People who live in Kentucky love basketball. Kentuckians eat, drink, and breathe basketball. In general, people in Kentucky root either for the University of Kentucky Wildcats or for the University of Louisville Cardinals.
The University of Kentucky has a great and historical men’s basketball program. The rich basketball tradition of the University of Kentucky has produced a program that is recognized throughout the nation. To many Kentuckians, basketball holds a special place in their lives. It is as important as religion.
Therefore, it was a shock and a big disappointment for Kentucky fans when on Saturday, January 7, the Kentucky Wildcats lost to the Kansas Jayhawks by the score of 73-46. In addition, to compound the embarrassment for Kentucky, that was the biggest defeat for Tubby Smith since he became coach of Kentucky nine seasons ago. However, for us Louisville fans, Kentucky’s defeat was no great tragedy.
So despondent were the Kentucky fans that they did not have words to describe this ugly defeat of their beloved team. To Jerry Tipton, a staff writer for the Lexington Herald-Leader, Kentucky’s defeat was a tragedy of biblical proportions. In describing Kentucky’s performance against Kansas, Mr. Tipton wrote, “Kentucky (10-4) was Old Testament bad” (to read the article, click here).
I have to confess that this is the first time in my career as a professor that I have seen the Old Testament used as an adjective to describe something bad. Probably only those who attended the game and saw how poorly Kentucky played could give a good definition of “Old Testament bad.”
To Mr. Tipton the bad game Kentucky played was comparable to the plagues against Egypt. In his description of the game, Mr. Tipton wrote, “In this plague of a game, the Cats did not have an assist until the 14:20 mark of the second half.” Now, that is “Old Testament bad.”
This made me think: what else in life could be considered “Old Testament bad?” The recent flooding of New Orleans could be called Old Testament bad.
I searched the Old Testament and found some examples of Old Testament bad. God told the prophet Ezekiel, “Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them into one vessel, and make bread for yourself. You shall eat it as a barley-cake, baking it in their sight on human dung” (Ezek. 4:9, 12). Now, that food is Old Testament bad. So, from now on, when you go to a restaurant and the food is tasteless or bad, you can say the food was Old Testament bad.
Let us say that you are going about your business as Elisha was when some small boys began to make fun at him saying, “Go away, baldhead! Go away, baldhead!” (2 Kings 2:23). The behavior of those boys was Old Testament bad. Therefore, if people despise you, and their behavior is obnoxious, you can say that those people are Old Testament bad. Or if your barber gives you a haircut that reminds you of the haircut Delilah gave to Samson, you can explain to others that the haircut is Old Testament bad.
Now, if the 73-46 defeat of Kentucky by Kansas was Old Testament bad, how should we classify the 1989 game where Kansas beat Kentucky 150-95? That game was as bad as a shipwreck in the midst of Noah’s flood, as unintelligible as the Tower of Babel, or as devastating as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Maybe Kentucky’s performance in that game was just Old Testament awful.
Claude F. Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary