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If you’ve been a sportswriter AND a sales guy in your life, you’ve told thousands of stories.
I know I have, and I’ve never written about the one I’m about to tell. But it is by far my favorite, plus the next time someone says “it’s a small world,” this will now be the standard you’ll have to compare it to.
It’s no secret I’m a big Virginia Tech sports fan. I was a student there in the 70s and worked my way through school covering Tech sports for a small weekly called the Blacksburg Sun (they went to Wednesday and Sunday editions when I was there and gave us shirts that said “Blacksburg Sun: Now Doing It Twice A Week.”)
It was there I got to meet many people, but my favorite was basketball coach Charlie Moir. He answered all my questions, gave me all the access I could ever want, and even invited me along with the writers from much bigger papers for dinner when we were on the road.
Big stuff for a 20-year-old.
To get any access in college sports back then, the main gatekeeper was the head coach’s secretary. Charlie’s was a very nice lady named Jean Farmer, and I was extremely lucky she liked me. If she liked you, you could call just about any time and she’d find Charlie. If she didn’t, odds are you’d hear about him being in a meeting.
Over the next few years between the Blacksburg Sun, Roanoke Times and newspapers in Martinsville and Lynchburg, I would deal with Jean quite a bit. Her, Charlie, many of the players and Sports Information people Wendy Weisend and Dave Smith are among my warmest memories of that time in my life.
Fast forward about 20 years.
I’m now in the furniture business and am working with another great Hokie named Chuck Gordon. We are doing a project that requires publicity, and we’re about to be interviewed by one of the morning anchors of WGHP in High Point, NC, by the name of Cindy Farmer. In preparation for this, we realize Cindy is a serious Hokie fan, and somehow during the live interview a Hokie football helmet accidentally ended up in my hand as we chatted.
Cindy and I became very good friends because while I am a passionate Virginia Tech fan, she’s a maniac. You know that fan you see in the stands that is yelling and cheering every moment of the game and you wonder “how does that person even have a voice by now?”
That's Cindy Farmer.
The years go on and Virginia Tech ends up playing for a national championship. We’re all in New Orleans, thanks to the kindness of A Cleaner World owner Ray Edwards, who was a mutual friend of Chuck’s and was able to obtain some very good tickets. Cindy is there with her family a section or two away, but comes by to see all of us, takes a seat on the steps next to the aisle seat I had, and joins us for the first half.
By halftime, it was time for Cindy to return to her seats. She might have had a beverage or two, and when she told me she was going to go up to that nice New Orleans policeman who was riding a horse and ask if she could ride the horse for a few minutes, I decided it might be best if I walked her back to her seats. Kidnapping a policeman’s horse may not be a big deal where you live, but I strongly suspected it wouldn’t make for a good situation in the Superdome.
As we come to her seats, she yells “Hey Mom, I want to introduce you to someone” and this elegant lady in a Hokie sweatshirt turns around, looks straight at me, and says “hello Dave.”
In all the years I’d known Cindy, I never noticed that they just happened to have the same last name. And looked a little alike.
But that’s not the end of the story. Fast forward another 20 years.
Buzz Williams had just left as the Virginia Tech basketball coach. Athletic Director Whit Babcock did not make an immediate decision on the replacement, allowing days to go by, causing a lot of people to make a lot of guesses about who that coach would be.
It should be noted that after learning Cindy was Jean’s daughter and thus part of Hokie basketball royalty, I also learned she knew EVERYBODY who ever put on a jersey in the New River Valley. She was a track star in high school at Pulaski County High School, and I once mentioned a game I had written about for the Roanoke Times. Pulaski was trailing in the final seconds, and had this very good running back named King Harvey.
Pulaski coach Joel Hicks even mentioned that night that he thought their only chance was to give the ball to Harvey and hope he could break a big run. But instead, the play involved a deep pass that was caught by a wide receiver named Gary Clark – yes, that Gary Clark who starred for James Madison and the Redskins – and Pulaski won the game.
Cindy mentioned she knew King well because they were classmates in high school. Turns out his senior year, Harvey literally was “the king.” He was the Homecoming King, while the Homecoming Queen was….Cindy Farmer.
Of course she was.
So while this speculation over the new basketball coach continued, Cindy and I traded many a text trying to determine who it would be. Finally one night, I get a text from her with a picture attached of two young people at their prom.
“I’m going to guess the one on the right is you,” to which she said yes.
“Who's the guy?” I asked.
“That’s our new basketball coach,” she replied. “Mike Young. And he will be fantastic.”
Turns out back in my days covering high school teams in Roanoke, Blacksburg, Radford and Pulaski, Mike Young was apparently in the stands watching some of those football games, and even playing in a few of the basketball games. He grew up a Hokie fan in Radford, knew all the legendary Radford coaches I got to meet like Norm Lineburg, and apparently went to his prom with the biggest Hokie fan I've ever met.
So apparently back in the mid 1970s, I met Charlie Moir’s secretary, whose daughter 20 years later would interview me and my business partner Chuck on television in High Point, NC, then introduce me to her mother in New Orleans, LA, only to tell me 20 years after that that Virginia Tech’s new basketball coach was her prom date, 40 years earlier.
All while I was clueless about any of these connections.
So when it comes to the Virginia Tech sports family, I can personally attest that yes, it is a small world.
Can’t wait to learn what I don’t know 20 years from now 😊