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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Of Tea Baggers And UK Basketball "Fans"

Having grown up in Kentucky, I know that there are two things that people just don't do around here - talk bad about UK basketball and dismiss the Kentucky Derby has nothing more than the dumbest two minutes in racing.

With that in mind, I realized something while discussing the Final Four recently with a friend at work - the connection between a specific set of UK "fans" and the Tea Baggers.

What was postulated to me regarding sports is that there are certain types of "fans" - those that intimately know the players and stats revolving around the game and those that simply are "fans" because of the particular state they live in. This, more than just about anything, is explicitly true for "fans" of UK basketball.

Not being the biggest sports enthusiast in America also provides a unique perspective on the difference between someone that loves the game - whatever that might be - and someone that is simply enamoured with the idea of being a "fan". UK basketball "fans" can be some of the loudest and most eclectic persons, and that is not always a good thing.

I can recall just a few years ago accompanying a friend to a local restaurant/bar on a Friday evening for some steaks and drinks. What we didn't realize is that there was a UK game in progress and a group of about 13 "fans" had been meeting regularly at that exact restaurant/bar on Friday evenings to watch UK on the wide screen behind the bar.

The dining area, usually packed this time of the evening, was virtually empty, but the bar was ablaze with "blue and white" and a cacophony unlike heard in modern dining settings. I'm not entirely sure how many people decided to find an alternate place to patronize once they heard and saw the group, but I stopped counting around 10. My friend and I opted to stay not only to enjoy the pints of bitter, but to view the spectacle that continually erupted each time a UK player had the ball.

In contrast, I've been at homes and at locations like the above mentioned with sports fans that understand the nuances of the game in question. And yes, while there is the occasional bursts of noise, there is interlaced with it solid and knowledgeable commentary, concluded by an analysis of the game - oh, and some great hot wings too.

This same dichotomy exists within the socio-political realm. In place of the noise-making "fan" you have the Tea Baggers. And the solid policy wonk and intellectually honest observer is the sports statistician.

Ever since Obama's election, the political "fan" has made so much noise that we've almost become numb to what they are doing. And, unfortunately, we have allowed them to frame enough of the narrative that we have lost the initiative. Just take a look at what has happened in Wisconsin and the rallying cry for Paul Ryan's laughably poor and transparently laughable "budget".

I guess you could say that once people start announcing their presidential candidacy - which is already underway - we are the socio-political "tournament", though I'm not entirely sure what we would consider the "Final Four". Maybe that's once the televised debates start ramping up. But one thing for sure is that the "championship game" is election night. And that is when all the "fans" are going to be the loudest, regardless if their "team" wins or not. And the noise only increases the morning after so they can either gloat or complain about "plays" and "calls" made.

The root thesis of this is that the "fans" don't need to control the "game" or how it is viewed. If a player on UK's team had a strong performance, it doesn't do anyone any good to discuss how horrible his shoes looked or that he made a strange face when he got that dunk with only 30 seconds to go. Just visit any Right Wing website today and you'll find that that is the bulk of what is discussed in relation to Obama and his administration.

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