Vaught’s note: Kentucky fan Rene Cornett (@Rene81 on Twitter) is now a contributor for vaughtsviews.com. See more of her work at her blog rambler-in-blue.tumblr.com. She will be writing about Big Blue Madness camp out, Big Blue Madness and more in the coming weeks.
By RENE CORNETT
I love Coach Cal and if you know me at all, this will come as no surprise. He is the man in my eyes. He gets and understands Kentucky fans like no one ever has before. He understands our total devotion to our team and respects it. He sees 5,000 of us waiting on him after a game just to listen to his radio interview and maybe get an autograph on our basketball and he tells us thank you for waiting. He is humble. He is stubborn. He has high standards and goals and when he speaks you hang on his every word. He demands attention and it’s warranted. He caters to no one and he is brutally honest. He speaks out against the NCAA and we cheer him on for it. He is our coach and I’m so thankful. He is my hero.
Getting to meet someone you look up to so much is a wonderful thing and I’ve been lucky enough to meet Cal a few times. He’s always been incredibly nice to me and everyone else there. He is extremely charismatic and he can work a crowd like no one else. That’s the Cal you don’t hear enough about. That’s the side of Cal the naysayers ignore. The side they need to ignore. It makes it easier for them to say and write horrible things about him. Another historic season is upon us and I’m already readying myself to hear the onslaught of hateful comments about him. I’m here to tell you, ignore them. I’m here to say, he’s not that guy and here’s why.
The first time I met Cal it was after Kentucky’s 2010 loss to Tennessee at Knoxville. Let me tell you, Cal was not happy. He infamously punched his metal clipboard after that game and I saw his scrapped up knuckles to prove it. That didn’t stop him from walking out of Thompson and into the crowd of UK fans that awaited him and greet every single one with a smile. He was great. I held out my hand and as he walked by, he stopped and shook it and I immediately blurted out, “Thank you for being our coach. I love you.”
Talk about mouth diarrhea, that’s the epitome of it, right? Not to Cal, he looked me right in the eyes, smiled and said, “Thank you for being here today.” I almost passed out. Cal spoke to me. He shook my hand. I literally screamed and ran all the way to the car. I was so happy. The coach of Kentucky thanked me, who does that? John Calipari, that’s who.
A few years later, I was lucky enough to meet Cal on the trophy tour after Kentucky won the championship in 2012. We went to the Hazard stop of the tour and it was so crowded. People were everywhere and we stood in line for the longest just to get our picture taken with Cal, Ellen, John Robic and that glorious trophy. Cal was so happy. He was shaking hands, chatting with everyone and doing what he does best, making Big Blue Nation feel appreciated. I watched him take pics with every police officer that was there and tell them thank you. I also watched those grown men have smiles bigger than the kids there after. I watched him see a boy in a wheelchair, go to him and wheel him over to be in the picture.I also watched that boy’s face light up when he did so. It was wonderful. It was heartwarming and I’ll never forget it.
My latest meeting with Cal, maybe my favorite. My son attended one of Cal’s satellite camps and it was an awesome day. We lined up to get Cal’s autograph and our picture taken first thing. After doing so, we made our way back to the bleachers and took a seat, only to watch Cal greet everyone else that came through the line. He was so nice. He chatted, smiled , high fived, shook hands and hugged so many people. It was great to witness.
The best was yet to come, though. We watched a child’s grandmother walk out onto to the court to meet Cal. She was so precious. Cal immediately hugged her and proceeded to talk with her. She kept her hand on his arm the whole time and he let her. He laughed with her as if they were old friends. She was beaming with happiness and so was I just from watching. It was a blessing to see. It was a moment I’ll never forget. A moment that truly epitomizes just how Kentucky basketball transcends all age groups. It was Cal at his finest.
That’s the John Calipari, I love. The man that no matter how famous or how much money he makes never forgets that it’s the fans that make Kentucky basketball so special. You can’t fake that. He is that man. He lives it everyday and he shows it every time he comes in contact with Big Blue Nation.
Remember that this season when people say he’s dirty, a cheater and he doesn’t care. Remember he really does and that’s what the naysayers can’t stand. That’s what keeps them up at night cursing Calipari. They know he’s a good guy and they are jealous. Jealous of Cal, jealous of UK and jealous of Big Blue Nation because they wish they were a part of it. They wish that was their school in the spotlight. Their coach smiling from ear to ear because his team just won and their fan base living in the afterglow of it all. We are UK and we’re not going anywhere. Cal’s our coach and he’s the best. Remember that always, wear it as a badge of honor and most of all enjoy next season.It’s going to be a great one, cause my coach says so.