Kentucky Wildcat Basketball: One more day to celebrate

Alex Poythress with the flush. - Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

On the eve of the Final Four, a tribute to my dad

The following is a stream of consciousness post:

I always want Kentucky to win. Whether it’s the Wildcat basketball teams, baseball squad, or soccer team; I’m always for the Cats.

This weekend, though, the Final Four Kentucky is participating in holds a particularly important place in my heart.

Everyone has a story about how their passion for Kentucky basketball began. My "fandom" beginning came at birth, something not unusual for UK basketball fans. For in this state, becoming a UK fan is a rite of passage, oftentimes beginning with that first slap on the behind from the delivering physician.

The fact that my father was in Gainesville, on the southern swing of the SEC baseball season as a member of UK’s baseball team at the time of my birth, and that the late-night news of my delivery came from his coach, Harry Lancaster, has served to imprint my soul with the Big Blue logo.

It was from that point forward, that my dad and I became permanently bound together by our love of Kentucky basketball. It was my dad who I would sit and watch games with. It was my father who taught me the rich history of Kentucky basketball; giving me books to read about the Fabulous Five, the Fiddlin’ Five, Cotton Nash and Louie Dampier (two of dad’s baseball teammates).

It was my father who taught me more about basketball than any other person. It was my father and I who my mother would chastise with, "They can’t hear you," as we both shared our displeasure, via the television, with the guys wearing stripes. It was with my father that I watched the 1978, 1996 and 1998 national title games with.

Our shared passion for UK basketball is what bonded my father and I when I was still very young. It was through his stories of the baseball team running the steps at Memorial Coliseum while the basketball team practiced below which gave me an appreciation for the hard work the team does. His stories of how Adolph Rupp conducted practices are … priceless.

Later on in life, it is my father who I would call at the half of a particularly important game, reliving the first stanza. Recounting what went right and what went wrong, and how the second half might play out.

When I began writing or A Sea of Blue nearly six years ago, it was my dad who became my go-to adviser. Many times, after publishing an article, I would call him and ask if he thought I was on point with my thoughts. Or, if I was tough on a player or the team, I would ask him if he thought my stinging words were legitimate in its criticism. I can’t remember how many times I asked him, "Was I too hard on the guys?"

It was my dad who I went to for advice on many aspects of life, but it was his clear, honest words of wisdom which told me whether I was right or wrong when writing about the Cats.

It was my father who knew that sport's analogies would always get his point across -- I still vividly remember relating to him how I felt I, who was in a work position of great responsibility, was being treated unfairly by my boss. He simply said, "Don't carry the ball if you don't want to be tackled."

Point taken.

It was my dad who encouraged me to pursue my writing gig with CoachCal.com. It was dad who encouraged me to follow the opportunity to become a color analyst for high school broadcasts in Bowling Green. If I asked, it was he who would honestly critique my call after each game.

It was my dad who first made me aware of Kevin Massey, someone I have written about extensively for both A Sea of Blue and CoachCal.com. It was my dad who encouraged me to write about UK "superfan" Bob Wiggins, one of the most read articles I’ve ever written.

So it’s for him that I want the Cats to cut down the nets in Dallas on Monday night. Not because he will be able to enjoy the moment, but because it would be a fitting tribute to the man who endowed me with love and passion for Kentucky basketball. It was UK basketball which served as the foundation for our father and son relationship, and it’s our love of UK basketball which has always persevered even as we endured the travails that many times plague the father-son dynamic.

The Cats winning; that’s how it should be. This Wildcat squad of season-long underachievers, coming together as a team to battle the best the nation has to offer, and giving my dad one more day of heaven here on earth.

Thanks for reading and Go Cats!

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