Uncle Harry was right.
Harry Case of Paris is both my uncle (married to my mother’s sister) and a sports fan, but more importantly, a Kentucky football fan. To be sure, Harry likes most all sports, including UK basketball, but he is one of those die-hards who cares about Kentucky football first and foremost.
This past summer, Harry suffered a stroke. He’s had some challenges since, so to lift his spirits, his son Larry had the idea of getting UK coach Mark Stoops to sign a football for his father. We were able to get the football to the coach, who was nice enough to sign it. As you might expect, it’s now a prized possession in the Case household.
I saw my Uncle Harry on Thanksgiving day at a family gathering and this is the first thing he said to me:
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“We’re going to beat Louisville by three points.”
Many of those in attendance that day, myself included, expressed healthy skepticism at such a prediction. After all, Louisville was a 27-point favorite for the annual Governor’s Cup game on Saturday. The Cardinals boasted this year’s probable Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Lamar Jackson. Kentucky had lost five straight games to the Cardinals.
“We’re going to beat Louisville by three points,” Uncle Harry repeated.
My brother-in-law, another UK football fan and the host for the annual Thanksgiving get-together, told Uncle Harry that if he was right, he’d buy him a steak dinner.
“Three points,” my uncle said.
I thought of that prediction often on Saturday at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, not just during the thrilling back-and-forth affair in which Kentucky pulled out a 41-38 upset win over the Cardinals, but afterward during Stoops’ postgame press conference.
“I’ve said it a bunch, that this team was fun to coach from the beginning,” said the UK coach. “We knew we had our flaws, but when you have that kind of attitude and that kind of toughness, and they believe in their coaches and all stick together, good things will happen soon or later.”
Like Uncle Harry, you had to have faith. Stoops had it even after a blown 25-point lead against Southern Miss and a dreadful performance at Florida led to an 0-2 start. He preached patience and preparation and sticking to the process. Keep your focus on the work you must do Monday through Friday, and eventually the games bring your rewards.
That’s what happened Saturday at Louisville. Four years of work, four years of faith, all paid off at exactly the right time to produce a “significant” victory over not just UK’s arch-rival, but a very good football team with a very good head coach and an outstanding quarterback.
As the game headed into the dramatic final moments, the score tied 38-38 and Kentucky driving towards the deciding field goal attempt, I sent a text to my brother-in-law asking if he was ready to buy that steak dinner.
When Austin MacGinnis’ 47-yard field goal sailed through the uprights giving Kentucky that three-point win, I sent a text to my cousin Larry that said, “Harry Case!”
He texted back: “WE JUST HUGGED EACH OTHER!!!!”
If you’re a Kentucky fan, I’m guessing you have an Uncle Harry in your family, too. Someone who likes UK basketball but has a stronger connection to UK football, who has lived through the down years and the disappointing results, all the while clinging to the faith that one day the football Cats would come through.
Saturday was that day.
Uncle Harry was right.
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