Archive for Tuesday, August 22, 2006

In the heart of Jayhawk country, K-State supporters carve a niche

August 22, 2006


Kansas State University fans may be outnumbered in Lawrence, but they seem to make a lot of noise in their rival's back yard.

One such fan is Robin "Rollie" Spencer, who attended K-State from 1985 to 1989 and is a member of the Lawrence Catbacker Club.

Despite growing up in the Lawrence area, he never caught Jayhawk fever. Instead, he flies his purple flag with the Powercat logo outside his East Lawrence home. He also wears purple every day to his maintenance job at Meadowbrook Apartments, home to a lot of Kansas University students.

"Oh yeah. I either wear a purple T-shirt or a hat," Spencer said while giving a tour of his home, which is full of K-State memorabilia, including a picture of him and new head football coach Ron Prince. Spencer said he has met the coach three times and likes his enthusiasm.

The Lawrence Catbacker Club, which has about 150 members, is hoping to build membership on that enthusiasm with its annual Lawrence Catbacker Fall Football Classic, which begins at 6 p.m. today at the Eldridge Hotel. There will be a social hour, program, and live and silent auctions, which will raise funds for scholarships.

Spencer and his wife, Beth, plan to attend the event and have made a huge wreath full of K-State mementos for the live auction.

Lawrence resident and Catbacker Robin Spencer is pictured with two of his dachshunds, Wabash Cannonball, who is named after the Kansas State University fight song, at left, and Sonofat. Despite living in Jayhawk country, Spencer says he tries to wear a little purple every day to work in support of the Wildcats.

Lawrence resident and Catbacker Robin Spencer is pictured with two of his dachshunds, Wabash Cannonball, who is named after the Kansas State University fight song, at left, and Sonofat. Despite living in Jayhawk country, Spencer says he tries to wear a little purple every day to work in support of the Wildcats.

Rollie Spencer said he has had watch parties in his garage, lost $300 betting on K-State and ran down his street while hollering and waving the purple flag after the team beat KU in basketball last season.

So, what do KU graduates Tom and Stacey VanFleet, his neighbors across the street, think of all the purple fuss?

Stacey VanFleet said they heckle each other, but "it's all in good fun."

"We have no problem with it," she said.

The VanFleets have taught their 2-year-old daughter Darby to recognize the Jayhawk logo and say "Go Jayhawks" at the sight of one.

When football season rolls around in a couple of weeks, the VanFleets will cheer on the Jayhawks in Memorial Stadium and the Spencers will load up their van and drive to Manhattan to tailgate and root for the Wildcats.

Steve Wood, president and founder of the Lawrence Catbacker Club and a 1970 K-State graduate, called the rivalry a "friendly one."

He owns a Wildcat-themed bus called Woody's Wagon that used to make a lot of treks to Manhattan, where he now keeps the vehicle. But he does remember catching some friends trying to decorate his wagon with a crimson-and-blue theme.

Join the Catbackers

The Lawrence Catbacker Club's Fall Football Classic begins at 6 p.m. today at the Eldridge Hotel, 701 Mass. Here's what on tap: ¢ 6 p.m., hors d'oeuvres, silent auction and social time. ¢ 7 p.m., program by Wyatt Thompson, who is the "Voice of the Wildcats." ¢ 7:30 p.m., live auction. ¢ 8:30 p.m., silent auction results will be announced. The silent and live auctions benefit the Mike Ahearn Scholarship Fund. The cost to attend is $15.

But, according to K-State fans, a little heckling is a small price to pay for living in a "great town."

"It's happening in Lawrence," Wood said. "The K-State fans who live in Lawrence tend to be the most loyal."

He must be describing John Fiore, vice president of the club, who has lived in Lawrence for seven years.

Fiore is proud of his alma mater and drives around in a purple Pontiac GTO with a KSU license plate.

"I park it on top of the hill where everyone can see it," he said.

Fiore's wife, Jennifer, graduated from KU and tries to keep his purple passion to a minimum around the house.

If it were up to him, his wife said, they would have gotten married on the 50-yard line at K-State's football stadium.

"He wanted to have the groomsmen wear purple and white and have the bridesmaids wear blue and crimson," Jennifer Fiore said. "He's crazy about K-State."

Rollie Spencer's glad that he's not alone.

He said sometimes it can feel like it is him "against everyone," but maybe that's because there are only 2,033 K-State Alumni Assn. members in Douglas County, compared to 40,867 KU Alumni Assn. members.

But Spencer said he is "thick-skinned."

"If they heckle me, I just heckle them back."


MWIV 11 years, 7 months ago

We need someone in this town to serve up french fries that speaks English. They live here because they can't get a job in Manhattan. :) Really, who would want to live out there?

xenophonschild 11 years, 7 months ago

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Dale Stringer 11 years, 7 months ago

As long as they teach their kids to yell "Boo Mizzou" then any Kansan should be allowed to rout for any Kansan team they want.

mztrendy 11 years, 7 months ago

xenophonschild, you really shouldn't judge, since you know absolutely nothing about Rollie. He's worked there for about 2 months, and I won't tell you where he was employed before that. I don't think you got the point of the article. This guy is hysterical. He flys his k-state and Nascar flag every year at Royals opening day. He's really a great person, and a true catbacker.

mztrendy 11 years, 7 months ago

those are the meanest, fattest dogs I've ever been around.

MWIV 11 years, 7 months ago

macon47 - Check your spelling. Did you go to K-State too?

kingdork44 11 years, 7 months ago

I'm Glad to see that the Fine People of Lawrence respect freedom of speech, Unlike the Folks in Meade Kansas Reacting to The Lakeway Bed and Breakfast for flying a "Rainbow Flag" in front of his business.........

Linda Aikins 11 years, 7 months ago

TOB - see my private post.

It should be son-of-fat (fat is the daddy dog).

lawrence113 11 years, 7 months ago

Wow, nothing says crimson class like making fun of people kind enough to participate in the writer's article.

And MWIV, check your punctuation. Good grief.

Linda Aikins 11 years, 7 months ago

What's wrong with MWIV's punctuation?

And didn't you just make fun of MWIV? Is that classy?

Linda Aikins 11 years, 7 months ago

No TOB, it's OK! You have lots of credits! ;)

You are my third cousin, once removed, and yet are still my nephew. SW Kansas, you know.

Laura 11 years, 7 months ago

I have never lived in Manhattan, but I have to say that it's far more lovely than Lawrence. Manhattan has no equivalent to 23rd St. and all the crap south of it. Lawrence used to be so beautiful and now it looks worse than Olathe. At least Manhattan looks green and natural. Maybe it's a good thing for them that people don't want to live there! I wish people didn't want to live in Lawrence!

kingdork44 11 years, 7 months ago

Laura, What A Road of Clap. The Little Apple is a Lovely town. It is. So Why Critisize Lawrence. What!!!!!!!!! Because of the Flag he that hangs on his front Porch.. With that attitude, you would be more than welcomed in Meade. Lawrence hasn't changed that much, as well as "The Little Apple". Peace.

Laura 11 years, 7 months ago

Dork, I'm not making fun of the purple guy. He's fine. It's the ugly chain store barrage going on in Lawrence that makes me ill. I love Lawrence! I'm just getting really tired of the traffic, the endless hoardes of people (even without students, who at least bring some zip to the town). It's like Johnson County Lite. I'm a nature girl and I miss the Lawrence that used to be so pretty and green. I've never been interested in the KU-K-State rivalry, so that has nothing to do with it. I'm just sayin', you know?

jayhawk20 11 years, 7 months ago


I would like to know where you came up with those numbers about Ku grads living in basements. If you can prove that, an astonishing feat that would be. Your just like the rest of the typical k-state idiots.


Tychoman 11 years, 7 months ago

This reminds me of one of my favorite jokes: "I'd go to K-State but I already know how to mow a lawn."

betti81 11 years, 7 months ago

(chanting) Rock Chalk Jayhawk K-U Rock Chalk Jayhawk K-U Rock Chalk Jayhawk Rock Chalk Jayhawk Rock Chalk Jayhawk--KU!!!!!!!!!!

mom_of_three 11 years, 7 months ago

A little good natured rivalry never hurt anyone.
As a Kansan, I support all of our teams when necessary. But I just can't publicly root for K-State.
Part of my step family is K-State fans, but my mom and me quickly taught my step niece to recognize the Jayhawk, even before the wildcat.
My youngest wants to be a vet, and may eventually attend K-State. I don't know what I will do then.

jayhawks71 11 years, 7 months ago

Ok, I know this will sound mean, but, he has a college degree(?) and works as a maintenance man? I just want to know why? Such jobs are noble ones, but college graduates typically go a different route.

Also, perhaps those KU grads that are posting on the Internet all day found a way not to work 80 hours a week for 6 bucks an hour. Perhaps they are the better entrepreneurs. People need to get past the mindset that the ONLY honest work is done in a cubicle or under the hood of a car from 8-5. Such a mindset reflects good, old-fashioned ignorance.

willie_wildcat 11 years, 7 months ago

I think its cool that he is showing his devotion to his team even if it is a bit off the beaten path. I mean come who has not come across a die hard fan of any team that takes it to the extreme? And yes I am a Catbacker... I graduated from Kansas State and am damn proud of it! And yes I do live here in Lawrence as fact there are quite a few of us here.

kugrad 11 years, 7 months ago

The KU fight song is not actually "Wabash Cannonball," it is "Wildcat Victory," which is similar, but not the same.

willie_wildcat 11 years, 7 months ago

Gootsie I never said anything about him being a graduate of K State...I just threw that in. Anyway have a nice night all!

lubyloo 11 years, 7 months ago

Not being from Kansas originally, I'm not really into the whole KU vs. K-State rivalry, but I have to take issue with Laura about the Lawrence vs. Manhattan thing. I have been to Manhattan. It has approximately 3 restaurants, all with incredibly long waits. And there is virtually nothing to do there, except walk around downtown and a bunch of vacant stores. The one thing that Manhattan has that Lawrence does not: a Dillards. It's enough to make me say, "Rock Chalk Jayhawk!"

irishblues 11 years, 7 months ago

The article doesn't say he graduated from K-State. He has enough pride in his education to show it, whether he did or not. I didn't graduate from KU but I'm a big fan.

When he married his lovely wife Beth, I was afraid she'd have a K-State themed wedding, she let Rollie wear a purple dress shirt.

He doesn't just wear some purple every day - he wears purple. I bought Robin and Beth matching K State hats at Christmas and was afraid they didn't have enough purple! He loved them anyway.

He's not "just" a maintenance man. He's the Manager of Maintenance with a rather large staff and a lot of responsibility. Very intelligent, very kind and very funny!

Mom of three, I totally agree with you! I back KU first then it's whatever KS team is up next. Remember the Wichita Shockers last year?

Rollie will be the first to tell you he's a K-State fan all the way, win or lose.

And the point is he's a K-State fan living in a Jayhawk town. I have a lot of fun ribbing him at basketball time, and I also root for the Wildcats only, and only, when the Jayhawks fall out of the running in the conference play for whatever season it is.

And those weiner dogs! They drive me nuts when I'm there, but they are so cute and well cared for you can't help but love them.

And Don't get Rollie started on NASCAR! We'll be here all night!


spookymike42 11 years, 7 months ago

Well if that guy in the story is in the minority rooting for K-state while living in Lawrence, well that makes me the minority rooting for KU living in Manhattan. Not alot of KU fans in my neighborhood here in Manhattan.

norsk_reporter 11 years, 7 months ago

Had lubyloo paid attention while in Manhattan, he/she would know that downtown is definitely NOT void of stores, and is growing nicely. Furthermore, Manhattan has a wealth of fine restaurants in and around Manhattan (unfortunately, there is no Indian restaurant...leg up=Lawrence). Also, it would be nice if you all would check your spelling, grammar, punctuation and facts before calling each other idiots and morons. That just makes all of us look dumb.

xenophonschild 11 years, 7 months ago


I disagree; I don't feel I have a problem at all inre Kansas State.

Young men and women come to the University of Kansas to become citizens of the Country of the Mind, to join the wonderful, edifying, life-long journey of learning and knowledge that elevates the soul and nourishes our civilization.

Young men and women attend Kansas State to learn the practical applications of herbicides and pesticides.

Have a nice evening.

kugrad 11 years, 7 months ago

Well, as someone who grew up in Manhattan, let me say that the downtown as we knew it is DEAD. Full of junky stores, all the great stores gone, killed by the mall. You regular negativeheads can all complain about the progressives and moan and grown about downtown, but if Lawrence loses downtown, NOTHING will fill the void. You cannot create another downtown. Even aggieville is a terrible shadow of its former self. It has none of the character it had even as recently as the 80's. It sucks. There is NOT a "wealth of fine restaurants in and around Manhattan," although there are a few mediocre ones (unless you consider Carlos O'Kelly's type chains "fine dining"), but Lawrence has plenty of overhyped eateries as well. Manhattan is a great place to grow up and a fine community, but they traded a vital downtown that was the center of town for a mall that sucked the life from not just the downtown but the neighborhoods of central Manhattan.

jayhawks71 11 years, 7 months ago

It doesn't say he didn't graduate either. Perhaps if he spent 4 years there, he should consider finishing up. Then he can truly call it his alma mater.

irishblues 11 years, 7 months ago

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone!

I remember alot (and don't remember) that I have done that I would not want plastered in the paper.

The Louise's incident should not have been brought up, for the same reason's I don't do three shows a night anymore.

There's not too many college students on either side of the KU/KState drinking line that can say they have not had incidents such as this.

I could drop a lot of our city leaders who grew up around here in the grease with what I know WE did "back in the day". No reason to bring up such things in a personal attack when someone has their moment in the paper for a POSITIVE action.

Can't we just stick to the point, or must we dog everybody that comes up?

moveforward 11 years, 7 months ago

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Linda Endicott 11 years, 7 months ago

I'm a KU fan, but I don't watch much college sports except basketball. I watch an occasional football game. However, a Kansas team is a Kansas team. I root for the other Kansas teams as well, K-State and Wichita St. Just not when they're playing against KU!

I don't go around wearing red and blue every day of the year, though.

On a side note, I get soooo extremely tired of those on the boards who constantly think they have to criticize somebody's grammar, spelling, or punctuation. Having perfect English skills is not required to have an opinion. Stop harping on things that aren't important.

Laura 11 years, 7 months ago

No no no . . . you're missing the point. Downtown Manhattan is boring. The mall has not sucked the life out of anything because there was nothing to suck the life out of in the first place! Aggieville has a couple of good restaurants, but yes, that's it. No shopping. No restaurants. No downtown action. People, that's what I LIKE about Manhattan! Didn't you read my first post? I hate 23rd street. I hate the Johnson County-ites who populate downtown Lawrence. I hate the grungy kids on their $2,000 mountain and road bikes. Lawrence has become fake. Manhattan seems more genuine. Can anyone truly say the influx of people and shops has helped Lawrence? Even Mass. now has tons of places along the Carlos O'Kelley's line. Buffalo Wild Wings anyone?

xenophonschild 11 years, 7 months ago


Agree. Lawrence was beautiful back in the sixties, the early seventies. Now it's overbuilt, too residential.

One of my favorite places was atop the hill at 7th & California; a beautiful old stone house on one side of the road, and nothing else but the hill and trees and scenes that probably hadn't changed in a hundred-fifty years.

Now it's a huge apartment complex that runs almost down to Sixth Street, with trash on both sides of California. The magic is gone.

mztrendy 11 years, 7 months ago

Too funny irishblues, that sounds just like rollie with the budweisahh!

Laura 11 years, 7 months ago

Xeno: It's nice we have something on which we agree! KU and Lawrence were just beautiful. What's more interesting is I've heard old-time Manhattan folks start to complain about how it's changing with the increase in folks following the football team. Looks like that is changing, though. Lawrence, of course, attracts people no matter how badly or how well their teams are doing. I want to cry everytime I see the downtown outlet mall and the former I-70 outlet mall by the East Lawrence exit. What eyesores.

qwerty 11 years, 7 months ago

I knew his last girlfriend. SHE was hot! And very nice.

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