On a night on which John Calipari called on Kentucky fans to help his team get the win over Tennessee, we saw the Rupp Arena crowd at its best…and at its worst. Let’s start with the latter, because ESPN’s Dick Vitale went on a rant about how quiet the crowd was early in a game, the clip of which has gone viral:
Look at that excited Rupp Arena crowd! pic.twitter.com/roHsARy5F2
— Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) February 7, 2018
“This is one of the great places for basketball,” Dickie V. started. “I love coming here. The passion of the fans. It’s a little quiet right now. What did John [Calipari] say, his friend called up and said, ‘It’s so quiet in there’?”
“Yeah, ‘It looks quiet in there,'” Dan Shulman added. “The Vanderbilt game, it was quiet until the very end. The bar has been set so high that when they struggle — and by Kentucky standards, 17-6 is struggling — I’m not sure the fans know what to do.”
After a montage of fans yawning, checking their phones, and looking grumpy, Vitale continued.
“Look at how quiet they are. Look at how quiet they are! Come on, man, this is basketball! Big Blue Nation, cheer! Get up there! Wow.”
As you might imagine, that clip got a LOT of people talking online, with most using it as ammunition against the lower level fans at Rupp while others argued there wasn’t anything worth cheering for, so why bother? I could go on a lengthy rant about latter but I won’t because, in the second half, the crowd proved my point. It didn’t come at the eight-minute mark as Calipari requested, but with about six minutes left, the crowd stood up for good thanks to this video message from Darius Miller:
— Kentucky Athletics (@UKAthletics) February 7, 2018
From there, the crowd spurred Kentucky to take the lead and Rick Barnes to take a timeout when it got too loud (so loud one fan had to cover his ears):
Sadly, it all fell apart at the end, but not because of the crowd (which won Dick Vitale back over). Once again, Kentucky squandered away opportunities, leading to another disappointing loss. In so many ways, that stings.
Meanwhile, the clip from the first half resurrected all of the old complaints about the lower level at Rupp, including calls for more seating for students around the court or a new arena altogether. While I doubt any of that will actually happen, my main takeaway is this: when Rupp’s loud, it’s one of the best venues in college basketball, which is why it’s totally fair to call it out when it’s not.
We’ve been spoiled with some incredible teams in recent years, players so talented and in sync they didn’t need a push from the crowd to get going; this group is not that group. They need all the support they can get. The second half was a great start.