Many of you have been asked “Why are you a fan of (insert team name here)?” The most common responses I hear are ones like, I used to live there, I want to support the local schools, or the most valid response; That’s where I went to school.
For me, the answer is a little deeper. It’s about more than university allegiance. It’s nostalgia.
By the time I was 8 years old I had packed up and moved from Lexington, KY to Texas and then just 9 months later to Ohio. My family had spent most, if not all of their lives in the city of Lexington, so it was only natural that they cheer for the historic Kentucky Wildcats. Being so young, I had not yet developed the love of basketball that I have today, but in 1996 a seed was planted.
1996 Final Four; I remember excitement, I remember the games being reordered onto a VHS tape, I remember the Jamal Mashburn poster in my brothers room years prior, I remember being the only kid in the elementary school who wasn’t concerned with the Ohio State football program. That year the University of Kentucky won their 6th National Championship, the first in my lifetime, followed by 2 more appearances in the title game, and their 7th National Championship 2 seasons later.
Skip ahead 13 years to 2011. Yes, 13 long years. I’m older, more knowledgable of the game, and I have moved once again, this time back to Kentucky, just 30 minutes away from Louisville. Correct, I said Louisville. For the first time in my life I am surrounded by conflict between two passionate fan bases who seem to despise one another. I understood rivalries, but this, this was more than a rivalry. I continued to pull for the Cats and ignore all else.
After many years of ups and downs Kentucky had finally made it back to the Final Four. Up until this point I had been alive for 4 Kentucky Final Four appearances . This one however was the first where I really understood what it meant. I wasn’t just observing the excitement of my family, this was personal. Kentucky lost that game and for the first time in my life I was extremely emotionally affected by a basketball game.
One year later. Kentucky returns to the Final Four where they play my Alma Mater, The University of Louisville. That’s right, Louisville. I was in my third and final year when the Wildcats beat Louisville in the biggest game of the year and went on to defeat Kansas for their 8th National Championship.
It’s a regular occasion that I tell people I graduated from The University of Louisville. Eyebrows raise and the same question falls off of every tongue, “but you’re a Kentucky fan?” The answer is simply yes. I chose to attend the University of Louisville for financial reasons,and stay close to my family. I have no resentment towards the school or their basketball program, in-fact I’ll watch watch their games when the opportunity presents itself. Will you find me hanging Louisville posters on my wall, or sporting the cardinal bird on my car, no. So why? Why I am a fan of Kentucky basketball? I didn’t attend one single class there, I graduated from their number 1 rival. The reason? Nostalgia. When I see the intro video every season featuring players like Jeff Sheppard, Antoine Walker, Chuck Hayes, Tony Delk, I am reminded of my childhood, and every season I pull for victory, I wear the name on my shirt, I don’t miss a game, because I don’t want to miss that feeling.
My name is Phillip Pennington, and I am a fan of Kentucky Basketball.