Kentucky vs. Louisville 2011: When The Heart Rules The Mind

One of the great things about the rivalry between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Louisville Cardinals is that it provides the opportunity for fan emotion and team partisanship to completely overwhelm reason. The result can often be hilarious and embarrassing columns from normally sane people, in this case Charlie Springer of the Card Game.

Now, I've read a lot of Springer's stuff over the years, and despite his partisanship, he is normally sane, if passionate, about the Cardinals. He is a well-qualified writer and has plenty of experience, and generally does a good job for his favorite team.

Unfortunately, it seems as if the prospect of losing to Kentucky for the third straight time (hardly a certainty, which we'll get to later) has temporarily unhinged him. His column yesterday simply begs to be mocked, and seeing as this is rivalry week, I intend to oblige him forthwith. This will be very much in the style of a "fisking," so expect a lot of quotes.

Here's how Charlie starts out:

Have we gotten to the point already when a trip to Lexington for a basketball game is almost pointless?

Charlie, it's a home and home series. That's how it works. I fail to see how the venue impacts the quality of the game, other than providing more seats for one or the other's fans.

With all the highly touted players passing through the University of Kentucky since Calipari arrived, UK has been dominating the series in recent years. If Calipari deserves any credit, however, it is primarily for cultivating a friendship with World Wide Wes (William Wesley), with all his unique contracts contacts.

Here we go. You know when you see William Wesley trotted out that the column isn't going to be sane. Wesley's relationship with Calipari is well-documented, but he also has relationships of a similar nature with several other college coaches. This dog, as we say in the country, won't hunt anymore. Get over Wesley, or be counted among the fools who blame their losses on everything but how their team plays.

Kentucky had a good basketball tradition, with its seven national championships, prior to the Calipari-Wesley marriage.

Now, I'm absolutely certain that I don't have to point out that "good" is not the proper adjective to describe Kentucky's basketball tradition. It is peerless. Even UCLA, who has more national championships, cannot compete with the totality of Kentucky's tradition, and neither can the North Carolina Tar Heels, the Duke Blue Devils, or the Indiana Hoosiers just to name a few great programs.

All those worthies have basketball traditions that can't be described rationally as less than "great." Louisville has a good tradition, and a good program. Louisville is not on the level of the teams mentioned above. That is a fact, and it is indisputable by any rational person, even a partisan.

Watching his teams play is like watching a Globetrotters exhibition, with all the individualism and free-lancing on the court and the drama on the sideline, resembling a circus at times, toying with the competition. A genuine magic act, a three-ring affair, complete with high-wire acts, blue-clad clowns and dancing girls. The elephant, WWW, probably will be parked again in his front row seat for all to see.

That magic act is making Louisville's wins in this rivalry disappear, Charlie, and this sounds very much like sour grapes. If it were that easy, why wouldn't we just hire William Wesley to coach and cut out the middleman? Who needs Calipari if Wesley is the guy responsible for Kentucky's talent -- after all, anyone can manage a circus.

As to individualism, how is it that Kentucky's teams rank consistently high in such team-reliant statistics as defensive and offensive efficiency? You are describing Memphis under Josh Pastner, not Kentucky under John Calipari.

Quite a change from a few seasons ago when UK hired a coach named Billy Gillispie, primarily it seemed because his Texas A&M team had defeated Louisville in an NCAA game. After that debacle, they were desperate, gambling with their reputation by hiring Calipari, with a history of vacated NCAA tournament wins and entire seasons. The risk seems to have paid off for UK thus far, getting the best of the blue chippers. Whether that adds up to another national championship or two remains to be seen — as does whether there may be more vacated wins in his future.

Where to begin? If we hired Gillispie because he beat Louisville, and not because of the totality of his record (which was very good, by the way), then we deserved what we got. I'd like to point out that the "debacle," as you put it, came within a 28' Edgar Sosa three of taking the last really good Louisville team to overtime in their home gym.

Calipari's history as far as NCAA issues goes is well known, and even if I disagree, it is reasonable to point out that they might recur at Kentucky, if only because Coach Cal is 2-0 in that area. That's as rational as this article gets.

Calipari has yet to prove he is capable of winning the big hand before losing everything before the final horn sounds on his controversial career. But he has no problem with lecturing a knowledgeable fan base about what’s best for the program, floating the notion of dropping heated traditional rivalries or suggesting that getting players to the NBA is more important than winning national championships.

I presume we are talking about the NCAA Tournament title here? If so, I suppose it's fair to say that, although I will also point out that coach Rick Pitino's title came at Kentucky, not at Louisville. I will also point out, for the record, that Pitino, in ten full seasons at Louisville, has only managed to get one team to the last weekend, exactly the same number as Calipari in his three two seasons at UK. At Kentucky, Pitino was able to get three times as many teams to the Final Four in two less years.

As far as Calipari is concerned, he has taken three different schools to the last weekend, just like Pitino. Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams both went to the Final Four four times before winning a title, so Calipari's run to the final weekend without a championship is hardly unprecedented.

Calipari floated the notion of getting rid of one rivalry game due to league expansion. There is no "traditional" rivalry with any non-conference team except Louisville and Indiana, and those traditions are relatively recent and mere blips on the radar in Kentucky's vast history. They are nothing like the traditional rivalries we have with the Tennessee Volunteers, which spans over a century, or the LSU Tigers, which is 70+ years. To my knowledge, Louisville doesn't have a single annual rivalry with any team of even proximate duration.

We sense in Calipari a severe case of lack of self-esteem and a lack of respect for the program he commands. The head coach of one of the strongest basketball programs in the country shouldn’t feel the need to constantly haze a respected coach like Rick Pitino or to belittle the University of Louisville, one of the most profitable college basketball programs in the nation.

A lack of self-esteem? In John Calipari? Seriously? Have you ever seen or listened to that guy?

Calipari may have many personality flaws or issues, but a lack of self-esteem is certainly not among them. Whomever constitutes your royal pronoun, be it you or a group, seem to have some sort of sensory or cognitive malfunction going on.

As to Calipari's respect for the program, once again, have you ever heard him answer the question of how he likes it here at Kentucky, and how many years he labored to get this job? Calipari has so little respect for Kentucky that he was awed by his first game here when he coached the Massachusetts Minutemen against UK back in 1991, and waited by the phone every day while UK was hiring Billy Gillispie. One could be forgiven for thinking that the entirety of your knowledge of Calipari came exclusively from the fever swamps of your own partisan echo chamber.

As to Coach Cal's picking at Rick Pitino, well, who can say? Perhaps he just enjoys cycling the Louisville head coach -- the two don't like each other very much, and Calipari loves to get headlines. I know I like it when he does that, as juvenile as that enjoyment may be. As to belittling U of L, well, you've done a fair job of that yourself, just now, with this risible lament.

I hope to see better, and hope this lapse is just due to understandable rivalry madness.

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