Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Gator Tail Tastes Like V-I-C-T-O-R-Y!

This weekend was one wild ride.

Let me first say that I completely appreciate that many people are just not that into sports, specifically basketball, more specifically University of Kentucky basketball. It's fine. I don't hate. I don't understand, but I don't hate. But I'm from Kentucky and regardless of where Neal drags me around this world in the next 12 years, you can take the girl out of KY, but you can never take KY out of the girl. Someone joked when we got stationed in Georgia that I would become a bulldog. No offense, GA, but no way, no how. Stick me and I bleed blue. Just ask the phlebotomist at my physician's office.

I was a sophomore at UK when they won the NCAA Championship in 1998. Even though the game was far from our Lexington campus, we still collected in the streets to turn over cars, burn couches in the road, and climb onto the top of whatever was closest. (To this day, I still wonder why destroying personal property is the appropriate way to celebrate a national championship, but it is and continues to be.) In short, it was a victory party unlike any I had ever attended. And I was just sober enough to remember it.

So, when it looked like my beloved Wildcats were going all the way to the final game of the SEC (Southeast Conference) tournament in Atlanta last Sunday, it set off a chain of events that simply couldn't be undone. My Saturday/Sunday timeline went something like this:

1:30 PM - It was 10 minutes into the SEC semi-final game with Alabama. UK had pulled ahead and they were playing very well. Even though I was listening to it on XM, I could tell that Our Boys in Blue had caught afire.

2:00 PM - Half-time of the game. I had been looking for tickets for Sunday's final game on StubHub for at least 20 minutes. I found 2 tickets, center-court, behind the pressbox, for $55. I called my cousin, who is also a resident of Big Blue Nation and was watching the game in Lexington.

"Cuz, we could win this game."

"I know!!!!!" 

"I think we should go to Atlanta. It's 90 minutes north for me, 6 hours south for you. Leave after the game and we'll spend tonight in Atlanta. You could be back home on Sunday by 11."

"Buy the tickets!"

"Are you sure?"

"BUY THE TICKETS!!"  Best case scenario: we had center-court tickets to the final game, which was probably going to be UK vs Florida (an SEC rival that I love to beat because they sort of have an ego. OK...they definitely have an ego...Freud would be so proud). Worst case scenario: somehow the Cats throw away the ballgame and I would have to drive to Atlanta on Sunday morning to scalp these tickets on the corner of bitter and crotchety. At least I could get a trip to Trader Joe's and IKEA out of it.  I bought the tickets. And then had to buy 2 more because people got word that we were going.

9:00 PM - Arrived at Dobbins AFB, where we got a very clean, updated room for $39/night. Sacrifice to your country has its benefits.
11:00 PM - Cousin and The Love Interest arrived at Dobbins and the first words out of her mouth were, "We are going out, right?" I was in cut-off sweats, a hoodie, and flip flops. I hadn't showered since the day before. Yeah...we're going out...to Applebee's.

1:59 AM - We had returned home from Applebee's and I had just finished painting my toenails. I watched my cell phone intently so I could witness it change from "1:59" to "3:00." It. was. awesome. Like time travel...but without Mary Steenburgen.

10:00 AM - We checked out of Dobbins and made our way to the train station. Traffic-free drive to the train station, followed by a crowd-free train ride straight to the Georgia Dome? Win.

11:15 AM - Picked up tickets from StubHub desk after leading my fellow travelers around in a 2 mile circle when really, we should have just come out of the train station on the other side of the street. Oopsie. But there were mozzarella sticks to walk off....(which, I'm pretty sure, is not on my Eat-Like-a-Caveman Diet)

11:45 AM - Lunch at Max's Coal-Fired Pizzeria. I don't think the cavemen ate pizza, either. *epic lunch fail* Cheese, dough, and Coke Zero are noticeably absent from my meal plan, but it was the first pizza I had eaten in almost a month. It was slightly orgasmic (or maybe this whole giving-up-sex-for-Lent/War-thing is starting to get to me).
That is a beautiful pie, no?And some beautiful people...
12:30 PM - Headed to the GA Dome, along with throngs of other True Blue fans. Hey Gators...I don't know where you were on Sunday, but you were pretty much not at the Georgia Dome. Maybe you had a lizard to shampoo or a nail to file? 
12:45 PM - Looked for t-shirts (generic SEC t-shirts that listed all of the teams in the tournament...nothing about how gator meat tastes like a win), beer (or red wine for me, since I gave up everything but the vino for Lent. But nothing brewed or fermented to be found in the Georgia Dome. Something about no alcohol during a collegiate game. Boo-his), and our seats (which rocked hard. I didn't need binoculars or glasses).

1:00 PM - Got FIRED UP!! 
1:30 PM - Watched 2 sorority girls almost get into a fist-fight with a couple of guys sitting behind them. The girls wanted to stand through the whole game...the boys wanted to see the game. Words and nasty looks were thrown, but in the end the girls moved. And then they sat through the entire game. Maybe the decision to not serve alcohol was a good one.

2:00 PM - Half-time and we celebrated the Wildcats' ability to sink the 3's, over and over again. This hand-sign was created by someone during the season and now it's everywhere...on t-shirts, posters, bumper stickers.
In Kentucky, we count by 3's!
3:30 PM - And that's game! See ya later, Gators! Even with 2 of our best players injured, we still sent you home with your tail between your legs. 
4:00 PM - We stayed until the trophy was awarded and the net was cut down. Our Boys in Blue played so well for us, we had to stay and support them in their moment of triumph.
4:30 PM - One last photo op for the scrapbook. Most Impromptu Roadtrip Ever. And going home victorious...there is nothing better.
5:00 PM - A crowd-free train ride back to the northern outskirts of Atlanta, followed by dinner at Popeye's (oh shrimp po'boy sandwich, how I heart you...alas, you were not on a caveman's menu, either. I must be better this week!), and Cousin and The Love Interest were ramping onto I-75 North, as I looped onto I-75 South...I would be home by 7, they would roll in around 11.

Through it all, my most constant thought was I really wish Neal was here for this. A couple of weeks ago, we were exchanging emails about installing our security system in the townhouse when he said, "I just want you to have fun and be safe." I had fun. I was safe. And I was still consistently aware of his absence. He was all that was missing.

Part of surviving a deployment with your sanity in tact is filling your days and nights. Whether it's with work, kids, or roadtrips...it's an undeniable fact that if you stay busy, the wake-ups will pass much more quickly. It's easy to keep my nose to the grindstone and work. work, work through these next 350 days, but it helps to have something to look forward to. I always tell first-timers to plan something that brings them immense joy every 4-6 weeks. Not just a movie with the girls or dinner out, but a treat. This was my treat and it worked...the days continue to fly as I walk on the sunshine of witnessing a Big Blue Win.


  1. That sounded like a most-awesome road-trip!
    And you are exactly right, sitting home and moping and missing him (even though that may be all you want to do) isn't going to bring Neal - or other loved ones - home any earlier, so you might as well have some fun!
    We don't really have the culture of college ball like you all do in the States, but it seems like so much fun. Wilzie and I have always said when we get to the South, we want to take in a college football game, but basketball is definitely more to my liking!

  2. How FUN!!! I wanna do a spur of the moment thing like that!!!

  3. You look like you are having a blast....

    good for you!

    Now come over here and help me get this excel spreadsheet figured out!


    that is all

  4. That was awesome! Love that you were able to be there to witness it! :)

  5. Whoa!!! That was a LOT of awesome!! Super jealous of your trip :) Go cats!!

  6. Hurrah for impromptu road trips! And cheating on a diet! And watching your favorite team kick someone's ass!

    Games are always five bazillion times more amazing watching in person.

    I'm glad you had a fabulous weekend!

  7. This is why I wish I lived closer to you. This trip sounds like so much fun and I wish I could have gone with you.

    Something you may or may not know about me...I love basketball. I used to be a huge Knicks fan, but because very upset when the players went on strike years ago. I thought they were acting like a bunch of babies and I stopped watching. But there is nothing more exciting than a basketball game.

    Which is why I love March Madness. I live for it. It's the best two weeks of my year...sports-wise. J too. I like the pools...I get really ultra competitive and do all kinds of research and I do three separate brackets to ensure the highest chance of winning. But I love to watch the games too. These kids (god...I'm so old!) play their hearts out and it's so exciting to watch.

    I don't have any allegiance to a particular team...since my alma mater's team isn't division I. However, I do have a soft spot for Syracuse. But this year, I promise to root for your Cats too.

    How will you ever survive March Madness without cable? J actually wanted to upgrade ours before he realized that we didn't need the sports stations to see all the games.

  8. Yay for keeping busy and YAY for your team and their WIN!!

  9. Good for you! Kelsey was thisclose to driving up to Catlanta himself (and is thisclose to driving to Tampa for 1 and 2 rounds). i'm glad you were there to support our Cats. Too bad the Gator fans don't give two shits about basketball. They do have the WORST egos. A few years ago we went to a KY/FL football game. I mean, really, is that a competition at all? We were cussed, pushed, etc. I swore never to go back for another game, but then we ended up going back this year with free tix.

    I <3 cheese...cheese sticks or in pizza form.

  10. I'm so glad that you did this. You did it up right too! And your team won too!

  11. Ok, so I grew up in Volunteer Country and now live in the lady of Cavaliers and Hokies - whatever they are! - but for the next month I will bleed Wildcat Blue for you. In other words, William and Mary ain't never going to the dance!! Go, Cats!

  12. LOL--I totally did the same thing with watching the time change (though I was staring at my cable box).

    Your enthusiasm/passion for the game is infectious. I admit to not knowing really much of anything where sports are concerned (SORRY!) but I get it. Everybody's got their something and I'm really happy you have found yours. That sounds like a wonderful and much-needed trip for you :)

    I am also glad to hear you are doing all you can to fill up the days before you are reunited with the hubs. You are doing an unbelievably good job of staying active... and I'm glad you treated yourself to this.

  13. I'll let the whole win against Alabama go, especially since you beat the Gators. GATOR HATER #1 OVER HERE! But I just wanna say that I hope my boys in BLUE have what it takes GO UNC!!!!!! This time of year is so exciting! ox

  14. That sounds like an excellent time overall! And yay for winning! Your team must've taken a lesson or two from Mr. Charlie Sheen's playbook. :)

  15. I too was invited to use one of those tickets, but alas, too old and too tired this week to drive 14 hours in a 24 hour period. But, oh...back in the day...so never pass up those opportunities to make lots of memories while you're still young! GO CATS! Take it in Tampa! Our Blue Blood is multigenerational!


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