It has been some time since I last wrote something on here. Too long, in fact. I sat for a few days after Kentucky’s loss to Florida, processing it all and pondering my own thoughts. I genuinely didn’t know what to believe after it happened. I knew I had to write something about it. Putting my thoughts down is the only true therapy. It’s cathartic, so just humor me for a bit, okay?
Throughout the fourth quarter, I could feel something wicked brewing. A bad air was on the horizon, inching ever so close to the stadium. It was an inevitable eventuality in a series whose outcome is routinely determined in a grueling fashion that can do nothing but top that which has come before it.
I’m not here to talk about the holding call.
I’m not here to talk about the two times when Kentucky left a Florida receiver to find the endzone with ease.
I’m not here to talk about the conservative offense that sputtered and left the Wildcats without a meaningful response to Florida’s successful fourth quarter comeback.
I just want to talk about what’s next.
It felt like the stars had aligned to signal that this would be the year that Kentucky finally shooed the albatross perched over the program. Everything pointed to a victory. Everyone bought into the hype, including myself. I had my ticket. I was in the student section. I saw firsthand the elation-turned-desolation that spread like a virus, instantaneously proliferating among the 60,000 people who made the trek to see Florida—at long last—fall to Kentucky on the football field.
Describing the mood of that place is far too difficult a task, but I was placed firmly between crestfallen faces and rancorous individuals letting out agonizing screams of anger. However, the common emotion that bound all of the sunken souls in attendance could be but one thing: dejection.
Everything had been building to this moment. And I don’t just mean this season. I mean for years (since Mark Stoops had been hired, in fact). Each season has been filled with measured progress. In the beginning, we were excited because Kentucky was actually competing for highly ranked recruits. We finally had something to brag to other SEC schools about!
Next, we were excited about actually making a bowl for the first time in six seasons. Sure, it took a bit longer than some had hoped, but rational fans who understand the tribulations that Stoops and his staff would face knew that, given time, success would follow.
The next logical step of progression is finally usurping Florida. No school can truly move into the upper echelon of football programs when a record as hideous as 30+ straight wins is still very much alive. Saturday night, that final corner could not be turned.
It was as if all of Kentucky’s demons—its ill spirits that have cursed it to only taste victory but never truly relish it—were toying with us once more. In a rivalry that has been one-sided for over 30 years, plenty of awful, gut-wrenching moments occur for the team that perpetually comes up with nothing but a loss and some heartbreak.
With the doleful mood set, here’s my ask (and it’s a doozy): Let’s move past this for now. Dwelling on a painful loss will do nothing more than open the wound further. Instead, we must allow it time to heal, lest we risk losing sight of the good that still can come of this season.
Therein lies the important part: good may still come. Unlike so many years that have fallen within the incredibly wide scope of the past three decades, we have so much to look forward to besides the Florida game. Kentucky should be 5-1 at the halfway point of the season. Tennessee has looked beatable. Vanderbilt is Vanderbilt. Stephen Johnson is still taking snaps, and Benny Snell is there looming large in the backfield. Even following an excruciating loss like that, there should be no shortage of optimism despite how deep the pain cut.
Make no mistake—I’m still not healed from the pain, and I’m not sure I ever will be. But I do know that it is certainly something that I now care more about Kentucky football than I do basketball. I’m deeply invested in it, and by God does it hurt to be so invested in something that it breaks your heart when it fails; but that’s the beauty of the rebirth we’re witnessing.
Kentucky breaking our hearts instead of leaving us disappointed and free of care is a positive sign; it’s a sign that we now love this team so deeply that we’re willing to completely pour our collective souls into it even when the likelihood of a favorable outcome is small.
When you’re ready to go all out for a team that has lost 30 straight games to an opponent, it means you’ve given the team you love your all. So why waste the energy we’ve invested? Giving up now resigns us to a fate of being eternally miserable. It contributes to the negative notion that Kentucky fans only care about football from August through November.
It may be incredibly tempting to give up now so that we cannot possibly fall into the trap of being excited only to have the rug swept out from under us once more. Instead, we must continue to devote ourselves to this team and this program. They deserve our support for turning Kentucky football into something to be proud of once more. Only when we’re completely behind them and completely supportive can we truly relish the zenith that will someday be reached.
Between now and then, we will have these horrendous losses. We will see outcomes that will test our very resolve, but we must pay them no mind. We must continue believing in our team’s ability to be better than once it were.
With all that being said, break our hearts, Kentucky. It just means that we care.