Mike Lewis saw his first K-State/KU basketball matchup in 1965, after waiting in the snow to catch his bus from Manhattan to Lawrence. After the game, he arrived back in Manhattan at 5 a.m., finished his paper route and went to church with his family.
Since that first game, Lewis’ dedication to K-State athletics has only grown. Lewis attended his 50th K-State/KU basketball game on Saturday in Lawrence.
“I’ve seen a lot of great games,” Lewis said.
Lewis, who grew up in Manhattan and graduated from K-State with a degree in accounting, passed down his passion to two sons, who also graduated from K-State and met their wives there.
“My four granddaughters are already wearing K-State stuff,” Lewis said.
Lewis is a season ticket holder for both K-State basketball and football. He said that although he enjoys every game, the KU game does have an added level of energy.
“I live and die K-State stuff, but the fact that we’re playing KU adds some pizzazz,” he said.
Lewis, who now lives in Topeka, continues to travel to games, despite seeing the Wildcats win fewer than 10 games against the Jayhawks in the last 49 years.
Lewis said he grew up hating the Jayhawks and that the rivalry is reflected in the atmosphere at the games.
“The arenas are always jam packed,” he said. “Everybody’s frenzied.”
Lewis said he has enough memories to tell hours of stories, but certain moments do stick out in his mind.
At one game in Lawrence, Lewis remembers K-State students throwing bananas at KU’s Donnie Von Moore.
The other school’s students later returned the favor by throwing hot dogs at K-State’s Curtis Redding when the Jayhawks came to Manhattan.
Lewis also recalls a Wildcat victory that included a sign from KU fans aimed at K-State’s Nick Pino.
“They held up a sign that said ‘Nick Pino eats babies,’” Lewis said. “Well Nick Pino saw that, and we went and won the game.”
Although it’s more difficult to get seats now than it was when Lewis began going almost 50 years ago, Lewis said, he continues to attend with friends and family to support his Wildcats in “a heck of an environment.”
“If I had all the money I spent on tickets, I probably wouldn’t have to work.”