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Cursing the Darkness

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After reading dozens of comments and posts today regarding the current state of the Kentucky team, I think it's time for us to submit to a little introspection.

Billions of pixels have been darkened explaining the problems with this Kentucky team, and the Big Blue Nation has offered any number of of complaints, starting with the coaching, lack of a third scoring option, the heart of the team, the lack of an offensive system, the fear of shooting by anyone but Meeks and Patterson, etc., etc.

'Cat fans, and in particular, members of this blog including me, have spent lots of time being critical of Kentucky -- critical of the coach, critical of the team, critical of the players.  Almost every flaw in the game of everyone on this team has been exposed to critique, and I think that is fine, but ...

You just knew the "damning 'but'" was coming, didn't you?  Well, here it is.

There comes a time when criticism serves no purpose but to make the critic feel better.  That's where we are today.  I see no offering of solutions, no notice of the good things that happened in any of the recent losses.  What I see are people who are annoyed at either their co-workers, peers or family who are not UK fans beating them up over the recent UK losing streak, and who feel the need to take it out on the team, the coach, the program, their fellow fans -- anybody who will listen.  But it isn't for the purpose of anything constructive, or helpful, or even fan-like.  It is purely for the purpose of self-interest.

We demand that the team sacrifice self-interest for the interest of the team, yet we are unwilling to vicariously make ourselves part of the team and do likewise.  I think that is rather hypocritical in that we are demanding of others something we are unwilling to do ourselves.  It galls me when I see visits to the blog drop dramatically after losses.  Nobody, it seems, can stand in there and take the heat or listen to the bad news.  It's as if we must avert our eyes from a major part of sports -- losing.  Does that sound like "the greatest fans in college basketball" to you?  It doesn't to me.  We see people still living in 1996, and assuring us that was the way it has always been at Kentucky, as though the less rousing part of history existed only in the minds of old fans, or is rationalized away with some excuse or another.

What sort of fandom is that?  I mean, seriously, are we right to expect a return on our emotional investment without being willing to accept the possibility that there will sometimes be a negative return? It's like all those people angry because they invested in stocks -- they were happy when they were making big money, but when the crash comes, somebody's gotta pay.  It's as if we want all the rewards, but none of the downside.  I'm sure I don't have to tell you that's not how it works.  The government is not going to bail out the Wildcats and give us wins to comfort our hurt feelings when things don't go well.

How can we be so sure that we have all the answers that we can demand a coaching change, or a player benching with all the confidence of ignorance?  Let's face it -- we see only results, we don't live it day-to-day.  I think that's important, don't you?

I once had a boss that told me never to darken his door with a problem unless I was willing to simultaneously propose a solution.  I always found that to be sage advice, but I have seen precious little of that from most of us, including myself.  When I use "we," I don't mean the royal we, I mean each and every one of us including yours truly.

Frankly, I think we fans should demand more of ourselves before we demand more of the team or the coach.  No investment comes without risk, and that includes the emotional investment we have in this team.  If you are going to put yourself out there as a fan, you'd better be ready and able to handle it when things go south, as they inevitably do.  John F. Kennedy famously asked us to think of our country before we think of ourselves.  Apparently, most of us in the Big Blue Nation are unwilling to apply that standard to ourselves when it comes to the team we all claim to love and support.

Look, I'm not asking for anyone to go all squishy and stop criticizing bad play or poor effort.  Not in the least.  Instead, what I am saying is that before you offer that rant, make sure you fully understand your motivation -- are you offering it for the best interests of the Big Blue Nation, to further the dialog and try to understand our current dilemma, or to assuage your own anger and embarrassment?

One is a good reason.  The other?  Well, you shouldn't need me to tell you.