Kentucky Basketball: Surveying the Wreckage

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Well, the SEC tournament is over, the NIT looms, and UK fans are in a deep, deep funk.  As it should be.

Let's face it, folks, this season was a disappointment for us all.  I'm not going to pretend that there is a silver lining in this big, black cloud of a season, because if there is, I haven't found it yet.  Sometimes, sports is just like life -- hard, for no apparent reason.  Eventually, tough times find you no matter where you have been hiding.  UK has been hiding in a bubble of high expectations for many years, and now hard times have found us.  It has happened here before, it will happen again, but it is never something to be embraced or enjoyed.

How a team's fans face adversity is far more important than how they face success.  Success is easy, requires no emotional commitment or sacrifice of self.  The most shallow, superficial person can handle success.  But it takes a lot more to handle hard times like the ones we find ourselves in today.

You will begin hearing lots of rumors and whispers from everyone, including the mainstream  sports media.  Some of you will get emails from people touting connections in high places and assuring you of this or that.  Some of you will even believe these things, causing you to spiral down ever deeper into depression.  Many of you will flee the online Wildcat world altogether, feeling that you need a break from the negativism and distress afflicting our fans at the moment.

But after all the sneering opinions from "informed sources," after all the doom and gloom we will hear from respected members of the media, the test and measure of our fandom will be taken by our ability to rise above it all and trust our program.  Some of you will be wanting Gillispie to be fired, but everyone with half a brain knows that isn't likely.  Some of you will want to blame Barnhart, or Todd, or Tubby Smith, or whoever.  I have seen it already, and I know more will be coming.

Here at A Sea of Blue, we will support our team, our coach and our athletic administration.  We may criticize them, we may complain about them, we may even dislike them intensely and want them to go elsewhere.  But we here at A Sea of Blue will not allow the tone of this blog to go into the toilet where some of our fans would like to drag us.  We will hold ourselves with the pride and passion that befits a fan of the most storied basketball program in history.  If you cannot find your way out of the darkness, we will try to lift you up.  But you must be willing to be lifted.  You must be willing to look at reality and eschew rumor and innuendo, which will not be tolerated at all on this site.

These are the times that try the souls of the greatest of fans, but those trials must be made every so often.  Disappointment and hard times are part and parcel of even the greatest sports programs.  Nobody is safe from it, and nobody can deny the reality that bad times must invariably come to us all.  The great souls, the great fans, refuse to be buried under bitter disappointment, recriminations and schadenfreude from enemies, haters and other inferiors.  The only way we can ever be the greatest fans in all of sport is to think of ourselves in those terms, and comport our behavior accordingly.  You cannot be a great fan if you are a whiny, venting jerk.  You cannot be a great fan if all you can do is bring gloom and doom to your fellow-members.  You cannot be a great fan if you fail to acknowledge reality and root your emotional investment in past glories.

We must accept our fate this year, but we don't have to like it.  But we must, and I mean must, support our program, regardless of how dark it gets.  It would be facile to say "it could always be worse, [fill in the blank]," and that is so, but I reject emotional bromides like those -- we don't need them.  They are unworthy of us.  When players make great plays or win great victories, we demand that they act like they have been there before.  So it should be with us in hard times, because we have been there before.

Many of you have never been to a low point in Kentucky basketball, but most of us have.  Some even remember the years of the actual Death Penalty, not the near brush with it to close out the 1980's.  Kentucky has had a long run of relative success since then, winning two national championships and playing in the final game three times.  We will have more success just like that, but not this year.

I'm not going to tell you to keep your head up, because you are Wildcat fans -- you should know that without being told.  You should know how to behave like a Wildcat fan because many of you were born to it from your earliest days, and many of us have listened to Cawood on the radio and cheered Kentucky from our cars, or wherever we were that we could hear the dulcet tones of one of the great broadcasters in history.  Cat fans will do anything to watch, listen to and support their team, and doing that now is just a little tougher and less enjoyable.  But it is your responsibility, and you shouldn't need to be told that.

The Rodney Atkins song says, "When you're going through Hell, keep on going.  Don't slow down, if you're scared don't show it.  You might get out before the Devil even knows you're there."  Let's see if we can get out before the Devil knows we're here.  If not, let's act like we belong, and maybe he won't pay any attention to us.

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