Taking a look into a proud tradition in any sport is always interesting.
Personally I knew nothing about Kentucky basketball till I came to the university. I was actually a Duke fan if that is believable.
Since being here my blood has turned blue, and I have learned nearly everything there is to know about UK basketball.
People wonder why Kentucky fans are so much different than other fans. They do not understand why expectations are so high in Lexington. How could they fire a coach that won a national championship for us after one rough season? Why do they make such a big deal over a record that started by beating a YMCA?
These are just a couple of questions that I have heard this year pertaining to the University of Kentucky basketball program, and I am here to clear those questions up.
Growing up in Kentucky, children are bred to bleed blue or red, and there is no middle ground. A state that lacks a professional sport and brings the largest horse racing competition only once a year has to find something to entertain the eager sports-minded folks.
Since 1903 people have been spoiled in Lexington and have built a tradition that will never be able to be overrun by another program. Fans have seen great coaches such as Eddie Sutton, Joe B. Hall, Rick Pitino, Adolph Rupp, and now John Calipari.
They have had the luxury of being able to watch amazing talent such as Dan Issel, Jack Givens, Kyle Macy, Kenny Walker, Pat Riley, and Jamal Mashburn. They have been treated to 44 SEC titles and seven championships.
The ultimate reason Kentucky basketball is so special, though, is because of the fans, like any other storied program. The fans in Kentucky are knowledgeable about their team, and they should be, seeing as they have spent most of their lives watching them.
People in other states are able to watch professional teams and can divert their attention elsewhere if one of their teams is not performing at a high level. In Kentucky you can't do that. You live and die with the Wildcats. With the positive moments, there have been negative ones as well. Christian Laettner singlehandedly destroyed the hopes of an entire state, and Mike Bibby crushed the dreams of many.
Kentucky basketball is despised by many. People call the fans in Lexington crazy, but at times I believe that is jealousy speaking. How can you not want your team to compete for a title every season? Kentucky basketball is a rich tradition full of many accomplishments.
The best thing about the fans is that they are knowledgeable about their team and the sport—maybe more so than any other fanbase in the country.
How many times have you sat at a sporting event where the people around you do not understand the game? They yell obnoxiously and scream profane words at officials for any call that goes against their team, even if it was the right call. You all know what I am talking about, and if you don't, then you are probably that person.
At Rupp Arena, that is rare to come by. Sure, they hassle the players like any other fanbase and scream, but they know the difference between a good call and a bad call. They let the game play out the way it should, even if it plays out in a negative way with a loss.
The fans take the sport seriously, which is why going to the NIT is not permitted in Lexington. I had friends and their families telling me last year that we should refuse to accept an NIT invitation! Of course, they understood that would not be in the program's best interests, but it shows losing is unacceptable.
UCLA has had a rough season, but you don't hear about fans calling for Ben Howland's head. They have every right to do so though. Mediocrity is not welcomed at places such as there, Chapel Hill, Durham, or Lawrence.
Understand that Kentucky fans are not crazy or lunatics for setting the standards so high that they are nearly unreachable. If you think that is ridiculous, then you need to step back and evaluate your favorite program. You should want the goals to be extreme because it makes everyone work harder and brings out the best.
Kentucky is the Harvard and Yale of college basketball. Those Ivy League schools set ridiculous marks to get the best students in the country, and people are praised for reaching them. Kentucky fans do the same with their program to make sure they have the best team in the country to contend every season.
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