A March Madness Experience: Louisville

When you have a rented car and the weekend off during March Madness season, there is only one logical option for what you will do with that weekend. University of Kentucky, looking to become the first team to go undefeated since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers, was playing Cincinnati at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville.

First, I would have to drive the 7.5 hours (with construction) down to Louisville and sit through the first game stinker that was UAB vs UCLA to get to watch Kentucky. 14 seed UAB was trying to keep its Cinderella season going by knocking off 11 seed UCLA but simply did not have an answer for Bruin big man Tony Parker. Parker finished 11-14 for 28 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 blocks, and could have done a lot more damage if it were needed. Even with the winner headed to the Sweet 16, it did not feel like a game that belonged in the NCAA tournament. Neither team has played particularly well this season and many expected neither team to make it a week before selection Sunday. UCLA won 92-75 to advance in the tournament.

The real reason for going was the Kentucky game, and the fans started filing in at the beginning of the second half of the UCLA game. Even though Cincinnati is only about 20 miles further from Louisville than the University of Kentucky campus is, the crowd was at least 90% blue. BLUE! WHITE! Those were the only two words you could hear from the moment the Kentucky players hit the floor. I am not sure if Cincinnati expected such a pro-Kentucky crowd, but they certainly didn’t seem stunned in the first ten minutes as their defense forced Kentucky into unusual mistakes. The rest of the game was all Kentucky though, as they made quick work of the Cincinnati squad. Kentucky looked efficient, calculating, and cerebral. While shuffling out of the Yum!, my friend and I overheard one Kentucky fan say “The crowd wasn’t even that pro-Kentucky, I am kind of surprised. The crowd couldn’t have been worth more than 3-4 points.” My friend and I glanced at each other as we shook our heads, not able to believe that we had just heard that after seeing a crowd that wouldn’t have been out of place in the Rupp Arena.

The drive to Louisville had been quite an adventure in its own right. Staying up 21 hours straight after working all day so that you can drive to Kentucky is just not a good idea. Windows down, music blaring, and the rumble strips were the only things keeping me awake. People, if you are falling asleep at the wheel please pull over and take a nap, nothing is worth endangering your life and the lives of others.

After arriving at 3:30 am, my friend and I groggily made our way through the maze of a hotel to our room. When I pushed the button for the fifth floor the elevator brought us to the sixth and I couldn’t have been more confused. This same issue happened the next day when I pushed the same button and I ended up getting off on the ninth floor.

Louisville, a Kentucky city that is close enough to Indiana that when I booked my hotel for the two nights it was considered “Louisville North” even though it was in Clarksville, Indiana, is a city that passionately hates the University of Kentucky. Lexington and Louisville are about as close as Milwaukee and Chicago, but with significantly more animosity than the Packers-Bears rivalry. The city that is usually painted red and black was blue and white for the night, and some city dwellers were none too pleased. My friend and I found a bar flying flags from every team playing in Louisville that week except the UK flag, so we decided to make a pit stop. The bartender, Ricky, wore a Louisville jersey and professed to be a UW-Madison alum so, naturally, we hit it off right away. Ricky also refused to serve the patrons wearing blue, which was just fine with me. After a few beverages, my friend and I went outside to meet our Uber, but found ourselves lost within a sea of blue that was still hanging out hours after the game. This, in particular, stunned me because there is no drinking allowed at March Madness games, so why not drive back to Lexington to party with your own rather than staying in Louisville when you haven’t even had anything to drink yet? Either way, we made it back to our hotel and had just missed out on the prime rib buffet served there. We had been intrigued by the $12.95 price tag one waitress had told us at breakfast that morning, though we later saw signs claiming it to cost $18.95.

Upon walking up to our hotel room, we were greeted with a door that would not accept our key cards. My friend sat down against the wall while I called the front desk and asked them to send someone up to let us in. 15 minutes passed and nary a hotel employee arrived so I began to dial again. It was at this moment that “Tony” arrived, saying he was there to lock us out of the room. I was staring at him with a puzzled and angry expression when the front desk picked up again.

“Hi, Roberto here in room A514, I called you saying I was locked out of my room and you sent this nice gentleman, Tony, to lock me out further?” I asked in an angry tone.

“Oh I am sorry sir, there had been a mix up earlier in the day and we gave your room to somebody else. Luckily they told us your bags were there so we set them up with another room. Tony should be able to let you in.” The front desk clerk said with a cheery tone.

I hung up the phone and Tony proceeded to let us in. I hate Indiana.

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