The southern football journey I've dubbed Pigskinapalooza 2011 got of to a rocky start yesterday with Kentucky turning in an embarassing performance in front of
a high school crowd 24,000 people at LP Field against the Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers. Things started out well enough. As planned, we got the kids off the bus and were on the road by 3. This is my sixth trip to see the Wildcats play a football game in Nashville, and unlike the four Music City Bowl trips (the other was in 2007 at Vandy), the 65 South didn't resemble a parking lot from Bowling Green all the way to NashVegas. I always feel left out in these little armadas because I cannot put UK flags or magnets on my car. My magnets always get stolen and flags lost due to my own stupidity of rolling down my window at inappropriate times. I've probably lost $150 of UK memorabilia over the years for one of these two reasons. As such, my house is now a no magnet or flag zone.
In any event, we didn't hit traffic until about five miles out. Prior to that, the highlight of the trip was a sign that said, "Used Cows for Sale" on the side of the road. Once we got through the Nashville rush hour grind (I've been here for business some and it was worse than I remember) check-in and a hotel shuttle to downtown was a breeze.
Unlike at the MCB games of yore, there was no real atmosphere in downtown Nashville and I ran into no one I knew. We went in for dinner at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville, a pretty cynical tourist trap but our best kid friendly choice at the spur of the moment. I will say this for Jimmy, the western style bacon burger was out of this world good.
Someone at LP Field decided that since not many people were coming, they'd only hire 7 or 8 people to work the gates. This led to an absurd bottleneck to get into the game, and I'm guessing a ton of people missed kickoff. There was some vigorous patting down at the gate, which I find kind of funny. Here is how this works. If you are 22, beligerantly drunk and wearing fraternity letters, you will likely fail at bringing alcohol into the stadium. No one over the age of 29 and an IQ over 100 has ever been caught, period. You aren't busting a guy like me at the door. Last night, though, I opted for a more dignified approach of paying $7 for a warm Bud Light every quarter or so. It was that kind of night.
The last time I was at LP Field was the 2009 Music City Bowl. It is the coldest I've ever been at a sporting event. Last night was quite the opposite. It may have been the most I've sweated without actually doing something in my whole life. We settled into our seats and it was quickly clear that this wasn't an ordinary UK football crowd. These were people who lived nearby who decided to watch their alma mater play a game. With the exception of a woman in front of me, no one around seemed to know any of the players, the context of the game, or really what was happening. People complained about others standing up (even at appropriate times) and not even my kids could get a chant going. Very odd.
Guys, the game was the game. Suffice to say, I agree with everything Ken Howlett said in his column last night. I have a lot of profoundly negative thoughts that I am going to keep to myself in hopes that we can bounce back next week and put it behind us. The only saving grace is that we are 1-0 and not 0-1.
I am pecking this out in my hotel room where my son is still racked out asleep. My wife and daughter have moved on to greener pastures and the only sound is the hardest working hotel AC unit in show business. At some point I will roust him and we will head on to Atlanta for the weekend. As I head down for tonight's high school contest, no doubt I will ask, can Daron and Zack Blaylock play offense?