Coach John Calipari has often said after a game, “We need to have a short memory.” He has explained that with teams that are usually on the young side, they need to quickly move on from the game just played, win or lose, and focus on the next opponent. If it was a loss, don’t dwell on the end result but rather hone in on the lessons to be learned and things to correct in future games. If it was a win, don’t get too high on the victory and lose your focus for the next outing.
It’s great advice, really. It’s especially good when your young(ish) team rises to the #1 ranking in the nation only 2 games into the season, one of which was a solid victory over the pre-season #1 Michigan State University. It’s tempting, and far too easy, to believe all your press clippings about your “smothering defense and assume you’ve got everything figured out. Then, before you know it, instead of focusing on the game at hand, you kind of phone-in your game, and the next thing you know, your #1 ranking is gone.
Of course, we know I am talking about Tuesday night’s debacle against the University of Evansville. From the outset, the atmosphere felt “off” in the arena. Then once the game began, it became apparent rather quickly the wheels could very well fall off the bus…and they did. There were a variety of reasons for the loss: failure to run plays and instead just jack up 3’s (6 assists for the game speaks volumes), not being in the correct position to secure rebounds, and not bringing the same energy and hustle that had been on display the first 2 games of the season. After the game, both Coach Cal and the players acknowledged their errors and pledged their intentions to make sure this kind of loss didn’t happen again. So, a short memory about the loss itself, but a long commitment to working on eliminating the errors, both in judgment and execution that occurred. Moving on to the next opponent at hand.
But for the fans, a short memory is not that useful. After any loss by the Wildcats, there is a portion of the fan base that goes into meltdown mode on social media. It’s gotten so predictable you already know what will be said:
Yes, those fans have certainly perfected the art of having a short memory. They cannot seem to recall that John Calipari’s teams are not built for November. Forgotten is how, no matter how dreadful the defense may appear in December, by mid-January, things begin to gel and by March, the Cats are once again in the thick of the hunt for a national championship. Also seeming to escape their memory banks is Calipari’s accomplishments from his first 10 years as the head coach at UK. He leads all coaches in total wins (305), NCAA Tournament wins (31), Final Fours (four), Elite Eights (seven) and Sweet 16s (eight). Oh yeah, and there is that little detail of banner #8 added to that mix.
These players that are ripped apart on Twitter for failing to win every single game in November and December end up being hailed as “probably one of my favorite Wildcats all-time” and “man, I sure wish he’d stay another year instead of entering the draft and becoming a lottery pick” by the time late February arrives. Somehow, they feel the need to assess blame for each loss, demand perfection from every player and coach, and spread their misery on every platform of social media available.
And woe is to those fans who are not spreading that level of vitriol at Cal and the team. If you don’t, then you certainly can’t be a “real fan.” There was even one person on Facebook Wednesday morning repeatedly saying he “refused to accept” the loss to Evansville. ( Seriously? How does that work? If we refuse to accept the loss, will the refs go back and change the final score and give the Cats the W? Can we remain undefeated?) When pressed for an explanation, all he seemed to come up with was “my generation would NEVER be ok with a loss like this!” Somehow, not ranting and raving for hours (days?) on end about losing to a mid-major team means “acceptance” which in turn means you are most certainly fine and dandy with losing.
Preposterous, of course. But that’s where we are. And I feel bad for those folks, honestly. I was in Rupp Arena Tuesday night and witnessed the carnage first-hand. I didn’t have fun and I most certainly was not pleased with the end result. But there’are 2 things I know to be a fact: 1. No amount of yelling, screaming, moaning, and complaining will change the final score so my energy is best spent on more productive ventures and 2. These Cats will take this loss, learn from it, and be the better for having experienced this come March. I know that from my memory of the past 10 years.
So take a trip down memory lane, take a deep breath or two, and enjoy the ride. I have a feeling you’ll be glad you did.
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