For my first Ultimate Fan Spotlight I knew exactly who to start with but where to start was another question altogether. Elle Raiser is not just a person it is a living, breathing collective entity in and of itself. With 9,429 followers on Twitter and approx 7000 friends on Facebook, Elle Raiser has become a voice for all things U of L Sports. Elle Raiser has its own following and many of them are the athletes themselves. The Elle Raiser is not about news, stats, wins or loses, it is about the fan perspective and maybe even more so the perspective of a friend. I believe Elle Raiser is even more than this.
I personally learned of Elle Raiser back in June of 2012 when a certain so-called sports caster from a certain blue biased sports station (they shall remain nameless as they do not deserve any mention from ANY respectful U of L fan) decided it might be easier to try pick on a young fan. Well, that’s what they thought… Mind you this was before our 2013 basketball National Championship and Sugar Bowl victories. Before our women’s basketball team and our baseball team made it to their respective finals. Before The Year of The Cardinal. At that time we had just suffered a loss to “that team” in the NCAA Final Four a few months earlier. One could argue that at the time we didn’t have much to stand on as an athletic program, but not to this fan!
Here are the tweets from the conversation with “that person”and here is where you feel the intensity and commitment that made me a fan of Elle Raiser.
@ElleRaiser ”You take pride in your basketball program, we take pride in our athletic program.. That’s the difference.”
Mike came to Louisville by way of St. Thomas University in Florida in search of a better sports administration program (SPAD). He enrolled and began attending classes in the fall of 2007. I believe there may be more to the story of what brought him here, maybe a good friend, maybe love, but why someone would leave the beautiful state of Florida to come to Louisville other than play for Charlie Strong is beyond me. None-the-less we are better because of it.
Upon enrolling, Mike joined the “L Raisers”, a student pep club of sorts. He liked the L Raisers because they were guaranteed tickets to sporting events, which he loved. Being from Florida, Mike was a huge fan of football. He played the sport as a youth but was so small he said he had to put rocks in his pockets to make weight. L Raisers were not only guaranteed tickets but also had their own section but there was a steep participation requirement, they had to go to as many sporting events as they could which included Womens Basketball, Lacrosse, Swimming, Soccer etc.
Mike told me the L Raisers club disbanded for unspecified reasons and a new group The Nest was formed and then it folded as well. There was no longer a connection linking athletic programs and sporting events with students. Mike felt like there was a need to keep everyone updated about U 0f L sports and encourage people to get out and support the student athletes in all sports. The Elle Raiser was born! Mike created the facebook page and began posting. His first post: “lets Go Cards.” The creation the Elle Raiser facebook page couldn’t have had better timing as social media was in its infancy and the U of L men’s basketball team won its first Big East Title and a #1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament. This team included two NBA lottery picks in Terrance Williams and Earl Clark. As he posted, he gained more and more followers.
Mike used the Elle Raiser page and its popularity to promote other Louisville programs such as Cheer leading, Soft Ball, Womens Basketball, and Soccer. Mike also promoted the individual athletes and moreover the fans aka “people Raising L’! Posts were always positive and encouraging. As other sports, athletes, and fans were highlighted the more people followed. You could find everything from what celebrities were rocking Cardinal gear, how former athletes were doing in life, and the antics of his fellow students at sporting events. As popularity grew, many people outside the inner Elle Raiser circle began to wonder WHO the Elle Raiser was. This caused the stigma, persona, and popularity to spread like wildfire. It eventually exploded in June 2012 thanks to “that guy” and “that show”. He says he owes a lot of thanks to “him” for the surge in popularity.
As far as keeping his identity secret, Mike persists that it was never about him, “it was about the athletes and the sports.” I believe this attitude and the commitment to U of L sports as a whole is what made Elle Raiser such a huge success and a true force to consider when it comes to U of L athletics information and anyone trying to reach the core fan base. If you want the inside track you have to follow Elle Raiser! I also believe part of his passion are the athletes themselves. Living and attending class with these fellow students and friends gave Mike a very special insight into the life of the student athlete, especially the struggles. From suffering through injuries, disappointments in performance, and losing all while trying to keep grades and stay out of trouble. I believe this is the secret inspiration of Elle Raiser: He was inspired by the athletes at his school. He was rooting for his friends and wanted everyone to support them. After all, were not a one sport school with “one and done” athletes. Our’s are actually trying to finish and get their degree. That doesn’t happen without developing strong relationships with fellow students, faculty, support staff, and fans.
In a quick Q & A, here is a little more information about Elle Raiser and of course U of L sports:
When asked what sports to watch this year besides the obvious football and basketball, he said “Women’s Volleyball with Sydney Cooper and Katie George and Women’s Soccer with Christine Exeter and Rachel Melhado ”.
Favorite current athlete? “Russ Smith”
Favorite former athlete? “Former football player Rodney Gnat”. ”One of the funniest people I’ve ever met.” Rodney currently plays for the Iowa Barnstormers.
As far as the popularity of Elle Raiser, Mike has used it for good by participating in many fund-raising events and visiting children in hospitals with fellow student athletes. He also took a young Cystic Fibrosis patient, Lilly, to a Louisville basketball game. He has worked on many projects including the video “You Dont Want These Cards”. Mike Paoloni, graduated from the University of Louisville in December of 2012. He said the first person he saw when he walked in the arena was Charlie Strong. As far as whats next for Elle Raiser, Mike says that he is currently networking with administrators and the media. In my opinion The Elle Raiser is something special and sacred and needs to be kept in its pure state, the perspective of the student and alumni fan as well as the athletes themselves.
I believe, that in the end, if all we had is a club tennis program and track, Elle Raiser will be there and will be convincing the rest of us why they are the greatest and why you need to get involved. And after that – it’s just Mike Paoloni, a kid from Florida who fell in love with everything that is University of Louisville athletics, especially the athletes and his fellow fans.
Elle Raiser is a calling to all fans.
Elle Raiser is about being in the belly of the beast right next to the student athlete and fighting with them and for them every step of the way, a perspective all fans should learn and appreciate. We need to support our student athletes and cheer them on, not just the color, the school, or a sport. It’s because of their sacrifice and hard work that we have something to cheer for to begin with. When they make a mistake we need to pick them up and support them all them more, not bash them.
For me, the birth of the Elle Raiser is a perfect example of how great the athletic programs at the University of Louisville are and how special the student athletes are that play not just for their school, but for us.