As a UK student and member of the BBN, I can finally understand the famous Coach Calipari line “You people are crazy” now after this past week.
My twin sister texted me on Thursday asking if I’d seen what was going on out in front of Memorial Coliseum. I hadn’t glanced over in that direction during the routine trek of my class schedule and I honestly wasn’t sure what she was meaning. She said I needed to go see for myself, so I headed in that direction. What I saw was, to me, what makes Big Blue Nation as distinct a fan base in all college sports.
I saw a line of chairs and a small congregation of people across the street from Memorial. These were fellow Kentucky fans who were lined up ALREADY on Thursday, September 20th for the opening of the Big Blue Madness Campout on Wednesday, September 26th.
The actual tickets didn’t even go on sale online and to campers on site with control cards until that Friday. For all those counting at home, that’s 8 days (at least) of lodging out on campus for a chance at tickets for the UK basketball teams’ first open practices of the year.
Yes, that’s right. Practices.
I’ve been able to attend the last five Big Blue Madness’ and, for all the hype, I can at least grasp the notion why those who aren’t UK enthusiasts or supporters would not understand what it’s all about.
Matthew Mitchell cuts a rug, Coach Cal gives the enticing “State of the Big Blue Nation Address” and both the men's and women’s teams get introduced, run a competitive drill or two and play an absolute teaser of a scrimmage that, in the mens case, is more of a dazzling dunk contest than a game.
What makes this event unique, though, is the camaraderie and buildup of interest that these teams bring every year that all amounts to these fans camping out. It’s not about WHAT the teams or coaches have planned, but it’s ALL about the hype behind it.
The air is electric in the building as the starting gates open on a new season. How many fan bases do you know that are pre-gaming together a week before they’re officially allowed to campout for another two days just to get tickets for, again, a practice?
Nothing else comes to mind and it speaks volumes to the year-round passion for basketball in the bluegrass. Mother Nature’s circumstances have not been agreeable to these dedicated fans either. If it hasn’t been sweltering hot, it’s been overcast, windy, and damp in Lexington, even receiving a flash flood watch on Sunday morning.
Yet, still, they devotedly wait outside and will continue to anticipate until they’re walking in the doors of Rupp on that special night, and that’s what it’s all about.
Although we got a sneak peek of the men’s team during their 4-0 trip to the Bahamas over the summer, Kentucky fans will get their first chance to welcome the newest entries of UK basketball teams at Big Blue Madness 2018 on Friday, October 12th at 7 p.m.
Until then, stay crazy Big Blue Nation.