BY TINA COX
On March 7, 1979 I walked into Rupp Arena for my first basketball game. I was 16 years old and like every other teenage girl in Kentucky I was going to marry Kyle Macy. It was be my first time seeing the CATS play live, and see in person Kyle wipe his hands on his socks at the free throw line.
Tickets were expensive and hard to find. I never asked how many lunches my mother had to miss to buy the tickets. She was a single mom and worked two and sometimes three jobs but somehow she saved enough to make this teenage girls dream come true.
There wasn’t a line for ice cream, in fact the only detail I remember as we walked through the doors was the amount of UK merchandise available to purchase. In the 1970’s UK souvenirs were not easy to find. There was everything imaginable, cups, shirts, hats and stuffed animals.
Sitting alone in a corner was a three foot stuffed Wildcats with a price tag of $32 dangling from it’s neck.
Kentucky was playing Clemson that night in the NIT. I don’t remember a lot about the game except I never took my eyes off the court. Kentucky eventually lost the game in overtime, 68-67 ending the season. We stayed in our seats, Section 238, against the wall in the corner until the court had cleared. My mother let me savor every moment until Rupp Arena was practically a ghost town.
The vendors were packing up as we left. T-shirts and mugs were being put up for next years fans. There was that stuffed Wildcat still sitting in the corner of the table. My mother told me to wait as she walked over to the young man stacking the boxes of merchandise. As she handed me the stuffed Wildcat she had few words, “this will always remind you of your first game at Rupp.”
I held onto the Wildcat for many years. He survived college, marriage and the birth of both my children. He stayed in the corner of one of my rooms until there was no stuffing left.
I no longer sit in Section 238. I have media access. I get to know the players and go behind the scenes. I am living my dream. I am blessed and thankful every day for the opportunities that I have been given.
After the crowd is gone, press conferences and interviews are over I take the time to walk the sideline and look up to my angel who watches from Section 238. I know she is looking down and saying, “you go girl.”
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