The always venerable Wikipedia defines an expatriate as “a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country or culture other than that of the person’s upbringing.” In other words, they’re strangers in a strange land. University of Kentucky fans have always identified themselves as members of “Big Blue Nation,” and in many cases, the BBN really CAN be found almost anywhere your travels take you. With that in mind, the series “The Ex-Pats of Big Blue Nation” will profile those Kentucky fans who have moved away from the Bluegrass State for whatever reason, asking how they’ve managed to maintain their devotion and fanhood despite living in areas where every exhibition game isn’t televised or where no one in the neighborhood understands the significance of the date April 2, 2012. Let’s head out west to San Francisco, where we meet Ash Mason. Read on and enjoy hearing about life as a UK fan outside of Kentucky.
Let’s start with the basics. Please state your name, where you’re from, and current location for the official record. No need for exact addresses, I don’t want to get you in trouble on the Internet.
I’m Ash Mason, originally from Paintsville, Kentucky. Currently living in San Francisco, California.
How did you get from Point A (Kentucky) to Point B (where you are now)?
I was offered a position five years ago at Gap Inc, heading up a process of which I was once just a part of in Kentucky for the company.
What team’s fans dominate your area? (College or professional)
49ers football and SF Giants baseball are the two most dominant. The Giants are the defending champs (2010 & 2012), and two out of three ain’t bad. Won’t it be sweet when BBN can say the same next April???
Was it a hard adjustment going from living where everyone knows every detail about UK sports, to where people may conceivably think UK and Louisville are the same team?
There is actually a considerable appetite for college basketball in the Bay Area. Folks are quite knowledgeable. It’s just that Cal and Stanford just really aren’t good on an annual basis. So our pocket of the BBN is happy to have those along who wish to follow a championship-caliber team.
How many Kentucky fans would you say are in your general vicinity? Is there a local UK alumni group or bar?
Oh yes. Zeke’s (3rd/Brannan in SF) has been featured a couple of times on KSR as well as the “lesser UK media” :). We’ve had SRO crowds for many games – sizable crowds even at 9am on Saturdays/Sundays. Zeke’s has had BBN members in attendance since the night UK came from 31 down at LSU in 1994 to win. Next winter, we will celebrate our 20th anniversary of Kentucky basketball game watches at Zeke’s.
How do you show off your fandom while living away from Kentucky?
I have a spare closet in my condo that has been nicknamed our “UK Goodwill store” in San Francisco. Wigs, hats, lighted blue shades, you name it. Oh, and the UPS man often brings the latest shirts from Fan Outfitters (since you can never have enough blue and white).
You live in California. Do you have a surfboard with a UK logo on it?
No, but when a sharp looking bag sporting a UK logo tumbles down the baggage carousel at SFO, I yell GO CATS!!!, and chase after it.
Would you agree with the statement that “California girls, they’re unforgettable, Daisy Dukes, bikinis on top”, or do you uphold that Kentucky girls are superior?
Kentucky girls are some of the most beautiful and sweetest in the world. But here you have females from many different backgrounds, from around the world. Instead of just Big Blue Nation, I’m working toward Big Blue International. Nevertheless, I still melt when I hear at Zeke’s, “Go Cayuts, y’all!”
What’s the hardest thing about being a fan outside of the geographic BBN? The best thing?
We are fortunate to have Zeke’s, which gets every single game via satellite and they turn the remotes over to us for many of their 16 TV’s. Otherwise, finding the games on the tube can be challenging here in PAC 10/12/14 Country.
How annoying is it to try and follow games from a time zone that’s three hours behind Kentucky?
Let’s just say that it is helpful when you feel like drinking a few more Ale-8’s. Even at 9am, many of the seats at Zeke’s are filled. It can get your day off to a great start. And those late night tournament tipoffs are prime viewing for us out West.
What do you do for games?
I dress in my blue and white and make the 15 minute walk to Zeke’s. Walk inside, exchange a few hugs, and talk about what we read that day on KSR when we should have been working.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to follow a game live?
We plan around the games here. But I’ll have an electronics store already mapped, so I can “browse new HDTV’s” if I have to in order to see the game. Sometimes it can take two hours to make my mind up.
How do you keep up with UK news without the local media readily accessible?
KSR, Facebook and Twitter. First thing I do when I wake up, and last thing before bed.
If I embark on a cross-country road trip with my friends, a la Britney Spears in Crossroads, do you have a UK-themed room I can stay in?
With real estate at a premium in San Francisco, I’m afraid I have no extra room for such thing. But you are welcome to bring your sleeping bag and join us at Zeke’s. I feel like I should pay actual rent. With the decor on the walls there, you’ll might feel you’re in a UK room in the back of a double-wide.
Since becoming an ex-pat, have you returned to Kentucky to watch the team play or seen the team play live in a different area? Any stories there?
Our crew here has been fortunate to be able to travel to some of the bigger away games. We’re still sore about Cal’s Maui decision. We went last time to Maui, but we do understand. At Maui, as well as in New Orleans, it was awesome to have such up close experiences with the players and coaches. We also have been to the last 2 Champions Classics, and are planning to travel to Jerry World. I also get a game in at Rupp during my Griswolds Christmas Vacation.
How do the locals respond to your fandom?
They don’t understand how a bar in San Francisco is devoted to UK. But after they stick around and see our passion, it’s often a different story. As Cal says, “You people are CRAZY!”
What advice do you have for anyone who may be considering a move from Kentucky who is concerned about missing out on following UK?
Check the message boards, KSR, Facebook, the UK Alumni Association, etc, to find your new second home. Locating my “California Kentucky Family” is one of the main reasons I’ve remained here. It’s like I’ve known them all my life.
Any general stories that the readers of KSR would be interested to hear about living as a BBN ex-pat?
There are some 2500 miles or so between California and Kentucky. Nevertheless, we here are even more rabid fans of UK and the Commonweath than ever. Don’t ask me to admit it, but there are still a few tears when we lock arms and sing My Old Kentucky Home… far away.