Mack Perkins never met Jonathan McIntyre, not in person, anyway, not to shake his hand or see his face or hear his voice or see his children. But @MackSmacks knew @mac4uk.
"I knew him from my days on the UK message boards," Perkins said. "Whenever I would post something outlandish, Jonathan would keep me in check."
Brian Eldridge never met Jonathan McIntyre either, but @BriEldridge knew @mac4uk through the message boards and Twitter.
"Mac was a huge UK football fan and also a huge baseball fan," said Eldridge, who is a contributor to Kentucky Sports Report. "He loved basketball, too, but he seemed more passionate than most about his Wildcat football."
Mark Ennis and Jonathan McIntyre were on opposite ends of the fan spectrum — Ennis a Louisville backer, McIntyre a Kentucky fan — but @Mengus22 and @mac4uk developed an online friendship that extended outside of sports.
"He was always cordial and kind enough to ask if I was OK during some of the extreme weather we've had over the past few months," said Ennis.
In fact, the final tweet on McIntyre's Twitter account is from last Wednesday — the night tornadoes touched down in Louisville — and directed to Ennis, saying, "good to see you are ok."
The following morning, McIntyre was found dead, the victim of a five-story fall in a parking garage at UK where the 36-year-old from Hazard worked for the Kentucky Geological Survey.
"I saw a tweet on Saturday morning from Scout.com saying RIP to Mac and it listed all his Internet aliases," said Perkins, a 30-year-old who lives in Clarksville, Ind. "I realized then, those were the same aliases I had been seeing for seven or so years. It all clicked at that point. Then to find out he was 36 (6 years older than me) and had two twin boys, it's just crushing."
Indeed, McIntyre and wife Sherri were parents of twin 4-year-old boys named Andrew and Austin. The twins are @mac4uk's profile picture on Twitter with the inter-connected "UK" logo in the bottom right-hand corner.
The account's profile sentence reads, "twin boys, wife, family, and UK."
"I knew," Ennis said, "that he worshiped his twin boys."
This is one of the great things about being a sports fan today. Sure, there's a lot of over-the-top nonsense on the World Wide Web, but there's plenty of good stuff, too, where fans, even rival fans, come to know each other and have fun together.
"I'm sure there are others online who were much closer to him, but that's just like life, varying degrees of friendship," said Edward Owen, who works for a Hopkinsville TV station and goes by @BigBlueMan on Twitter.
But ... "Wednesday evening, I posted a link to an interview I'd done with Jerry Abramson. Jonathan tweeted back to me that he didn't like either candidate for governor, and told me he was going to vote for Rich Brooks. I think I sent him a note that we should start a 'draft Rich" movement or something like that. That was less than 12 hours before he died."
Shawn Reynolds, a producer for The Weather Channel in Atlanta, knew McIntyre from their shared hometown of Hazard. The two had lost touch until a UK writer suggested his Twitter followers check out Reynolds for severe weather updates.
"I picked up hundreds of new followers and Mac was one of them," Reynolds said. "We talked a lot about UK sports and what was happening back home. His near daily 'Go To Hell U of L" tweets always made me smile."
You wouldn't think that would bring a grin to the face of Ennis, co-manager of Sports Blog Nation's Big East Coast Bias, a site devoted to Big East football and basketball. And yet Ennis was happy to congratulate McIntyre when UK made the Final Four last season.
"He would regularly send me direct messages about rumors he'd heard both about UK and Louisville," Ennis said. "I really enjoyed that he was knowledgeable, feisty, interactive, and would both dish it out and take it. ... I'd really hoped to meet him in person at a UK game this year."
Now sadly, he won't get that chance. But for those on-line that never met Jonathan McIntyre, they knew his views, his passions, his love of family. They knew that he was a lot like them, someone who loved to share in the fun of sports.
Said Brian Eldridge, "I'm going to miss him a lot."
Reach John Clay at (859) 231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3226, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog at Kentucky.com. Follow him on Twitter @johnclayiv.