Both UK and U of L can benefit from exhibition game in Louisville

08/03/2011 08:49 AM

Cal’s at it again.
Just as the buzz from his original concept of putting his Dominican Republican team up against a team of former Kentucky players has started to die down, he’s fanned the flames again.
Now Kentucky Coach John Calipari is talking about having that same game in Louisville on Aug. 16, the day after the two teams play in Rupp. At the KFC Yum Center. With Louisville’s Hall of Fame Coach, Denny Crum, potentially on the sidelines coaching the team of UK players.
A lot of emotional reactions were probably generated from that scenario. “Hmmmmmm.” “What??!!” “No way!!!.” “Hell, yeah!!” And a couple of four-letter words I won’t print here.
I can understand why U of L would be hesitant. I’m sure many of them are thinking, ‘Why give that attention-hog Cal another chance to show off? Not in our house.
And let’s be real. If anyone doubts that a small part of this is John Calipari taking another opportunity to try and needle Rick Pitino, you’re fooling yourselves. Cal will never pass up an opportunity to try and get under Rick’s skin. Never.
But if everyone can put their egos aside, it could be a win-win situation for both the Cats and Cards.
First off, Cal somewhat painted U of L into a corner here by leaking the details of the game before it was official. U of L would have looked petty if it had tried to block the game.
But U of L could actually throw the ball right back at Cal by allowing the game to happen and using it to their benefit as well.
Fancy new arenas come with bills. A packed house with 22,000-plus fans, even if they are mostly Blue, can’t be bad for business. The pockets of downtown business owners would also fatten for a night. Can’t the blue and red come together for a night to make some green for the city?
Don’t forget that two former Cardinal players, Francisco Garcia and Edgar Sosa, are playing for the Dominican team. That’s reason enough for U of L fans to buy tickets. If you don’t want your arena full of Cat fans, help to fill it up yourselves.
Yes, I know Louisville fans cringe at the thought of Crum coaching a team of former Wildcats. But in my eyes, Crum has earned a lifetime hall pass at U of L. The Yum Center wouldn’t be there if he hadn’t established Louisville as a national program in the 1980’s. If he wants to coach in the game, let him coach in the game.
Besides, the team Crum will be coaching, the UK legends, will be heavy favorites to beat Cal’s Dominican squad. Wouldn’t it be fun water cooler talk for Card fans to say, ‘Hey, our Hall of Fame coach who retired more than a decade ago beat your precious Cal.” Wouldn’t it just be fun for Card fans to watch Cal lose, period? And possibly even get blown out?
There’s one definitive thing U of L fans can hold over UK’s head right now. They’ve got a nicer, newer arena. What better way to increase the Wildcats’ ‘Arena Envy’ than to let them into your house to watch their guys? Just another opportunity to say ‘Eat your hearts out..’
Remember, the game is not officially a UK event. If I’m U of L, I step in and take some ownership. Tout Crum’s presence in the game. Pump up Garcia’s appearance. Showcase Sosa and how he can use this as a springboard game for his pro aspirations. If U of L really wanted to play hardball, they should have insisted that Earl Clark, Terrence Williams and Samardo Samuels be included on the UK ‘Legends’ team.’ UK and Cal aren’t the only ones who can benefit from the publicity. Use it to boost your program, too.
The game will likely garner national media attention. Surprisingly it hasn’t become a national story yet, but with the NBA in full lockout mode, NBA beat writers with nothing else to do might catch wind and take an interest. If I’m U of L and Pitino, I’m thinking the more buzz you can create for your program in NBA circles the better.
And let’s face it, Louisville. We’re not getting an NBA team. So what other chances will you have to see guys like John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo and Al Horford? Rondo has played in his hometown just once (his freshman year at UK) since his junior year of high school. Louisville fans can see him in person and imagine what might have been.
Hopefully this situation won’t take the same path as the political climate is taking these days. When it actually benefits the two sides to come together, it usually never happens.
I, for one, am hoping for a pleasant surprise.


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