In the books, I make reference to the University of Kentucky Men’s Basketball team from time to time. Because while Kentucky is know as the Land of Bourbon and Bluegrass, there really needs to be another “B” in that title.
Cheering a basketball team in Kentucky is not merely a pastime in this state. And while I will admit to being a University of Kentucky fan, the depth of support for various teams in this state goes beyond what one might call mere fandom. I do not say this to be dramatic; it is a cultural fact.
Basketball is a part of Kentucky culture just as much as bourbon and thoroughbred horses. It is a form of identity.
For a small and often economically challenged state like mine, basketball is a great source of pride. It is a cultural and political equalizer. It is a language, a history, a shared love and story that we all understand.
I am particularly talking about the UK program. UK’s in-state arch rival, Louisville, has a rabid following as well. But U of L does not have the long history like UK. It also seems the teams’ followers are somewhat geographically divided. UK followers come from all over, but generally the central and eastern part of the state; Louisville fans tend to be more from the western part of the state and, of course, Louisville itself (although when the teams meet in the Yum! Center for the annual game, there does tend to be more blue there than red at Rupp Arena when the teams play in Lexington on odd-numbered years; there are a lot of UK fans in Louisville).
While many today take shots at UK’s program for what essentially seems too much success, I read an article last spring (I can’t find the link) which argued that Kentucky–culturally and economically speaking–is an underdog. And for the state to have something as notably and consistently excellent as its basketball program is something to celebrate.
And being a basketball fan of any stripe in this state means one’s emotions run the gamut–from the highs of that last-second winning shot to the heartbreak of a tough loss in the NCAA tournament in March (or April 🙂 ).
Spring can be so cruel in the Bluegrass State.
As for me, my loyalty is forever blue, to the University of Kentucky. I went to law school at UK and my family all went there as undergrads or for grad school. I get choked up at the games when they play the 90 second video with the clips of the past several years. I get choked up when I hear “Call to Post” played at the game (yes, they really do that). I stay when the band plays “My Old Kentucky Home” and sing along. Yes, I know all the words. And when the band plays the song, a short video rolls in Rupp Arena with video clips from all over Kentucky; I’ve been to many of the spots shown and, if I haven’t, I know exactly where they are.
See what I did there?
I just moved beyond basketball–the game.
I just showed you how important the cultural experience is to me. How it is part of my identity.
So, yes, there are references in the books to UK Men’s basketball.
Because not to mention it would be leaving out part of Kentucky itself. I wouldn’t be painting the picture of my state that I want my readers to see.
Because you can’t talk–or write–about Kentucky without mentioning basketball. It is part of our soul.
PS: I’m writing this as I wear my new Kentucky hoodie with stitched-on lettering. It was a Christmas gift from my family. I mentioned I wanted one–as we ate dinner before going to a UK game.