It’s only practice, but this one is for the fans



Practice?  We’re talking about practice here.

To take the words of Allen Iverson, the only thing occurring tonight in Lexington is practice.

Yet, Rupp Arena will be dressed up for UK fans to cheer for the new favorite coach, the new freshman and hopes of possibly a Final Four this year.  So what makes tonight so special?

I’m not going to claim I’ve been to a record number of games, but I have seen my fair share of sporting events.

I sat in the stands at Commonwealth Stadium when LSU beat the Cats on a last ditch effort and then sat in the stands four years later when the Cats took down the top-ranked Tigers.  I’ve been to a Sunday at the Ryder Cup, where patriotism is at its finest.  I’ve been to a UK-Indiana game at Freedom Hall back when the rivalry was intense at every moment.  I’ve seen NCAA tournament games.

But, nothing compares to Big Blue Madness.

It’s just a practice, I know.  That’s the mindset I had when I went to Big Blue Madness for the first time last year.  I would stay up late and watch this glorified practice when it used to start at midnight.  It was basically the thrill of the fall during my childhood.  As a UK fan, you usually don’t have much to watch from the summer months to Oct. 15.

When I walked into Rupp, it had a different kind of feel from the beginning.  The first thing you notice is the set up.  Just like a normal experience at Rupp, you walk into the ramp and head to your seats.

As soon as you’re past the concrete walls and into the arena, you look up at the championship banners.

Your eyes scan. 1948 National Champions, 1949 National Champions, 1951, 1958, 1978, 1996, 1998.  You get your first chills of the night.

Yet, this is different.  You look around you and everybody is sitting on the edge of his or her respective seat.  For some, this may be their first UK basketball experience.  For others, this may be their only one of the season; the only opportunity to see the team they cheer on for six months out of the year.

And that right there is what makes this event so special: the fans.  It’s not the players, it’s not the coach, it’s not ESPN. It’s the fans.

Big Blue Madness provides the best crowd of the year.  It will be the loudest.  It will be the most excited.  It will last from 30 minutes before the event until the last ball is bounced and then it will last all the way into the parking lot.

The reason this will be the best crowd of the year is because it will contain every diehard UK basketball fan.  This is not an event for the rich and famous, this is an event for the fans.  I emphasize the word fans because those are the people who will walk through the blue doors and those are the people who will pack into the small blue seats like sardines.

They will not complain about rubbing elbows with the person next to them.  They will not complain about where their seats are.  They will not complain about their overcooked popcorn.  They are here to watch basketball and see the team they love.

An average fan is hard pressed to find tickets and afford tickets to a regular season game at Rupp Arena, so they look for opportunities to get inside and see their Cats.  This event is for those fans. It’s for those fans who camp out for days upon days in fall Kentucky weather just for the opportunity to see the basketball team in person.

On the surface, this may just be a practice, but to every fan in Rupp Arena tonight, this is their UK basketball moment.  It is their moment to say, “I was there,” their moment to show their team that they are playing for much more than just the name on the back of the jersey.