It was one of those weekends in Lexington. As the air made it feel like fall for the first true time, it was a great 24 hours of UK sporting events on Friday and Saturday. Kentucky played host to the largest campout crowd in the history of its Midnight Madness celebration, followed by the arrival of the #3 team in America into its football stadium. I attended both events and enjoyed both immensely, often for strange reasons. Because there is very little in the way of news from Sunday (unless you count the fact that I couldnt hate “E”‘s character from Entourage more no matter how much you paid me), I give you a Top Ten list of moments from the weekend:
10. Fan Excitement: Allow me initially to be just a tad bit cheesy. The fan atmosphere at Memorial was one of the cooler UK fan experiences I have had in recent years. While Dave Ragone did make me laugh a bit with his take on UK fandom on our radio show Sunday morning, I will always come back with the fact that the passion of those fans is what makes the program great. Outside Memorial, the fans had a collective giddiness that I cant remember seeing in quite some time. Person after person came up to me and showed off their autographed basketballs, milk jugs, Mustangs and body parts (word for the future, if you are a man dont have Ramon Harris sign your chest). Kids talked about meeting their heroes and old UK fans commented that no group of UK players had ever been nicer. No matter what else came from the events this weekend, many players gave a number of fans the time of their lives, and that is UK basketball.
9. Blogger Contestants Strike Gold: This was also the first Matt Jones introduction to three of the four final Blogger contestants. While many wonder when the contest will end (answer: 2012), the three finalists are enjoying their time in the spotlight. Jared Quillen provided us all with pictures and stories from the event all week and his long-suffering wife looked at me at one point with the ubiquitous “I am going to smile at you but I hate you because you make my husband ignore me” look that has become commonplace for me. Will Lentz and Patrick Barker both showed me that they have the same snarky “we make fun of the world, while acknowledging our overall dorkiness” mindset that pervades all of us on the site. It was good meeting all three and it makes it harder to inevitably have to show some of them the door. The time with them was best captured by an unnamed Wildcat fan who looked at Will Lentz and said to me (in all seriousness), “does he work at the Hustler store?” A question we will all ask ourselves for some time.
8. Eli Gold Still Gets it Done: I am slowly getting to the point that I dont get star struck around celebrities. I do find known people interesting, if for no other reason than to see what they are “really like”, but I dont get nervous talking to them anymore, in large part because I know that at one point I was nervous talking to Alan Cutler, which couldnt be more absurd. But Alabama play by play guy Eli Gold still did it to me Saturday. I loved his voice on old TNN Nascar races and I still think he sounds like college football. I spoke to him, called him sir and whimpered away like a little child, happy to have met one of my broadcast heroes. I quickly looked over and saw Rob Bromley waxing his eyebrows and got snapped back to reality, but for a minute it was great to be star-struck again.
7. Cal being Cal: I will be the first to say it, but it is true. Cal is sort of ridiculous. Whether he is speaking, tweeting, signing or promoting, Cal has some absurd traits. But then again, we are ridiculous and there is no doubt he is a perfect fit for this place. He stood up on a golf cart Friday night and said that we were all crazy and he was giving us all pizza. He then signed autographs for well over an hour, played cornhole with the masses and slept in a tent. All the while, his hair was perfectly coiffed and he had a huge smile on his face. He really is the perfect coach for UK off the court and I give him nothing but an “A” for his effort this weekend…although I still dont know what his Tweets from the Italian restaurant meant in the “Cal to English” translation.
6. Demarcus with the Bearhug: Demarcus Cousins is a large man. You may not know this about me, but I am not little as I am around 6’4″ when not wearing heels. But Friday night, after saying hello to Cousins, he turned around and put his arm around me (in a moment captured in a picture below) and I wondered if my time on Earth was up. As it turns out, Demarcus wanted to tell me why he favored “Big Cuz” as a nickname, tell me about the weekend as a whole and mention his thoughts on the site (“you boys are all crazy”). He was laughing and joking the whole time, but not until he let me out of his embrace did I feel completely safe. Big Cuz is a big man and I think I am on his good side…I pity those who are not.
5. Maggard’s Minion’s Strike: I used to say that in my entire time doing the blog, no matter how bad people might talk about me or the site online, no one has been rude to my face. That changed Friday night. While watching the KSR Cornhole Tournament finale, someone called my name and I turned around, only to apparently get in the way of a blond woman taking a picture. The woman then looked at me with a heavy amount of country sass and said, “could you get out of the wayyyy? I am takin a picture here!” I was a little stunned and smiled and said “ok, can I stand over here? I mean this is our tournament but I dont want to be in your way.” She replied, “I dont know who you is, but you are in my wayyyyyy,” A mini-crowd grew next to us and one of the blogger finalists (Patrick I believe) said, “I think she may be related to Maggard.” Then a young guy complete with pale skin, a line beard, hat askew to the side and drooping sweatpants (often called the “UL fan” look) turned around, grabbed his crotch area and said, “we aint related to him but I can tell you this, his site kicks yours’ ass and that is fo sure!” The woman with him gives him a high five and then screams out “hell yeah it does, TBK is where I roll dont you know.” I honestly couldnt help but laugh at the scene and looked at the guy and looked he and his wife beater the best of luck. It was beyond surreal and still makes me laugh to think about it….I do know this that if ever asked, the words, “TBK is where I roll dont you know”, followed by a crotch grab, will be my answer to all future inquiries.
4. Booing Nick Saban: Nick Saban did a fake field goal at the end. He probably shouldnt have done it and many thought he was running up the score or breaching football etiquette. In the media room afterwards, the writers all debated whether it was or was not in bad taste, but the fans made their voices clear. A group stayed behind and as Saban ran into the visitor’s locker room, the booed loudly. I heard one person scream, “Saban is a jerk and yeah I said it!” I couldnt tell if tears fell, but it had to have hurt him deeply.
3. Lones Seiber: Lost in a lot of the hub-ub surrounding the weekend activities was the fact that Lones Seiber broke the school scoring record by kicking two 49 yard field goals that were both career highs. Seiber as you know, has been a blog favorite for sometime, at least since I saw that he plays football with not one, but two earrings in his ear. We have had Lones’s girlfriend on here a number of times and Seiber for Heisman has been shouted by more than one KSRer at more than one game. As I walked onto the sidelines near the end of the game, I walked by Seiber, who was doing some practice kicks into the net. I touched his shoulder pad and said “Congrats on the record.” Seiber looked up and smiled and said, “Emo.” We love Lones Seiber.
2. Pickup Basketball on the Blue Courts: The best scene of the weekend was clearly the pickup game played Friday night on the Blue Courts with six UK players and a number of fans. While I have read some fans trying to make legitimate basketball judgments based on the game (“That Eric Bledsoe showed me he can get to the rim”….yes on a 6th grader), I was just impressed with the greatness of the atmosphere. Cousins, Wall and Bledsoe all did crazy dunks for the fans and all of them let kids take them one on one in ways that they will remember forever. Add to it the fact that the band was playing in the background and fans completely encircled the court and it was one of those “had to be there” moments that will remain in future lore.
1. Patrick Patterson is Still #1: Finally, with all the talk about Wall, Cousins, Bledsoe, Orton, Hood and Dodson, people all too often forget about Patrick Patterson. I have said this on here before and I will say it again, P-Pat will go down as an all-time UK legend before he is done and in my view, with a Final Four or national championship, could find himself behind only Jamal Mashburn in post-probation UK lore. But beyond all that, he is just a great guy. He came up to us at the campout and I introduced him to Drew Franklin and the Blogger contestants, and after some small talk, our friend Rick from Wildcat Nation took the picture below. He then asked me with a straight face, “so how is our man Jai?” I laughed and said he would know better than I and he told me he talked to him last month. As a girl came up to take his attention and the group walked away, he said to me, “keep blogging, my mom reads it.” That we will do.
More all day long, as we get ready to take down Spurrier and his visor this weekend….