I have a group of friends, college roommates at the University of Kentucky, that I’ve known since 1974. We met in our freshman dormitory and roomed together in a series of apartments and rental houses throughout our college years. We had some great times. I remember skipping organic chemistry once during our sophomore year to head to Cincinnati in order to watch the Reds play the Yankees in the ‘76 World Series. Tickets were supposed to be impossible to get but we went anyway on the chance that we’d figure something out. It cost us some (especially on my next o-chem test) but it was completely worth it.
College came and went and we scattered to the four corners of the world. Some went into promising careers. Some got married and raised families. One joined the Peace Corps and one became a climbing bum. Auspicious beginnings.
Time goes by whether you are ready for it or not. Youth slides into middle age. Your children become teens and go off to college themselves. Careers evolve, people move around and all manner of complexities crop up in everyone’s lives. Fortune favors some more than others. For those of you who are not there just yet, the thing that really sucks about getting old is generally not what happens to you, but what happens to people around you.
One of our old gang has recently been through a very rough time — prompting a somber reunion last December. Not exactly the circumstances any of us would have chosen to reunite but predictable after such a gulf of time. Vague plans were made to see each other again under less lugubrious circumstances.
A few weeks ago I was traveling back from a business trip in my car listening to the NCAA March Madness Tournament selection show on the radio. As soon as I heard that the University of Kentucky was going to Boise for the first round of the Tournament I got on the Interweb and dialed up my UK friends on social media. “Get your bums out here and let’s go see a game!”
Complexities arose almost instantly. It’s not easy to get from Lexington, KY, to Boise, ID, even in normal circumstances. But because of the Tournament all of the reasonable flights that week were booked. The flights left involved multiple hops and great expense. Add to that the fact that nosebleed seats in Taco Bell Arena were going for nearly a kilo-buck and you have the makings of an obstacle course leading to the dream.
Now one person’s obstacle is another’s opportunity. The fact that flights were expensive and difficult to come by meant that the UK Alumni association had some normally impossible to get tickets available for Alumni members at face value. On this point I’d really like to give them some props. I’ve dealt with the Alumni Associations from several different institutions and no one has ever taken care of me the way that the folks at UK did. In less than a day I had two lower area tickets, worth about two grand on the street, that I paid $200 to obtain.
Word got around that a UK alumnus living in Idaho had tickets to the games. The next thing that I knew a couple of smaller Bluegrass media outlets dialed me up and asked if I would be willing to pick up the press credentials that they could not (thus forfeiting their eligibility for the next Tournament round) and serve as a pool reporter. The next thing that I knew I had not one but two sets of media credentials for all of the Boise tournament games. We’re talking complete access — press row, locker rooms, press conferences, court side access for photos and the media buffet. Tre professionals!
My friend who’s been through the rough patch managed to get a flight to Salt Lake City and it was on! As I write this we’re halfway through the weekend’s games. We’ve already interviewed UK Wildcat coach John Calapari and several UK players for Bluegrass Sports Nation. One of my photos got picked up. Our seats are excellent and the media buffet is pretty cool (we even offered to take some snacks out to the local media who couldn’t get in). It’s really, really good to see my buddy smile.
One — Improbable is not the same as impossible — you just have to believe.
Two — When opportunity knocks only a damned fool looks through the peephole without opening the door.
Three — If you are going to be there for the singing and dancing early on you’d better have a plan for the slow walk and sad singing later on. Fun is always a good option.
Associated Press and Idaho Press Club Award-winning columnist Martin Hackworth of Pocatello is a physicist, writer and retired ISU faculty member who now spends his time happily raising three children, llama farming, riding mountain bikes and motorcycles.