Today was the first day I could really feel it. Since the day Calipari was hired, I knew that the Big Blue Nation was excited and I found myself salivating at the possibilities of what was to come for Kentucky basketball. I knew that Kentucky was back and that the next ten years were going to be dynamic for UK basketball and bring the excitment back to my Commonwealth. But today was the first day that I really started to get excited myself. Maybe it was the pictures of the tents, the players interacting with the fans or the random Werewolf guy above, but today was the first day that I really got basketball spirit in my bones.
It is no secret to anyone that reads this blog that I am a Kentucky basketball guy first and foremost. When I was at Duke, lived in DC, studied in England, etc, if you asked anyone to name some tidbit about me, they would have told you that I was obsessed with Kentucky basketball. For these poor people for whom college basketball did not hold its rightful place at the forefront of their daily thoughts, the fact that I could name the starting lineup, NCAA Tournament result and teams defeated for each UK team since 1975, was a source of continued amusement as they collectively shook their hands as my consistent passion. However since I have returned to the Bluegrass state and my daily life has been subsumed in part by this blog, that passion hasnt lessened, but it has been a bit buried beneath the daily grind of making blog posts, yelling at Brian the Intern and angering local media members. I am still a huge fan, but the pseduo-media side of me occasionally makes me forget that passion and it is only on special nights (such as when Jodie went for 54) when I channel my inner child to yell, clap and scream as a fan.
However, today was a bit different. When I was a kid, I used to count down the days until the Cats Pause Yearbook came out with all the UK info buried within it for me to consume….today it came out. As a child, I had a calendar in my room in which I would cross off the days until Midnight Madness and get ready for the season to begin…today I realized we were 16 days until kickoff. And most importantly, I would watch and envy those who were camping out at Memorial Coliseum for tickets and think to myself, “man I wish I could be there so I could catch a glimpse of a player”…and today the pictures came in and that feeling came back again. Today was the first day that made me really feel like college basketball is back…and specifically Kentucky basketball is truly back.
As if we didnt already know, today showcased why Kentucky basketball is great. You have Wildcat Rick first in line for tickets for the 8th year in row and proud of his accomplishment yet again. You have fans and students surrounding the sight of so many of UK’s past glories with tents and a collective celebration to get tickets to what is essentially a glorified practice. You have players embracing the fans in ways that I havent seen in a long time, coming out and playing cornhole, signing autographs and interacting in ways that go beyond just carrying pizza to the masses (as occurred annually at Duke). And you have fans sending me scores of pictures and emails chronicling the event and asking for more to come and join them on site. In no place in America do you get that type of passion for college basketball or just about anything else…and it is exciting to see.
This is going to be a special year. The combination of a new head coach, a tremendous Freshman class, the return of a future UK legend (P-Pat) and a fanbase that is desperate to be on top again makes it certain that this will be a year to remember. I have always known that rationally, but today was the first day I felt it with a passion. There is a reason that literally thousands will end up sleeping on pavement Friday night to get tickets for the big show in two weeks. It is because this is the start of something special and everyone knows it. Over the next six months, we are going to be here to chronicle it and do what we have always tried to accomplish…become a channel for coverage of the team from a fan perspective. In many ways, today started that process. Get excited and if you can at any point make your way to Memorial Coliseum, do it…you will be glad you did.
More all day…..