“Look on my works, Ye Mighty, and despair.”
If Big Blue Madness is a religion, then today’s celebration at Rupp was an old-fashioned revival.
This wasn’t your regularly-scheduled, routine production. This was an impromptu celebration that was hosted more for spontaneous celebration than tradition. I won’t go so far as to call it hero worship, but maybe it comes close. The reactions of fans at Rupp was deafening; it was almost as loud as the game against North Carolina (I can’t speak for the Louisville game, because I wasn’t there). And for what? There were no surprises involved, and the whole thing lasted about half an hour. We knew what was going to happen, it has no effect on the outcome of last night or next year, and we turned out in droves (myself included).
The “why” is simple: we’ve been waiting for this for too long. Now that it’s happened, we don’t know what to do with ourselves. Things for our Wildcats had gotten a little ho-hum in the tournament over the years. That is, before we finally got some excitement last year with our first Final Four in over a decade. Last night that fourteen-year anticipation finally tipped over onto the streets (although some, for sure, had spilled over a little prematurely on Saturday), and absolute bedlam was unleashed on Lexington
From the audience belting the “usual” songs to start out (the C-A-T-S chant taking the usual place of, say Amazing Grace), to the clapping and standing every time somebody said something inspirational, all the way to the “bowing” when Anthony Davis’ name (or wingspan) was announced, today crossed the line from celebration to ceremony. The championship posters took the place of church bulletins. The elderly greeters were replaced by… well, elderly greeters. Kind of the same in that way.
And, of course, you can’t have a revival without an energized speaker. Today, Cal was borderline evangelical. He showed the kind of emotion getting off of the bus (in the form of a few elaborate fist pumps and kicks) that we hadn’t seen before. Even he knew that today wasn’t just a regular “service”, but really something more. Something more exciting, something more uncommon, and something more sacred.
It was a veritable Bluegrass Revival.
The excitement that pervaded Rupp today was matched only by the reverence shown toward those responsible for creating and maintaining the dogma that inhabits Kentucky basketball. From Barnhart to Weems, Beckham to MKG, everybody was caught up in the celebration. And, of course, Cal was comfortable being the Grand High Poobah.