Don’t lose hope, UK fans: sports still exist

By James Pennington

Summertime is a great time for sports. Whether you are a Major League Baseball fan, a European soccer fan, an Olympic synchronized swimming fan, or a fan of just about anything in between, there’s a good chance you’ll get your fill before the summer is up.

However, UK athletics nuts are not in the same situation.

UK may field 22 exciting, high-quality sports each year — and each of those programs is equally deserving of its dedicated followers — but the summer months can be slow for ravenous Big Blue groupies.

As a thirsty off-season sports fan, I’ve found that there are two ways to quench your thirst until the fall semester begins. One choice is to sit at home and refresh every 10 minutes, in hopes that you’ll be the first to read about the next big break in basketball recruiting.

Have fun with that.

The other option I’ve discovered may seem radical to some and treasonous to others: go out and enjoy the region’s other sporting events, even though UK isn’t involved.

Shocking, I know.

Although there’s nothing that can quite replace cheering on the Cats, great sporting events are happening all over the place. Here are a few of my favorite suggestions to quell your sports craving (within a reasonable drive) for the next few months:

  • Lexington Horsemen football vs. Green Bay Blizzard
  • Saturday, July 12
  • Approximate drive: 5 minutes

The Horsemen, members of the arena football league, are one of the newest fixtures to Lexington’s sports scene. However, Horsemen games are swiftly earning the approval of sports fans across the city. The field, located at Rupp Arena, is only 50 yards long, so the points add up very quickly, and the hits are hard and unforgiving. What’s not to enjoy?

  • Lexington Legends baseball
  • All summer long
  • Approximate drive: 10 minutes

Nothing in sports can replace a good, old-fashioned minor league baseball game. The fun, relaxed atmosphere of Lexington’s Applebee’s Park is a great way for an undergraduate to get away from his long, hard summer day of sleeping in and watching “SportsCenter” re-runs. Seeing a Legends game is an entertaining, inexpensive way to spend a free evening.

  • Churchill Downs Spring Meet
  • Any Wednesday-Sunday until Sunday, July 6 (closing day of Spring Meet)
  • Approximate drive: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Still sore from losing all that money on Big Brown? Can’t wait until Keeneland’s fall meet in October? Head on up to Churchill Downs. It doesn’t quite match the atmosphere of Lexington’s big track, but the beautiful weather will more than suffice.

  • Cincinnati Reds baseball
  • All summer long
  • Approximate drive: 1 hour, 30 minutes

The last-place Reds may not be a great draw this year, but judge a trip up to Great American Ball Park based on the Reds’ starting pitcher for the night. No matter whose birthday it is or which of your relatives is getting married that night, make the trip on a whim if you have the chance to watch Reds starter Edinson Volquez. The pitcher leads all of baseball in ERA and strikeouts, and is an early-season favorite for the Cy Young Award.