One of the great things about social media is that it can afford you the opportunity to meet people you may have otherwise never crossed paths with. I’ve been fortunate enough over the years to have had many such encounters and I really enjoy when those online friendships cross over into real life interactions.
Today, Twitter helped me have the opportunity to play HORSE with a legend and brought four unlikely friends together.
About five years ago, I crossed paths briefly for the first time with Stephanie White when she was covering the NCAA women’s basketball regionals at Dayton for ESPN and I was volunteering with the site staff compiling game notes. I started following her on Twitter and enjoyed watching her career unfold from afar.
A couple of years later, I was able to get to know Stephanie a little bit better when she agreed to be a guest speaker via Skype for a Sports Information class that I was teaching. As I did a little research about her in order to introduce her to my class, I realized what an incredible athlete she is. She was the Gatorade National Player of the Year as a senior in high school and then the Wade Trophy award winner as the National Player of the Year as a senior at Purdue as she led the Boilermakers to the national title. She also went on to play in the WNBA.
These days, Stephanie just wrapped up her ‘rookie’ season as the head coach of the WNBA’s Indianapolis Fever where she led her team to the WNBA finals. She also keeps busy in the offseason as a broadcaster, which is what brought her to the Columbus area today as she’ll call the action between Ohio State and UConn on Monday evening.
The other part of today’s Horse with a Legend competition trio is Tim Cary. Tim is a graduate of Cedarville University, a big rival school of Mount Vernon Nazarene University where I attended college and then worked in the sports information department for 20 years. I first met Tim in person a couple of years ago, but we’ve been friends via Twitter for a long time before that and he was also a guest Skype speaker in the class that I taught on several occasions.
Like me, Tim also uses social media to develop relationships he might not ever have made otherwise. He is a worship leader at a church and a very talented pianist. He is also a big Purdue fan which makes him a big fan of Stephanie White. Through his work with Bleacher Report and then CBS Sports Online, he had also developed a connection with Stephanie over the years. This led us to somewhat jokingly saying that the three of us should meet somewhere to play HORSE. 🙂
Well, after almost two years of trying to figure out how to pull this off, we did it today. With Stephanie coming to the Columbus area for work, Tim found a gym for us to play in thanks to Ray Slagle at Worthington Christian High School who coached a state championship team in 1999 as well as five NAIA Division II national tournament qualifiers at Cedarville.
I’ll be honest…I hadn’t shot a basketball in about six months and haven’t been very active for the past three months due to breaking my foot. But none of that mattered as it was just about meeting up with people that I respect. I tried my best, but I’m still not much of a shot and Stephanie quickly knocked me out in both games that we played with a Larry Bird-esque shot over the backboard in the first game and then just a steady barrage of mid-range jumpers in game two. (Yep, I was the sacrificial lamb who shot after her to start each game.) Tim did nail some great shots in the second game and nearly pulled off the upset, but Stephanie’s consistent sweet shooting stroke did him in both times too and she picked up the expected title.
Definitely the coolest part of the entire experience was just listening to Stephanie answer questions about life in the WNBA, coaching, broadcasting, and anything else that the three of us tossed her way. She is a class act and treated all of us as though we were friends that she hangs out with on a frequent basis. And, I found out that she really likes the chicken spinach mozzarella pizza from Donatos, while Tim was more than happy with the pepperoni pizza I also brought.
Thanks, Stephanie, Tim, and Ray, for making Horse with a Legend possible and so much fun. And thanks again, Twitter, for allowing me the opportunity to make new friends.