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Bobby Wright set an example

Somewhere around the turn of the century, a thirty-something know-it-all moved back to Richmond and met Bobby Wright. The thirty-something was rather acidic towards VCU basketball. He loved it, but the combination of distance, dissatisfaction with Mack McCarthy, and cognitive dissonance that his basketball team could not possibly lose to Wagner and William & Mary, had fired him up. Wright, with his cheerful disposition and gigantic heart, would have none of that.

The details are fuzzy—time is memory’s eraser—but that season there was a bus trip to JMU and Bobby, who could also have been named Captain Bus Trip, made sure this newcomer was introduced around and felt welcomed by all. The newcomer had a blast on that trip, with the trivia and beverages and fun, and by the time the game was over and the bus careened down Afton Mountain headed home, the newcomer no longer felt new or awkward. Bobby saw to it, and I know Bobby’s enthusiasm spread to everyone, not just me. The very next season I bought season tickets for the very first time, and my only requirement was “to be as close to Bobby as I could.” Bobby was the embodiment of fellowship.

Bobby never slowed down and remained fiercely protective of what was building on Broad Street, and we always had wonderful, if not pointed conversations. He would criticize fairly and gentlemanly, and it didn’t take a lot of words. A sloppily-played game would elicit a simple but clear “yeah, we’re turning it over right much, but Jeff’ll get ‘em straight.” When he disagreed Bobby cranked up his end of the conversation with an “aaaawwwww I don’t know….” and the aaaawwww started like a lawn mower. He’d look away, because he didn’t want to disagree with you. But then he’d look over top of you, and then directly at you and dive in to what he believed. Those were the best conversations because neither one of us was trying to prove a point. We were talking basketball.

The one thing I can offer Margaret in this difficult time is that I paid attention to how Bobby went about supporting VCU basketball. Bobby helped mold how I think about VCU basketball; how I cheer. How I write. And that’s the memory I’ll carry forward, and my challenge to you.

The people who wrapped me up in VCU basketball have moved away, or are passing away. I will miss Bobby like I miss Doc and Honey. The Wheelchair Posse. My point is to make sure those with whom you share this special experience called VCU basketball know you appreciate them, and that you don’t take any of it for granted. This dynamic, this fellowship, is the backbone of why we salivate for November; why national writers pen columns about VCU because it looks like we’re having more fun than anybody. It’s what bonds us when we change coaches and players and suffer through losing two of three in late November.

Men like Bobby Wright and Gene Hunt have shown us how to do it. In many ways, “I can’t wait for the season to start” has nothing to do with the games.

(And those of you still around from my early days, and I hope you know who you are, thank you. I want to thank you, because Bobby influenced me to do so.)

Bobby’s obituary can be found here.

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