By Danny Mayer
I was reminded on two separate occasions last week that public perception might be that I’m anti-Cats.
The first occurred online, at Barefoot and Progressive, where after I stated “I hate it when Wildcat basketball gets confused with politics and leadership,” I was called (among other things) “the most humorless person on the face of the earth,” “the Rodrick Rhodes of Lexington media,” and (the crusher) a piss-poor pothead role model.
The second occasion happened a couple nights later, last Saturday night, when Tommie the bartender at Johnathan’s accosted me at his bar. “You need to quit writing all that bad shit about the Cats,” he said before even having the bare decency to offer me a drink. Tommie and I go back, Keene days, and so I know him to be a misanthrope and general hater of Cats basketball. I looked up at him in surprise. “I’m serious. You’re giving them good mo-jo by allowing them to play off your bad mo-jo. You gotta cut that shit out, man.” Over the course of my wine and dram of Frugal Scotch, he reiterated the same point twice more.
I didn’t put the two incidents together until the next night, after the victory over UNC, while I was heading down Euclid, that readers of this paper must get the sense I’m anti-Cats, and by extension, that this means I’m not rooting the team on into March (er, April) Madness. I’ll confess, my normal preference is for an exciting and closely fought Cats loss, whether that be against Athletes in Action in the pre-season, Alabama in the SEC season, or West Virginia in the tournament season. But there comes a time, usually around the Elite 8, where you just say fuck it, switch allegiances, and go with it for the payout at the end: the collective celebration.
I’m not a fan of UK basketball, but I am a fan of massive gatherings of people in the streets. There’s a certain freeing and collective joy that comes with being surrounded by mobs of people unified by a general purpose, whatever that purpose may be. In addition to the burning couches and stumbly drunk folk, what you should note when you waste all your time perusing the oncoming you-tube clip onslaught of Cats celebrations, are the looks of collective, ecstatic joy and satisfaction on everyone’s face.
This is not unique to sports celebrations. Take a look at all those faces and songs and dances collected on you-tube of the sit-ins at the Wisconsin state capitol building. For weeks, people laughed, danced, ate, sang, high-fived, chanted and ate together in solidarity. I’ve noted similar smiling faces in WTO protest photos and MTR gatherings, among H.O.R.D.E. and Bonnaroo festival goers, and at Civil Rights marches in Washington D.C. and in Kent State protests at UK. Whether it’s shutting down Euclid after the Cats take it all or shutting down the WTO after taking Seattle, taking over the streets as a part of a large (mostly) civil group is nearly always a precious thing to behold and experience and be a part of. (Nearly all positive street takeovers, it should be noted, attract much police attention. Expect the chopper and homeland security gear to be on full display this weekend.)
Would I rather all those UK fans get their collective rocks off instead by shutting-down, say, POT to demand greater public access to the UK Presidential hire—a disobedient “sport” for which there is, arguably, no offseason? Yes. Does the payoff of going to the final four and potentially winning it all in any way validate the vast misuse of athletic department capital? Not even close. Should politicians of all stripes quit using Cats-allegience to sell products. No doubt. Will I alter my “hope for a closely fought loss” stance next season? I highly doubt it.
Having said that, for this weekend at least I’ve switched to rooting for a closely fought Cats victory. To be clear, I’m not rooting for them because Josh Miller swindled me out of two bets on this year’s Cats squad—first tricking me into buying the Cats regular season stock at inflated prices, and then playing to my vanities to get me to sell him that same Cats stock at below market value after the Princeton Panic. I’m also not rooting for them because I think my doing so will reverse UK’s general mo-jo. And I’m certainly not doing it because I consider myself a fan.
I’m rooting for the Cats because I want to make the walk from my house down Limestone and over to Euclid, and to melt into those crowds and look around and smile and laugh in and with and at them. I’m rooting that some of those Cats fans will remember that great feeling of collective joy and sense of victory—and that in some recesses of their body, they will want more of it. Because lord knows, there’s a lot more of that stuff bottled up—from roller derby and bike polo matches to Appalachia Rising and immigration direct actions—if only they have the right eyes and hunger to look for it.