I moved to Kentucky in elementary school. At such a young age, one would think the transition to a new city would be easy. For me, it was not. I liked my old friends at my old school in my old town, and I had absolutely no interest in acclimating to this strange place called Lexington. My mom saw this, and knew exactly how to help — UK Basketball.
Although I don’t remember who UK played or know the final score off the top of my head, I vividly remember my very first game in Rupp Arena. The excitement of the introductions, the dance team’s halftime performance and the cheering of 23,000 lifetime fans — it was enough to get me hooked.
What I haven’t mentioned, however, is exactly where these seats were. These seats — the seats that have become my happy place since 2006 — are located in Row Z. Let’s make one thing very clear: upper level Row Z. I’m talking ten rows from the top, Row Z. Please don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining! I love my seats, and I’m more than grateful to have a ticket at all. Let me explain.
For the past ten years, I’ve made the hike up those incredibly steep stairs. I’ve stared at the ground, hoping the people around me wouldn’t notice how incredibly out of shape I was as I started breathing heavily by the time I made it to Row L. Once I made it to the top, I would have just a few minutes to sit down and eat my hot dog before the introductions began. It’s true what they say — the real fans are at the top.
Let me tell you, Row Z knows how to watch a basketball game. I know my passion for UK basketball, and probably sports in general, stemmed from my love for cheering on the Wildcats from the nosebleed section. As a kid, I didn’t let the location of my ticket prevent me from being another crazy UK fan; I still danced during the “What’s Your Favorite Color, Baby” song even though I knew I would never make it on the jumbotron, and I still had a piece of me that truly believed the cheerleaders would be able to throw a t-shirt all the way up to our row. Every player, from Tyler Ulis to Anthony Davis, looked tiny, and there’s something crazy about being able to hear Coach Cal’s roars all the way up in the rafters.
But it wasn’t all fun and games.
On November 7, 2007, UK Basketball broke my heart for the first (but unfortunately not last) time. A stunning exhibition loss to Gardner-Webb under first-year head coach Billy Gillispie rocked fans everywhere, but a ten-year-old Maggie was more than crushed. My mom tried to convince me to leave before the game ended, but I refused. When the final buzzer went off, fans began exiting the arena. Obviously, Row Z was not the first row to get to leave, so there I sat — ten rows from the top, bawling my eyes out. Sports aren’t always fun.
That ten-year-old girl grew up, and I am now a freshman at the University of Kentucky. Although I would be lying if I said I haven’t cried over UK Basketball since that horrible loss in 2007, there has definitely been an improvement since Billy G was replaced by Calipari. As a student, I try my hardest to get tickets to the games, but I didn’t win the most recent lottery, so I have not yet experienced a game from the student section. Lucky for me, my mom offered to let me come to the game against the Duquesne Dukes with her, just for old time’s sake. So tonight, in just a matter of minutes, I will be back in Rupp Arena, cheering my heart out from the very top. Go Cats.