I awoke last Friday morning in a haze. You know, that certain surreal state of confusion you find yourself in when you just come out of a dream, still unsure if you’re actually awake. Usually, it’s quickly squashed by the bitter reality that I’m not really on a yacht with Jessica Biel and the girl who played Topanga on Boy Meets World. No, this time the sleepy stupor stuck with me even after I’d gone to brush my teeth and peed that unpredictable morning stream. The vividness was ripe, the emotion potent. For that night my dreams encompassed, in the handy form of a montage, my trials and tribulations as a life-long Kentucky Football fan.
Making a cameo was Bill Curry, and his “gripping” brand of option ball. My first memories at Commonwealth are filled with biting autumn evenings, 3rd and long fullback dives, and that unmistakable waft of Kentucky bourbon. My dream took a nightmarish turn as visions of Marty Moore in the Peach Bowl came to the forefront. There was Pookie Jones and Doug Pelphrey boldly steering UK to a scintillating 6-3 win over a dreadful Vanderbilt team in the sleet; risking hypothermia for a game with nary a touchdown. Not a moment too soon, I was taken back to my seat in Commonwealth the day Weurful in and Doering erased an apparent insurmountable lead in the closing seconds, only to see Chris Leak and company repeat the heart extracting procedure ten years later. The nightmare continued, with scenes of a college freshman poised to storm the field after watching Artose Pinner bull his way through the LSU defense en route to an upset…almost. The Chase Harp fumble against Tennessee? It was there. So too were the heartless executions administered by the likes of Spurrier and Fulmer. As was the botched Matt Mumme hold on a potentially game winning field goal against Georgia, the losses to Ohio and SW Louisiana St, the 7OT shootout loss to Arkansas, and last year’s final series debacle at Neeyland. I had indeed witnessed in the flesh things that would render most men insane, at the minimum push their allegiances elsewhere.
All of a sudden, the clouds parted and gave way to a remarkably un-seasonal mild winter day in Nashville, when Kentucky finally etched their name onto a Bowl trophy. As quickly as it had been inundated with sorrow, my dream morphed into grandiose visions of Couch to Yeast, Woodson and Burton. That’s when I awoke that Friday morning, eight hours away from Lexington, and packing my bag for the uncertain trek to redemption.
No ticket, no plan, no gas. All I knew was the team I had suffered for all these years finally had a shot against the team I most detest, and I had to be there see it. I wasn’t alone on my journey; I had my angelic conscience riding shotgun telling me I had to witness this impending victory to eradicate the tumultuous demons of yesteryear. However, a devilish creature managed to slip into the backseat, whispering noxious promises of a wasted, humiliating, and costly venture, quoting the lines from my “Anatomy of a Card Fan” post with mocking glee.
I arrived at the stadium early that Saturday heartily sipping suds as the whiplash inducing Kentucky girls poured in like it was their jobs; and you know what, it is their job. If the Registrar had been at our tailgate I would’ve enrolled in graduate school on the spot. It was a perfect day of cold beer, trite Rudy quotes, and unfamiliar hope. Still without a ticket or the necessary coin to make a legitimate run at a scalper, I hatched a plan to perch myself near the sloppiest of drunks, hoping their blood would be poisoned to the point of slumber, their ticket now free game. But I couldn’t risk it. As kickoff approached even the pants pissers were crawling towards the stadium. Luckily, perhaps fatefully, a Pledge from my old fraternity offered up his student ticket for $45 over face…I didn’t hesitate, even though I knew it would mean another week of strictly PB&J and cereal. The transaction was made, I thanked the Pledge and decided that I’d let him live another night. I yanked my expired but forever effective Student ID from my wallet, and it was on.
You’dve thought I was a well-intended beggar boy walking into a Chocolate Factory as my buddies and I rummaged for our seats. The atmosphere was awing, forecasting the magic set to unfold betwixt these loveless walls. Throughout the affair my nauseating sense of history all too often overshadowed the fact that I was watching a sensational game. Then Steve Johnson crossed that endzone, and as the fans set their sights on the goalpost, I set mine on the clock: 28 seconds. Ample time for another nightmare. When the final tackle was made, my boxers soiled from the completion, I took my place on the field, with the winning team, accompanied by thousands of Big Blue faithful and my half dream/half reality haze.
Being there to cherish the blissful win was truly vindicating. However, my thoughts turn to Arkansas and what is now the most important game of the season. See, I’ve been observing the fans of quality football teams all these years, and I’ve learned that each week can be a season maker or breaker. The emotional high from the Louisville game will forever linger, but is only as important as next week’s result. 3-0 is sweet, 4-0 divine.
Saturday night Sunday morning, I laid my spinning head down on the pillow. There would be no recollection of my dreams this time, Jagermesiter would surely see to that, but there didn’t need to be; for, I was there that Saturday.