More National (and one local) Stories on the Rivalry

Posted on Mar 27 2012 - 10:36pm by Ethan Moore

*Two patients (a UofL and a UK fan) receiving cancer treatment come to blows

“He just happened to think UofL would beat UK and he started to run his mouth,” explained dialysis patient Ed Wilson. Wilson also happens to be a self-proclaimed die hard UK fan. “That’s what started it.”

But Charles Taylor, who was waiting to get hooked up to a machine saw things differently. “I didn’t talk to him about the ball game; I was talking to another guy about the game,” The UofL fan exclaimed. “He was meddling. And told me to shut up and gave me the finger!”

*Why You Should Feel Sorry for Cayut fans

Back home, they’re already calling Saturday’s contest The Civil War. Red and blue car flags are flying like gang colors. They’ve begun burning couches in Lexington. Even my hoops-agnostic mother is sending me articles about Louisville point guard Peyton Siva.

It bears stating: This is the single biggest sporting event in the state’s history.

*Pat Forde’s take on the madness

C. Ray Hall, a retired writer for The (Louisville) Courier-Journal and perhaps the pre-eminent expert on all things ‘Cats and Cards, said he knows a woman with an identity crisis from his hometown of Cadiz, Ky., deep in the western corner of the state. She moved to the Louisville area and gradually became a Cardinals fan, but couldn’t bear to tell the folks back home in Cadiz. She’s afraid the news would devastate her mother, so she keeps up Big Blue appearances whenever she’s around her family.

*ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan with a nice take on Gorgui and some the Cards

How did Gorgui Dieng get here?

Forget the two-hour drive between his hometown of Kebemer and the nation’s capital, Dakar, and the thousands of miles of Atlantic Ocean between Dakar and Huntington Beach, W. Va., where in 2009 Dieng arrived in America as a rail-thin, uncoordinated hoops hopeful without knowing a lick of English. Forget the journey from Huntington Beach to Louisville, Ky., where, in his first meeting with his coach, he confirmed his unlikely dream of someday playing in the NBA. Forget the two years that took him from that meeting to the hype-drenched rivalry game that will dominate this weekend’s sporting consciousness; forget the perceptible day-to-day improvement that has made Dieng Louisville’s all-time single-season blocks leader and arguably the Cardinals’ most indispensable player.

How far has Dieng come? Last season, when Louisville was upset in the first round by Morehead State, Dieng, then a freshman, didn’t understand why the season had to end.

“I didn’t know the Sweet 16,” Dieng said. “I promise. I didn’t know a lot of things about this tournament. After we got knocked out in the first round, I asked why we can’t play anymore and stuff. [My teammates] explained everything.”

And now?

“I know that it’s fun,” Dieng said. “And I know that it’s six games to get to the national championship, and if you don’t win you go home. That’s the most important to understand — if you don’t win you go home.”

*ESPN’s Rick Reilly talks about Rick Pitino and calls him a ‘Different Man’.

Rick Pitino is not walking through that door. Not the Rick Pitino you knew. Not the bug-eyed screamer, the arrogant New York know-it-all. He has swallowed too much heartache to be that man anymore.

No, the 59-year-old Rick Pitino who walks through that door at this Final Four, the one who leads these Louisville Harry Potters into their fight with the Kentucky Voldemorts this Saturday, this Pitino is changed. He’s grayer and softer and happier. He laughs. He indulges. He forgives.

“He’s different just since I got back,” says his son, Richard, 29, who rejoined his dad’s staff in April 2011. “He’s not near as hard on his guys as he used to be.”

“His guys” is this loopy Cardinals team, this outfit without a single likely first-round draft choice on it, this skinny St. George that has to slay The Dragon this weekend in New Orleans while all of Kentucky tries to remember to breathe. This team gets away with stuff that would’ve gotten old Pitino players a hundred laps around campus.

On March 18 after a big win over New Mexico to make the Sweet 16, Pitino was doing a TV interview while his backup point guard, Russ Smith, was making rabbit ears behind his head.

*CBS’ Greg Doyel looks at the Rivalry with a unique perspective and says Heaven better help the loser.

Title game, Final Four, in today’s college basketball it’s almost the same thing. And it’s scary, the idea that Kentucky and Louisville will play for stakes so high. This is Alabama-Auburn, but not in the Iron Bowl — in the BCS title game.

Basketball in Kentucky is everything, and these fans do not like each other, and the bragging rights on the line are simply too much. My concern isn’t for the players, because the players will be fine. None of the 10 starters on Saturday is a native of Kentucky, so while I have no doubt that a guy like Terrence Jones from Portland, Ore., loves Kentucky, and a guy like Russ Smith from New York City loves Louisville, I’m skeptical that Jones hates Louisville, and that Smith hates Kentucky. Hate the other side? That’s not how athletes are wired, and good for them.

Because it’s just a game.

But fans … it’s not just a game to you, and I get that. I love that. If it were only a game, you wouldn’t devour information on the Internet, generating the passion that pays, frankly, my salary. I don’t just want you on that wall — I need you on that wall. But when this game is over, do me a favor: Stay on that wall, huh?

Don’t jump.

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