Extreme football weekend

It was a weekend of extremes.  I am a huge Kentucky Wildcat fan for both football and basketball and on Saturday they had their big in state rivalry game against Louisville.  They were actually ahead in the series with 10 wins and 9 losses over the last 19 years, but you wouldn’t know it if you’d just followed the team the last few years as they’ve gone 1 and 5 since 2000.  This game was supposed to be different.  The Wildcats were coming off their first bowl win in 20 years.  Their QB is an All American.  The problem is, I’ve heard it all before.  It’s one of the traits of most Wildcat football fans: we’re always waiting for something bad to happen, despite all the signs that something good should happen.
I attended a game a few years ago at Commonwealth stadium a few years ago when LSU came to visit.  The game went along well enough and it turned out we had a few big defensive stops followed by offensive scoring at the end of the fourth quarter.  There was almost no time left when we squibbed the ball back to LSU.  Their starting QB was out and they had more than 70 yards to get to the end zone.  Surely we would win.  I made my way down to the field.  It was surprising easy to jump over the wall and get behind the bench near one end zone.  We waited.  The last play went off and the fireworks shot in the air.  The fans rushed the field.  The problem was the last play involved a double tipped ball that was caught by an LSU receiver in full stride on his way to the end zone for a game winning touch down.  That is one of many strange and horrible things that always seem to happen to UK which have directly lead to my hopeful but pessimistic view.
So it was with great joy I celebrated the last minute touchdown thrown by Andre Woodson to Steve Johnson on Saturday night (to be honest, it was with great SILENT joy as my entire house was in bed except for me).  Could it be that finally that a close game we had a chance to win would actually go our way.  My joy turned to anxiety when I looked at the clock and realized that we would be giving the ball back to the Cards with ~30 seconds on the clock.  If a 2nd string QB from LSU could beat us in less than 10 seconds, surely a potential number one draft pick could beat us in 30.  That’s the attitude of a Kentucky fan…we just can’t help it.  History is our best teacher.
Sure enough, Louisville worked their way to mid field with 7 second left in the game.  Last play…3 man rush…ball is lofted toward the end zone…tipped…CAUGHT by Louisville (here we go again).  But wait, he got tackled 5 yards short of the end zone!!!!!!  Game over CATS win!!!!   All I can say is thank God that the U.K. players have a shorter memory than the fans.  They stayed focused on the next play and the next play only for 60 minutes and because of that they won a hard fought game and are now nationally ranked for the first time in 23 years.
They could teach a thing or two to my other favorite team: the Cincinnati Bengals.  Their game yesterday against the Cleveland Browns was the most embarrassing loss I have ever witnessed in my 13 years as a Bengals fan.  I split a set of season tickets at Paul Brown Stadium and was there for their big win against the Baltimore Ravens.  The environment was electric, the play was inspired.  In one game I went from thinking we would be lucky to get a wildcard to honestly believing that we could win the division.  After the very next game, I think we’ll be lucky to win 6 games and will give Marvin Lewis his first losing season since he took over in 2003.
I won’t get in to all the details, but the loss was hard to take.  All the defense had to do was make one stop…ONE STOP and although I would still have serious doubts, at least the Bengals would be 2-0.  Instead they are facing the very real prospect of going into the bye week at 1-3.
Personally, I’m still trying to work out which was a more extreme emotion: the joy of the unexpected win or the shock at the unexpected loss.  One thing is for sure…when it comes up for time to renew season tickets, I’m going to have to compare the cost/benefit of U.K. vs. Cincy tickets.






One response to “Extreme football weekend”

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