Home > Entrepreneurship, Social Experiments > Why UK’s Loss Is A Good Thing For Kentucky

Why UK’s Loss Is A Good Thing For Kentucky

Basketball does not equal Happiness

The mood was very somber as I watched the Cats fall to West Virginia with a few dozen UK fans in a downtown Nashville sports bar. This was the basketball season that induced feelings of regret that my graduation (and lost access to $5 lower-level tickets) may have been premature. After half a decade of lackluster basketball seasons, this team full of Diaper Dandies was supposed to be the one that led Kentucky back to the Final Four. I have noticed a markedly positive hue added to the demeanor of Kentuckians during the past few months, and have attributed it to the success of our most prominent sports team.

But tonight signaled the deterioration of our happiness crutch. And that is far from being a bad thing. A crutch is an artificial support. It holds us up when we are too weak to do so on our own. But in this case, we are NOT too weak. In fact, we Lexingtonians are strong beyond our own belief, but we have become accustomed to relying on the success of five guys with numbers on their backs as the source of our happiness. The problem with this situation does not lie with the players or coaches of UK’s basketball team. They have worked their tails off, augmenting athletic ability with creative approaches to defeating varying opponents. The problem lies in us, the fans. Our energetic cheers and free-throw hand-signage rituals have ZERO cause-effect relationship to the game. Because of this, we as fans have no right to fully relish in the joy of victory or agony of defeat at the same carnal level as those players directly involved in the game. If we continue to derive our happiness from the actions of others, the disappointment felt now by Cat Nation will continue to proliferate. But there is a solution, and that is to create.

Sitting on page 182 of Richard Florida’s “The Rise of the Creative Class“, my opinions of the effects of individual creativity on local economies are likely quite skewed. Yet, the recent athletic disappointment seems to be an excellent application for the empowering nature of human creativity. Whether or not we make use of it, all people are privileged with the ability to innovate, to bring into being useful and beautiful ideas that had not previously existed. Just as John Wall’s paint brush is a basketball, I have several friends who produce their artwork with soldering irons or Objective-C computer code. As every individual is capable of exercising creativity, we no longer have to outsource the production of our happiness. Following a few basic assumptions (that people prefer to be happy, and that they have free will), I am excited that UK’s earlier-than-expected exit from the NCAA tournament will mark the elimination of one distraction from my self-production of happiness. Are you willing to join me, Lexington?

Following Saturday’s MobileX conference in Nashville, I had the chance to converse with a presenter from the event who is a somewhat recent transplant from Kentucky to Texas. This has afforded him a newly external perspective to the ecosystem of the Commonwealth, and the familiarity with a few Midwest locales for use as benchmarks. I was intrigued when he noted, “Everyone feels like they’re second-best. Dallas is a huge city, and the tech community there wishes they could be as good as Austin. When I lived in Oklahoma City, their tech community was really starting to flourish, but they still felt inferior to Dallas.”

The quote endowed to us by Eleanor Roosevelt might have been more insightful than I have previously realized. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” While frequently used to exemplify strength in the face of an opressor, in these cases, the inferiority complex is not necessarily pushed by the Austins, Bostons, Seattles, or San Franciscos. We “uncreative cities” pull this veil of inadequacy over ourselves. We deem ourselves to be second cities, when in fact we are just other cities.

Nashville is a perfect example of how to avoid this self-loathing slope. While the city’s skyline might not be laced with the logos of Microsoft, Apple, and Google, it is THE Music City. I met several seemingly small-name developers who have created hugely popular applications for country music superstars and massive events like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza. No, they aren’t creating the next overhyped location-based game or laggy augmented reality demo. They are writing apps that appropriately serve a market that Nashville knows very well: music fans. This is an excellent model for “the third coast” to understand: build what you know.

By embracing the unique character held by our own regions, residents of cities like Lexington, Omaha, and Oklahoma City can tap into existing networks of expertise to achieve success in long-tail innovation. This will enable us to control our own destiny, and to create our own happiness. Once this is achieved, we fans can enjoy spectator sports as intended: a supplemental source of entertainment,  not a solitary source of happiness.

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