Fans travel from across the country to see games at Summit League tournament

By  | 

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - There are many local fans in town for the Summit League tournament, but some fans come from across the country.

Ned Hirsch and Joe Connor are two of those fans. They don't know each other, but they're both trying to see all 351 NCAA Division I men's basketball teams play.

"My mission is to see all 351 Division I men's basketball teams play in person and I've been at the mission for about 40 years," Hirsch said.

"My ultimate goal is to see a game in every division one men's basketball venue by the time I'm 50, and I'm about 45 venues short," Connor said.

Hirsch is a lawyer from Rockville Centre, N.Y. on Long Island and Connor is a landlord for several rental properties in San Diego, Calif. but lives in Wichita, K.S. right now working as a freelance writer for a small basketball publication. Both are on a mission that's going to take some time.

"So I came to this tournament to pick up four schools, but a nor'easter in New York prevented me from getting here on time so I picked up two," Hirsch said.

He missed Omaha and Western Illinois, but got to see the championship game between USD and SDSU.

And it isn't just weather getting in the way. The number of NCAA Division I teams, changes all the time.

"Next year Cal Baptist, which was the first game I saw on this trip became Division I and I think recently North Alabama became Division I but Savannah state dropped back down to Division II," Connor said.

For each of them, this is a passion project and during Hirsch's time trying to complete his journey, he got a pretty unique opportunity after the New York Times did a story about him.

"I was invited by the NCAA to attend the 2008 Final Four in San Antonio and I was asked to give the fan's viewpoint of the game," Hirsch said.

They asked him to update their blog throughout the Final Four. They told him his posts got about 50,000 views.

Connor is trying to honor his father, who was a veteran and a big basketball fan. Connor lost him when he was in his 20s. He's wrapped his car, something he paid for out of pocket, with an American Flag, raising awareness for an organization called Project Hero.

"They basically help not just veterans and service members, but police officers, fire personnel, if they had a traumatic brain injury, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)," Connor said.

And they each have a message to others who think what they're doing is pretty neat.

"A cop, a firefighter, a service member are caring beyond themselves for others, and in most cases, risking their lives," Connor said. "So what I'm doing is peanuts compared to what they're doing."

"Pursue whatever your interest is because that's essentially what I've done in a light way with basketball," Hirsch said. "But just pursue and go for your passion no matter how long it takes you, no matter what it is."

Hirsch said one of the best parts of his journey is getting to travel and see different things across the country, as well as meet different people.

Connor said he just hopes he raises some awareness along the way and would like people to donate to any organization that helps service members, it doesn't necessarily have to be Project Hero.

We've put a link to Project Hero under "Related Links."