As most of you know, this blog is generally a place for an offbeat look at Kentucky athletics and sports in general. We are rarely serious here and most of the time is spent making jokes about the various absurdities of being a UK fan. This however is not one of those posts.
I found out this afternoon that a former co-worker of mine, L.E. Burgin, passed away yesterday after a short bout with cancer. Burgin was a Marshall at the courthouse where I currently work and only recently finished his time there when his condition made it impossible to continue. He spent his life as a police officer and after retirement, began his second career doing courtroom security and generally brightening the lives of those around him.
I got to know L.E. about a year ago when I came back to Lexington from North Carolina. My relationship with L.E. was one that many of you that are reading with this likely have with someone in your life. It was based not entirely, but predominantly, around a common bond over University of Kentucky sports. On my first day at work, L.E. walked over to me with a bit of a mischevious grin and whispered, “you do like UK don’t you?” When I smiled and said yes, he got a huge grin on his face and said, “Finally someone to talk basketball with….!”
Over the next few months, L.E. and I spoke virtually every day and the conversation inevitably either began or ended on UK basketball. When he found out that I was fortunate enough to get to cover UK games and do writings on the team, he made sure to milk me every day for the latest gossip. Whether it was the inside scoop on when Randolph Morris would be eligible, what the players were really like in post game interviews or why Shagari Alleyne would not just dunk the ball every time, L.E. wanted to know every morsel of information about the team that I had and I delighted in telling him.
Throughout my life, beginning with my grandfather, I have had relationships that were not centered on, but were moved by, talks about a common love for Kentucky basketball. When I look back at my life, some of my most engrained memories are of moments where UK basketball was the backdrop….whether it was beginning my now 15 year tradition of going to the SEC Tournament with my grandfather and now my best friends, sneaking away from a wedding reception and into a swanky Dallas, Texas bar with 30 Kentucky fans to see the end of a NCAA tournament game or watching my grandfather, experiencing the effects of his own cancer, shed a tear after the 1992 Duke game as Cawood Ledford said his last goodbye. These memories matter to me and even thought it is bizzare, it is true that a silly round ball bouncing on a court with players who will never know the effect of what they are doing, has so often been a part of these times.
L.E. Burgin was a wonderful man and his love of UK Basketball was only a small part of him. But it was the part that I knew most and like so many of you probably have with someone you know, it was one of the strong reasons for our connection. One of my last memories of L.E. is his exuberant smile the first time I saw him after the win last season over Louisville. He expected a huge loss and when I saw him throughout the day, all he could say repeatedly was, “How about our man Woo!!!” and then quote the score. His happiness that day is the memory I will keep and I hope it returns every December day when the two teams play.
Back when no one read this blog besides me, the Turkey Hunter and our closest relatives, L.E. would still check it every day and claimed to be our “biggest fan”. Yesterday we lost our biggest fan, and he will be missed.