It was a once-in-a-lifetime-moment. One you can’t get back or recreate. One some people wait decades for. One some people never even experience in person. And Robbie only had to wait three years, three months, and three days for it. His first Kentucky basketball game.
Robbie kind of knew what was going on before we got to Rupp Arena. He was wearing his Go Cats finest, excited by all the other people in Go Cats clothes around him. On the way from the parking lot, Robbie told me that all the adults at the game needed to drink Diet Cokes. He started to realize something incredible was going to happen when we walked through the turnstiles and into Rupp Arena.
Robbie and I waited in line for pizza, popcorn, and, yes, Diet Coke, before climbing to our seats in the upper arena. And that’s when it happened, when he realized where he was and what he was seeing. He looked at me and said, “Mom! It’s the Go Cats! We’re at their house!” I think that pretty much sealed the deal.
During the teams’ warm-up, Robbie cheered enthusiastically every time someone made a basket, yelling, “Good job! We did it!” He practiced yelling, “UK!” with an enthusiastic arm thrust to really bring home the point. He danced when the band played. He stood, eyes wide open, when the starting line-up was announced, cheering appropriately for each of his beloved Go Cats. And then he asked me if it was time to go home yet. We hadn’t even gotten to tip-off.
Part way through the first half, Robbie asked me whose school this was. I explained that it was Mommy’s school and Daddy’s school, and also Aunt Hilary’s, Nona’s, and Pops’. Robbie took this all in, pausing for a few seconds to construct his response. “Can this be Robbie’s school, too?” he asked, a smile spreading across his face.
“Yeah,” he nodded. “This QiQi’s school, too. I’m gonna go here, too. Just like Mommy and Daddy.” And there you have it. Rob Manna’s intent, all but signed. He took it a step further, pointing at the court. “QiQi a winner. QiQi play with black dudes.” I have no idea where he got that. At all.
Robbie and I stayed for the entire game. Right through the final buzzer and into “My Old Kentucky Home.” He pointed out his “favorite flags” – all the championship banners, making me take a few pictures of them. And he partook in the traditional half-time ice cream cone, climbing all the way up to the very last row to enjoy it.
Now, is he ready for an SEC game? Absolutely not. But a little exhibition game? Absolutely.