November 2002. Oh, we've all been tailgating for a while and this LSU game is over, I think. Good job 'Cats. I'm gonna sneak on out, pick up some beer, and have people over for a post-victory party. That one didn't quite turn out the way I planned. Some miracle.
December 2006. My beau and I are newly engaged and joining in the Music City Bowl festivities. We walk from our downtown Nashville hotel amidst friends and fans, jubilant in the experience of our first bowl game in six whole years, y'all. As we enter the gates, my mood starts to dip. The ticket lady points me toward a little basket, the kind they use to measure carry-on bags at the airport. She briskly informs me that if my purse doesn't fit in there, I can't take it in the stadium. Fighting back tears, I start to visualize the trek over the bridge, up the hill, and back to the Hermitage. Another ticket lady promptly takes pity on me and announces "That's a real nice bag; you take that right on in, baby." Louis Vuitton saved the day. So did André Woodson -- we wound up beating Clemson!
|Music City Bowl, 2007.|
I love Kentucky football. Now, as y'all well know, I love Kentucky basketball, too. The thing is, I probably love Kentucky basketball too much. In the lingo of women's magazines, my relationship with the football 'Cats is far more healthy. I have fun with football and honestly enjoy the entire experience. I have a full set of cute little anecdotes about the zany experiences I've had at tailgates and games. When it comes to basketball, though, I'm obsessed. I think of Rich "Paw Paw" Brooks as a nice man who turned our program in the right direction while I consider Coach Cal to be the demigod who single-handedly saved the Commonwealth. To me, Bear Bryant was a savvy coach who got called home while Rick Pitino is a treasonous infidel. I'm always up for a tailgate party, while I prefer to watch the basketball 'Cats with minimal distractions. I'm the consummate hostess in September, whipping up small bites and fun drinks, but I prefer a March with no distractions. You never know how that 8-9 matchup in the West Region will impact the Wildcats' chances of winning it all. There will be time for food later.
I actually have more fun at football games because I'm not an insane fan. Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. Every play doesn't have the ramifications of potentially impacting our historic next title. I'm not moved to tears when I talk of football players' motivation, athleticism, or leadership, while the mere mention of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's name can evoke waterworks. I've never floated "Jared Lorenzen" or "Tim Couch" as a potential baby name. Perhaps jokingly -- even I am not quite sure -- I've suggested "DeMarcus" many times.
|UK-UT game, 2009.|
I always assume that I love the Football 'Cats the way people at normal, non-SEC schools love their teams. I want them to win, but I don't talk about them every day of my life. Maybe that's what it's like to be a sports fan outside of the Greatest Conference in Collegiate Athletics. (This article sums the SEC up far more hilariously than I ever could.) I'm not alone; Kentucky girls don't need to tailgate in our Lilly Pulitzer the way they do at The Grove, because we've got two whole months of Keeneland to dress up for every year. We enjoy our football, but we grew up in a gym.
I come from basketball-mad Eastern Kentucky, just down the road from the great "King" Kelly Coleman's hometown. My aunt was John Pelphrey's high school teacher. Where I'm from, basketball is an all-day, every day occurrence. You can't go to a church, hospital or grocery store without engaging in an intense conversation about recruiting or scheduling. (This year, everybody's worried about the lack of small forwards. And, you know, the poor widow at this funeral. But mainly those forwards.) I suppose if I'd grown up in Alabama, I'd be calling into the Paul Finebaum show every day. I'd say things like "PAWWWWLLLL, don't you think Chizik and Miles should both just forfeit this year instead of coming to Tuscaloosa? Yeah, me too. Roll Tide." (Ok, well, I might still do that, because Finebaum calls are awesome.)
I love that football season gives me a chance to be a regular old fan. I wear my blue, cheer for my team, and tailgate with my friends. I watch games, cheer for teams I like, and enjoy myself. It's a fun time to be a UK alumna and a native Kentuckian. Most of all, it's just fun.