There are a few types of people in this world that I’ll never understand: people who rob people during funerals and weddings, people who watch absolutely NO TV, people who don’t like dogs and – most timely for right now - people who vehemently refuse to succumb to March Madness in some manner, either by filling out a bracket or by just watching the last 10 seconds of some particularly exciting game so they can add something to the water cooler convo at work.
Basketball has always been the great equalizer for me. Yesterday, I was the Quiet Girl at work. Today, I’m “Girl Who Knows You Always Pick At Least ONE 5 Seed Over a 12 Seed” girl. And if my luck holds out, I’m “Girl Who Picked Montana over Nevada” girl. I’m a GENIUS.
Growing up in Kentucky breeds an assortment of quirky behaviors and a head full of useless knowledge that only fellow Kentucky fans and a handful of fans from other diehard sports schools/teams actually get.
For example, everybody knows that it’s not just the team and coach responsible for wins during the tournament. The consistent contribution of each individual fan matters too. And I’m not talking about just showing support at games.
Let’s say you watched the 1996
NCAA tournament at Trump’s Sports Bar in Lexington, KY with your 2 friends John and Matt (hypothetical friends, by the way). Kentucky won it all that year. But in 1997
Matt couldn’t make it because his wife was in labor with the birth of their first daughter. Kentucky loses in the national title game to Arizona. Way to go, Matt. Way to fuck it up for all of us.
You can bet your sweet ass that even though Matt’s wife was open to hosting a viewing party at their house for the 1998
tournament, Matt’s ass was back at Trump’s with you and John. ONLY you and John. In the SAME chairs you sat in in ’96, ordering the same items off the menu you got in ‘96. And if those same items weren’t on the menu, Matt and John just explained the situation to their server, who explained it to the cook, who then called a friend to go find the now defunct jalapeno poppers and make sure they were served to Matt and John on exactly the same type of serving plate to ensure everyone was doing their part in helping pull out another championship.
You think I’m making this up? Trust me. I’m not.
What’s happened to my Cats since 1998 you might ask? I can’t speak for the rest of the fans’ behavior since then but I do know that I am solely responsible
for last year’s Kentucky loss. I flew to Cyprus. That’s right. Cyprus.
To meet Ex British Lover’s family. During March. Cyprus is beautiful but there are no sports bars playing the NCAA basketball tournament, there are no Internet cafes to catch scores at, and EBL’s family is on a waiting list to get Internet and phone connection at home (usually a couple of years in Cyprus). So it wasn’t until I returned to London – ONE WEEK AFTER OUR GAME – that I found out we lost in a tight one to Michigan St.
I’m so sorry, Tubby and team. Never again will I leave the country for ANYONE during March. Period.
Don’t even get me started on grudges. Christian Laettner, 1992. That’s just dirty fucking basketball, people. That launched a hatred for Duke that can never be reversed, a dislike for any and all teams that Laettner ever played for and an intense distaste for pretty much all Duke fans who, for the LIFE of them cannot get one single fucking statistic right to save their lives, even the simple ones like which schools have more championships than theirs (never argue with a Carolina, Kentucky, UCLA fan (possibly Indiana?) on that issue for sure, you useless fuckwits.) It also ensures my support of any team who ever plays
Duke. There are other grudges, but the Duke one is more permanent because, in my opinion, their fans are the most know-it-all and offensive of pretty much any other school.
I also reserve a special category of annoyance for what I like to call the “new money” schools. Arizona, for example. OK. So you beat us in 1997. Good for you. But building a dynasty is a marathon, not a sprint, and only a handful of schools are in the club, and as painful as it is for me to say it, Duke’s one of them. Sure, it’s cool to get to the Elite Eight 4 times in the past 6 years. It’s cooler when you’ve actually won championships
– PLURAL - over a longer period of time, under different coaches. Call me in, oh, 100 years, you Arizona whores, when you’re actually a threat.
But your off years. Suck. And you want. To die. Really. I’m only slightly
over-dramatizing. Kentucky hasn’t showed this poor of a performance since Nixon was in office. Seriously. I can’t decide which is worse: the pain of knowing that your team will do absolutely nothing in the tournament or the depression you experience after a loss in a year in which you were supposed
to do something. Whereas tournament days feel as exciting as 5:30 on Christmas Eve in Lexington, with everyone bustling about to get to their destination so they can soak themselves in bourbon and beer cheese, days following a tournament loss
feel like half the city was killed in a freak earthquake, tsunami or some other unnatural-to-Kentucky disaster. It’s unbearable.
But if anybody knows how to celebrate it’s a bunch of people from the south who like bourbon and worship basketball like it’s a religion. All pretense of normal behavior is off. One of my favorite family memories is from ’98 when we beat Stanford in the national semi-finals. My family watched the game together and as tacky as it sounds, we all got ridiculously loaded (didn’t we? Or was that just me?). So after we won, we did what any all-American family of drunk basketball freaks does: we got a huge bell and the Kentucky flag and ran through the neighborhood ringing the bell, ushering our neighbors out to celebrate with us in a kind of gigantic Kentucky basketball conga line. Klassy – with a K!
This year, though, I’m not pretending. We’re not going anywhere after game 2, max. I’ll still enjoy the tournament, rooting against
Duke and for
my other picks. My final 4: UCLA, Texas, UConn and Villanova. I’ve got Villanova beating Texas in the finals.
Why Villanova? I used a mixture of statistics, tempered with a tiny bit of emotion. RPI rankings weighed less into the decision than did their team name (um, they’re Wildcats too).
Oh, and last time they won a championship? 1985, Rupp Arena, in beautiful Lexington, KY.
Told you it was madness.