January 27, 2009 6:06 pm ET by Kyle Whelliston
I just wrapped up paying for every single one of my remaining rental cars, plane flights and weekly hotels for the rest of the 2008-09 season, which was a great relief and a testament to the wonderful support you've given the site. So the least I could do is turn the floor over to you for a while, and let you tell your own stories and offer your suggestions for the Mid-Majority's future.
The following may come off as self-aggrandizing, or self-congratulatory, or self-whatever, but I can't keep these tens of thousands of words you've sent me to myself. Here are a small sampling of the letters that have come in over the past few days in the wake of our successful fundraiser. (I've tried to edit out any information that might identify you to future employers, opposite-sex companions, or internet stalkers, but do let me know if I didn't do a good enough job of that.)
We'll start with Michael K.'s kind words and excellent suggestion for the future.
TMM is a great site and I love your writing. Glad to hear that you've reached your fundraising goal... I have one suggestion that I'm sure is obvious and that you have already thought of but I would love to see you replace your weekly ESPN chat with a live chat here a TMM. I don't remember how I found TMM but I love mid major hoops, maybe because I'm a Dayton alumni or maybe because I work in the industry, but nothing is better than the competition and atmosphere of college basketball. Furthermore, "The Sports Bubble" was one of the best articles I've read in a long time and I printed a copy of and put in a folder hoping that I stumble across it later in life to remember the time and the struggle. Keep up the great work and if you're ever in the Lou look me up.
Thanks, Michael, and hope to see you at the MVC tourney. And you're right, the chats need to continue. As mentioned earlier, we'll be hosting Mid-Major Power Hours like in the old days, every Friday at 12 noon EST. If it works out, I'll try to run a marathon BracketBusters chat like last year's. We almost had that record.
Here's what Corey from Oakland University said.
Hi Kyle, I wanted to congratulate you on raising the necessary funds to keep the operation going. I appreciate your words on the lessons of mid-major basketball. The site is rather perfect for my tastes as of now, so I have no suggestions but wanted to share the story of how I came to love TMM. It was right around the start of the latest basketball season that I first stumbled upon TMM. As I anxiously awaited the onset of another Golden Grizzlies season, I was browsing the web for commentary on the team and came across this website. I was immediately enthralled by the content. You impressed me with how you so adequately captured the essence of the struggle of mid-majordom. I spent hours on end reading through the archives in an attempt to get up to speed with the nuances of the postings. In one sense, what has kept me coming back to the website is awaiting the next post on my favorite team. But beyond that, it is the lessons and insight you provide that truly make TMM such an endearing bookmark.
Furthermore, since I started out at Oakland three years ago, our student section has grown from a few dedicated fans to a sprawling, echoing entity. It is your posts that keep the spirit alive in students like us as we fight the continuous battle to increase interest in our mid-major basketball teams because we, like you and the readers of TMM, know that it truly represents something special. Thanks for helping in the struggle.
Much appreciated, Corey. That's wonderful about your student section -- there's no better cure for fan apathy than a crowd under the basket in matching t-shirts yelling insults at the other team. People want to be a part of something like that. But seriously, find me a social activity at college that's more fun than being part of a student section. There's no geek factor like in drama or political or chess clubs, and it's a great opportunity to make friends, hang out, eat pizza, and be part of something bigger. And wear matching t-shirts yelling insults at the other team.
This one's from Matt M., who can write a better lead than I can, and as I can claim from personal experience, he's a nice guy too.
You're welcome, Kyle. I think I found "you" in 1998...and by "you" I mean my love for mid-major basketball. It was right around my 15th birthday and I remember watching the NEC championship game at LIU. The small gym was packed and after the game the crowd rushed the floor and went nuts. It was simple and pure, win and go live your dream, lose and go home. I called these conferences the "small conferences" when I was a kid because I didn't know any better, but I loved it. I started following you in 06-07, during CCSU's remarkable run through the NEC season. I knew of your website a couple years earlier, but I used it as a way to track news about my team, I didn't follow your trek across the basketball landscape. I'm sorry to say that there wasn't a post or a day that drew me in..I just loved your passion and I loved getting caught up on "the rest of college hoops".
And I became more than a fan last year when I approached you at a CCSU game at halftime, and you not only talked to me, but seemed willing to continue the conversation. No ego, no credential waving and very appreciative. For years, every morning I had looked on ESPN's scoreboard at ALL the games every morning..just reading the score and seeing who won and what their records were. I've also made brackets on excel for EVERY conference tournament for years, excited as a kid on Christmas when I could advance a team (and I hate the conferences who reseed each round!!!). In middle school I had my own little fantasy league for college basketball that I ran all by myself, updated each Friday. Truth is, you're my hero. Not in a "mancrush, I'll do whatever you tell me" kind of way, but in a "you are what I wish I were" kind of way.
I'm not exactly like you are; I love the NFL, I go nuts over my NCAA tourney brackets and I enjoy a big-time Big East tilt as much as I do an early season OVC matchup between pre-season favorites. But I was a Journalism minor in college (and I believe I'd be a good sportswriter), I love statistics (I learned Math from baseball cards) and I love college hoops. The major difference between you and I? BALLS. I have them, yes, but yours my friend, are much bigger than me. I could never take such a risk...I work at a bank and it'll stay that way. And no I'm not jealous, and no I don't think I could do what you do (and if I could, I wouldn't do it nearly as well). But reading your posts every day kind of allow me to follow my dream through you. And that's fine with me, I'm quite a happy guy...great (and hot) wife, fine job, blah blah blah. No complaints here.
I know you can't continue this road for too much longer, it just wouldn't make sense. But I hope you'll continue to cover mid-major hoops for a long time. Continue to drive safely and I wish you well...as well as your wife. You're brave, but your bravery pales in comparison to your "better half".
And damn right about that last part. I'm too much of a wuss to strap on an M-16.
My only suggestion: more, more, more Bally!
Yes, yes, I know, Rod. I've had a different plan to get more cartoons done every season, and each one has failed miserably. The seven newly extra hours I now have each week should give me some extra time to draw, run to Kinko's for scans, and do the coloring in Photoshop. There are many stories yet to be told.
Kenneth B. sent in an extremely nice letter; there's definitely simpatico here, because I came into this through the Big West as well.
I came to TMM because I've basically been waiting my whole life for it. I came to NCAA basketball on the old ESPN2 watching the A-10. When I was in high school from 1997 to 2001 I would completely ignore all the major conference Monday (and whatever they called Wednesday) games and then watch WAC and Big West games that were on late. No one ever understands why I spend my Saturdays watching Patriot League Basketball, but now someone gets it.
So, I came across TMM a few years ago, mostly because I was wasting time playing on the internet. TMM is what I wish I could do with my life. I played basketball at an amazingly small college in Kansas, and I've always wanted to write a book about it. Someday I shall.
Please write that book, sir. I'll buy two copies.
This letter, from Jeff P., gave me the scratchy eyeballs. I'm going to "man up," however, and claim that it's the dry cold of Nebraska that's making me tear up like this.
Kyle, I showed the post of my note to you to my 13-year old son, and he came up with another reason why we don't want you to die in a car wreck: "if that happened then Bally would be an orphan again!", he noted. We certainly don't what that to happen, though maybe Julius Hodge would take the little orange fellow in for a while.
Anyway, I think I first found your site when I read somewhere that Davidson was ranked fairly high in a "mid-major" poll, so I googled "mid major poll" and I guess the mid-majority.com came up high on the list. I liked what I saw (and read) and kept coming back. We especially enjoyed your coverage of the NCAA tournament last year including the photos of the Davidson team's venues in Detroit. BTW, I did go to Stanford as a graduate student and saw every home basketball game for five seasons in the early 80s (saw MJ play what was probably the worst game of his college career) when I was a member of the stats crew. But, before that, I grew up on the campus of a Div III school where my dad was a history prof, and he would take me to the basketball games. Later I was a student there, Austin College, and the athletic dept's budget was so tight they had to fire their sports information director and let a student do the SID's work. Guess who got to be the student SID for one year? What a hoot that was! Even got to do "color commentary" on the radio broadcasts of the away football games, and I drove the basketball team's van to the away games when the coach got tired of driving (Texas is a big state - you may have heard that before).
Anyway, that experience really made me appreciate "small time" basketball. When I moved to the Charlotte area a few years ago, I noticed that Davidson College, like Austin College, was a small liberal arts college started by the Presbyterian church in the mid-1800s. I went to look at the campus and it was so similar thought I was back home at AC. Then I discovered they had a Div I basketball team (at a college with 1700 students!!). Wow, this would be like Austin College playing with the big boys. I lucked out and got season tickets in the "red seats" the season before Curry joined the team. I still remember taking my kids to an open practice before the season started Steph's freshman year and thinking - hey this kid's pretty good, but also being impressed at how good the rest of the team looked.
I told my kids they should each pick a favorite player, but it couldn't be Steph because everyone was going to like him. My son picked Bryant Barr, because he was from Maine and we had just moved from Bridgewater, Mass. My daughter picked MPG because he was the cutest, and I picked Will Archambault because I'd liked his shot and his Eeyore/Sad Sack look. Anyway, I couldn't be more pleased about Davidson basketball and Bob McKillop. His program represents everything that is right about college sports, as does your website. Keep it up.
We can't finish this without hearing from a true Mid-Majority legend, a loyal reader who recently became a major contributor and prompted "who is this guy?" questions for days after I posted his account of a long trip just to see Lester Hudson play. Ladies and gentlemen, once again... Ben from Cincinnati.
Before the Red Line:
It all began while I was in the 6th grade in 1992. I received my first NCAA Tournament Bracket. While I knew absolutely nothing about college basketball, that year, for no good reason whatsoever, I picked Kansas to win it all. I remember standing there in front of the television as I watched UTEP pull off the big second round upset victory. The emotional response from the Jayhawks at the end of the game left me feeling sorry for them.
I didn't understand at the age of 11 that all college basketball teams are not equal. There were no conferences in my mind - they were all just playing college basketball. In my eyes, Kansas was the David - UTEP the Goliath. As such, I began following the Jayhawks loyally and still do to this day.
After the Red Line:
As I began to grow up, I started to follow college basketball quite religiously. My understanding of the division of teams, major vs. mid-major, etc. began to take shape. This didn't change my support for Kansas basketball, but my focus became more on the smaller schools. The success of these so called 'smaller schools' seemed measured only by their success in the NCAA Tournament.
It wasn't until I went to college that my opinion and understanding began to change. I attended college at Miami (Oh.). That little (Oh.) after the name might as well say Miami (N/A) in the national media's eyes. (One can buy a T-shirt at the bookstore that says "Miami was a university before Florida was a state".) While at Miami, I began to truly appreciate mid-major college basketball. I started to see that there was good basketball out there being played that went relatively unnoticed. Each school has its own story, traditions, and unique place in the college basketball universe. And I wanted to experience all of it.
This all leads up to the heart of my email... In late October of 2005, I set out to do just that. I wanted to do something that had never been done before - experience a home college basketball game at every Division I school. The plan was simple - stay the whole game, take lots of pictures, and write about it on a website. I gave myself to until the age of 70, thus making this a lifetime goal. I recall sitting at dinner that night, telling my girlfriend (now fiancÃ©e) about my plan, receiving a semi-supportive response. While this is a completely unrealistic goal to achieve, I knew I wanted to at least try it.
I set out to web to make sure that one else had done it. I still to this day don't know if anyone has. But what I found during that search in 2005 was the Mid-Majority and your 100 games project. This is where my appreciation and support began for you and your website and my ever-growing loyalty to its continued success. While I could already name every Division I school in 2005, I proceeded to memorize every mascot as well. I have also spent the past 4 seasons place-marking every division I arena at their precise location in Google Earth. Working a 9-5 job in a cubicle and being a recent college grad presented its own challenges. These restrictions didn't allow me the freedom to travel far except for weekends, nor the funds to do so. So I started off traveling to local colleges and have slowly expanded out from here.
While my loyalty and interest is primarily with mid-major programs, I still respect the major schools and visit them as well. One cannot truly appreciate a Tennessee-Martin game without attending a Tennessee game, am I right? It wasn't until your 1/26/07 posting of 'The Daily Paragraph' that I began to look at this a little bit differently and with a new, fresh perspective.
I had never heard of Miguel Rodriguez before that posting; but your three or so paragraph response to his 'quest' made me think about what I was doing. Was this journey of my own about me, or about the game? While I was envious of Miguel's plan, I was also irritated that he wasn't doing it the right way. It seemed disrespectful to me to hear that he would leave after the first TV timeout. That's not experiencing that team - that's just giving them a number. This isn't at all what I was trying to accomplish. I'm not out there looking for free tickets or publicity for this.
And I never did start a website; partly because I didn't want the expectation that comes along with it, and partly because I don't think I'm a very good writer. I got a Mathematics degree for a reason, you know. But close friends and family would like to hear about my trips and see the pictures that are loading up my hard drive. So I may put something together some day. I have now visited 37 schools in 3 1/2 seasons and a lot has changed since 2005. I have accepted a lot more responsibilities as most people do as they grow up. I just bought a house and will be getting married this summer. My soon to be wife is very supportive and I am very thankful for that. But I know family responsibilities will likely take over and I may never have the opportunity to continue this journey.
And that's okay. I just hope that I will always have The Mid-Majority to experience mid-major college basketball vicariously through you. Thanks for all that you do and I wish you the best of success going forward.
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