By LARRY VAUGHT
Interacting with Kentucky fans on Twitter has become one of my favorite things to do each day. It’s a good way to stay connected with how fans feel, meet some really interesting people and even get story ideas.
Take Nicholas Garcia. I noticed on Twitter (@plainwildcatfan) that he lives in Waterloo, Canada, but was a die-hard Kentucky fan.
“I have been a proud Canadian all my life. I was born in Toronto and I’ve lived in a suburb of Toronto for most of my life. Currently, I reside in Waterloo (Ontario, not Iowa) and I attend Wilfrid Laurier University, where I’m in my fifth year of a double degree in business and financial math,” Garcia said.
So how did he become a Kentucky fan in Canada?
“I first got into college basketball around 2007. Initially I only watched March Madness, but by 2009, I found myself watching regular season games as well, because I enjoyed the game play … and I wanted to make better picks for my brackets,” he said. “In 2007-08, I only printed out a bracket to keep track of who won each game. Then 2009 was the first year that I actually decided to make some picks. While I only had one Final Four team correct that year (North Carolina), I did get all four seeds correct (3, 2, 1, 1).”
John Calipari’s first season at UK is what got Garcia hooked on the Wildcats.
“I filled out a bracket, and had my Final Four chosen. UK was one of them. My other three teams were all knocked out within the first weekend. So my bracket relied on UK to carry them the rest of the way,” Garcia said. “I think I had them winning it all that year, too. I remember people telling us how talented of a team UK was, and that they’d be a great pick to take the national title.
“And then that game against West Virginia happened. That UK loss was probably the very first time I have ever cried over a loss suffered by any sports team I was cheering for. The following year, I watched a healthy dose of games prior to the tournament and I filled out my bracket based on the games I saw, plus some gut feelings as well. My 2011 bracket had UK getting their revenge on West Virginia, but losing to Ohio State in the Sweet 16. They got their revenge, setting up the Ohio State game.
“However, when that game happened, I was conflicted. I had picked Ohio State to win (and eventually make the Final Four), but at some point during that game, I found myself going against my bracket and cheering for UK. I still had a soft spot for them from 2010. I remember going wild when Brandon Knight hit his shot with 5.4 seconds to go. I remember cheering louder when William Buford missed what would have been the game winning three-pointer. That region of my bracket was busted, but I didn’t care. I was so happy for the Cats to win that game.
“For this reason, I decided to cheer for UK again against UNC. I missed part of the game due to another commitment, but I came home to UK having the lead, and I started to get excited again. DeAndre Liggins hit a three-pointer that looked like it would seal a Final Four spot for UK.”
Garcia was pulling for UK to beat Connecticut in the 2011 Final Four but UK lost. Still, Garcia knew he now had a team to follow.
“For the 2011-2012 season, the passion grew. A family member, who was visiting Kentucky for a non-sports reason, bought me a shirt I could wear while I was watching games. I wore it during the entire 2012 NCAA Tournament run, and when they won the title, I wanted to celebrate, but could not do so very loudly as it was late at night.
“Eventually, I decided to put that I was part of BBN on twitter, but was nervous in doing so because I was not sure if people would think I was being serious, or thought I would just be a bandwagon fan. Eventually, I gained some BBN followers, which turned into more, which turned into more than that. Today, I think BBN makes up about half of my follower list.”
He says it can be frustrating and exhausting to be a UK fan in Canada. He said often the teams with the best Canadian players dominate the college basketball coverage in Canada on TSN — the Canadian equivalent of ESPN that started showing games in 2014 featuring the best Canadian players.
“At first I did not think much of it because ‘at least they’re showing more college games here.’ However, fans of this team and this player started coming after me for being a UK fan. I was asked why I was a UK fan since they ‘had no Canadians on the team.’ I was told I was not allowed to be a UK fan because they had no Canadians that year,” Garcia said. “I was told I must always support Canadian content and cheering for the teams that have the best Canadian players on them. I don’t think I have ever had to work harder standing my ground and sticking to my support for UK than I did in the 2014 season.”
That changed when UK added Jamal Murray and TSN started showing more UK games.
“I refused to think that it was only because of Murray (even though I was told it was). People came up to me while I was watching each UK game and talked to me about Murray. I thought I had finally found fellow UK fans to watch games with, but all they wanted to talk about was Murray,” Garcia sid. “I wanted to talk about Ulis, or Briscoe, or Poythress, or Lee, among other players, but the conversation was always brought back to Murray because he was Canadian.
This year I have only been able to watch one UK game on my TV this season – the loss to UCLA. I don’t get ESPN or the SEC Network. I find myself feeling left out that I’m not able to enjoy UK games with fellow fans the way I was able to last year,” he said.
He sometimes finds people wearing UK gear who say they cheer for Kentucky but has not found anyone living near him who follows the Cats as religiously as him.
“I’d love to meet a fellow UK fan who lives around my area to watch games on a regular basis with. However, I understand how difficult such a task has been, and will continue to be, around here, as I find most people around here appear to be fans of other popular college teams,” he said. “I wear my UK stuff proudly when I get a chance — and ALWAYS on a game day — in the hopes that maybe I will run into such a person.”
He always has fun watching any UK game he can and most of the time tries to find a public spot to watch the game in hope of meeting another UK fans. So far, that has not helped. However, whether he can watch or not, game day is special for him.
“It allows me to get together (online) with fellow fans, and we can all enjoy something that we love,” he said. “Because of this, I feel like I’m a lot closer to Kentucky and UK fans when I interact with them. Watching a game allows me to take a break from whatever it is I’m doing at the time. For this reason, I consider UK games a stress relief as well.
“I’m very happy that the Big Blue Nation has accepted me as one of them, despite being a still relatively new fan. UK basketball is more than just basketball to me. It’s become a way of interacting with friends, and making new ones. Now, if only I could meet some fellow fans here,” Garcia said.
Any doubt he is a Kentucky fan? Make sure to check him out on Twitter and give him a follow. Then have some interaction with a Kentucky fan in Canada who is all-in with BBN.