Saturday, June 11, 2011

Final Thoughts on the Final Four, Part 4

If a picture's worth a thousand words, here's a couple hundred thousand...
Our tickets.  I was really nervous before we got scanned in they might be fakes, but they were real. 

Even the Galleria was decked out for UK!

Standing in front of the best candy store EVER.  In fact, one member of our party even did a victory dance upon realizing DCB was at the Galleria.  I'm talking 'bout you, LF!

Off to the game!

Enough said.

I got chills every time I saw that!

The photoshopped picture I mentioned in Part 3.  It's the desktop image on my computer at work.  All the third graders believe I had my picture taken with the team in Houston.  Priceless!

I saved this one for last because it's my favorite.  If you look at this pic, you can see how happy we are, and not the trials of the past year-which is why I love it.  You can see the friendship that encompasses 10 years, three states, and countless basketball games.  Back when Melissa's dad passed away, she mentioned she wanted us three to try and go to a basketball game together sometime.  Her daddy loved UK ball.  And of course, I said yes, not knowing when or how we could finagle a ball game with her in Texas and us in Kentucky.  If you had told me back in December the game we would attend would have been the Final Four, I would have called you crazy. 
But sometimes, crazy is just plain wonderful.

Final Thoughts on the Final Four, Part 3

Continued reflections of the highest order and spiritual nature regarding how I spent half my spring break.


Y'all, if Fayette Mall were like the Houston Galleria, I would get nothing done.  For sure.  In my thirty years, I had never set foot in a Neiman Marcus.  I made up for it in Houston.  Because some members of my party were a little discouraged when they saw the prices of the items, we didn't spend much time there.  There are two regrets I have of this whole trip, and they both involve shopping.  (While out of town, this is my normal mantra: Buy in haste, repent in leisure.  I borrow it from the late, great Erma Bombeck.)

I am utterly devastated, crestfallen, heartsick there is no photograph to document the $1,000 hat I tried on at Neiman Marcus.  If you have ever seen my classroom on Kentucky Oaks day, or seen me on Easter, you know I have no problem prancing around in a big 'ol hat.  I tried on a hat in NM that would have made the perfect Derby hat, except that outrageous price, and no one took my picture.  I think they were the slightest bit intimidated by the four digit numbers?  Meanwhile, I am in my Mecca of big hats, but alas and alack, there is no physical proof that I tried on those hats. 

And our wonderful hostess, Emily, lived in a neighborhood with three, yep I wrote three, Starbucks within walking distance.  One night, we walked to Starbucks and got coffee and sat out in the humid Texas air and talked and talked.  It is one of the fondest memories I have of this trip. 

They say to not focus on the things you can't do on on a trip, but the things you can do.  Therefore, I will focus on all the stuff I did manage to purchase and try hard to not mourn the loss of a perfectly good Derby hat.

Odds and Ends

We came.  We saw.  We conquered Bracket Town. 

For the uneducated, it is not enough to host the Final Four.  You must have something to do in the largest city in the state for your visitors on the off days.  Enter Bracket Town.

If you're athletic, this was your cup of tea.  If you count yourself fortunate to walk to and from your car without spraining your ankle, you might have been underwhelmed-like me.  Except for one booth that allowed you choose one of the Final Four teams, suit up in their jersey and photoshop you in their team pic.  Awesome!  And then they were looking for people to upload their photo on facebook to show how easy and simple it was.  Because I was doing something fun for once in my life am a technology fiend, of course I volunteered to do it.  And it didn't hurt there was a camera there recording everything.  (I've been accused of being a show off, but if you know me, you know I'm shy.)  So of course I did it in about sixty seconds, and then they interviewed all three of us.  Except I talked so much they told me to let my friends talk.  And Laura and Melissa informed them that I was kinda the mouth piece for the group.  But it was funny.

Another Saturday Night and I Ain't Got Nobody

All jokes aside, other than funerals or September 11th and the immmediate aftermath, the saddest crowd I've ever witness was the slow cattle herd out of Reliant Stadium that Saturday after they lost.  It was awful.  However, we did see one Butler college couple who atleast had the decorum to walk a steady pace behind, giving us room to mourn.  One soul looked up and saw them and yelled, "Butler!"  He gave a solemn nod, raised his fist, and we all understood they would defend our honor come Monday night.  (On the lighter side, you wouldn't believe how many people wanted us to go drink with them.  It was hysterical.)

Big Blue Fever

I've talked before about how this past year has been hard on me.  My friend Melissa, with whom we stayed, lost her father and grandfather two weeks apart in December.  The wounds were still pretty fresh in April when we were there.  She teaches school as well, but had hardly taken any time off.  Her principal kept urging her to, but she didn't.  Texas schools do this thing where they ALL (college and public) have the same spring break, so she'd had her break a month prior to our visit.  She was also missing two days of work.  She hadn't had a chance to speak to her boss, so she put them in as sick days, because personal time had to be pre-approved, and did I mention this trip was very hastily thrown together? Once we found that out, I politely offered to telephone in and inform him that she had contracted the Big Blue Fever, which she declined.  That was on Saturday, and we had a good chuckle.

Fast forward to Monday night, and we're on our way to the championship game.  Melissa and I are in our UK blue shirts, because we're not going to let Butler and UConn forget.  Laura is disgusted and refuses to wear UK, so she goes with pink (fashion is a big deal to us).  We're on the Light Rail, and Laura is sitting while Melissa and I are standing, laughing and defiant amidst the Butler and UConn fans.  (All two of them.)  Who do you think is on that train?  Nope, not her boss-that would be funny.  There is a lady with a ginormous camera snapping away.  She loved the contrast of us and our royal blue versus the dark blue, so we got in a ton of pictures.  Turns out she was from the Houston newspaper.  We got our picture (and names) in the paper.  Good times.

Final Thoughts on the Final Four, Part 2

I had such a big time at the Final Four there is no way one post could contain it all.  So to beat a dead horse...

Best Performance

Yeah, I know Kemba Walker was there. I know. I know Brandon Knight had a big night, as did Shelvin Mack. However, the absolute, hands down, most incredible performance I saw the entire three games did not occur on the hardwood but on the sidelines. I don't even know this fella's name, so I'll just call him the VCU's band director. Dude was into it. For real. When it was his band's turn to play, not only did he use his baton, but he used his entire body. I got such a kick out of watching him I was seriously sad when play resumed and the band had to be quiet.

Best Fans

As if I'm going to say anything bad about my people. Kentucky showed up in DROVES. Or as the locals around here would say it, "There were gobs of people there." There was a small contingency of VCU peeps (cue the "Black and Yellow" chorus) and Butler fans, but Kentucky came to watch. You could not go anywhere in Houston without seeing someone proudly sporting their blue. Even at the title game, there were more UK fans than UConn.  Which brings me to...


Okay, the people in yellow are the VCU fans. Their team had just lost. Right next to them are the UConn fans whose team are about to play for the chance to get the title in two days. Kind of a big deal, right? Not to these folks. This was as full as it got that entire night. Then on Monday night they made both of those areas UConn student sections. And UConn kids decided they'd rather stay home and wash their hair. The student section was so sparse Monday night they gave tickets to the Rice kids to help fill up the UConn student section (and it still wasn't anymore full than what it is in this pic).
Star Gazing

So the notables were out in full force. Ashley Judd was there (which we all expected), standing in the student section. Saturday night George H. and Barbara Bush were there in support of Butler, and they came Monday night as well. Dennis Rodman was there, as well as Leeann Rimes, who sang the national anthem Monday night. She brought along her now husband, Eddie Cibrian.

The People

Can I just say I adore me some Texas men? Because the parking was super expensive (and there were just a measly 75, 458 people there), we rode the train to stadium. The trains were packed, with lots of Kentucky fans, because where the Cats play, it's our second home. We will go to a war zone. We will go to the ends of the earth. We will go to Louisville.

However, I was impressed with the young men (i.e. college guys) on the Light Rail (monorail). And on our train there were a blue million people. Most were Kentucky blue, but there were a couple of UConn blue shirts as well. There were some Texas frat guys on our train who were leading the UConn cheer. Even though us three girls were wedged in the middle of a bunch of men, and the seating was limited (there were just a few Houston people who were trying to make their way home from work-the poor things), the moment there were seats available, who were the guys saying, "They should have those seats!" Was it our fellow fans? No. It was the Texas frat boys who were our opponents that night. At least their mamas raised 'em right.

Final Thoughts on The Final Four, Part 1

Okay, so in April I got to recognize a dream: actually attending a Final Four.  One in which my alma mater had a one in four shot in winning.  (Don't worry, I'm the rare UK fan who can handle defeat-this is not a whiny post.)  I'm still trying to process everything that went down over the five days I was there, and the only way I know how to do it is to ramble so here goes:

The Actual Trip
If you know me at all, you know I'm not big on long drives.  My best friend just bought a car and wanted to drive, but I dug my heels in and refused.  I don't like my blood relatives after three hours in a car, so 18 hours in a vehicle with one person?  I would have been put in the pen by Memphis at the very latest. 

Because my life is what it is, our first flight got delayed out of Lexington by 90 minutes.  Of course, we chatted with the other UK fans in the Lexington gates (one girl on another flight worked with two girls I had graduated high school with-you can not convince me it's a big world out there).  The delay wasn't so bad, because they bumped us up to first class on the flight from Atlanta to Dallas.  However, because Laura Faye and I must cause a scene wherever we go, I told her we were in first class (our tickets read 1A and 2B).  She informed me no, we were still in economy, there were just two rows.  I (foolishly) listened to her, only to start turning around and heading back up to first class.  It en route to first class I was asked semi-politely by a very built Marine if I was trying to deplane.  (This just cemented the fact that I knew what I was doing and let others lead me astray.)  My next thought was, "Is he an incognito air marshal?"  Being put on the "No Fly List" was not on my list of things to do over spring break.  We were watched closely, but once they realized we were just exuberant fans, it was all good.  Needless to say, I felt very safe on the plane.

We flew into Dallas to meet with one of our college friends and drive down to Houston for the games. Because I don't do normal well, the stomach bug that necessitated us calling the health department (my complex alone had 23 kids out) hit halfway between Atlanta and Dallas.  By the time our plane touched down, I'd been up 20 hours, was pale faced and ready to puke my guts out.  Because when you see your friend's house for the first time, it's always best to drop your bags and ask, "Where's the bathroom?"  I slept two hours that night.  (I told you, I don't do normal well!)

The road trip was good because it gave us some much needed time to catch up (even if someone spent Saturday morning nursing a stomach bug her sweet, precious students gave her and zonked out in the backseat on Tylenol PM).  On the first flight home, the flight attendant on the plane in Dallas took one look at my blue and white checkered purse and asked if I were a UK fan because she could take one look at that pocketbook and tell.  Turns out the Big Blue fans stick out like sore thumbs and we don't even apologize for it.  We sport it like a badge of honor.

You can see the aforementioned handbag in this pic.