In case you havent figured it out yet, the cast of this college basketball road excursion is from the mean streets of Kentucky and when not driving unreasonable numbers of hours to see games all across our fair land, we run Kentuckysportsradio.com. So this stop on our tour across college basketball is a bit like a midway homecoming for the crew. We are in Lexington, home of what the natives will call the greatest college basketball program in the land. While schools in Chapel Hill and Los Angeles can make a similar claim, none can counter the truth that Kentucky has the most passionate fans in college basketball. While basketball is important in many parts of the land (including a few that never get credit for their fervor), basketball is life in Kentucky. Take one visit to Lexington and that will become clear to you, especially if you are told tidbits such as:
1. Kentucky had 22,000 for ESPN College Gameday: Cat fans basically filled Rupp Arena for College Gameday ten days ago and Jay Bilas said it was the most amazing thing he has seen while on the road as an announcer. That is impressive enough, but when you consider that the attendance set a Gameday record and the previous record was less than a third of that number, the craziness becomes obvious.
2. Richie Farmer Will Be Governor: You remember Richie Farmer? If you arent from Kentucky you probably do not, but he was the kid with the moustache that was on the team that lost to Laettner's shot in 1992. There you go, now you remember him. Since he lost that game, he has basically lived a life based upon his role as a former UK basketball player. He didnt play professionally, did commercials for a while and then ran for Agricultural Commissioner. In a year when Democrats swept nearly every state office, Richie won his office as a Republican by the largest margin of any candidate in the race. Now rumors are strong he will run against the sitting Governor in 2011 and chances are high he will likely win. That is what a moustache, a sweet three point touch and a UK jersey can get you.
3. John Calipari is EVERYWHERE: And I mean EVERYWHERE. He endorses every product, speaks to every local group, signs every resaturant wall, is on every billboard and is likely to walk up to you while you are in line at Papa Johns and give you a copy of his inspirational book "Bounce Back" while shaking your hand and smiling. If the world were made up of only teenage girls, Calipari would be like the cast of "Twilight", dominating the discussion and focus at all times.
None of these things surprise us...neither does the State-of-the-Art practice facility, the revered status held by the Cats' home before Rupp Arena, Memorial Coliseum or the way in which players like John Wall and Patrick Patterson are gazed at adorningly by students, children and middle-aged men with a too-tight t-shirt and a sturdy belly. This is normal to us. But it may not be to you and that is why you need to visit Lexington if you are a college basketball fan. No other place can match its fanaticism.
Oh and you have to excuse me, we are sitting on the floor of Memorial Coliseum and the UK Dance Team has walked in to begin practice. We are now officially distracted.