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. In honor of Independence Day, today’s edition features Steven, an Army major deployed in Afghanistan. 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.
Steve Kane. I was born in Dayton, OH and haven’t stopped moving as my dad was in the military. I am currently deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
How did you get from Point A (Kentucky) to Point B (where you are now)?
I graduated from UK in 2000 and was commissioned into the Army through the UK ROTC program. I have been stationed in 8 places and have deployed 4 times during the last 13 years.
What team’s fans dominate your area? (College or professional)
When I am not deployed, I live in Fort Hood, TX and it is dominated by UT Longhorns and A&M Aggies. I typically don’t get much from the fans since they are all about football. However, they did rub it in pretty good when A&M beat UK this year. I was actually in Afghanistan on my Pre-Deployment Site Survey (PDSS) and I was on Facetime with my wife when a Texas A&M flag appeared and all I heard was “Gig-Em”. Her friend’s husband is a huge fan.
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?
Considerably hard. People simply do not understand the level of passion in our fan base. If anyone ever makes that mistake of thinking UK and Louisville are the same I will remind them we won it first.
How many Kentucky fans would you say are in your general vicinity? Is there a local UK alumni group or bar?
There is an Alumni group down in Austin, TX. I have not been able to join them yet, but I have a fellow grad right down the road that keeps me sane. We take every opportunity to watch the games and talk UK sports.
How do you show off your fandom while living away from Kentucky?
My wardrobe during basketball season consists of a UK T-Shirt (and pants). I have a license plate on my Kentucky Blue car and a flag hangs proudly outside the house.
What’s the hardest thing about being a fan outside of the geographic BBN? The best thing?
The hardest is having to hear other fans speak about how great their teams are. I was in Newport, RI and lived next to a Vandy and Indiana fan. The only thing worse would have been living next to a Louisville Fan. I was surrounded with no back up, but I held my own. The best thing is being able to destroy any arguments that their basketball program is better.
What has been your favorite memory as a UK fan?
There are so many it’s hard to decide. Keeping with the Army theme, I will tell you a “War Story.” I was in Iraq in 2003 and was responsible for detainee operations. We also helped displaced persons ensuring they were taken out of harm’s way. One day I heard someone yelling my name. I looked around and it was an Iraqi in a UK sweater smiling. He spoke pretty good English and was a huge UK fan. He grew up playing basketball and loved the Unforgettables. I wish I had a picture, but we were not allowed to take them.
What do you do for games?
I try to watch games with other UK fans. However, I really enjoy watching them alone. I DVR them and watch with no commercials. As my wife says, “Its best you watch that alone.”
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to follow a game live?
Games over here are typically around 2am or depending on when the Armed Forces Network airs them. I don’t know about crazy, but I have lost many a nights of sleep to watch UK.
How do you keep up with UK news without the local media readily accessible?
KSR podcasts and the website are my main sources. KSR is my sanity at times.
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?
The whole house is littered with UK stuff much to the chagrin on my Gator wife. (At least I kept it in conference)
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?
I had the pleasure of moving back for one year when I was stationed at Fort Knox. I was able to take Marissa, my beautiful wife, to a couple basketball and football games. The best moment was when we stormed the 50 yard line after beating South Carolina. The last time I rushed the field was when we beat Alabama and it was great to share that experience with my wife. I also had two of my closest friend with me, Nick and Lisa, that I hadn’t seen in a long time.
How do the locals respond to your fandom?
First, they give me that look like I am crazy. Second, they tell me I’m crazy.
What advice do you have for anyone who may be considering a move from Kentucky who is concerned about missing out on following UK?
Stay in Kentucky. That grass is not always bluer on the other side.
Any general stories that the readers of KSR would be interested to hear about living as a BBN ex-pat?
You can always find a Big Blue fan no matter where you are. I was in San Antonio and my sister-in-law saw a guy with a UK shirt on. She told him her brother went to UK and it turned out he was one of my college buddies. Regardless of knowing him, we would have spent about ten minutes talking about next year’s team without question. Big blue fans are the best!
Let’s give a big blue thank you to Steven for protecting our freedom. Happy Fourth, y’all. @KristenGeilKSR