"The most I can do for my friend is simply be his friend."
—HENRY DAVID THOREAU
This fall Mike Wetterauer of Henderson, Nev., wrote to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED about his best friend of 36 years, Michael Shay of Naperville, Ill., who had gotten his first subscription to the magazine in the late 1950s. SI gets tens of thousands of letters every year, but no one could remember one like this.
The letter, an e-mail, explained that in 2008 Mike of Naperville lost almost all his sight in a painful and freakish accident when he was packing a metal gas can and an old sump-pump battery to take them to a recycling facility. The explosion was sudden and bad: third-degree burns on Mike's right arm and second-degree burns on his face, head, neck, upper back, chest and left hand. He spent more than five months recovering in the burn unit of Loyola Hospital in Chicago, followed by another five weeks of rehab at the Institute of Chicago. But the worst part was that even after four cornea transplants, he had been unable to read a newspaper or magazine since that terrible day of the accident. And so he let his SI subscription lapse, and his friend, Mike in Henderson, began calling more often to fill him in about what was running in SI, giving him updates with each issue, going over the pieces that he thought would be most interesting.
Then, late this past summer, Mike in Naperville got a Merlin low-vision reading machine, which allows him to read again with the help of a camera and a large viewing screen. The first thing he asked his wife to do was to renew his subscription to SI. He was especially interested in the College Football Preview issue.
That's when Mike of Henderson wrote, suggesting, "It would be wonderful if someone at SI sent Mike a note welcoming him back and letting him know he was missed. He really missed all of you. Mike's life has been sports, and even without his sight he followed not only his favorite teams but kept up on everything from March Madness (he could name all the teams and their seeds) to golf, baseball and football and his beloved Bears."
Welcome back, Mike of Naperville. Loyal subscribers are the heart of SI. They lift everyone who works here, just as friends like Mike of Henderson lift all our lives.
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED GETS TENS OF THOUSANDS OF LETTERS EVERY YEAR, BUT NO ONE COULD REMEMBER A LETTER QUITE LIKE THIS ONE.
MEL LEVINE (MCDONELL)
Mike and Mike's friendship (Shay is on the right) began in 1975, while they were working for the same company.