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Kentucky, Kansas and the Cold Revelry of Pain

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Why do Kansas Jayhawk fans love the pain of Big Blue Nation? Of course it's mean, of course it's petty, but it can't be helped. It's a basketball blue blood thing. Most wouldn't understand.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Go ahead Kansas fans, drink it up. You know you loved it. Schadenfreude never tasted so sweet.

The Kansas Jayhawk and Kentucky Wildcat rivalry runs deep. Deep enough that I'm sure a few Kansas fans went so far as to dig out their terrible House of Pain cassette from the 1990s to join the Wisconsin fans in losing their minds to "Jump Around."

What's driving this behavior among Jayhawk fans? What's driving them to root for schools like, like, freaking Notre Da. . .

Excuse me. I just threw up in my mouth.

What drives such madness?

Well, Kansas fans don't measure themselves by their conference or regional opponents. Kansas fans measure themselves against all of college basketball. Kansas wants to be known as, seen as, the blue blooded beating heart of the entire sport.

Kentucky has a thing or two to say about that.

Both the Kansas and Kentucky programs are the sporting crown jewels in their respective, rural, backwoods states. They are number one (Kentucky) and two (Kansas) in all time wins, with just 25 games separating the two. Since the modern NCAA Tournament began (1985) Kentucky and Kansas have made eight Final Fours, and played for the National Title five times a piece, with Kentucky winning three titles and Kansas two.

The two schools are running a neck and neck race with each other. Unfortunately, I don't think Kentucky and their fans realize they are even running in this race. Or more realistically, they believe themselves so far ahead that it's time to jog.

As insufferable as both the Kansas and Kentucky basketball fan bases can be, the Tucky fan base takes insufferable arrogance to a nearly untouchable level. They don't think about Kansas the way Kansas thinks about Kentucky. And it drives 'Hawk fans insane.

As much as I made fun of and laughed at Kansas State fans for rushing the court earlier this season, contending that their actions made them look like little kids demanding their older brothers pay attention to them, Kansas fans' reveling in Kentucky failures is flirting with similar behavior. I fully indict myself here as well. We can't help it.

Had Kentucky won last night 'Hawk fans would have been faced with a very serious dilemma. It would have left us with the horrifying prospect of rooting for Duke in the National Title.

DUKE!

Rooting for Duke in a championship game is as uncomfortable as when you hear some person casually say, "You know, not all of Hitler's ideas were insane..."

Thank you, Bo Ryan, for saving the Jayhawk nation from that shame.

Kentucky is still the best team in the nation. But the NCAA Tournament is one game at a time. There is no series. 40 games is a long way to go without a single trip up. And ultimately, this Kentucky team won't be remembered as the best team of 2015, even though they clearly are. They will be remembered as just a Final Four participant. Their lone loss seen as no different than Tom Izzo and his Spartans' twelve. That's the reason those Kentucky fans were crying. And that's the reason Jayhawk fans couldn't drink those tears up fast enough.

It's the reason we loved seeing Eddie Sutton run the Kentucky program into the ground. It's the reason we cheered our throats raw at Allen Fieldhouse when Roy William's 'Hawks ran Rick Pitino's Wildcats right out of the gym. It's the reason we smiled smugly as Tubby Smith made mediocrity Kentucky's home, and it's the reason that we take peace in knowing that 38 wins in a college basketball season will be unfairly viewed by the collective sports world as a choke job, forever.

In a competition of legacies, such a cruel fact is a victory without even having to take the court.