It is only in the evening that one can see the true beauty of the day —Sophocles
Here it is New Year’s Eve, and for the first time in nearly four days, I am back at the Kentucky Sports Radio Compound trying to get life back to normal after the high that was the Music City Bowl. As many of you have noticed, the postings on the board have been slight in the last few days, mainly because we have just been having too much fun to be on the internet. And how did I spend this afternoon trying to top the weekend in Nashville? Well of course by watching the Richard Nixon funeral on C-Span. Sure it is New Year’s Eve (and yes I will go out tonight), but there is something about the combination of seeing Billy Graham, the most living Presidents ever in one place at one time and a rendition of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” that gets me every time. Its the red state in me….
But onto the game in Nashville. Folks, I have been to a lot of Kentucky football games in my lifetime…..some good, some bad, many frustrating, but the experience in Nashville was the best University of Kentucky football experience of my lifetime. They say the best gifts in life are those that are unexpected, and Saturday completely proved that to me. Most UK fans went into the game hoping for a good performance, expecting a loss to the much more talented Clemson team, and wanting desperately to simply have a good time. But from the first drive of the game, it was clear that UK had another goal in mind…..to win. With a crowd behind them that was likely 75% blue, the Cats took the early momentum of the opening drive and had the poorly manicured Titans Stadium rocking in ways that Commonwealth Stadium can only dream of.
Everything the Cats did was not always great….but it was always fun and uplifting. The ghost of Hal Mumme was resurrected with the fake punt call that not only left all the fans in the stands speechless, but clearly was the turning point of the game. UK introduced players to the big time that have either been forgotten or never even introduced. Guys like Demarrio Ford (Where Price Sells Cars!!!!) and Steve Johnson (who one Clemson fan lamented was “a recruit that we still cant get over we lost), stepped up in a big time situation and showed that the UK coaches used the extra practice time to utilize new players and new game plans….a hallmark of a top flight coaching staff.
But forget the time on the field….what I will remember about Kentucky’s first bowl win in 22 years is the atmosphere in and around Nashville. Kentucky fans were everywhere and had a giddiness about them that you just dont see for a University that is constantly expecting success in basketball and dreading losses in football. People were joyous in levels that I have only seen on one other occasion (when UK won the games in 1998 to take an unexpected basketball title), and the streets were literally abuzz. We did our show from the Hooters in downtown Nashville and people were chanting C-A-T-S hours after the game and approaching Mardi Gras-levels of jubilation. It was one of those occasions where you realize how much fun sports can be and how unexpected success is the true greatness of being a fan.
You know next year the load on the Cats will be tough. The expectations will be raised and the schedule is much harder. But forget that now. For now, focus on the fact that Friday in Nashville was one of those great times to be a Kentucky fan. We write much on here about the negativity of the fan base and how frustrating some of the hand-wringing can be, but we must give a shout out on this last day of the year to the best of the fan base. Friday was a great Kentucky sports day, and I have my ticket saved to commemorate it. Soak it up Cats fans…..days like this dont come along very often.