When college basketball season rolls around each year, there are a couple of things that I look forward to more than others. Number one, of course, is a Kentucky win. The sun shines a little brighter every time the Cats get a victory. Not much farther down on that list, however, is a Duke loss and when the two come together–when a Kentucky win is responsible for a Duke loss–well, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Duke was the first real test for this UK team and they passed, without even playing to their full potential. Give Cal a couple more weeks and the product could be scary good. I like our team.
And I also like Chicago. Like, a lot.
We came into the city a little bit after rush hour the night before the game. I haven’t lived anywhere outside of Kentucky and am always struck by the sheer size of big cities when I’m in one. After driving around for a bit we stole some Wi-Fi from a Starbucks and then found a local Target parking lot to crash for the night (shout out to Target for not kicking us out in the middle of the night).
UK fans go hard and early. The Chicago alumni club pregame party started around eleven in the morning at The Ogden, which is a couple of minutes walk from the United Center. We walked up to the bar, which sported blue flags that read “Big Blue Nation” hanging up outside, around 2 pm. The place was probably half full at this point, and 99% of the people there were UK fans.
As the game drew nearer, The Ogden continued to fill up until any hope of personal space was long gone. The place was loud with Cats cheers, the UK fight song over loudspeakers, and a couple hundred fans singing along.
About 45 minutes from game time, when people started to trickle out of the pre-game party and head to the United Center, we left for The Pony Inn, which is where the Chicago Alumni Club holds their watch parties for UK sports. We spoke with a couple of the Alumni Club members and they all spoke very highly of the establishment, praising the way the bar went all out to support the Cats on game days.
When we walked in about ten minutes before game time, there were already about thirty people in UK blue at the bar and sitting at the tables. The Pony really is a great place to watch sports. It is one long, spacious room with many different places to sit. Each booth has its own flatscreen TV and there are seven or eight larger ones spread out on the walls around the room. When you walk in, the bar is on your left and almost runs the entire length of the room. It probably has room for about 20 people to sit/stand comfortably.
We watched the game with about 30 UK fans at The Pony, but when there is a big UK game that isn’t at the United Center the place fills up and spills onto the street. It’s the place to be in Chicago to watch UK games, basketball or football.
It has been a good week to be a UK fan (okay, minus Vandy). A couple five stars and a win against the Dukies. Hopefully that is the preview to a great season that ends in number nine. Thanks to the Chicago Alumni Club, the guys at The Pony and The Ogden for a fun couple of days.