I am an avid reader. I have been my entire life. I love to read anything it seems like, but my passion is reading about sports. In particular, sports that I love.
I love the Kentucky Wildcats. Not like. Not interested in. Love. Passionately.
(Cue the UK fight song, right...about...now.)
Recently I went to the bookshelf at the house and I chose The Kentucky Wildcat Fan Bucket List, written by my good friend and general UK savant Joe Cox. It’s a go-to for any UK fan who wants to enhance their fan experience.
In it, there is a section about attending Big Blue Madness, the annual celebration of the opening of basketball season at the University of Kentucky for the men’s and women’s programs.
I know what you might be thinking. What is the big deal about the opening practice of a basketball team, even if it is the Kentucky Wildcats?
Oh, my friend, it is a big deal. A huge deal.
Big Blue Madness started over 30 years ago when coach Joe B Hall opened his team’s first practice to the public. In 2005, BBM was moved to Rupp Arena. From there, it’s become part athletics, part dramatics, and all entertainment.
Let’s start outside Rupp. The players arrive and walk “the blue carpet” to screaming fans in a scene straight out of central casting in Hollywood. That’s just the start of the show.
When practice opens, each player and coach is introduced to not a small, die-hard crowd but a capacity 23,000 fans who are full throat from the get-go.
After UK women’s coach Matthew Mitchell does his dance number with the UK dance team (and the man can dance, youtube it), men’s coach John Calipari gives his annual “state of the program” address that I promise you to have more eyes on it than a President Trump rally. Plus Coach Cal is much more popular, I suppose.
Oh yeah, the guest list for this shindig is very impressive. If your a blue-chip, five-star recruit, you have to be seen at Big Blue Madness to get likes and followers on Twitter, Instagram, or whatever new social media came out in the last 30 seconds. If that isn’t enough star power, megastar Drake has been seen at BBN. UFC ring announcer Bruce Buffer introduced the men’s team and Coach Cal Impressive.
Oh yeah, what’s BBM without the 24-time national champion UK cheerleaders? Their performance alone is a must-see TV show.
After all that, the players take the center stage, er, court. Some of the finest basketball players in America put on a show for the crowd, dunking and shooting their way into the hearts of Big Blue Nation forever.
At the end of BBM, the crowd gives a standing ovation for what they’ve just participated in and go back to their respective homes, ready for the Cats to play their Blue/White game, which is basically another practice witnessed by 20,500 fans at full throat (instead of 23,000 due to new chair-back seating in the upper deck), and the season opener in New York City on Nov. 5.
Big Blue Madness. A party. A celebration of basketball. A way of life in the Bluegrass State for sure.
Shane Shackleford is a regional sports columnist from Speedwell, Tenn. You can follow him on social media and local print media outlets.