It Just Means More Fri, Sep 30, 2016
In the same way that football means more in Alabama or soccer means more in Europe, basketball just means more in Kentucky. Like, a lot more.
Newborns are named after UK basketball players, childhoods are defined by Championship wins (and losses), families are divided if a loved one strays to the dark side and becomes a Louisville fan, and every September, fans use their hard-earned vacation time to camp out in tents for a week. For a free ticket. To a practice. (Enter Allen Iverson rant here: "We talkin' 'bout practice?!)
The first official practice of the 2016 season, known nationwide as Midnight Madness and known in Kentucky as Big Blue Madness, is now just 11 days away. This is the first chance fans will have to see their #2 ranked Wildcats on the court, a spectacle that will fill every one of Rupp Arena's 23,500 seats. For a practice.
Some facts about the history of Tent City and the Big Blue Madness campout:
-The Tent City record was 760 tents in 2014 before UK officials were forced to restrict camping areas. This year's limited space only allowed 375 tents.
-Fans once camped for 17 days, before UK officials had to limit ticket camping days.
-Since new rules limit camping to 3 days prior, fans now line up days in advance across the street from the designated camping area. This results in a sprint across Avenue Of Champions to claim spots at 5:00am when ticket camping can officially start.
-This year's campout included a Tent City wedding on Friday for the couple in tent #1.
-Every year there's a live television special, 'Tent City Live', where John Calipari and the team make their annual appearance to hand out pizza and play corn hole with campers.
For someone whose first love was basketball since the age of four, these are my people. Like them, I cried when we won the National Championship in 2012, I couldn't eat for 2 days when our perfect 38-0 season was ruined by Wisconsin in the 2014 Final Four and I get goosebumps when the P.A. Announcer opens every game at Rupp with "Welcome to Rupp Arena, home of the greatest tradition in the history of college basketball!"
To outsiders, we're crazy and obsessed - we get it. But all you need is a few days in the Bluegrass to see that Kentucky Basketball is more than just a sport - it's a religion, a way of life, an identity and a common bond. The most wonderful time of the year is upon us, and I can't wait to be back with my people in My Old Kentucky Home.