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The Cats' in the Cradle, Spitting and Scratching

Something is wrong with the Big Blue Nation.

I have noticed it lately, and it is troubling.  Kentucky fans are extremely restive and easily agitated.  Lots of negativism is thrown hither and thither, and message boards are quiescent.  It is troubling, and uncomfortable.  Some might say this is a consequence of playing some bad basketball, but I wonder if that is true.  We may find out tomorrow, but I can rarely recall a time when UK fans were quite this ... negative about the chances of our young team.

Earlier, I posted an article by Larry Vaught that told the story of UK fans expressing a negative view of the team right in front of Patrick Patterson, perhaps the most coveted recruit in recent Kentucky history.  You can read the article for yourself, but this simply flabergasts me.  What is worse, many of those Patrick overheard were suggesting this might be the worst Kentucky team ever.

Ladies and gentlemen, don't you believe it.  This team has issues right now primarily caused by numerous injuries to its most experienced players suffered over the last 12 months.  We have had 3 players require 4 major joint surgeries, two of whom have yet to recover well enough to contribute.  We have had two other players develop stress fractures, one of whom is gradually returning and the other who will be out for a while yet.  The injuries are the biggest reason for our current vulnerability, not the team, so to suggest the team is bad is frankly absurd.

Dick Vitale was quoted in a Herald-Leader an article that I linked today about Kentucky fans.  He is still angry that a small percentage of those fans treated Tubby Smith badly.  He claims to understand that these fans don't represent the UK fanbase as a whole, and goes on to tell us how wonderful he thinks we are.  No matter what you think about Vitale (I happen to like the guy, and I believe that he is telling the truth), he has a right to his opinion about how the whole Smith thing went down, and I can't honestly say he is wrong in the least.  What I can say is that I believe Smith's leaving was unquestionably best for both him and Kentucky, and I am more interested in what is causing this current bout of dysfunctional fan syndrome than what caused the last.

Kentucky fans, in order to be the best, have to prove it by supporting our team through difficulty as well as success.  No doubt, right now UK is in a difficult period in basketball; new coach, new players, new system, and old habits that die hard.  Instead of drowning ourselves in self-pity and angst and blaming Smith or Vitale or Katz or whoever for being putzes every time they speak, shouldn't we be celebrating the fact that Kentucky is finally making a turn into a new era?  I have news for you, folks -- it almost never comes easy.  Did Smith's lone championship so long ago and far away in his first year spoil us on the idea that we should come out on top every time we change coaches?  For the life of me, I cannot figure it out.   But how can I not believe the evidence of my eyes, and of Patrick Patterson's ears?  Maybe Dickie V. is wrong.  Perhaps we aren't that great at being fans, after all.  Maybe, over the years, we have become really good at making ourselves, and those around us miserable. 

There is a difference, you know.  What, do we fear getting beat by North Carolina?  Let's face it, folks, it happens and it is possible it will happen again.  I remember years not that long ago when we owned North Carolina like we currently own Louisville.  It wasn't that long ago.  Yes, we have suffered lately and might sufferer a bit more, but if you can't see the end in sight, I am sorry for you.  Kentucky is on its way back, but even if we defeat UNC tomorrow, it isn't a sign the Cats have arrived -- merely that we are making some progress.  The Cats could turn around and lose by 35 to Indiana the very next weekend, or vice versa. 

Excellence is a process, not a destination.  Players don't buy into systems overnight, nor do they learn the way that a new coach wants his system run in a few weeks, especially with so many potential starters on the bench with significant injuries.  Stay patient, Wildcat fans, and get over the fact that this season is likely to have many ups and downs, and could have more downs that we ever imagined.  But let's stop running our boys into the ground here, shall we?  No more of this "worst team in history" crap, that is just gobsmackingly unworthy of any fan base, especially one as storied as ours.

Let's get a grip, and enjoy the season with an eye toward what the team will be, not what it is right now.