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. Today, say hello to Matt in San Diego, who has also spent time in Japan. A brief discussion with his interview. It was mentioned there during his stay, he played actively in casinobushi, a Japanese online casino. You can see it right here what caught his attention, you can join and get a great bonus. 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.
Matt from Georgetown, KY and currently living in San Diego, CA.
How did you get from Point A (Kentucky) to Point B (where you are now)?
I moved to San Diego after accepting a position with an e-commerce company headquartered here. Even though it meant leaving my family and home state, it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I accepted this role with a new company after completing a 2 year assignment with another company in Japan.
What team’s fans dominate your area? (College or professional)
In this part of the country, I would use the term “fan” very, very loosely. However, I must give some credit where credit is due and I’d say the most passionate fans that dominate the area here are for the San Diego State Aztecs. After that, I’d have to say Chargers and honestly I won’t even include the Padres because they have zero legitimate fans and are just brutally awful to watch.
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?
The adjustment was very hard and continues to be hard. The passion about sports here is not even in the same conversation as the passion that UK fans have and I miss that excitement and build up, not just for game day but hitting refresh on KSR every 10 seconds just to see where a recruit might be leaning. The sporting events here are more about being seen than seeing your team and that can really get me down. Fortunately for me, my girlfriend Molly has become a UK fan and does watch all the games with me. I would like to make sure she gets a big shout out as she is a total trooper, putting up with all my nonsense about not being able to miss a single minute of a game (no matter where we are or what we are doing we MUST get home….can’t miss the opening tip). She has even become a big fan herself and knows all the players, nothing short of a miracle for a girl from the San Francisco area. One interesting tidbit and new connection we now have: Marcus Lee, who is joining UK this coming season, went to the same high school as she did.
How many Kentucky fans would you say are in your general vicinity? Is there a local UK alumni group or bar?
I have met one, count them one, legitimate displaced UK fan out here but I haven’t really seen many more. Unfortunately there are no UK Alumni bars in San Diego (the closest one is in Los Angeles).
How do you show off your fandom while living away from Kentucky?
Aside from purchasing the most expensive satellite TV package available just to make sure I never miss a game, I have an “I Heart UK” sign above my desk at work, a UK magnet on my desk drawer at work, a UK calendar on my desk at work and during any given week I wear 2-3 UK t-shirts to work. I make sure to wear my UK gear out in public any time anything relating to Kentucky is happening.
What’s the hardest thing about being a fan outside of the geographic BBN? The best thing?
The hardest thing for me is not being able to share in the joy of other people when UK wins a game and not being able to actually attend a game or watch at a local bar anytime I want. The best thing is that I honesty feel it is my duty to make sure everyone out here knows who the best team is and show my support.
What has been your favorite memory as a UK fan?
My favorite memory as a UK fan (I’m only 31 years old so I can’t go back too far) would probably be the 1996 title run and watching Tony Delk just light everyone up they played. I clearly enjoyed the title from two seasons ago and that was a really special moment as it was the first one I’ve been able to enjoy as an adult.
What do you do for games?
For games I always wear my UK basketball shirt and I always make sure my girlfriend has hers on as well. If I’m at home, the sound must be as loud as I can possibly stand and that doesn’t solicit complaints from my neighbors. If I am at a bar, I always call ahead to make sure a) they will have the game on and b) they will have sound. I absolutely cannot watch a game without sound, hate it. Unfortunately around here, it wouldn’t be uncommon for a UK game to be on ESPN or CBS and have it nowhere to be found playing in a bar. That makes me very sad.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to follow a game live?
The craziest thing I’ve ever done to follow a game live happened while I was living in Japan. Before moving to San Diego and accepting a position with my current company, I worked for two years in Japan on assignment with another company. During that time, UK was playing Clemson in the Music City Bowl and I really, really wanted to be home to watch the game. Within a 3 day period, I had acquired my 5 days of vacation time from work, purchased a plane ticket, and flew from Japan to Lexington (then drove from Lexington to Nashville) to watch the game. I returned to Japan just a few days later. With regards to a basketball game, there were multiple occasions where I’d go out to my car in the parking garage at work to listen to games online (remember, Japan is 12ish hours ahead of US time, depending on what time of year it is). So a 7pm game on ESPN would begin at 7am for me (the next day).
How do you keep up with UK news without the local media readily accessible?
During my time in Japan, it was all about KSR and also Slingbox had just come out not too long before that. Now, it is all about satellite TV and having access to any channel at any time. If I am not around a computer or TV, I always have my phone and can generally find a way to listen or watch from there.
I don’t know what Slingbox is, but it sounds hip. 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. I live in a one bedroom condo in downtown San Diego so it’s not very palatial but my living room does have all of the following: framed Anthony Davis poster (the one with his arms outstretched), framed Sports Illustrated cover with MKG and Davis, framed Herald-Leader celebration photo the day after the title game two seasons ago, and a UK throw blanket.
Done. See you this summer. 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? You mentioned flying back from Japan simply for a UK football bowl game. That, is dedication.
I came back last year with my girlfriend just before Thanksgiving to visit family and we did manage to get tickets to the Lafayette game. We are planning to come home this year for New Year’s and if it is the last thing I do on this earth I WILL get tickets to the UK/UL game at Rupp. The absolute craziest thing, as I mentioned, was flying across the world to watch a football game. I remember it was absolutely freezing cold for that game. However, I do have some cool photos. I purchased tickets on StubHub that were around the 50 yard line and literally the first row off the field. I figured if I was going to travel that far I might as well have good seats. I also was able to heckle the Clemson punter throughout the entire game as his kicking net was just in front of us. I don’t recall the website but we were able to find on our phones a diary blog the punter kept and maintained with some great material in it. He actually seemed to enjoy it as he was laughing along with us.
How do the locals respond to your fandom?
The most confusing looks and questions I get were about the Anthony Davis poster at my desk at work (before I framed it and took it home). People also cannot believe anyone would go so far as to frame magazine and newspaper articles and display them so prominently in their home. These things I have framed at home aren’t tucked away in some bedroom but they are displayed above my couch in the living room. Being from Kentucky, the fan in all of us is not something we learned or decided to do. We were all born UK fans and grew up watching the Cats, there just wasn’t any other way around it. It just isn’t the same out here.
You have been shown on KSR atop Mount Fuji, which you climbed with a blown up picture of Billy Clyde. This is not a question, I just really need to hear the story behind this.
I came into the office when I was working in Japan one morning and read the headline about Billy Clyde’s arrest from the night before. My coworker and I had already been planning a hike up Mt. Fuji for weeks and as it turned out we were going to leave work early that day to make the drive to the mountain and hike overnight (hiking overnight or at least starting the evening/afternoon before is preferred as it is considered good luck to see the sunrise from the top). I couldn’t stop laughing all morning at the mugshot photo so I decided to print his image out on the biggest paper I could find and take it to the top with me so I could have a unique photo to send to KSR for consideration as UK fan of the day (that was really the motivating factor). I did manage to pack one beer with me to display in the photo next to Clyde’s mugshot which turned out well, along with my UK shirt and hat. One thing that happened which I totally didn’t expect were all the Japanese people at the top of the mountain asking to have their photo taken with myself and Clyde. Japanese culture is generally very standoff-ish and they wouldn’t normally approach someone like this but I did speak the language, which I think helped them feel more comfortable. There is nothing quite like a Clyde mugshot on the top of Mt. Fuji with 10 different people standing around throwing up the peace sign.
I once gave you recommendations for pizza places in Chicago. Were my suggestions satisfactory?
You recommended Orange for breakfast/brunch and Lou Malnati’s for deep dish. Due to my time constraints during my work trip, I was only able to try Lou Malnati’s. It changed my life so I am forever in your debt (and so are the 6 coworkers I dragged there with me). I had literally never tried a deep dish pizza in my life before then. Now, I only order deep dish from a place called Berkeley Pizza here in San Diego which my girlfriend introduced me to. So, she thanks you as well for turning me onto it.
You are quite welcome. What advice do you have for anyone who may be considering a move from Kentucky who is concerned about missing out on following UK?
Technology these days allows us to pretty much keep up with any game, if you choose to. I get so much satisfaction, in a weird way really, being one of the sole UK fans in my particular area. It generates conversations with strangers and I enjoy all the “shaking heads” when I cheer too loud or seem too wrapped up in a sports team where the outcome of the game can literally affect my mood the rest of the day.
Any general stories that the readers of KSR would be interested to hear about living as a BBN ex-pat?
No other particular stories but I’d like to throw some praise KSR’s way. During my time in Japan, my only really easy connections to all things UK was KSR. I would literally (zero exaggeration here) wake up each morning there, roll over to turn off the alarm, pick up my phone and pull up KSR to read on what I’d missed from the previous night. At my office, due to the amount of screens I needed to have open at any one time, I was given two monitors. One monitor was my KSR dedicated monitor which had the refresh button hit on it somewhere around 20 times per day if I had to guess. I know KSR has grown from a small idea into something much larger (radio, ridiculous tennis coverage not too far from my house, etc.) but please don’t ever forget just how many of us out there use your site to feed the typical insatiable appetite for anything, and I mean anything, UK. When you aren’t fortunate enough to live in Kentucky, there really isn’t another website out there that gives you what KSR does and I think that is a very good thing.
Are you a BBN ex-pat who likes talking about yourself? Email me at [email protected]