Long time no speak. Hope your Fourth of July was fantastic. Mine? It was okay. It’s been tough, but since Friday I’ve retrained myself to type with seven fingers. Thus is my dedication to you, dear readers. I’ve learned my lesson and next year I’ll just stick to throwing some silverware in the microwave set to a soundtrack of classic American anthems.
As many of you probably recall, last month I announced the first annual Need-to-Know Wednesday Essay Contest, its theme being “What MY UK Fandom Means to Me.” I was staggered by the response I received — literally thousands of KSR readers turned out for the competition and I’ve spent the last few days reading each and every one. It was tough to pick the winner, but after careful consideration the victor has been decided. And as promised, the winning essay, written by Raymond Greenspoon of Eddyville, is published here below, in its entirety. I’ll turn it over to him. Congratulations to you, Raymond, and thanks to all of you who entered the contest.
What My UK Fandom Means to Me
An Essay by Raymond William Greenspoon
You ask me what my UK Fandom means to me. But truly, what is “fandom?” Is it the unfailing dedication to a team? Perhaps. Is it knowing every statistic, every record? Likely. Is it the unabashed excitement that comes with the first kickoff, the first tip-off, the first point on the scoreboard? Fandom means all of these things.
But my UK fandom means more than that. It’s a code by which I live my life, and it’s not unlike the Chivalric code followed by the knights of yore or those rules on the sign down at the public pool. To me, being a UK fan means integrating one’s dedication into each and every day. And that’s why my fandom is more important to me than anything else.
My UK Fandom means never missing a game. No matter what else life throws at you, nothing is as important as being there for your team. I have only missed one game in my life. It was UK at Ole Miss, January 11, 1997, and it was the day my first child was born. The Wildcats lost that game, but since that day I’ve never forgotten the feeling of letting my team down — and that’s why today when I pass football in the yard with my child, I throw the ball just a little bit harder. He should know the bitter sting that comes with the love of any sport. He’ll be a stronger person in the end because of it.
My UK Fandom means that every defeat is a personal one. I can still remember the tears in my eyes as Laettner hit his infamous last-second shot in 1992. I’m not afraid to say I cried that day. I’m also not afraid to say I cried when the Wildcats lost to North Carolina in 1990, Arkansas in 1995, Western Kentucky in 1991, Georgia and Vanderbilt in 2004, Iowa in 2005, and Indiana in 2007. I also sometimes cry when a player I love misses an easy layup, or when a foul on one of our players looks particularly painful for him. My wife tells me I should stop crying all the time. She doesn’t understand my love.
My UK Fandom means creating a legacy for my children. I hope that someday my sons, Reggie and Nazr, and my daughter, Ramel, will take their place in the Erupption Zone, and that they will wear wigs and facepaint. Then I will know that they have understand the precious truths of what’s important in life, and I will be the proudest father ever.
My UK Fandom means showing my love for the team every day by the clothing I wear. This is why every item of clothing I own is an officially licensed University of Kentucky product, from the embroidered logo on my denim button-down to the shoelaces on my work shoes. I could not be this state’s greatest fan without the help of a fine store like Dawahares, and I’m consistently thankful that their support of the team keeps me “dressed to the nines” at all times. I was once asked by my supervisor not to wear my WLEX-sponsored True Blue button to an important presentation with a key client, but I told him to go to hell. Sorry, Mr. Farnder, but that’s not Raymond talking, that’s his fandom!
My UK Fandom means defending the Big Blue Nation online at all times. This is why many times you may have seen me, under the internet name of AdolphRuppWildcatFanEddyville1, really “giving it” to those who say anything negative about the team or its coaches. The other day I told someone on a message board that he needed to “get a life,” and you know what? I believe that. Because if you think that UK isn’t the greatest program ever, you do need to get a life. Do not mess with AdolphRuppWildcatFanEddyville1. I always have a comeback waiting.
My UK Fandom means, every day, being UK’s greatest fan. In the spring of 2004, for my birthday, I was given a license plate for the front of my car that reads “#1 UK FAN,” and I hurried out to place it in its spot with the eagerness of a child on Christmas morn. I know that being the #1 UK Fan is a high responsibility, but I’m up to the task. And I’m aware that others will similarly claim this lofty achievement, but they are wrong. The other day at the gas station I saw another car boasting its owner’s #1 Fan status. I quickly ripped off the license plate, poured gasoline on it and lit it on fire. There can be only one #1 UK Fan, and it’s not a thirtysomething mother of two who’s crying and threatening to press charges against me.
My UK Fandom means that occasionally I will come under fire. Take, for instance, a fellow that works in the accounting office of my firm named Steven. Steven used to live in North Carolina, and he’s constantly making jokes with me about the North Carolina-Kentucky rivalry. He’s always saying things like “You guys can’t beat the Tarheels!” and “Looks like we’re going all the way this year!” Two months ago I met Steven in the parking garage with a tire iron, beat him almost to death, and swore I’d finish the job if he ever told anybody. He took down all the North Carolina stuff from his cubicle and doesn’t say anything to me anymore. I guess he’s finally seen the light.
In conclusion, my UK Fandom means everything to me. Everything. And if being ostracized from my failing marriage, my workplace, and my children’s lives because of my fandom is crazy, then yes, Mr. and Mrs. America — I am crazy. Crazy about the University of Kentucky Wildcats. You can never take that away.
And that’s what my fandom means to me.
I don’t know about you guys, but my heart’s swelled just a little more today. Thanks again to Raymond for the winning essay, be on the lookout for future Need-to-Know Wednesday contests, and have a great day. Until next week, friends, enjoy the following the following video of a teleprompter-impaired news anchor, and I’ll talk to you again soon.