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It's Time To Embrace the Hate


Maybe it's the jokes, or the lineage or something altogether indescribable that makes Kentuckians -- and Kentucky fans in general -- such a sensitive bunch. Or maybe it's just the ad revenue generated by a legion of angry Big Blue denizens linking to and clicking frantically on any article that supposedly disrespects their beloved collegiate basketball team.

I have a message for the Big Blue Nation, however. Far from trying to shame or guilt or shout down the rest of the world into accepting that Kentucky is the greatest program in the history of the game, it's time to take the polar opposite approach and embrace the hate.

It won't be easy, of course. Lashing yourself to the mast in a storm seldom is. But just think how liberating it will be to no longer worry about some ESPN guru's random rankings, or the collective short-sightedness -- almost an annual event -- of the SEC coaches and media as they annoint _____(fill in name of other lesser program here)____ as the new king of the hill.

Who is it this year, Tennessee? Yeah, OK. Go ahead. Whatever makes you cuddly at night, John Q. Nobody.

No, it's time to rethink all this thin-skinned reactionism. It's for the best, really. It's also completely justified. Let's review, shall we?

It was never going to happen with Tubby Smith at the helm. Let's face it, when you have arguably the nicest human being in college coaching and one of the most respected African-American coaches in the country and you still can't get love from the press, when exactly is it coming?

But now we have Billy Gillispie, a firebrand, a pugnacious brawler type whose notoriously wicked practices are based all around out toughing the opponent -- heck, even your own players if need be. Sounds perfect for Operation: He Hate Me.

And the makeup of the current team? Tough. Patrick Patterson is an All-American tough guy, a bruiser, and a good one. The flashiest player is probably DeAndre Liggins, the Chicago freshman who sacrificed his scoring to help his prep team nearly capture the national title. Fits just fine on Team Ignored.

Go down the list: Meeks, Porter, Harris, Galloway, Harrelson, Stevenson. JUCOs, forgotten recruits, leftovers all. Heck, one of those guys is from freaking Alaska! I don't see any winking coming from Razor Ramon, though, do you?

Billy knows you don't need the rest of them...

See, it's really quite simple. If you turn off the spigot of jealousy, eliminate the craven wanting for attention, you can focus on your own team, not some other school, not some other coach, not some other ranking. Yours.

Try it. Think about Rupp Arena without caring about Andy Katz's contentment level with the place. Forget Dick Vitale's meandering rants, even if he occasionally graces us with moments of lucidity. Forget Jeff Goodman's little piques and whomever is writing for CBS Sportsline this week's idea of wit.

It feels pretty good, don't it?

Because what makes us feel good about our team, anyway? Adulation from a Florida grad somewhere sweating into his Mountain Dew while he vlogs? Sweet words of love from some failed coach calling a WAC game three time zones away? Fugg 'em.

You know, as I know, that Billy Gillispie didn't come to Kentucky to pad his bank account. I mean, he doesn't even have time to spend that money (though I'm guessing he doesn't mind the nest egg). He didn't come here to get a nice new track suit. Can get that anywhere.

No, he came to win. And win big. And he will. Because he won't sleep, eat or stop punching walls until he does. That's why he was hired, and it's clear. He coaxed last year's bunch of Wildcats -- a team so devoid of cohesion and balance they effectively had no junior class! -- into an NCAA berth. He turned Joe Crawford back into an NBA player.

And for those fans out there who remember so fondly, as we all secretly do, those days when Rick Pitino's teams can swaggering into 5,000-seat SEC arenas ready to bust some serious ass, we were never loved. Feared? Sure. Respected? No choice but to when you're looking at the butt end of a 20-point deficit. After one half.

We're poised to return, folks. But it can't be a one-man show. It has to be all of us. We have to turn off the little switch in our brains that makes us want affection and turn up the gears on the throttle that says "Step on his neck."

We have to embrace the hate. After that?

I believe Guns N' Roses said it best when they wrote: "They'll won't catch me, cause I'm f*cking innocent."