The Louisville Cardinals claimed the title of national champions, 82-76, against the Michigan Wolverines, in a helluva game of basketball. Now I’m hardly my state’s greatest basketball fanatic, nor the most objective observer, but I’m absolutely delighted to see another home-state team take the trophy. Here are five reasons why:
1. Kevin Ware
While all the talking heads have been blabbing on and on about media coverage and athletic exploitation, injured Louisville player Kevin Ware has continued his streak of humility, sportsmanship, and awesomeness. This is a kid whose response to having six inches of tibia poking out was, "I’m fine, just win the game." Deprived of his ability to physically support his teammates, he has enthusiastically urged them towards a championship win throughout the night. He completely deserved to cut down that net tonight.
2. Peace in Kentucky
The iconic rivalry between the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky has been described as a "border-to-border Petri dish of festering vitriol and disdain." As both teams faced one another in the Final Four last year, I knew of best friends who gave one another the cold shoulder, and there were moments I was seriously afraid physical violence would ensue (and it did).
But this year, it’s been different. Die-hard Kentucky fans, the kind terrified of cutting themselves and discovering they don’t actually bleed blue, have been seen with Louisville-friendly Facebook statuses. Maybe because Kentucky didn’t even make it into the tournament this year, but for the first time as far as I can remember, Kentucky has been even remotely united behind a basketball team. Personally, I think the Nobel Peace Prize wouldn’t be out of the question, but at least they took home the trophy.
3. Next year is going to be even better
But don’t be fooled, this uncommon display of unity won’t last long. When UK won the tournament last year (beating out UofL), you’d be excused for thinking it was the Second Coming of Jesus. This year UK didn’t even make it into the tournament, only the second time since 1991, while Louisville fans are the ones acting like maniacs. Now it’s 1-1. With Kentucky under fire, and Louisville looking for a repeat performance, I can only imagine what next March will bring.
4. Louisville could sweep both Men’s and Women’s Championships
With the men’s victory on Monday, and the Lady Cardinals playing Tuesday, Louisville is halfway towards claiming both the NCAA Division I championships. The only other school to have done so was the University of Connecticut in 2004. It would be quite the phenomenal accomplishment (perhaps another challenge to UK?), and would bring both teams further into the spotlight.
5. Rick Pitino is getting a tattoo
Rick Pitino has had quite the emotional day. He was been inducted into the Hall of Fame, led his team to a national championship, and apparently promised his players that if they gave him a championship, he would get a tattoo. That's reason enough for Louisville to have won, right?