Kentucky Basketball: Don't Pull Up Your Horse Before The Finish Line

Good thing Joel Rosario didn't pull up Orb here, or Palace Malice would have won the Derby. - USA TODAY Sports

Fans. They kill me.

I've seen my share of negative Nellies after last night's loss at LSU, and who can blame them, right? This isn't what we were led to expect from this team. This isn't 40-0. This isn't even 18-2. Kentucky is sitting "ugly" at 15-5 with two losses in 7 SEC contests, and the SEC is hardly the class of the nation in basketball this season.  We've even had some message boards with "Far Calipari!"-type comments.

The Big Blue Nation, at least some of it, is on DEFCON-1. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, that's when the launch codes are out, the pistol is cocked, and thermonuclear destruction is a say-so away. Fortunately, veteran sportswriter Mike DeCourcy is here to try to forestall Big Blue Armageddon. Consider:

The alarmists are starting to discuss whether Kentucky even will make the NCAA Tournament, because it’s entertaining to a fairly large segment of the college basketball audience to consider that possibility. Kentucky’s potential remains considerably grander, though, than merely sneaking into the field. The real question is whether the Wildcats ever will connect and mature enough to approach their presumed ceiling.

...

Nothing that’s failing with these Wildcats is unresolvable. They remain perhaps the only team in college basketball with NBA-level talent at every position. There has been improvement with wing James Young’s shot selection, although it might be nice to see him look at a teammate just once before first checking to see if he’s got an opening. Freshman Dakari Johnson at least gives UK another option if Cauley-Stein continues not to compete. [my emphasis]

Note the emphasis above. I think that's important. No matter how these kids are playing now, and God knows, they aren't playing like NBA talent, that's what they are. The NBA may turn their noses up at most of them this season, and justifiably so, but that doesn't change reality.

I think the degree of fan's angst right now, and the way they cope with it, says a lot about two things:

  • How emotionally invested a fan is in the team, and;
  • How "tough" they are in the face of adversity.

To me, giving up on the team's chances now is tantamount to a jockey pulling up his horse at the five furlong poll in mile and a quarter race — as if they're scared to see what happens in the other five. If you end the race now, the horse isn't going to finish too well. But I'd kind of like to see the other five furlongs before I call it a horse race, thank you very much. This is a route race, not a sprint.

I find it ironic that the same fans bemoaning the toughness of the team also tend to be the first ones to sell their emotional stock after a bad loss or several of them, climb off their horse, and descend into apathy or nay-saying. Not that I really care how people deal with their fandom — I'm an avowed disbeliever of the "true fan" concept; fans may comport themselves in any way they want from relentlessly negative to unshakably positive, and that's fine by me.

For me, I'll admit to some trepidation, although I'm not selling my emotional stock in this team for a while yet. There is too much talent there, and too much history behind Calipari's methods for me to jump off my horse after five furlongs.

I'm riding this nag all the way to the wire, or until it's heart bursts, whichever comes first.

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