NEWS, NOTES &
The Bradsher Beat
Friday, December 14, 2007
By Bethany Bradsher
Military draft filling
All rights reserved.
George Bailey might be the richest man in town
in Christmas movie land, but Scott Wetherbee is the luckiest man in the
Pirate Nation this week.
Wetherbee, the assistant athletic director for
ticketing and marketing for East Carolina, has been the recipient of several
boatloads of good tidings in his role as the point man for ECU’s Tickets for
Troops campaign. He is an eyewitness to the deepening connection between the
American military and Pirate fans, all because the latter have already
donated nearly 2,000 tickets so that soldiers, sailors and airmen can attend
the Dec. 23 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl between ECU and Boise State.
A sampling of developments
supports the notion that the title It's a Wonderful Life is as
appropriate for the real-life story that will soon climax on a gridiron in
Honolulu as it was for the film centered around one of Jimmy Stewart's most
memorable characters in the movie-set town of Bedford Falls in 1947. Listen
to some of the nuggets Wetherbee has been privy to lately:
*** An ongoing correspondence with Air Force Lt.
Col. Keith Parnell, ECU ’88, a Pirate Club member who would have gone to the
game regardless but now has an opportunity to bring his entire squadron.
Because of the tickets being provided by ECU donors, Parnell is creating his
own little Pirate cheering section. He had ordered purple T-shirts for all
of the men reading “Tickets for Troops” above a skull and crossbones and the
words “Thanks, ECU!”
“I’m going to turn my squadron into some Pirates
fans, at least for one day,” said Parnell. “I tell my squadron, ‘You can
have a ticket, but you have to wear purple or I’m not giving it to you.”
*** Phone calls from fathers like Bill Darden,
whose son, an ECU alumnus named Jonathan, is stationed at a Hawaii base
after spending 16 months in Iraq. Darden is thankful, he told Wetherbee, for
the perfect Christmas present for his son.
*** E-mails from people
who are not affiliated with ECU or the military, but are simply touched by
the ticket drive.
One of those outsiders,
Toby Shoemaker, is a misplaced Texas fan living in Maine. He wrote to
Wetherbee. After hearing about the Pirate boosters who bought tickets for a
game they could never attend, Shoemaker promised to buy himself a Pirate
shirt and cap soon.
“I read about the
generosity of ECU fans and the athletic department of ECU in donating
tickets to the Aloha Bowl game to currently-serving members of the US
Military,” Shoemaker wrote to Wetherbee. “Such a gesture is beyond amazing,
it is extraordinary. When I read about it, I immediately became a Pirates
fan. I shall proudly and unabashedly root the Pirates on to victory on
December 23rd as they are now my second favorite college football team.”
And those are just a
sampling from Wetherbee’s grab bag of correspondence. When he’s not hearing
heartwarming stories he’s been promoting Tickets for Troops — and getting an
audience with more national media than ECU has seen in recent memory.
At this rate, Wetherbee
might be the first college ticket manager with his own press agent. He has
done several radio segments, including a 15-minute interview with “Sporting
News Radio.” USA Today featured the Pirates’ efforts on its front page, and
ESPN.com gave it prominent treatment early this week.
“We expected our fans to
step up to the plate like they always do, but to get the national
recognition, we’re really excited about it,” Wetherbee said.
Ultimately, that exposure
is putting more de facto Pirate fans into seats at the 50,000-capacity Aloha
Stadium. On Monday, about 300 tickets had sold. By Thursday, that number was
“We’re selling between
300 and 400 a day,” he said. “This strikes a chord with people.”
From his office as the
director of the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, Jim Donovan was eating his lunch at
about 5 p.m. on Thursday. The logistical hurdles of hosting a bowl are
daunting anyway, but thanks to the ECU ticket campaign his job has taken on
new dimensions, he said.
“We’ve given tickets to
troops in the past, but no one else has ever coordinated it the way East
Carolina has done,” said Donovan. “I think it’s great, because it’s a
selfless act on people’s part, if they can’t make it to the game.”
Donovan has been in
contact with representatives from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines,
Coast Guard, Army National Guard and a color guard, he said. Within each
branch, officers have gone to their troops with one question: “Who would
like to go to the Sheraton Bowl?”
Bowl officials have asked
their military liaisons to focus on the “unattached soldiers,” who are not
from Hawaii and don’t have any family in the area. And every military member
who shows up with a ticket through ECU should be handed one of a generous
allotment of purple and gold pom-poms donated by ISP.
“The side for the Pirates
should be full,” Donovan said.
Tickets for Troops may be
ordered online or by calling
Send an e-mail message to Bethany Bradsher.
Dig into Bethany Bradsher's
01/05/2008 03:23:24 PM