Monday, March 31, 2008

Oh Captain my Captain.....

Yesterday was a sad day for the Big Blue Nation. The only non-player, non-coach to ever have his jersey retired to the rafters at Rupp died.

Bill Keightley was the equipment manager for the UK men's Basketball team. At most schools, you would be hard pressed to find one person outside of the Athletics Department that could identify the equipment manager. At UK, you would be hard pressed to find one person who couldn't. Bill Keightley, or Mr. Wildcat as he was more commonly known, was a staple on the UK from 1962 until he died. The numbers speak volumes. He sat on the bench for 48 season, serving under 6 coaches beginning with legendary coach Adolph Rupp. He saw UK win 3 NCAA titles, 12 SEC tournament titles, 24 SEC regular season Championships, and 1,113 games. He was on the bench for 1464 games, 57% of all the games UK every played.

You could always find him sitting in the first chair on the bench, right next to the scorer's table. And he was always happy to shake your hand, sign an autograph, or take a picture with you. I have done all three at least a couple of times before UK games. And I don't know how many times, when I was waiting for tickets early in the morning outside the SAC offices, which were right across the hallway from the UK men's locker room, he would walk by with his bin full of towels or uniforms or whatever and take a minute to stop and chat with us. He always had a smile on his face, and I don't think I've ever heard anyone say a single negative thing about him.

He was one of those rare people who made you feel like you were the most important person in the world to him, even when he had just met you. He was warm. He was genuine. He was special.

After all, how many equipment managers have their own calendar? Or get a standing ovation when they are introduced at the first practice of the season?

Last year, when he turned 80, they passed out 8x10 cards at the game that had a picture of him popping out of giant cake on it. He has had his picture featured on bottles of Maker's Mark bourbon, was honored with a lifetime achievement award at UK's annual Catspy ceremony in 2005, and was inducted into the Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame in 2007. The equipment room in Memorial Coliseum is named for him, as is an award given to the person who "understands and exemplifies the pride, respect and the positive attributes associated with being a part of the Kentucky basketball program."

I can't imagine UK basketball with Mr. Wildcat. I don't remember at time when he wasn't sitting on the bench. Through the good years, the bad years, the coaching changes, the ups, the downs, he was there. He sat on the bench for so many of the great moments in UK basketball history. The '78, '96, and '98 title runs as well as the '97 trip to the final game, the "historic loss" to Texas Western that was immortalized in the movie Glory Road, and the Lattner shot in '92. He saw the Mardi Gras Miracle, Tayshaun Prince's 5 straight 3's to open the UNC game in '01, friend and former UK coach Rick Pitino's return to Rupp as the U of L coach in '01, Patrick Sparks 3 free throws to beat Louisville in '04, and most recently the valiant effort of Joe Crawford in his 35 point performance against Marquette in the first round of the NCAA tournament this year.

He was one of those people that were such a fixture that you can't imagine they will ever be gone. Former UK player and broadcaster Larry Conley said, "I always felt like someday he'd sit down on the end of the bench in Rupp Arena, go to sleep and just not wake up." I think many of us felt the same way. We all knew that one day he wouldn't be there any more, but we just couldn't picture it. Now we have to.

He was also one of those people who defy description. To put into words what he meant to the UK program would require more eloquence than I have, but I think Mark Story from the Herald Leader said it pretty well. "Bill Keightley is gone. The heartbeat of Kentucky Basketball can never be quite the same."

Death is nothing at all
I have only slipped away into the next room
I am I and you are you
Whatever we were to each other
That we are still
Call me by my old familiar name
Speak to me in the easy way you always used
Put no difference into your tone
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow
Laugh as we always laughed
At the little jokes we always enjoyed together
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was
Let it be spoken without effort
Without the ghost of a shadow in it
Life means all that it ever meant
It is the same as it ever was
There is absolute unbroken continuity
What is death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind
Because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you for an interval
Somewhere very near
Just around the corner
All is well.
Nothing is past; nothing is lost
One brief moment and all will be as it was before
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!

Canon Henry Scott-Holland

Friday, March 28, 2008

Mental Health Day

So today I decided to take a mental health day from work. It had been a long week and I knew I didn't have much going on today, so I used up one of my many vacation days and stayed home. And let me tell you, it was perfect. I got to sleep in (and it was a perfect day for sleeping in, rainy and dark) and then lay around in my pajamas for a few hours watching crappy daytime TV and messing around on the computer (Packrat on Facebook is my newest obsession).

You know, there is something very satisfying about still being in your pajamas when you know the rest of the world is hard at work. Now, I'm sure if I had to do it everyday, I would get tired of it, but for today it was perfect. And the best part is, that because today was Friday, it means that I still have two whole days of freedom left before I have to go back to work. God Bless the person who thought up vacation time!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Care to Dance?

So, I was totally going to try and not talk about basketball today (other than to say that UK got in, yay!) but then I realized that what I wanted to talk about (Dancing with the Stars) still involved dancing. So I figured a little more basketball talk would be okay since everyone who knows me knows that I pretty much eat, sleep, and breath college basketball, especially this time of year. Don't get me wrong, I love football, and swimming will always be close to my heart (I'm so looking forward to the summer games in Beijing this year--go Phelps!), but college basketball was my first love.

I grew up on college basketball--Kentucky wildcat basketball actually. I wanted to be a UK basketball player when I grew up, until someone pointed out that girls and boys don't get to play together in college (not to mention that I was kind of awful at basketball anyway). Then I decided that I would just marry a basketball player, namely Travis Ford (which was apparently not uncommon for girls growing up in the Commonwealth during those years). Finally, I had to settle for just watching UK play as much as humanly possible. Still, that seems to have spilled over into an all out love of the college game. I can't help myself, I just love to watch it, no matter who is playing. And especially this time of year, I can't get enough.

Dick Vitale (I know, you love him or hate him) said on the selection show last night that the next three weeks are the greatest three weeks of the year, and I'd have to agree with him, only I'd say that you'd have to include last week in that as well. You really just can't beat college basketball post-season play. After all, when else do you get to watch a team like Georgia, who won all of 4 games all year in conference play, win 4 games in four days and earn a ticket to the NCAA tournament? Or see a team like Clemson knock off Duke (oh yeah, it's always a good day when Duke loses) and then play UNC to the wire? Can't beat it.

But, I promise, that at the end of the next three weeks, I will go back to talking about something else. I will. I swear.

Oh yeah, and I am totally in love with Mario on Dancing with the Stars this year. I am totally going to be cheering for him and Marlee Matlin this season, especially in the absence of Maksim and his hotness.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Selection Sunday

Well, after a very eventful SEC Tournament (which Jenny and I thankfully decided not to attend this year) it is almost time for us to find out if our late season run is enough to get us into the big dance. While I was hoping for a better showing in our game against Georgia, I can't fault the boys for coming out a bit flat considering that they played the game at noon on Saturday instead of 10:00pm on Friday in an arena that they hadn't had a chance to practice in, against a team which plays there at least once every other year, in front of empty stands.

And, while I am disappointed in our loss, and they jury-rigged set up for the rest of the tournament, once you see the pictures of what the area around the Georgia Dome looked like Saturday morning, you can see why they had to take such drastic measures. It really is amazing that no one in the Dome got hurt. They really dodged a huge bullet there. Someone up above was looking out for them.

Still, not knowing if UK is in the NCAA tournament this year, a loss to Georgia, which is playing for the SEC title right now, was not the way we wanted to go out. The general consensus right now is that our 12-4 SEC record is enough to get us in, and I am hoping they are right.

But, before we know that answer to that question, I just want to go on the record as saying that no matter what, whether we go to the NCAA or the NIT or just go home, this team has to go down as one of the most loved Kentucky teams in history. Their resilience has been amazing, and I feel privileged to have been able to watch so many of their games in person.

Mark Story, a reporter for the Herald-Leader wrote a column the other day talking about giving this team a nickname like the Unforgettables of '92 or the Fabulous Five. Of the several suggestions he listed in his article, his favorite (and mine) was The Unbreakables. This team has been through the fire and they have come out Unbreakable. So no matter what, GO CATS!

Oh, and just for fun, here a video that was shot to show at UK's Midnight Madness in 2004. It was a parody of the "This is Sportscenter" commercials. If you watch closely, you can see Jenny and I just after the girl hits her second shot. We are the two goofy blondes jumping around next to the guy with the big blue Cat paw on one hand. Enjoy.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Just Another Manic Monday....

A couple of thoughts on this Monday.....

1.) Every year it's an adventure to see who will or who won't cry during the Senior Day festivities at Rupp. This year, the seniors held firm, although a couple of the moms got a bit teary. But this year, the award for the most waterworks goes to Billy G. Of all the people on the court, Billy was the one blubbering the most. Why the first year coach with no long term connection to the players, program, or the state got all teary eyed at My Old Kentucky Home is anyone's guess, but it made me love him. You gotta love a coach who feels that much emotion for his team.

2.) I love March. I love the fact that college basketball becomes a national event. I love the drama of the final few regular season games. I love the emotions of Senior Day. I love the do or die feeling of the conference tournaments. And most of all, I love the anything can happen attitude of the big dance. You can't beat the high drama of a single elimination 65 team system where you don't have to be the best team all season long, you just have to be the best team on any given night. The Cinderella teams that make a big run in March are what makes the NCAA tournament great and they are the reason I would watch even if UK didn't make the field of 65.

That long weekend of the tournament is one of my favorite weekends of the year. You can watch basketball from noon until past midnight for four straight days and nearly every game comes down to the wire because it's all or nothing. And really, you can't beat that.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Pride of Kentucky

There is nothing quite like Senior Day at Kentucky. The pageantry, the history, the emotion. Nothing quite compares. This year was no exception.

If you had asked me at the beginning of the year what my thoughts were on this year's Kentucky team, I would have pointed to their youth, their new coach, and the potential problems they posed. I was cautiously hopeful, but not overly optimistic about this team and their prospects. We lost a lot from last year, and there were no players on this team that I felt a connection to--not the way I felt connected Chuck Hayes or Tayshaun Prince.

But now, this team has become one of my all time favorite Kentucky teams. As much as the Hayes teams, or the Prince teams...more than the Comeback Cats of the '98 title run or the unbelievable '96 Championship team. This team, led by the seniors, has worked their way into my heart like no other team in my long association with Kentucky Wildcat Basketball.

This team has had more opportunities than most to make excuses for themselves. With only two seniors and one junior, they could have used their extreme youth as an excuse. Or their long list of injuries which reads more like the Football team's injury report--Jasper, Meeks, Carter, Harris, Crawford, Bradley, Patterson--could have given them the perfect cover. Perhaps they could have used the loss of their only true big man (Morris), as well as their senior leader (Perry), and their coach all in one year to explain their early season slump. But they didn't.

Even when the rest of us had lost hope. After the home losses to Garner Webb and San Diego. After blow out losses to Indiana and North Carolina. After most everyone had written them off. This team didn't quit. They didn't make excuses. They didn't lay down. They didn't quit.

What they did was buckle down, focus, and start taking one game at a time. They started playing hard, playing to their strengths, playing to win. True, the games have been close, but they've managed to win the close ones. The games haven't always been pretty, but they've managed to win the ugly ones. And even when it seemed like life was throwing everything it had at these Cats, they played hard and left everything on the floor. They managed to turn this season around.

At Christmas, it looked like we might not win a conference game and would be lucky to make the NIT. Now, they have played their way into serious consideration for a NCAA berth and the #2 seed in the SEC East. And the ones leading the charge? Bradley and Crawford. The two seniors and the heart and soul of this team.

All that is left of one of the most highly touted recruiting classes in UK history, Ramel Bradley, the gregarious character from New York, New York and Joe Crawford, the more reserved shooter from Detroit have stuck out their four years at UK. Bradley began in the shadow of Rajon Rondo, and never really came into his own until after Rondo left for the NBA. Crawford wanted too much too soon and had a yo-yo couple of years before he finally settled down and decided to stay at UK for good.

This year they have put this over acheving team on their backs and have played as hard as any two guys could play. They have played as many minutes as anyone could. They have played through injuries and controversy. They have stepped up with we needed it, and have inspired others to step up as well. They are the reason this season has been salvaged.

Today was a fitting was to send them off. They broke a 7 game losing streak to Florida. They pretty much assured themselves a spot in the NCAA tournament. They finished out the regular season with a win. They proved why they are worthy to play for the most storied program in all of college basketball.

I couldn't be prouder of this team and what they have done, and I couldn't be prouder of how the two seniors have led them. And, as the strains of My Old Kentucky Home filled the rafters at Rupp after the game, you could almost feel the spirits of all those who have worn Kentucky Blue, all those whose names hang in those hallowed rafters, smiling down at this team and their senior leader as they proved once again what it means to wear KENTUCKY on your chest. And why they are the Pride of Kentucky.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

In Like a Lion?

So I'm thinking this qualifies as March coming "In Like a Lion?"

And if that's not enough, last night we had Thunder Snow and Thunder Sleet. Now I have no problem with Thunder Storms. I even like them sometimes in the spring. But last night we had a full out Thunder Sleet, which is unsettling. It was thundering and lightening but instead of rain, it was sleeting so hard you couldn't see the parking lot. That was wild. Sometime after I went to bed about midnight, the sleet turned to snow, and this morning I woke up to about 4-5 inches on the ground with more falling. By the time the snow was done, we had about 6 inches on the ground in most places, with 8 in some drifts.

Just for comparison, here is a series of photos that show how my balcony looked yesterday when I got home from work, last night before I went to bed, and this morning when I got up.

At least we didn't get the full 8 inches they thought we might. And I heard that Louisville and Cincinnati got over a foot of snow, so at least that's not us. We can be thankful for small miracles I suppose.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Alert! Bill Meck not Excited About Snow!

Yes, it's true. We may actually be in for the storm they keep calling for. This "thing" apparently looks so massive on the weather maps that even Bill Meck, who I think was excited about the Ice Storm we had 5 years ago, isn't excited about the possibility of snow. Although he did say on the news tonight that he think we will get mostly snow and not as much ice. That suits me. I'd much rather have 12 inches of snow than 2 inches of ice. Given my choice, however, I'd rather choose 75 degrees and sunny. But that's just me.

If You Have Something of Importance to Say, for God's Sake Start at the End

So apparently, even though it is now March 6th, the weatherman (I'm looking at you Bill Meck) didn't get the memo that spring should be on it's way. If you listen to any weather report this week, you will hear that the world is going to end tomorrow. Seriously. It has been nice knowing all of you.

Okay, so maybe it won't be that bad, but I'd wager that there won't be a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk left anywhere in this city by tomorrow morning. Because, that's what we do when they are calling for snow or ice, we go out and by large quantities of bread and milk. Now, I have a full gallon of milk and an entire loaf of bread already in my kitchen at home (purchased on Sunday because I needed them, not because they were calling for snow), so I'm set once I get some toilet paper this afternoon, but what I can't figure out is why we all think we need to stock up on bread and milk for a snow storm. Really, if I am going to be snowed (or iced) into my apartment for a week, I want some good stuff to eat--steaks, wine, popcorn, ice cream, mac and cheese--not lame old bread and milk. And while I know that bread and milk are staples of many people's diets, I really don't eat all that much of either, as evidenced by the fact that the milk and bread I bought on Sunday are still untouched.

Still, it does look like we are going to get some form of winter weather starting tomorrow, although even Bill Meck can't tell us what kind or how much. At least this storm isn't hitting on a Tuesday like every other storm this winter has, and at least I don't have anything majorly critical going on at work tomorrow so if they do decided that the roads are getting bad and let us leave early (like they did a few weeks ago), I can actually leave this time. See, the thing about having a job is that unlike when you are in school and they decided to let out early, you can't just leave if you are in the middle of an experiment--especially in the middle of an experiment that you've spent the better part of the last three days working on. So, while everyone else got to go home at 2, yours truly was left hanging around until almost 4 because I had stuff to do. Oh well, such is life I guess.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

More Knitting Updates

In the absence of anything else to say, I figured I'd give you a few more updates on some of the stuff I've been busy making.

First, a lovely skein of yarn that Hannah gave me for Christmas. She says I have to makes something for ME from it, but I haven't found the right pattern yet. It's too pretty to waste.

And few more FOs that I took pictures of this weekend:

The Foliage hat from Knitty's Fall 07 knitted in Cascade Chunky on size 10.5 Circs/DPNs with size 9 Circs for the ribbing.

And a Hat/Scarf set done in mistake rib loosely based on the Urban Urchin pattern from the Stitch 'n Bitch Page a Day Calendar. The Yarn is the most wonderful stuff I've used to date, and I love the way it knitted up on the scarf, even though I had a minor color issues with one skein. It was the same dye lot as the others, the colors were just a bit off. It's not as noticeable in the finished product, however.

And an ear flap hat that I made for me from a pattern in Last Minute Knitted Gifts, but it's too small, so it will probably get gifted to someone who doesn't have a ginormous head.

Finally, this weekend, I played around with more Kool Aid Yarn dyeing. I tested out a few new colors: Blastin' Berry Cherry and Slammin' Strawberry Kiwi as well as Disney Splashers Grape, Tropical Punch, and Black Cherry. I also tried mixing some colors making a Grape/Berry Blue mix and a Grape/Watermelon Cherry mix.

Left to Right: Disney Grape, Disney Tropical Punch, Disney Black Cherry, Blastin' Berry Cherry, Slammin' Strawberry Kiwi, Grape/Berry Blue, Grape/Watermelon Cherry

I really like the Disney Black Cherry, it's a very nice Deep red color, much more so than the Kool Aid Black Cherry. The Disney Grape was darker than the Kool Aid version--it was actually closer to the Grape/Watermelon Cherry mixture than the Kool Aid Grape. The Disney Tropical Punch was a pinky red, not too far off from the Kool Aid version. I really liked the Blastin' Berry Cherry. It turned out a great bright red color. The Strawberry Kiwi was just a slightly darker version of the Pink Lemon aid color, so that could be useful as well.

Above, Disney Grape, Kool Aid Grape, Grape/Berry Blue, Grape/Watermelon Strawberry

When I compared the two Grape colors with the two Grape Mixtures, I was pleased to see that it gave a variety of purples. The Grape/Berry Blue was a nice dark blue/purple, although I was hoping it would be just a bit more blue. Still, it is a great color. I'll have to experiment more.

I also dyed and entire skein of yarn using the method found here. I used Ice Blue Raspberry Lemon aid as my base color and Cherry, Lemon-Lime, Mandarin Tangerine, and Berry Blue as my accent colors. As soon as it is dry, I'll try to get a picture of it up, but it turned out great! I can't wait to see how it knits up.