Ah, Keith Urban. So poignant. So apt for the day after our first top 25 recruit in three years. We do expect times like these to come again, though. Soon. But we never enjoy them as much as we do this one, or at least, not for a long time.
I suppose some Wildcat fans (and certainly, most non-Wildcat fans) think that because we have finally managed to get a taste of recruiting Nirvana, that the message boards and blogs that help tie today's Big Blue Nation together will settle down in restful repose for the rest of the summer. Well, I can't speak for anyone else, but here at A Sea of Blue, Kentucky Wildcat fandom is a 24-7/365 thing. We never stop, never rest, never ... Well, you get the idea. Life does intrude, but we must feed the beast.
And so I sit here at my keyboard with my coffee in my Kentucky Wildcat cup with a grin that acts like it has a mind of its own. It feels a bit like a 12-year old boy, fascinated by a new toy that he has wanted for years that finally has come into his possession. Not very apt, perhaps, to compare an 18-year old kid to a toy, but the feeling is similar, even if the level of triviality isn't. Suddenly, all the little things that annoyed me yesterday seem blandly amusing, and life as a Wildcat fan has become a lot more fun.
So what does this Patterson commitment mean to the University of Kentucky? Well, I won't bore you with the obvious, that it improves our weak front line. This actually means more to the Big Blue Nation than just that stud power forward we have coveted for so long. All the misses that UK has had in recent history recruiting highly touted players has left a perception around the college basketball world, and to a much smaller extent within our own fan base, that Kentucky was no longer a particularly desirable place to play basketball, and that our program was in serious decline.
That judgment was perhaps silly given Kentucky's history of success and tradition of championships. There is no doubt that most of the Big Blue Nation would have scoffed loudly at the suggestion, but the perception of many outside the program was that the Roman Empire of college basketball, as Rick Pitino famously called UK, had finally fallen and was about to be overrun by the Huns of Florida, the Visigoths of Ohio State, and the Vandals of Tennessee.
There is no question that perception of the Kentucky program from the outside had become one of a program that wasn't what it used to be. Two sub-Kentucky seasons in a row was enough to wipe away the success of the preceding three years because of the lack of a Final Four appearance.
The long absence of Kentucky from the last weekend of basketball and apparent inability of UK to consistently reload with top 50 players looked to many like a sure sign that Kentucky was descending into an Age of Darkness. Some openly opined that the demise of the program into irrelevance was imminent.
Indeed, many in the Big Blue Nation itself had begun to ask, "Is this really the beginning of the end?" The evidence of decline was constantly paraded before the Faithful by program detractors and foes, and some had begun to fear that times had truly changed, and the empire that Rupp built was crumbling at its foundations. Fan support never wavered at games, but the Internet was abuzz with people who claimed to have been lifelong UK fans, but were now moving on to greener pastures.
Then came Black Monday, a day in which three major UK recruits all decided to play ball elsewhere. This was a major blow to the psyche of a Kentucky program that had been somewhat energized by the recent hiring of a young, exciting new coach, and the naysaying began to spike. Even the coach, who had been at UK less than two months and successfully broght a top 30 recruit to UK, began to suffer angry recriminations.
But Patrick Patterson's commitment two days after Black Monday changed all that, restoring confidence and hope to a restive and benighted Big Blue Nation. The SEC, which looked foreboding with the rise of Tennessee and Vanderbilt, and the recent dominance of Florida, suddenly now seems a less hostile place. Realistic UK fans understand that Patterson isn't likely to lead us to a national championship next year, but combined with our existing talent and new blood, represents a foundation upon which a championship team might reasonably expect to be built over the next couple of seasons. As the Herald-Leader reports today, UK has it's mojo back.
So we head into the summer with joy and the renewed passion that only the banishing of recent demons can bring. No longer does the "no stud power forward" meme hang over our heads, nor the specter of a recruiting class out of the top 50. Instead, many of the pieces we need are now in place, and with three scholarships for next year and a much brighter 2008 recruiting outlook, the Roman Empire of college basketball is beginning to look vibrant again.
Hail, Caesar! Hail Kentucky! Ignis aurum probat, miseria fortes viros (Adversity tests strong men). To our detractors, remember this: Cuius testiculos habeas, habeas cardia et cerebellum. (When you have them by the balls, the heart and mind will follow). Hide your jewels, the Wildcats are back!