The Ultimate Superfan: Power of Kohl Center makes fan of Wisconsin student John Baylon

Wearing sailor suits, chugging water bottles, Baylon never fails to bring fans to their feet

· Mar 15, 2023 Tweet
John Baylon watches a Badger Game

John Baylon looks on at the Kohl Center
Ian Patton

The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team is playing Iowa. It is the third quarter, and everyone in the Kohl Center is looking to one man. He has yet to miss a game, but he is not on the court — he is at the front of the student section.

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This fan is senior John Baylon, and this is his first year ever getting season tickets for Badger basketball. He has not wasted this opportunity, showing up two hours before tipoff every night and sitting in the front row every time. Baylon’s presence has not gone unnoticed either. Many fans who travel to the Kohl Center will see him on the jumbotron adorned in his signature red and white sailor suit. For Baylon, it’s not about recognition. Instead, he sees sports as a space to truly express himself.

Baylon holds up a sign at his senior night at the Kohl Center.
Ian Patton/The Badger Herald

Originally from Brookfield, Wisconsin, Baylon admits that, unlike many students, his choice to attend school in Madison had nothing to do with sports.

“I wasn’t one of those people,” Baylon said. “I actually almost applied to Illinois.”

Stepping foot in the capital of the Badger state, Baylon recalls what converted him into a fanatic supporter. Walking down the street, the power of the state’s connection to the Badgers struck him. Baylon recalls slowly saving up and throwing his name into Madison student ticket raffles, hoping to join the student section and coming up empty on three of his four attempts. He finally got tickets for the 2022-23 season.

Upon stepping foot in the Kohl Center for the first time, Baylon has not looked back, waiting upwards of three hours in the rain or shine to be one of the first people in the door. According to the Director of Communications and Brand Strategy for the Badgers Patrick Herb, its passion like Baylon’s that permeates the air of the Kohl Center and makes it unique to the state.

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“I do think there is a correlation between student section impact and team performance,” Herb said. “There is no question that the athletes feed off the environment, particularly the student section.”

For Baylon, the outcome of the game is only just a fraction of what keeps him coming back. It is the feeling of the community he gets when he has the whole student section behind him.

“I love going to sporting events. It’s just like a place I can go to and be myself, even if it’s not men’s basketball,” Baylon said. “I go to all the women’s basketball games, and those have a dead atmosphere, and I still manage to find a way to have fun.”

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This article was published Mar 15, 2023 at 4:00 pm and last updated Mar 14, 2023 at 9:23 pm

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