"All of us say we want to do something," says Louis. "We have dreams. We just don't have the determination to follow them out. This kid always did."
The press conference was held at the Seattle Kingdome the day before the Final Four began. Rumeal spoke amiably about Michigan's grand rise through the tournament under interim coach Steve Fisher; about Illinois, the Wolverines' semifinal opponent; about basketball. Following the session, he stood among a group of inquiring reporters who wanted to know more. "Where do you come from?" one of them asked.
"Cambridge, Mass.," replied Rumeal.
"What does your father do for a living?" the reporter asked.
One question brought another, and somehow the whole tale was told: sleeping in the hallways, moving into the Ford Hotel, being adopted. Dozens of fingers typed. Wasn't this wonderful? Columnist Michael Madden of The Boston Globe finished his account by describing how Helen (and Little Louis) would be sitting in the Kingdome, watching the games, while Louis would be back home in Cambridge, on his couch in front of the television, because the family didn't have enough money to send him across the country.
The phones at the Globe started ringing. A lawyer from nearby Hopkinton called the Globe. He had read Madden's story and wanted to send Louis to the Final Four. Another man called from Wellesley. Another from Dedham. Another from Cambridge. Soon the paper had received six offers to send Louis to Seattle. A copyboy put the six men on a conference call, and they decided to split the cost. The lawyer also found Louis tickets to the games.
Trouble was, it was Saturday, and the semifinal against Illinois was that afternoon. Louis had heard none of these plans. Where was he? The Globe contacted his supervisors at the post office, who found him out on his route. They plucked him off the street, stopped at the Ford Hotel long enough for him to pick up a bag Christine had packed while Louis was being found, and hurried him to the airport. He missed one flight at noon but caught another an hour later. He was in a happy cloud.
"I was hoping to get there for the second half," he says. "But the plane was delayed a little. The pilot put the game on the radio. Illinois was leading."
Louis walked off the plane and didn't know what to expect. A man was waiting with a sign that read LOUIS FORD. Louis said that he was Mr. Ford. The man led him to a white limousine the size of an ocean liner. Louis started to sit in the front seat. The man offered him a seat in the back. Louis had ridden in a limousine before, but nothing like this.