Louisville, when not in the midst of a pandemic-fueled social lockdown nightmare, will take a two minute long spring sports event and turn it into a two week city wide party. And this is for a sport that many of us don't feel any particular affinity to, though you can check out Paulie's Picks on Saturdays and special racing days, of course.
As a born and raised Kentuckian, basketball is in my blood. Yes, when asked, I will say that volleyball is my favorite sport, but basketball is more than just sports fandom, it's a cultural touch-point. In most states, the highest paid public employee in the state is the head coach of the flagship football team in the state. In Kentucky, it's the basketball coach. To be fair, North Carolina joins us in this distinction. Also credit a few New England states for bucking the trend, and in Hawaii, the title goes to a surgeon.
The beginning of basketball season brings with it an excitement that is unlike any other because it suffuses the fabric of the community. Yes, we are a state divided, when it comes to basketball, predominantly red vs blue, and yes that division is not even, and yes, there is an obvious metaphor here that we won't dive into on these pages.
But there are more than just red vs blue in basketball in this state...well, ok, they are mostly reds and blues, but there are variations. We've got the red and white in Bowling Green, we've got a pair of blue and gold entries from either end of the state, and then there's the maroon folks over in Richmond.
We have a new entrant this year, to add to the excitement, officially scarlet and silver, with the Bellarmine folks kicking off their D1 journey...well, a little bit delayed, alas.
Cardinal Couple, of course, focuses on the women's side of sports at UofL, so our excitement in the coaching ranks is mostly for Jeff Walz, but I think I can speak for most of us when we show our respect for Kyra Elzy as she fills in the role in Lexington. Around the state, though, there are coaches with ties to Louisville, and we certainly celebrate their successes, with Samantha Williams, a former assistant to Walz, helming the squad at Eastern; Greg Collins, who served a stint as assistant at Louisville some time back, in the big chair at Western. Murray and Morehead coaches don't have any specific ties to Louisville, but as in-state competitors, we can certainly show our respect or Rechelle Turner at Murray, and Greg Todd at Morehead. Of course, the newcomer to this DI coaching klatch is Chancellor Dugan, at Bellarmine...although we've followed her pursuits for years.
Basketball in Kentucky is "a thing", and so, I guess it's not terribly surprising to note that all of the above coaches are Kentuckians, born and raised. That's something to be proud of and respect about the sport in the state. We get excited when we recruit players from far off places, such as from Canada, Japan, and even the corners of our own country such as Washington State, California, and Texas, but it's good to take a step back and notice the home grown folks from places like Ashland, Georgetown, Fort Thomas, Oldham County, Calvert City, Berea, and Louisville, all here in Kentucky.
Of course, here at Cardinal Couple, we'll be cheering more for the Cardinals squad, but I can speak at least for myself, when I saw that I do get a bit of an extra feeling of excitement when I see Eastern, Western, Murray, Morehead, and yes Bellarmine as well, do well in their efforts. And, yes, I respect the Kentucky program, and want nothing but the best for Elzy and her squad.
Let's not forget two Cardinal greats in Becky Burke and Candyce (Bingham) Wheeler, who begin their journey at South Carolina State and Michelle Clark Heard in Cincy either.
This week kicks it off for basketball in the crazy sports year. Play got cut short last season, and now scheduled games can, at best, be considered tentative until the actual tip-off, but we're going to have basketball. It's going to be altered a bit, and many of us will be watching from homes rather than in the stands, but we'll have basketball, which in a state like Kentucky, may very well help us get through the winter.
And that's something to be excited about.
Cardinal Couple Radio Hour Podcast
And the Cardinal Couple Radio Hour had the full house...full Skype call?...yesterday as we shared the latest edition of the Cardinal Couple Radio Hour. Check out the recap of the Women's Basketball virtual tip-off luncheon, and a preview of the upcoming game at Middle Tennessee on Wednesday.
We had fun, as always, and I hope you do too, when you listen !