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. Tonight we meet Casey Hamilton in Melbourne, Australia. Read on and enjoy hearing about life as a UK fan outside of Kentucky. If you’ve missed the first two parts of the series, go back and meet Derek in Portland and Seth in Huntington Beach, CA.
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 Casey Hamilton. Originally from Owensboro, KY and I now live in Coburg, which is a suburb of Melbourne, Australia.
How did you get from Point A (Kentucky) to Point B (where you are now)?
I graduated from the school of Communications at UK in 2003. I had big time wanderlust and went to Vietnam to teach English for a year. That ballooned into another year and then another year. Since then I have globe trotted around, traveling and working in places like Pakistan and Korea. While working in Melbourne I met my current wife and have been living in Melbourne off and on for about seven years now.
What team’s fans dominate your area? (College or professional)
The sport of Victoria is the AFL (Australian Football League) or footy as it is known locally. Melbourne has a variety of teams and several interstate teams, so allegiances are mixed. The team that most closely reflects UK are the Geelong Cats which have the same colors and the same mascot. They have also won three Grand Finals (the equivalent to the Super Bowl) in last six years. So let’s hope our Cats can match.
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?
It is still hard, so the adjustment hasn’t really worn off. The game times are way off in Australia, it’s morning when the games are on so you miss out on a lot of the build-up to the game. People also wonder why I am nervously pacing around the block and yelling to myself (i.e. Louisville-UK games). Missing the camaraderie of watching games with friends and family is the hardest part.
How many Kentucky fans would you say are in your general vicinity? Is there a local UK alumni group or bar?
I know only one other person from Kentucky and to be honest we haven’t talked about it much…but surely there are a few somewhere. (Editor’s note: speak up in the comments section if you’re close to Casey!)
How do you show off your fandom while living away from Kentucky?
Wearing UK apparel and shirts and when watching other sports ( mostly footy ) with local friends, talking up our program and how it ranks in the history of American basketball. Trying to explain the conferences and the NCAA tournament and the fact that universities play in massive arenas is a whole other story.
What’s the hardest thing about being a fan outside of the geographic BBN? The best thing?
The best thing is it is harder to stew on a tough loss when no one else really gives a damn, you just move on. The worst thing is game times going on during working hours.
What do you do for games?
Get up early and stream on the Internet. If I am at work then I will usually put the KSR liveblog and try to follow the action.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to follow a game live?
For the national title game in 2012, I called into work sick (I teach English as a second language in Melbourne) and had my wife (who is also a teacher) go to work in my place.
How do you keep up with UK news without the local media readily accessible?
Kentucky Sports Radio of course!
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?
Not exactly, but since moving to Australia I have taken up brewing beer and have a dedicated beer room..so you can sleep in a room with about 100 beers to drown your sorrows.
That will suffice. 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?
Yes, my wife and me spent nearly half a year in Owensboro in 2011 and we indoctrinated her well into wearing the right clothes during the game, having lucky seats, etc. That was a fun year capped off with a trip to the Final Four. Just for the record, Doron Lamb was her favorite player.
How do the locals respond to your fandom?
Mostly with respect, I see a lot of similarities with the footy culture here and the basketball culture in KY, so people get it. They really don’t quite grasp the university system or why a player from New York would choose to go anywhere else to play. They totally understand the passion for your team though.
What advice do you have for anyone who may be considering a move from Kentucky who is concerned about missing out on following UK?
With the Internet you wont miss much….just the option of going to the games.
Any general stories that the readers of KSR would be interested to hear about living as a BBN ex-pat?
On the Thursday before the Dream Game 2, I left work feeling anxious. I randomly bumped into a Malaysian family on the street and the mother was wearing a UK sock hat. I asked her about it and she said she went to graduate school at UK before moving to Melbourne. As we were parting ways, she shouted “GO BIG BLUE and Beat the Cards!” I felt pretty good about the game following that.
Are you an ex-pat of BBN who enjoys talking about yourself? E-mail me at [email protected]