The Road to College Hoops seems to have accomplished its mission: to help get fans jacked for the start of the season. We'll get to your feedback later in this column.
But because of the demands of that trip, I never did a mailbag after the World Series, and I want to return to the story of the Red Sox fans at the South Boston nursing home. It generated a ton of mail.
As always, thanks for all your email. My responses are in italics.
Now on to The People's Voice…
HARBORLIGHTS ("A season for the ages" October 25, 2004)
I have been crying over the story of the senior Red Sox fans – just a wonderfully touching story. My grandfather, James Redding, was a lifelong Cubs fan who died last year. I wish he could have seen them win it once.
My coworkers may now realize I haven't been working very hard, but thanks. I needed that.
Thanks for the write-up on the old folks down in Southie. I laughed and had a tear in my eye … being a Massachusetts transplant and a diehard BoSox fan I can hear the cussing from here.
I'm like Peggy. Though I didn't turn the set off when the Cards came up, I did pull my tee shirt over my eyes when I couldn't stand the pressure.
I work at a skilled nursing facility in Canton called Tower Hill. I just want to say thanks for writing such a nice and "normal" article about the older population of Red Sox fans in our communities. So many times they are overlooked and it is forgotten that "they" were "us" at one time.
The elderly have so much to offer with their stories and memories. As you put it so well in your article, it is they who have been waiting a true lifetime for the Sox to win!!
Dia Cindrich Hoffrage
I loved your article on the seniors' retirement home in Boston. You're right; if they don't know, then who does!
I was wondering if you will write a follow-up article on these folks, should the Red Sox win the series? I'd really enjoy reading about their reactions.
I called Julie Mearn at Harborlights for an update:
"We had a party in the theatre that night and they cried their eyes out. Literally. They are still not over it. They weren't nervous before Game 4; they were more excited that this would finally be it. Some of them had grandkids and kids who came to watch with them so we wound up having a huge bash. I think some of them are still partying.
"The next day we had a champagne toast. We brought everyone into a big room and played "Dirty Water" (the Red Sox's adopted-theme song).
"Peggy (who previously was too nervous to watch when a Sox opponent came to bat) even came to the party the last night. Her grandkids and one of her children were there, so she came to the theatre. When the Cardinals were at bat she kept looking to the door. I told her, 'It's OK. Watch.'
"When they won she started the crying … Then everyone was crying. Then I was crying because I was watching them all and saying, 'ooohhhh.'
"We printed your story and sent it to the public relations staff of the Red Sox. We are trying to get anyone, a player, anyone. I don't care. I can't even imagine what the residents would do if we brought someone from the Red Sox into the building."
THE ROAD TO COLLEGE HOOPS ("The Best of the Road to College Hoops" November 12, 2004)
Your article on Wake Forest and, more particularly, coach Skip Prosser was on point. Having attended Kings Point with Skip and having enjoyed his family's hospitality in Carnegie, Pa., I can tell you he is the genuine article and that Wake has a better team and school for him being there. Another round of Guinness, please.
Enjoyed the article on Skip and Wake Forest. I just graduated in May from Wake, and I had a sports television show every Thursday night. Skip came on a few times, and stayed the full two hours, even sometimes the night before a game. There isn't a classier guy in the country.
I'm from Point Pleasant, WV (population: 4 stoplights) graduated this past spring from Kentucky (where I lived above the "World Famous" Two Keys Tavern, an establishment near and dear to The Wheelman's heart, no doubt) and am currently in my first year of law school at Wake Forest.
Your road trip has replaced interaction with the outside world for me over the last week while I have been in the law library basement. Thanks! Also, Zach M. from Indiana left out one thing that is great about West Virginia: the WVU Mountaineers!
Upset of the tour was that we didn't darken the door to the Two Keys this year. But we'll be back.
Never saw your traveling road show before this year but am having a great time following the adventure. As a transplanted Kentuckian and dedicated UK fan I'm always interested in basketball. I'm so old that I actually remember Bearup before he stuffed that extra person inside his suit.
Bearup actually has slimmed down, dropping about 70 pounds. Or as he put it, "I lost a 7th grader."
I liked your article about Izzo. It was thoughtful and insightful. However, it lacked any information about this year's team.
I get similar letters from fans of most of the tour stops. The goal was not to write a season preview, but a column on something that is (hopefully) intriguing about each team.
Thank you for the article about Shavlik. Thank you also for including his comments about his faith. Quoting someone on how he handled his struggles has value for everyone else. I imagine you will get some emails critical of your including the faith quote, but it is apparently important to Shavlik, and the story told is his story.
You are correct; I did receive those emails. I never understand why. If Shavlik Randolph or Curt Schilling or anyone else wants to credit their relationship with God, why is someone else offended? And more importantly, who am I to edit it out as unimportant? So thank you for getting it.
I was wondering why Chapel Hill was not one of the places you visited on your preseason trip. Some analysts are making a big deal about the talent and added depth on the Tar Heels this year. How do YOU see them stacking up in the ACC and in the nation?
The Heels should be great. The reason we didn't stop there is because the trip has to end at some point and one more day of North Carolina barbeque may have finished me.
I really enjoyed reading about your trip. I found myself among the millions of guys wishing I were with you. However, speaking as a longtime Kentucky fan (and WV resident), you can tell Bret Bearup for me that Jarrod Prickett (from Farimont, WV) had a better career than he did at UK.
Great concept of touring multiple programs during the preseason. I am sooo glad football is wrapping up and hoops is 'bout to tip off.
Question: There had to be other key points of interest during your tour of UK (Day 7) that warranted coverage in your column as opposed to devoting 80 percent of the story to Traitor Rick.
Praise: Keep the focus on the hoops world and may 2005 bring many unexpected moments.
I thought UK fans would like that Pitino was admitting he made a mistake that aided the Wildcats getting a star point guard. It's not like he admits mistakes every day, you know.
And let me say this for UK fans who can't understand why Pitino gets so much press attention: Pitino is available for one-on-one interviews with the media. Tubby Smith is not. Tubby is a great coach, but as long as this is his policy, Pitino is going to get better pub nationally.
Just a note to say I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your road trip and learning about some of the competition for my defending national champs, UConn.
Beacon Falls, Conn.
Attention all fans who complained I didn't visit your campus: This is the best letter of its kind.
Glad you got to spend a quality evening at Harry's. Even though it is called Harry's Chocolate Shop (not Factory), I will cut you some slack. You must have had one too many of their famous Long Islands (like yours truly on more than a few occasions). Great series of articles.
You were correct. We were over-served.