RICHMOND, Va. -- "Man, I've been singing on the streets for a good 20 years,"
So says "Singing Shorty," also known as Alphonso Washington.
I've known him for many of those years, back when he was a homeless alcoholic, roaming the Fan and Jackson Ward, firing up his gravelly baritone whenever the mood struck - often when he was properly lubricated.
But I watched him sober up over the years. He got a regular job at grocery, His singing continued. Occasionally, his drinking would, too.
He's 62 now.
Last summer, he made up - on the spot - a cool hail-to-the-Redskins song when I bumped into him outside of Mama J's restaurant on N. First Street while filming Washington's defensive backfield chowing down at the sweet soul-food spot. It got him some attention.
Singing Shorty is also a longtime Virginia Commonwealth University basketball fan.
His booster singing and b-ball passion brought him to the door of Shaka Smart's renowned VCU basketball program in center city.
Could a guy like Singing Shorty be heard? If you know that big-hearted program, you know anything is possible.
He was asked to come up with a booster song.
"I based it off what Coach Smart came with when he introduced the havoc," Shorty recalled, meaning the ferocious full-court defense and full-out play that has become known as "havoc."
Two weeks later, Singing Shorty delivered "We're Wreaking Havoc." (Watch the video and check it out.) "I love the song," said VCU men's assistant basketball coach Jeremy Ballard. "All of our players love it. Everyone knows wreaking havoc. Everyone knows Singing Shorty for that song."
Could it catch on among rabid havoc fans?
"I think it's gaining a lot of steam right now," Ballard told me. "We're trying to get it out there as much is possible. I think it could happen."
How cool is that? A rough-and-tumble soul like Singing Shorty, being a part of an internationally respected program . . .
"He's awesome," Ballard said of Singing Shorty. "He's been giving our team pep talks before every game. All our guys know him. They respect what he says."
My old friend Alphonso Washington knows what a blessing all this is for him.
"I've been given an opportunity," Singing Shorty said. "One drink can take it all away."