Who knew? More than I expected

I looked forward to introducing Pat Stella at the Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce Annual Autumn Breakfast Meeting last Friday. Pat is president of the chamber board. I’ve always admired her.
She’s chair of McDonald’s NEPA Co-op (yes, that McDonald’s) and first Vice President of the Ronald McDonald House Board. Of course, I planned to mention these things but I am not a fan of toastmasters who read a speaker’s full resume. I’d rather find something more interest end even surprising if possible. The internet is a big help.
So I Googled Southern Illinois University, Pat’s alma mater, and there it was. The nickname of the Southern Illinois athletic teams is the “Salukis.”
Of course, I had to look up saluki. I learned a saluki is a dog. But not just any dog. It is the “Royal Dog of Ancient Egypt.”
So, when I introduced Pat at the breakfast I said she is a grad of Southern Illinois university. As I did so, I fished in my pants pocket and pulled out a dollar bill. “A dollar,” I announced, “to anyone who knows the nickname of the Southern Illinois sports teams.”
“Salukis!” Patrick Sammon shouted from the center of the room.
I, along with everyone there, was shocked.
“How do you know that?” I asked.
“My sister-in-law went there,” he said.
Pat took the cue and opened with a few words about her old school, including the little tidbit that Southern Illinois won the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) college basketball championship in 1967 with Walt “Clyde” Frazier leading the way. Basketball fans know Frazier is one of the greatest ever to play in the NBA. They also know in 1967 the NIT was bigger than the NCAA tournament.
Things could not have gone more smoothly.
Later that evening I stopped in Cebula’s tavern in Dupont to have a beer or two with the boys and bring home some pizza for dinner. They’re all sports fans there so I brought up Southern Illinois and asked the same question I had asked that morning at the breakfast.
“Salukis!” four or five guys shouted.
“Clyde Frazier played there,” they quickly added.
I guess I looked a little shocked, prompting Jimmy Timlin to say, “Ed, next time you come in here, bring your A game.”
A few nights later I ran into Pat Sammon at the YMCA Annual Dinner and he added something he did not mention at the chamber breakfast. “If you want to see a couple of salukis,” he said, “come over our house. We have two concrete ones guarding our sidewalk.”
Only in Pittston.

Ed Ackerman