back to College Hoops on Demand                    

riving long distances with my family as a kid, one thing always amazed me. A thousand miles from Kentucky, sometimes our car radio could still pick up the sounds of 84 WHAS, the state's most powerful radio station, cutting through the static to bring the familiar voices of local talk radio into the crowded family car.

        Reception was always better at night, when the little stations turned off and the big stations cranked up. If the trip was in the winter or spring, college basketball season, we would withstand long spans of crackling and hiss for the chance to hear the voice of Cawood Ledford announcing the play-by-play of the University of Kentucky basketball game.

        There are no professional sports teams in Kentucky, then or now. Everyone in the state worships college sports. That verb is exact: worship. Basketball in particular. Either you are a Kentucky Wildcat fan, a Louisville Cardinal fan, or some sort of atheist.

        Since I’ve moved to New York, watching Kentucky basketball has been one of the few lifelines I have to my native culture. Just as immigrants crowd a bodega or bar in the middle of the night to watch their country’s soccer team compete in a World Cup match on the other end of the Earth, so does the Kentuckian – doing what needs to be done to watch the big game.

        Luckily, Kentucky draws plenty of national television attention. For good reason. Kentucky dominates college basketball. While we haven’t won a national championship since 1998, there are a number of statistics that prove that winning our next is only a matter of time.

For instance:

Kentucky has won 1,876 games in its history, more than any other team in college basketball – 49 and 51 games ahead of North Carolina and Kansas, respectively.

Of the 439 players in the NBA, 13 of them came from Kentucky – the most of any other college. Duke was in second place with 10.

Speaking of Duke, the second best game in college basketball history occurred on March 28, 1992 when Duke, the returning national champion, almost lost to an upstart Kentucky squad led by Jamal Mashburn's 28 points and a new coach, Rick Pitino. At the overtime buzzer, Christian Laettner hit a 17-foot hook shot to crush the hopes of every Kentucky fan on earth. Known universally as “THAT game.”

The best game in college basketball history was when Kentucky returned the favor on March 22, 1998. Kentucky rallied from 17 points down to beat Duke 86 to 84 – commonly referred to as “that OTHER game” – on our way to our second national title in three years. We were stopped from three in a row by Arizona in overtime in 1997.

So Kentucky is awesome. Q.E.D.

        If Kentucky plays another big-name team, it’s on cable if it’s not on a network. But seeing Kentucky play the big games – Louisville, North Carolina, Kansas, Alabama – isn’t enough. It’s not “Will Kentucky beat Vanderbilt?” – it’s “By how much?”

        Sadly, even cable television doesn’t understand this need. Fortunately, God invented the internet and more recently, He has given us broad bandwith and streaming audio technology.

        Before I had cable television, living poor with other Kentuckians in Brooklyn, we’d stream the play-by-play of second-tier Kentucky match-ups from a Lexington Clear Channel affiliate on a dial-up modem connection.The buffering was terrible and spotty, but we tolerated it like my family tolerated the crackle and whine of a weak AM frequency just to hear how badly we’d humiliated Auburn.

        Now, with cable and high-speed internet, the expatriot Kentuckian never misses a game. When Kentucky plays a lesser team (in the SEC, there are plenty) or plays during a crowded slate of weekend games – it’s no problem. The streaming audio quality from ukathletics.com is perfect, and the connection home is immediate. A new streaming video service is going to make it even better.

PHOTO: Clint Newman
The author listens to the Kentucky-Auburn game on Feb. 23, 2005 via webcast from ukathletics.com. Kentucky won 81-73.

 
PHOTO: AP Photo Archive
Christian Laettner hits "the shot" at the buzzer in overtime to beat Kentucky 103-102, March 28, 1992.
 
PHOTO: AP Photo Archive
Wayne Turner, number 5, helps Kentucky overcome a 17-point deficit to beat Duke 86-84. Turner was named MVP of the 1998 NCAA South Regional Tournament. Turner holds the NCAA record for most games played in a 4-year career with 151, breaking Christian Laettner's mark of 148.
   

 

NYC24 Footer