The other day, Fulmer's Belly, a University of Tennessee blog and friend of A Sea of Blue, wrote this article entitled "Kentucky... To Love... Or Hate... In case you haven't already stumbled across it, you should give it a read.
FB points out, in his own inimitable style, that Kentucky and Tennessee have far more in common than not. Not only do the state share a border along most of the length of the respective states, there is a lot of migration between the two. For example, I spent many of my early years in Bristol, Tennessee, and had I stayed one more year, I would have gone to the same high school as a memorable UK player, one Derek Hord. In perhaps the ultimate act of retribution for Kentucky taking the highly-touted Hord, a Parade and McDonalds All-American back in 1979, Tennessee has recently responded by stealing away Chris Lofton, a Kentucky Mr. Basketball in 2003.
When I spent my college years at Western Kentucky, we made frequent incursions into Tennessee, mostly to Nashville. In those days, the legal drinking age in Tennessee was 18, and in Kentucky it was 21, so the reason for our frequent trips to the Crafty Commodore and other Nashville college bars of the day is fairly obvious.
Fulmer's Belly, like most SEC school blogs, roots for SEC teams when they are not playing their opponents. Of course, like many of our readers, I find myself doing the same thing. In spite of our long-suffering football team's recent 20+ game losing streak to the Vols, Kentucky fans have reason to believe that this year may bring an end to that streak, and the return of the Beer Barrell to the Bluegrass.
Jack Daniels and Woodford Reserve are the perfect metaphor for a rivalry that goes back a very long time. Kentucky first played Tennessee in Knoxville on October 21st, 1893 -- 114 years ago this October, making Tennessee our longest historical SEC rival. Vanderbilt is second -- we played them for the first time in 1899. Jack Daniels Distillery was founded in 1875 -- 18 years before the first UK and Tennessee game, and the Woodford Reserve distillery (Labrot & Graham before it was re-branded in 2003 was founded in 1812 as the Oscar Pepper Distillery. Labrot & Graham took it over in 1878, just 3 years after Jack Daniels was founded. In an interesting and perhaps ironic twist of fate, both brands were acquired by Brown-Forman Corp. located in Louisville, Kentucky.
In their article, Flumer's Belly compares Kentucky and Tennessee to two brothers. Kentucky gets to be the financially challenged rebel and chick magnet, and UT gets to be the wealthy family guy. I guess I don't mind that comparison much, and comparing the Kentucky-Tennessee football contest as a sibling rivalry seems pretty apt.
Of all the football games Kentucky fans are looking forward to this year, I have no doubt that this one will be among the very top of everyone's list. Tennessee doesn't look nearly as indomitable as they seemed during the Peyton Manning years, and Kentucky has it's best team since Hal Mumme roamed the sidelines and Tim Couch wore the Blue and White. Both UK and UT will have their hands full this season in a staggeringly talented SEC. This is the most I have looked forward to a football season in many years.