The Powerless Rankings are usually reserved for the worst of the worst of the week in sports. Some weeks, that list is difficult to make. On days like this, it’s far easier. Rather than a big build up to this week’s Top-Five (or bottom-five, if you will) here it is:
The Kentucky Wildcats were defeated by the Wisconsin Badgers last night, 71-64, in the Final Four, ending their bid for for the first undefeated season in Division One Men’s Basketball since the 1976 Indian Hoosiers. Their quest for 40-0 ended last night, and I have to tell you, Kentucky fans – it’s going to suck.
I know it already does. There will be no championship in Lexington this year, no hats and t-shirts. That alone is going to be tough to swallow after being the consensus favorite to win it all. Unfortunately, and I’m speaking from experience here, it’s only going to get worse.
As a Patriots fan, I know what it’s like to go through an undefeated season. While my 2007 Patriots came one game closer, waiting until the championship game to be handed their first loss, the situations are similar. The Wildcats, like those Patriots, finished the regular season without a loss, at 34-0. And just like those Patriots, no one will remember how great they were for so long; all they will remember is 38-1.
That record is going to burned into your brain. Your opponents and your rivals will never let you live it down, at least not anytime soon. My Patriots had to live with their 18-1 stigma for seven years, before finally winning a championship and, hopefully, putting that season behind them. You’re all going to be in the same boat.
To be that close to greatness – true, never-to-be-forgotten greatness – and come up short is going to hurt in the short term. Visions of an undefeated season, the “best-ever” monicker just two games away, couldn’t be ignored. Finishing 40-0 and ending the season in a sea of blue and white confetti while cutting down the nets in Indianapolis was too good not to think about. Trust me, I know. There were times that first loss felt like it could never come; that your Wildcats were too big, too good, and too well-coached to be beaten. Other times, that perfect season looked like it would come to an end, only for your team to come storming back and keep the dream alive for another game. Never has the term “so close, yet so far” meant more.
So yes, having those dreams dashed and that perfect season come crumbling down, is hard. But if that were the end of it, you would heal. You would come back next season and try, once again, to secure that championship. Unfortunately, I can promise you it isn’t that easy. Get ready Kentucky fans; these next few weeks, months, perhaps even years, are going to be awful.
Next season, 38-1 will follow you around. Opposing fans will hold signs. Wisconsin fans are probably already printing shirts by the thousands to commemorate your downfall. Everyone likes a good underdog story, and no matter who you played, you were the bad guys. I can assure you, very few people outside of Lexington were upset by your loss; most were rooting for it. Now that it’s come, they will not let you forget it. Ever.
Next season, it will be all anyone talks about. Every game you play will begin with “remember that time…” Every announcer, every commentator, every talking head will remind you of how close you came to perfection only to come up short. 38-1. 38-1. Thirty-eight and one. It isn’t going away.
You are going to wake up some nights, drenched in a cold sweat, as visions of that game fill your head. Some day, weeks or even months from now, you’ll think about it and become filled with anger, or sadness, or longing for what could have been. I’m not trying to rub it in, I’m just trying to prepare you for it.
The Kentucky Wildcats were nearly perfect, but that’s all it takes. You wanted to make history? Well, you’ve done it. 38-1 will live on, and there’s nothing you can do about it. You are, in a word, Powerless. Speaking as someone who’s been there, all I can say is, I’m sorry. I wish I had better news. Kentucky, you are the worst of the worst this week. And it’s going to get worse before it gets better.