True confession #1: I do not have a favorite NFL team. That is not to say that I don’t like the NFL, I do. I play Fantasy Football, I watch the games, highlight shows, etc, I just don’t have one team with whom I have a passionate rooting interest. I have close friends who are fans of the New Orleans Saints and the New York Jets, and so I will root for them if they’re playing and while I don’t love the Cincinnati Bengals, I believe the NFL is more fun to watch locally when they are playing well. But a favorite team? No.
True confession #2: I do not have a favorite NBA team. The same holds true for the NBA as I stated for the NFL above. There are teams and players I like, mostly UK related but not always, but I do not live or die with any one team’s outcomes. I watch, I read, I talk about it, but I do not have a favorite NBA team.
Why am I telling you all of this? Mainly because the number one sports story for the past few months has not been Major League Baseball, Wimbledon, or even the NBA Finals, but instead the lockouts that are currently going on in the NFL and the NBA. The NFL lockout (rumored to be ending soon at press) has been going on the longest and if you watch ESPN or listen to ESPN Radio, then you realize that no amount of NFL news is considered too small. In fact, you could say that ESPN covers the NFL lockout with the same insane fervor that cable news covered Casey Anthony. The NBA lockout, while just a few weeks old, is already threatening to undo the tremendous momentum that league has received over the past 12 months (this is known as the “LeBron Wave” because since The Decision, the hatred against LeBron and the Heat have driven ratings and interest for the NBA). As a teacher with some downtime this summer ( the Cubs were eliminated from the playoffs about the 2nd day of the season) and a passionate sports fan, you would think that I would be worried/stressed/obsessed with the idea that two of the biggest sports leagues in the world would not have games next year. Well, you’d be wrong.
I feel like I should care more about the potential for two seasons of professional sports being canceled, but I don’t. Lexington is a college town, a point I think is fairly obvious, but Kentucky is also a college state. We are surrounded by professional teams in Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, Illinois, and Missouri, but none of these professional teams, even the Bengals who have training camp in Georgetown are Kentucky’s team. We have successful, championship level, athletic squads at all levels of the NCAA from high Division I to Division III and the NAIA from one end of the state to the other. Maybe this is a bit defiant, since Kentucky has had professional teams in the past (the Kentucky Colonels) and Louisville has attempted to lure them since, but do we really need a professional team? North Carolina is similar to Kentucky in that they have a passionate following for college basketball and several in-state schools which are successful.
They have had one NBA team fail there and move to New Orleans, and the second team (BTW- putting a 2nd team in Charlotte after the first one crapped out is probably one of the reasons the NBA owners are losing money) is consistently in the bottom 10 of attendance. Obviously the worst Charlotte Bobcat
team would beat the best North Carolina or Duke team, but do you think the people there really care? If Louisville had an NBA team going 30-52 while UK and UL were both ranked, which team do you think people would care more about?
What I have learned during the NFL and NBA lockout is that while I am a huge sports fan who reads, watches, and listens to sports whenever possible, for the most part (outside of the Chicago Cubs), UK and college sports are where my passion, and I would imagine the passion of most Lexingtonians, lies. There is not an NBA team that can make me feel as great as I felt when DeMarcus Cousins tipped in the tying basket in the 2010 SEC Tournament and there isn’t an NFL team that can make me feel as bad as when the UK football team loses (AGAIN) to Tennessee. College sports are far from perfect (the ruling body is inconsistent and just plain dumb sometimes, the players are way undercompensated, D-1 football needs a playoff) but they are our sports. And at least you know they won’t cancel the season.