March 31 – Everyone should be fortunate enough to have a fairy godparent or a magic genie to grant his fondest wishes.
George Mason University junior Dale Mast did not have to look any farther than his computer screen to find one.
Mast,23,who was featured in a Scripps Howard News Service story about George Mason fans last week,received an e-mail Tuesday from Ohio businessman Mike Eckel shortly after the article was published online.
Eckel,also 23,had read about Mast not having enough money to attend the NCAA Final Four to cheer on Mason in Indianapolis. Eckel offered to pay half of the $170 ticket price.
Mast described his initial reaction as being similar to having a brain freeze from eating ice cream too fast.
“I was just speechless,” Mast said. “I called everybody I knew and said,‘I am going to Indiana.'”
Because of Eckel's contribution – he mailed a check Thursday morning – Mast was able to put the other $85 on his emergency credit card and reserve himself a seat at Saturday’s game. The ticket is also good for Monday's championship game.
Eckel,a strategic planner for a large retailer,said he went through a similar situation when he was a junior at Clemson University in South Carolina a couple of years ago. He and a friend traveled to Atlanta for the Peach Bowl,without tickets or an inclination to pay high dollars for scalped tickets,he recalled.
“There's no way we were going to pay $100 – we were college students,” he said.
A man trying to sell tickets to scalpers approached the two friends and gave them his tickets,saying he would rather see the tickets go to Clemson students than to scalpers,Eckel said.
In one of his e-mails to Mast,Eckel reiterated that same message,tailoring it to the recent situation,saying,“A Cinderella in the Final Four only happens so often,and the true fans should be the ones there to support the team,not just those with money.”
Eckel said he saw the chance to help a collegiate fan who wanted to cheer on his team.
“It was a good opportunity for me to pay it forward and pass it on to someone else,” he said in a phone interview.
Mast cannot wait to leave Friday for the game,and said if Mason advances to the championship game Monday his professors will cancel classes.
“It works out kind of perfectly,” he said.