Learning Passion from University of Kentucky Fans
My college experience was one well-traveled. I went to three colleges in four years; one exit because of my rules, the second exit because of their rules. In all honesty, had I never told the first head coach how I felt about him; I would have never found Exercise Science at Olivet. Without Olivet, I would not have been bored with football, and would have never transferred home. Had I not transferred home, I would not have trained at the Training Zone (an absolute hole in the wall in Avon, GOD REST ITS SOUL). Doug Salyer, co-owner, said I should train with Bryan Neese, America’s Strongest Man in 1999. Bryan introduced me to Chad Coy. Chad was a strongman and training source of abundant knowledge that owned Powerhouse Gym in Kokomo where I worked from May 2005 to December 2009. In 2006, he bought the 13th national Parisi Speed School franchise, and I was exposed to real sports performance training. Invisible Guidance from the Hand of Divine Providence, a chain reaction of events, and planned actions with a purpose led to PANKO Strength & Speed, but it all got started with a “F*** You” to a guy that tried to push me around psychologically.
Because of my bubbly personality, I had many acquaintances but few friends from my college years. As a matter of fact, I keep in regular contact with two of them – Kahlil and Willy – and see a third on a yearly basis. Kahlil is half Syrian, half Mennonite and Willy comes from one of Kentucky’s most prominent families. Kentucky never seceded from the Union, but in Antebellum South, he would have been a gentleman planter. On a Sunday evening, Kahlil asked Willy, if his grandpa, who is on the board at the University of Kentucky, could get us tickets to the Regional Semi-Final Round of the NCAA Tournament being held at Rupp Arena in Lexington. By 10am Monday, tickets were secured.
The trip to, in and around Lexington was surprising. Indiana is considered the basketball state, but Kentucky is none far behind if not ahead. In Indiana, a hoop gets put on a barn; in Kentucky, they just build a whole outdoor court. THEY ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT THEIR BASKETBALL. I watched Willy’s mom attack a carton of Marlboro Red’s and a case of Coke, screaming at Tayshaun Prince, opting for the headphones and UK Broadcast of the Kentucky/Maryland game while watching the muted CBS Broadcast of Jim Nance and Billy Packer.
The semi-final included IU/Duke and Pitt/Kent St. The entire arena was blue and I figured fans for #1 and #1 seeded Duke severely out-numbered all others. WRONG! It was blue-clad Kentucky fans that had shown up to watch hated IU versus really hated Duke. It would be akin to Lucas Oil Stadium hosting the Steelers or Chargers and Patriots. In case, you don’t know why UK fans hate Duke…
Actually, it was…
IU played horrible basketball and at one point was down 17 in a stone cold silent arena. There was a lingering sense, if IU could just keep it within 10 points, the game could be manageable. And then, AJ Moye, IU’s 6’2” sixth man stole the hearts of the Kentucky fan base. As he made increasingly important plays the crowd became alive. He scored a couple buckets off back door cuts, converted HUGE free throws and played adhesive defense on 6’9” Carlos Boozer, and stuffing him with about five minutes to go in the game’s biggest defensive play. The crowd erupted in a chant of A-J MOY-A, stayed on their feet for the last seven minutes, and cheered their second biggest rival to a wild comeback. Even Willy, who bleeds more blue than anyone I know, was hysterical. The way Kentucky fans passionately pulled behind IU and made AJ Moye the darling of Wildcat Nation for 12 hours gave me chills. And it still does to this day. On the way out after the Pitt/Kent State game, I was fascinated with the “We are ALL Hoosiers Tonight” feel of Lexington.
The passion that night has always stuck with me. There are not a lot of gray areas in sports, but there were some loyalty lines crossed that evening. Most times fans are or they are not, but in this case it seems like there was an unspoken agreement that they would cheer for anyone to beat Duke. Too many times, because of some distorted mindset, people are too timid to put their force and conviction into something, but that night, not in the case of Kentucky basketball fans. Nothing will ever avenge Christian Laettner’s shot in 1992, but for a moment, Kentucky fans felt vindication.
PANKO Strength & Speed, Stewards of the American Dream