Have you seen Fever Pitch? It was part sports movie/part chick flick (leaning more heavily on the latter) that came out in 2005 about Lindsey (Drew Barrymore) falling for Ben (Jimmy Fallon) who happens to be a teacher (trust me, no teachers are actually that cute and funny) and a Boston Red Sox fan. I am pretty sure this was not a big box office hit, although I saw it in the theater and own the DVD. There comes a point in the movie where Ben misses a game to be with Lindsey, and the Red Sox end up beating the Yankees, and he is uber pissed that he missed it, causing the following fight to happen:
Lindsey: Wasn't it you yourself that said just tonight..."It's only a game"?
Ben: Oh, that's great. That's great. Pile it on. Yeah. Kick me when I'm down. That's great.
Lindsey: It is just a game.
Ben: Clearly, it's not just a game! If it was, then obviously I wouldn't care about it this much. Twenty-three years. Do you still care about anything you cared about 23 years ago? How about ten? How about five? Name me a single thing that you’ve cared about for 23 years.
Lindsey: Yeah. No, um, there isn't actually anything I've wanted for 23 years...because 23 years ago, I was seven... and if I still wanted to marry Scott Baio, I would think that my life went terribly wrong.
So I said I didn't think this movie was a huge box office hit...but do you know who I bet did like this movie? BBN. Big Blue Nation. Kentucky fans. I bet Kentucky fans liked this movie. I bet lots of Kentucky fans identified with this movie. I'd actually be surprised if some Kentucky fans hadn't lived this out in some way, shape or form. BBN is a Nation of Bens surrounded by Lindseys who just don't get it.
Because Kentucky Basketball is bigger than me.
It's bigger than you.
It's bigger than the actual University of Kentucky.
It's bigger than Lexington.
It's bigger than the entire Bluegrass State.
It's big enough to make people camp out for days for tickets to a PRACTICE in October. It's big enough to propel fans to drive 8 hours or 11 hours or 19 hours to make sure Kentucky has the most fans in the arena. It's big enough to make grown men call in post-game shows and cry talking about watching the boys cut the net last night. It's big enough to make a lawyer quit his practice to start a fan site/blog that has turned into one of the biggest UK sites ever (KSR Shoutout in case you didn't catch that).
It's big y'all.
And I love it.
Kentucky doesn't really have professional sports teams. No NBA, no NFL, no MLB. So the Wildcats are the state's team. I do not think that you need to have attended the University of Kentucky to root for the Wildcats, and I don't understand those people who do think that. I'm a Packers fan (unabashedly because of Randall Cobb), but I've never even stepped foot in Wisconsin. Is that not okay? I've always been a Cincinnati Reds fan, but I've never lived in Ohio. Is that wrong too? No, I don't think so. You're fans of who you're fans of for whatever reason. I was a UK fan long before I stepped onto campus in August 1997, but if you ask me when I became a fan, I couldn't tell you. I don't remember my first game or my first UK shirt or any of that, because it was just a part of my life. Now granted, when your Dad plays for UK (#32 next to Cotton Nash), then of course you don't really have a choice...
But that's what makes Kentucky fans so special. We are all united for this team. We love "our" Cats, because they are the Commonwealth's team. Even Coach Cal says he wanted to win this for the players and the fans. He gets it, and he's not a Kentucky boy.
BBN has members in all 50 states, and lots of other countries. There are fans who have season tickets, and fans who have never seen them play. Most fans have Kentucky roots at some point on their family tree, and I am sure some are fans just because UK is a great team. And you know what, I'll take it. Anyone who wants to cheer with me will not be turned away!
Now, are there some idiots that are UK fans? Of course there are. Along with the normal section of BBN, I was highly embarrassed by the couch burning and car flipping on campus. And, quite honestly, I was embarrassed that the local news outlets conducted the evening news shows from Louisiana, even on Sunday night when there were no games being played. But if that's my trade off for being part of the most passionate fan base in America, I'll take it. Because you know, there are idiots everywhere, and I am sure if you are not a UK fan, your team has idiots that follow it too. And I am sure that if your team had beaten its biggest rival in the national semifinal game and then went on to win the national championship for the first time in over a decade, your fans might have acted a little ridiculous too. It's like everyone is trying to pretend their fans would've just sipped tea and eaten crumpets or something. Give me a break folks! I am not condoning the idiotic behavior, but no one can control drunk college kids (if you were watching WKYT last night cut to live feed of campus, you saw first hand this was true!)
In October KSR founder Matt Jones wrote an article for Grantland about why UK was going to win it all this year. One reason began with this quote: In Kentucky, we care more about basketball than you do. In fact, we care more about basketball than you probably care about anything.
As a Kentucky girl, a UK alum, and a proud member of BBN, I have to agree, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I love being part of something that is bigger than me. I love going to games and making friends with the people around me. I love watching a game in a bar or restaurant in Lexington and seeing 40 or 50 people yell at the TV with me. You can call us crazy, you can call us paranoid (aside: I for one do NOT think UPS was out to get us, but hey Kansas fans, Louisville fans, let's see UPS make a commercial with a montage of Davis blocks, Jones dunks and Miller threes that kept you from advancing and see if maybe it annoys you a little bit), you can call us whatever you want.
We'll shrug it off.
We don't care.
Because when you still love something that you loved when you were five years old, nothing other people say is going to make you change your mind.