Saturday, January 7, 2012

#BIAHRoadTrip The Diary, Part III: The Battle of the Boulevard, and why I know what Ke$ha's grandpa does for a living

12:15 pm Day 3
Bluegrass Parkway
30 miles outside Lexington, KY
Total Miles: 844

Road Trip Part-I
Road Trip Part-II

This post is brought to you by the Holiday Inn Express Nashville Downtown.

Friday was dedicated completely to the Battle of the Boulevard.

So after checking in at the Holiday Inn Express Nashville Downtown -- which couldn't be in a more perfect spot; it is five blocks from the strip on Broadway with all the famous Honky Tonks and it took us longer to walk those five blocks than it did to drive to Belmont University -- we made are way over to Belmont's beautiful campus and spent the day hanging out with Danny Forcella, Greg Sage and John Langdon, who all work in the school's athletic department.

They were kind enough to take us down to Belmont's shootaround, where we watch head coach Rick Byrd work. And let me tell you, it was a treat. I don't know Rick Byrd at all, but after watching him coach in practice and in a game and then hearing what he had to say in the press conference after the loss, its pretty clear that Byrd is a no-nonsense kind of guy. I don't mean that as an insult, either. That's a compliment. He's straight forward. He's not going to BS you, he's going to tell you what he thinks and then shake your hand afterwards.

I'm jumping forward a bit here, but perhaps the most striking part of this visit to the Battle of the Boulevard came about 20 minutes after the game. Troy was in the press conference with four other reporters and three guys working TV cameras. After he was done answering questions, Byrd went and shook every single person's hand that was in the press conference and thanked them for coming to the game. It wasn't for show, either. When he got to Troy, he said "I saw you guys at shootaround. Thanks for coming down, we really appreciate it."

Now I don't know if he knew about the roadtrip or if he was told by Sage, the SID at Belmont, that we were coming to town or if he simply was thanking us for coming to see his team play. But I will say this -- I would love it if my son played for Coach Byrd.


This is where I have to give thanks to Danny Forcella. He gave us a place to crash one night, showed us where to go while in Nashville and made sure we access to guys like Greg Sage and John Langdon, who filled us in on everything Battle of the Boulevard. Forcella is a TV critic as well. Go check out his work here.

That said, the place that we stopped for lunch -- Rotier's -- Danny had never heard of. Which is a shame, because its every bit as awesome as you would expect out of a hole-in-the-wall that looks like it is still trapped in 1955. If you go, be sure to get the burger on french bread and order a milk shake, which isn't on the menu.


After spending the afternoon hanging out at Belmont, Troy came up with a genius idea: we should video tape the entire drive from Lipscomb to Belmont.

All 2.7 miles.

So we did:

The song you hear in that video? Its "Liza Jane" by Vince Gill. I know what you're thinking: why? What the hell do we know about decade old country songs? Nothing at all. But Gill is a Belmont grad and the program's No. 1 fan. He's great friends with Coach Byrd and sits directly behind the head coach during the games, living and dying with every jumper like he was still sitting in the student section.

Think Ashley Judd at UK, only a guy.


Belmont's student section was completely packed. Capacity for the Curb Center is 6,000, and while 5,882 showed up for Friday night's game, I can promise you that of those 118 seats, not a single one was in the section directly behind us.

And yes, we sat directly in front of the student section, which means I can personally confirm that there were definitely more bodies than seats in the first three rows. It also means I heard every single joke that the students had to say, and there were plenty that left Troy and I damn near tears. The best line came when Lipscomb's leading scorer Jordan Burgason was shooting a free throw late in the game: "Should I call you Burt Reynolds or Turd Burgason?"


That killed me.

Anyway, the way that the student section is set up at Belmont is that the first three rows are reserved for President's Cup winners, which is an annual spirit contest held by the school for all of the organizations on campus. And according to the brothers from Alpha Tau Omega that were sitting behind us, ATO wins the President's Cup every single year.

Its what they do.

Normally the crowd at the Battle of the Boulevard games are fairly split, but this year Lipscomb had not yet started classes, meaning that their students were still en route back to school. Belmont, on the other hand, at started school earlier in the week. (According to the Lipscomb fans I talked to, this was a plot by the administration at Belmont to ensure that they had fans in their gym. Normally, the Battle of the Boulevard games are played later in the season and classes don't start until next week. No one at Belmont would comment. THAT is what rivalries are all about.)

Anyway, Lipscomb still had a solid contigent of about 500-600 fans show up, including a young man by the name of TJ Ojehomon. A sophomore, TJ is the hype man at all Lipscomb athletic events and he decided to make the 2.7 mile trip to take in this game.

Wait until you see the videos we have of him (they'll be up shortly and we will update the post).

(Troy's Interjection)

I've been to well over 100 basketball games in my entire life, and I cannot remember a time that I had as much fun at a basketball game as I did at "The Battle of the Boulevard". Sitting right in front of the Belmont student section made me feel like I was back in college.

When I wasn't sitting on the bench or dominating practice in college, I was these guys. I was the loudest, most obnoxious member of my college's student section. I went to a small DIII liberal arts school in Central Pennsylvania. We had a unique rivalry with heavily-religious school very close by, and just like "The Battle of the Boulevard" our rivalry games were more of an event than anything else.

Neither of our schools had football, but both schools had elite soccer programs. In fact, our rivals have been the most dominant D-III soccer program of the last decade, and have a host of players in the MLS. When the two schools met up in our annual game, dubbed "The Marshmallow Game", anywhere from 3,000-6,000 people would be in attendance. This may not mean a lot to you, but considering both schools were located in the middle-of-nowhere Pennsylvania and had enrollments of roughly 2,000 students, it was a community event.

And since soccer was the most popular and most decorated sport at my school, the students were, well, hooligans. Our rivals, like Lipscomb, were normally very religious and lived by a strict code of ethics, which we would mock, insult and chastise.

So when I realized what was taking place right behind me at Belmont, well, it kinda took me back. The one difference being that the Belmont student section, specifically the guys from Alpha Tau Omega were significantly more hilarious than I could have ever hoped to be.


You all know what happened at the game by now: Lipscomb upset the Bruins after erasing a 12 point lead with 12 minutes left in the game.

It was an exciting game and a terrific atmosphere, but after the game we decided to try and hit up the barbecue spot on Broadway next to all the Honky Tonks. Its called Jack's, and every one had been telling us to go there all week. Unfortunately, Jack's closed at 10pm and we got there promptly at 10:05. So we went across the street to a place called Rippy Rib's that had beer and, well, ribs:

The ribs were good and the beer was better, but the best part about our meal? The band. You see the old guy sitting down and playing the bass to the right of the stage?:

That's Ke$ha's grandpa.

Think about that for a second. I'm not going to sit here and pretend that I don't know the words to Ke$ha's songs or that I am completely innocent of the occasional fist-pump if "Don't Stop" drops while I'm the dance floor. But I'm also not going to pretend that she's anything more than a manufactured artist that is the product of her marketing team, her producer and the miracle of auto-tune.

How ironic is that?

A talentless teeny-bopper has a grandfather that spends his Friday nights plucking a bass at local Honky Tonks in Nashville.


This diary is coming to you live from I-65 about 60 miles outside of Louisville. We'll be making our first trip to Rupp this afternoon, so if you are going to be there, let us know.



Rip said...

Sorry, but I am having a very hard time thinking of Ashley Judd as a guy.

Dan Forcella said...

Ke$ha is from Nashvegas and tried to make it in every genre of music before settling into the "talentless computerized pop" pop game.

Also, you linked to some bootleg website instead of my blog. It's

Anonymous said...

You guys blew it by not driving 45 minutes to see Murray State and Austin Peay play in Clarksville TN on Saturday night!