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. Read on and enjoy hearing about life as a UK fan outside of Kentucky.
Zach and his brother in Jerry Jones’ suite
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 Zach Miles. I’m originally from Louisville, moved across the river to Southern Indiana, and am now a Senior at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.
How did you get from Point A (Kentucky) to Point B (where you are now)?
My family and I moved to Southern Indiana when I was 12, so by the time I was graduating high school and making my college decision I knew I wanted to stay in-state for college. At that point my three choices were Purdue, Ball State, and Franklin College (a small school in Indianapolis where I was considering going to play football). After taking my visits to each school I decided Purdue was the best place for me. After three years of hearing “Boiler up!” everywhere I go, I still wear the blue and white around campus all the time.
What team’s fans dominate your area? (College or professional)
Purdue has a very solid but still unheralded fan base. The students are great supporters of big sports like basketball and football. The past two years have been fairly dismal for Purdue football and the student section is packed full at nearly every game. Although Purdue and IU are big rivals, I still know a handful of my friends at Purdue that are IU fans. At a rough estimate I’d say that for as many students there are from Indianapolis there are just as many from Chicago at Purdue, and there is a constant power struggle in the fall and winter between the Colts and Bears. I’ll admit that I’ve came to like the Bears more than the Colts.
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?
People just don’t realize that just because I came from the Louisville area that I’m not a Louisville fan. I have even met people that argue with me that UK is located in Louisville. Another thing that people never seem to realize is that there is no such thing as a “casual” Kentucky fan. My friends still think I’m crazy for following UK football as close as I do, but I think this year they might realize why I’ve been a loyal fan for so long.
How many Kentucky fans would you say are in your general vicinity? Is there a local UK alumni group or bar?
Around campus I’ve seen about 5 other students wearing UK gear, but I’ve never really get the chance to catch up with them. I’ve yet to find a UK bar anywhere near Purdue or Indianapolis, but I’ll be checking that out as soon as I find one!
How do you show off your fandom while living away from Kentucky?
I wear UK apparel 3-4 days a week around campus. I got together with a few of my fraternity brothers for the 2012 National Championship game and had most of them pulling for the Cats, which made the win that much sweeter.
What’s the hardest thing about being a fan outside of the geographic BBN? The best thing?
The hardest thing about being a fan outside of the geographic BBN has to be hearing the constant “Calipari is a cheater” comments. The best thing about being away is definitely having the constant media coverage that Kentucky has with media outlets like ESPN and CBS and KSR.
What has been your favorite memory as a UK fan?
My favorite memory as a UK fan was the 2007 football win over Louisville. Not only was it a great game from start to finish, but the atmosphere at Commonwealth was purely electric all day. It’s always awesome to beat Louisville, but even better when they’re ranked in the top ten.
What do you do for games?
For basketball games during the week I always try to get my homework and studying finished before the game so I can relax and enjoy the game then listen to the post game shows on the radio. For Saturday football and basketball games I always get together with my fraternity brothers and watch the games. After knowing me for three years they’ve learned to like watching the Cats.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to follow a game live?
The craziest thing I’ve ever done to watch a game was during the 2011-2012 basketball season during a game on the road against I think Auburn. There was a power outage on campus and we lost power at our house, so my first instinct was to go to my truck to listen to the game on AM radio, but at the same time I remembered that my antenna was broken and the AM radio didn’t work. The only time I have ever legitimately needed to use the AM radio it failed me. My next move was to ask one of my roommates to use his car to listen to his AM radio. Of course he laughed when I asked to use his car, but I sat there and listened to every second of the game and the cats got the win so it was worth it!
How do you keep up with UK news without the local media readily accessible?
Kentucky Sports Radio is my main source of anything UK. I get on KSR every time I open my laptop to catch up on anything I might miss. Twitter is also a good way to stay up to date on everything.
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 won’t necessarily call it UK themed, but I make sure to fly my UK flags and posters on the walls of my room. I have 3 roommates so I can’t go all out but I definitely show the blue and white where I can.
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 try to make it to at least one football game and one basketball game each year. The last football game I went to was against Louisville in 2011, but before that I was at the Auburn game in 2010 which was a great game that we almost pulled out. As far as basketball, I’ve seen them play Florida, Samford, Eastern Michigan, and Vanderbilt since I’ve been at Purdue.
How do the locals respond to your fandom?
When I’m at Purdue basketball games, I always get weird looks when I show up in blue and everyone else is in black but I never get negative comments or anything, just a lot of surprised looks.
What advice do you have for anyone who may be considering a move from Kentucky who is concerned about missing out on following UK?
Twitter is a great way to staying connected. Between Twitter and KSR, I don’t feel like I miss out on anything in Kentucky news. I talk to my dad back at home a lot and he always has good UK news to give me too.
Any general stories that the readers of KSR would be interested to hear about living as a BBN ex-pat?
I went to nearly all of Purdue football’s spring practices that were open to the public and there I met Tommy Cook, who we all might remember as the 6 year WR on the UK football team from the mid 2000s. He’s now the director of football operations at Purdue. We talked for a few minutes and he had a lot of great things to say about UK football and how positive things are looking for Stoops and his new staff.