By Ryan Clark
SAN JOSE – It took a 40-hour drive spread across three days, but Charlie and Ed finally arrived here in Silicon Valley.
They did so by car. It was the ultimate Xavier fan road trip.
“Well, we had to go where Xavier plays,” Charlie Brunette says, matter-of-factly. “It’s what we do.”
That would be Charlie and Ed Lopke, two members of the Xavier Lew Hirt Society, which is named after a former X coach and includes about 30 men’s basketball fans who live more than 100 miles from D’Artagnan’s statue.
It began when Charlie, 69, and Ed, 74, drove from their homes in Indiana (Indianapolis and Kokomo) to New York to watch Xavier play in the Big East Tournament. They then came back home, re-packed, and went to Orlando for the NCAA’s first and second-round wins.
Luckily, they packed extra underwear and T-shirts—just in case Xavier won. And when the Musketeers upset Florida State and punched their ticket to the Sweet Sixteen, the pair hopped in Charlie’s one-year-old silver Honda CRV (mileage: 60,000) and set out for the West Coast.
They arrived here earlier in the week, ready to watch their Muskies win more NCAA Tournament games.
“Now that we’re retired, we can do this and it keeps us out of trouble,” Charlie says, laughing. “Of course, our wives think we’re crazy. But I will make every Xavier NCAA Tournament game.”
He’s done it for as long as he can remember. A graduate from 1969, the only Xavier NCAA Tournament game he’s missed was in 1961—when he was in the eighth grade. “My Dad wouldn’t give me the keys to the car,” he says.
So now, he and Ed (the parent of an X grad) will load up the car and go.
“I normally do all the driving,” Charlie says. Ed will sit shotgun, dozing. They don’t listen to music. They stop every two hours for breaks and refreshments. They’ll eat at diners or honky-tonks and stay in motels along the way.
“We try to go as far as we can, then we stop,” Charlie says. That first night they made it to Gulfport, Miss. Then it was on to Ozona, Texas (“the middle of nowhere”). Lastly, they stopped in Blythe, California, the only place with a hotel for more than two hours.
But why do these two super-fans drive?
“When you go to a tournament, the airlines want to know when you’re coming back,” Charlie says. “This just gives you a lot more flexibility.”
Two years ago, Charlie and Ed drove from Xavier’s first and second-round site, Jacksonville, to their Sweet Sixteen site in Los Angeles. Charlie’s wife came that year. She opted out of this trip.
“Here’s my advice to the young guys out there,” Charlie says. “If you’re going to get married, you better get all this straightened out beforehand. I did, and my wife and I are fine. Yes, she thinks I’m crazy, but she gets it. You’ve got to have that in your relationship.”
Charlie, who worked as an attorney, and Ed, who was an electrical engineer, say the trip has already been worth it. Now they’re ready to drive on over to Glendale, Ariz., for the Final Four.
“The team has exceeded our expectations,” Ed says. “This is more fun than people should have.”
“This is the Xavier payback tour,” Charlie says. “We owed Maryland because they beat us when they won the title. Then we owed Arizona for beating us two years ago. And we owe Gonzaga too.”