As I get closer and closer to 40 (almost there, but not quite), I continue to have more and more “Get off my lawn!” moments. Whether it’s today’s music (horrible) or the TV shows of yesteryear (nothing better than The Cosby Show), few things age us like sports. The heroes of our youth become old men and retire. The uniforms that were once cutting edge look absolutely horrific in retrospect. It happens to all of us. And few things make me feel older than the annual Big Blue Madness Campout.
Like everything else related to the Wildcats, the Campout has become bigger than life. My fear it that it’s almost too big. That it’s almost too well organized. When I think back to the way things were back in my day, it’s the difference between the original Woodstock festival and the Woodstock 1999 festival. Sure, both gatherings were about music, but the newer edition had sponsors, it was broadcast on MTV and bottles of water were going for $5 or more. In essence, the whole thing had become commercialized and lost a little something in the process.
There’s no doubt that the members of the Big Blue Nation are the most passionate fan base in college basketball. That point is not debatable. But bigger doesn’t always mean better. When I was in school, man years ago, the campout was basically just one guy, Wally Clark, sitting in a lawn chair next to Memorial Coliseum waiting for the madness to start at midnight. Yes, in those days, it really was Midnight Madness. The craziness back then, for those that joined Mr. Clark initially, was special and unique. Only the most diehard Cat fans would forgo their real world responsibility for the opportunity to be among the first to see the latest edition of the Kentucky basketball team go through what essentially is just a glorified practice. Back then, it was special… really special.
Now, the media is there covering “Tent City.” There are radio shows and TV cameras capturing the event in real time and sharing it with the world. The campers have their wifi and are tweeting and Instagramming and Facebook-ing their experiences. And there’s no doubt that there’s fun to be had sleeping on the sidewalk along Euclid and hanging out with other members of the Big Blue Nation. But, for my money. Give me Wally and his camper and few other diehard fans. What started long ago as something so inherently Kentucky has now become a media spectacle. Just like Krzyzewski-Ville at Duke.