(15) — Part of the excitement of the SEC Tournament every year is to try and catch glimpes of minor celebrities in attendance that we may be able to annoy or harass in some way. Usually that group only extends to the Chik-Fil-A “Legends” (for all of you waiting to see Gerald Glass in person), but occasionally can also include some other folks. One year we saw Mark Curry from “Hangin With Mr. Cooper” fame….one year we saw Isiah Thomas next to the Arkansas band, which he then proceeded to immediately ruin…and of course there was the year that we nearly got an EPO for our continued harrassment of Danny Ferry. But really for us, especially in the early years, the celebrities were whoever we saw that we might have one day known from television. One year we were trying to get rid of some early round tickets (there is no sense of self-delusion greater than the Kentucky fan who thinks he can sell his seats to the Thursday games for anywhere close to face value….watching these people is endlessly entertaining) and my friend Corey was trying to find a price which the market would bear. Seeing random people walk by, he tried to do the old sales trick of making it personal and thus when a Tennessee fan would walk by he would say, “Discounted tickets 10 bucks if you are a UT fan!” When that didnt work, he got a bit more personal and when a guy walked by with a Digger Phelps-esque 1930s hat he said, “Discounted ticket if you have a funny looking hat!” That however didnt work either and Corey was growing impatient when out of nowhere he saw Larry Conley walking towards the Arena….Larry at this time was on television almost nightly on ESPN and was a big star….and we were very impressed. But Corey didnt miss a beat, yelling “Discounted ticket 5 bucks if you were a Rupps Runt!” Conley stopped, looked back and smiled and handed Corey 5 bucks for the ticket….a very special moment…well at least until Corey blew the 5 bucks on Dippin Dots (“The Ice Cream of the Future” which simply wont get here already).
(14) — Everyone has their favorite random player from another SEC team. Maybe you liked the toughness of a guy Matt Frieje or the crazy accuracy of a “I’m Sorry” Chris Jackson (Ooh I am for real). But for the Kentucky Sports Radio crew, no one will ever beat Joey Waldrop. (pictured above). Waldrop was the king of awful and his performance at the SEC Tournament was so hideous that we still talk about it to this day. Not only did he have a body straight out of a Dunkin Donuts factory and a face that only a momma could love, but he also found a way to play even more awkwardly than he looked. Watching Waldrop drop a pass, fall down or throw it forty rows into the stands never got old….but no moment quite matched his famous free throw on a Thursday against Ole Miss. With the crowd of approximately 50 people watching on, Joey got fouled and went to the line. He awkwardly lifted the ball over his hand (exposing his knotted up armpit hair) and shot a free throw….which he missed….by two feet…..left of the goal. Think about all of the free throws you have seen. An occasional free throw will come up air ball short and it is rightly mocked. But have you ever in your day seen an air ball missed left? Probably not, and that is why Joey Waldrop will always be our #1 crush.
(13) — My first year with a press credential to the SEC Tournament was 2004 and it was an amazing experience. Getting to go behind the scenes of the event never ceases to be cool, but the first time was truly special. However that first day of 2004 will always be remembered by me for the moment I nearly saw Dale Brown die. While standing just a few feet from me in the backstage area, I heard a man yell for help, only to look down and see a pale Dale Brown lying on the ground. Realizing that he had passed out and this would be a good time to exit stage left, I quickly got out of the way as terrified people surrounded the fallen coach. There was a serious worry backstage that something bad had happened to him when he passed out, but he turned out ok….still yet, it was a bit of an odd experience. I was used to the Dale Brown back when I started in 1989, the one you yelled at and screamed to have kicked out while he was yelling at the referees coaching one of his underachieving teams. You didnt expect to see that guy collapse to the ground…but it just goes to show you, at the SEC, you never know.
(12) — The 2001 Tournament in Nashville contained a lot of heart-pounding moments and ended in a great Kentucky victory yet again. But the highlight of the trip for me may have been at the beginning, when I first arrived in Music City. AT that time Macon Vol Fan arranged for our accomodations and we were cheapskates….staying in hotels that often had barred up windows and coackroaches working as the Concierge. This particular year, Corey and I were to arrive early and Macon Vol Fan had set up the reservations at just such an establishment. He told me that when I checked in, I needed to be sure and mention his “coupon” that would get us a great rate….if I forgot, we didnt get the rate. So Corey and I arrived and checked in….only for me to immediately forget the “coupon.” As we registered the man said the room would be $49.95 a night (again big spenders). It then hit me that I had forgotten to mention the “coupon”….I looked at the man and said, “Oh yeah, I forgot to say that my friend said we had a coupon for the room.” The clerk looked at me and said, “Oh ok, let me see the new rate.” He then proceeded to do a number of calculations with a stern look on his face and looked up, without a hint of humor, and said, “that will be $54.95 a night.” There you have it….only a Tennessee fan could pull that off.
(11) — When you watch these players on television and follow their college careers, you often dont think about what happens to the guys when they finish their time at college. Such was the case for me with Arkansas star Todd Day. I knew Day had played some in the NBA, but when he left the Celtics I wasnt sure where life had taken him….well at least until the fateful day at the 2003 SEC Tournament in New Orleans when I ran into him at the famous Jambalaya place Mom’s. When I set down to eat the amazing food, I noticed Day was sitting next to me. Remembering him from his days at Arkansas, I said hello and noticed he had on a Razorbacks warmup suit. I asked him what he was doing now and he said he was doing some work with the team. I then had what to this day is one of the more depressing conversations I have ever had. A partial transcript:
Me: Man I remember those Arkansas-Kentucky games back in the day. They were so much fun. You guys used to bring great crowds to these tournaments.
Todd Day: Yeah those were the days. Back then basketball was great…now it just sucks.
Me: Oh yeah things arent great at Arkansas now, but it will get better.
Todd Day: Yeah maybe but maybe not. Are you in college now?
Me: No, law school.
Todd Day: Well enjoy it, because I tell you when school is over its all downhill man. Things just start piling up and it just aint fun like it used to be. You get problems wtih women, people be after your money. Man seriously life will start sucking for you soon….so enjoy it while you can.
Me: Ok Todd….well I gotta go.
If that is the attitude Todd Day has, imagine what Oliver Miller thinks….