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Pessimism About the Wildcats? Not on OTP

brooks-1

I have no idea why people are negative!!

It amazes me, truly amazes me, that there are only 3 games left in this football regular season. It seems like only yesterday the doldrums of summer were painfully dragging by with us longingly looking forward to September. And now, as Turkey Day is just a few weeks away, football is getting itself ready to disappear for another 8 months. This is the time of year when some fanbases simply write off the season and take a Cubs-esque approach to next fall. “Wait ’till next year!” is interspersed in conversations about what could have been or what should have been while totally paying no attention to what is reality.

Kentucky fans have certainly had their fair share of experience with this. From 1952 to 1998, a span of 46 years, the Wildcats made 4 Bowls, and finished each season with a “Wait till next season!” sort of rally cry. That optimism at the end of one season quickly faded, though, as each new season dawned and losses began to arrive. As the discrepancy between Kentucky and some of their SEC brethren began to show itself, the fans would always just assume that the worst was yet to come. As a little boy I was indoctrinated with “Kentucky will always find a way to wrestle defeat from the jaws of victory.”

Even during the brightest spots of Kentucky football during my lifetime, the football Gods seemed to always be against UK. The smiting of the Wildcats always seemed only 1 play away. Whether it be Marty Moore’s dropped Peach Bowl INT or coming up just short of Penn State and Syracuse in back to back Bowl trips under Hal Mumme. The fanbase itself, and observers not clad in blue and white apparently noticed this as well and let it not only necessitate a post season “Wait till next year!” but also a sense of defeatism amongst the fans and a general sense of apathy towards the program from those not in the ranks of Big Blue Nation.

While this old sort of thinking certainly did no good, with the results on the field I cannot say it was out of place. The Wildcats, as much as it pains me to say it, brought much of this on themselves. But the problem that I have, and it’s a major one, is that this sort of attitude continues unabated throughout the SEC, the nation, and most disappointingly, the UK fanbase itself. Hell… even in my own family. But we’ll get to that.

Week in and week out this season in the SEC Power Poll hosted by TeamSpeedKills that we’re a voting member of, the Cats are unanimously ranked in the bottom two or three. The comments usually range from people poking fun at Rich Brooks, poking fun at Kentucky’s schedule, or pointing out that Kentucky is a “basketball school”, all the while giving Brooks, the players, and the program no credit whatsoever for the journey that they’ve been able to make.

Is this not a program that is vying for it’s 4th consecutive Bowl trip? Is this not the program that has won 3 straight Bowls? Is this not a program that in the past few years has knocked off the likes of Auburn, Georgia, and LSU? More importantly, amidst the slings and arrows from around the league, the fact is lost that this is the same coach who came out of retirement, was nearly run off by the fans, was under some of the toughest circumstances a coach could face in probation and a depleted roster, and yet, Rich Brooks went out and achieved anyway.

It isn’t just on the outside observers that those facts are lost on. Even those amongst the fanbase sometimes lose that perspective. I talk with my father, a lifelong UK fan on an almost daily basis. After Kentucky was defeated by Mississippi State, I received an email from him. His words? “Now, this is why people say “let’s tip off the round ball and forget football”. I’ve been watching this sorry shit for 50+ years and it’s always the same, Big game…..big loss. You’ll get there, you just haven’t been disgusted enough, but it will come. Bring on the basketball.”

I certainly see where he’s coming from. If I had to watch year after year of misery, I would be upset as well. But I simply hope that the fans of this program can turn the corner. On Saturday Kentucky has an opportunity to guarantee itself another .500 or better season. Their 4th straight. They have the opportunity to make themselves eligible for their 4th straight bowl. A school record.

Forgive me for being positive. Forgive  me for thinking this Kentucky team is worth celebrating. Forgive me for thinking that some in this fanbase need to focus on what’s happening, rather than what’s happened, because all those “next years” we’ve all been waiting for are finally arriving.

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