Looking back, I should have known better than to schedule a vacation during basketball season. Yet, the siren song of the sun and sand were too much to resist for me and my husband, especially when we found out that the resort we’d be staying at in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic had free wi-fi in the rooms and satellite TV. Carefully consulting our basketball schedules, we determined that the Auburn game was one we could miss, or at the very least, watch abroad. If it had only been that easy.
Before we delve into the heart of the matter, let me say that the Dominican Republic is fantastic. If you’ve never gone, I definitely recommend it. The beauty of the landscape is matched only by the kindness of the people. Most foreigners will recognize Kentucky for horses first, “fried chicken!!!” second, and basketball third, the latter of which I’m sure has become more relevant in the DR thanks to Calipari coaching the National Team, native son/DR Assistant Orlando Antigua, Al Horford, and yes, Karl Towns. Many, if not most, of the people we met knew of Cal, Antigua and Towns, and said that basketball has really taken off in popularity the past few years thanks to the DR Team’s success. Although baseball may always be their favorite sport, basketball isn’t far behind, and if Antigua takes over the DR Team, I’m sure the sport will continue to grow.
After two days of fun in the sun, it was time for the game. We thought we were so prepared, with our iPad, our iPad to HDMI converter and HDMI cable. The pride we felt while hooking up the iPad to the TV and pulling up the “Watch ESPN” app was unparalleled. Little did we know, the Watch ESPN app doesn’t work abroad, something of which we became painfully aware each time the “Video not available” error message popped up on the screen like an angry pimple. Surely, a trusty funchester link would work? Nope, no flash on the iPad. Not even the iHeart Radio app would allow us to stream the game. Ah, the internet cafe! What about the internet cafe? Panicked with twenty minutes to tip, we rushed over there only to find they charged $5 per five minutes of use. There had to be a better way. When all else fails, head to the sports bar, right?
As we rounded the corner between the bar and the tennis courts, I spotted the most glorious sight in the entire world: a bright blue CATS shirt. It was our very own BBN oasis in the oasis of the Atlantic and Caribbean Seas. Mr. TT and I hurried over to meet the group of eight Cats fans, all clad in blue and equally as frustrated with technology. A few of them recognized me from the blog and we started strategizing on the best way to get the game. Turns out the TVs only had ESPN and ESPN 2, and their attempts to stream the game via military radio had failed as well. I narrated what was happening during most of the first half via the live blog and Twitter to a rapt audience sharing their views on the current team (this won’t shock you, no one likes Archie), the Louisville rivalry (“We couldn’t have gotten where we are without Rick”), whether or not we’ll get Wiggins or Randle (my take: yes Randle, no Wiggins) and surprisingly, the success of Signing Day.
During the second half, one of the men in the group had the brilliant idea to Face Time with his son, Matthew, back home via email (roaming rates in DR are ridiculous as you would expect) and have him turn the iPad towards the TV. We all crowded around the tiny iPhone screen to call Matthew and cheered when it actually worked. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to hear a Purnell’s “Old Folks” Country Sausage commercial. The connection kept dropping, but we were determined. We moved the operation to an iPad of our own and settled in to watch the game. Cheers for Jarrod, Willie, and Kyle were met with cries of despair when the connection dropped and gratitude when Matthew patiently waited for us to reconnect. One last time: “Thank you, Matthew!” and thanks to the entire Mattingly family. The whole thing was so blissfully bizarre that it made it one of the best UK viewing experiences ever, despite only seeing ten minutes of the actual game.
I’ve always marveled at how the Big Blue Nation can bring people together, in this case in the oddest of places. My husband, who converted to “Wildcat-olicism” after we met, still can’t get over it after all these years. We say it to the point that it’s almost trite, but fueled by love for a team that goes beyond just sports, is there anything the BBN can’t do?
Looking back, I don’t think I’d change a single thing.