By LARRY VAUGHT
For the 19th straight year, Sarah White will be at the Southeastern Conference Tournament today along with husband and children. They now call it the Blue/White Reunion.
“It is truly like a family reunion — not only with our family but the family we have added over the years. I think we have friends from almost every team/state that plays or is represented (at the tournament),” said White, who lives in Nashville.
She grew up in western Kentucky and inherited her love for Kentucky basketball from her mother.
“I had two uncles (my mom’s two brothers) who coached basketball. My uncle, WW Chumbler, coached (former UK standout) Adrian Smith as well as his own son Billy Chumbler, who got an offer from Adolph Rupp. My cousin, Billy Chumbler and Harry Byrd, coached high school basketball. My cousin, Marcia Chumbler, and I were cheerleaders. Every Friday night or Saturday night was a basketball game,” Sarah White said.
White, her husband Charlie and daughter Jennifer were even at Wednesday’s games. The other three children — Josie, Brent and Angie — arrived for today’s games.
The first time Sarah White went was when her mother wanted to go to the tourney and it happened to be in Nashville. They were able to buy four sets of tickets set Jennifer, the oldest daughter, could also go. She learned to watch fans of losing teams as they sold tickets and before the tourney was over she had tickets for everyone. She still buys tickets for all four “kids” if they are able to attend now that they have scattered to different cities and states.
“Until I retired 4 years ago, I always took vacation days to attend every game. The kids have always done the same thing. In fact, Brent changed jobs this year but in his interview told them he had to be off for the games or he couldn’t take the job,” White, who also attends the UK Women’s Clinic annually with her daughters, said.
She says her husband attends UK games to “please” her because while he likes basketball, she loves basketball.
“I’m one of those that attends the game, then rewatches it to see if I missed anything. I can’t tell you how many wonderful games/players we have seen over the years. We attend every single one of the games from the beginning to the end,” she said.
She was in St. Louis last year to watch Wenyen Gabriel hit seven 3-pointers in one game and see UK beat Tennessee in the title game to avenge two earlier losses to the Vols.
“I loved the year we were in New Orleans and Keith Bogans was playing. The atmosphere was phenomenal. I loved the year Boogie Cousins and John Wall were playing and we were able to beat Mississippi State,” White said.
However, her favorite SEC tourney moment is one only a die-hard UK fan can truly appreciate because it is a little unusual after a rare early SEC tourney loss by the Cats when the family decided to leave for home.
“As we were selling out tickets — which were lower level — some hateful young fans from Florida laughed and said they would give me $5 per ticket. I looked them in the face and said, ‘I would rather eat them than sell them to a fan acting like you.’ I took each ticket and slowly ripped it to pieces,” White said. “I will have to say that I felt much better.”
She was in Atlanta in 2008 when a tornado hit, delayed the tournament and forced it to be moved from the Georgia Dome to the Georgia Tech campus where fans were not allowed to attend.
“We all pulled together — every team and every family — when the tornado ripped the top off of the Georgia Dome roof as we sat in our seats,” White said. “We weren’t able to go to the game (when UK played the next day), but UK fans gathered in the lobby of the Holiday Inn, took turns ordering pizza for all, got drinks from all of our vehicles and shared them.
“Even the drive home, freezing cold, windows out of the vehicle (because of the tornado damage) was something we will always remember. I am just so lucky to be a UK fan.”