The meme team: Meet the fans behind CFB’s best reactions

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Jul 29, 2019David M. HaleESPN Staff Writer CloseACC reporter.Joined ESPN in 2012.Graduate of the University of Delaware.Florida State professor Bruce Thyer was in the Virgin Islands this spring, looking to do a little scuba diving. At the dive center, a TV flickered with highlights of Clemson’s national championship behind the reservation desk. The friendly woman taking his information smiled.”I’m a Clemson fan,” she said.Intrigued, Thyer asked whether she’d seen the Florida State game. She had.”Remember the guy reading the book in the stands?” he asked.Of course she did, she said. The only memorable part of Clemson’s 59-10 blowout was the shirtless man caught on camera, sitting high in an otherwise empty section of seats, reading a mystery novel while the Seminoles’ defense unraveled below. No image better represented the brutal performance or the doomed FSU season than that.”Well,” Thyer said, “that was me.”Suddenly a screech erupted from the back room.”It’s FSU Book Guy!”It was the scuba center’s manager. She was a Clemson fan, too, and she wasn’t going to miss her chance to meet an internet celebrity. She rushed from her office, hugged Thyer and had her employee snap a photo.”They actually gave me a discount for my excursion,” Thyer said.There’s never a bad time for a book. pic.twitter.com/7OOJIv99Gw— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) October 27, 2018
Those are the perks of being a part of the growing menagerie of suddenly famous college football fans, plucked from obscurity by television producers, then launched into the world in meme form through myriad social media platforms. It’s the modern twist on Andy Warhol’s “15 minutes of fame” theory, only these 15 minutes are portioned out in three-second GIFs over years and years.Thyer, who is 65, is a renowned professor of social work, has a doctorate from Michigan and has written numerous books. But ask any college football fan from Tallahassee to Tucson and he’s not Dr. Thyer, respected educator. He’s FSU Book Guy.At a recent family reunion in Chicago, Thyer’s cousins had T-shirts printed up with his meme emblazoned on the front, and they all posed for photos wearing them. All except Thyer. He was in the middle of the scene, seated, shirtless and reading a book.You become a meme … and can’t hideJohn Hurley is a Florida State fan, too. He works for the state, and he’s lived most of his life in Tallahassee. He’s got the gentle good humor and quiet dignity befitting a true Southern gentleman. And, of course, he’s got a great mustache. That’s what really captured America’s hearts during the Seminoles’ season opener in 2016.Dalvin Cook fumbled what should’ve been an easy touchdown late in the first half, and as the broadcast went to commercial break, the camera trained on the mustachioed Hurley, staring into the middle distance, perfectly conveying a visceral melancholy that captured both the immediacy of the Seminoles’ struggles and an existential malaise born from a cold, uncaring universe. He was instantly famous.Blurring the lines between fan and celebrity is not new. Long before social media, cameras spied Spike Lee or Jack Nicholson courtside at NBA games. Fans like Green Man, Fan Man and Morgana the Kissing Bandit forced their way into popular culture by interrupting sporting events. Unsuspecting fans like Jeffrey Maier or Steve Bartman found themselves at the center of a media circus when fate suddenly thrust them into

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