It’s very hard to put into words what I want to say about Bill Keightley.
So I am going to say it like this and hope that my words ring true.
To me he epitomizes what is truly beautiful about being a UK fan.
My family, like so many in Kentucky, have followed and cheered the Wildcats for many many years, even though I was in high school before I was able to attend a game at Rupp. My father, well he was over 40 before he was able to see a game there. My grandfather, in his 60’s. But for years, Mr. Wildcat, equipment manager, symbolized for us the every fan. He was, at least in my mind, my representation on the UK bench.
I don’t remember ever watching a UK game on television where I couldn’t find Mr. Keightley sitting on the bench. He was behind Tubby or next to Rick, or somewhere down the line of trainers and assistant coaches behind the players. It is sad that Billy Gillispie will only get one season of having him as part of the team, but I am pretty sure it didn’t take long for Gillispie to understand Mr. Wildcat’s role for our team.
A quote that stuck out to me from Gillispie today was that even with the disparity in their ages Keightley had become one of his best friends. He apparently had that affect on everyone, even those of us who never met him felt as though he would be a good friend.
The media will tell you that UK fans are rabid. That we are all monsters who run coaches out of town and that we don’t know a good thing when we have it. People have to understand that there are always going to be some people who do give our fandom and tradition a bad name by their behavior.
There are also UK fans who after hearing of Mr. Keightley’s death walked to Memorial Hall with candles to cry a bit and honor a man that gave half his life to the program that we all love.
Some UK fans won’t discover until morning that he is gone and will have to call their family and friends to relate the sad story, probably hiding a few sniffles as they read the news reports.
There will even be fans that will go to school with a symbol on their backpacks or ribbons on their jackets to show that they understood what a single person can bring to the UK family.
But if you want to see the definition of what a true UK fan is…
Look in Wikipedia under the name William (Bill) Bond Keightley.
Rest in Peace, Mr. Bill. We will never forget you and know you will be working on pulling the strings up there to get us another Championship banner.
Thanks to Matt at KSR
A couple of articles to read about Mr. Keightley: (I will post more as they become available)