It’s been too long since society could kick back, relax, and get way too nervous and a little too competitive over the outcome of a game. Some sports – including NASCAR, the NWSL, horse racing and Korean baseball – have already made their return. Other sports – including the NBA and the MLB – have “finalized” their respective plans for a comeback. I use the word “finalize” loosely here – things could always change based on any drastic COVID-19 changes, of course.
Despite the present uncertainties regarding collegiate sports, I’m optimistic about the eventual return. Collegiate athletes are returning to campuses across the country (the UK basketball team began reporting to Lexington on Sunday), and various leagues and conferences are continuing to release their plans for getting athletes on the field and fans in the stands.
When that glorious day finally arrives, here are a few small things that will suddenly feel like a big deal again.
Fireworks after a touchdown at Kroger Field
Kentucky is far from the only school in America to shoot off fireworks following a touchdown, and maybe it’s just the Fourth of July spirit beginning to grow in me as the holiday approaches.
Regardless, I can’t help but think about the magic those fireworks create inside Kroger Field. The boom of the explosion, the roar of the stadium, the Wildcat attempting the one-handed pushups and the sea of waving pom-poms (even if the crowd is limited) will all receive a warm welcome from college football fanatics.
John Calipari has a tendency toward finding a few “buzz” words or phrases each season and becoming alarmingly loyal to them. Sometimes, it’s as simple as “tweak.” Other times, it may be “they aren’t robots” or “you people are crazy.” You’ve heard them all before and one day, we’ll hear them all again.
As someone who sits through almost all of Calipari’s press conferences – including the ones given post-game following wins and losses during basketball season – I’ve surely heard them all. The media members who routinely cover the Cats get so used to these phrases by the middle of the season, many of us roll our eyes or even laugh a little when Coach Cal repeatedly (and emphatically) gives us nearly-identical quotes week after week, game after game, regardless of the question he’s asked.
However, after going months without any new Cal-isms, I’ve come to miss them. I had a feeling there were going to be some truly cringeworthy ones during March Madness, and the BBN was robbed of their existence when the tournament was cancelled. Sure, Kentucky fans have gotten their fill of Calipari content thanks to his quarantine beard, his constant ZOOMing and his family’s hilarious social media posts, but it’s just not the same.
Matthew Mitchell’s “This is my town” entrance
Matthew Mitchell may be known for his annual Big Blue Madness introduction and dance, but there’s another entrance that is, in my opinion, even better.
If you’ve never been to a women’s basketball game inside Memorial Coliseum, you don’t know how cool this moment is each and every game day. The first time I saw Coach Mitchell walk onto Memorial’s court to the Montgomery Gentry track, I instantly had chills. It’s a fleeting moment, but it’s truly special to watch the head coach greet the BBN, wave at the crowd, soak in the cheers and then get to work in the huddle with his players, all while “Yeah, this is my town!” blasts throughout the building.
It’s something you have to see in person to really appreciate. With the roster Mitchell and his staff have ready for this coming season, a trip to Memorial to revel in the entire game day experience should be on every UK fan’s bucket list once sports resume.
For some (namely, Jay Bilas), it’s Rupp Arena ice cream. For others, it’s a Kroger Field hot dog. For KSR’s Drew Franklin, it’s the free coffee in the media room; for Jack Pilgrim, it’s the hot brown nachos from one of Rupp’s “cafes” (we don’t say concession stands anymore – UK is too fancy for that). Regardless of your preference, I think it’s safe to assume we’ll all be in a good mood when we can finally sink our teeth into another overpriced and (sometimes) underwhelming stadium snack. Sure, popcorn, pretzels and M&Ms typically taste the the same no matter where you eat them, but there’s something different about these items on a game day. It’s the tradition.
And who knows… With the budget deficit colleges across the nation are grappling with amid COVID-19 limitations, maybe alcoholic beverages will even be included on the menu this season.
These are fairly-small things, yes. But after months without sports, fans across the country have learned to never take the little things for granted anymore, right?
What are you most excited to experience again?