Without the Fans

Peter Boyle, who played Frank Stein in Monster Squad, once said about sweet potatoes, "Without the marshmallows it's a damn vegetable." I'm pretty sure he was talking about sports because anybody who's ever watched I Love Raymond knows that it's basically a serialized adaptation of the Coen Brothers masterpiece Bismarck, which wasn't really about murder and starred Nucky Thompson as Mr. Pink.

I think it's safe to posit that instead of yams Frank was actually crafting a carefully constructed commentary on the woefully misguided amount of importance we as a society assign to athletes, coaches, sports journalists, etc., which makes Frank smart because smart people never talk about what they're actually talking about. The true subtext of Frank's allegorical discourse on sweet papas fritas, I believe, can be summed up as follows: as fans, we are the game, no matter what the game is. Whether it's a sport, like hockey, or a fun activity that ladies do in skirts, like golf, without the fans it's a damn hobby. Without the fans, Ashley Judd's a damn actress. Without the fans, the sports media's a damn hugging contest. Without the fans, Rick Pitino's a damn premature ejaculator. We, the underappreciated, overcharged fans, not only pay our hard-earned money for tickets, t-shirts, and other memorabilia, we also dig deeper into our pockets for every sports channel from ESPN (regular, 2, News, U, Classic) to Fox Sports (both 1 and 2, also Northeast, Southwest and every region in between) and activity channels like the Golf Channel because even a shirty game like Ohio State v. Doesn't Matter Fork Ohio State is still better than a non-sporting event on a Saturday afternoon. And what do we get for our efforts? Jacked up ticket prices and uniform changes so duckhead owners like Jeffery Loria can stuff us pre- and post-tax. A bunch of duckless never-been-puncheds like Michael Wilbon, Skip Bayless and Colin Cowherd, all of whom make stupid amounts of money for being nothing more than pseudo-intellectual, contrarian, fart-eating trolls because they know you, the viewer, the listener, the fan, is too stupid to ever comprehend that the more they piss you off the more you listen because America's dirty little secret is that we all enjoy being angry at someone when we feel justified, and ESPN and Darts after Dark have monetized (the fart out of) that.  

Sucks, right? Well, that's where your friends at Power K come in. While we don't (yet) have the Power (K) to make Big Sports stop forking us in the asterisks without even spitting on their hands first, we can say thank you, which is why we're announcing the official (1) University of Kentucky Fan Hall of Fame in the hopes that other universities and professional franchises will follow suit, eventually leading to a wing in Rupp with gilded halls and mahogany shadow boxes full of bronze busts of folks like you, mid-scream, cutting increasingly disturbing (and insulting) (and blasphemous) deals with God as time winds down. 

THE GOLDEN AGE IS BEFORE US, NOT BEHIND US

The inaugural--and eponymous--member of the Victor F. Gutermuth University of Kentucky Fan Hall of Fame is my grandfather, Victor F. Gutermuth. While his birth certificate says otherwise, I’ve always liked to think the “F” stands for “F#cking.” (2)

It’s a story as old as before the History Channel became just History, but my first UK memory is set in a muggy Commonwealth Stadium circa 1987, where six-year-old me spent most of the afternoon drooling on my mom’s shoulder, my Pepaw sitting next to us, listening to Cawood on his headphones (3). Mark Higgs scored three touchdowns that day, and yes, six-year-old me, a total bad-asterisk between naps and when I wasn't hungry, remembers that specifically.

My second UK memory is set in the basement of Vic's pre-retirement-to-Florida tri-level for the 1987 (maybe 88?) UK-UL basketball game. I don’t remember the game (I think we won), but I do remember sitting on his lap when, on a LaBradford Smith breakout and subsequent missed dunk, there was a general feeling of happiness and it was the first time I remember thinking we in regards to the glorious Big Blue, and I knew, on some sort of real level, that I was a UK fan. And not only was I a UK fan, I was a UK fan who hated Louisville. The line had been drawn. Everything had changed, and changed irrevocably. 

CRY “HAVOC!”, AND LET SLIP THE DOGS OF WAR

I, Eric, grandson of Vic, had been tapped to wage battle against the commuter school in my hometown perpetually tugging at the belt loops of its britches, longing for the day they would say Hilfiger instead of B’Gosh (4). Buddhists have a word for this moment of clarity, when they gain insight into who they were, who they are, and who they would become. They call it “Enlightenment.” Neo achieved it at the end of the first Matrix (only to ironically steal it from the rest of the planet in the sequels). For Rose Tyler it was when she looked into the soul of the Tardis and became the Bad Wolf (5). Eddie Murphy found it working at MacDowell’s. I found it on a butthole’s missed dunk.

Rarely are we lucky (or unlucky) enough to know when a lifelong memory is approaching (births, weddings, graduations, getting tested for the clap) but to this day I still can’t smell pipe tobacco (6) without thinking of that basement, of that play, and how much of my life was decided right then and there. And for that, I want to say to my Pepaw, thank you. Thank you for making me a Kentucky fan. Thank you for taking me golfing and not getting mad when I would absolutely lose my shirt because golf is impossible and in no way, shape or form a sport. Thank you for giving me money before I went on that cruise. Thank you for being an example of how it’s possible to be simultaneously tough and gentle. For all this and so much more I’m forever grateful, and while I know it's the nature of nature for grandfathers to give to their grandchildren out of unconditional love, neither expecting nor wanting anything in return, I still humbly offer this small gift on this silly (but power{K}ful) website as a mere token of my thanks, and let me be the first to welcome you to the Victor F. Gutermuth University of Kentucky Fan Hall of Fame. Not only are you a Hall of Famer, you're the Hall of Famer, because without you it's just a damn K. 

 

 

Footnotes

1.    Not even close. I don't even know how that would work. 

2.       His middle name is Pepaw. Also, sorry for fake cursing, Pepaw. And Memaw. 

3.       I have no actual memory of this, as I don’t think the Walkman had been invented yet (Jesus Christ, I was alive when there weren’t Walkmans), but it’s a total Vic move, so just…okay?

4.       Osh Kosh 4 lyfe boi

5.       Gotcha, Whovians. 10th doctor 4 lyfe boi

6.       Pipe tobacco.  His is the last generation of men.