Bowl games are one of life’s little absurd treats that everyone should get a chance to experience. The premise harkens back to a much simpler time in our country. In the old days, traveling was not quite the common experience that it is now. Flying around the country used to be a privilege, accompanied by the wearing of suits, the glamour of being a flight attendant and the pervasiveness of lung-killing smoke on every flight. Thus bowl games were truly an honor to attend. Going to the Rose, Cotton, Sugar or Orange Bowls was a chance to take a trip across our great land and see sights that you may have never seen before and to give kids an experience unlike any other. If you made a bowl, that meant you were great and your fans could celebrate, all the way until the end of the 7-3 barnburner won on a triple wing fullback option.
But now things have changed. There are bowl games every few days in such unglamorous places as Boise, Idaho, Shreveport, Louisiana and downtown Detroit. The names are not short and sweet, but rather make little sense like the Champs Sports Bowl, the Insight.com Bowl and yes, the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl. But I dont lament these changes, rather I embrace them. For now bowl games are not the property of elite teams but can be had by fanbases of even the medicore. This year 64 teams got to experience the bowl hysteria and our fair Wildcats were one of those teams, for the second year in a row. The carnival ride of bowl experience is now a populist enterprise and I readily support the change. For if we all can have times like those over the last couple of days in Nashville, we all can be happier people.
I began the trip down to Nashville on Sunday, along with what seemed like every person with a car and a “K” flag in the state of Kentucky. I-65 on Sunday was like a neverending caution lap at the Bristol Motor Speedway, with everyone doing 35 miles an hour and waiting for the action to start. However in true Kentucky style, everyone took the long trip in stride, waving at fellow UK fans and giving a thumbs up to anyone who was wearing blue. I passed a car at one point that had a family of four singing at the top of their lungs to a song that I only could assume was Ricochet’s “Daddy’s Money” and another that saw one kid waving a Kentucky flag while his little brother stuck his tongue out at every passerby. It was a communal experience and somehow soothed the five hour drive from Louisville.
Arriving in Nashville, I was greeted by two sites in the Doubletree Hotel Lobby that say you are in a friendly place….a sea of Cat fans in dressed in Blue and Rob Bromley. Like paparazzi after Lindsey Lohan, I had a strange sense that Rob Bromley was on my tail the entire two days in Nashville. Everywhere I went there he was, hair perfectly combed and microphone ready to go inside the huddle. After checking into my room, I was accompanied by KSR blog writer extraordinare Mosley to the official “SEC Media Hotel”, which for this event was the Renaissance, home to what looked to be a convention of 15 year old girls yelling into their cell phones and competing for who could have the most fur on their boots. Mosley and I made it up to the Media Hospitality Room, where I was surprised to not be frisked and was handed my “complimentary gift” for coming to the game, which looked to me to be a Swiss Army Knife with a Music City Bowl logo. Excited about this find, I thought of all of the wood I could whittle and the cubicles I could trim when Mosley informed me that it was actually a USB drive that in today’s modern world functions as a “disk” where one can store computer files. Officially proving to myself once again that I am the most technologically illiterate person in America to run a moderately successful website, I shook my head and pouted on the way back to my hotel, stopping only to taunt the UK band for being awful.
After a night on the town that included an attempt by Eddie George’s sports bar to poison Mosley and another appearance by Rob Bromley in the Doubletree lobby (where he conceivably could have been working as a bell boy), we got up the next day ready for Music City Bowl action. But first was the important little detail known as the Kentucky basketball game against Florida International. As the crew went down the streets of Nashville, the only place we could find with the game was Hooters, which we are currently banned from thanks to Hubby’s makeout session with a Clemson Chancellor last year, thus we were forced to head to a little sports bar down the street where the game was being shown. Deprived of Dave Baker’s play by play, the game was a bit of a downer, but was made much more tolerable by the commentary of the fan sitting next to me at the bar, who I will call “Chuck.” From the beginning of the game, Chuck said that he believed this Kentucky team wasnt playing well because they “shot too much,” which struck me as an odd complaint, but one that I thought might be strangely brilliant. During the first few minutes, every three pointer taken by Jodie Meeks or Ramel Bradley was followed by a “see thats what I am talking about” mere moments before it would go in, at which he point he would say, “but you get my point.” While I didnt really get it, I nodded and asked him who he thought should be shooting. His answer was “the big guys….I would have Patterson, Carter and Coury take most of the shots. Layups are better than threes and you can quote me on that.” There I did….and it still doesnt make sense.
After the game was over, I made my way to the football stadium, along with other fans eager for the Bowl to begin. On my way over, I was generally amused by the large amounts of taunting going on between two fan bases that you would think would not have much natural aggression towards each other. Florida State fans, outnumber by quite a bit, seemed intent on defending their school’s honor against the good-natured jabs of Kentucky fans who, likely because of the alcohol consumed at their tailgates came up with repetitive, if not necessarily groundbreaking critiques. A sample interaction I heard went along these lines:
UK FAN: Hey Florida State guy….you guys got any players who dont cheat on their tests?
FSU FAN: Shut up and go back to your trailer park.
UK FAN: You’re just mad because your players cheat on their tests.
FSU FAN: Have you ever even been to a bowl game before?
UK FAN: Yeah, this one last year….and we didnt cheat on our tests to get there. And oh yeah, your coach is old.
FSU FAN: Shut up…..Kentucky…more like Kensucky. (the latter, an actual line I heard uttered).
Worried that I would get caught up in one of these verbal tussles (and thinking of no jokes I could use that would not involve Leonard Hamilton paying recruits), I decided to make my way onto the field for the game. Just writing that phrase is bizarre to me by the way. The notion that I would ever be on the field for a game is something that I would have never fathomed even a couple of years ago. I started this blog and the “radio show” (if you call me and Rob sitting at my desk in Lexington passing one headset back and forth while trying not to knock over my half-empty Mountain Dew bottles a “radio show”) with the notion that it would be a silly diversion from my law job and would allow me to make fun of Chris Tomlin on a more global scale. And now here I was walking onto the field at the Titans stadium, about to see the team obsession of my life play in a bowl game against the powerful Florida State program. It really was a bit overwhelming. But as I have learned in my forees into the media world, you have to act like you have been there before, so I immediately looked for a way to make my mark. Walking onto the field, I saw the Florida State wide receivers warming up and began a conversation with a guy with an “ESPN” t-shirt, who was standing there and looked moderately friendly. Pointing to Florida St WR D’Cody Fagg, I made my now standard joke, “When he gets to the NFL, I bet his jersey will be a huge seller!” The guy looked at me, gave me the half-smile that a hot girl gives to guys like Martin Newton when they hit on them and walked away, taking my dignity with him. I quickly decided that the game needed to start soon….
Part II of the journal comes tomorrow