My Lexington Diary

This year’s Year of College Scandals has been a sneak-attack blessing for writers. Like a war or an economic recession, the onslaught of terrible cheating and genuine tragedies has given every hack who can hunt and peck a preframed narrative for almost anything that happens on a field or court. You’ve noticed, I’m sure. Every game has either been a tonic for a terrible year or proof of its decline. This narrative has started to eat away at even the last vestiges of college sports’ partisanship. Even the most devoted fan bases have started to question the profit motives of college sports, whether the loyalty to a college program can be rewarded anymore, and whether any of the old “godding up the ballplayers” naivete can be justified today. All of those concerns have been justified, and with two days in Lexington, I saw them all put temporarily to rest.

There’s a tremendous amount to be said about Kentucky’s one-point win over UNC. The on-court storylines were impossible to ignore, and the game featured an unprecedented wealth of professional-level talent.  But inside Rupp Arena, what took place was more of a celebration than a competition, an appreciation and outpouring that was built around competition in the way ballets are built around swan transformations: the actual back-and-forth was a necessary part of the production, but the dance was the thing. God, what a dance.

I brought my friend Edward along for this trip because he is the friend who most shares my love of bourbon, but he is also perhaps the least knowledgeable person about sports that I know. We planned our trip to Kentucky as a four-day educational semi-bender where I’d get to scratch my Tar Heels itch and we would mutually numb our whiskey itches. So it was that on Saturday morning we were walking down South Broadway toward Rupp Arena with small but vocal headaches when we happened upon a place called Tolly Ho. The Ho, I have come to learn, is the gem that can be found in any decent college town. They serve breakfast 24 hours a day, and most of it is served after 2 a.m., so it is the sort of place where hashbrowns are sold whose booze-sopping properties could not be improved in a laboratory. It was at Tolly Ho that we got our first inkling of the day to come. We were waiting in line when the girl behind the counter asked us if we were from North Carolina. We said we were.

“Well, that makes it okay,” she said then. From behind us, a gentleman wearing his sunglasses upside-down on the back of his head said, “I hope y’all don’t have too hard a time today, getting heckled.” They said they were fine with Carolina—after all, we weren’t Duke. They remembered The Shot, and The Stomp,  and we agreed upon our common enemy, and when she handed me my coffee, the girl behind the counter confessed to being sort of a closet UNC fan. I’m sure she was just being sweet, but I felt a little guilty. I’ve not been quiet about my distaste for Kentucky basketball, and naturally, when a dude is wearing sunglasses indoors—on the back of his head, upside down—you start to fill in the gestalt.  Turns out that dude was incredibly cordial, and that our Tolly breakfast did the trick, and we found our way to Rupp prepared to buffet ourselves against what was sure to be increased vitriol.

The inside of Rupp is the raddest. It is just the illest possible combination of slick modernism and tradition. We walked by the UK band playing on the concourse, and a mob of people had formed a circle around them, filming and dancing. Nobody said a word to us about our apparel save one person, who called to us as we walked to our seats, “Gonna be a long day for you boys.” We took our seats—literally in the highest row—next to a few gentlemen who had lucked into their tickets that very morning when an uncle of theirs had been called in to perform an emergency dental surgery. They talked to us about the proposed renovations to Rupp, about their favorite UK teams (Rupp’s Runts for the elder, ’98 for the younger) and were generally awesome to us. As the game started, the atmosphere in the building became as electric as any I’ve seen. We in Chapel Hill are as passionate about our Heels, but we carve opponents’ psyches with our condescending dignity; Kentucky concusses you with blunt-force excitement. In Chapel Hill, what concessions there have been made to the modern stadium experience (like the pre-game “Jump Around”) temporarily cut through an excited restraint; Kentucky has honest-to-God fireworks shooting from the rafters. It is awesome, but reserved and tasteful it isn’t.

During the game itself, whose particulars I will not comment on except to say that it was an exhausting and elating stretch where every minute movement on the court seemed to draw a thrilled agony from the crowd, I noticed that the Kentucky fans are some of the smartest basketball watchers I have seen. They gasp when Anthony Davis gets missed rolling to the hoop, and they cheer pre-emptively when Doron Lamb curls around a second screen on the baseline. And although I was not exactly a shrinking violet in my support of Carolina, the only time anybody even thought about heckling us was when a 14-year-old in front of us made “three goggles” at me with the peculiar sort of turdishness which is the true domain of 14-year-old boys.

After the final buzzer, after John Henson’s shot was blocked and the final five seconds elapsed with the players obviously as stunned and gassed as the crowd, the dentist’s cousins immediately offered their hands and said good game. Ditto three-goggles-turd-boy. And every Kentucky fan within twenty seats. Listen, I am not taking the frustrating fan’s high road when I say that it was impossible for me to be upset as I walked out of that arena. But like I said, the mood was much more celebratory than competitive. The feeling among every person I talked to, Cats fan or Tar Heel, was that the game we’d just sat through precluded any ill will. I think I must’ve heard “We’ll see y’all in March” at least two hundred times.

Once we’d hit the street outside of Rupp, Edward and I milled around until we passed the Horse and Barrel, a bar we decided on based on its having the most visibly well-appointed whiskey selection I’ve seen in sometime. After the place thinned out just a little bit and we claimed a space at the bar, a table of Kentucky fans behind us noticed that we were drinking Old Rip Van Winkle and said something to us about having decent taste in bourbon for out-of-towners (I won’t be prouder of a compliment if my son is someday voted President). We talked for a moment. Woodford Reserve was purchased for us. About an hour later, as we were comparing tasting notes over a sampler of three different bourbons, these lovely people invited us over to a party at their house that evening. They were having some dinner and would just be delighted to host some Tar Heel fans. I was a little anxious about this sort of offer, and after what must have been the eleventh time I asked if he was sure, the father of the family (I’m withholding names although these people were the best) said “I’ll be pissed if you don’t come.”

Let’s pause here and ruminate on this. A family of total strangers invited us to a dinner party at their home. This is The Sort of Thing That Does Not Happen Anymore. I even checked with the bartender, Jill, who assured us we ought to go—they were in here all the time, and they meant it. “Y’all found the right people to party with,” she said. So at seven o’clock, we took a cab to their home at the edge of the University’s arboretum. To be honest, it seemed a little lunatic—there had been no shortage of liquor at the Horse and Barrel, and every decent person knows not to take advantage of a well-meaning booze promise—but when I called out to a man outside the house whether we had find the place, he called our that Hell yes, we had and that we ought to come in and that Look! A shooting star! Politely, we stood around on the front lawn with our necks craned, but I think that the number of shooting stars our host picked out increased somewhat as the night wore on, so I have my doubts.

It is sort of boring to recall a pleasant evening spent with gracious people. We were fed beef tenderloin (!) and glazed onions, given Woodford and red wine, and not once did any one seem to find the presence of total strangers odd. In fact, in what might be the least ironic and good-hearted moment of my life today, the entire gathering was made to sing the twelve nights of Christmas. Nobody knew a single gift, so I in my cleverness added lines about the Tar Heels. Owing to said cleverness, and not to whiskey, my additions were met with enormous laughter.

I told our hosts during dinner that I was sort of annoyed with them, because I was going to have to root for Kentucky now in any game they weren’t playing the Tar Heels, and this is true. Every single thing about our trip to Lexington had given us reasons way more valid than any I had to root for the Wildcats. None of this, of course, changes my feelings for John Calipari, but the point of recounting this at all is to show how little John Calipari really mattered. In a year where a relentlessly miserable narrative onslaught has made us start to see that these are all just games, I was reminded that at their very best, these days are really hardly about the games at all.

167 thoughts on “My Lexington Diary”

  1. And who says people from Kentucky aren’t the best and most polite people in the world. Very good article and probably the best perspective outside of this fanbase I have seen. Excellent post.

  2. Nice. Problem with sports now is that they have become soap operas, partly because of ESPN and 24 hours of coverage to fill. But like you said, mainly because of money. UK fans like UNC or Alabama football fans love the game as well as their school. College sports need to find a way to get back to the game itself and writers like you can surely help it.

  3. Great article that captures the spirit of basketball in the Bluegrass. It was a pleasure to read, both because of the content and because of the wonderful way you have with words.

    All the best to UNC this year — a talented team from a classy program.

  4. Wow, great article. What a fantastic game and I’m ecstatic you had such a wonderful time, despite its outcome (from your perspective).

    Thanks for writing.

  5. Awesome site. Awesome article. Next time go to bluegrass tavern for bourbon. Get pappy van winkle instead of rip.

  6. Glad you enjoyed yourself Danny. I have no problem with Carolina as long as the respect is mutual. UK and UNC are the two top programs in the sport, hope to renew the series after next season’s hiatus…and for the 201st time, “See ya’ll in March,” or should I say April.

  7. thanks so much for this story. us UK fans/Kentucky natives genuinely appreciate the portrayal outside of our normal caricature. glad you could be part of that game with us in person.

  8. Great article. Glad you and your buddy enjoyed the game and the Kentucky hospitality. As you saw, most UK fans have a lot of respect for the UNC program and its fans. There may be some verbal jabs on game day, but when it’s over, we know we have all seen the two best basketball programs in the country. But as you learned, the hospitality does not extend to Duke. So please make sure Roy and the team give them two losses.

  9. Fabulously composed…

    And a true representation of the hospitality and kindness of the vast majority of the citizens of Lexington, as well as UK fans…

  10. Did they announce you as “Ho Virgins” when your food was up at Tolly Ho? You need to experience Keeneland to round out the Lexington tour fully. Nice summary of the weekend – Go Cats!

  11. UNC and UK fans are similar in many ways…if anything, it’s the “my grandfather used to tell me about (insert UNC/UK reference from the 50′s)” and “my dad and I used to go to (insert UNC/UK games in the 80′s and 90′s)”…it’s the history that we have in common that only perhaps Kansas fans share…as it stands, UNC also has the honor of playing Duke twice a year, and of course, gives us reason to love them at least twice a year…in trying to explain my vast love of UK basketball (and respect for UNC), I can only point to the fourth generation UK fans (my twin daughters) as proof that UK is more than just basketball to alot of folks…it’s part of the family

    1. You must be quite a nice person also to be invited to such a nice evening with lovely strangers! Welcome to Kentucky !!

  12. awesome story. best i’ve read in years. i’m a uk bball fan in ohio. patiently awaiting the day i get to move to lex. my fam is from hazard so i think i can say we live and die by kentucky basketball.

  13. Very nice story. As a Kentuckian I’m very proud to hear your compliments of the people you encountered and I’m glad you enjoyed your visit. Now . . . see y’all in March (or April)!!! Best of luck.

  14. Wonderful article. I am so glad that you saw what a wonderful place Lexington and Kentucky can be. Good Luck in the future and come back and visit us again.

  15. This is a great article! We have our share of jerk fans, but I’m glad you had a great experience here in Lexington! Thank you for not doing the usual that sports writers do and writing some article using hyperbole and negativity throughout just to get hits.

  16. Great article! I’ll have to check out more of your stories in the future. Glad your trip to Ky was good.

  17. You just got a plug from ksr. Hope your server can handle it. Lord knows theirs cannot. Ha! Very well done! Perhaps I should reconsider my feeling toward Tarheels as well. Nah!

  18. Extremely well written and a fun read. I am very glad that you enjoyed your time n Lexington, except for the final outcome of the game, but you did get to enjoy KY hospitality and be a part of the Rupp basketball religious experience. There is not a congregation in the world of sports like the one found at Rupp on game day.

    Dan

  19. I hate to break it to you, but this is par for the course for the great people of Kentucky and Lexington. :D

    So glad you had a wonderful time in our state. I know I have a lot more respect for UNC after this weekend.

    Cheers, Tar Heel.

    A gracious Kentucky fan.

  20. That game was a beautiful and pure expression of the sport. Your magnificent prose provides a wonderful description of your experience and makes me proud of my fellow Kentuckians. Thank you so much.

  21. A very well written and complimentary article. Glad you had a great time in the Big Blue Nation. There’s a lot to be said about southern hospitality.

  22. Glad you had a great time in Rupp! Great article! Can’t wait to see you guys again in a few months!

  23. And if your ever in Tampa this cats family will have ya for dinner too! I have to say my husband is an oral surg. and that emergency would have had to wait till after the game!! Haha.. Lived the article!

  24. You have a great future as a writer, well done. Articles like this will make me root for the Heals too, as long as we are still the all time leading program that is.

  25. Good read! I as a Kentucky fan that made my day. Glad you endjoyed your time here. See you all in march!

  26. Very nice, and very well written. Having spent many summers of my younger child hood in North Carolina, I do appreciate your view of “our” beautiful city and our great Basketball team, cause I have said many times if I didn’t live in Kentucky, I would love to live in North Carolina. Hope to see ya in March!

  27. I’d wager your feelings about Cal would improve if you met him outside of the basketball arena or press conference, too, but an excellent article.

    We try to be courteous fans, and we recognize good basketball when we see it. UNC fans get closer to our level of fanaticism than most, so I think we understand each other a little better than most fan bases.

  28. Very well written piece. I’m glad you had such a great experience in Lexington. It is sad great stories like this are hard to come by.

  29. Great article! I have much respect for UNC and wish them luck the rest of the season. Lexington is a great town and Kentuckians as a whole are wonderful people.

  30. Well done; I am a UK fan surrounded by UNC and Duke fans, and this once again reminds of the superiority of the UNC fan. I had the chance to sit in the Dan Dome next to one of UNC’s former chancellors and my experience nearly mirrored yours here ( with much luckier seats). The two programs, I believe, collectively have the most cordial and intelligent- with regard to basketball-fans in all the country.

  31. Job well done indeed Danny! UK & the Lexington community thank you for your feedback and review of your experience visiting KY! Did you find a new favorite bourbon?

  32. I hope you tried some Makers 46. Glad you enjoyed Lexington. Come back sometime and take a tour of The Kentucky Bourbon Trail. It’s a trip worth taking.

  33. Outstanding and fun to read. A couple of great fan bases between UK and UNC. I hope for another game in march as well…

  34. So glad you had a good time in Kentucky! We certainly like to enjoy life and extending that enjoyment to out o’towners makes it all the better. And I must reinforce what one commenter said above – next time, make it Pappy Van Winkle (20 Yr Old, if you can find it).

  35. I’m honestly in tears. This piece was beautiful, you are an excellent writer! Glad you had a great time in Lex. Can’t wait to clash with the HEELS again in the spring :D

  36. I’m glad you enjoyed your time in Lexington Danny, you should come back out in the spring for Keeneland spring meet and take a tour on the bourbon trail. I take pride in knowing how cordial the fanbase I am a part of is viewed by others. I have nothing but respect for UNC as a program and a university so I’m glad that some of their fan base has similar feelings.

  37. Great article. Danny really captured the essence of the game, Saturday and every game day. As long as we can hate Duke together, we can be friends.

    “See y’all in March”

  38. As a life long Kentuckian and die-hard UK fan…thank you for sharing your experience….It was like an early Christmas present to read your story. Thanks so much …. you really are quite the writer!

  39. I just moved back to VA from Lex and this story is what makes it such a special place. No one outside of the state understands the passion that Cat fans possess. With knowledge of the game comes respect of the game and our opponents. Great article and glad you enjoyed your trip. Go back for Keeneland!

  40. I can only hope that, if I ever get the opportunity to make an impression on someone’s experience; I hope that I remember this article in that moment and pass the same along to another.
    Thank you for the great story, and the kind words.

  41. I’m glad you were treated so cordially. I work with a lot of people from out of town, I always swell up when they tell me how much nicer people are in Kentucky. Great article.

  42. Wonderful story, thanks so much for sharing your “very Kentucky” experience. Reading this makes me homesick for the Bluegrass as it’s hard for me to describe UK basketball to my UNC neighbors. Perceptions are sometimes hard to break, but your lovely story will certainly help! Please visit Kentucky again, you won’t be disappointed.

    P.S. For the record, UK fans do NOT hate Carolina. You, too, have a very classy historic program and we respect ya’ll for it. HOWEVER, we do HATE Duke…something we gladly share in common with you:)

  43. Thank you for the article. Lexington is a wonderful and cordial town. Great people and fans. The support of the Cats is nothing short of amazing. We will see you at the Final Four and celebrate win Pappy Van Winkle. :-)

  44. Great write up! We have as much respect for UNC as you have showed us…and we hate Dook!!! We will definately see you in March and may the best team at that time win! Bravo

  45. I am proud to be a native Kentuckian and prouder still of my UK family that showed you respect and respect for a team and program that deserves it.

  46. Oh, and Cal is the shit. You should look into to him more. The most thoughtful, giving coach in the nation. A true class Christian

  47. This is the best article I’ve read all year. Fantastic. UNC grads are true class. Your story makes me feel proud to be a UK grad/fan and a Lexington expat.

  48. Also, you may want to re-evaluate Cal after watching him carefully. Soak him in for a spell and you might just change your opinion. If you give your experience a likewise careful treatment, it would make a compelling article.

  49. Think about the similarity between our two programs: 1) historic. 2) most win in college history 3) tobacco road/bourbon trail 3) hate Duke. Go Cats and go Heels. Let’s go again in March.

  50. Great read and your so right.. its about the experience. Ive seen a few games at Rupp.. it is intoxicating even without the bourbon.

  51. awesome article!! still find it hard to believe you weren’t a bit more heckled at Tolly Ho though only because it is primarily a student based hang out spot.. glad you enjoyed your trip!

  52. A well written article indeed. I, too, have had the pleasure of experiencing the wonder of college basketball from the other side of the UK/UNC fence. Although I did not get invited to an after party with any of the powder blue faithful, I did gain a newfound respect for their fans in general. Kepp up the good work my man, and take it from me, Basil Hayden is the best bourbon on this big green marble we call home.

  53. Terrific article. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed your stay. Visit again and try out the entire Bourbon Trail tour, so you can sample other fine bourbons – although it’s hard to go wrong with Woodford Reserve and Pappy Van Winkle. Maybe Four Roses?

  54. It’s very easy to stereotype the Kentucky fanbase and most media types do. Thanks for sharing your experience and showing the true nature of the BBN. I know Roy’s been catching alot of grief but I thought he handled the loss with real class. A clash of titans that hopefully will be the precurser to the championship game.

  55. Excellently written article that really encompasses the experience of a Kentucky basketball game. I spent 7 amazing years in Lexington as a student and post-graduate, and being at Rupp Arena on a Saturday afternoon was one of my favorite things to do. I’ve been to several Kentucky road games, and I’ve always taken pride in how opposing fans are treated in Rupp, in comparison to being a road fan in another venue. At Kentucky, we love our Cats, but we also love college basketball. We may “hate” Carolina, but it’s a hate rooted in respect because there’s not another college basketball program in the country comparable to ours in tradition, following, and perennial success. Not Duke. Not Kansas. Not UCLA. To me, it’s Kentucky and Carolina and everyone else. Thank you for capturing that so beautifully in your writing.

    Btw, if you want the full Lexington experience, come during the second weekend of October: Midnight Madness, Keeneland, and UK football crammed into two days. It is something 100% unique to Kentucky.

  56. Great article! I was a student at UK when we hosted the 1985 Final Four in Rupp. St. Johns, Villanova, Georgetown, and Memphis State. Students from St. Johns stayed in dorm rooms with UK students so they wouldn’t have to find a hotel room. Those New York kids were absolutely blown away by the fact that TOTAL STRANGERS would be so kind to them. That typifies most UK fans and most Kentuckians. I went to the 1993 Final Four. When UK lost to Michigan, I found myself in the midst of a bunch of UNC fans on Monday night. They were great fans and I cheered for UNC. Still don’t like Michigan!

  57. Great read. There is a genuine respect among Kentucky fans for UNC. However, if you want to experience the Big Blue Nation’s vitriol, come back to a UK/Louisville game at Rupp. That’ll be a different kind of experience.

  58. I’ll echo the previous sentiments. This is actually fairly common behavior in Kentucky. The college basketball enthusiast can debate Kentucky’s true place in basketball supremacy and maybe it’s slightly behind UNC’s and Duke’s because of their recent success but one thing we have over them is a real family environment inside of Rupp. The entire state is drawn together by Kentucky basketball.

    North Carolina has the beach, several professional sports teams, a handful of D-1 collegiate athletic programs (Wake, NC State, Duke) and plenty of other distractions. Yeah, Kentucky has Louisville (another top 10 program in my mind) but no other fanbase can compete with the intense love of Kentucky basketball fans have for their program.

    I hope you got to see downtown Lexington at night. I’ve been to Washington State, Texas, Georgia, New York and many other great places but for my money…nothing is as quaint, beautiful and traditionally southern as downtown Lexington at night. I get chills walking past Triangle park every game. So proud to live here and be apart of everything you described in this piece. Well done and good luck to the Heels, unless we are to meet again.

  59. Great article! I am laughing and wondering there’s any chance creative liberties were taken in the quotes from Lexington residents? We don’t all say “y’all” here. Either way, glad you enjoyed your trip here! I hope everyone feels as welcome when they visit Lexington.

    1. I’m from Kentucky, and I say y’all and anybody I have ever known from any part of Ky has “y’all” as part of their vocabulary. Including people from Fayette County.

  60. Lets hope the home and home series continues with all the changes to the various conferences. U of K loves to compete against the best since basketball is a way of life for the BBN and NC gives us that opportunity. The best to you for writing such a nice story…keep em coming!

  61. Very interesting article and I hope this shows that people on message boards give us real Kentuckians a bad name. For the most part North Carolina shares a lot of the same tradition Kentucky does. That’s why I have always respected the UNC program! Good luck the rest of the season and “see ya in March!”

  62. Coming from a devoted cats fan, I have to say that it was a pleasure to read your article. Generally, the only time I cheer for UNC is when they play Duke, but I may have to change my ways.

  63. This is a wonderful article! I’m so sick of ones that are full of hatred and stereotypes of UK fans and kentucky in general. This is a great picture of lexington and I couldn’t be happier to be a wildcat! You are welcome back anytime!

  64. Great read. I have always respected the Heels but never really liked them as much as I do now after reading your article. The best bourbon you can drink is any of the Beam small batches. Basil Hayden, Knob Creek, Bookers and Bakers. I would probably catch hell if any of my neighbors knew I said this because I live a few miles from Makers Mark. Come back to Kentucky again and you can sample some of my fried venison, wild turkey, or fish if we ever meet.

  65. YOU CAME TO MY HOUSE! DRANK MY BOURBON AND THEN YOU RUN OFT WITH MY DAUGHTER ANNABELLE!

    I’M COMING TO CAROLINA DANNY! GONNA BRING HELL WITH ME ON ACCOUNT A YOU TELLING THEM LIES!

    PS: AND I SAW TEN SHOOTING STARS! YOU LEFT THAT PART OUT!

    PSS: YOU ALSO LEFT THE PART OUT WITH THE BUNNY COSTUME AND JUMPER CABLES BUT DONT WORRY. I HAVE PICTURES. ADD ME ON FACEBOOK AND YOU CAN SEE THEM.

    Rot in a bourbon fueled hell + Love,

    Earl.

  66. I love this article and Mr. Mudd’s comment was icing on the cake. Danny, you just earned yourself future booksales among members of the BBN. Best of luck to you!

  67. It is so refreshing to read a positive piece about sports!~ Great writing. I havent felt this way about North Carolina since York Larese played for the Tarheels.

  68. Thanks for the post. Glad you enjoyed yourself. Got to your post through a link on KentuckySportsRadio. They praised your post and writing skillzzz.

  69. Thank you for writing this! So glad you got to experience the welcoming spirit, and share the love of the game with 24,000 of the world’s finest basketball fans.

  70. Excellent article, and I see you’re quickly becoming acquainted with what happens when you write about Kentucky on the internet.

    See you in April.

  71. Danny, great article, glad you enjoyed your trip to Lexington and Rupp. My parents used to live in Wilson, NC, next time you come, would you mind stopping at Bill’s Bar-B-Que and bringing me some pulled pork and fried chicken, I really miss that. If I didn’t live here, I’d live there as my second choice. I hate the Dookies for obvious reasons, but have always respected the Heels, it was a classic and while I know its easy for me to say since we won, but it still would have been a great game if Henson had hit the jumper. Best of all you got to experience what Lexington is like and I hope it helps change the perception of Kentucky fans for other Carolina fans that read this, I’m proud to live here and proud of the people that treated you so well. I’ll throw my vote in the ring for Woodford Reserve, but Knob Creek and Basil Hayden are pretty tasty too. GO CATS!! GO HEELS!!

  72. A great, great read, Danny. Glad you enjoyed your trip. Lexington is a beautiful city and UK fans are the most passionate around. I live in DC and still miss the buzz of gamedays in Lex. I hope to make a voyage to Chapel Hill sometime in the spring. I’ve heard it’s right up with Ann Arbor and Athens as the best college towns around. Good luck the rest of the way.

  73. I attended the UK/UNC game last year in Chapel Hill. Our party alienated the UNC fans during the game as we stood the entire time cheering for our Wildcats. After the game ended and we were walking back to the car, Tar Heel fans were very cordial to us, wishing us well and good luck. I left with more respect for them and their program. Glad you guys had a similar experience here.

  74. Thank you for taking a BIG step to smash the stereotype about UK fans! While we are VERY fanatical, the majority of us are generally good sports and like to share not only the love of the game, but our passion for the tradition. As a life long UK fan, and having been to games in several states and conferences, I feel like a lot of times UK fans are pegged in to the category of the rude SEC fan. I have been to other games with my pals and never not fit in, even wearing my colors at other stadiums. I’m glad the trip was a pleasant one and hope to see more people go out on a limb like you did to bridge the gap between who we really are and who some many portray us to be. .:THANK YOU AGAIN:.

  75. really enjoyed the article! I hate it you don’t like Cal, but i didn’t think much of Roy either (till the postgame interviews). Then Roy zinged one of our local azzhat reporters and had nothing but good to say about the UK experience. That’s all it took for me to become a Roy fan. I think if you were around Cal a little more and see just a few of the good things he does (and has done) for our state, you’d soon change your mind about him as well. I’ll be pulling for UNC anytime they don’t play UK. And i hope you beat Dook like a red-headed stepchild for decades to come.
    Come back anytime!

  76. Thanks for sharing. So glad your trip to Lexington was awesome! So proud of my fellow Cats fans for being classy :) . It was a great game.

  77. Thank you so much for publishing this article!!! Recently, I had to sift through degrading comments on Facebook specificallly about UK Basketball and generally about Kentucky folks. I just shared this article with that particular Facebook friend. I hope she takes the time to read it.

  78. As a Tar Heel who lived in eastern KY for four years, I know the essential truth of this great essay and the many wonderful comments. I could argue hoops all day with UK fans without it ever getting unpleasant. Thanks to the UK fan who forward it to me. On and off the court, UNC and UK are the class of college basketball. I know that if Allen hadn’t blocked Henson’s shot, the UNC writer would have still been treated mighty fine by the UK hosts.

  79. well done…UK/UNC is simply the best rivalry and I would certainly trade IU for UNC any day…I moved to NC from OH 20 years ago and have come to respect UNC…and hate Duke more than ever. It is great for UK to be relevant again and the world is right when UK/UNC/Kansas and yes, Duke are competing for national titles…Kentucky folks are the best in the world, will give you the shirt off their back if you are a friend and rip your eyes out if you’re an enemy…stay on their good side. :)

  80. Great article! It was fun seeing the craziness from the perspective of a fan from UK’s biggest rival. I have always had a ton of respect for UNC and their fans, even if it is tainted a little bit with a little bit of envy for their recent success. It is good to see UK back to the same level with UNC, and it makes for a really fun rivalry. I also have a newfound respect and admiration for your coach, for his classy remarks after the game, and especially for the zinger he laid on Tipton! Roy, for that, you are A-OK in my book! Glad you had a good time, Danny – come on back anytime!

  81. Thanks from a UK fan for a very nice read! Glad you had such a good time (despite the game’s outcome), and best of luck this season!

    If you would ever like to peruse a UK forum, wildcatnation.net is a great one that is well moderated and always welcomes respectful fans from other teams. In fact, I’ve shared your story there :)

  82. Brilliantly written and incredibly accurate! I have taken non-cat fans to games and the reaction is much the same. Rupp is a special place and has been since my childhood. It’s like my Disney World! So glad you had a positive experience. Cheers to you and the Tar Heels for such an amazing display of talent and basketball. To quote your pros, “see ya’ll in March!”

  83. I’m a died-in-the-wool Cats fan. Born and raised in KY, and a UK grad. I also recently left Raleigh after a 7 year stint. Team allegiance aside, I LOVE the people in NC. Genuine and real, cordial and caring. I’m glad you found the same in Lexington. BTW, Danny…Pappy is awesome, but few of us can afford to drop a Benjamin on a bottle of Bourbon. No telling what they’d charge you for just a single glass! Blanton’s is choice, and about half the cost of PVW, and for everyday Bourbon, ya’ gotta love Maker’s, and even Buffalo Trace. I’ve also recently discovered Bulleitt (both the Bourbon and the Rye) which I can find in LA for $20 a bottle at Trader Joe’s. Anyway…glad you enjoyed your trip to Big Blue Nation, and I’m glad they didn’t knock you around too hard.

  84. Great article. I’m a lifelong UK fan, but have always been a UNC fan as well. Dean Smith was a great coach, as is Roy.

  85. Great read! Thanks for painting a picture of Kentucky NOT likened to deliverance! You should try Wathen’s Single Barrel and a steak from Malone’s next time you visit.

  86. It’s amazing to me how small acts can have such a huge positive effect.My wife carol and I love to entertain and enjoyed Danny and Edwards company along with our other guests. Great article!Share the fun and pass the bourbon.

  87. great read………..but coach cal in my book is a great person.
    I hope Uk & NC add another final four to their resume this year.

  88. Great story! Kentucky fans are fans to the core. For example, I’m currently living in Paris France, but a student of UK and I skyped with a third grade class. All they could notice was my UK shirt. They proceeded to break out into the John Wall dance, and proclaim Paris is nice, but John Wall was in Washington. Uk fans love their school and heritage even when they are 10 years old! Go Cats!

  89. Great article. My dad is a NC State Alumni, and I am now attending UK, so my hate for UNC is extensive to say the least. But, we played a very good UNC team, and I have much respect for them. I am also happy that you got to see some southern hospitality at its best. Great article.

  90. Very nice story. Glad to hear your experience in Lexington was a good one (albeit NC lost). It was a fantastic game and my respect for NC grew very much. As being a true blue Kentucky fan, I am always saying that my second favorite team is any team playing Louisville. Now I can honestly say that any team playing Louisville is my third favorite team, NC is always #2.

    Hope you visit KY again soon!!!

  91. Very nice story. Glad to hear your experience in Lexington was a good one (albeit NC lost). It was a fantastic game and my respect for NC grew very much. As being a true blue Kentucky fan, I am always saying that my second favorite team is any team playing Louisville. Now I can honestly say that any team playing Louisville is my third favorite team, NC is always #2.

    Hope you visit KY again soon!!!

  92. Awwww….first of all, your article made me so homesick I could die. Second of all, you made me love UNC back. Third…boy, you sure do know how to ensure a repeat invitation. I have a feeling that you need never pay for bourbon within the boundaries of the Commonwealth again.

  93. This is an outstanding & touching narrative! My family experienced KY hospitality for the first time when we vacationed in Lexington 40 years ago, and moved here because of it. I was born in Indiana, but KY will always be “home”. I’m very glad that you enjoyed yourselves while here.

    You are welcome back anytime, Tar Heel.

  94. Great read! Glad you enjoyed your visit and some our best (basketball, bourbon, Tally Ho & hospitality). Come back and plan a trip to Keenland!

  95. Anyone remember that similar article from a couple GA Football fans a couple years back? These GA fans stumbled into a tailgate a couple hours after the game. Joker and some other ex CATS were there. Eventually, the UK fans there took the Dawgs out to dinner, and that article was also very nice.
    I really do have to give credit to Carolina for, not only having a great team, but also playing a very clean game. I respect that, unlike the team we play on Dec 31 that brought guns, knives and kick boxers (he’s back) the last time.
    GLAD YOU ENJOYED THE TRIP! PLEASE COME BACK!

  96. Thank you for this article!

    A wonderful outside perspective and I’m so happy you ran into those wonderful people that showed you such hospitality. I love that you made it to Tolly Ho also.

    I shall reciprocate and cheer for UNC (secretly of course) at any other game this season except against the Cats of course :)

    Come back and see us soon!

  97. Well done Dan. I didn’t know you were a fan of bourbon. Next time you’re in Charlotte you will have to come have a drink and visit with Kim, Riley , Abby and me. Keep up the good work.
    John

  98. Papa and I did a fabulous bike tour in Kentucky and loved, loved Lexington. Had no idea I missed so many different
    Bourbons but surely did enjoy Woodford Reserve and Makers Mark. Loved your article.

  99. I can’t tell you how much I loved reading this. I am always proud to be a Wildcat, but this made me beam with pride a little more today. As Kentucky fans, we always seem to get the title of the most “rabid” fanbase in America and while there is no doubt we have an unfaltering passion for our Cats, the media, at times, makes the title out to be a bad thing. We love our Cats, know our basketball and bourbon, and are pretty great people as well ! :) :) Thank you for such a wonderful blog. It is nice to read something positive for a change!

  100. Glad you enjoyed your time in Big Blue country. You saw just a taste of what it is to live here and be a Cats fan. Speaking of just a taste, Woodford reserve is one of the best IMO, but you gotta try Knob Creek next time as well. But be careful, it’ll make your eyes look funny after a couple. Come back again soon!

  101. I can picture both UK and UNC fans living in San Fransisco after this one. (If you watch South Park you can understand the reference) (If not, YouTube it) To really believe that this kind of “experience” is exclusive to a place like Lexingtonton is more wrong than having Jerry Sandusky watch your kids for the weekend. This just furthers people’s beliefs that UNC and UK really do BELIEVE that they are better than everyone else. And please don’t make me laugh, to say that Kentucky fans have a high bball IQ is like saying Kurt Russell knows the most about traveling through a gate into another dimension; although some want to believe its true, it’s not! But I digress, obviously there are smart Cat fans out there, just like there are generous people all over the country willing to invite recently met out of towners to their home for a party. Just please do me a favor next time you recall an experience like this and put the empty wine glass down.

    1. Kurt Russell? Try Jeff Bridges. Some people can’t even get their point across while trying to disparage a well written article.

  102. Very well written. We are so glad that you had a wonderful time in our “Old Kentucky Home.” College loyalties are respected here. And you are welcome anytime!

  103. Nice story! Sounds to me like you should move to Lexington. They get all the UNC games on TV there too, but as you noticed, you won’t find any better people anywhere in the country.

  104. If you are not a Duke fan, and your last name is not Pitino, it’s always nice to be in Lexington. Y’all come back, you hear?

  105. If a bottle of bourbon is uncapped in the forest and no one is there to drink it, does it make a sound? Events are never really about the event, but the experience. This is understated, eloquent, and evocative, with just the right details to move me from here to there; I feel like I’m riding the first wave of exerience, rather than just living it second hand. Well done.

  106. Smug,
    I went back and read through almost all of the replies, and not once did i read where anyone from kentucky said that kentucky was the only place you get treated that way. So cry me a river. Why don’t you go back to wherever it is you’re from, and take your alligator skin manpurse with you.

  107. I’m a HUGE TARHEEL Fan!! I now live in Hawaii where college BBALL takes a backseat to surfing!! haha. Anyways, I’ve always hated DUKE of course. As of late,UK has joined that list as well! Now Danny, why did you go out there and make me like those Darn Wildcats!!!! Man, I want to go watch a game at Rupp! Just promise me some nice KY whisky and a handshake from Ashley Judd!!!! Go Heels and Much Mahalos for the hospitality shown to a fellow Tarheel. Have a great season and see you in April!!!!!

  108. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful story with us fellow Kentuckians’. The experience you had is what makes our state so special. One of my relatives would comment like this, “That’s Kentucky, son!” So glad to know Kentucky has made two new friends!

  109. Fantastic article, Danny Nowell.
    I’m not surprised by the Southern hospitality (from a bygone era) you experienced here–I enjoy it everyday– but enjoyed reading about it from your perspective.
    What a gifted writer you are! (“Blunt-force excitement” of Rupp vs. “condescending dignity” of UNC, “three-goggles-turd-boy,” hahahaha-still laughing)
    We have had many opportunities to move to other parts of the U.S. but have found Lexington a terribly difficult place to leave.
    Our Kentucky-bred family contains an unholy mixture of UK, UNC and Duke fans (most of us have at least one degree from UK–but some are UNC or Duke grads) You can bet I’m sharing your piece with everyone!
    If you didn’t make it to any distilleries while here, you MUST return. Woodford Reserve Distillery is only @ 15 minutes from Lexington and they give a fabulous tour & bourbon tasting. You also should come during Keeneland Racetrack’s spring or fall meets. Y’all will love Lexington even more. Hope to bump into you in March!

  110. As others have said, thank you for the kind words.

    And as others have said, most Kentucky fans don’t hate North Carolina. We respect the heck out of your program and for me at least, consider it one of the very few in the country that is in the same echelon as Kentucky.

    I moved away from Lexington several years ago to the big city, where college basketball is an afterthought behind NBA, NFL, and during March Madness, spring training. It’s hard to find people who care about the game, but I had the pleasure of watching the UK/UNC Elite Eight game last year with a UNC fan who was also a transplant. It was so nice to just appreciate the game with another fan from a great program.

    I wish you all the best of luck in the regular season, and I hope we see you at the end in March.

  111. After reading that bit of literary awesomeness, I’m headin’ out back for a Padron maduro and a 46. Thanks, Danny.

  112. Y’all picked a great bar, the Ho is fun, and obviously you ran into the right people. Now, just come back in the spring for Keeneland. And yes, I’m sure we’ll see ya in the tournament. Talented team.

  113. One thing that has to be considered: this was not a rivalry game. Sure, they are two of the best college hoops programs, but this is not a rivalry like UK-UL and UK-IU. That’s why I’ve said all along, Louisville and Indiana should NEVER be taken off the Cats’ schedule. Those rivalries are more exciting to me than this.

    You know when it’s a rivalry when you can’t stand losing to a team more than you want to beat them. If UNC fans at Rupp don’t feel dejected, it’s not a true rivalry and the pure excitement of college basketball just isn’t there. I know for a fact UK fans were treated horribly after that game Saturday. But I also know that if it had been the other way around, IU fans would have been treated poorly in Lexington too.

    Sincerely,
    Objective fan

  114. I am a lifelong Kentuckian. After my freshmen year at UK, I lived in North Carolina for a summer selling bibles and education books. I loved the people of NC. Their Southern charm and graciousness meant alot to me and reminded me of people “back home”. Thanks for you blogging about your recent experience in KY.

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