Regardless, it’s harder than ever. Brown says he couldn’t get away with the red-and-blue jacket today, and Kentucky’s current governor will have to come up with a different plan. Most likely, Gov. Steve Beshear will begin Saturday’s game sitting with Louisville fans, and Abramson will sit with Big Blue. At halftime they’ll switch. They’re still working on attire.
“In the past, I’ve worn my favorite shade of green,” Beshear said. “Maybe I’ll wear a referee’s shirt, so I can referee the rivalry between our two schools.”
‘It matters more to them’
Kentucky fans dominate the state, while Louisville faithful barely own their city. For the most part, Cardinals fans see an opposing fan base lacking in education, class and teeth, a group who can barely find their way out of the mountains of eastern Kentucky without tripping on their overalls. The Wildcats, meanwhile, consider the Louisville faithful uppity, envious of Kentucky’s success, attention and large fan base.
“In North Carolina, people are big fans, they care. But in Kentucky, basketball is part of the definition of who you are,” said Matt Jones, the unapologetic Wildcat supporter who runs the popular kentuckysportsradio.com site, in addition to his regular radio and television gigs. Jones attended law school at Duke and knows basketball is different in the Bluegrass State. “If you ask most UK fans, ‘Who are you?’ UK will come up right away. It’s not just their job or whatever. It’s ‘I’m the world’s biggest UK fan.’ It matters more to them.”
Terry Meiners is a Kentucky graduate and a Louisville native who has been poking fun at both sides for more than 25 years on the city’s 50,000-watt news talker.
“For the Cats, the entire universe is based on the success of Kentucky basketball,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if the sun forgets to come up, it doesn’t matter if the electricity and water has been cut off, or a natural disaster has swept through — as long as Kentucky basketball is on an uptick.
“Louisville is big in Louisville. Kentucky basketball is big in all 120 counties of the commonwealth.”
Saturday’s game will mark Pitino’s sixth Final Four appearance and Calipari’s fourth (though two were formally vacated). Both coaches understand what’s on the line, and Calipari especially has been playing down the rivalry. In the national semifinals, “it does not matter if the school’s 10 minutes from you or 1,000 miles,” he said.
But Calipari knows it matters to Kentucky fans, and he knows they’re ready to fight.
“They are piranhas. . . . If you’re going to attack Kentucky, just be right. . . . I’m just telling you, piranha — womp, womp, womp,” he said, using his hands to bite the air in front of him. “They’ll come and eat your yard, your house, these people are nuts.”
Kentucky is heavily favored to win Saturday in New Orleans, and if they do, the Wildcats will move on to the title game and Louisville can take solace in an unexpected Final Four appearance. “If it’s the opposite, we’re talking about nuclear bomb,” Jones said.
The Wildcats would have a tough time recovering, and Cardinals fans, he says, will never allow them to.