A report on the Kentucky Wildcats' tortuous trip to the NCAA basketball championships begins on page 78, and it is appropriate that it was Associate Editor Barry McDermott who undertook the odyssey with the team. Kentucky born and bred, Barry grew up in Covington, a long jumper from Cincinnati. His dad exercised horses, played semipro baseball and, it has been said, made a little book. But his mom was, and is, the family's sports fiend. There are legions of Kentucky folk who have religiously followed the Cats for decades and have never seen a game. "Until a few weeks ago," says Barry, "one of them was my mother."
For 42 of her 59 years, Dorothy B. McDermott has been getting up at 5 a.m. to work as a waitress. It is this schedule, not the quality of the Wildcats' play, that makes her fall asleep while listening to Kentucky games on the radio, but she invariably awakens in the wee hours and retunes her bedside Zenith ("Barry gave it to me. He loves me") to get the final score. Ditto the scores of Cincinnati games, the Reds being another of Mrs. McDermott's favorite teams. Each Christmas Barry gives his mother 50 tickets to Reds games. One year he tried to throw her a changeup in the form of a dishwasher, but Dorothy B. got hysterical—and Barry got back on the ticket line.
As for the Wildcats, a few weeks ago Kentucky Coach Joe B. Hall heard that Barry's mother was one of those fanatical Wildcat supporters who had never seen a game, and he said he would send the State Police to take her in a cruiser to the Mideast Regionals in Dayton. ( Mrs. McDermott, assuming the offer had been made in jest, went ahead and arranged her own transportation.) When the Cats barely beat Michigan State, she told Hall that the game had been "a thrill, but I was scared." She got just as big a thrill later when Jack Givens, her favorite player, led Kentucky to the NCAA title with a 41-point performance in the finals at St. Louis. Dorothy B., back home at TV-side for that game, rejoiced, saying, "He was just showin' off for me!"
McDermott says his mother was an "extremely vocal fan at my Little League baseball, football and basketball games. I was glad she couldn't whistle, or she would have made an even bigger spectacle of herself."
Not that Barry gave Mrs. McDermott—a high school cheerleader in her day—much to whistle about. He excelled primarily at washing basketballs for his team. When he started high school, he decided that studies, not athletics, might be his strength. They were, says Dorothy B., until his junior year, when "he discovered cars and girls." Those interests have endured, as has Mrs. McDermott's love of sports, which was sparked when her three energetic boys were small. It grew when son Ronnie played forward on the Covington Catholic High School basketball team and is nurtured these days by Barry's line of work.
"She's a sports nut," says Barry. "But, hey, she's my mom."