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The spectacle of Big Blue Madness on tap Friday for its fifth edition under John Calipari

Kentucky women's basketball coach Matthew Mitchell, seen here dancing as MC Hammer in 2012, has become a prominent part of the Big Blue Madness spectacle. | Photo by Jon Hale

Kentucky women’s basketball coach Matthew Mitchell, seen here dancing as MC Hammer in 2012, has become a prominent part of the Big Blue Madness spectacle. | Photo by Jon Hale


Without spectacle, what is Big Blue Madness? The event is kicked off each year with a campout for tickets. This year’s campout was especially extravagant; Kentucky’s official final tally was that 755 tents, the most yet, were camped out in front of Memorial Coliseum for tickets. It should be clarified that the tickets were free, and tickets were also available for free online (with a small service fee added).
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So 755 tents—this is not a head count, this is a tent count—engaged in urban camping for 77 hours to get something for free that was also available for free online. This is a spectacle of spectacles, one that almost overshadows the event itself. Almost.


The real spectacle—the spectacle behind the spectacle described above, or something like that—is Friday. Big Blue Madness is nothing but spectacle, which is evident in the amount of noise inside Rupp Arena during the player introductions and the drop-off when they actually hit the floor for the halfway scrimmage that follows. Big Blue Madness is about the dancing and the lights and the speech and bringing back NBA players, all in the name of getting fans to cheer with recruits in attendance.


Without knowing the tightly guarded specifics of the event at hand this evening, one piece of Friday’s event has been revealed. Attendees have been advised—nay, urged—to download an app for iPhone or Android called Wham City Lights. It’s called “interactive,” but the level of interaction beyond opening an app is unclear. The app will open, and the sea of glowing phones will create a light show.


Here’s a Wham City Lights promotional video to get a glimpse of what the Big Blue Madness attendees are working with:



And then there’s the player introductions. In 2009, John Wall debuted The John Wall Dance, a dance craze—“dance” “craze”—that took over blue-tinted corners of the Internet everywhere. Enes Kanter made his entrance as The Undertaker, the professional wrestler, in 2010, complete with The Undertaker’s music, dress and demeanor. Jarrod Polson has danced to Justin Beiber.


One freshman who seems to have the personality to make a big splash Friday is Marcus Lee. And indeed, he has something planned. He’s holding it close to his chest, though. He continually declined to answer questions about it at Tuesday’s media day, and it seems even his teammates don’t know what he’s going to do.


“I’ve got an idea (of what he’s going to do),” Jon Hood said, emphasizing the word idea. “But you never know with Marcus.”


The player introductions don’t stop at current players. As a decibel meter read at Big Blue Madness two years ago, the biggest reactions of the night came from rolling out former Cats now in the NBA, and at least a few should be in attendance tonight. John Wall said on “The Joe B. and Denny Show” that he would be at Madness on Friday; he’s in town for his Washington Wizards to play the New Orleans Pelicans in a preseason game at Rupp Arena on Saturday. Anthony Davis and Darius Miller play for the Pelicans, so it would make sense that they make an appearance, too.


As Lee did, Kentucky is generally tight-lipped about what will happen at Madness any given year. This year is no different. A big part of the spectacle is the element of surprise. Matthew Mitchell has made an entire brand out of this, doing various dances over the years. He was taught how to Dougie in 2010, he donned one glove and sequined socks to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” in 2011, and he channeled M.C. Hammer last year.


What he does, or what Lee does, or what anyone else does Friday is still up for debate. It’s a spectacle for spectacle’s sake, but people love it either way.

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