Of all the rivalry couture ever produced in the Bluegrass, the “Louisville Doesn’t Exist” line has to win the honor of most insipid.
First, it flies in the face of logic. Philosopher Rene Descartes, long before Adolph Rupp ever graced the sidelines of Kentucky, theorized his own existence with the dictum: “I’m on a T-shirt, therefore I am” (roughly translated in the French, Je porte un T-shirt, donc je suis).
He then proceeded to prove that his colleague, Isaac Beeckman of the Dordrecht school, also existed by donning an, “I’m With Stupid” T-shirt. The point being, to contend that something doesn’t exist by putting it on a T-shirt is, well, a few cans short of an ontological six-pack.
But more to the point, if Louisville doesn’t exist, how come UK spends more than $1 million per year to get its games broadcast on Louisville’s biggest radio station? How come they want so badly to have shows on Louisville stations? If it doesn’t exist, why does UK come to town to play a basketball game every year? If it doesn’t exist, why does UK roll into town to hold a banquet every season? I could swear they were just here, new president, athletic director, basketball coach all up at the head table having a high time when an off-color joke about the apparently non-existent U of L coach was cracked in front of an adoring Louisville crowd.
Must not’ve happened. Louisville doesn’t exist.
Oh, but you say, I misunderstand. The shirt is saying the “University of Louisville” doesn’t exist. Well, that’s not what it says. And I assume that if somebody’s going to go to the trouble of putting something on a T-shirt, they’re going to mean what they say. Regardless, hyperbole is a two-way street.
It puts me in mind of a holiday classic, “It’s a Wonderful Lie.” In it, a University of Kentucky basketball coach is being persecuted by a media that will not give enough play to the story that his team managed a C-plus average during the fall semester, and wanders out onto the closed Sherman Minton Bridge in Louisville and laments that maybe he’d have been better of if Louisville had never been born.
It’s just then that an angel named Clarence appears to him, and shows him what it would be like had Louisville never existed.
They go into Rupp Arena, and the coach is confused. “Clarence, someone has stolen a bunch of our championship banners!”
“No they didn’t coach. There was no Ralph Beard. Louisville didn’t exist to produce him. There was no Fabulous Five. It was only a Fabulous Four. There was no 1958 national championship in Freedom Hall, because there was no Freedom Hall. That team had to go on the road. Instead of beating Temple by one in the semifinal, it lost by one.
“Now coach, that 1996 banner is interesting, it’s still there even though Derek Anderson wasn’t. But it’s interesting to note that had Providence not made its magical run to the Final Four through Louisville, Rick Pitino might not’ve become coach of the Knicks, nor the hottest name in coaching, nor a coach of any interest to Kentucky.
“But you surely noticed, there were no Comeback Cats, because Scott Padgett could not come out of nowhere to lead the team. He had to come out of Louisville. No Rondo. No Winston Bennett. No 50,000-watt radio station to carry the Wildcats across the Eastern half of the nation year after year.”
“Stop, Clarence, please, enough,” the coach pleaded. “I want to go back home, to drafty old Rupp Arena with the loose newel post and crazy Uncle Billy.”
You see UK, Louisville has helped give you a wonderful life.
Say what you want about the “I hate Louisville” or “I hate Kentucky” fashion statement, at least it’s an ethos. “Louisville doesn’t exist” is a delusion.
Yes, Kentucky, there is a Louisville.