As a sea of Blue swarmed in to the Yum Center last night and Louisville’s Cardinals’ long time rival took ownership of this beautiful new arena, I could sense that the night was going to be a little different. With all the hype surrounding what in effect was no more than a practice match for coach Cal’s Dominican Republic team it was amazing to be witness the dedication of some of the 40,000 fans – all paying good money to see the former UK players get together again. Ticketmaster was selling tickets at the Yum Center for as much as $200 a seat – and these were not great seats either!
As I settled in and marveled at the UK line up, the Yum Center’s clock eventually reached zero and the teams were announced. Unsurprisingly the Dominican Republic’s National team was booed with the biggest boos saved for Sosa and Garcia. What did surprise me though was the Coach Calipari was booed by his own fans. I’m not talking of one or two fans but almost the whole stadium booed with the same ferocity as they booed Edgar Sosa.
The game was introduced by The Mayor of Louisville – Greg Fischer and the booing continued. Either the crowd was all from Lexington or simply having the word “Louisville” after “Mayor of” set these fans over the edge – even for Louisville, KY residents – many of whom I am sure voted for Mayor Fischer. It was not pretty to watch and I could see discomfort and disgust in the eyes of the few wearing red jerseys.
As the Yum Center lights slowly began to brighten, Calipari took a microphone and saluted the fans for attending. With a crowd of around 15,000 this contrasted with the capacity crowd that watched the Dominicans beat a group of former UK players in Rupp Arena the previous night.
The game tipped off at little late but the only lights came from flickering advertising signs and a scoreboard over center court and the concourse. It genuinely hurt to watch the game – not because the UK Pros seemed unable to get a 3 point shot in but because the lighting was so messed up one couldn’t see the court. An insider source, who would not be named (a guy dressed in blue who was sat behind me) was over heard saying that a friend of a friend works at Yum and the lighting disaster had been planned for a while. Unconvinced by my source’s authenticity I put a few phone calls into the Yum Center and to their Media Center. So far Louisville’s Yum Center has not commented. Either way the booing stopped and was replaced with shouts every few seconds of “turn on the lights!”
The lights did eventually return – but with around 2 minutes left in the first quarter and by then the outlook for the former UK players was not bright! They lost again with a final score of 91 – 86.
See for yourself : yumcenter