A Story of Anguish, Restoration … and Years Later, Still Inspiration
August 25, 2013
Bill Hancock wasn’t looking for healing when, months after the death of his son in a Colorado plane crash, he set out on a 2,700-mile, Pacific-to-Atlantic bicycle trip across back-roads America. “We were going on an adventure. Nothing more,” he'd later write. The Kansas City-area resident had no plans for a book, either, but wound up pouring his heart into Riding with the Blue Moth.
Almost eight years later, it remains a touchstone in his life. And a source of solace and inspiration for others. "I get calls and e-mails from people at least once a month, saying, ‘I want to get a copy.’ Or saying, ‘I read this book, and it changed my life. I laughed and I cried, and it let me know that I wasn’t alone,’ " Hancock says. “Everyone is a gift, just a total gift. I’m astounded and honored that people would take nine or 12 or 15 hours out of their lives to read something I wrote. It’s very humbling.”
You might know of Hancock, who lives in Prairie Village, Kan. More likely, he’s the biggest-shot, sports executive whose name you can’t quite place, having quietly overseen the two most visible, most valuable properties in college athletics – the NCAA basketball tournament and football’s Bowl Championship Series. Starting next year, he’ll head up football’s long-awaited four-team playoff. Dream jobs, he admits. But shading them, and his life, is the nightmare of January 2001, when Hancock and his wife got the call that their son, Will, had been lost in a snowy plane crash that killed 10 members of Oklahoma State’s basketball family. Months later, the grieving father – an avid bicyclist – went ahead with a cross-country ride that he’d previously planned. Riding with the Blue Moth was published in 2005, and two printings of the modest book sold out (a total of some 20,000 copies).
The start of a new football season seems a good time to revisit it, or to introduce yourself to a 246-page journey of profound sadness and sweetness, loss and discovery, anger and sheer, and one-foot-in-front-of-the-other determination. “What I expected was that a few people would read it and enjoy the travelogue part and then a few people would read it and realize that they weren’t alone in their grief," Hancock says. "But it’s all gone way beyond what I ever imagined – in terms of numbers and in terms of the heartfelt responses. “I didn’t understand how many thousands of people would be touched.”
Excelsior Springs Branch