Occasionally, authors write articles so good, so absolutely fascinating, that they deserve their own spot at the top of A Sea of Blue. This article by Andrew Sharp, SB Nation's basketball blogger, is such a case.
Let's start off with the fact that Andrew is a North Carolina fan, and proud of it. But Andrew writes this piece from the perspective of a college basketball fan as well as a Tar Heel fan, and the combination is compelling, interesting and for my money, absolutely captivating.
The first thing that got my attention was this:
In my mind, it's a thousand times cooler to be surrounded by a bunch of people that aren't there to get caught by ESPN cameras, but because it's one of the few things in life that's been an absolute mainstay. Through generations of families, people have been going nuts over Kentucky basketball, and that's why the grown men, women, 17-year-old daughters and 70-something grandparents still make weekly pilgrimages to Rupp Arena. Because they live and breathe Kentucky basketball, and it's something they've been doing for years and years.
That's a fascinating paragraph, if you think about it. Andrew managed to encapsulate the raison d'être of the Big Blue Nation in just one paragraph, accurately. As wordy as I am, I doubt I could accomplish the same thing in three. But I digress.
It is amazing to see the combination of diversity and universal passion that is the Big Blue Nation. While I was watching the Michigan State at North Carolina game the other day for the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, I was very impressed by the Tar Heel fans, and how big and light blue the Dean Smith Center was. But with all due respect to our neighbors to the East, The crowd at Rupp Arena, at least for last Saturday, blew them away.
I think, as much as anything, it was a bigger deal for UK fans -- we haven't beaten the Tar Heels in five long years, and the Big Blue Nation were beside themselves in the hope to be relevant again:
As the game wound down, you could sense that the crowd was happy not just about the win, but a return to relevance. And these people deserve it. It odd to say they "deserve" anything since this is a fanbase blessed with more wins than anyone in college basketball history; but they do. People that care this much about basketball should have a Top 10 team. It's just good for the sport.
I agree. It is good for the sport, and it is good of Andrew to lay aside the rivalry and recognize that, something that I deeply respect and appreciate. Not because it makes me feel good, but because he is 100% right.
More after the jump.
As to what Andrew witnessed, well, sit still for a little hyperbole:
[John Wall is] not so much a freshman as an NBA player playing college basketball. Carolina's Larry Drew vs. John Wall was like pitting a golden retriever against a cheetah. It's not the dog's fault when that fight turns into a slaughter. It's just... nature. Do you ever wonder what it would have looked like had Lebron gone to college? This is it. And it's funny.
I don't know if it was all like that, but there was no way Drew could stay in front of Wall. Wall is among the fastest point guards in the history of college basketball with the ball in his hands, and Larry Drew cannot be faulted for being unable to stay in front of him. That's just something that teams will have to learn to contend with.
Finally, there's this:
The Wildcats are a worthy adversary again; it's good to have them back. Their fans span generations; and just when you think a rivalry's dead, John Wall comes to Kentucky, my 10 year-old cousin falls in love with UK, and suddenly John Calipari has the Wildcats looking like the hottest program in college basketball. Next year, Harrison Barnes comes to UNC, and who knows what'll happen?
Indeed. Who knows? But what I do know is this -- it's good to be considered worthy of praise by a Tar Heel fan, because quite honestly, Kentucky's basketball team has not been worthy of that for some time. That's just reality.
Read the whole thing. I promise you, these excerpts do not do it justice.