What defines a superfan?
The definition of a superfan is “a person who has an extreme or obsessive admiration for a particular person or thing.” We tend to see this in the form of a person decorating themselves in paint or accessories. They sometimes lead cheers, end up on camera, and act as an icon. I’ve personally met a number of professional sports superfans over the years and they all check these boxes. However, sometimes there is something else. This other kind of superfan becomes a rallying cry for a larger group of people. They don’t need to paint themselves or have a shtick. Their powers work on a different level. A superfan’s responsibility is to be a positive reflection of their fan base. They’re not just a fan. They’re more than that. They’re super.
The UCF Knights family has been graced with multiple superfans over the years. One such superfan, Lynne Cheek, passed away this week after a long battle with cancer.
We’ve seen it before. A fan becomes something super and brings people together. Tyler Trent had an amazing story and Purdue fans rallied around him before his death at the beginning of 2019, going as far as helping lead the Kinnick Wave, which is where fans at Iowa’s Kinnick stadium wave to the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. Sister Jean has been with Loyola-Chicago for decades and at 102 years young, continues to be a rallying cry for the Ramblers. As I said above, UCF is graced to have multiple superfans. The Knights have Knight Fan Stan, himself a cancer survivor. They also have Britt Garcias, a special lady with a heart of gold.
Not everyone got a chance to meet Lynne in person, but many, including those who follow UCF on Twitter or are in one of the UCF Facebook groups, knew who she was and interacted with her. Social media offered people a chance to interact with Lynne without limitations. As her cancer progressed, Lynne had to deal with a growing number of physical limitations, but it didn’t stop her from going to football games or UCF’s Ladies Night.
Lynne’s story has been told multiple times because she was worth telling it. She was a Warrior Wednesday Story with the Orlando Sports Foundation. UCF’s NSM Today did a profile on her. Bri MacNaught published a story for Spectrum News 13 just days before her passing. A bunch of friends threw a surprise pep rally for her and football players joined in. I mean, who does that? Who gets that kind of star treatment? Someone super.
UCF fans are known for the UCF Twitter Mafia, which has been a double-edged sword of an online presence for years. I’ve been on the receiving side of both ends of their spectrum, but the loyalty they have for Lynne was monumental.
After her passing, Space Knights, a UCF-centric Twitter Spaces show, had a program scheduled exclusively for her. Her friends on Twitter got together to tell stories and support each other. I got to listen in on some of it and I’m very appreciative that the Space Knights trio helped facilitate this. There was laughter, and tears, and it all made us think. More on that later.
A candlelight vigil is scheduled for Wednesday, August 17th. Her passing was felt by people near and far. Reddit posted a tweet mentioning her passing. It takes someone super to create enough of an impact to be noticed. UCF personnel felt enough of an emotional pull to say something. From football head coach Gus Malzahn to athletic director Terry Mohajir, Lynne mattered enough for them to say something. Hopefully, the school can do something in her honor for the season. A uniform patch, maybe? I can’t speak for others, but I’d be happy to create even a fraction of the impact Lynne has created. Lynne’s a superfan. She has superpowers that brought people together. That’s what they do.
Sad to hear the news of @lynnecheekAXO’s passing. Her toughness was an incredible example to all inside our program - a true Knight! Kristi and I are keeping her friends and family in our prayers. pic.twitter.com/QZW5M2nXAp— Coach Gus Malzahn (@CoachGusMalzahn) August 14, 2022
Lynne was an OG for the UCF Marching Knights. As a five-year alum myself, anyone who has been in the MKs knows that it’s a family that extends well beyond just the current student body. We have alumni band during the season, but we have something even more special called Accolade. At the end of band camp, while surrounding the Reflecting Pond, returning members use Accolade to officially welcome the new members into the MKs. Alumni from all generations are there too. They all come together, arm-in-arm, to sing the UCF alma mater. “May loyalty and friendship within our hearts unite and light the star to guide us, ever upward in our flight.” There is so much you can unpack from this one section of the alma mater, but we could be here for hours.
Let’s not mince words. Cancer sucks. It’s almost impossible to find someone who has not had someone close to them impacted by cancer. There are three people who fought cancer that had speeches that resonate a lot with me. They are former North Carolina State basketball coach Jim Valvano in 1993, ESPN personality Stuart Scott in 2014, and TNT NBA reporter Craig Sager in 2016. While each speech is special, there is a line in each one that applies right now. Please take the time to watch each one. If you haven’t seen them before, they’re worth it.
When these speeches were given, each speaker was already nearing the end of their journey. Valvano’s “Don’t Give Up” speech is a mainstay for the ESPY’s Jimmy V Award for perseverance and Jimmy V week, which helps raise money for the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research. His speech reminds us that if we laugh, think, and cry every day, we’ll live a full life. Scott’s speech showed us the value of family. Sager reminds us of the value of time.
Lynne has used up the time given to her. She fought for as long as she could. Her spirit never broke, propped up with her extended UCF Knight Nation family. With the help of that extended Knight Nation family, Lynne has completed her mission and passed the proverbial baton to the army of people who will continue to live on with her memory.
That’s really super. Godspeed, Lynne.