There can be a tendency by fans this season to focus on the youth, inexperience and mistakes of this team. There can also be the tendency to do the exact opposite and focus on the improvements throughout the year, putting aside the usual expectations of Big Ten contention and NCAA success. I will be doing more of the latter than the former this year, though I will be doing both with whiplash enducing frquency.
Today however, following the UK game, I am choosing to focus on me.
For you in the Teaming Masses who don’t know me personally, I grew up in Clarksville, IN (For those who do know me personally, that is a lie). That puts me in the half of the state that views UK as our biggest rival. I didn’t have much contact with Purdue fans growing up, but I knew a lot of Kentucky fans. I’m sad to say I’m even related to a few, and what’s worse, I know people who went there. I know. It gives me the creeps too.
I had many arguments over the years about the superiority of IU over UK and when we lost to them, it hurt in ways that are hard to describe. It hurt for all the reasons rivalry defeats usually hurt, but also because it made my argument harder to make, at least for that year, and there’s very little I like more than being right.
So, I’ve been on quite the emotional rollercoast the last few years.
Let’s examine this rivalry over the course of the 00’s. We earned a trip to the Final Four by winning in Rupp Arena. Mike Davis ran onto the court hitting himself about the head in possibly the worst sideline decision ever. He held a press conference in which he said he hated them. He lost to them by 39, then by 15. Then he won by 15. Then the neutral site game went away, in favor of a home and home. We beat the crap out them last year, which felt great, until Sampson did as Sampson does and here we are.
Is it any wonder that it took me three days to figure out how to write about our latest loss to UK?
So here’s the thumbnail of the game. We continue to turn it over at a crazy-making pace. The first 8 minutes was a huge step backwards, the first real back step we’ve had this year. The rest of the game was much better, but it was hard to recognize that at the time, what with the taste of my own stomach acids in my mouth.
“That’s all true, Jeff. But what does this tell us about you?”
That’s a great question and here’s the answer.
After the head beating game and the 39 point debacle, I was angry and inconsolable for days after. After Will Gladness decided to try the game winning lay-up without the help of the backboard I almost broke my foot kicking the coach. This year, I was bothered by the way we played this game, but I was able to pull back from the edge of rage. I haven’t spent the last three days fixated on this loss. I still don’t like losing to these ass baskets, but somehow, I’ve been able to view this as another step in the progression of this team, and not as a referendum on IU basketball as a whole.
And more importantly, but perhaps harder for you to understand, this loss does not speak to my innate goodness as a person, my intelligence, integrity, good looks or charm.
It turns out, that even after we play poorly against Kentucky, I’m still a fantastic human being. My self-worth, at least for this year, is not inextricably linked to the IU v. UK game.
My personal growth 1
Kentucky Basketball 0
Your move UK. Your move.
The theme song for today’s game, is also about me. Enjoy.