By Dr. John Huang
Hey Cat fans, it’s time to count our blessings. All too often, as citizens of the most passionate fan base on the planet, we let our emotions get the best of us. Instead of focusing on all our fabulous victories, we all too often dwell on those crushing defeats. Quickly forgetting the game-winning plays and the athletes that make them, our minds are stuck in the endless cycle of botched opportunities, bone-headed blunders, and tearful laments of “what could have been.” So, in this season of Thanksgiving, let’s put behind us all the fleeting disappointments, and let’s lavish praise on all that we have to be grateful for.
Thankful for the memories
There’s no better place to begin than on the upcoming football rivalry game with Louisville. These recent clashes with the Cards have been rather intense, none more so than the one three short years ago. On that brisk November day, Kentucky traveled to Papa John’s Stadium as a 28-point underdog and shocked the entire college football world with a 41-38 victory over No. 11 Louisville. The image of Lamar Jackson’s fumble and Austin MacGinnis’ subsequent 47-yard field goal splitting the uprights with 12 seconds left still brings a smile to my face. I’m thankful for those memories.
Thankful for Coach Stoops
Since then, our football fortunes have continued to rise. Following that magical ten-win season of a year ago with another solid campaign, Coach Mark Stoops has resurrected a program once thought to be a perennial doormat of the Southeastern Conference. Admittedly, Kentucky may not yet be on the same level as Alabama, but at least—even when they lose—they aren’t being bullied by the opposition. It’s not a stretch to believe that Wildcat fans can now legitimately long for a chance to compete for an SEC Championship. I’m thankful for Coach Stoops and the athletes he’s recruited.
Thankful for basketball potential
Basketball fans also have much to be grateful for. Another banner year of talented recruits has the fan base hungering for Championship No. 9. Sure, it’s been nearly eight long years since the last one, and despite some slow starts out of the gate, we can all be assured that Coach John Calipari will have the team in the hunt once again come March. Injuries be damned, I’m thankful for this basketball team and the potential it reeks.
Thankful for UK Hoops resurgence
Coach Matthew Mitchell may have a budding juggernaut on his hands with the Kentucky Women’s Basketball team. The Cats are off to 5-0 start and have arguably the best player in the nation in Rhyne Howard lighting up the nets in Memorial Coliseum. Just as importantly, the recruiting pipeline is overflowing with big-time talent, ensuring a dominant run that is long overdue. I’m thankful for the excitement of UK Hoops and for the reasons behind the resurgence.
Thankful for Volleyball success
Is there a more exciting sport on campus than Women’s Volleyball? With such fast-paced action, spectacular athletes, and a nationally ranked team battling for conference supremacy, this volleyball team should be the toast of the town. Soaring expectations have set the bar unfairly high for Coach Craig Skinner and crew. I’m thankful for their resilience and the resulting challenges that always come with unbridled success.
Thankful for all athletics programs
Speaking of success, did I mention that Men’s Soccer just had another solid NCAA Tournament appearance, and that the UK Rifle team finished the fall undefeated and ranked No. 1? Or how about the fact that both the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams are currently ranked in the top 25? The past accomplishments of the golf and tennis teams, the gymnastics team, and the men’s and women’s cross country and track and field teams are too numerous to mention. And we haven’t even started on the spring sports such as softball and baseball. It’s a bountiful cornucopia of exciting programs everywhere you look.
Thankful for being a part of BBN
Here’s my point—being a Kentucky fan isn’t only about wins and losses. It’s really about enjoying the fruits of the journey along the way. It’s about the experiences rather than the results. Perhaps Coach Cal said it best when he waxed poetically about gratitude in all circumstances.
“I always want to be grateful for stuff that happens,” he explained. “I was really grateful for what happened up in New York (beating No. 1-ranked Michigan State). But if you’re going to do that, you’ve gotta be grateful for what (the) Evansville (loss) should do for us. Let’s be grateful. If you’re going to be grateful for stuff that happens that’s good, you better also be thankful for the bad stuff and grateful for what it does for you.”
That’s really good advice for not just basketball but for UK fans everywhere. It’s also sage advice for life. Be thankful—regardless of circumstances.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Portions of this post appeared in the November 26 print editions of Nolan Group Media.