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. It’s time to say howdy to Josh, living in Scottsdale, AZ. 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 Josh Wilson, I’m from Lexington and I have lived in the sunny Sonoran desert of Scottsdale, AZ for the last 17 years.
How did you get from Point A (Kentucky) to Point B (where you are now)?
I was in my junior year at UK and a friend who lived in Arizona called me and told me that I should move out to Arizona because I’d love it. I ended up transferring to ASU and staying out here because I did love it. I also ended up getting married out here and raising two wonderful kids.
What team’s fans dominate your area? (College or professional)
The Phoenix area has all 4 major pro sports and a college town all wrapped into 1, so there are a ton of fans. There are also a lot of transplanted people out here, so everyone seems to root for some out of town team like the Yankees or Lakers. I am an Arizona State Sun Devil fan also, which works out because I hate the University of Arizona and I already had that hate from the ’97 national championship game.
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?
Yeah. I am constantly trying to explain about the passion of the BBN but it doesn’t translate out here. College basketball isn’t huge out here. In a city of 4 million, they can’t even get 2,000 people to watch good old Herb Sendek coach the Sun Devils.
How many Kentucky fans would you say are in your general vicinity? Is there a local UK alumni group or bar?
There are a few Cats fans in the area, but not a whole lot. I actually just saw a girl with the UK sticker on her car the other day. There is a UK alumni group that meets for games in Scottsdale, but I haven’t met up with them yet. I normally watch with friends and family and drive them crazy while I yell at the TV.
How do you show off your fandom while living away from Kentucky?
I have about 10 UK shirts that I wear all the time and also a UK hat. Also, for the 17 years that I”ve lived out here, I have always had the UK sticker on my car. I currently have the 2012 national champs sticker, which I hope to replace with a new one in 2014.
Josh also makes sure his pal Larkin represents the Big Blue Nation.
What’s the hardest thing about being a fan outside of the geographic BBN? The best thing?
The hardest thing is not being able to go to games. I catch them every year or two when I head back for Christmas, but it’s not the same. The best thing is being able to expand the BBN by recruiting and educating friends and family on the joy of UK sports.
What do you do for games?
Now that the Cats are back in prominence nationally, I get to watch almost every game out here. I usually move to within a couple of feet of the TV and scream my head off. My neighbors probably think I’m a serial killer, but that’s OK.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to follow a game live?
My wife, Tiffany, set our wedding date as April 2nd, 2005, which was going to be during the Final Four games of that year. I made sure that the venue where we were having the reception would have plenty of TVs so that I could at least catch glimpses of the game, because I was pretty confident (as are all UK fans) that we were making it that year. Fortunately and unfortunately, Michigan State ended up taking us in double overtime, but Patrick Sparks sure made it interesting.
How do you keep up with UK news without the local media readily accessible?
KSR of course, usually around 10 times a day. I’ve tried other sites, but they don’t come close. I also catch the podcasts from time to time.
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?
I don’t have a UK themed room, per se, but our bedroom has the picture of Tubby being carried off the floor in 98, a poster of all the players from the 96 team, and the poster of Anthony Davis’s wingspan, so it’s close. But I don’t think you can stay there, my wife might object.
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 do try to catch a game every time I’m back in town for Christmas. I also caught them once in 1997 in a tournament in Phoenix, but they rarely come out west. I hope every year that they are put in the West region in the tournament so that I have a chance to see them, but that rarely happens either.
How do the locals respond to your fandom?
No one gets it, but if they know me, they know how passionate I am about it. Last year, Louisville stayed at the hotel that I work at while they were in the tourney, and no one could understand why I was rooting for them to lose, when we normally wish the team that stays with us good luck. They also couldn’t understand why I kept saying the word Loavull.
Your dad still teaches at UK. Does that make it easier to keep up with what’s happening in Lexington? Not really. He tries to fill me in on things sometimes, but I’m usually way ahead of him with KSR. Although he did text me about the Harrison twins committing before I knew.
How are you indoctrinating your kids into the culture of BBN, even though you’re thousands of miles away?
They have had all the UK gear since they were babies, starting with UK onesies that my mom sent them. They don’t quite get it, but they are starting to yell, “Go Cats!” at the TV, so I think it’s setting in.
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 sports package is a must to catch every game as is KSR, of course. Just try and convert as many people to the BBN as possible. It’s not that hard. Everyone likes a winner.
Any general stories that the readers of KSR would be interested to hear about living as a BBN ex-pat?
I always tell the story about going to a bar on ASU’s campus to watch the UK/Arizona ’97 championship. I thought that even though we were in Arizona, being on the rivals campus, no one would root for them. So my friend, who I had converted to a UK fan, and I got in our gear and headed out. The moment we stepped into the bar it got ugly. I heard, “do you wear shoes in Kentucky boy?” and “have you had sex with your sister?” which are really original Kentucky jokes. The only one in the bar of about 200 people that had our back was a Chinese exchange student who I don’t think spoke English, but for some reason was rocking the UK t-shirt. We almost had the last laugh, but everyone knows the ending to that one. I still hate Miles Simon with a passion.