Best Bets in Lex
With last week's issue of ACE Weekly (and this one), the one swhere you, the reader, get to decide what is truly the "Best of Lexington," I am going to jump on this "Best of" bandwagon with both feet. There are a lot of categories we could talk about with sports, Best University of Kentucky Basketball player, Best UK Football Player, or Best Lexington Legend, but instead we will debate what is the Best Live Sporting Event in Lexington.
If you are going to talk sporting events in Lexington, you have to start with UK basketball games at Rupp Arena. A game at Rupp brings out the crowds. There is not a lot that can match the excitement and atmosphere that surrounds a big arena game.
The buzz in the air as you exchange smiles and high fives with the faithful that are all milling about downtown is truly intoxicating. The player introductions, the UK band, the fight song, the cheerleaders, and then a monster dunk. Put it all together and people are going crazy. Unless, the Cats are playing someone like, say, High Point. Then, although the game is still a lot of fun, the atmosphere is just not the same. There is no bloodthirsty excitement, like the kind that surrounds a game against Florida, Louisville, North Carolina, or Michigan State. These games are the ones where the crowd is "rockin' and rollin' baby!" as Dick Vitale might say, but when the opponent is not up to par, well, neither is the crowd.
UK football would probably have to be the second biggest sporting event that happens in central Kentucky. The advantage of the football game is simple: tailgating. Hanging out at one of the hotel bars before a UK basketball game is fun, but it does not top sitting out for a couple of hours, listening to the pre-game show on the radio, and enjoying good food and a cold beer.
Also, unlike basketball, if the football team loses, you are not really that upset. Sure, we all root for UK to win, but we do not always expect it. That's part of what makes a win that more exciting. Like the Alabama game that went into over time in 1997.
That one beats out a lot of basketball games. Unfortunately, Hal Mumme and Claude Bassett have hamstrung our program to the point that consistent winning is not likely for the near future.
We also need more night games. You can almost classify UK football games into two different events. Day games are fun, but football under the lights is something special. There is also the old tradition of bringing a flask of authentic Kentucky bourbon into the game with you. Sometimes I look around at people drinking Jim Beam out of a 1.75 and I cannot even imagine how they snuck that into the game. And a lot of times, I do not want to know.
The Lexington Legends are the new game in town. They are currently in their second season, but they have already made themselves an "it " place to be in Lexington during the summer. Baseball, hot dogs, a warm summer evening, the 7th inning stretch, and dizzy bat races, does it get any more American than that? The Legends do not just give you baseball, but they give you fun, games, and good food. Joe Bologna's pizza, hot dogs, BBQ, funnel cakes, and of course peanuts and Crackerjack.
The only thing that might keep them out of the top spot is that the Legends have not yet earned the emotional investment that UK sports has. I root like crazy for the Legends, but right now, I cannot tell you what their record is or in what place they are in their division.
Even with UK football, I can tell you where they are in the SEC East. It's easy, usually at the bottom, right ahead of Vanderbilt.
Keeneland is the granddaddy of them all here in Lexington. Keeneland brings to mind images of pretty women in hats, horses coming down the stretch, and throwing away yet another losing ticket. If you have a friend from out of town, and you can only take them to one sporting event, they may think they want to go to Rupp Arena, but you know they really need to head to Keeneland. If you can actually win some money, that makes it all even better.
The fall meet brings Keeneland and UK football games together, and when UK is smart enough to schedule night games, you have the most unique double header in all of sports. The 1997 UK/Alabama game was one of these double header Saturdays, and if you ask anyone that attended both, they will tell you that it made for one of the best days of their lives. If it would not be cheating, I would name the Saturday Keeneland/Football double header as the best sporting event to attend live, but I am supposed to pick only one.
I have left out a couple of very big sporting events. The Boys Sweet Sixteen basketball tournament and the 5/3 Tennis tournament are both big events that are a lot of fun. The Sweet Sixteen may be a better example than even UK basketball games of how hoops-crazy we are in this state. But, we only had room for four. So, which is it? What is the best sporting event in Lexington to attend live? Is it UK basketball, UK football, the Lexington Legends, or Keeneland? I will be honest, I don't know. They all have their strengths, and relatively few weaknesses. So, I am leaving it up to you. Choose one of the four, tell me why, and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will write up the results in a September column, when the winners of Ace's Best of Lex Readers' Poll are announced.
Remember, in the end, there can be only one
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