From Blue To Green and Everything in Between
Updated: Sep 11, 2019
I've heard it said that October is the Saturday of months and if you live in Kentucky, this definitely rings true. Nonstop fall activities, beautiful weather, as well as the craziness that surrounds the University of Kentucky's Big Blue Madness; there's something to keep you going every weekend. Leigh and I spent three days together having nonstop fun, so much that it made the return to projects and deadlines very difficult come Monday morning.
Let's start with Friday night and the event that actually starts weeks in advance and culminates with a frenzied evening of the craziest fans in all of college basketball coming to the hallowed ground of Rupp Arena. If you aren't a UK fan (and if you aren't, we need to talk), you may not know about BBM. Basically, NCAA rules prohibited college teams from officially practicing before the Friday closest to October 15th, so a tradition began wherein the first practice would be held at a few minutes past midnight. UK's tradition began in 1982 by Coach Joe B. Hall, and in 2013 the rules became more flexible allowing the event to occur a little earlier, thus morphing into Big Blue Madness. And madness is the correct way to describe it. People camp out a week in advance to get the coveted tickets. Small fortunes are made on Ebay and Craigslist for those willing to sell them. It's a big deal. I sadly confess that I had never been to one before, so last Friday's Big Blue Madness was a first for me and we did it in style!
Thanks to a very generous bud, Leigh and I not only got tickets, but got to do the whole thing first class. After arriving and checking in we were issued our official lanyards that let us and everyone else know, "Hey, there, we are VIPs!" I wish we could hand these out to everybody! We were then loaded onto a bus and driven around the block so we could walk the Blue carpet. (You simply cannot have a red carpet in the Big Blue Nation). Unfortunately, traffic was so bad that we only made it to the Triangle Park side of the building before my very smart cohort said, "We are not going to make it in time. We just need to get off and walk." This led to a coup among our fellow passengers and we quickly exited the bus and made our way up to the East High Street side of Rupp.
There on the outside of the entrance was a giant Blue carpet and UK backdrop. Photographers and journalists lined the sides and there were fans in the bleachers eagerly awaiting the arrival of not only the current teams, but also many former players, their families, and a couple of not-yet-famous bloggers. How exciting! Luckily, we didn't trip and made it safely across to the other side and in the doors where we were greeted by a hostess who then escorted us to the hospitality room. You all know how much we like to eat, so we were ecstatic to discover a bountiful buffet set up with turkey, roast beef and ham sandwiches, pasta salad, chips, caramel brownies and cookies! What a wonderful setting to relax a bit before the mayhem and chat it up with former players like Jeff Sheppard, Heshimu Evans, Cameron Mills, John Hood and Kenny Walker.
After finishing our delicious food, we quickly made our way to our seats amongst the thousands of other Cats fans and the night got even better! We saw head coach Matthew Mitchell show off his mad dancing skills, the ladies' basketball team get introduced, followed by a thrilling exhibition put on by our other source of Kentucky pride, the UK Cheerleaders who, by the way, have won 17 championships, more than any other Division 1A school. They did a stunning routine, making it all look so effortless! Then the lights came down and it was time for the men's basketball team to be introduced. A dazzling laser light show was projected onto the floor of the arena and the heart-thumping, emotion-procuring video began to play. Another really cool thing was everyone had been given lanyards that lit up with blue lights. So neat! The players intros came next and it was so fun watching how each player came out and what their reaction was to this massive crowd all clapping and cheering for them. Can you imagine what that must be like for a young person, many of whom are still teenagers? If they had been unsure of their decision to pick UK up to this point, I'm sure all doubt is erased right then and there. After everyone was on the floor, they introduced Coach Calipari and, of course, the crowd went nuts again! Someone remarked the other day how they think Coach Cal just "gets it", meaning that he understands the vital relationship between the history of UK basketball and the fans and how it is unlike any other program in college basketball. I have to agree with that statement. His speech was that of a commanding general issuing the inspiring speech before his troops launch into battle, making us all believe that with him at the helm we can do anything. At the conclusion of the speech he had all former players in attendance come down to the floor for a massive "La Familia" moment and photo-op. This was really special for me because even though I can't name a bunch of former players, I love the bond that they share and the love they have for one another, and all of that was on full display. And then, as if we could get even more pumped, Coach Cal announced the arrival of another very special guest who also just happens to love UK basketball, the rapper/singer/songwriter/actor, Drake! Anyone under the age of 30 went nuts as he came out sporting a "Kentucky Dad" sweatshirt, prompting me to say, "I didn't know he has kids!" Funny thing is he doesn't (at least that I'm aware of), so I'll need someone much younger and dope to explain that to me. Regardless of his parental status, he does enjoy the Cats as much as we do, even promising to come back and do a free concert at some point this year. The players all clustered around him getting their selfies with him and he was kind enough to stick around for the remainder of the evening. A class act.
Once everyone returned to their seats, the action continued with some light scrimmaging and several spectacular dunks, all of which were enjoyed by the crowd. I'm sure they were thinking what I was thinking. "Man, I can't wait for this season to get started so we can see some more of this!" Another championship on our horizon? WE BELIEVE! All in all, I can't think of a better night for the BBN and I was just sad that it has taken me this long to attend!
Still soaring from the high of Friday night, Leigh and I hit the road Saturday to travel north to Cincinnati to attend the musical "Wicked" at the Arnoff Center. This was a belated birthday gift from her and another good bud of ours, Jerri. (Do I have the best friends in the world or what?) Seeing "Wicked" has been on my bucket list for a while and so I was over the moon to be attending a performance with two of my fav people. Beforehand, we had a fantastic meal at Nicholson's which is directly across the street from the Arnoff. Great food, awesome location, and men wearing kilts! What more could you ask for? We finished just in time to hustle across the street and plant ourselves in the plush seating to await the opening number. "Wicked" is based on the 1995 book by Gregory Maguire and it's an alternate rendition of The Wizard of Oz. In this adaptation, we learn how Elphaba (Wicked Witch of the West) became green, what happened with the Tin Man and Scarecrow, and the origin of the flying monkeys. Originally starring Kristen Chenoweth and Idina Menzel in the title roles, the show has grossed over $1 billion on Broadway and is the second-highest-grossing show, falling just below The Lion King. The music, the spellbinding lighting and costumes, and the performances of the highly talented actors changed us all for the better. I hated to see the evening end! I honestly don't know of anything that can transport you to another place and time the way musical theater can. And how fortunate are we to have this caliber of theater not only in nearby Cincinnati, but also right here in Lexington and also Versailles? If you haven't gotten to take in a production at the Woodford Theater, by all means now is the time.
As you can see, this weekend was really quite remarkable! We went from the Blue carpet to the Emerald City, but there was so much more we could have done if only there was more weekend! I'm going to propose that we add an additional day to the weekend. It only seems right, especially if you are lucky enough to live in Kentucky where there is fun around every corner, especially in October!