Archive for February, 2008

Kids rock

February 18, 2008

From Tuesday’s Dispatch…

I’m a cynic by nature, so it’s always a pleasant surprise for me when I find something that restores my faith in my fellow man.
And it’s even better when there are kids involved.
I delivered a speech at L.B. Yancey Friday on the importance of writing, a feat that produced two unexpected outcomes.
First, considering that I had been fighting a cold all week, the fact that I was able to stand up there and function for 10 minutes was a bit shocking. Then, instead of the boredom I was sure I’d cause, I got a room full of – dare I say it – interested students.
I rambled on for a few minutes, and then opened it up for questions. Very good ones, as it turned out. I have no doubt that one day; somebody in that cafeteria will be coming after my job.
Good thing I didn’t reveal all my secrets.
Seriously, I had a great time. Go Bulldogs.
This is still a sports column; so let’s hit a few high notes.

Seeds of discontent

I could write a whole piece on the oddity that is private school sports, but I need some help here. How is it exactly that the only team in the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association 1A boys’ basketball ranks, 21-0 Norlina Christian, ended up with an eight seed?
The schools slotted ahead of them combined for 50 losses, including the seven seed, Gaston Day, which currently sits at 12-15. What’s the big deal, you ask?
Well, after a home game tonight with Hobgood Academy, the Crusaders run smack into Word of God, the team with one of the nation’s top juniors, guard John Wall, at the helm.
Seems somebody on that seeding committee doesn’t care for the ‘Saders too much.

Vikings get top billing

A lot of people I know in this business don’t think as I do when it comes to voting in polls. Some folks rank their schools near the top whether they deserve it or not.
Me, I make the home teams earn that distinction.
So, after weeks of denying them my top vote in 3A, I gave it back to Northern Vance in the last regular season High School Basketball Poll.
No pressure guys.

ACC for me

I’m tired of hearing about how great the Pac-10 is and how the ACC should only have four tournament teams. I watched UCLA and USC stink up the court last night in a game that set offensive basketball back about 40 years. What a yawner.
This was, of course, the nightcap of a Fox Sports Net twin bill that had Wake Forest stunning Duke in a much more entertaining, up-and-down thriller.
These two games side-by-side provide the perfect illustration as to why the best basketball in the land can be found right here in the good ‘ol Atlantic Coast Conference.
Then again, maybe you like watching O.J. Mayo turn the ball over 10 times in a game?


0-52 — Time to ask for charity

February 9, 2008

From Sunday’s Dispatch…

Usually, I have the utmost respect for the University of North Carolina and its basketball program. I’ve always admired Roy Williams and the Dean Smith Center is a great place to watch a college basketball game.
But for the next 24 hours, I have malice in my heart for all things Carolina blue.
I’m hoping for a gray sky today, just to avoid the hated hue. I’m hoping for a miracle — something that has never happened in 82 years or 52 tries.
What I’d really like today is to see Clemson leave Chapel Hill with a win.
My childhood team is 0-52 in the city limits of Chapel Hill. The Tigers are 0-21 in the Dean Dome and 0-32 in Carmichael Auditorium.
It’s sad, really. Remember when the Tar Heels shocked the college basketball world in the ‘01-’02 season by going 8-20? One of those wins was a 96-78 snoozer over Clemson on Feb 27, 2002.
Only seven of those 52 losses were decided by less than 10 points, including one-point losses in 1936 and 1974.
Clemson’s overall record against Carolina isn’t much better (19-119), and Clemson’s 34-18-1 football record against the sky blues doesn’t make me feel any better.
You would think that sometime over the last eight decades that the Tigers would have lucked out and won a game. But no, since 1926 the price of gas has gone from a penny per gallon to a rate 300 times that high and Clemson can’t win in Chapel Hill.
The Washington Generals won six games out of more than 13,000 against the Globetrotters in the years they’ve played, yet no Tar Heel has ever walked back to his dorm after losing a home game to Clemson.
There have been two World Wars, 14 presidents, seven popes, three ACC expansions and five generations of Capps men. And still, Clemson hasn’t found a way to knock off North Carolina in a game of basketball in Chapel Hill.
Is it Franklin Street? Maybe it’s the traffic on N.C. 15/501. Or perhaps its the fact that Clemson is a football school while the University of North Carolina is one of the elite programs in college basketball history?
It defies logic. It doesn’t make sense for the same two teams that share a conference to play 52 times and have the same result each time out. Surely, the law of averages would have to come into play somewhere, right?
This time around, Clemson can take comfort in the fact that it took Carolina to overtime earlier this season and only an on-fire night from Wayne Ellington saved the Tar Heels from losing in Littlejohn Coliseum. Maybe the Tigers can hope that jet-quick Tar Heel point guard Ty Lawson is still hobbled by a sore ankle.
Or maybe it’ll snow a foot, forcing a postponement of tonight’s game.
I’d love to boldly predict a Clemson victory, throwing caution to the wind and getting squarely behind the underdog. But it is written that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.
I honestly believe that someday, while I’m still vertical, the stars will align and the boys from Tiger town will finally leave Chapel Hill with a victory. I also believe that it probably won’t happen today.
And it’s OK. I have a lifetime’s worth of experience with the pain of Tiger setbacks on the hill. Whether it was watching call after call go against Clemson as Carolina went to the foul line 59 times in a January game in 1998 or hiding my face as Rashad McCants torched the Tigers in a two-point loss in 2003, I know the misery of being a Clemson fan on these dark days.
Would it be too much to ask for just one win in the Dean Dome? You guys have four NCAA titles and 1,935 all-time wins. Can’t you spare one, tiny loss to your friendly neighbors to the south?
Heck, even Duke has been nice enough to let us win four games in Cameron Indoor Stadium. You don’t want the Blue Devils to be more charitable than you are, do you?
On Monday, I’ll go back to be a balanced, impartial observer of the ACC basketball scene. But today, I’ll do my duty and watch Clemson take loss No. 53 in Chapel Hill.
We’ll likely lose, but at least we’ll take it well. After all, we have loads of practice.

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Super Bowl prognostication

February 1, 2008

It’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times.
It’s Super Bowl Sunday, which means two things: It’s the most important and last meaningful game until Labor Day. And no, the Pro Bowl doesn’t count.
We had a Southern Vance student, Cameron Driver, in-house the other day for job shadowing, and I’m proud to report that he at least learned who would be playing in today’s game in his brief stay here on Chestnut Street.
Apparently, playing five sports while maintaining good grades eliminates the time necessary to closely monitor the National Football League.
That’s where I come in. That’s right, after watching two weeks worth of talking heads, reporters in wedding dresses, Giant guarantees, Brady’s boot and Hall of Fame hopefuls it’s finally time for some football.
Here’s hoping for a game that’s still in the balance after Tom Petty hobbles out on stage for the halftime show.
These two teams matched up a few weeks ago in the regular-season finale, and with the perfection-seeking Patriots installed as a 14-point favorite, the Giants actually led by 12 in the second half before finally falling, 38-35.
So, is there hope for this game to be close? New England, hoping to become the first 19-0 team in NFL history, is a 12-point favorite out in Glendale today. In 12 other Super Bowl games that featured a double-digit spread, the favorite is 6-5-1 against the number.
Not that we condone gambling or anything.
I’ve been all over the place on this one. I woke up Monday morning convinced that Tom Brady and the Pats will roll through Big Blue like Lindsay Lohan through rehab stints. On Tuesday, I told my dad I was leaning that way. On Wednesday, I read an old story about Joe Namath and his famous guarantee before Super Bowl III when the Jets were 17-point underdogs, and it got me thinking. Miracles can happen.
Then, on Thursday, Brandon Lang — the real handicapper on which the movie “Two for the Money” was based — picked the G-men to cover the number. He’s a genius — a staggering 15-0-2 in picking the Super Bowl in the last 17 years. I’d ask Petty, but he says he’s “for everybody.”
Thanks, Tom.
So, as I sit here now, I’m tempted to play it safe.
Brady’s one of the best big-game quarterbacks in the NFL’s history, Randy Moss had a monster season, Wes Welker catches bullets with his teeth and the defense always makes enough plays in the clutch.
And while the Giants have been smoking hot, I wonder if it can keep up. Eli Manning has been channeling his big brother, Plaxico Burress has been unreal and the defense has been even better than we all thought.
It’s hard to deny the magnitude of New York’s wins over Tampa Bay, Dallas and Green Bay — all on the road — in the run-up to today’s game. I thought they’d lose in Dallas. I was sure they were going to freeze up on the tundra.
Today, who knows.
But while I’m a long way from a Miami pool side in 1967, I’m feeling a little like Joe Willie.
I say the fairy tale rolls on in the desert. Maybe Brady’s ankle gets a little tweak in the first quarter — or he elopes with that cute reporter that asked for his hand in marriage earlier this week. Maybe Randy Moss runs over a crossing guard on the way to the stadium. Maybe Bill Belichick can’t find a warm-weather hoodie and stays sequestered in his hotel room.
Perhaps Junior Seau and Rodney Harrison skip the game for the early-bird seniors’ discount at Denny’s. You just never know.
So, I’m thinking Brandon Jacobs — the bruising running back for the Giants — has the game of his life and becomes the next in a long line of unlikely Super Bowl MVPs.
I’m taking the Giants in a tight one.
Happy viewing, everyone. Now, pass the chili-cheese dip.

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