To those outside of Kentucky, the long, strange history of the rivalry between the Louisville Cardinals and the Kentucky Wildcats may not be familiar. That’s because The Rivalry: Red V. Blue is the first and only film to document this incredible sports story.
Red V. Blue is a documentary about the instate rivalry between the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville… the greatest rivalry in college basketball. To the uninitiated, here is the lowdown: The University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville are the two most prominent universities in the State of Kentucky. The universities are located in Lexington and Louisville respectively and are separated by a mere 75 miles along a beautiful stretch of I-64. But this is the least of their differences. The Louisville vs Kentucky basketball rivalry runs deep!
As you might expect, the close geographic proximity of the schools to each other has bred an intense rivalry, a rivalry made even more contentious by the national success of both college basketball programs. The two schools have won a combined 11 National Collegiate basketball Championships between them (University of Kentucky has eight championships and the University of Louisville has three). However, the rivalry between the Wildcats and the Cardinals runs much deeper than geographical proximity.
What makes Red V. Blue such a unique and compelling story is that we do not only document the high and low points of this rivalry in a conventional documentary format. We explore the background to and address the somewhat strange and at times downright bizarre reasons and circumstances, which combined to ignite the rivalry in the first place, and which continue to flame the passion and intense competition between the schools today.
Unlike many of college basketball’s other great rivalries, such as Duke and North Carolina, or Purdue and Indiana, the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville do not play in the same conference and have only one scheduled meeting a year. Theirs is a rivalry that is not born simply of familiarity or from battling year after year for the conference crown; it starts and ends with basketball bragging rights in a state that is more religiously devoted to basketball than to almost anything else.
Kentucky and Louisville basketball teams met for the first time in 1913. But for the following 70 years they rarely played each other. But then, a somewhat improbable matchup in the 1983 NCAA Division 1 Tournament, Elite Eight stage between the No. 2 ranked Cardinals and the No.12 ranked Wildcats sent the Bluegrass State in to a frenzy. Fans from both schools refer to this post regular season clash between the two storied programs in 1983 as the “Dream Game.” In the game itself, after regulation time ended with Kentucky tying the game at the “buzzer,” Louisville went on to dominate the overtime and ran out as comfortable winners 80 to 68. This was the defining moment in this rivalry. The result of this game lead directly to the start of the ”Battle for the Bluegrass“ annual series between the two schools that November. But it took the best personal efforts of the then Governor of Kentucky John Y Brown Jr. to put these two universities, separated by 75 miles of freeway, back on the basketball court.
In The Rivalry: Red V. Blue, we are documenting the story and underpinning of what is now undisputedly regarded as the most competitive rivalry in college basketball at almost the perfect time. We had our cameras and microphones in New Orleans in March 2012 for the NCAA Final Four clash between the Cards and the Wildcats. We were in Atlanta, Ga in March 2013 to record the university of Louisville’s first national Championship since 1986. Our incredible fan footage captures the passion and pride of the supporters of both these programs in a dynamic and electrifying fashion and distills the essence of a singular and unique rivalry in the way only a movie can.
But there is so more to Red V. Blue than a factual historical documentary of a college basketball rivalry, even one as crazy as the Cards vs the Cats. Those familiar with NCAA Athletics will know that the State of Kentucky is absolutely “crazy” about basketball. The game is as ingrained in the State’s fabric and psyche as bluegrass, bourbon and horse racing.
Red V. Blue sets course to understand the psyche, motivation and passion of the fans who support the rival programs. Fans like rival Louisville barbers Robert Boone and Mark Wagner Jr. (who support opposing teams), Paintsville High School Basketball coach Bill Mike Runyon, boxing trainer James Doolin, UK Superfan and 101 Club member Ken Kurlas. We have captured the personal and very real stories of very passionate and very real fans who take their Wildcat and Cardinals rivalry really seriously.
To fully understand the depth of feelings and the passion of the rival fan support, Red V. Blue considers this rivalry in a social and cultural context because Red V. Blue is, at its core, a story about a clash of cultures. The University of Kentucky represents in many respects the “old south” and the University of Louisville the ”new.” The life and death attitudes of rival fans who pledge their allegiance to the Cards or the Wildcats are not skin deep, but soul deep. Such allegiances are self defining, immutable and life long. The rival fans bases rarely if ever cross pollinate and respective fan support is practically political in its partisanship. This is out-and-out cultural warfare in the form of a 40 minute basketball game.
To most Americans , who do not care whether the University of Kentucky or the University of Louisville wins the annual “Battle for the Blue Grass,” the game is pure entertainment and high drama, but to Kentuckians, who care mightily about which team wins, this game is monumental; it is epic in proportions. It is not Homer. It is not Shakespeare. This is Biblical. This is Armageddon… only more serious!
Red V. Blue is more than the story of the fiercest rivalry in college basketball. Red V. Blue tells the story of the central role that college basketball plays in the lives of Kentuckians, rural and urban. To average Kentuckians, basketball is much more than a game, it is a seminal and defining element in the life and culture of the communities in which they live and work. Red V. Blue is as much a salute to and a celebration of the passionate and hardworking Kentuckians, as it is about a college hoops rivalry.
To most Americans, sport offers a welcome, temporary distraction from the trials and tribulations of everyday living. In Kentucky, basketball is not temporary distraction from life. It is life. This is what makes Red V. Blue such a compelling movie. It is a story of passion, humor and pure life force!
The Rivalry: Red V. Blue features interviews with Denny Crum, Joe B. Hall, Jim Host, John Y. Brown, Van Vance, Jock Sutherland, Tom Leach, Matt Jones, Mike Rutherford, Russ Smith, Gorgui Dieng, Mayor Greg Fischer, Mayor Jim Gray, Mayor Bob Porter, Terry Howard, Rob Bromley, Al Benniger, Jim Tharp, Tony Vanetti, Pat Forde, Derek Anderson, Oscar Combs, Luke Whitehead, Scott Padgett, James Boo Brewer, Peyton Siva, Bill Mike Runyon, and Landon Slone, among others.