"I need you to follow up on a story for me."
I fumble for a pen. Matt Jones always calls me right as I am doing something and he has to leave a message. It literally happens every time. It is comical. It is kind of our thing now. I'm returning his call.
"Someone called with information about his daughter and Patrick Patterson," Matt says. "I think it will make for a good story. Can I text you his phone number? Maybe you can follow up on it for one of your posts."
That is how this all started. I got the text message and called a man named Robbie Muncie.
"Hey! Howya doin?"
Robbie excitedly yells into the phone. "You know that picture that is on KSR? That one with Patrick and a little blonde girl? That is my daughter. Patrick's mom said this would make a good story."
"Very cool," I reply. "Can we meet up for an interview?"
"You going to the game Saturday? We'll be there. You can meet Patrick's family and talk to them, too."
Well, I wasn't planning on attending, but I sure as heck will now.
We met Patrick Patterson for the first time when our daughter, Lexi, was only two years old. It was December 7, 2007, and Kentucky had just played North Carolina at Rupp Arena. Krissy (my wife), Lexie, and I stayed after the game to get Patrick's autograph. As the crowd dwindled and the Rupp Arena crew began their normal clean up, I started up a conversation with two very nice people. We told them that Patrick was our favorite player and that we loved watching him play. At that moment a security guard informed us that no players would be coming out to sign autographs and that we needed to leave. Krissy collected Lexi and started to follow a security guard to the exit when we heard a deep voice behind us, "They're with us." The people we were talking to were Buster and Tywanna Patterson. Buster directed us to the floor and we all waited for Patrick. Patrick finally came out, signed some autographs, and talked with us like we were old friends. We were surprised at how nice the Pattersons were. Here we were, a family of strangers, and they welcomed us into their inner circle. A friendship was born that day.
I'm hustling to Rupp Arena. I am responsible for the KSR content on this day and I have a schedule all lined out. I can't watch the game, post a proper summary, and meet the Muncies without some sort of crazy scientist and a tricked out DeLorean, but I'm going to try. I watch the second half from an internet accessbile venue close to downtown Lexington. I write my summary, post it on KSR, and book it toward the center.
I now have approximately 90 minutes before I need to make another post and update the site. As I am turning on to Patterson Street (eerily appropriate) to park, my cell phone rings. It is Robbie.
"You almost here? We will wait for you in Section 22."
I double-time it down the sidewalk. I am a trout swimming upstream. Hoards of blue clad fans are pouring out of the maw of Rupp Arena. I finally make it to Section 22 and meet the Muncies.
Our daughter, Lexi, is bonkers over Patrick. In March last year, she asked her mom why everybody was wearing green. When Krissy told her it was Saint Patrick's Day, Lexi replied, "Patrick Patterson Day?" If you randomly ask Lexi who her favorite player is, she will instantly reply "Patrick Patterson" with a big smile. She knows he is number 54 and can tell you that his parents are Buster and Tywanna. During the Blue/White Game this year, Lexi was interviewed by Alan Cutler and proudly told him about her favorite Wildcat. There are three pictures of Patrick above her changing table and one of them shows Patrick yelling. Lexie likes to say that picture is of Patrick yelling for Lexi.
I'm out of breath as I introduce myself to Robbie, Krissy, and Lexi. Robbie is excited and full of energy. A smile is always on his face. He recounts his stories to me about how he met the Pattersons and the relationship that Patrick has developed with his daughter. He says he isn't seeking any type of publicity for himself and just wants people to know how nice the Pattersons are. He hopes that by telling this story, people will realize how lucky the University of Kentucky is to have the Pattersons involved with the program. "They are just good people,"
he says. This is the only time he stops smiling. He looks me right in the eye when he says this. Robbie wants me to understand how much these people mean to him. I get it and meet his gaze with a nod.
"Come on over here and meet Buster,"
Robbie proclaims as his smile quickly returns.
Buster Patterson is lounging in the second row with a bemused look on his face. The look is one of a proud father that just watched his son tear it up for one of the best D1 programs of all time.
We should all be so lucky. He is extremely nice and courteous. I mention how I think that Orton's no-look pass to Patterson for a thunderous dunk should make ESPN's top plays and he gets a far off look in his eyes.
"Danny and Patrick just play so well together."
This is a man that is clearly enjoying the moment.
Last summer, my mother had cancer. She was going through a pretty hard time and was pretty down in general. The family and I were at the Joe Craft Center watching an open practice. After the practice, we were hanging around outside, hoping to get a glimpse of the players as they walked back to Wildcat Lodge. Buster and Tywanna Patterson walked up and started talking to us. As we were talking, my phone rang. It was my mom. I quickly explained that I had to take the call because my mom had cancer and was doing poorly. Tywanna asked if she could speak to my mom. She took the phone and offered my mother words of encouragement and wished my mother the best. When she handed back the phone, my mom was ecstatic.
"Patrick Patterson's mom just talked to me? Unbelieveable!"
I know that it made my mom's day and it was something Tywanna didn't have to do. She just did it. Tywanna doesn't know I am telling you about this. She thinks this story is all about Patrick, but it is more than that. They are good people.
Tywanna Patterson is holding court. She is surrounded by different people and she has them all smiling and laughing. I look for an opportunity to jump in and introduce myself. A break in the conversation. A pause. Anything. It never happens. As soon as two people leave, three more take their place. Tywanna sees someone she recognizes. It is a young man with shaggy blonde hair and a West Virginia high school basketball jersey. He was schoolmates with Patrick.
"Oh HEY!" exclaims Mrs. Patterson, "You all stick around, we need to talk to you when everybody leaves."
She is the sun and people are comets that swing in orbit around her. She is a joy to watch and her smile is infectious.
I find a seat behind Buster and start writing down notes.
Robbie yells as he waves toward me. The Pattersons have migrated to the basketball court and Robbie has collected his family beside the security personnel. I gather my things and join the Muncies who fall in behind the Pattersons. Along the way to the locker room, Lexie high fives every state trooper and security guard she passes.
Rather than look annoyed, each authority figure holds out his hand in gleeful anticipation of the little girl skipping toward him. Lexi is a joy to watch and her smile is infectious. It isn't hard to imagine what Patrick sees in her.
On May 6, 2008, I received a text from the Pattersons inviting us to Patrick's press conference. We couldn't believe that a regular family from Irvine, Kentucky would be special guests at such a cool event. I collected Lexi and made my way to the Lexington. Mrs. Patterson escorted us to the corner of a room full of reporters and tv cameras. When Patrick entered the room, he didn't immediately go to the main table. Patrick walks past the main table, over to us, bends down, and gives Lexi a big hug. I was floored. He high fived me and greeted a few of his other friends. The reporters and the TV cameras could wait. Patrick had to say hi to some people. He played with Lexi, hugged her a couple of times, and he told her he loved her. Our favorite basketball player was telling my daughter he loved her! While he was talking to Lexi, someone snapped the picture that made it on to KSR. Patrick used it as his Facebook picture. He really made us feel special that day.
We are now standing close to the locker room. It is an amazing sight. Ramon Harris is in street clothes, holding his baby daughter. John Calipari breezes by with 3 state troopers in tow. Alan Cutler emerges from behind a curtain, fresh from the coach's press conference, and bolts for the door. John Wall strolls out of the locker room and heads for the exit. None of these people matter. We are all waiting for Patrick.
When Patrick finally does appear, he is instantly mobbed. People pour out of hidden places. One wants a photo. One wants him to sign something. One is a principal that wants Patrick to speak to his school. Patrick handles it all with poise and class. He is gracious and kind to everyone.
While people are swirling around Patrick, Daniel Orton emerges and joins the frey. They talk to everyone. Patrick finally spots Lexi. Lexi runs over and Patrick gives her an enormous bear hug.
I ask if I can get a couple of shots of everyone together. Tywanna Patterson is still a tempest of people. Laughing. Smiling. As everyone lines up, Patrick looks toward his mom and softly calls, "Tywanna." The mother hears her son and immediately breaks off her conversation. She hurries over for the picture.
When Patrick plays his last game, we will not only be losing our favorite player, but a friend. We will miss going to the games and seeing Buster and Tywanna. We will miss the high fives and the hugs. We will miss the way Buster gets Lexi to call him silly when he plays with her. We will miss Tywanna's pom pom and Buster's towel. We want to say thank you to the Patterson's. It has been a blessing to meet them and we love them all. I am taking the time to tell you how special the Patterson family has been to us. They are truly special people that we will never forget.
I am having the time of my life, but I need to get back and update the site. I ask Patrick if there is anything he wants to add to the story. He just shakes his head and smiles as he notices Lexi playing with his father.
I wish him luck with the season and say my good byes. Robbie walks me to the exit with his ever-present smile.
"You think this is a good story? I hope so. Let me know if you need anything, just call me."
As I reach for the door the smile fades. He looks me straight in the eye. "They are just good people", he says.