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SHANE SHACKLEFORD: How Important is Big Blue Madness? Well...

As I made the trek from my cottage in the Speedwell, Tenn., area to Lexington, Ky. to cover this year’s edition of Big Blue Madness, the thought crossed my mind; just how important is Big Blue Madness in the scheme of things? Well, it really means a lot to say the least.

According to the UK media release, BBM is more than just the first open practice opportunity for Kentucky men’s and women’s basketball teams. This tradition was started by UK men’s coach Joe B. Hall more than 30 years ago and is “a celebration that officially hails the start of each new basketball season.”

That’s putting it lightly.

You have to remember that I was a high school basketball coach for over 20 years, so I have seen my share of opening practices on or around October 15, the usual opening for high school basketball practices in the state of Kentucky. I’ve seen “Midnight Madness” crowds from a couple of dozen to a couple of hundred. BBM will sellout Rupp Arena with approximately 23,000 fans of Big Blue Nation screaming their lungs out for every layup, three pointer, and dunk all night long.

BBM is also unlike any spectacle you have ever seen even remotely related to the wonderful game of basketball. Hi-tech lighting? Check. Indoor pyrotechnics? Check. 23,000 fans holding their miniature version of hi-tech lighting? Check. Simply put, if you have a dislike of Kentucky blue, this ain’t the place for you.

Any event has to have some big-name individuals to say that the event is a big deal. BBM has that, too. If you’ve lived in the state of Kentucky for any length of time, you quickly realize that the men’s and women’s basketball player is a celebrity from Paducah to Pikeville. The fan base know every vital, every statistic, and the high school each came from. Pro sports are okay to BBN, but they will never compare to UK sports, especially roundball.

You might find some folks around Louisville who can name their men’s coach or some fans in Bowling Green who can name Western Kentucky’s hoops in general, but EVERYONE knows who the coach is at Kentucky. Don’t believe me? Ask 10 randoms who the UK basketball coach is. If eight of the 10 don’t say John Calipari, you’re standing in Tennessee talking to those folks (and they’re probably lying).

What’s a good Madness without contributions from your school’s cheerleaders and dance team? Kentucky has those also in spades. The UK cheerleading squad has won 23 national championships. When they take the floor, to say they are good is a vast understatement. When they decide to stop the show with their aerial acrobatics and tumbling, the show is officially stopped.

Since 2005, Big Blue Madness is more than a practice, more than a celebration, it’s a flat out party in honor of Kentucky basketball and all things associated with it. If you are even a passing fan of Kentucky hoops or even college basketball, you owe it to yourself to take a Madness in. You won’t be disappointed.

Shane Shackleford is a regional sports writer from Speedwell, Tenn. You can reach him by email at, Facebook, or Twitter @shack_daddy_1.

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