I mentioned in my last post that this is one of the most exciting times of the year here in Lexington. I mentioned horse racing, football and golf but for a former basketball player and for the entire bluegrass it marks something else. Something that is more special than all three of those combined, the start of the new Wildcat basketball season kicked off by Big Blue Madness.
Big Blue Madness truly is a special event for many reasons. First, where do you see hundreds if not thousands of fans camp out weeks in advance to get tickets to a practice? KENTUCKY! Second, where do you see a practice moved from a nearly 9,000 seat arena to a 24,000 seat arena because we are just bad like that? KENTUCKY! Where do you see 24,000 fans over flow Rupp Arena to see the first practice of the new basketball season? KENTUCKY! Where can you see our beloved Mr. Wildcat and Coach Tubby Smith get out of a 1982 DeLorean? KENTUCKY! Things like this make Kentucky basketball what it is.
For a player playing at Kentucky I can tell you the experience is the exact same for us. Whether you grow up in Durham, North Carolina or Central City, Kentucky to hear the late Ralph Beard, Kenny Skywalker, and Jack Givens talk about their experiences at UK and how it has helped shape their lives in the same room is something special. Before we ran on the court at midnight each year Coach Smith would bring former cats in and have them talk about their experiences while at UK and to give us encouragement going into the new season. The stories these fellow cats shared will stick with me forever.
After we heard the stories and we laced up our new kicks it was time to hit the floor for the first time officially. There aren’t too many better feelings in this world than hearing your name being called by the Detroit Pistons PA announcer in Rupp Arena, B-O-B-B-Y P-E-R-R-Y.
Even though Midnight Madness was a lot of fun with the three point shootouts, dunk contest and the scrimmage, Coach Smith was still about business. He treated Madness as a real practice. The next day we watched film of the scrimmage and he critiqued us accordingly. Is this a little overboard? Some might say it is but it was Tubby and he was doing his Job. As student athletes we took it a little lighter because we knew that night was all about the fans…
The fans make Madness and thanks again and again for it every year! I’M OUT!