After the NBA draft in June, I decided to step away from Tailgate Review for a little while. Not because I didn’t love the site, our readers, and being involved in the UK blogosphere, but for a much more positive reason. After some trials and tribulations that many of us endure, my wife and I were expecting our first child in August! As the dads in the audience will attest too, there are many preparations that take place before a bundle of joy comes roaring through the doors. With that, along with the fact it was a down time for UK sports, I decided to step away.
On August 2, my little boy, Robert Allen Pedigo, Jr., arrived! It was the greatest day of my life, by far. Unfortunately, on August 3, I had the worst day of my life when my little brother, Eric, was diagnosed with cancer. We found out a week later that it was stage 4 rectal cancer and had spread to his liver. On September 12, after surgery to remove the cancer from his liver, Eric passed away at the age of 30.
As you might imagine, the last few months have been very bittersweet for me and my family. We have found out the joys of life and the misery of death very quickly. My wife and I now have a nearly 4 month old and a 12 year old, Blake, my brothers little boy. After Eric passed, we were granted custody of Blake. The transition that is still occurring in my home is extreme for all parties. After going so long without a child, we got two, remarkably fast.
As you have probably figured out in the short history of TGR, I am a proud member of Big Blue Nation, as was my brother. My family lives and breathes everything UK, no matter the sport. I had missed one home UK football game since Rich Brooks first season until this year. With all of the things going on, I missed 3 home tilts in 2011. Saturday’s game with Tennessee, was not one that I missed. In fact, it was the first tailgate and game that I really enjoyed since my brother’s passing. My mother and I both expressed the feeling to one another that we felt Eric with us all day long. I figured since we both knew he was there with us, we might as well give him what he so wanted for so many years, a win over Tennessee.
As my Mom and I sat in our seats we shared with my brother for so many years, we watched the Cats take a 10-0 lead over the Vols. As many of the Kentuckians in attendance did, I looked to my mother and asked, “How are they going to break my heart this time?” Big Blue Nation was not asking this because they did not believe in the guys on the field on Saturday, they asked it because they had seen it happen to so many teams before this one. For so many years, BBN had their hearts ripped out by phantom calls, strange fumbles, goal line stands, and various crushing moments during the Tennessee-Kentucky rivalry. In fact, so many of these moments occurred over the duration of the streak, the Tennessee-Kentucky rivalry was no longer considered a rivalry by many. IT had turned into a hammer and nail rivalry and I shouldn’t have to explain who was who.
As the clock ticked away and Morgan Newton fell to a knee, the emotions of the long streak overwhelmed the entire Commonwealth Stadium crowd, including my mother and me. As Morgan continued to kneel down, I thought about my brother. I thought about all of the great days we shared at Commonwealth in the last few years. I thought about how Winston Guy had visited Eric in the hospital in Eric’s last days. I thought about how “on, On U of K” played at Eric’s funeral as his friends and family left the church. I thought about all of these things and I thought about how so many who don’t care about UK or football or tailgating don’t understand how something so insignificant can mean so much to those of us who love it, and I felt sorry for those people. When I grabbed my mother and held her and said, “ That one is for Eric”, as the tears ran down our faces, it mattered. For Danny Trevathan, Winston Guy, Matt Roarke, and the rest of the seniors, it mattered. For the thousands of fans and students who spilled out onto the field after the game, it mattered. For Kentucky’s much maligned head coach who had to choke back tears after the game, it mattered. For one reason or another, it mattered for all of Big Blue Nation. Regardless of where, when, or why it happens, whether it is on grass or the hardwood, it will always matter to us who love it and share it with those we love. Thanks Cats! C! A! T! S!