Vaught’s note: Kentucky fan Brad Wampler made his first trip to Knoxville Saturday to watch the Cats play and shared his experience getting to watch UK break a four-year losing streak to Tennessee.
By BRAD WAMPLER, Contributing Writer
I was born and raised to bleed blue. I have been to many UK games in Rupp Arena over the years including a once in a lifetime trip to New Orleans to see UK win the 2012 National Championship. Up until Saturday, however, I had only been to two away arenas, South Carolina (lived there for five years), and Louisville. Saturday I was able to add Thompson Bowling Arena to that list.
I want to start by saying I hate Tennessee orange and the song “Rocky Top” gets really old, really fast. That being said, having a rare free Saturday and finding $22 tickets, I was able to jump at the chance to catch my team play in a hostile environment.
For the majority of the game, I was a little disappointed with the home team crowd. The arena was pretty quiet considering it was a relatively close game, especially in the first half. At one point with UK up by seven, Tennessee’s hype-man attempted to lead the arena in a V O L S chant. It was brutal. The crowd absolutely did not respond. Then they hit back-to-back 3s to bring the game to within four points late in the second half. The crowd came alive. That was the atmosphere I was expecting. Luckily UK was able to silence the crowd and pull out the 13-point victory.
My interactions with the opposing fan base were limited to a few words on the shuttle to the game, and a fun conversation with a fan while waiting in line for the restroom. They were nice enough and very hospitable. There wasn’t a time when I felt unwelcome.
I felt like TBA was somewhat similar to how Rupp Arena can be during non-major games. When the team is sluggish or not playing well, it’s silent. When they go on a run it is as loud as anywhere.
I did like the fact that UT serves alcohol at its games. Granted I was not willing to pay $13 for a Coors Lite, but I liked having that option. The one complaint I has was how tiny the men’s restroom is compared to Rupp. We missed the entire halftime show waiting in line.
If I am being honest, the best part of the trip was hearing the “Go Big Blue” chant inside enemy territory. There is nothing better than taking over a rival’s court/field and coming away with a win.
Like Coach Cal says, “You’re going to hate me, because I’m going to come to your town and beat your team.”