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. Tonight’s edition features Reese, who lives in Central Michigan. 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.
I’m Reese Martin originally from Dawson Springs, Kentucky (same county as Drew Franklin), I now live in Midland, Michigan.
How did you get from Point A (Kentucky) to Point B (where you are now)?
Work — I work for a heavy civil construction company, we are bridge builders, and after graduation I have moved from Virginia Beach, Va, Albany, Ga, and now Midland, Mi. KSR keeps me close to home, and up-to-date with everything UK.
Central Michigan? Do you have a boat on one of the lakes? Do you need someone to watch said boat over the summer?
Chippewa Country up here, I am about 25 mi from Central Michigan University — I do not own a boat, but one of the guys that I work with does. Luckily, we have found a few places to go boating…heard they have some great lakes up here.
What team’s fans dominate your area? (College or professional)
Unfortunately, it is overwhelming with Michigan and Michigan State fans — and in this in part of the country, the Red Wings fans are by-far the most annoying and drunk, whom constantly remind me of a red and white team we have back home in Kentucky.
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 great thing about being in Michigan is basketball is a big deal here. With recent success of the Wolverines, and the constant success of Tom Izzo and the Spartans, Michigan is up-to-date on their basketball knowledge. I constantly got asked if “That Wiggins kid” is coming to Kentucky. People around here know about Kentucky, but they talk Big Ten basketball. Funny thing, people in Michigan hate Indiana, and that is something we can all agree on.
How many Kentucky fans would you say are in your general vicinity? Is there a local UK alumni group or bar?
I am yet to meet many UK fans here — I have been up here for about 2 months, so only a few games were on near the end of the season and we just watched the games at Buffalo Wild Wings. Fingers crossed that this upcoming season, I will find a local bar with a UK crowd to watch the games with. (Editor’s note: anyone who can help Reese, holler in the comments section!)
Living in the midwest, I’ve found college football to be MUCH bigger than basketball. Would you say that’s true, or do you think the tides are turning after the Big Ten had a great basketball year this past season?
When I moved here, and everyone found out I was a UK fan everyone has said “are you going to the Big House for a game?” Um…maybe? I would like to experience the feel of a Big Ten game, I have heard good things about how UM tailgates, and the excitement of Big Ten football around here. If I say anything about Michigan State or driving down to East Lansing for a game, people just give me a blank stare and ask why. Wonder if that is how UofL fans feel back home? Hope so.
How do you show off your fandom while living away from Kentucky?
I do new hire orientations weekly, and I use my computer, projector, and a big screen to play the videos. My background with Rupp with all the banners hanging in the background; that usually gets the ball rolling with the basketball talk. The sticker on the back of my hardhat is usually a great conversation starter.
On the front of my work truck, I also have a UK license plate and I constantly wear UK gear to work and out at night. Everywhere that I have been (Va, Ga, and Mi) someone always stops me and tells me what county they are from in Kentucky. I love it, BBN is everywhere!
What’s the hardest thing about being a fan outside of the geographic BBN? The best thing?
The hardest thing would be celebrating the National Championship in ’12. I lived with 3 guys that I worked with (2 from UF and 1 from Iowa State) and none cared. To add to that, I unfortunately was at work during the championship game, and had to watch the game on my iPhone.
The best thing I would have to say is meeting people from Kentucky all over this country. Whether I am in an airport, on a jobsite, or walking through a mall, if I have on UK gear I always hear a “Go Cats!” or “Big Blue Nation!!”
What has been your favorite memory as a UK fan?
It was winning the title in ’12. Being fairly young, I remember the ’96 and ’98 titles, but we as a fan base needed this one. It was just like the one that Joe B one in ’78 my dad said, we just needed it as a fan base. With recent success of dUKe, UNC, and Kansas, it was tough as a fan to feel the excitement and not even being competitive during the BCG years.
What do you do for games?
Depends on where I am — but on game day it’s UK gear and somewhere with cold brews. It’s constant contact with my UK obsessed buddies back home, and talking trash with my UofL buddies as well.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to follow a game live?
Went back to work — I was working during that ’12 National Championship, we were erecting a steel structure for a new bridge in Chesapeake, Va and I had no time to celebrate.
How do you keep up with UK news without the local media readily accessible?
KSR keeps me up-to-date. I follow many UK media folks on twitter, ESPN updates to my phone, and I always call my buddies Steve and Conor back home to get their views on UK recruits, how they felt about the game, or if we are planning on attending an upcoming game. The Big Ten Network is on up here, but hopefully my cable subscriber will get the SEC Network and the UK games will be nationally televised.
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 have a spare bedroom, and a cold basement — your choice.
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 been back to watch UK basketball games. One of the loudest moments in Rupp that I have ever been a part of was when MKG got a steal against Portland, and threw it down — it was nasty.
While living in South Georgia, I was at a local bar watching the UK/UofL game in my UK blue of course, and I was approached by an older gentleman and his wife wearing UofL colors. They said they noticed I was sitting alone, and if I minded if they sat with me. We talked about UK/UofL and stories about the bluegrass. They left soon after the game was over, and when I went to pay my tab the waitress told me the older couple picked up my bill. That is one thing that I miss the most about back home — southern hospitality.
I was planning on going to the Final Four this year — but I received my transfer papers in late February, and I moved to Michigan instead.
How do the locals respond to your fandom?
They think we are all crazy — BBN is passionate about their school, team, and Coaches. When I talk about things like how Nerlens is such a great representative for this school, and how Coach Cal did it again — best recruiting class. I get asked “how do you know all of this about UK?” — my answer — “basketball never stops.”
What advice do you have for anyone who may be considering a move from Kentucky who is concerned about missing out on following UK?
When you leave UK, don’t expect to see as many games on TV or hear anything about it on local radio. You will find the BBN is everywhere, and that is awesome. They will buy you a beer.
Any general stories that the readers of KSR would be interested to hear about living as a BBN ex-pat?
It honestly doesn’t matter what state you are in, or what area of the country you might find yourself, the BBN is everywhere. It is awesome to find a fellow member of the BBN in the most random places and talk UK basketball/football. It keeps me a little closer to home.