Like Megaman’s fight against Sigma, this one is for all the marbles. Unlike that fight against Sigma, there are no E-tanks.
This is the biggest game of your life.
That statement smacks of hyperbole, but I doubt it’s actually inaccurate for most people reading.
In 1998, when UK beat Utah, I was at my friend Justin’s house near Simpsonville, Kentucky, watching the game with our families. I was twelve years old. His dad, Mark, would hold up a “3” sign every time Cameron Mills (or anybody else) sank one from the corner, and yell at the top of his lungs. They had a Sega Genesis and all kinds of cool hunting stuff in their house that normally would occupy my time, but for those two hours I was transfixed to that television. The shouts that came when we were down big in the second half; the shouts that were even louder when Mills hit the layup to give the Cats their first lead late in the game at 60-58, those are things it’s hard for me to forget. Even fourteen years later, that game is something that has stuck with me.
My point with all that is this: make tonight special. Regardless of the outcome (because, don’t fool yourself, anything can happen), tonight’s game is maybe the biggest game that you can ever remember. You and I have both been reading myriad pre-game analyses (including this guy accurately describing UK as a “hydra”) and Gregg Doyel articles non-stop for the last day and a half, so we both know what’s up from a basketball-standpoint. But as someone who got to experience our last championship game during formative years, I’ll tell you it’s important to go out of your way to be around people you care about tonight. Seriously. Watch it somewhere you’ll never want to forget about. For me, that’s with my friends at the Baptist Student Center on 429 Columbia. If you don’t have anywhere to watch the game yet, feel free to join me there. There will be tons of UK fans present so you can hide if you need to. But really, find somewhere that people will take it as seriously as it deserves.
This game game is really more than just one game; it’s a decade and a half of waiting before hearing your number called. Please don’t watch it just anywhere. If you have to leave work early, I say go for it. If it means skipping a class, I promise you’ve skipped for worse reasons (like it being too cold out, or Alf reruns are on). Give tonight with the gravitas it requires. The nervousness and dire circumstances of the semifinal with Louisville are out of the way. All that’s left is forty minutes of, hopefully, the best basketball we’ve played all season.
Make no mistake: our number has been called. This is the defining game for my generation of Kentucky fan. Treat it accordingly.