It was a great night.
Rather low-key in terms of Madness, but between Coach Mitchell stankin’ and Drake shootin’ and Anthony Davis interruptin’ Cal and the cheerleaders jumpin’ and – oh yeah – Skal and Jamal showin’ us they were for real on the court, it was a great time.
The disappointment of the three-point loss to Auburn Thursday night was just about over for me. Because of a lovely friend of mine, my wife and I were in the house that next night for Big Blue Madness, and the prospect of another Final Four in basketball had perked me up.
It was awesome.
At the end of the event, my wife and I made our way down to the court. Advice: Listen to Matt Jones. Act like you belong, and you will get in. We mingled with the folks on the floor and low and behold I found myself face to face with the man in charge: UK Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart.
As a journalist I’d never seen the man outside of professional situations before. I re-introduced myself and my wife and I told him I needed to say something.
He stopped, and like the nice guy he is, gave me his undivided attention.
That’s when I thanked him.
With the crowd around us still buzzing and players high-fiving fans, I told Mitch I appreciated what he’d done to get us to this point.
The recently named AD of the Year just smiled and shook my hand. He said he appreciated that – but his smile faded for a moment.
“You know, we let one get away last night, one I wish we could’ve gotten,” he said, referring to the Auburn football loss.
The pain in his voice was real, still there after more than 24 hours. He shook his head. The man is competitive for sure. And you could tell in that moment how much he cared about UK sports and his coaches – and how much he wants to win for his fans.
It made me appreciate him even more.
I told him that it’s a testament of how far we’ve come that we can feel so bad about not beating Auburn. Because we knew we should’ve won – it shows UK football is a player now in the SEC. And that is commendable.
And that’s what I said.
He seemed to take it in, but he wasn’t satisfied. We talked for a few minutes more and I tried to convey how much I appreciated his work.
At no time in my life have UK’s sports teams been as respected or competitive – from men and women’s basketball on down to that outstanding rifle team.
There are other AD’s across the country who do wonderful jobs, but not with the professionalism and humility of ours at UK. I wouldn’t want anyone else in that position.
So many times these days, people only talk when they’re upset, when they disagree with what’s going on. Call it Facebook syndrome. I know it as a journalist – few times do you hear someone compliment your work.
I’d like to change that. I like people to know when I appreciate them.
So I was glad I got to say it to Mitch Friday night.
In short, I hope other fans feel the same way – and I hope that, if they get the opportunity, they’ll tell him the same thing.
We’re lucky, and it’s time we start showing it.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know. Hit me up @rhinoKSR and check me out on the web at ForRyanOutLoud.com.