moral victory : an actual defeat regarded as a virtual victory because of the narrowness of the margin or because of some circumstance that gives satisfaction or hope (Courtesy of Merriam-Webster)
As a historically basketball centric institution, UK has expected wins as the norm. As such, the term "moral victory" has drawn the ire of many fans, many times as being a term beneath the Big Blue Nation. "I don’t believe in moral victories" has been penned numerous times with rabid agreement by the masses that the phrase doesn’t belong in the lexicon.
Come August 31 we enter football season and our (hopefully) Phoenix-like Wildcats undertake the toughest schedule in the nation under the tutelage of our patron saint of football -- Mark Stoops. We all know what lies ahead this year as Stoops & Co. will try to wring out every ounce of talent from the Joker Phillips holdovers in addition to the surprising and welcome talent brought in on short notice in Stoops’ first recruiting class.
From a win-loss point of view no one expects this team to set the SEC on fire and talks of a mere 4 or 5 win season as being acceptable are the norm. In my time following UK football I can’t remember a time when the fan base was willing to go into a season expecting to be giddy at the end of the year with a 33% winning percentage; it’s unprecedented.
With that setup it’s now time to learn how to embrace "moral victories"; without them this season will beat you into the ground. Our first game WKU is critical in getting the new and improved Wildcats off to a good start and we’ll have to suspend "moral victory" for another week (or two). Winning will be great, losing will absolutely suck -- there will be no moral victory possible. Ditto for week two against Miami (OH); although a loss might have a little less suck since Miami isn’t an in-state directional school like WKU.
Once we enter week 3 (Louisville) we will enter our moral victory portion of the schedule. We’ve seen the experts picking UK to lose to the rest of our schedule (except ASU) by 10, 20, 30 or 1000 points which brings out our bravado of "You don’t understand the metamorphosis going on under Stoops!".
These guys are experts for a reason and this season could get ugly when you look at the scores. The BBN is going to have to man up (woman up?) and look beyond the scoreboard to keep true to our team. There will be games where we will be physically over-matched at many positions on the field and games where we lose at the end due to our lack of depth. Keep in mind this is NOT "the same old Kentucky" when this happens. In time we will match up physically with our opponent and we will have deep benches like our opponent, but not this year.
This year our fandom will be tested and moral victories will be our salvation. With moral victories we can maintain our support of the team, fill the stadium and keep up the momentum that Stoops has initiated. So while we may fall short in games on the scoreboard, take heart in watching coaches that coach better than last year, a team that looks prepared to play from the opening kickoff, a team that plays until the final gun, a staff that recruits their ass off, a fan base unwavering in their support, game statistics that give us a "what if" rosy alternative, offensive/defensive schemes that give us hope and promises of successes in years to come. Use each of these moral victories until the program reaches the point where we can banish the term from football as we learn to expect to win.