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Saturday, December 31, 2011


by Michael Monks 
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"Can you hear him," my brother asked over the phone as huge cries erupted from a tiny, new body. "That's your nephew." Of course I could hear him and thanks to Facebook I could also already see him as pictures of this slimy creature flooded my newsfeed seconds after he was born. The birth of David Monks, Junior on December 26 meant more to our Old Kentucky Home than just a new member. It meant also that the scales had finally balanced for the Louisville Cardinals in our divided house, just five days before the annual rivalry game with my beloved Kentucky Wildcats. There are now eight people in the family and now leading up to the game, at the buzzer no less, the score is tied: 4 Kentucky fans to 4 Louisville fans. (My brother would insist that his girlfriend is a Louisville fan, but anyone can see the fear and truth in her eyes!)
My brother is an insufferable man, but this was not always the case. Usually, we had an unwritten agreement in the household: we cheer for Kentucky and we cheer for Louisville except for one game each year when we quite possibly hate each other. In 1997, for example, when UK was in its second straight (of what would be three straight) NCAA Finals against Arizona, my younger brother David and I rushed in excitement from TV to TV, unable to sit in one room during this thrilling game. As it went to overtime and ultimately ended in defeat for the Big Blue Nation, we both sat on the edge of our parents' bed (latchkey kids with both parents working overnight for local law enforcement) and he consoled me in what would be Rick Pitino's final appearance as UK's head coach. In recent years though, especially since John Calipari took over at Kentucky, my younger brother David has reveled in ecstasy each time the Wildcats suffer a setback. He loves to watch them to lose.
Now that Rick Pitino is leader of Louisville, the rivalry is more heated than ever since it was revived by chance in the 1983 NCAA Tournament after 24 years apart. I was born in 1980, David in 1982. The fact has never been lost on us that both schools waited till each of us was born to rekindle the annual match-up. Through an act of the universe, today's game may very well be the fault of the Monks brothers. 
When the ball is tipped at noon today, one side of the room will be blue with our Dad, David's girlfriend (I know the truth!) and their oldest girl, and me decked in Wildcat garb. On the other side, red with Mom, David, his 3-year old daughter (who had no choice!) and now, Little David, who already has a Louisville outfit just for the occasion (and who also had no choice). Four to four. A tie that I am not allowed to break with my actual cat, a natural ally in this fight. We're going to overtime. 
That is probably the way it should be. And I know this much: When I get to hold little David Junior today, Cardinals onesie and all, it will be proof that a Kentucky fan can love a Louisville fan. Now if only big David Senior can learn the same thing, there will be less tension during the annual trip out to the parents' house for chili and basketball. And by March, when Kentucky makes another run at the Final Four and Louisville makes its annual exit in the first round of the tournament, we'll all be happy for each other.

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