It's always a good game when UK and Florida get together, although for the past few years it things haven't gone our way very much (hence the reason that I am no longer allowed to watch UK play Florida at Kyle's house with Jenny, Brent, and Ashley.) There are have been some very memorable moments in those games over the years--last season's win comes to mind. But I know that last night's last second shot by Jodie Meeks (yup, Meeks again) will stay at the top of the list.
As it was, I almost didn't go to the game. I have an exam tonight and I needed to study. Plus, after 3 straight losses, one of which was the totally deflating lose at home to Mississippi state last Tuesday, my enthusiasm for the game was pretty low. But it was UK vs Florida, so I went anyway. And boy was I glad that I did. Still, if I hadn't gone, it wouldn't have been the first time I missed a great UK/Florida match up at Rupp.
Probably the greatest UK/Florida game ever played happened 6 years ago, almost to the day. It was February 4, 2003. Another Tuesday night game. Another ESPN game. Florida was #1 in the country. UK was #2. A record 24, 459 people showed up for the game. Rupp was Rockin'. I however, was not there.
I didn't have tickets to that game. My friend who was supposed to go get the tickets, bailed on me and so I was left to watch the game at home. And it was a great game--I think. I actually have very little memory of that game. In fact, I have almost no memory of the game itself. I remember what happened before the game perfectly. In fact, my recollection of the half hour prior to tip off is crystal clear. It was the last time I ever spoke to my Mom.
I had called home to check on things since I hadn't gone home the weekend before (I had to work). Ironically, that was the Sunday of the Space shuttle Columbia disaster. Mom was supposed to come to Lexington that Wednesday for a doctor's appointment and I hadn't heard from them, so I called to see what was going on.
Mom answered the phone and I knew right away that something was wrong. She was confused and wasn't making much sense. When Dad got on the phone, he told me that they had cancelled the appointment since there was nothing they could do and I needed to come home. My instinct was to jump in the car right then and come home, but they wanted me to stay for a formal I had that Saturday, so I did. Mom died early Sunday morning.
While I talked to Dad plenty that week, that Tuesday night, right before the UK/Florida game was the last time I talked to my Mom. My last words to her were "I love you."
I remember sitting down to watch the game and thinking that the Cats just had to win. I couldn't' handle a loss right then. And win they did, by 15. And they kept right on winning, running the table in the SEC that season and winning an SEC tournament title. It wasn't until almost two months later in the Elite Eight that they would finally lose the Marquette.
Did I think about that game last night while I was at Rupp? Yeah. I think about that game a lot. It comes up quite a bit. Every time they talk about the biggest crowds ever at Rupp. Every time they talk about great games at Rupp. Every time Florida plays UK at Rupp. I have always regretted that I didn't get to see that game live. But I am also glad that I got the chance to make that phone call.
So, last night when I had the chance to go to Rupp or stay home, I chose to go. And I'm very glad that I did. Now, at least, I have my own great UK vs Florida memory.