The start of Kentucky football season brings a noticeable difference regarding fan base attendance. Overlooking it is hard for anyone to do. This year is not unlike any that I can remember because the scales are far from balanced once again in the Bluegrass. Is it the merely the sport? Let's look a little closer for a possible reason.
The Big Blue Nation is sometimes very impatient waiting for unofficial end of summer to arrive. Midnight Madness becomes oh so close for hundreds of thousands. Some started weeks earlier making plans for tailgating with family and friends, lining the 'Cat Walk, and hearing the game day sounds a stadium sport brings, but not all.
Is football versus basketball the only culprit? I have thought about this long and hard for a while now, weighing my thoughts during each event, listening to what I hear. Could Kentucky's never-predictable fall weather be a huge culprit in which way you tip the scales. If you want to jump, follow me.
Late August thoughts brings mixed emotions for me. First, I start to smell football season in the air and I breathe it in. I long to just touch the softest grass I have ever felt at Commonwealth Stadium. I know I will find myself in line to attend Fan Day in the sweltering heat, and never complain when I feel neither a hot breeze nor any breeze at all trying to cool my skin. My football "jonesing" will soon cease and I can celebrate the season. But I sometimes remind myself that the summer warmth will soon be a fading memory. It is inevitable.
As I often do on Fan Day, I looked around Commonwealth and I wonder where are the masses. Even Big Blue Madness doesn't allow you have this one-on-one experience with the team unless you decide to pitch a tent at Camp Cal. Even then player interaction is not guaranteed. I quietly questioned how anyone can turn down this great opportunity to be interactive and face-to-face with our team. I then began to listen to the sounds around me.
I realized that I had heard these before. Grumbling about the weather is the first thing I hear,"The sun is really hot and bright. Why is there no breeze? I'll not do this again." This same melody continues for the first few games of the season but then ...
... Unpredictability sets in. October has arrived. It can be a sunny, refreshing, seventy-ish fall day just as easily as it can be a rainy, blustery, bone-chilling fall day. If this day is the latter and you listen to the sounds around you, you hear the often repeated weather complaints, only with opposing adjectives like cold, cloudy, and windy but ending also with the now familiar verse,"I'll not do this again."
Then my thoughts flash back to Triangle Park in January. Thousands of fans were scurrying like a herd being driven to another resting place. Their weather complaints were audible but more like, "Hurry, we are almost out of the cold" as they pick up their gait to enter the warmer confines awaiting. Their complaining ceased altogether once they saw the escalators but this song ended with,"This is so much fun, let's do this again."
I fully understand more big wins, ending bad streaks, and better plays might temper some of the football fans weather related complaints, but many will refuse to ever be so uncomfortable. Is there a remedy for the weather extremes? As many have suggested, adding a dome, even a retractable roof, might be a good idea. I really have no idea, but in all honesty it might not be feasible.
I do know the outside weather is never a concern inside the friendly walls of Rupp Arena, making the only unpredictable thing there ticket availability. I am not sure enough about the Big Blue Nation's stance to say that if basketball were played outside, the lack of fans might be similar. But I am honest enough to say if I didn't have to think about the possibility of a cold rain, snow, or extremely cold temperatures, seasons tickets would be on my list.
I know we love polls, so what do you think?