CRAWFORD BLOG | Snow emergency? Couldn't tell it at Rupp Arena Saturday
Just when you thought a major snowstorm and declaration of a snow emergency by the governor might depress attendance numbers for a Kentucky basketball game at Rupp Arena, you look into the crowd and realize -- it didn't.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) — I have to admit, when John Lewis and I rolled into the parking lot at Rupp Arena about 90 minutes before Saturday’s University of Kentucky game against Vanderbilt, I thought, “This is the one.”
This is the game where UK fans finally don’t pack the house because of weather.
And it would’ve been perfectly understandable. A state of emergency had been declared by Gov. Matt Bevin. Thousands of cars had been stranded all night, most on a treacherous stretch of I-75.
Double-digit snow totals blanked most of southern and eastern Kentucky, home to many of the loyal Big Blue Nation die-hards who make the trek to Lexington every game. Most secondary streets outside of Kentucky's larger cities were untreated.
During warm-ups, the crowd wasn’t anything like you’ll normally see for a fan base that likes to analyze everything from player haircuts to how they’re hitting the three before the game starts.
And in maybe the biggest indicator — the turnout of media from around the state was so depleted that for the first time in several years I found myself with a baseline seat on the floor, instead of sitting in the upper arena.
So, that sealed it. This would be the one.
Even a guy like John Calipari, who has seen the BBN at its craziest, figured many would stay home.
“I thought we'd have – (deputy director of athletics) DeWayne (Peevy) said 12,000. I said 18,000,” Calipari said. “And these knuckleheads figured out how to get here. I have no idea whether they came two days ago because they heard the storm. Whether they were stuck on the highway and walked here, I don't know.”
Yep. I looked up at the national anthem and the house was packed. You’d never know that a state of emergency, complete with travel advisories, was going on outside.
For the record, the crowd was 22,975. Not quite a full house, but also not too shabby — only the largest crowd for a sporting event in America on Saturday.
“I mean, I walked in and I looked up at (section) 202 or whatever that corner is and it's packed,” Calipari said. “Are you kidding me? You've got to be crazy. No one's left their house. There's no bread on the shelves. There's no milk. There's no eggs. And 25,000 figured out how to get here. And they're going to wait for a (postgame) radio show (by Calipari in the arena). What, are you nuts?”
Yes, they are nuts. Sure, there was a state of emergency. But in Kentucky, that doesn’t trump being a basketball state.
Calipari even played with the smaller-than-usual media crowd. Asked if he was disappointed in its size, he said, “I was hoping (Lexington Herald-Leader UK beat writer) Jerry (Tipton) was still stuck in Atlanta, but you know -- (laughter) it's nice not seeing him yesterday but you know.”
When a reporter moved on, saying, “On a more serious note . . . “
Calipari broke in, “No, I was serious.”
Say what you want about any of them, even in the midst of a white-out weather emergency, blue still got in.
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