Give it up for Gary

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Give it up for Gary

Graham supports the Wildcats at all times, even when they are losing

Graham supports the Wildcats at all times, even when they are losing

Graham supports the Wildcats at all times, even when they are losing

Graham supports the Wildcats at all times, even when they are losing

Kyle Laska, News Editor

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In today’s sports, the trend of being a “superfan” is greater than ever before. The “12th man” in Seattle cheer on the Seahawks, much like “Raider Nation” cheers on the Raiders in Oakland. The idea of becoming one large and unified group that can affect the game by getting loud when the opposing team has the ball is consistently popularized. However, not everyone needs to be in a group to affect a game. Some fans are able to make an impact on their own. LHS Class of 1978 graduate Gary Graham is this kind of fan.

A staple at Libertyville sporting events since his time as an LHS student, Graham is notorious for being the Wildcats’ number one supporter. Graham is also living with special needs and currently resides at Lambs Farm’s assisted living facility. Being classified as special needs all his life, Graham never let that stop him from following his love of sports.

Now, Graham can be found on the sideline of Libertyville’s football games in the fall. Graham acknowledged that his favorite sporting event to attend is football because he “gets to be a team manager.” He also enjoys how “excited everyone gets at the [football] games.” When the winter comes around, Graham moves from the turf to the hardwood to support the boys basketball team.

Senior basketball player Peter Feely has played basketball all four years of his high school career, meaning he has gotten to know Graham pretty well. Graham follows every level of basketball, not just varsity. According to Feely, Graham’s attitude towards the games is a huge advantage.

“Gary brings a great attitude. There is always a smile on his face and it’s a great reminder of the attitude we should have every game, regardless of distractions that we have outside of basketball,” acknowledged Feely.

The attitude he brings to each and every game is one of optimism and joy. Graham goes into each game with a mindset that the team can win, even when they are heavily disfavored. Graham simply cheers and wills the team to play as well as they can, which, according to boys basketball head coach Scott Bogumil, is the reason Graham is such a special person.

“Gary is truly a special person who just loves LHS. Our teams are part of his routine and he is part of ours. You know it is game day when Gary pops in the office just before we are ready to board the bus for another tough road game, or when he comes in and grabs a Coke before another home game. Gary always says, ‘Coach, ready for a win tonight?’ It’s just great to see him and his love from our school and teams,” said Mr. Bogumil.

The truth behind Mr. Bogumil’s statement is impressive. Graham often shows up early for games to ensure he has time to spend with players and the coaches, and to ride the bus with the team. His dedication to the program is what makes his story so special. Even after years and years of the same routine, Graham still brings a sense of vibrant enthusiasm to each and every game.

“Gary is a part of our program and has been for a long time. He has unwavering support of the program. Having him around is a link to all of our former players and coaches. He has been a part of many special moments in Wildcats basketball so having him around is a tradition that never graduates,” stated Mr. Bogumil.

Although he has always been an LHS fan, it must be remembered where he started: As an LHS student. Graham was once in the position many of us are in now. However, as he continued to grow and change, he never lost his love for the sports he grew up with.

“I liked going to basketball games [in high school]. They were a lot of fun, so now I go to more of them,” joked Graham. When asked if they were still fun to go to, Graham laughed and responded, “you know it!”

Even though the games are fun and exciting for Graham, they’re also more than that to him. Libertyville sports have become a lifestyle for him. His constant interactions with players and coaches, matched with his smile and waves to fans, highlight the fact that Graham is truly a “superfan.” He isn’t a regular fan who will support the team when things are good and look away when things go awry. Instead, Graham pushes his message of positivity upon everyone. Lifelong friend Jim Borcia, father of senior basketball player Joe Borcia, knows Graham better than perhaps anyone. And if there’s one thing Borcia knows, it’s just how unique Graham really is.

“Gary is a joy to be around; he’s very friendly and becomes your friend.  You can see that by how many alumni stop and say hi to him before, during and after games.  He is a fixture at the games and reminds former players [of] fond memories of playing for LHS. I have known Gary since I began playing basketball for LHS in 1979.  I also hired Gary to work for me as an usher when I managed a movie theater while I was in high school and college.  Gary and I have become good friends,” said Borcia.

Graham continues to work every day. He can currently be found helping in the Lambs Farm Garden and Pet Center. He helps clean and care for the animals.

Graham really does enjoy the title of “Superfan.” Often seen donning his letterman’s jacket decorated in orange and black, Graham is actually a secret weapon for the Wildcats. Graham helps the team with shootaround before the game. He makes sure players know they’ve got a supporter at all times as he cheers them on and will sometimes retrieve basketballs for the players.

“I love to help out [with] shootaround. I get the balls and sometimes make baskets. I always cheer on players, even if they miss,” shared Graham.

Just before the game, Graham will take his spot on the bench. According to Borcia, he is “very knowledgeable about the teams, and what they need to do to win.” As soon as the tip-off gets the game underway, Graham goes into “superfan” mode. He brings the same energy he brought before the game and does his best to inspire and support the team.

“Gary is a great supporter at all the games. I think [the players] have grown to think of Gary as sort of a comfort guy that’s always there. When we are at some random school on a Wednesday night and we have none of our own fans in the stands, I always take some comfort knowing that Gary is there to cheer us on,” said Feely.

As the games end and the seasons pass, LHS is able to take comfort in the fact that as long as he is able, Graham will be there to support the school. In times where true, die-hard fans are as common as a solar eclipse, Graham is here to show that there is hope for the livelihood of the “superfan.”  As he continues his life as a bridge between the past and the future LHS, all anyone can hope is that he doesn’t lose the enthusiasm and joy that he has brought to so many different teams and fans. However, as he cheers with a smile and a swagger that only comes from a true “superfan,” Graham only wants one thing from his alma mater: “I just want to win.”

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