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. Ben Richeson currently lives way out in Seattle, Washington. 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.
My name is Ben Richeson. I’m from Louisville, KY and currently live in Seattle, WA.
How did you get from Point A (Kentucky) to Point B (where you are now)?
I lived in Louisville until I graduated college and received my Commission as an Officer in the United States Air Force. I spent the 1st six months in Biloxi, MS in training before moving near St. Louis, MO for three years. From there, I moved to San Antonio, TX for almost three years. One of those years, the Final Four was there and UK was the overall #1 seed in the Tournament. Hearts were broken when we didn’t make it. Once I left the service, I took an opportunity to work for Microsoft and have been in Seattle for the last 7 years.
What team’s fans dominate your area? (College or professional)
From a college perspective, University of Washington definitely dominates the local sports scene. Professionally it’s all about the Seattle SeaHawks, baby!!! Seriously, Louisville doesn’t have an NFL team and I never became a fan of the Bengals, Colts, or Rams growing up. When I moved here in 2006 I sort of called BS on Seattle’s devotion to their football team: then I went to a game and couldn’t physically hear the person right next to me. Now I’m a season ticket holder. Go Hawks!!!
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?
Funny, I’ve had to explain why I wasn’t enthusiastic after the Cards won the title this year probably 7 or 8 times this last month. At least we kept it in state. That said, the worst was when I lived in Texas. It was really hard to get UK basketball coverage at all because it was difficult to break out of the Texas-dominated media blackout. It was easier to find Texas high school football than college basketball on local channels.
How many Kentucky fans would you say are in your general vicinity? Is there a local UK alumni group or bar?
Yes there is an alumni group that meets up for games occasionally, but I’m pretty set in my ways (read: superstitious) about where we watch games so we haven’t tagged along for many alumni watch parties in the past. They are supposed to meet at our lucky bar next season, though, so I’m hoping this helps unify our efforts.
How do you show off your fandom while living away from Kentucky?
I wear something UK for every basketball game.
What’s the hardest thing about being a fan outside of the geographic BBN? The best thing?
The schedule last season sucked because it felt like we had an excessive number of 9am games. Mid-week games that start at 4:00pm are very difficult to catch with work and the commute home. The best thing is making friends with other fans when you meet them since it’s so rare. It’s also fun being known as the Kentucky Fan.
What has been your favorite memory as a UK fan?
Since I left Kentucky, it is definitely winning the 2012 Championship. My girlfriend (who I’ve turned into a UK fan) and I walked into our favorite sports bar which was DOMINATED by Kansas fans. The management staff recognize us after the last few years and they were so kind. They pulled out a separate table for us and put it right in front of one of their big TVs. After the game the number of Kansas fans that walked up to us and shook our hands was… overwhelming.
What do you do for games?
Depending on the time, I’ll either watch them using the ESPN app on my XBox360 or, if possible, head to the sports bar I mentioned above, aptly named Sport Restaurant & Bar, which is across the street from the Space Needle. Great food plus they have Pike Brewery’s Kilt Lifter on tap.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to follow a game live?
I thought it was going to be driving to the Portland game 3 years ago (seriously, I kept asking my girlfriend if she thought Portland fans were violent!). But I would have to say the craziest thing we’ve done was during the the UK/UConn Final Four game .. We made a horrible decision to try out another downtown Seattle bar since that’s where the alumni group was watching. After the terrible 1st half, we ran through the city back to our comfort zone at Sport to catch the 2nd half. I fully accept responsibility for the loss.
How do you keep up with UK news without the local media readily accessible?
I hit up KSR and Walters Wildcat World regularly.
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?
Unfortunately no, but I do have a Kentucky shrine of sorts. Also, our condo building has guest suites and we live a block from the Space Needle.
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?
In addition to the Portland game, we’ve been to both of the State Farm Champions Classic games. We plan on closing out that series this year in Chicago as well as heading to Dallas to help set the national attendance record. A trip to Rupp is definitely in the works soon as well.
How do the locals respond to your fandom?
People are cool for the most part. A lot of the UW fans were bitter when Terrence Jones chose UK over UW, so there were some snide remarks while he was playing, but nothing too bad.
What advice do you have for anyone who may be considering a move from Kentucky who is concerned about missing out on following UK?
The world is shrinking. Everything is connected thanks to the Internet and the increase in broadband penetration. You will get homesick on Derby day, anytime you listen to that Sundy Best song, “Home,” or watch Elizabethtown. If the Northwest is your destination of choice, you have to go to Pope House Bourbon Lounge in Portland, OR. Seriously, that place feels and looks just like home. Also, they have Hot Browns on the menu!
Any general stories that the readers of KSR would be interested to hear about living as a BBN ex-pat?
As an Ex-Pat, don’t be afraid to randomly approach strangers in UK gear as we did a couple of years ago. Especially don’t be afraid to celebrate a Jorts-lead victory into the Final Four with those strangers by sitting down at their table and buying a round of bourbon. You may develop a great friendship like we did.