The Armchair in Africa: Big Blue Madness, from 7,640 miles away

Steve Tressler, who writes the fan blog “The Armchair Quarterback” for, has been deployed with his 565-member, Lexington-based Kentucky National Guard unit to the Horn of Africa for the next 9 months — in other words, the entirety of this college basketball season. During that time, Steve will blog about following the Wildcats from abroad, as many Kentucky fans in the military do when they are deployed. If you or a loved one are a Wildcats fan on military deployment, we also want to hear your story. Send us photos or details, and we’ll use them here or in the Herald-Leader. (Send photos or information to Peter Baniak,

Here is Steve’s first dispatch from Africa. Check back at the blog for more in the months to come:

By Steve Tressler

THIS IS AFRICA!  With movie-like voice references out of the way, it’s the truth. True Big Blue Madness is not being at Rupp Arena for the ‘show.’  It’s being 7,640 miles away from Rupp Arena knowing the show must go on and not being there, seeing it there, or hearing it there. For a Big Blue fan, that is madness!!!

All the images on of fans at Madness proved to me it was all too real. All that fun, all that pageantry, all that excitement for another year of Kentucky basketball. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks…. all that distance between me and my favorite banners hanging from the rafters at Rupp. The national titles, the final four appearances, all the great players: Grevey, Issel, Riley, Mashburn, and my favorites like Macy, Coach Hall, and Walker. Even my all-time favorite, who I never even got to see play live, Cotton Nash. Nash should have his baseball jersey retired, too. Besides him is there any athlete in UK history to play two major professional sports? Wow! It will all just have to wait, though.

Instead I’ll be in Africa for the entire college basketball season. I had a sweet gig before I left Lexington, too. I wrote the Armchair QB blog for and was hosting the Sunday Morning Sports Show on WVLK, thanks to Larry Glover and Scott Johnson.

The way I see it, though, it’s not a “wash” just yet.  The Kentucky basketball season will serve me just as it did when I was in Iraq and wrote ‘Letters from Iraq’ for  It will serve as a much-needed distraction at intense times, and remind me that there are things that still get me fired up with fun!

On that note, of being “fired up,” I should tell you that although the noise that Joker Phillips should be fired after this football season is probably really loud in Lexington, here in Africa, where over 500,000 children died of malaria just last year, firing a football coach in the states, because you’re mad he had a bad season, is, well … a bad joke. Those are games, these are lives. I know the show must go on, but I can’t seem to find the energy to complain about the life I lead in the US. Neither should Joker or anyone else for that matter.

I’ll get some “stinkbombs” from a few fans for saying that, but unless you’ve seen it for yourself, I guess you can’t convince some of those fans how trivial the football season truly is.

I want the gridiron Cats to win the SEC and beyond, but I’m so grateful to have a perspective that doesn’t allow me to lose focus on what is truly important. I say Coach should stay.

I’m more proud of the soldiers in Taskforce Longrifles than I have ever been of any football or basketball team. These soldiers are delivering mosquito nets by the thousands, and that’s allowing villagers all over to rest a little easier at night. They are delivering supplies, clothes, teaching English, volunteering at baby orphanages, running a wildlife preservation  and that’s just the start.

Am I proud to be a Kentuckian?

You bet I am. Myself and the soldiers of the 138th Fires Brigade out of Lexington, and its Taskforce Longrifles, which comprises our entire state (to include our Louisville fans among others) see to that everyday through our actions.

As for me, though, Go Cats!

Lindsay, YAMWW!  To my son Trey; Happy Birthday buddy! Love Daddy

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One Response to The Armchair in Africa: Big Blue Madness, from 7,640 miles away

  1. taura schmitz says:

    Great article as always Steve. Stay safe. Miss you and love you brother.

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