Saturday, October 19, 2013

Big Blue Commotion

I am not a sports fan. I don't know much about any particular sport, and I simply do not keep up with any current events surrounding sports. This has never been an issue for me, other than the occasional awkwardness in a group conversation when I just don't have anything to contribute. My friends and family and co-workers know this unique aspect of my personality and accommodate me by not going on and on about sports topics or by poking occasional fun at me when I am clueless about whether March Madness is about football or basketball.

This weekend, my sports cluelessness became an issue.

I arrived at the annual Kentucky Reading Association Conference Friday morning. I registered, checked into my hotel room, and planned which conference sessions to attend. When I stopped by my hotel room later in the day, I noticed that a sheet of paper had been slid under my door suggesting that I allow an extra thirty minutes for checkout the next day due to potentially high volumes of guest traffic. "That's interesting, I thought. We must have really great attendance at the Reading Conference this year."

I proceeded to respond to emails and to look over the next day's conference sessions until time to leave for the evening to attend an event with a friend. I grabbed what I needed and headed to the hotel lobby to make my way to the parking lot across the street. As the elevator doors opened to the lobby, I realized something had changed since I first arrived at the hotel that morning. The entire lobby was filled with people, elbow to elbow, dressed in blue and white. "Well, that's interesting," I thought. As I turned sideways to inch my way to the hotel front door, I heard a band playing outside. Three TV station trucks were parked along the front of the building connected to the hotel. I noticed the name of the building was Rupp Arena. I remembered something about Rupp Arena having to do with sporting events, but I still was unclear about what was happening. Where did all these people come from? How in the world would I get to my car?

After a fifteen minute wait, a policeman motioned me to cross the street to the parking lot. Meanwhile, what seemed like hundreds of others crossed the same street heading in the opposite direction towards Rupp Arena. I felt like I was swimming against a rolling tide and would surely drown!

As I hurried to my car, a colleague hollered my name and caught up with me. I said, "What in the world is going on? Where did all these people come from, and what are they doing here?" She stared at me in disbelief. "Really?" she asked. "Yeah. Is there some sporting event going on? I'm not really a sports person," I replied.

She tried to contain her amazement at my ignorance and explained that the annual "Big Blue Madness" was in full swing, and by the way, "You won't get to where you're going on time, and you probably won't find a parking place when you return."

Boy, was she right! I sat in traffic nearly 45 minutes just trying to get out of the downtown Lexington area. And I was definitely late to meet my friend.

Trying to get back to the hotel was even worse! I hit the downtown area right as Big Blue Madness ended. Swarms of blue-clad fans emptied into the streets. I was amazed at not only the number of people crowding the sidewalks and streets but also at how polite they were. Fans were all smiles as they walked towards their vehicles, autographed posters swinging at their sides. I saw lots of families with cheerleading-clad little girls and blue-shirted future basketball players. I thought, "This world of sports that I've been oblivious to is a really big deal to these Kentucky families."

Suddenly, the irritating blue traffic jam became less of an annoyance and more of an awe-inspiring spectacle that stirred pride in me for being a part of Big Blue Madness, even as a spectator sitting in a car trying to go in the opposite direction of every other Kentucky citizen.

So, now I have a sports story to share in conversations with friends, colleagues, and strangers. "Why, yes. I have been to Big Blue Madness. And it was awesome!"

Countdown to Elianna!