For as long as I can remember, I have had a love for Kentucky basketball. I guess it came from just living in my household. We, as kids, learned early on you better be quiet when Adolph Rupp came on TV or the radio, or there was any mention of the University of Kentucky basketball team. If you weren’t quiet, you might become the recipient of some form of discipline from my father. However, as a result of having to listen to games, I became a fan myself.
My first time to go into Memorial Coliseum for a UK game was one of the biggest thrills of my life. For my father, it was a sense of pride when he could take the whole family to the game. For me, I was in awe of all the blue and white. I also remember we smuggled our own popcorn in by way of my mom’s purse, so Daddy only had to buy us each a drink to go along with it. Of course, UK won the game to cap off the experience for us. We kept smiles on our faces for hours after the game.
Since that day, I can’t count the times I have gone to UK games, and I have to say, there is nothing like being in Rupp Arena when the National Anthem is being played and the anticipation is looming for the game ahead. There is an excitement there that can’t be bottled or felt outside of Rupp Arena. The atmosphere is like electricity flowing through the crowd of fellow Kentuckians who love the game.
I have to say I am one of those people who does not want anyone to say anything bad about Kentucky basketball. I can’t stand to hear a commentator say anything negative about our players. I also do not like for anyone I am watching the game with to say anything negative about the team. I will go to another room and watch the game alone if my husband says something about my favorite player, or if I don’t like the comments of someone else in the room. I don’t like a lot of talking going on during the game, either.
Commentators usually do have to say Kentucky has the best fans anywhere. I’m always thinking, “You’re right about that.” I think I will never forget the names of the team members, but I have been shocked to not be able to remember them when a few years go by. Some I will never forget, no matter how many years go by.
Several years ago, my brother Raymond taught navigation at the University of Florida. My older brother, Robert, took my Dad down to his house when Kentucky played Florida. I also got to go down to the game and my brother saw to it that we got to get in on Kentucky’s practice before the game and visit the team one-on-one. That was a thrill my Dad never forgot and he talked about it forever after that. I will never forget the smile on his face as he hung on every word the players spoke to him. Of course, my brother had made sure we had great seats. My dad died about two years later and I still think that was one of his happiest nights.
On several occasions, I have become too involved in the game and have had to walk away from the close ones for my own health for a minute or two. A close game can get my heart pounding and I am sure my blood pressure goes up, too.
How about the excitement Kentucky gave their fans by winning the Southeastern Conference and beating Florida handily this past weekend? Only until the last minute could I relax, even though we were well ahead. I was thrilled with their win.
I was not happy with the NCAA Tournament selection committee for giving Florida a No. 2 seed and Kentucky a No. 4 seed. We have beaten Florida twice this season, and several other teams in the tournament who were given higher seeds than we were. As a UK fan, I was not a happy camper. I just hope we show them how good we can be in that tournament. I have often thought since Kentucky has had such a winning history that the whole world wants the other team to win. I think that is almost proven because the arenas in which they play away games don’t even fill their seats during the season until they play Kentucky. They have full houses then.
Another thing I have been upset with is that a Kentucky basketball player gets pounded on like he is in a boxing match. They have to be tough to be a Kentucky Wildcat.
One of the things I have noticed, however, is that the players retain a love for the state of Kentucky and Kentucky basketball, and one of the things I have also noticed is that, when they are interviewed, they usually mention the Wildcat fans.
I know some people couldn’t care less if a game is on, but I have loved every season of Kentucky basketball, and I do think I must bleed blue from November to March, or through April if they are in the NCAA tournament. They are again this year so, go Big Blue! Go Cats, all the way to the Final Four. You can do it — make Kentucky proud!
I promise I will be cheering you on.