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. Right at this very moment, I am in Washington DC- so it’s only fitting that I post Emily’s responses, who lives in DC and falls of chairs frequently. Read on and enjoy hearing about life as a UK fan outside of Kentucky.
How Emily watches games
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 grew up in Lexington, by way of being born in Green Bay, WI. Basically, I was born into the two most annoying fan bases possible. I am passionate about politics too (come at me, trolls), so the bright lights of Washington, DC, eventually distracted my moth-like attention, and here I am.
How did you get from Point A (Kentucky) to Point B (where you are now)?
I’m the idiot who decided it would be a good idea to pack up everything I own and move from Lexington to DC the morning after the national championship. A mere 6 hours after running up and down Limestone with my UK Snuggie wrapped around me like a cape, I was crossing the Kentucky/West Virginia line, drinking an Ale-8, and sobbing. Since moving here, it’s possible that my fandom has only increased. I’m making up for distance by being as obnoxious as humanly possible.
What team’s fans dominate your area? (College or professional)
Nats, Caps, O’s, Redskins, Ravens…we have a lot. We also have the Wizards, but they are terrible. Sorry John Wall, love you, but your team is a joke. Georgetown is also a big draw at the Verizon Center. A group of my friends bought tickets to the Georgetown/Louisville game, which as you may recall, was one of Siva’s greatest showings. A whopping 0 points. We sat in the last row, I wore my “I don’t like to hate, but when I do, I prefer to hate Louisville shirt,” and cheered my ass off. There really is nothing better than screaming “SIIIIIVVVAAAA” every time he misses a shot towards the line beards in every other row in the arena. Almost more fun than going to a UK game. Almost.
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?
Yes. Thank god my office is decked out in UK gear, otherwise I am sure my co-workers would have been offering me tidings of congratulations after the national championship this year. “Oh, but Louisville is in Kentucky, right?” No. It can’t be in Kentucky if it doesn’t exist.
How many Kentucky fans would you say are in your general vicinity? Is there a local UK alumni group or bar?
There are definitely a good number of Kentuckians in DC. I’ve run across many randoms in UK shirts wandering around Dupont or Eastern Market. Touchdown on U Street is the official home of the UK Alumni Group in the city, and I’ve definitely been to my fair share of games there. Obviously, this season wasn’t all that much fun, but I’ve cultivated a healthy appreciation of the hate in my heart for Louisville. I had almost as much fun cheering against them all season as I did cheering for Kentucky last year.
How do you show off your fandom while living away from Kentucky?
Being obnoxious is one of my specialties. Seriously, ask literally anyone who has ever met me, even people who like me won’t disagree with that. Like I said, I’ve made up for the distance between me and Rupp Arena and Commonwealth Stadium by being even more obnoxious than I even thought possible. I fell out of my chair screaming when we got Nerlens, in front of about 20 regulars at a local sports bar, who had no idea why this tiny girl demanded ESPNU be turned on. They found out. When I fell down. I listen to KSR every day, and my office is decked out in Davis posters, and more than one person has requested that I print them their own version of Cal’s “haters gonna hate,” even though most of them don’t know who he is. “Who is that leaping man, his face is so funny!” So, I’m trying to spread the BBN, even though some people just don’t get it.
I once dragged out of towners all over the g.d. city for the SEC tournament, to find the one television that was actually playing the SEC Network. Great idea, since we lost. SIKE. But it was worth it. I am thankful I’m still on the same time zone as Lexington, so missing games isn’t an issue most of the time. And DC somehow picks up a ton of the games on random Comcast sports channels (who knew THAT existed), so I haven’t missed much. Praise baby bearded Jesus.
What’s the hardest thing about being a fan outside of the geographic BBN? The best thing?
The hardest thing is everything. I’m a massive homebody, and love all things Lexington too much. I cry a lot during tip-off when the games are at Rupp (seriously, I’m getting misty right now just thinking about it), and get really upset when no one wants to talk BBN with me. “Wait, seriously, you aren’t analyzing every tweet from a 16 year old kid? WHAT DO YOU DO WITH YOUR LIFE THEN?!” I also didn’t realize that obsessively loving sports was somehow a Southern thing. Not only are a lot of my DC friends not UK fans, they aren’t even SPORTS fans at all. Like, seriously, what do people do on Saturdays in the fall when they aren’t watching football? I don’t get it. So that’s been not the most fun adjustment. I’m 26 years old, and I am already set in my ways. I have three hobbies: work/politics, UK sports, and the Packers. That’s enough for me. You ladies enjoy crafting, but Imma drink a beer and watch football til I pass out.
The best thing is being better than everyone.
Oh, and going to the White House. And starting the C-A-T-S cheer in the East Room. I did that. It was on TV and everything, and that was ME! Which I was told afterwards MIGHT not have been the most appropriate thing I could have ever done, but President Obama had already left, so I figured it was ok. Sometimes I still cannot believe I got to do that, but it was the literal only perk of living far away from Kentucky during Derby Week.
What has been your favorite memory as a UK fan?
I can’t pick one, mostly because I have done so many ridiculous things before, during, and after games that every day is an adventure. I can’t even say winning the national championship was my favorite, because I knew I had to pack up and leave the next day. (Yup, crying again, this is embarrassing). I’ll choose instead to share a few of my anecdotes involving pee and murder threats.
1) SEC Tournament, 2010. Boogie last second shot. I was watching the game at B-Dubs on South Broadway, sitting in the bar on at high top. When he made that shot, I fell off my stool (I do this a lot), and promptly decided that the floor was my seat. I sat down there for the rest of the game, and my friends had no idea. They legitimately thought I couldn’t handle the pressure of the game, and had left the restaurant. That is not entirely out of the realm of possibilities for me either.
2) NCAA Tournament, 2011. UK vs. UNC. Lexington was a clusterf*** that day, and literally every normal bar or viewing area was booked to the gills. It seemed worse that day than any other game, somehow. Ended up at Chili’s (the new golf course, love you forever Michael Scott). At halftime, a family of 4 walked in to the bar, wearing UNC gear. The kids were maybe 8 and 11. I pointed at the daughter and screamed, “What is WRONG with you?!” Whoops. They weren’t very happy.
3) NCAA Tournament, 2011. UK vs. Ohio State. I peed my pants a little when Brandon hit that shot. #sorryimnotsorry
4) NCAA Tournament, 2011. UK vs. UCONN. Like most UK fans, I firmly believe that where I sit impacts the game. People are not allowed to move when they are watching with me, and we start winning. Except this jerk NAMED BRANDON (name has not been changed to protect the jerks), who decided that the last 3 minutes of the game were when he had to have a cigarette on the balcony. We lost. I threatened to throw him off his precious balcony. People held me back, and I ended up curled up on the floor of my friend’s closet crying for about an hour.
Important to note: I can’t drink during games. So I can’t even blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-a-alcohol. I’m just an idiot.
Major normal highlights also include Stevie gettin’ loose, beating LSU, the 1998 Duke game (which I still watch on YouTube whenever I am sad), and being a part of the banner raising ceremonies in 1996, 1997, and 1998. I also still remember the exact outfit I wore for every UK game in 1998: Lansdowne Gators shirt, and some sweet knee-length jorts. What up, Lexington throwbacks.
What do you do for games?
Watch them. Follow the live blog. Listen to them as much as I can (thanks, IMG, can’t you and iHeart just get along?!). I go to the UK bar when I can, but because I am an old lady, the 9 pm weekday games are usually best enjoyed on my couch, clutching pillows, and silently screaming as to not wake my dear roommate, who has learned to, at best, tolerate me during the seasons. I also legitimately do not enjoy drinking during UK basketball games. The one time I did, I got banished from my own living room, during the Vandy game last season. Football, that’s another story, but I’m just drinking to forget. The Western game led me to discover that whiskey is delicious when mixed with hard cider. Whoops. Sorry, family.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to follow a game live?
My dad actually did something crazier than I did, but it was partially so I could watch as many Packers and UK games as possible. But the dear man purchased a fancy cable device that enables anyone on their plan to watch cable on any device. I am often found watching SEC Network games curled up in my bed, crying over Purnell sausage commercials and once again, clutching pillows.
How do you keep up with UK news without the local media readily accessible?
The Internet. Isn’t that what I’m on right now? Is this like Creed’s blog or is this really real? I start most of my days with a visit to KSR, and I exclusively follow Lexington local news outlets on Twitter and Facebook (seriously, anyone who uses anything else for the news is like, 90, right?). I couldn’t tell you if my life depended on it what the call letters for a single DC outlet is. I THINK CBS is WUSA, but in a life or death situation, I would not be your best bet. On the other hand, I still know the anchor lineup for the three major 11 o’clock news slots in Lexington, and probably will til I die.
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?
Well. Does my office count? Real estate is practically leprechaun’s gold in DC, so “extra room” is not exactly something I have. I do have a pull-out couch! It’s relatively comfortable! I also have a TV. So, you’d be set.
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?
I TRIED. Freaking Superstorm Sandy sort of put NYC underwater. This is the ultimate #firstworldproblem, as many people in many states had to deal with a lot more than the loss of an opportunity to see UK play in Jay-Z’s house. My friend and I decided it was not worth the headache at that point. Clearly, we were some of a few who bailed, but honestly, I’m glad I didn’t go. The resources New York needed to keep itself running at that point did not need to include the manpower it requires to keep me calm during UK games. However, I bought my tickets already for this year’s game, so, whoever wants to come, hollatcha girl.
Me. I wanna come. Email me. How do the locals respond to your fandom?
Bewilderment. During the Duke game, an old man at the bar could not understand for the life of me why I could not stop pacing. “You know this is like, the second game of the season, right?” “Hey, Grandpa, you know I could impale you with this drinking straw if you don’t shut up right now, right?” I mean, I am also the girl who fell off a bar stool watching an 18-year old say he would come play for my team for 6 weeks, basically. People don’t get it. Once during a basketball game, my roommate screamed, “HEY! GET OFF HIM! HOLDING!” Wrong sport, dear lady. Bless her, she’s trying, but she also once asked me during a football game if the clock stopped when the team got the ball in the end zone, and that’s why I was mad when they didn’t. So. Yeah. Bewilderment is the best way to describe it. I also legitimately did not know that there were people who did not like sports. There are. They all live in DC and are weirdos.
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 internet is a great place, and God bless KSR.
Any general stories that the readers of KSR would be interested to hear about living as a BBN ex-pat?
I’m most proud of carousing an entire bar into playing my new favorite drinking game during the Wichita State/Louisville game: drink every time Siva misses a shot. Credit goes to my awesome sister, Becky, whose fandom might eclipse mine. She just cries less. We added that to ‘drink every time they show Ware’ and definitely were rowdy by the end of the night. Not Drew-Franklin-Tweeting-pictures-at-4-am-rowdy, but rowdy. Screaming “SIIIIIVVAAAAA” with a bunch of neutral fans brings a warm glow to this cold heart. And if anyone wants to watch UK games with a 5’2” hobbit in DC, look me up at Touchdown or Mollie Malone’s next season. Go Cats.
I like this girl. @KristenGeilKSR