Support a good cause while possibly earning a chance to check out Lute Olson's table manners

On Sunday, Feb. 6, Ben Hansen had a stroke. Sadly, an incidence of someone having a stroke is seldom newsworthy, but Ben is just 27 years old. He's also a lovable local sports-radio geek, a rabidly enthusiastic fan/columnist for the goazcats.com Web site, and--through no fault of his own--the son of Arizona Daily Star sports columnist Greg Hansen.

Ben has had a serious heart condition all his life. I remember reading a poignant column that his dad wrote about how Ben wanted to play high school football at Marana Mountain View, but couldn't because of his condition. Ben ended up playing golf instead, which always puzzled me, seeing how golf is way tougher on the heart than is football. Once he became an adult, no insurance company would insure him because of his pre-existing condition. This should not shock anyone.

The late comedian Alan King once said that his insurance company would only pay off if the policyholder got hit by a moose on Tuesday.

And at the front end of the process, insurance companies have as their ultimate goal only insuring those who don't really need insurance, and then only until they reach a point where they might start needing it.

One would expect somebody in Ben's position to tiptoe through life, avoiding paper cuts and charley horses at all costs. But Ben has always been a non-stop guy. I don't know him all that well, but whenever I've spoken to him, he's been gracious and fun, while I, on the other hand, have dogged him mercilessly for his passion for the Arizona Wildcats. There's something inherently wrong with an adult who knows the names of every kid in America who has even thought about playing football for the Arizona Wildcats.

I mean, you could casually start a conversation with, "What about that kid from Missouri?" and Ben would shoot back, with machine-like precision, "Raspus Longberry; 6 foot 3, 240; claims to run a 4.3 but probably closer to 4.4; high school team went 9-2, lost in first round of state; good hands, needs work on blocking; had a girlfriend, but dumped her when he saw her on an episode of The Maury Povich Show; hobbies are eating, sleeping and dreaming about eating."

By the time he's done, you don't have the heart (or the attention span) to say, "Naw, that other kid from Missouri."

After Ben first suffered the stroke, he was in bad shape. While his right side was affected, there was severe damage to his left side. (At press time, there is still a question as to whether he'll recover the use of his left arm, but the prognosis for his overall recovery, following therapy, is quite good.)

His friends in the local media jumped to his aid following the stroke. Radio spots asked for donations to help cover his medical costs, and a raffle was put together to help raise funds. Last week, the Hansen family got the good news that AHCCCS, the state-funded insurance agency, will be picking up his medical costs. Solicitation for donations stopped at that point, but the raffle will go on to help cover costs incidental to his condition and recovery, of which there will certainly be many.

Some of the raffle's main prizes are:

· Dinner with UA men's basketball coach, Lute Olson, and his wife, Christine.

· Dinner with former UA star Miles Simon and UA assistant coach Josh Pastner.

· A trip to the March Pac-10 Tournament in Los Angeles.

· Tickets to a UA game next season and some autographed basketballs.

Tickets are only $10 each and can be purchased online at www.supportbenhansen.com or at any Tucson Joe Cristiani outlet, Sparkle Cleaners or Sullivan's Steakhouse. Tickets will only be sold through Friday, Feb. 25, and the drawing will be held at Sullivan's on East River Road at 3:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 28.

I've purchased a couple of tickets myself. I want to go to dinner with Lute and his wife; I have a suspicion that he has atrocious table manners. What if he tucks his napkin into his collar like Jed Clampett? Maybe he'll burp or unbuckle his pants like the Peter Boyle character does on Everybody Loves Raymond. (I know that all y'all are visualizing these things as you read.) Or I could just sit there and spout left-wing politics to make his wife uncomfortable. Actually, she'd probably enjoy the spirited exchange of ideas.

I wouldn't mind going to L.A. for the Pac-10 Tournament. It's always fun to go to L.A. for a day or two, as long as you don't have to stay.

Another big prize is dinner with Miles Simon and Josh Pastner. Can you imagine dinner with Josh Pastner? He'd probably be eating, watching game film, learning how to knit, flossing himself (and others) and scanning the room to see if there were any cameras on him.

Buy a ticket or two. It's for a good cause--a good kid who deserved better from life, but hasn't spent a minute feeling sorry for himself. We need him back, because there is an ungodly number of people out there who need their Raspus Longberry fixes.

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