Hearts are heavy all over Kentucky. The mighty Cats have fallen, and taken the championship hopes of thousands, nay millions, with them. Only my friend Pam, a loyal Louisville fan, is happy. She probably had voodoo dolls lined up on the television, ensuring no UK player hit a 3 point shot, but she's the exception. Most Kentuckians are in despair. My youngest son is one of many despondent fans doing something ill-advised in an effort to release his impotent rage. His version of a fist shaken at the heavens was smarting off to his dad. Ah, Stupidity, thy name is teenage boy.
Bruce and I aren't even huge Kentucky fans. I say that softly because the powers that be might revoke our citizenship if they hear me. Sure, we're glad when they win, but neither of us are particularly broken up when they lose. But holy cow, the hype surrounding Calipari's one-and-done freshman class sucked my youngest in, and he's now as rabid as any fan in the state. Last night proved it only takes one miserable person to bring a whole house down. I have no doubt similar scenes of misery are playing out in my friends' and neighbors' houses.
Bruce and I have seen worse. We lived just outside of Pittsburgh in the mid-1990's, and our neighbors were die-hard Steeler fans. I've blogged about our time in the Steel City, and you can read about it here. I loved our friends there dearly, but oh my god, when the Steelers lost, firearms and sharp objects had to be hidden. I watched my next door neighbor mow down his wife's rose bushes in January, and I answered the phone when another neighbor called crying hysterically after her husband threw all the living room furniture off the deck.
I know what it's like to hurt after a loss. My husband is a coach by profession, and the Sword of Damocles hung over his head for our entire tenure in Pennsylvania. I was back in school then, so our family's livelihood hinged on a game won or lost by 18-22 year old boys. But you know, even with his job on the line, I never once felt the urge to do violence or spew vitriol after a loss. (Okay...maybe I've spewed some vitriol at the zebras, but really...does that even count?)
I suppose I keep my cool after a hard loss because I know Bruce had some degree of control over what happened. He wrote part of the game plan. He prepared his players, and I know how hard he worked all week to get them ready. So railing at the outcome would be akin to railing at him. Maybe fans get so upset because they don't have any control over the outcome. Part of the mystique of sports is the way we identify with our favorite team. That sense of identity is so strong in some cases, that when the team loses, it feels like a personal loss...a personal loss over which the fan had no control.
The rub for Kentucky fans is knowing the bulk of the team is NBA bound. There is no "wait for next year because these freshmen will get some experience and be unstoppable." Next year, the team is likely to be good again. Calipari is a great recruiter and a great coach, but it will be with different players.
Some lines from Shakespeare crossed my mind this morning as I looked out the window at the rain. My apologies to Will for the revisions.
A glooming peace this morning with it brings;
The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head:
Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things;
A few shall return, but most shall be drafted:
For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Wall, Cousins and Eric Bledsoe.