(Note: This article was written in March, just before the 2009 NCAA March Madness Tournament).
Spend enough time on a message board (or on email or blogs), and you have probably accumulated a lot of good insight into how you feel about certain subjects and a lot of words that you could do something with.
That’s exactly what Michael Lowenstein did. He gathered together seven years’ worth of his posts on the University of Pittsburgh’s Pantherlair basketball message board and compiled them into his first book -- We All We Got: Pitt basketball in the Golden Era. The book’s title coins a phrase chosen by the Pitt team to represent how they felt about often being considered underdogs in the world of college basketball.
Anyone who knows Mike, a lawyer who lives in Pittsburgh, PA, knows that he is an avid sports fan. But more than that, he is an avid Pitt fan. Growing up in the Steel City and attending school at the Oakland university turned Mike into a tried and true fan of the blue and gold, not always a large club. Like most teams, Pitt has had its share of lean years.
But today, Pitt basketball is flying high (currently ranked as No. 3 in the country after having been ranked No. 1 twice this season). Fans of the team are hoping that it will receive a high seed (No.1 perhaps?) for the first time ever in the upcoming NCAA “March Madness” tournament. But for Mike, and his family, this successful season is what they have been expecting from Pitt since early 2001 -- great things.
The idea for the book came to Mike a little over two years ago and it took that long to finish the book. “I wrote whenever I had time and when I thought I had something to say, which, of course, did not always turn out to be true,” Mike jokes. “I had to do a lot of fact-checking, and some corrections at the end, but not really any research”, since this was a subject he knew and cared about deeply.
This book may be unique in its format: There’s a narrative at the beginning of each chapter and interspersed throughout its 270 pages and then the edited posts that Mike wrote on the message board are included.
Mike shopped his book idea around to some mainstream publishers to see if they were interested in taking on the book, but then decided that he would go the route of self-publishing. His research on this subject brought him to Word Association Publishers in Tarentum, PA, which is owned by Tom Costello. Graphic artist Gina Datres helped to illustrate the book, and Theresa Doerfler helped Mike edit his work into the final professional product.
Mike’s love of basketball shines through the book, but even more so does his love of his family and how this one activity brought different generations together. When his three children were growing up, the five Lowensteins would attend home Pitt games, and would also travel to other venues to watche the team play. Often, these trips would allow Mike, his wife Andee and Lauren, Rachel and David to hook up with other family members in the area who were also die-hard Pitt fans, making the trip truly a family event. Family participation in Pitt basketball also includes new technology: cell phone calls, text messages (during games even) and emails.
Andee was “enormously supportive with an appropriate dose of loving realism from time to time,” Mike says. Because he was writing the book when his children were older and often away from home, he said they didn’t take special note of this project, but they were happy that their father had completed a project that was important to him. “I hope that over time,” Mike says, “this book will help them remember some of the things we did when they were young, fondly and in a meaningful way.”
I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. As Mike writes in the dedication: “This is for my family. We all we got.”
We All We Got is available at the following locations:
Word Association Publishers
By Teresa K. Flatley