Monday, September 25, 2006

Clemson 52, UNC 7

Let's revisit a few sentences from last week's blog about the Furman game:

1) "There's no defensive players in here. I've killed them all."

That's what John Bunting told reporters after UNC's narrow victory over the Furman Paladins, during which UNC's defense(?) gave up 521 yards of total offense.

2) Now my question is, if Bunting killed them all, who's going to play defense(?) against Clemson this weekend?

Well, ladies and gentleman, we now have the answer to my question! Absolutely no one!

I don't think I need to go into detail about what went wrong here. The defense didn't show up. The offense didn't show up. The final score looked like a score we're accustomed to seeing for Dook, not us.

Here's a very important consequence of Saturday's loss: my dad has decided he wouldn't mind if John Bunting gets fired.

For those of you who don't know my dad, he's rather passionate about Carolina football. He goes to the games and yells. If you didn't know better, you'd think he's always waiting for the coach to get fired so he can get a chance at the job. But in reality, he's usually on the coach's side. His saying has always been that you don't fire a coach mid-contract over a matter or wins and losses.

Don't look for him to start contributing to anytime soon. But his statement that he would not disapprove of Bunting being fired is, for me anyway, quite a strong statement.

So what's caused my dad's change of heart? Read on. I've inserted some of my own commentary as well.

1) This is John Bunting's program.

That's right. He's been the head coach since 2001. The recruits are his. The system is his. He's had time to dismantle any remnants of Carl Torbush's system.

Dick Baddour axed Torbush after a mere three seasons, after he had racked up a 16-18 record (17-18 if you count his first game as head coach, the 1997 Gator Bowl). Torbush's biggest problem was that he was the first head coach after Mack Brown. Brown compiled a 62-32-1 record during his tenure as UNC's head coach, including a 20-3 record in his last two seasons. UNC had big expectations and a renovated stadium. 16-18 wasn't going to cut it. You can argue that Torbush got a raw deal. After all, Brown went 2-20 during his first two seasons. But that's a whole different line of discussion.

What is up for discussion is that Bunting now has a 25-39 record at Carolina. That's 9 (or 8) more wins in 5+ seasons than Torbush had in three seasons. And he's already lost more games than Brown lost in 10 seasons. Lucky for him that he's the second coach after Mack Brown and not the first.

All this talk leads to...

2) The program isn't going anywhere.

If anything, it's going backwards. Sure, it's great that we can beat State and Dook most years, and the 2001 win against FSU and the 2004 win against Miami were nice. But when you give up 40+ points and have to rely on a last second field goal to beat a Division I-AA team, and then lose 52-7 the next week, people begin to dismiss your team (if they haven't already).

Let's go back to Carl Torbush's first win as UNC's head coach, the aforementioned 1997 Gator Bowl.

I remember this game quite well. I was visiting my family in Miami. On the day of the game, my dad, brother, and I boarded a commercial flight to Jacksonville, rented a car, went to the game, and then flew back to Miami. The next day, we got in the car (with my mom) and drove home to Virginia. Don't worry if those arrangements don't make any sense to you.

Anyway, the Tar Heels were ranked #4 in the nation, and had a legitimate argument that they should have gone to a BCS bowl. Denied, UNC played an up-and-coming program who many people had never paid attention to before, and won the game 42-3.

The team they beat? Virginia Tech.

As I said, the program isn't going anywhere. And unfortunately, that all leads back to Bunting.

3) The natives are restless

It's nice to think that Tar Heel fans will sit back, smile, and root for their team regardless of performance. But this never happens in reality, either in college sports or professional sports.

Look, going to games is time-consuming. You have to find and pay for a parking spot. You've got to walk to the stadium. You've got to push your way through the crowd. You've got to pay for the overpriced concessions. You've got to watch the game while avoiding getting your eye poked out by an over-enthusiastic pom-pom waver. Then you've got to find your car and wait 5 years to get out of the lot/deck. I'm not whining. I love going to games. But the more disappointing the team, the less likely people are going to be to go through the whole ordeal, especially when they can watch the game at home and flip to a better game when necessary. It's no coincidence that good teams play to packed stadiums, and bad teams play to empty stadiums. And no amount of arguing that "fans should support their teams no matter what" is going to change that.

John Bunting knows this. That's why he thanked the fans during their support during the Furman game.


Okay, so we've established reasons why Bunting should go. Now, let's not do silly things like expect the first top-name coach we can think of to take the job should it become vacant. I've seen the names Jimmy Johnson, Lou Holtz, and Tommy Bowden all thrown out on Don't be disappointed if none of those coaches are there next season. For all we know, Bunting will still be there. A few years ago, many Tar Heel fans started talking about Steve Spurrier coming to Chapel Hill. The only problem was that the team didn't have a coaching vacancy. And Dick Baddour says he's not planning to fire anyone.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Panthers: I know I'm not a coach...

...and there's a good reason that I'm not a coach. I know that John Fox is much more qualified to coach the Panthers than I am.

But I am absolutely speechless about two calls Fox made versus the Vikings on Sunday.

1) You know what this point is without me saying it. Why, with a 13-6 lead...midway through the fourth quarter...with momentum...and good field position...did Fox tell Chris Gamble to throw a lateral on a punt return?

My initial reaction: "Leon Lett is off the hook."

I can't say anything more about this play. I am absolutely speechless.

2) Since the Vikings took advantage of their fantastic field position and scored a touchdown, why...with 15 seconds left in the game...with two timeouts remaining...on the road...when you know sudden death is the alternative...did Fox decide to run out the clock and go to OT? Delhomme couldn't have taken a shot at the end zone? Or tried for field goal position?

So, the Panthers took a risk when they didn't need to, and chickened out when they should have gone for the win.

I know, I know. I'm not the coach.

UNC D(?)

"There's no defensive players in here. I've killed them all."

That's what John Bunting told reporters after UNC's narrow victory over the Furman Paladins, during which UNC's defense(?) gave up 521 yards of total offense. The Sports Monday section of the Daily Tar Heel: "UNC eludes embarrassment, barely."

Now, had you told me that the defense(?) would give up such numbers after UNC's loss to Rutgers, I probably would have believed you. After all, Rutgers' running back Ray Rice rushed for 201 yards and three touchdowns. My final assessment: offense okay, defense bad.

But the following week against Virginia Tech, the defense played just fine. Sure, the final score was 35-10, but VT got a bunch of those points due to interceptions. My final assessment: offense took fall break a month or so early, defense just fine.

So, I don't quite understand how during the Furman game, the offense looked as good as it's probably going to look, and the defense(?) looked like it had forgotten it had played so well against the Hokies.

The only glitch in the offense was the one Cam Sexton interception. That was my friend's fault. For whatever reason, he commented that we hadn't had any interceptions. Sexton threw the INT during the next play. People who aren't sports fans don't understand sports fans' beliefs in superstitions and jinxes. But oh, how real they are. In fact, maybe my blog is a jinx...

...okay, that's a whole different blog post.

Now my question is, if Bunting killed them all, who's going to play defense(?) against Clemson this weekend? Will they prove to be consistently bad or consistenly good, or will they keep us guessing each week?

Tune in Saturday to find out.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Meet Stanley

To celebrate the beginning of NHL training camp, let's take a few moments to view last season's ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup. Most of these pictures were taken at the home of Carolina Hurricanes' Director of Media Relations Mike Sundheim. The latter pictures were taken at Linda's Bar & Grill on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill. Many of the pictures feature Kyle Hanlin, the Hurricanes' manager of media relations.

A few comments: It's the real Stanley Cup. No, not the original Stanley Cup. We all know that one's in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Get over it. But this one is the current real Stanley Cup, not the replica that gets taken to promotional events.

Also, if anyone wants to post their own Stanley Cup pics on this blog, let me know. I'll see what I can do. Watch out for new pics as they appear.


Click here to see Stanley.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Panthers: the season is not lost...

...although Fox's announcers would like for you to think it is. According to them, the fact that Carolina lost to Atlanta signifies "a major shift in the NFC South." (I apologize for not remembering who the announcers were.)

Mind you, the Panthers lost their opening game of the season last year to the New Orleans Saints. I don't think that loss lead to a major shift in the NFC South. Come on, folks. It's the first game of the season. In fact, the Panthers have now lost their past three season openers--all at home. This isn't college football. You can lose some games along the way without sending your season into the oblivion of meaninglessness.

Furthermore, it's not like the Panthers looked awful in the pre-season. But since everyone seems to have picked Carolina as their Super Bowl favorites, the Panthers are going to have to deal with the fact that every blemish on their record is going to be overly scrunitnized.

With that being said, I was disappointed by the 20-6 loss. Atlanta's offense, lead by Warrick Dunn, had their way with the Panthers' defensive line. Carolina's offensive line couldn't figure out how to stop Falcon offseason acquisition John Abraham. I could go on and on, but the main theme is this: the Falcons looked like they were ready to play, and the Panthers didn't.

It's true that the Panthers were playing without Steve Smith, who was sidelined with a hamstring injury. Had he played, he might have been able to electrify the offense. But I'm not going to dismiss this loss as something that happened because Smith didn't play. Yes, I'd like him to get healthy as soon as possible so he can get on the field. But although he's the Panthers #1 offensive weapon, he's certainly not the only one. The Panthers are talented enough to run a good offense without Smith, although they are more talented with him.

In summary: Today's loss doesn't really mean much. And don't blame Smith's injury for it.

As always, and perhaps more annoying than the Panthers performance, was the fact that the game was on Fox. Let's list some of the more interesting aspects of the broadcast:

1) On more than one occasion, the cameraman in charge of following the ball failed to do so.
2) On at least one occassion, the person in charge of adding the "down/to go" arrow graphics displayed the wrong information.
3) Near the beginning of the game, Carolina linebacker (and former Georgia Bulldog) Thomas Davis was called for a late hit. The crowd started booing. One of the announcers commented that this was probably the first time Davis had been booed in Georgia. Apparantly that guy isn't too good at geography, as the game took place in Charlotte. I can pick apart his statement even further, but I'll spare you.
4) Sound level issues.
5) Once the Falcons-Panthers game ended, the Jaguars-Cowboys came on. On at least one occasion, one of the announcers (mind you, different announcers) referred to the Cowboys as the Panthers.
6) Etc.

Oh, the joys of watching football on Fox.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

This is going to be a long season...

When Tar Heel football fans first heard that the team had a quarterback controversy, they might have thought that there were two good quarterbacks fighting for the starting positon.

Instead, John Bunting seems to be picking the lesser of the two evils for each offensive drive. It seems that the thing the Tar Heels do the best is throw the ball to the other team.

If you've been lucky enough to miss the Tar Heels' first two games, let me explain. Before the season started, John Bunting announced that the quarterback position would be split between two players: Cam Sexton and former Nebraska Cornhusker Joe Dailey. On Labor Day weekend against Rutgers, Dailey played the entire game. His performance included two interceptions, including one to end the Tar Heels' potentially game-winning final drive. Some of us laughed that Dailey forgot he had switched teams, and therefore threw to red jerseys. UNC lost 21-16. Sigh.

The game today against Virginia Tech started ominously enough. Bunting started Dailey. UNC scored a field goal, and the cheerleader who does push-ups went ahead and did three. Push-ups on field goals? When did we start doing that? I really thought we only bothered doing push-ups for touchdowns. Maybe I remember incorrectly...

Then Dailey threw two interceptions. I pulled out my cell phone, only to realize that I didn't have John Bunting's number programmed in. My message to him would have been: PUT SEXTON IN THE GAME. Lo and behold, Sexton came into the game on the next offensive drive. I was so excited. The drive didn't go anywhere, but I decided that was better than throwing another interception.

As the half was winding down, I was reasonably content that that the Tar Heels were going into the locker room down only 14-3. The Tar Heels even had the ball and looked like they might have had the opportunity to tack on one more field goal. Instead, they ran out the clock. On the one hand, it's understandable that they wanted to prevent VT from getting the ball back and scoring again before halftime. On the other hand, it seems like the team gave up then and there.

Onto the second half. Sexton started. After a few more drives, I thought I had figured out Bunting's quarterback controversy: Dailey was perfectly able to drive down the field, but would then throw an interception. Sexton didn't throw interceptions, but couldn't drive the ball down the field. Sexton therefore didn't get anyone's hopes up too high. I was trying to decide which situation was the lesser of the two evils. The score was 21-3. I figured I could live with that. After all, UNC had given up 21 points to Rutgers the week before. VT is supposedly a much better team than Rutgers. The defense seemed to be playing much better than the week before. So, really, everything was more or less okay...

Then Sexton threw an interception. 28-3. Then Sexton threw another interception. 35-3. I never leave games early, but at that point, with six minutes left in the fourth quarter, my friends and I figured we'd had enough. By the time we got to Franklin Street, the game had ended. 35-10. I have no idea how we managed to score a touchdown, but I imagine a VT player must have intercepted the ball and mistakenly ran into the wrong end zone.

Oh man. The only reason I've calmed down is because NC State LOST TO AKRON 20-17. Poor Chuck Amato. All the NC State fans are now going to talk about how Bill Cowher recently bought a house in Raleigh, and that he can be their next head coach. Right. Just like Rick Barnes was going to be their basketball coach once Herb Sendek left.

That's right. I make myself feel better about the Tar Heels losing by making fun of NC State. But come on, they lost to Akron. THE AKRON ZIPS (the mascot is actually a kangaroo)! That's a good story.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Cheering Etiquette

Just a quick note folks:

When you are at a football game, you CHEER LOUDLY when your team is on DEFENSE. You want to make as much noise as possible in order to prevent the offense from being able to hear. Therefore, you NEED TO BE QUIET when your team is on OFFENSE, because otherwise they can't hear.

Tar Heel fans seem to be picking up on this concept better than in the past, but there are still a few enthusiastic fans in the student section who haven't quite figured it out.

I also want to commend the "Turn it Blue" campaign on its excellent job of getting most of the fans to actually wear Carolina Blue to the games! The stands looked much bluer than I remember in the past.

Now if we had only won the game...

Friday, September 01, 2006

For "diehard" fans only!

What's the latest controversy on the UNC campus?

The ever-increasing tuition rates?
The overpriced textbooks?
The lack of parking?
The ongoing construction?

Nope. The latest controversy in the Southern Part of Heaven is the new online distribution system for basketball tickets. According to the (many) critics, this system will allow "casual" fans to easily gets tickets, while the "diehard" fans will have to settle for watching the games on TV. The system's advocates argue that it gives all students a fair chance to get tickets.

As someone who considers myself a "diehard" Tar Heel fan, I support the new system. Why? Keep reading.

Here's how the new system works: students go to and click through a series of screens in order to enter themselves into a lottery. If a student is selected to receive tickets, he will get an email instructing him to confirm his tickets. He can reserve up to two tickets. The tickets will then be sent to him in PDF format 48 hours before the game.

This system replaces the "old" bracelet system, which began in 1997. Under this system, students obtained numbered bracelets. Students then lined up outside the Dean Dome on designated Saturday mornings in order to pick up their tickets. The person who had the bracelet with the selected "magic number" was the lucky first person in line. The rest of the bracelet holders lined up in numerical order behind that person. If you weren't in line at 7:00 a.m., you forfeited your spot.

Before 1997, students camped out for tickets.

Here are some of the arguments presented by the critics against the new system, and my responses to them:

Changing the system destroys tradition.

Oh please. There are many traditions at Carolina, and the bracelet distribution system isn't one of them. As stated above, the bracelet system started in 1997 It went through several changes during its nine-year existence. For instance, when I was a freshman, I had to walk down to the Dean Dome in order to get my bracelet. The "magic number" was then printed in the DTH the day before ticket distribution.

The Carolina Athletic Association (CAA) figured out reasonably quickly that students were going down to the Dean Dome multiple times and obtaining multiple bracelets. I'll plead guilty to this one. I have a small wrist, so I could easily slide my bracelet off and get a new one. Students then waited for the DTH to print the magic number so they knew which bracelet they needed to wear to line check. The smart folks at the CAA then decided not to announce the magic number until after they conducted line check. This change put a halt to the bracelet hording.

At some point after I graduated, the CAA moved bracelet distribution to Kenan Stadium and started announcing the magic number in the Pit the Friday before ticket distribution. Since I'm quite sure students didn't become more honest after I graduated, I assume the CAA started swiping ONE Cards at bracelet distribution to assure each student obtained only one. I don't know this for certain, though.

And let's not forget that when I was an undergraduate, people were complaining that the bracelet system destroyed the camping tradition.

If you want tradition, we can go back to watching the games in Carmichael. The atmosphere would be a lot better. And since the stadium is much smaller than the Dean Dome, a lot less students could see the games. So maybe that's not the best solution now, is it?

I could list numerous other Carolina "traditions" that have been destroyed over the years as well. Had one of them stood the test of time, Michael Jordan would have never been a Tar Heel.

The bottom line: "tradition" is a ridiculous defense.

Changing the system allows "casual" fans to easily obtain tickets.

The thinking behind this argument is that only "diehard" fans will bother to get a bracelet and show up for line check Saturday morning. A few years ago, I might have agreed with this argument. When I was an undergraduate, I spent many a frosty Saturday morning standing outside the Dean Dome waiting for my tickets. But in January 2005, I returned to Carolina as a graduate student. Oh, how I wanted to get basketball tickets again. The only problem was that I had to be at work, in Raleigh, at 9:00 sharp Saturday mornings. According to the new system's critics, this fact threw me into the "casual" fan category. Yup, that's me: the casual fan.

To be fair, I had other ways of obtaining student tickets. In fact, I signed up to get "Ceiling Fan" (i.e. the last few rows of the upper level) tickets with other graduate students from my department last season. I went to a couple of games. No one else from my department did. And since I only had one ticket (the bracelet system allowed you to pick up two as long as you had two ONE cards with you), I couldn't invite anyone else to keep me company. I decided I would have more fun watching the games with my (non-student) friends on Franklin Street at Linda's.

Point being: EVERY student, whether or not they have the ability or desire to show up at the Dean Dome on Saturday mornings, pays the fees that allows students to have "free" tickets. Therefore, EVERY student should have an equal chance of getting tickets. If students really don't want to go to basketball games, they won't sign up for the lotteries. Similarly, if you're not sick, you won't go to Student Health. But if the need arises, it's there for you. Your student fees pay for it.

Furthermore, what is a "diehard" fan? Only those people who showed up for line check at the Dean Dome? The people who used to camp out for tickets probably don't think that's too diehard. To think that every student at UNC pays fees so that who you consider to be "diehard" fans can attend games is just snobbery.

Changing the system prevents groups of students from sitting together.

Well, that is a problem. As the system stands now, there is absolutely no way to guarantee that more than two friends can sit together. But I'm willing to bet the CAA can fix this problem. And if it doesn't happen this season, it will happen next season. It's really not a reason to scrap the system altogether.

The new system abolishes the Ceiling Fan system.

Despite my unfortunate experience as a Ceiling Fan (see above), many people liked the system. But since the Ceiling Fan system was designed to enable people who couldn't show up for line check to get tickets, the online system makes it unnecessary. Well, almost. Keeping the Ceiling Fan system might satisfy some students who want to sit in large groups. I'm sure others would complain that it prevented the "diehard" fans from having good seats.

Dook doesn't have this "stupid" system.

This argument ranks right up there with the "tradition" argument. I don't know why we care what Dook does for ticket distribution. Is it because Krzyzewskiville always makes the news before UNC-Dook games? Dook Athletics has been in the news for other reasons lately, but I don't think we want our lacrosse team accused of rape, our basketball players arrested for drunk driving, or our starting quarterback(s) suspended for plagiarism. I'm leaving out the last one because I don't want this blog to become a "pick on Dick Baddour-fest."

That's all, folks. Time to get over it and move on with our lives.