As the buzzards ravaged the remainders of Johnny Football and journalists washed the blood from their sad, self-aggrandizing hands, Mark Stoops was matter-of-factly taking SEC Media Days to poundtown. One particular quote stood out to me, when asked by KSR’s intrepid Tyler Thompson about tempering performance expectations amid the current recruiting surge in this year of transition: “I think the educated fan knows where we’re at as a program, knows we have a lot of work to do.” Indeed, with arguably the toughest schedule in the nation greeting the first year coach, there’s potential for plenty of recruiting buzzkill, but as Stoops added, “I want the excitement…I want them to support the players we have on our team right now.” Kentucky fans are many things, loyal chief among them, and for the most part, I like to think we bring an educated approach to the table to compliment our heart embroidered sleeves. Still, we fight the battle of irrationality, misinformation, eternal pessimism and yes, the wave. So I put together a study guide of sorts to help our “developing” brethren graduate and make the leap to Educated Fan.
Read books. Yes folks, sometimes you have to step away from the screen and hike through the hills of literature. Real books with real paper and a bookmark with a tassel. I’d recommend Ashley Judd: Crying on the Inside or anything by Matt Christopher.
Speak in brevity. Don’t be the dufus at the tailgate who refers to fans as, “The Big Blue Nation.” You’ll be mocked, ostracized, accused of espionage, run over…just stick to BBN. Go Wildcats? No way mom, get outta here. Cats, or, Cayts for the advanced users. Others to work into your vocabulary: GBB (Go Big Blue), BBM (Big Blue Madness), DDM (Dribble Drive Motion, that mythical beast), UK2K (U Krazy 2 Krazy), KSR (Keep Shit Real).
Get a BBT (Big Blue Tattoo). Obvious, but it bears repeating. You can say in a thousand words how much you love the Cats, that’s great, how awesome, we’re not listening…or, pull up your shirt, turn around and show us that champ stamp. In fact, I’m getting a replica of Ron Mercer’s iconic ball + hoop as I write this. We all bleed blue, but Educated Fan bleeds FOR blue.
Quit your job. Work is piling up, your boss is breathing down your neck and it kind of tickles, and it seems like you never have time to think about the Harrison Twins. One inconvenience after another. Two words, folks: I quit. Regain your freedom and embed yourself on KSR. Who knows, you might just be on the fast track to Fan of the Day in want of Afternoon Notes. Bet that’s never happened at your job.
Keep things in perspective. There’s always next year’s national championship.
Win every argument. A disagreement among rival fans is unavoidable, but defeat is anything but. Your team sucks (it’s true, they do). We got 8. GBB. (Really hammer that last line home. Make it reverberate into next week.)
Listen to classical music. Studies show it’s a sure fire learning aid. Hootie & the Blowfish’s “Cracked Rearview” is a record you can let play from start to finish and come out feeling like an Ivy League aristocrat. Just don’t listen during UK games, that’s Leach time, don’t be stupid.
Spread rumors. Now that you’re out of that pesky job and have more time for the Harrison Twins, it’s time to drop bombs. “I hear the Harrison Twins gonna be ineligible. Yep, it’s true. Hear from a good source.” Take it to the bank, put it on a deposit slip, hand it over to the teller and enjoy the look on their face when they realize you are a person whose got scoops. What we’d call in the biz, an Educated Fan.
Get out and see the world. Commit to attending two away games a year. Immerse yourself in foreign cultures, like Baton Rouge and Athens. Open up all senses and learn from the natives as you teach them bout Kentucky.
Dress the part. I realize there are some out there who may never be able to clear that last hurdle to educated fan, and frankly, that’s an indictment on society and an all around damned shame. I wish there was more I could do, but I am not a village. But hey, you can at least look the part. This one is easy: jerseys and jeans, people, jerseys and jeans. J&J.
Park in front of Coach Cal’s house and wait for him to come out so he can sign your 3 sign. Pretty self explanatory.
Ask questions. Specifically, on call-in shows. Some good ones to get you started: “Coach, are we gonna see more press this season?” Or, “Matt, what do you think is the key to victory tonight.” And always, always hang up and listen, lest you broadcast yourself as a BBS (Big Blue Simpleton).
Memorize the fight song. The least you can do. Just remember, “You don’t need an invitation, kick off your shoes and come on in.” A lot of people trip over that line or omit it altogether. Educated Fan sticks it every time.
Last but not least, Comment on KSR. It is here you will find the answers you’re looking for.