Tom Hanks had a line in “A League of Their Own” that gets quoted frequently:
There’s no crying in baseball.
I am taking the liberty of modifying that quote ever so slightly by replacing “baseball” with “football.” After all, football is the manliest of all sports. Games are played on a battlefield. It’s a “war.” It’s all about blood and guts, and playing in the trenches. Nope, there is no crying in football.
Except for today.
Imagine being a fan of a program that has been called “snake bit” for decades, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory over and over again. Try to understand what it has felt like for many, many years of thinking Kentucky Football is finally going to get over the hump and have a victory that truly matters, only to have those hopes dashed countless times.
Put yourself in the shoes of Mark Stoops. After being raked over the coals on social media the first month of the season and enduring vile rumors, he stayed the course. He kept saying week after week that “we need to put our heads down and work.” Then he hears from fans week after week that he isn’t good enough to be Kentucky’s coach.
Recall that feeling you had inside knowing that just 70 miles away, our most hated rival somehow managed to recruit high-level talent and be in the conversation (temporarily, anyway) for the college football playoffs. Yet, here we were at Kentucky, always a bridesmaid, but never the bride.
Through all of that, there was no crying in football. Then, today happened.
The Cats walked into Papa John’s Stadium, underdogs by 3+ touchdowns, ready to go to battle against presumed-Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson. Although the Cats had already secured bowl eligibility last week, this game mattered. This was the chance for Mark Stoops and his staff to get their signature win, the one that proved to everyone that he was going to “change the game,” and change the culture for Kentucky Football.
After the Cats’ stunning 41-38 victory, the Big Blue Nation erupted on social media, joyfully tweeting “L’s Down” and suggesting Stephen Johnson was more qualified for the Heisman trophy. OK, so maybe they got a little carried away; let’s be real, Lamar Jackson is an immensely talented player and in spite of today’s loss, should still be the front-runner for the Heisman. But that doesn’t dim the happiness or joy one iota for the Big Blue Nation.
We could see Stephen Johnson was on the verge of tears. There was a photo of Wide Receivers Coach Lamar Thomas with a single tear running down his face. Coach Stoops told reporters they were trying to make him cry.
So, there’s no crying in football. Except today. If you’re a long-suffering Kentucky Football fan, you can cry tears of happiness. If you’re a member of the Kentucky Football team, you can cry tears of satisfaction, knowing you never gave up and you fought until the battle was won. If you’re Mark Stoops, you can cry tears of relief, because finally, the world got to see the team you knew was getting ready to make a huge statement.
So go ahead. Today, there is crying in football, and it never felt so good!
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