Extra? Extra Awesome!

Julie Bartucca poses in front of UConn sports fans. One of the ten fans is adorned with a husky animal hat, another in a UConn blue and baddazzeled cowboy hat, and the rest (8) are dressed in banana costumes.

Associate Editor Julie Bartucca ’10 (BUS, CLAS), ’19 MBA in front of a bunch of her favorite superfans.

Like many Connecticut natives, I was raised by my alum parents to be a UConn basketball fan. Still, I knew little about the game before I began tagging along with friends to Gampel to cheer for the men’s team as a freshman in 2006. I quickly learned the rituals of the student section, where I sat in the front rows a few times thanks to friends who would wait in line, participating in all the coordinated bits, like holding newspapers in front of our faces to project boredom as the opposing team was announced and shouting “Left! Right! Left! …” as a fouled-out player marched to the bench. I remember a friend leaning over to whisper, “That’s Big Red!” the first time I joined in on the U-C-O-N-N chant led by … well, a big red-haired guy in the upper bowl.

Among thousands of season ticket holders and a fan community that spans the globe, there are some faithful fans like Big Red whose presence stands out. These superfans, some known by silly nicknames, many with recognizable shticks, uniforms, or props, have become Husky-famous and Husky-beloved — but you’d be forgiven for thinking their commitment might be a little over the top.

I have to admit that before interviewing the personality known as Mr. Hot Balls, words like “super relatable” and “really nice” weren’t the ones going through my head. But after hearing his story, and the others in the “Superfans” photo feature, I couldn’t stop gushing about what genuine, wonderful people they all were. Despite varied monikers and mojos, they have in common this one thing that’s, frankly, sweet and quite normal. These fans bleed blue like so many of us and have simply leaned a bit further in, finding a home among a vast sea of zealots with a shared passion for what Mr. HB (rightly!) deems “the largest cultural institution in the state, like it or not.”

I’m so happy we have them.

By Julie (Stagis) Bartucca ’10 (BUS, CLAS), ’19 MBA
Photo by Peter Morenus


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