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Sport Scene Fan Fever LifeSkills

Spring 2005 • Volume 11, Issue 2

Fan Fever

by Justin Phelps ‘05

Linda and Wes ReadWes Read has a favorite moment in Bradley basketball’s 101-year history: the 1982 National Invitational Tournament championship.

It’s more than just the memories of the Braves winning a title. He also met his wife Linda of 21 years during a trip to the championship.

Each flew out of Peoria on the same chartered flight to New York City. On the first morning in New York, they both boarded a tour bus to see the city. The bus stopped at Battery Park where some people took a boat out to see the Statue of Liberty. “The group I was with decided we weren’t going out to the Statue of Liberty,” Wes said. “As I got back on the bus there was this lady (Linda) sitting in my seat.”

Twenty-three years later, the Reads have built a red-and-white shrine to Bradley men’s basketball in the basement of their Peoria home.

Wes has four jerseys signed by his favorite player, Hersey Hawkins ’88, and a number of basketballs signed by other individuals and teams.

Wes collects autographed basketballs and jerseys, trading cards, and various other pieces of Bradley basketball memorabilia, including a stained-glass lamp that only three others in the Peoria area possess. Wes has four jerseys signed by his favorite player, Hersey Hawkins ’88, and a number of basketballs signed by other individuals and teams.

Before lighted advertising was added to the Carver Arena, Wes would make signs on long sheets of paper and put them on the walls between the lower and upper bowls. With no wall space and rising costs of ink, Wes was forced to stop making the oversized, homemade endorsements, but he’s still known as “busignman” by e-mail users.

The Reads began assisting with 50/50 raffle ticket sales for men’s basketball home games shortly after the team moved to the Peoria Civic Center in the 1982-83 season. After 300-plus games and at a conservative average of $2,000 per game, Wes and Linda have helped raise more than $600,000 for Bradley athletics. Working the raffle means the Reads see less of each home game. After counting money and drawing the winning tickets, the Reads find their seats with as little as 12 minutes left in the game.

Along with the raffle ticket sales, they have undertaken game-day programs and clothing sales for the athletic program as well as overseeing the tip board sales at the annual “Meet the Braves” night at the Itoo Hall.
Wes and Linda recently received the Bradley Alumni B-Club Billy Stone Service Award for their volunteer activities. “The award is really an honor,”said Linda. Wes added, “And we do it because if it hadn’t been for Bradley, we probably wouldn’t have met. We love the fact that it brought us together.”

BasketballsWes has also earned honors with the Chiefs Club Appreciation and Dedicated Service Award in 1996, the BU Chiefs Club superior leadership, dedication and involvement award toward Bradley intercollegiate athletic programs in 1998, and the Mort Cantor Award in 2002.

Wes and Linda, both Caterpillar retirees, said getting to know the players has been a highlight. “We also try to meet the parents,” Wes said. “We have met a lot of people over the years and made some nice relationships.”

The most important was a lifelong relationship, aided by a 1982 NIT championship.