I should have known going to Cornell- the day after Kentucky beat them- wearing a UK shirt could be awkward. So it came as no surprise when I accidently happened across the pep rally welcoming the players back to campus after their record setting season.
Seeing as how I love to see college campuses and UK had just played Cornell, I left Syracuse yesterday and went to Ithaca for the day. While walking around Cornell’s campus, I ran into a large group of red-clad fans standing in front of a classroom building. I wasn’t standing there long when a tour bus pulled up and the fans began cheering like crazy. The doors flung open on the bus and one by one the players began filing out- Jeff Foote, Louis Dale, Ryan Wittman and the Flurry. The Where’s Waldo Band was there playing the Cornell fight song and there I was- standing in the middle of a Cornell pep rally wearing a shirt emblazoned with “Kentucky Basketball”.
Fortunately, not many people noticed. Most were too busy trying to get pictures made with Jeff Foote and other players. As the players were walking around and greeting the fans (which numbered around 100), I saw my opportunity to get a picture made with Mark Coury. Not surprisingly, Coury was not being hounded for photographs. In fact, he was just standing awkwardly much as only Coury could. He seemed pretty shocked when I approached him for a photo. I told him who I was and he told me that he was very aware of KSR.
The pep rally really highlighted to me the vast difference between UK and Cornell basketball. Cornell wins 2 games in the NCAA tournament- a feat no Cornell team has ever done- and a handful of people show up to welcome them home. A few want pictures, even fewer want autographs. The crowd quickly dispersed. By Cornell standards, it was like this team won a national championship.
Contrast that with UK. If the Cats bring home #8 this season, no doubt a pep rally will be held in Rupp Arena with 24,000 screaming fans. It would be full of pomp and circumstance, speeches from coaches and players, thousands of pictures. Most fans wouldn’t have an opportunity to take a picture with John Wall or Patrick Patterson. Most wouldn’t come close to an Eric Bledsoe autograph. But that’s what makes Kentucky what it is. The most passionate fans in the country. At Cornell the standards (and interest) is markedly different. No better or worse, just different. But after seeing a pep rally that is put to shame by most Kentucky communities when the local school goes to the Sweet 16, it makes me proud to be a Kentucky fan. Go Cats!