[Moderated by Matt Jones]
Throughout this week, I have been completely overstimulated by the media hype surrounding the Kentucky-Louisville showdown. I’ve been sent links to the same article three times over, ESPN has been permanently blaring in my living room, and I start to feel anxiety if I don’t check Twitter once an hour. It’s pathetic, I realize, but in my defense, it’s kind of my job these days.
With all the media I’ve consumed this week, I’ve noticed than journalists tend to take pretty polarizing stances in their portrayal of Kentucky. UK is either One and Done U with Cheatin’ Cal at the helm, or the most aesthetically pleasing basketball that has been played since, well 1996. No matter which picture the journalists paint, however, one fact remains the same: Kentucky’s fans are borderline rapid with passion for Kentucky basketball.
In Kentucky (and Lexington most of all), this is universally heralded as a great quality in a UK fan. Our zeal is our trademark. But unfortunately, the “good” fan stories aren’t the ones that make it into national news. Instead, stories and videos and “Oh my god they did WHAT?!” reactions are featured. The dueling dialysis patients made ESPN. The now-notorious “Kate on State” video has spawned a parody Twitter account and is rumored to have been purchased by Tosh.0, a a television show dedicated to viral videos. A Craig’s List ad from a man offering his wife in exchange for a trip to New Orleans has surfaced- “Look out for the Bluegrass State and hook this pimp up okay?” One article recounts the tale of brothers who got in a phonebook and hammer-hurling fight of colliding loyalties. Calipari himself referred to fans as “pirhanas” who are viciously defensive about anyone who attacks Kentucky’s program and image- a joking comment that was meant to be a compliment to our basketball knowledge and passion but could easily be taken out of context. Each singular incident is no big deal, and most are even kind of funny. But together, they become powerful and defining of the typical Kentucky fan.
And yes, people will take those incidents out of context. They will discuss them as indicators of all that is wrong with Kentucky basketball and will paint us as hicks or fans gone wild who sacrifice brain space in favor of basketball statistics (I cringe any time an article mentions UK and UL’s academic rankings. Is that really necessary this week?).
So as fans, should we care about our public image? Personally, I think stories similar to the ones I used above would happen with other schools, just maybe not to such an extreme extent. They definitely wouldn’t be as publicized as they are as a result of any affiliation with Kentucky. In that sense, I tend to let any negative comments roll off my MKG-jerseyed back. Individual incidents aren’t representative of the whole, but Kentucky fans should always be wary of national criticism we receive because of our fanaticism.
If we win Saturday, I am completely comfortable with someone dumping a pitcher of beer on my head. If we win Monday, I will lead the charge onto Limestone. But, like my fellow KSR and KSR College writers have been
harping on encouraging all week, I hope Kentucky fans take the high road and avoid any questionable national recognition. Kentucky as a state already gets enough of a crap reputation as it is. Let’s not add more fuel to their fire.
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