(EDITOR'S NOTE: I know I am a few days behind on the vacation updates. That was bound to happen when (a) my kids arrived on the scene in Pittsburgh and (b) I became stuck at the Connecticut shore with an internet connection whose speed falls somewhere between "GLACIAL" and "CARLOS LEE". Consider these last few days the equivalent of when Mission Control wouldn't hear from Apollo 13 for a few days while they were orbiting the back side of the moon. I disappeared while orbiting Old Lyme, CT, but now I'm back. My goal is to be all caught up in the next couple days. Enjoy the ride.)
It was with a hangover-induced haze that I left Nashville on Monday morning, wondering how I could possibly top a weekend which included a tour of a distillery, a cheeseburger called "The Gamble", and thought-provoking conversation with the drummer for an 80's hair band. Normally the task of topping that weekend would be impossible. But I was heading to Russellville, KY to meet the Youtube Legend (yes, I capitalized the word "Legend"), Kige Ramsey.
Kige Ramsey. If you don't know anything about Kige, click here for a pretty good Cliffs Notes synopsis of his work on Youtube. He is a third year student at Western Kentucky (although he says he may be taking this semester off), a video generating machine, and an internet sensation (see Hall of Fame nomination, Deadspin).
He doesn't shy away from any topics, whether it's Nicole Richie's "anorexic" ....
or a public service announcement on how to safely deploy bottle rockets.
He doesn't shy away from the spotlight, he embraces it.
"Every once in a while, a person comes along who defies the odds, who defies logic and fulfills an incredible dream."
These were words actually uttered by the mayor of Philadelphia in Rocky III before presenting the now famous statue of Rocky Balboa with his hands raised over his head at the top of the steps of the Art Museum in Philadelphia.
I would argue that a similar ceremony could easily be held in Russellville in front of Roy's Bar-b-que emceed by the mayor of Russellville speaking about Kige with a statue of Kige wrapped in a Kentucky Wildcats banner. (I am assuming that there is no Russellville Art Museum, otherwise they could hold the ceremony there. I am assuming there is a mayor of Russellville.)
It was at Roy's Bar-B-Que that I finally met the near Deadspin Hall of Famer for lunch before making our way over to Youtube Sports World Headquarters for an afternoon of spirited discussion regarding the future of the broadcasting industry. I am firmly of the opinion that you know you're at an establishment that's serious about its craft when they decide to abbreviate syllables (or sometimes entire words) by using one letter as a replacement. Toys-R-Us .... Stop N Go ... In N Out Burger ... Roy's Bar-B-Que. It's almost as if they've built up so much street cred they're saying "Yeah, we know the whole syllable is actually "be". But we're gonna stick it to THE MAN! Just the letter B and that's all you get!! F-YOU!!!" Who am I to argue? As long as the food is good, they can spell it in Japanese for all I care.
And oh yes, the food was good. I got a pulled pork sandwich where they actually used cornbread as the bread for the sandwich, making it the second most fattening bread for a sandwich behind the Double Bypass Burger at the Vortex Diner in Atlanta! (Yes, those are grilled cheese sandwiches...) It was awesome. The place takes its Kentucky hoops seriously, too, as the wall pictured here is just one of about ten walls covered in UK memorabilia.
I met Kige and his dad, Butch, there for lunch around 1:00PM on Monday. Perhaps thinking that being the "dude who does those Youtube videos at Walmart" would establish some modicum of local celebrity for Kige, I expected many of the Russellvillians to come by our table and pay respects to him as if he were Vito Corleone on his daughter's wedding day. ("Don Ramsey, I am honored and grateful that you are eating barbecue in our home on the day you are recording videos about boating safety and the NBA Draft. And may your first child be a masculine child...") But alas and ironically, Kige's fame appears to have far greater traction around the country than it does in his very own home town as we ate and conversed uninterrupted for over an hour. I will chalk this up to the strong possibility that Kige is the only resident in Russellville with access to the internet, and therefore the rest of the town has not yet seen his videos. It's the only plausible explanation.
After getting a stroll around the restaurant to gaze at the walls and get my education on all things Kentucky hoops, we zipped up the bypass road to the Youtube Sports World Headquarters, or as Kige's parents like to call it "our house". I was pretty honored to be the second sports media personality to get the tour of these world class facilities. (Deadspin Associate Editor Clay Travis has the good fortune of being the answer to the trivia question "Who was the first?" See Kige's interview with Clay here and here.) It was at HQ that I completed the Ramsey parental exacta and met Kige's mother, Rhonda. Kige's mom is a college basketball freak, and when I found out that she hates Duke, we became total BFF. (That's Best Friends Forever, for those of you who don't text message.)
The studio where Kige films a majority of his videos is called the "Raymond Ramsey Studio", named after his dad (who goes by "Butch" but is named "Raymond"). The RR Studio may or may not be a converted broom closet. The room is a whole lot smaller in actuality than it appears in the Kige videos, which is ironic because at 6'5" Kige is a lot bigger in actuality than he appears in the videos. Big is small, small is big ... it's like Casa de Ramsey is some sort of funhouse at the Jersey shore.
With its trademarked wood paneling, the RR Studio has a definitive 1973 feel -- warm, yet trippy. Truth be told, Kige's parents both indicated they would like to do away with the paneling and bring that room into the 21st century, but Kige fears a backlash among his viewers, many of whom have commented on how much they enjoy the wood paneling. At one point, legend has it that Kige threw himself in front of a wrecking ball to keep the wood paneling intact. That's how much he loves all of you.
Kige has basically imposed the will of Youtube Sports on his parents and their home, as his bedroom is no longer a "bedroom". It's the "production room". The living room is now the "viewing room". The kitchen is the "green room" (Indeed, the kitchen is where Rhonda gave me a bottled water and applied my makeup before doing my interview in the Raymond Ramsey Studio.). You get the idea. Kige is a force of nature that can only be stopped by his parents decorative choices and Youtube limiting the number of uploads a user can have.
While Kige formulated his interview questions for me, I chatted with his parents and his uncle Steve about sports, the South, my brief radio career and life in general. I will say that you will not meet nicer people than the Ramseys -- genuinely warm people who were very interested in my trip and my story. Kige's dad is battling cancer right now and the day we got together he was doing well; he was in between treatment weeks. Certainly, keep him and Kige's whole family in your thoughts and prayers.
Before departing for Lexington, I was finally able to cross off "interview with Kige Ramsey at Youtube Sports HQ" from my bucket list. Hell yeah ....