The Forum’s Got This One Right
“It ‘s more than a game,” states the Forum editorial this past Sunday. Indeed it is. Those interested in seeing the resumption of the NDSU-UND football rivalry on an annual basis should take their case to no less a person than Governor Jack Dalrymple. Here’s why.
In the late 1970s we moved from Illinois to Kentucky for a new position at Fort Knox, about 25 minutes south of Louisville. As we settled in to the new culture we began to absorb all things Kentucky including salt-cured ham, red-eye gravy, okra, and having to travel good distances to have a cold beer (In those days nearly 80 of Kentucky’s 120 counties were dry). Included in the assimilation was an understanding of the madness that surrounds Kentucky basketball. As a newcomer to the state I found it fun to cheer for both UK and U of L except when they were playing the Hoosiers from IU, which I claim as an alma mater. As we made our way through the first basketball season I discovered “the chasm,” the extra wide gulf that separates fandom in Kentucky. I learned quickly that you were required to support one team or the other, but not both. That would make you just plain weird. And then I learned that you were expected to denigrate all manner of things relating to that “other” team including the coach, the recruiting, the schedule, the home court, IQ, et al.
At some time in earlier years the teams had met occasionally, but during the reign of Adolph Rupp those highly anticipated match-ups ceased to exist. Rupp’s excuse for not scheduling Denny Crum’s Cardinals was rather flimsy: well, if we schedule one state university we’ll be expected to schedule, Eastern, Western, and any other local comer. Rupp’s successor, Joe B. Hall was faithful to the party line. Crum wanted to be on the UK schedule to showcase his frequently dominant group of ball players, but his requests went unheard. And then the inevitable happened; thanks to NCAA schedulers, UK and U of L managed to find their way to a match-up during the NCAA tournament in March of 1983. Dubbed the “Dream Game,” fans across the state went nuts. After all these years it was finally going to happen. Joe B. Hall could avoid the Cardinals no more.
Enter Gov. John Y. Brown, Kentucky Fried Chicken mogul, former owner of the ABA Kentucky Colonels, and erstwhile husband of former Miss America, Phyllis George. An astute business man he understood the value of this game to the state; he attended the game dressed in a suit that was half red and the other half blue. Following that game, which lived up to the hype, John Y., as he was often called, took the side of basketball fans everywhere, including Cardinals followers. As chief executive officer of the Commonwealth, he put pressure on all stakeholders, including university presidents, regents, alumni, and coaches. In the end he prevailed and after a half century or more the annual rivalry resumed, much to the delight of Kentucky fans from Appalachia to Paducah and those scattered across the wider USA.
Do we in North Dakota deserve less? I think not. It’s time for Gov. Jack Dalrymple to rip a page out of John Y’s playbook. Let’s get ’er done, Governor. If for no other reason, it makes good business sense; hotels, motels, restaurants, gas retailers, and purveyors of all manner of sports associated materials all stand to profit. The more, the merrier. And the people of North Dakota, the same ones who pay the freight for our university system, my bet is that they’d appreciate your support.
Oh, yeah, that Dream Game? UK forced overtime with a last second shot and the Cards ran the first 14 points in the OT and managed to hang on for a win. (And they’ve both been losing to the IU Hoosiers for years...in my dreams.)