The Camping World Bowl featured my West Virginia Mountaineers and the Syracuse Orange last Friday at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. It was a family affair and much, much more.
My sister and her family came to town and we attended the game together. The drive over was a great opportunity to talk at length and enjoy each other’s company. But just as I was leaving the house to meet-up with my sister’s family I got a text from Mark Sadler, a friend and partner in police work and our SWAT team at South Charleston PD since the mid-1980’s. Mark asked if I was going to the game and when I said I was just leaving home he told me he and his wife, Tracy, were already there. We planned to meet upon my arrival.
The drive over was quick and enjoyable. We parked and walked to the shuttle bus that would take us to the stadium. After a small glitch entering the Citrus Bowl where the Camping World Bowl was about to begin (my nephew, a good, but amateur photographer, had a lens on his camera that was deemed “too professional” to be carried in the stadium by a fan- it was over the 6” lens length limit-he and my brother-in-law had to go secure it in a rental trailer stationed outside the stadium for just such a disaster) my sister, my niece and I went ahead.
My sister, her family and I at the Camping World Bowl-Photo: Stacy Walker selfie
A few minutes later the reunion happened. Mark was standing in the concourse with a big smile on his face. We embraced and greeted each other. I reintroduced him to Stacy and my niece.
Mark Sadler and I at the Camping World Bowl- photo: Mick selfie
Mark and I went to find Tracy and the reunion continued. I accompanied them to their seats and we caught up for a while. Mark introduced me to a friend he met in North Carolina who just happened to dispatch us in the 80’s and 90’s. The reunion was even bigger than expected and it wasn’t over yet.
It was nearing game time and I left the Sadlers and headed back down to the concourse to go to my seat. I grabbed a hot dog and was opening a packet of mustard when I looked up and 20’ ahead of me was yet another near-lifelong friend. It was Joey Crawford who is currently serving his second stint as the Police Chief in St. Albans, WV.
Joey and I go way back to his high school days when he would come out and ride with me in my South Charleston patrol car on select evenings and overnights. Joey’s dad, Roger, was a retired chief of my department and this was a common practice for the boss’ son. Years later, when Joey was a detective at SAPD and I was the same SCPD, we were partnered at the Metro Drug Unit. Yes, this was a reunion and an FOP meeting rolled into one.
While Joey’s dad has been gone a number of years now, Joey introduced me to his brother Roger who is the spitting image of their father. We all stood and chatted for several minutes until it was time to catch the beginning of the football game that was hosting this impromptu reunion.
The game was back and forth and fun to watch. It was close at the half with the Mountaineers down by two. It was time to catch up more with the Sadlers. We stood at their seats and talked through much of halftime.
Back at my seat the game continued and my ‘Eers would fall to the Orange. While I would have preferred a win, somehow it just didn’t matter. We had a blast, reconnected with friends who may as well be family and maybe, just maybe, the bowl game did just what it was supposed to do-provide an evening of entertainment and memories, memories that the organizers of the game could have never anticipated.