Anyone living in our fair city the past few weeks could not avoid at least an indirect exposure to college basketball. The national notoriety and solidarity that’s resulted from the University of Louisville teams’ success has been a fabulous boon for my hometown.
And I gotta admit, on a personal level, hopping on the team spirit bandwagon was a lot of fun.
I was invited to a gathering at a local watering hole to watch the Final Four matchup between the UofL men’s team and Wichita.
Going into it, I could have cared less who won. I was only there for the pizza and camaraderie. I wore red just so I wouldn’t get jumped in the parking lot, but I had no intention of losing my voice over a damn game.
And then, tipoff.
As the clock ticked away and the baskets fell, I found myself getting more and more fired up. (I know what you’re thinking, and it had nothing to do with an increased ingestion of alcohol; I don’t drink.)
Shit got real in the second half, and I was whooping, hollering and jumping up and down in my seat along with everyone else in that damn joint.
I was genuinely happy when UofL won that game, as well as the subsequent championship game, which I watched in its entirety from my couch. It’s worth noting that this was probably the first televised sporting event I watched purely for my own (and nobody else’s) enjoyment in about 10 years.
My renewed enthusiasm this past week got me to thinking about why I lost interest in the sport.
See, I grew up watching University of Kentucky basketball with my dad. He’s a devoted fan who never missed a game. In fact, when we got our first VCR back in the ’80s, UK games were the ONLY thing we were allowed to record. For years. I think he still has VHS tapes of hundreds of games from that era.
Anyhoo, because we only had one TV in our house, if basketball was on, that’s what the family was watching. So I learned the game. I get it: Block, charge, assist, goal-tending … not only do I know the lingo, I can recognize all of it in action.
Despite being forced into it, I can honestly say I like basketball. It’s a helluva fun sport to be a spectator. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, I knew all the UK players by name, and I was a true fan who supported my Cats, for better or worse.
I even attended UK for my first two years of college, from 1990-92, when Pitino was the coach. My dorm was next door to the Wildcat Lodge. I served breakfast to Jamal Mashburn at the Student Center, and had to stand on tip-toes to hand him his change.
I think now that I supported the team mainly because my dad loved them, and I love him. I was a Daddy’s girl through and through, and it was SO much fun to watch games in the living room with my very vocal father coaching from the edge of his recliner.
Once I moved out on my own, I gradually lost interest in not only UK basketball, but ANY organized sport. I got married, had a baby, finished college and started a career. I had other priorities. Basketball stopped being one of them, for whatever reason.
I got back into the game for half a second when Pitino started his career at UofL, but that didn’t last. And I watched a game with my dad from time to time in his living room, but those instances were few and far between.
My ex-husband liked NFL football, and I sort of liked watching Colts games with him. But I never understood the rules of football as comprehensively as I do basketball. When he and I split over a year ago – you guessed it – nary a minute of NFL highlights has been on my TV screen since.
I think one of the main reasons that, left to my own devices, I won’t ever be a rabid sports fan is because I am noncompetitive by nature. You could say I am the polar opposite of Monica Geller.
I never played sports myself, and in academia and life, the only competition I ever truly feel is with myself.
There’s a group I like to play poker with a few times a year, but even that’s not particularly competitive for me. Sure, I enjoy raking the pot, but if I don’t win a hand all night, I’m not torn up about it. I don’t ever bring more money with me than I’m willing to lose.
So I was pretty surprised at how invested I became in the final leg of UofL’s NCAA tour. I enjoyed the hell out of going along with the herd, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.
I also enjoyed THE GAME, for the first time in a long-ass while. I don’t think I have the time or energy to really get back into the sport and follow it like I did back in the day. (It's exhausting!) But I may ease back in when the season starts back up in the fall. I like Pitino’s coaching style, so I will definitely check out UofL. But for nostalgia, and for my daddy, I’ll start back in with UK as well.
I know some people, including my own father, might consider this dual loyalty to be bordering on heresy. Sue me.
What it boils down to is this: I’m proud of the Cards’ national title, and I treasure the flame they reignited in me as I watched them win it.
They can’t quite count me as a member of the Card Nation, but I hope they’ll welcome me back as a guest again later this year.
About Amy Higgs
A former newspaper columnist, Amy takes her random, slice-of-life stories to the web. After nine years, she's still just saying.