Downtown Louisville turns to sea of blue as Cats fans stream int - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Downtown Louisville turns to sea of blue as Cats fans stream into KFC Yum! Center

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- As the 9:40 p.m. tip time for the UK-Hampton match up continues to approach, the crowds in downtown Louisville are getting larger.

There was heavy foot traffic up and down Main Street all day Thursday, and no shortage of love for the Kentucky Wildcats.

"We love them, we love them -- we think they're going to go all the way," said John Taylor, a true blue Wildcat fan.

Some fans lined up hours before the first game, and of course not everyone was there to cheer UK. There was a large Iowa State fan presence early Thursday afternoon. Their game started at 12:40.

"It's a little rainy, it's colder than last time," said Jamie Campbell, an Iowa State fan. "So that's kind of a bummer but I'm excited anyway!"

All of the foot traffic was good news for downtown businesses. "I think we're going to go find some place to eat -- at that brewery or the pizza place or something, just kind of hang out for a bit," Campbell said.

Employees at Manny and Merle says the place opened an hour early.

And there was no shortage of street vendors hawking Kentucky wares.

"We have apparel set up all around our shop -- everything from shirts, magnets, hats. We even have Kentucky band-aids," said one street vendor.

If Kentucky wins, the tent will most likely sell out, and Cats fans are confident that will be the case.

"I've been worried about Hampton all year," Taylor said jokingly. "I hope we don't blow them out too much, but I think it will be a 20-point -- at least -- maybe more."

Yum! Center officials say every seat will be filled for the UK game, the last one of the day. Fans like Jim Sivers made sure to get tickets early on.

"When they first opened them up, when they first announced the venue, we said 'let's get some tickets," Sivers said. 

When it comes to parking, you may run into problems, but we found one UK fan who will have no problem finding a space because his business is right next door to the Yum! Center.

"We're fortunate enough to have a place in Whiskey Row right here, so it's fun looking out the window watching all the people come and go," said Neil Taylor. 

Fans say BBN crucial to team's success on the court

As The UK Basketball team continues its quest for another title, the players aren't the only ones celebrating each historic win. If you ask anyone in blue, they'll tell you Big Blue Nation is crucial to the success of the program.

"I didn't know, when I first moved here, how it would get into my blood," said Mary Jo Perino, Sports talk radio host and fan. "My blood runs blue now, I can tell you that."

"The fan base has been here for many, many years," said former UK Coach Joe B. Hall.

Perino said, "I don't know what it is, I think it is the one thing that connects the entire state, you know, there's no professional sports teams...it's just UK."

From practice to game time, BBN seems to always represent.

"You can't explain it. It's crazy, we've been here since 10 this morning. there's not another fan base like Big Blue Nation, that's it, we're the best at it," said a fan.

Perino explained, "You know, as cliché as it sounds, from Pikeville to Paducah, everyone can relate to this one thing. It's like the weather affects everybody, so does Kentucky basketball cause everyone in the state has a tie to it."

Even when it divides a house.

"I'm married to a die hard Louisville fan, who actually used to work for Coach Pitino," said Perino. "We're expecting a child right now and it has honestly been the biggest argument that we have had is will this kid be raised a wildcat or a cardinal."

"What would this be without the fans," said Lisa Collins, Former UK basketball player.

It all started years ago, under legendary coach Adolph Rupp.

"When coach Rupp first came to the University, he brought a fast break style of basketball that just really was attractive to the fans in this area," said Coach Hall.

And by the time Joe B Hall took over the program, BBN was loaded with fanatics.

"Following Coach Rupp was pressure enough," said Coach Hall.

"The Courier Journal had just named Coach Hall sportsman of the year." said Ralph Egbert, UK fan. "And I called information, got his phone number, called his house, his wife Catherine answered, didn't question why I was calling...just put me through to Coach Hall and he talked to me."

But not all of the feedback was positive. Coach Hall explained, "When I first took over, I had kept Coach Rupp's secretary, and she came to me the first day and said, 'what do you want me to do with your hate mail?' I said, 'what is hate mail?"

The hate mail eventually stopped but the expectations, tradition and pressure to win didn't.

"It continues to grow, the enthusiasm," said Hall.

"I think it's fun, I think it is why Kentucky basketball is what it is and why you don't find that anywhere else in the world," said Perino.

Hall said, "I don't think there's another school that has had the tradition to continue like Kentucky's has."

"It is pretty exciting that you can go anywhere in the world and there's uk fans everywhere," said Adrian Judy, UK fan and graduate.

"When you look at it, there have been five coaches to win national championships at Kentucky, what does that tell you," explained Coach Hall.

As the cats strive for perfection this season, does Big Blue Nation ever go too far?

"You'll have to define too far," Lisa Collins said.

"I think the camping out for tickets for midnight madness. I always wonder, do you have somewhere else that you ever have to be," said Perino.

Hall said, "I think it gives 'em a boost as soon as they arrive on campus, they see the fans lining up for tickets on campus, filling up this arena for the midnight, big blue madness."

"I just think that's crazy, but I understand," said Perino.

But Hall said, "You can't have too much."

While Collins said, "As long as no one is injured or killed, more power to 'em. If someone gets hurt, I guess it goes too far, but honestly, that's what makes sports fun."

It has happened.

"That may be the craziest one," said Perino.

Captain Robert Swanigan with Georgetown Police explained what happened a few years ago. "It was during the tournament time and we had to respond to a dialysis clinic here in Georgetown for an actual fight between two subjects that were getting dialysis treatment at the center."

"It was just a national network radio talking about how two Kentucky fans getting dialysis start throwing punches at each other -- not two Kentucky fans -- a Kentucky and a Louisville fan start throwing punches at each other," said Perino.

Captain Swanigan said, "There was a discussion that started about the upcoming basketball game between U of L and Kentucky and I guess there were some opinions about who would be the victor and it went south from there."

"I'll be a tough, tough pill to swallow if we don't win it all," said Mark Miller, Former UK Track Star and fan.

Right now, the focus is on keeping the perfect record and another championship.

Miller said, "As you can see here, we hang banners at Kentucky, this is just kind of a small replica of the 8 national championships that Kentucky has won. Hopefully we can make some space for 2015 right here."

Egbert said it's all part of history. "I think they're going to win it all and I think it's going to be something that'll probably never happen in my lifetime again."

"I'm not one of those people who can say moral victory and all of that garbage," said Collins.

"It is going to be a disappointment for a lot of people if we don't win the whole thing," said Miller.

Collins sees it the same way. She said, "I think that I can speak for Big Blue Nation, we would be very disappointed.

The cats will hit the court in just a few hours against Hampton.

Anything is possible, but no one seems to think the streak will end tonight.

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