in the tournament, and since the Vols was one of only two teams to beat us in the regular season, it couldn’t hurt if they were to win the title.
I have some friends who feel the same way I do about this multiple rooting interest, but I have some others who think I’m nuts. How can you possibly root for Louisville? You have to hate them!
Well, I guess as I see it, it’s kind of a sympathy thing. Sure Louisville’s won a couple of championships, but in my eyes, they pose no threat to Kentucky in the big picture, and they are from our great state, so what can they hurt? That might be why I can cheer for them. But Duke, on the other hand, I could never cheer for Duke, and I can’t cheer for North Carolina. North Carolina and Kentucky are always compared by their number of championships (yes, we have seven and they only have five), and the most wins in NCAA history, (we were the first team to 2,000 wins), so you can’t cheer for someone who could dethrone your team as the greatest ever, right?
With that said, and the difference in us, we, and them clearly drawn, it’s time to decide who I will root for in this year’s Final Four.
Duke is obviously out of the question, and now, after last weekend’s win over Kentucky, no true Wildcat fan could ever cheer for West Virginia, so it leaves me with two options. Butler or Michigan State.
Michigan State has become a very successful program over the last several years, and they have one of the top coaches in college basketball. That’s why you have to cheer against them. It goes back to that “We want to be known as the best” thing. So my team for the Final Four will be Butler. The small (in comparison to the others) school will be playing in its home city of Indianapolis, and the games will take place just six miles from the school’s campus.
As for next year, I’m ready to see how “we” do without the players “we” will lose to the NBA. And I’m already hopeful that “we” can meet up with West Virginia in the NCAA tournament again. After all, “we” owe “them” one now!