Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Eyes of the Commonwealth

Today most of the eyes of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Kentucky will be focused on Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium here in Louisville. They will be watching a football game between the University of Louisville (UL) Cardinals and the University of Kentucky (UK) Wildcats. It is always a big deal whenever UK plays UL, no matter what the sport. Fans of each school will be trumpeting the strengths of their respective teams, making (sometimes) absurdly large bets, and gathering with like-minded folks to watch the game.

The devotees of these two centers of higher education are spread throughout Kentucky, although primarily they are divided like everything else in the Commonwealth, from politics to lifestyle: Louisville against Kentucky—the city against the rural. The majority of UL fans are found in Louisville; the majority of UK fans are found in rural Kentucky. For those in the know who believe that I just slighted Lexington, the home of the University of Kentucky and the Commonwealth’s second largest city (by a hair), my mind was centered forty years ago when I was a student at the University of Kentucky and Lexington’s population was much less than it is now.

This meeting will probably be more intense than other games between the two schools since the game is being played for The Governor’s Cup (sometimes called the Battle for the Bluegrass) . I think that is really an absurd idea since there are other universities in the Commonwealth of Kentucky that field football teams. Of course, one could probably not argue that position with the fans of either UK or UL; they see only their own schools and only grudgingly admit the existence of the other university, and reject the existence of any of the leftover schools.

The University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville have not always competed against one another in the major sports: football and basketball. For many years in was an unwritten rule that the two universities were not to be placed on one other’s schedules. I suppose that was some wise person’s way of preventing a civil war within the Commonwealth. The only times that UL and UK did compete against one another was when they happened to meet during the annual NCAA National Basketball Tournament, which was more frequent that one would expect, because both schools have been better known for their basketball teams than their football teams. The University of Kentucky has appeared in NCAA basketball tournament 46 times, more than any other school, and has won the championship 7 times; the University of Louisville has appeared in the NCAA basketball tournament 31 times and won the championship twice. Thus, there has always been the opportunity for UK and UL to bump into each other in the NCAA National Basketball Tournament, but seldom in football.

Will I be watching today’s game? Probably. For which team will I cheer? That’s a more difficult question to answer, since I have earned a B.A. from the University of Kentucky and an M.S.S.W. from the University of Louisville. Unlike one of Kentucky’s former governors, millionaire John Y. Brown, Jr., of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame, who arrived at a UL/UK game during a NCAA Basketball Tournament wearing a blazer that was half blue (UK) and half red (UL), I don’t believe that I’ll become schizophrenic over the game. I figure it this way: since I am an alumnus both universities, no matter who wins, I win.


  1. I think you're a winner even when there's no game. I hope you enjoy the game today, Nick.

  2. I didn't watch the game out here. WHo won?