Dear Kentucky Football,
You and I go back a long way. You first caught my attention in 1976 when you won the Peach Bowl. It wasn’t long before I was smitten, and soon it was obvious that I had fallen in love with you. While you never promised to love me back, you gave me enough hints that I was led to believe that you would love me.
You gave me back-to-back Hall of Fame Classic Bowl games in 1983-84. You actually gave me a winning SEC record in 1984. In the late 90’s, you gave me 2 more bowl games, though both were defeats. Then, just when I thought you were finished with me, there was a wonderful run from 2006-2010 when you took me to bowl games every year.
During the tough times, I never gave up on you. I was there in the stands on rainy nights, beautiful sunny afternoons, and numbing cold evenings. I supported and defended you to everyone. I even began making excuses, trying to explain why you couldn’t seem to love me the way I loved you. Surely part of it was your parents’ (UK Athletics Department) fault, right? After all, their strategy for years was for you to continue to get your milk for free and not spend money buying the cow. Let’s face it: the fans and boosters were continuing to pour money into Kentucky Football, in spite of the athletics department only giving average facilities and token support to the program.
No, you never said you loved me, but you kept giving me just enough crumbs of affection that I remained faithful to you. That incredible overtime win against Alabama in 1997? That made my heart flutter like crazy. Then you beat then-#1 LSU in 2007. You went on the road and beat Steve Spurrier. Over and over again, every time I was ready to leave you, you would come through with one more reason for me to give you another chance.
Then, your parents finally relented and vowed to support you and your endeavors in earnest. At long last, I finally felt real hope that you would return my love. I knew it wouldn’t happen overnight, and I was ready to be patient. New coaches, improved recruiting and a huge upgrade in facilities were all welcome changes, but real change takes time, and I was prepared to give you time to adjust to your new surroundings. I could tell you were ready to learn how to love me just as much as I loved you.
As expected, it didn’t come easily. Time and again, you seemed to be ready to commit to me, but somehow there was always heartbreak. Last season, I was at the Florida game with uplifted spirits. You were so close to finally sealing the deal. I was there for that glorious first half against U of L at the end of the season. I just knew this was finally it. You were going to show me you were ready to love me.
But again I had to wait. I waited all winter while you made a few changes with your coaches. I waited all spring while you were teasing me with glimpses of more talent and better attitudes in the locker room. I attended the Women’s Football Clinic and got to meet and talk with quite a few players, as well as most of the coaching staff. Everything I saw and heard led me to believe all of my devotion over the years was about to be repaid. This was the year. This was the season.
Some fans were skeptical, and ticket sales reflected as much. They didn’t believe in you and your willingness to commit to real change. They said the Bear Bryant Curse would last forever. “It’s Kentucky Football. It will never change,” was the chorus being chanted by others. And some dear friends in Arizona offered this: “Snakebit, I tell you; we’re just snakebit.” But they didn’t shake my belief in you. They didn’t diminish my love for you. And so I headed once again to Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday, ready to finally see you smiling at me, telling me you loved me, too.
Everything was great, up until that fateful touchdown by USM in the closing minute of the 1st half. I wanted to believe this would end differently than the games in 2015. I tried to ignore that feeling in my gut that I had been here before, and I was about to experience an all-too-familiar pain. But we know what happened. Once again, my hopes were dashed, my heart was crushed, and I felt much like a bride who’s been left at the altar.
It was then I decided I was going to end the madness. It was time for me to accept the fact that you will never be able to love me. I just hoped I would be strong enough to walk away.
Then it hit me: walking away was the easy way out. The real strength would be finding a way to continue to give my love to you. After some soul-searching, I reached the conclusion that you’re just not quite ready to love wholly yet. You haven’t yet learned that, if something goes wrong during a game, you do have the strength and the ability to overcome it. You don’t know yet what it’s like to play like a winner instead of playing like someone who is trying desperately not to lose. It’s not that you don’t want to love me; you just can’t. Yet.
How could I leave you now? I’ve been steadfast in my love for 40 years now, so it would be a shame to walk away from all that. It would be devastating to give up when you are thisclose to finally getting over that last hump, and finally believing in yourself enough to get through the tough times. I know you want to love me. I know you want to be a winner. I know you want nothing but great things for us.
So, my beloved Kentucky Football, I’m still here with you. I still believe in you. I still love you with all of my heart. I know it’s an unrequited love, but I’m not going anywhere. I know when that day comes, when expectations and hopes become reality, every tear I cried, every bad word I uttered during a game, every pain I felt in my heart will be worth it. I hope the Big Blue Nation can hang in there with you, too. It’s only one game, and you have everything you need to turn this around. Please, Kentucky Football, let this be the year you finally love me back.
All my love,
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