It’s a well-known fact that Kentucky Wildcats’ fans take their basketball very seriously. And they have been waiting a long time, since 1998, to have an opportunity to see their team bring home a national championship. So, it’s easy to see that they would be overjoyed when the Wildcats were able to defeat interstate rival Louisville Saturday evening to secure a spot in this year’s national championship game to be played on Monday. However, the celebration went a little farther in Lexington, with fans erupting into a near-riot. When the dust cleared, over 27 people were arrested in the aftermath of the Kentucky victory.
A car was set on fire, and police had to resort to pepper spray to get the throngs of celebrating fans under control. No arrests were made on the arson charges, although investigations are still underway. The car was the biggest fire, but the Lexington Fire Department was called out to over 50 different fires near the Kentucky campus on that night. In addition to the car, couches were also set on fire. Students threw beer bottles at police as they tried to control and disperse crowds. Police are trying to instill confidence in the community that they can handle what would likely be an ever larger celebration if the Wildcats win on Monday night. Or it could get even uglier if they fall short. In any case, police insist that they are ready.
This is not the first time Wildcat fans got out of control over basketball games. In 1998, the last time Kentucky claimed the title, the scene was similar. 300 police officers patrolled the downtown streets in full riot gear as over 15,000 fans congregated to commemorate the occasion. In that incident, ten people were arrested and 25 people ended up in local hospitals with injuries. Two years before that, after Kentucky’s win over Syracuse in yet another championship run, a news van was toppled and bottles were repeatedly thrown at police officers.
Kentucky’s controversial coach John Calipari was disappointed about the fans’ reaction. Players responded as well, although a lot of the comments were somewhat tongue in cheek. Referring to the couch burning, Terrence Jones, forward, said:
“I don’t want to go to that person’s home. They don’t have nowhere for me to sit. That’s crazy.”
Sounds like real concern to me? What do you think?