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. 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 Jonathan Harville. I was born and raised in Somerset, Kentucky and now live in Daytona Beach, Florida.
How did you get from Point A (Kentucky) to Point B (where you are now)?
Behind UK sports, my passion has always been aviation. When it came time to attend college, I decided I wanted to go into Aerospace Engineering, which unfortunately, UK does not offer. Therefore, I decided to attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach because they have the top ranked Aerospace Engineering undergraduate degree program in the country. I am currently a junior there.
What team’s fans dominate your area? (College or professional)
It is a pretty even split between Gator fans and Florida State fans. However you only really notice them when their teams are a national contender in football. I certainly don’t see the year-round support that I had grown accustomed to growing up in the heart of the Big Blue Nation. Unfortunately, every spring and summer, the Heat fans will break out their Lebron shirts (at least until they lose a game, in which case you don’t see them again for another year.)
I’m guessing that like myself, no one in Kentucky knows anything about Florida geography. Is Daytona Beach anywhere near Dunk City? Did people around you get caught up in FGCU madness this March?
Dunk City is actually about 4 hours from Daytona and is located on the west side of Florida, while we are on the east. During the tournament, everybody got behind FGCU and really started to pull for them. It was very interesting during the Sweet 16 because you had the Florida fans and then EVERYBODY else was for FGCU. It actually made for one of the crazier scenes I have seen in the Buffalo Wild Wings here.
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 was a very hard transition. This is football country, so I often feel out of place when I want to share the latest bit of UK basketball news I just read on KSR. Luckily, I work for the Intramural and Rec sports department at my college so my coworkers are usually up to a good sports discussion. The only set-back to that is I work with an Indiana fan, a Syracuse fan, a Duke fan, a Florida fan, and also a Texas AM fan. As you can imagine, March usually gets pretty heated in our office.
How many Kentucky fans would you say are in your general vicinity? Is there a local UK alumni group or bar?
There are actually quite a few UK fans in the area. Most of them are either here on vacation down here or have retired down here. In fact, I would say that aside from the local Florida schools down here, UK is the best represented college team around.
How do you show off your fandom while living away from Kentucky?
If you were to look in my closet, you would find a wardrobe comprised 90% of Kentucky blue. The front of my car features a big blue UK license plate and the back features a UK license plate the proudly proclaims “Go Big Blue!”
What’s the hardest thing about being a fan outside of the geographic BBN? The best thing?
The worst thing would be not getting to attend as many games at Commonwealth Stadium or Rupp Arena. The best thing is the joy of seeing another member of the BBN walking around town and instantly sharing a bond.
What has been your favorite memory as a UK fan?
Without a doubt, being in the Superdome when Kentucky won their 8th national championship, even though being a UK fan has provided me an abundance of great memories. My father surprised me and showed up in our hotel room the morning before the national championship game, which was the first time I had seen him in a few months. Celebrating that title with him is something I wouldn’t trade for anything.
What do you do for games?
I usually either go to the local Buffalo Wild Wings or stay home and watch it at home. My roommates can always tell when a Kentucky game is on because I enter into a new mode of intensity and can become quite vocal.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to follow a game live?
I watched the Baylor regional semi-final on my iPad while doing p.a. for my school’s baseball team. When Anthony Davis went down and looked to be hurt, my heart dropped and their was a noticeable change in my voice over the sound system in our baseball stadium for a few minutes.
How do you keep up with UK news without the local media readily accessible?
I probably check KSR 20 times a day. I also download the KSR radio show on podcast every day and listen to it while walking between classes.
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?
Absolutely. In my room you’ll find a 3’x5’ UK flag, a model of Commonwealth stadium, an authentic UK football helmet, a huge 2012 national champions plaque, and my favorite: a headboard made of the framed Herald Leaders from the last 3 national championships.
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?
During my freshman year, I attended all 7 UK basketball games that took place during my Christmas break. I have been to both UK UF games in Gainesville since I came down here (proudly wearing my “Gator Hater” shirt), and I also used over half of my bank account (and missed a few classes) to travel to New Orleans for the Final Four.
How do the locals respond to your fandom?
Everybody thinks I am obsessive in my fandom, however I try to explain to them it is a way of life. In fact, at work within a few days of coming down here I had been given the nickname “Kentucky” and now that is what most of my friends and coworkers know me by.
What advice do you have for anyone who may be considering a move from Kentucky who is concerned about missing out on following UK?
Kentucky Basketball is EVERYWHERE. If you are determined, you will be able to follow UK sports. There is no greater feeling than proudly donning a UK shirt after they have just beat the local team!
Any general stories that the readers of KSR would be interested to hear about living as a BBN ex-pat?
During my freshman year, I lived in a dorm on campus, where I would sit at my desk and nervously watch every game, which included the infamous Indiana game in Bloomington. When Watford’s 3 at the buzzer went in, I launched a shoe across the room which accidently hit the blinds covering the window. There were actually people who later asked me what in the world had happened as they had heard me from down the hall. About 20 minutes and a few rolls of clear tape later, all was good (I later replaced the blinds). I was still 8 months from being born when Laettner hit the worst shot in basketball history, so Watford’s shot will always hold an unwelcomed spot in my heart. I also just want to say that while Louisville may have won a title, they will always be little brother.