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. Meet Landon, who resides in Richmond, Virginia. 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.
Landon Heath, Mayfield, KY aka: The two7Oh, The Pearl of the Purchase, The Dirty Dub-Kay, The Field. (I might have made 75% of those up). My current location isRichWHAT!…Richmond, VA.
How did you get from Point A (Kentucky) to Point B (where you are now)?
I graduated from UK in 2011 after studying Agriculture (or as I like to call it…SWAGriculture) and I ended up finding a job out here with an Ag company this past December.
What team’s fans dominate your area? (College or professional)
Well, living in Richmond there is a slew of college teams around. Here in town they have Shaka Fart and his VCU Rams and across the road is the Richmond Spiders. But I am unfortunately in ACC country around here also. I am about a 2.5 hour radius of Virginia Tech, UVA, UNC, NC State and dUKe so you get a bit of a mixture of fans. But I’d say the majority of the fans around are VCU or Virginia Tech fans.
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 and No. It isn’t so hard to keep up with the “University of Kentucky Basketball, Football, and Recruiting news brought to you in the most ridiculous manner possible” thanks to KSR, Twitter, Facebook, Myspace (just kidding…ha…kind of) and even Sports Center from time to time when they are not looking for any and every reason to bash UK basketball. But I surprisingly work with a few UK alumni as well and they have become my “go-to” personnel when I get tired of hearing about how VCU sells out all 42 tickets to their home basketball games. Most of the friends I hang out with here are also from Kentucky…but not the good kind…the L-raising, L1C4 lower back tat kind. But my UofL “friends” here surprisingly keep me up-to-date on anything and everything UK. They put such an effort into trying to find “dirt” and anything negative about UK sports that they end up just keeping me more polished as a UK fan.
How many Kentucky fans would you say are in your general vicinity? Is there a local UK alumni group or bar?
I think I know about 5 so far outside of my office but I have only been here for a few months. But I bet if you give me a year or two more here in VA I will at least know 6…maybe 7. I have ran into some fans out and about and all I have to do is say “Go Cats” and I’m at their house eating chicken pot pie and kissing babies in no time. As far as bars go… I haven’t found a UK alumni bar yet but I’m pretty sure I have started a C-A-T-S chant in a few bars so far.
How do you show off your fandom while living away from Kentucky?
Well I bought a pair of brass knuckles with ‘GO CATS’ imprinted on them and I like to use them on special occasions. Just kidding…I’m a lover not a fighter. But I try to wear something representing UK everyday whether it be a shirt, shorts, socks, leopard print thong, hat, belt…I even wear a plastic replica football helmet when I drive in the rain from time to time.
What’s the hardest thing about being a fan outside of the geographic BBN? The best thing?
The hardest thing is being able to watch a game on a regular televised station. Being out here they will pick a UVA woman’s underwater basket weaving chili cook-off over a UK game. I have to get creative when trying to catch a game. The best thing is that everybody knows and has heard of UK basketball. When I wear my UK gear out it always strikes up a conversation with a stranger. And I always get phone calls to play in pick-up basketball games simply because I went to UK. But sooner or later those calls will come to a stop….because they will realize how awful I am at basketball.
What has been your favorite memory as a UK fan?
Well my 3 years (I went to Murray State my freshman year) at UK were all awesome and I have so many great memories about UK basketball and football…unfortunately (and fortunately) most of those memories are a little “blurry” so I won’t waste your time by trying to piece them all together. However, I did get to go to the Catspy’s one year and I’m pretty sure I won best dressed. I think Micah Johnson was pretty pissed about that. He then challenged me to an arm wrestling contest…I faked an asthma attack and went straight home.
What do you do for games?
I paint up and begin to prepare myself mentally, physically and emotionally…by blaring ‘Ruff Ryders Anthem’ by DMX followed by ‘My Old Kentucky Home’ then enjoy a soothing poem by Robert Frost…isn’t that what every ex-pat does?? But seriously, when it comes to basketball and football I am completely different. I love watching basketball games with a slew of people whether I’m around a lot of UK fans or not…that way I can get in their face when Brian Long goes all John Stockton on em.
But football is a different story. I have always been a huge (and I’m not saying that because of my size) football fan. I surprisingly come from a small football town where EVERYONE (even girls until they come out for JV and break their collar bone) plays football and there are a ton of hardcore UK footballs fans there. At Mayfield you either played football or you were a chicken catching, country music singer that went on to win season 4 of America’s Got Talent. Anyway, if I am not at the actual football game I like to be by myself and zoned in on the game. I actually played offensive line at Murray State my freshman year and I became so used to watching zone-blocking schemes and calling out defensive fronts that now all I watch for (at first) is who (O-line/D-line) is controlling the line of scrimmage and whether we are picking up blitzes all across the board.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to follow a game live?
Well I’m not sure if I’ve done anything that crazy to follow a game on live TV. But my freshman year while I was at Murray we had an away game at Illinois State. I was red-shirting but somehow made the traveling squad that week so I would be dressing with the team but under no circumstance be put in the game in order to save my red shirt. This game was the same day that College Gameday was coming to UK a week after we had beaten #1 LSU team to see the Andre Woodson/Tim Tebow matchup. So…being the football fan that I am…I decided to fake a stomach bug Friday morning, was told to stay in my dorm all weekend, drove to Lexington instead, got on college game day, sat in the student section of the game, drove back late Saturday night and was on the field at 9 am for Sunday post-game conditioning. It was well worth it even though UK came up a little short.
How do you keep up with UK news without the local media readily accessible?
Well it is very hard to watch on live, local TV…but thanks to Twitter, Facebook, sports apps and all the different and great things you guys supply the fans at KSR, it isn’t too hard to keep up with the newest and up to date news on UK sports. I am particularly a big fan of Twitter (18.5 followers (one keeps following and unfollowing me) and counting…no big deal)). I follow tons of sports writers and comedians that always have a comedic insight on the wild world of Kentucky sports. But if you enjoy daily tweets to give you a good laugh from time to time follow me on twitter @LandonHeath (cue the wink followed by a finger pistol shot).
If I embark on a cross-country road trip with my friends, a la Britney Spears inCrossroads, do you have a UK-themed room I can stay in?
Kristen…if I didn’t know any better I’d say you were trying to hit on me with that question. You sly dog you! You know what they say, “Virginia is for Lovers!” Haha but yes, if you were to bring me something edible (I’m a sucker for chocolate chip cookies) I would be more than happy to supply you with my UK/Power Rangers themed bedroom.
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 have not been to an actual game since I have lived here but I did go to the spring football scrimmage Stoops and Co. put on a few weeks ago. It was a very exciting scrimmage game…I have a lot of faith in the Stoop Kid. But I also just found out this week that I have a ticket for the upcoming UK-UNC basketball game in Chapel Hill. Its only about 2 hours away from me so I figured I will take full advantage of that.
How do the locals respond to your fandom?
Well I get heckled a lot when I am out and about wearing my UK gear…then I give them the Derek Zoolander “Blue Steel” look and demand they go back to their shanties. But for the most part people are respecting of the BBN and of my fandom…because they know if they aren’t then I will be coming for blood!!…and chocolate chip cookies.
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 Big Blue Nation is a nation for a reason…we are EVERYWHERE and I love it! So you won’t have to search too hard to find other Cats fans along the way. Depending on how big of a fan you are it is easy to make it work…especially if you are into social media and all the apps and technology is making it easier and easier.
Any general stories that the readers of KSR would be interested to hear about living as a BBN ex-pat?
I was once mistaken for Darryl “The Heavy Hitter” Isaacs (cue the jingle) when I was in Lexington and the manager at Arby’s ended up giving me and a friend our meals for free. Boom. Go Cats
I can totally see it. @KristenGeilKSR