‘Super Fan’ leaves his mark at U.A.

Joe "Super Fan" Flanatry watching the softball team compete in a fall exhibition game at Hillenbrand stadium. Photographer: Hallie Wilson
Joe “Super Fan” Flanatry watching the softball team compete in a fall exhibition game at Hillenbrand stadium. Photographer: Hallie Wilson

When he left the cold winters of Michigan in 1976 even Joe Flanarty himself didn’t realize the deep roots he would dig. He fell in love with a university and town and never left.

Now a retired high school teacher and aspiring women’s basketball coach William “Joe” Joseph Flanarty acquired the nickname “Super Fan” among University of Arizona athletes years before he ever realized.

Joe manages to assert himself as the most conspicuous fan of U of A athletics. Standing at 6 feet 3 inches tall with a head full of bright white hair and undoubtedly head-to-toe in U of A gear, he appears just about everywhere.

He and his sidekick, Joe Johnson, pal around and attend open practices to critique new talent and offer unsolicited help where they see fit. They are often spotted sending off U of A athletes before the team goes on a road trip. He reminds softball team to remember the favorite piece of advice he scream at games: “See it all the way, and drill it!”

New freshman athletes are quickly submerged into the world of Super Fan as his domain stretches over the campus. He regularly roams the university during the day and likes to hang around just outside of the McKale center.

“It was one of the first things I learned once I stepped onto campus. Older teammates pointed him out to me at an inter squad and told us to get used to seeing him,” said Ashleigh Hughes, a sophomore on the University of Arizona softball team.

The Birmingham, Michigan,  native has always loved sports. As a child, he preferred skiing and winter sports.

When Joe ventured to Tucson to attend the U of A the hot summers and mild winters swiftly ended his relationship with winter sports.

As a U of A student, Joe attended all the sporting events.

As an alumnus, Joe attends all the sporting events.

His presence is well known among all U of A athletes and coaches. The vocal fan and self proclaimed coach learns each athlete by name by the time season rolls around.

Super Fan became aware of his nickname five years ago when The Daily Wildcat did a story on him and how he lost his leg. “He wrote an article about me being on my walker and still coming to all of the events” he said..

Joe lost his left leg to a blood clot five years ago. He had three separate amputations as doctors tried to save some of his leg.

During recovery, Joe managed to attend the same amount of U of A sporting events with his new walker as he did before his surgeries.

“He has been a constant in the stands for as long as I can remember,” said Caitlin Lowe, U of A softball player 2004-2007 and current assistant coach. “He lives, breathes Arizona athletics and especially Arizona softball. I don’t think people even use his name because it has become normal to use “Super Fan”’.

The fanatic deems himself as an extra coach for the Arizona athletes. He applies for a coaching position for U of A softball and women’s basketball every year.

“I do coaching from outside the lines if I see something…I try and recruit and scout for U of A and Pima and help them get talent in different sports. Mainly basketball. I go to a lot of high school sporting events and if I see talent I’ll tell coaches about it, if I think it’s worth it,” said Joe.

At games, his booming voice is easily recognizable among the crowd as he hurls cues at the athletes to help them succeed.

Where some athletes and coaches might find his devout attention and insistence on offering advice to be a little bit stalkerish but Joe believes he’s doing his duty for the University of Arizona.

His passion for the University of Arizona is undeniable. His assertive personality and persistent presence has earned him the honor of being designated the most super of all the super fans in Tucson.

Hallie Wilson is a reporter for the Arizona Sonora News, a service with the University of Arizona School of Journalism. Contact her at hwilson@email.arizona.edu

Click here for the WORD version of the story. 

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