By Mark Carpenter –
The older you get, the longer your so-called bucket list gets, and the shorter the amount of time gets that you can actually do all those things that you have long wanted to do. Thanks to the friendship of an ex-school administrator here in the county, one of the items on my bucket list got erased last Friday evening.
As some of you may have figured out, everyone in may family, nuclear and extended, bleeds a whole lot of blue blood. For the uneducated, that means we cheer for the Kentucky Wildcats. Though I have seen the Cats play in person a few times, I had never seen them in action in the NCAA Tournament until last Friday. My previous trip to the NCAA Tournament is when Mr. Knight slammed his fist on the table at the old Riverfront Coliseum I think in 1987.
I probably upset the wife when I didn’t ask her to use my second ticket for the game, but she had to work so I survived there. So the trip to Indianapolis became another of my father-son bonding moments, special as those all are. I picked Jordan up at his school Friday morning and off we went to a city neither of us had never been to before, which I might insert now that I am horrible with directions, so it was Jordan’s phone and GPS which got us to where we were going and used up all of our data, which led to another crisis, which is too lengthy to describe here.
We arrived early and explored downtown Indy, most of which was out of our price range, made a trip back to the parking garage for the obligatory 20-year old boy who texts all day long phone recharging, had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe, and made our way with a whole lot of other people wearing blue to Banker’s Life Fieldhouse. Always good to be with like-minded people in a big crowd.
Banker’s Life is a really neat place, and I wanted to explore the numerous memorabilia displays, though I don’t think my son had quite as much appreciation for all of the old ABA stuff that I loved. Or the fact that many of the items on display are also buried somewhere deep in my closet at home. His question then,” Are they worth anything?”
Once inside, our seats were fantastic and we found ourselves sitting beside some folks from Maine, who happened to be Patriots fans, and he was very sympathetic to the fact that I was a Bengals fan. It was very interesting to just look around the arena as the evening progressed and watch the place slowly turn blue.
Dayton and Wichita State gave us a very entertaining first game, with the Flyers evoking memories of my Uncle Buck, who was a Dayton fan and a UK fan, so he would have had the perfect evening. As soon as I saw the Shockers take the floor, I immediately hoped that they would lose, because they looked the size of some of the creatures on Skull Island and I wasn’t sure the Wildcats could match up with them. Well, thanks to a couple of questionable officiating calls (a theme over the weekend), the Shockers survived and Gregg Marshall’s wife didn’t get thrown out of the gym, at least not on Friday night.
Now it was the time for the main event as somewhere after 10 p.m., the Wildcats and Northern Kentucky tipped off and at times it looked as if both teams were out past their bedtimes. Playing a college basketball game at 10 o’clock in the eastern time zone produces about the same level of play and is on a par with the ridiculousness of Thursday Night Football in the NFL. Well, the Cats did manage to get by the Norse though the boys from Highland Heights acclimated themselves to the NCAA waters quite well. As I told the NKU fan near me, “nice story, but has to end here.”
The Cats survived and both Jordan and I now had our first UK NCAA experience under our belts and we headed back towards Ohio on some very foggy interstates. I dropped him off back at school and finally pulled into my driveway around 4 a.m. Now, let me assure you that I am not a party animal and I am not sure that I have ever been out at 4 a.m. in my life, but this time was well worth it.
As it was, the Cats did manage to slip by Wichita State on Sunday and punched their ticket to the Sweet 16 and guess what their prize is, another 10 p.m. game, this time on Friday night in Memphis. It’s a wide open tournament now and UK has put together a 12-game winning streak and stranger things have happened, though a weekend of having to beat UCLA and North Carolina seems quite a tall order.
I now have to start working on erasing some more off of that bucket list while my old decrepid body can still go a few places. Notre Dame football in South Bend-anyone got tickets?