How to Interact With Athletes on Campus
Today was the first day of school for all you UK students out there, and this rite of passage wouldn’t be complete without a pop quiz. Hypothetical scenario: it’s your first day of college. You’ve got your backpack full of books that you probably won’t need, your lunch money jangling happily in your pocket, and you’ve successfully avoided your mom’s request for a “first day of school” picture for the fridge (“Honey, why can’t you just ask your roommate to take it?”). You’re strolling merrily along Limestone, minding your own business, when all of the sudden- you see Nerlens Noel. How do you react?
(A) Immediately run up, ask for a picture with him, and throw your three goggles with abandon. CHEESE!
(B) Stare. Just outright stare. He doesn’t look that tall on television…
(C) Casual head nod (“sup, bro?”), then continue on your path. Ain’t no thang.
Correct Answer: (C). Lezzbehonest: in real life, most freshmen would do A or B. But, newsflash: as starstruck as you may be by the shadow cast by Nerlen’s flattop, he’s technically your peer now. YOU ARE THE SAME AGE AS HIM (and I’m almost five years older. Practically a dinosaur, or Digger Phelps). Sure, some athletes may be just one year away from professional careers and thousands in endorsements, but that doesn’t mean you have to act like a creep around them. So for all the freshmen reading this, here’s a handy guide for how to appropriately interact with athletes on campus- so that you don’t stick out even more than you already do (lose the lanyards, though. For real).
DO: Treat athletes like normal human beings. Use this as a guiding principle for every time you are within the vicinity of a UK athlete. Would you ask for the autograph of the girl next to you in Psych 101? No? Then don’t do it if you happen to find yourself sitting next to Alex Poythress in class.
DON’T: Bother them if they have their Beats on. Everyone knows the universal law of earbuds: if someone has earbuds in, it is physically impossible to break the sound barrier and talk to them. With athletes and Beats, this rule is multiplied ten-fold. Beats might as well be a huge “DO NOT DISTURB” sandwich board around their necks. Don’t mess.
This fan broke the Law of Headphones and lived to tell the tale.
DO: Follow Josh Hopkins’ words of wisdom. In his second post, “Meeting John Wall,” Josh confesses how nervous he was at approaching John Wall for a picture while at a bar in LA. He strategically planned his approach- said hi as he walked by, asked if he could get a quick picture after dinner, then follow through once Wall was about to leave. Polite, uninterfering, and not at all stalkerish (save for the slightly neurotic running commentary occurring inside Josh’s head at the time). If you absolutely MUST get a picture with your favorite UK player, follow Josh’s example.
DON’T: Ask for pictures while they’re going to class, in the act of eating, or seem otherwise occupied. Acceptable photo ops? Public places (WalMart, Kroger, Orange Leaf), the blue courts, leaving dining establishments, and fund-raising events.
DO: Occassionally feed into the “Big Men On Campus” hype. By this, I mean that after an athlete has an outstanding play or record-breaking game, stroke the egos a little bit. For example, cheering Matt Roark’s walk to class the Monday after the Tennessee game- totally fine. Starting a “Da-vis! Da-vis! Da-vis!” slow clap at Ovids after the UNC block- probably necessary. Part of the fun of attending a big-time athletic school like UK is the infectious enthusiasm floating around campus when a team is on a roll. Embrace it when it’s deserved.
DON’T: Heckle players after a poor showing. The necessary corrollary to my previous point. Every now and then, a player or team has an off night. They will probably recognize this. Their coaches will definitely recognize this. Frankly, they don’t need you to let them know how much you didn’t appreciate them choking the weekend before. Keep it to yourself.
DO: Relish the “Athletes are people, too!” moments. Savor running into Wiltjer and Polson at Graeter’s. Giggle to yourself when you watch Archie Goodwin ride his scooter to class. Take a mental snapshot when you see LaRod King eating Ramen straight out of the cup. Again, one of the perks of going to a school like UK is seeing athletes before they’re pros and having some common ground with them, if only for a year or two. Enjoy it while you can.