Monday, December 01, 2008

Pack pumps it up...and in

I went to the RBC Center yesterday afternoon and watched NC State beat up on UNC-Greensboro. As a person who doesn't have much loyalty to either team, I have a few observations.

First, State is a lot better this year than they were last year. The folks at should have less to gripe about during the 2008-2009 season. Courtney Fells and Ben McCauley looked fantastic. Courtney Fells looks fantastic. Tracy Smith and Trevor Ferguson were fun to watch. Brandon Costner did not have a particularly good game, but still carries high expectations.

They still need better guard play, and also need to make sure they don't take naps on defense. The only time UNCG looked good was toward the beginning of the first half when the Pack seemed to forget that aspect of the game. Other than that, it was a strong showing for the Wolfpack.

Second, there are several differences between the RBC Center and the Dean Dome, many of which are rather obvious:

1. The RBC Center is newer than the Dean Dome, and therefore has nicer amenities, including luxury suites. No such thing in the Dean Dome.

2. I was much colder in the RBC Center than I've ever been in the Dean Dome, partly because there was a Hurricanes game scheduled a few hours after the basketball game, and partly because I was sitting in an aforementioned suite. It's hard to get warm when you're not packed like sardines in the nosebleed seats, especially when there's a sheet of ice somewhere below the visible floor. I kept my sweater on the entire time, whereas I would have taken it off immediately in the Dean Dome.

3. In the Dean Dome, you can hear the sound of the students jumping up and down in the riser section. In the RBC Center, you can hear the sound of students jumping up and down in the riser section...

...but wait...I could hear the sound of jumping up and down, but I could not identify any groups of fans jumping in a manner that would create such a noise. Does State pipe in "bleacher jumping" noise? I honestly want to know. If someone knows where that sound is coming from, please let me know. Is the Pack the Indianapolis Colts of the NCAA?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Puck on Tobacco Road: October 5, 10, 13: RBC Center

If you think there wasn't any hockey in North Carolina until the Hurricanes arrived, you're wrong!

Want proof?

The Puck on Tobacco Road, an exhibit about the history of hockey in North Carolina, will be displayed in the RBC Center on October 5, 10, and 13 during Carolina Hurricanes games. A series of panels will convey photographs and information about hockey teams in Charlotte, Raleigh, Asheville, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, and Fayetteville going as far back as the 1950s.

This exhibit is a joint project between the Society of North Carolina Archivists (SNCA) and the Carolina Hurricanes in order to celebrate North Carolina Archives Week and American Archives Month.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A rule's a rule, stupid or not

Maybe I'm just mean, but I think everyone's lost their minds. According to an ESPN poll, 78% of the nation thinks that the excessive celebration penalty called against University of Washington quarterback Jake Locker was a bad call (most of the 22% who voted otherwise, not surprisingly, appear to be from the state of Utah).

Maybe I'm missing something here.

According to referee Larry Farina, "After scoring the touchdown, the player threw the ball into the air and we are required, by rule, to assess a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. It is a celebration rule that we are required to call. It was not a judgment call." This statement was backed up by ESPN's SportsCenter, which aired the portion of the rule book in question. The rule is rather clear: no throwing the ball in the air after scoring a touchdown.

Period. The end.

But after airing the rule, several ESPN personalities, including Mark May, forcefully commented that they thought the referee made a horrible call. Given reasons included the following:

-they followed the language of the law, not the spirit of the law
-the refs shouldn't be allowed to decide the outcome of the game/the refs shouldn't be allowed to make calls in key situtations
-Locker had just made a great play
-the rule is stupid

Well, Locker had just made a great play, and perhaps the rule is stupid. Unfortunately, I'm rather sure there's nothing in the rule book stating that refs can pick and choose which rules they enforce. I'm also rather sure there's nothing in the rule book stating that the refs can choose not to enforce rules after great plays. But hey, I've never read the rule book cover to cover, so, you know, maybe those statements are in there somewhere. I'm not going to hold my breath, though.

Perhaps the spirit of the law is to reduce taunting, but that's not explicitly stated in the rule. It's clear that throwing the ball high in the air is not allowed.

As far as whether or not the refs should be allowed to decide the outcome of the game/the refs shouldn't be allowed to make calls in key moments is concerned...I've never understood this argument. Are you telling me that the call would have been legit had it happened in the first quarter? Or a mere five minutes earlier? Isn't it just as unfair to call a penalty at certain times and not other times? I've always been baffled by this argument in basketball, when people argue that the refs shouldn't be allowed to call fouls at the end of a close game. Furthermore, there appears to be a universal assumption that had the PAT been kicked from the standard 15 yards instead of 27 yards, the block wouldn't have occurred. I guess we'll never know, but I'm not sure I buy that assumption.

Would a Washington win have been great? Yes. Do I feel sorry, once again, for Ty Willingham? Yes. But I'm not going to hang the refs for the game's outcome. They were just doing their jobs. The rule can be reviewed during the offseason.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Brett Favre? Whatever. Brandon Jennings is the story.

For starters:

At this point, I'm not sure I care what happens between Brett Favre and the Packers. Is anyone surprised that he's changed his mind about retiring? No. Is anyone surprised that the Packers are now between a rock and a hard place? No. Let's just get him in a Panthers jersey and call it a day. Yeah, right.

Okay then, now:

Has an 18-year-old kid just opened the floodgates for reforming the NCAA/NBA system? The potential is certainly there. By signing with Pallacanestro Virtus Roma Oak Hill Academy's Brandon Jennings has proved what everyone should have known all along: American players don't need to go to college in order to go pro and make a lot of money. Hell, they don't even need to go to the NBA in order to go pro and make a lot of money.

I'll admit, I have, in the past, been one of those people who griped about players leaving college early for the NBA. I liked the idea of the one-year rule. Why? Because I'm a college basketball fan, and college basketball is less fun when your favorite players don't stick around for all four years, or don't show up on campus at all. Had the one-year rule been in effect back in 1996, oh, can you imagine: Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, Ed Cota, and Kobe? Together? In the Dean Dome? Oh, I salivate at the thought.

But you know, Kobe's done rather well for himself without the NCAA, and that's really the point here. Was college going to benefit him at all? Does college benefit basketball players who don't want to be there, but do want a chance to play pro basketball?

Not necessarily.

College basketball should be played by college students who want to play basketball, but would probably be on campus even if they didn't. It should not be played by basketball players who would never consider going anywhere close to another academic institution after high school graduation if it weren't for the current system of making it to the NBA.

But the one-year suits both the NCAA and the NBA quite well. The NCAA makes money off of the talented players, many of whom probably don't want to be in college anyway. NCAA games make NBA scouting easy, or at least a lot easier than locating all of the high school gyms the scouts would otherwise need to visit.

And, theoretically, the rule suits the players. Go to college. Get the education that you need. Get more exposure. You'll be better off, really.

It's true that many college players benefit from the exposure. But there are some--Kobe, LeBron--who have done just fine without it. Do basketball players need a college education? Not if they don't want one. Does the NCAA need those same players in order for them to make the amount of money that they're accustomed to making? Absolutely.

But if they don't go to college, what will they do once they retire from basketball? I would buy this point if it weren't for the numerous people I know who willingly, without the promise of NBA fame and fortune, spent an average of four years obtaining completely useless degrees. Are you telling me that upon retiring from the NBA, a player is going to easily transition into the mundane world of non-NBA players because he has a Communication Studies degree (or in the case of Michael Jordan, a Geography degree)?

I don't think so. Brandon Jennings doesn't seem to think so. I applaud him, and am waiting to see if other high school players follow his lead.

Friday, March 14, 2008

It's Funny Because it's True

I'm about three-fourths of the way through Will Blythe's To Hate Like This is to be Happy Forever, a Tar Heel fan's exploration of the Carolina-Duke rivalry. Thus far, I highly recommend it. I bought it at Border's last week, sat down at the adjoining coffee shop, and had to resist the urge to laugh out loud by page 3. It's funny because it's true, I thought. But there were numerous study groups huddled around their tables; caffeine-addicted students trying to get their assignments done. So I sat in silence, but had a big smile on my face the whole time. The book is so accurate that I thought my friend Johnny had already read it. I told my husband that Johnny had lifted all of his funny lines from this book. Then my husband talked to Johnny and discovered that Johnny in fact had not read the book. Weird.

One aspect of the book that I like is Blythe's comparing and contrasting--not just Carolina v. Duke, but also Southern vs. Northern, Democratic vs. Republican, and black vs. white. He notes that sports coverage in the south is much more polite than sports coverage in the north; for various reasons, mean-spirited sports coverage just doesn't fit into southern culture. And I thought, this is why I never panned out as a journalist, or as a blogger for that matter. I'm too polite, too superstitious to say exactly what I think about any teams, but especially my teams, to a public audience. Sure, I'll tell my opinions to your face if you ask (and oftentimes even when you don't ask), but it's completely different when addressing a mass audience. I suppose it's a passive-aggressive tactic--I'll say what I like to my friends, but to say anything too loudly is just mean (although I have made my distaste for Billy Packer known. But then again, who hasn't?).

So anyway, if you haven't already read this book, you should.

With all that being said, what really happened to Sidney Lowe and the N.C. State Wolfpack this season? I mean, I thought they came into the season a bit overrated, what with them having no suitable replacement for Engin Atsur, but who thought that they'd finish dead last in the ACC?

What seems obvious to absolutely everyone is that the Pack played with no heart. Maybe it's a one-year chemistry problem, and everything will be back on track next year. What worries me is the Pack's problems, at least to someone with absolutely no access to the Wolfpack athletic department or any of the players (yeah, that's a big disclaimer...), appear to be very similar to the problems Matt Doherty had while he was coaching Carolina. Let's think about it:

Doherty Year #1 (2000-2001): Team overachieves, and Doherty wins Coach of the Year, despite the team taking a bit of a nosedive during the second half of the season. This didn't seem like much of a problem until...

Doherty Year #2 (2001-2002): A team depleted of their previous talent finishes with the worst record in school history. Everyone knew the team would not be of the usual Carolina caliber, but 8-20? Players start transferring to pretty much any other school that will take them.

Doherty Year #3 (2002-2003): Team wins 19 games and makes it to the NIT with the help of a few super freshman. A much better team than the previous year, but the players are still unhappy. More players (including Sean May) threaten to transfer, and that's all she wrote for Doherty's career at UNC.

Now here's Sidney's resume at NCSU:

Lowe Year #1 (2006-2007): With the help of Sidney's red blazer, Wolfpack beats Tar Heels for the first time in who knows how long. Fans are so happy about this win that the Pack missing the NCAA Tournament seems to not matter. Next year promises to be better, despite the absence of Atsur...

Lowe Year #2 (2007-2008): Expected to finish third in the ACC, Pack fans soon discover that Atsur's absence is more of a problem than originally anticipated. Okay, 15-16 isn't exactly 8-20, but team clearly lacks chemistry and heart, highlighted by a 31 point loss to UNC. Fans begin to wonder what happened to Herb Sendek.

Lowe Year #3 (2008-2009): TBD, but hopefully won't end up like Doherty's Year #3. As I've already noted, I have no reason to think that Lowe has a revolt on his hands other than what I've seen on the court. And even that doesn't necessarily mean anything. But based on what we all saw happen at Carolina, it does make you (okay, me) wonder what's going on.

To be continued next season...

Monday, February 11, 2008

Recovering from a fortnight of basketball

Well, really it was only regulation and two overtime periods, but one of the FSN announcers referred to it as a "fortnight of basketball." I figure this either means that he doesn't know what the word "fortnight" means, or someone's been living in a time warp.

I always hate the UNC-Clemson game in Chapel Hill because of that gosh-darn (now) 53-game winning streak. It's more stressful than the Duke games. And for the first 37 minutes or so of last night's game, it looked like that streak was going to end. Let me tell you what saved the Heels. It wasn't the shooting, or the rebounding, or any semblance of defense. Nope, it was my friends' 3-year-old son.

Disclaimer: I know that at some point on this blog I've mentioned that I'm quite superstitious. If you don't go for superstitions, you might want to stop reading now.

So we spend 37 minutes of the game losing, for various reasons that I'm sure you find on other blogs. And then, the magic happens. With 3:13 or so left in the game, my friends' 3-year-old soon walks upstairs from the basement, where he had been playing, into the living room.

And Carolina starts making a comeback. Those of us sitting in the living room, including his mother, understood that this child absolutely could not go back downstairs. Doing so would surely ruin the comeback bid.

But of course, the kid didn't want to stay upstairs, and he's not old enough to grasp the (probably foolish) notion of sports superstitions, "mojo," and the like. Trying to hold onto him while he squirmed to go back downstairs to play with Thomas the Train was not going to work. But he had to stay upstairs, and the adults all understood this.

So his mother bribed him with candy at 8:00 at night. And upstairs he stayed. And Carolina went to overtime.

Soon we had a ridiculously hyper three-year-old boy running around in circles on the oversized ottoman in the middle of the room, lips blue from bubble gum and gumdrops. And Carolina went to the second overtime.

Then it got tricky again, because he done eating the candy and the trains were still downstairs. So his mom tried to bribe him with paints. It didn't seem like the paint bribe was going to work at first, but when she took out the oversized watercolor book, his eyes lit up and he decided to stay. He even tried to paint within the lines.

And Carolina won the game.

So no, it had nothing, nothing, to do with Tyler Hansbrough's 39 points, or QT's better-than-usual performance, or Wayne Ellington's hot hand.

Nope, it was all the kid.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

When are they going to change that rule, baby?!?! thought I was referring to Dick Vitale's constant complaint that the possession arrow "jump ball" rule is ridiculous. Don't get me wrong, the possession arrow "jump ball" rule is ridiculous. But what I'm referring to is the "it looks like a situation where we might want to implement the ridiculous possession arrow 'jump ball' rule, so let's just let them play instead of calling a foul like we would usually do" non-call.

Yes, that's exactly what happens. If it looks like two players from opposing teams might possibly possess the ball at the same time, the refs allow them to shove, elbow, and otherwise wrestle until they decide to blow the play dead. Quite a difference from touch fouls in the backcourt and Greg Paulus flops. I mean, seriously, that's exactly how Ty Lawson hurt his ankle. Ryan Reid threw him to the ground in a way that should have caught the attention of the WWE. I'm not accusing Reid of playing dirty, or intentionally hurting Lawson, or anything of the like. I just think the play should have been stopped before either player ended up on the ground.

Super Giants Bowl

Last year's Super Bowl between the Chicago Bears and the Indianapolis Colts was historic. Peyton Manning won his first Super Bowl. Tony Dungy became the first African-American Coach to win a Super Bowl. This year's Super Bowl between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots was also historic. Eli Manning won his first Super Bowl, preventing the Patriots from completing the first perfect season since 1972. Overlooked has been the fact that Giants' GM Jerry Reese became the first African-American GM to win a Super Bowl. Congratulations, Jerry!

A few more notes:

1) Too bad the MVP trophy almost always goes to an offensive player. No offense to Eli Manning, whose fourth quarter escape from an almost-certain sack created an amazing play to keep the winning drive alive. But really, the Giants' defense won the game. Who knew that Plaxico Burress' prediction would be almost correct?

2) Not that too many people took Plaxico seriously in the first place. Did anyone, even those fans who thought New York would win, really think New England would only score 14 points? And if you did, did you think that BEFORE Tom Brady jinxed himself by laughing at Plaxico. The two people (if that many) who usually read my posts know that my brother prides himself on making fairly accurate predictions. Even he had to admit that he was way off with his 38-24 Patriots win prediction (or it might have been 34-28...way off, either way).

3) Man, I'm glad Peyton won the Super Bowl last year. Can you imagine how mad he'd be if Eli had beaten him to it? I mean, really!

4) There are already questions about whether the Giants can repeat next year. The answer is no. Don't get me wrong; they're a good team. You have to be a good team to win the Super Bowl. But the Giants are like the 2006 Pittsburgh Steelers: good enough to win a Super Bowl; not good enough to be able to get there two years in a row. Heck, the Patriots can't even figure out how to pull that one off. Let's face it: teams in recent memory who have pulled off back-to-backs (Denver 1998-1999, Dallas 1993-1994, San Francisco 1989-1990) haven't tended to be wild card berths with 6 regular-season losses. I will say this, though: Tiki Barber looks rather silly.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

We like defense

This week's theme in men's college basketball? Low-scoring games. On Thursday, Virginia Commonwealth beat Georgia State 49-47. On Saturday, VCU managed to score a few more points to beat Hofstra 59-49. According to one of the sports reporters for VCU's student newspaper, The Commonwealth Times, the Rams could very well make it to the NCAA tournament again this season, but don't look for them to pull off any upsets over, say, Duke.

George Washington beat St. Louis by 29 points despite only scoring 49. That's right, folks...the mighty Billikens (click here to learn what a Billiken is) scored a grand total of 20 points for the entire game...7 in the first half and 13 in the second half. Hey, at least they almost doubled their production after halftime.

"Oh, but those are mid-major teams," you might say. Ah, but the mid-majors are not the only victims of the "we can't find the basket" debacle. Take, for instance, N.C. State. Not only do the Wolfpack play in the ACC, but they were picked to finish third in the conference by most people who bothered to make such predictions. At the moment, they look, at best, like the fifth best team, and that's really a rather generous statement on my part. On Wednesday, they scored 54 points while beating North Carolina Central, who only managed to score 29. And on the previous Saturday, they only managed to scrape together 50 points against Presbyterian, a school I didn't even know existed until they showed up on State's schedule (they are located in Clinton, SC). And, as everyone in the Triangle surely knows by now, State scraped together a meager 13 points in the first half against UNC yesterday. Which, granted, wouldn't have looked so bad had UNC not scored 43 in the first half. Granted, State scored 49 points in the second half, although it really didn't mean a darn thing as UNC scored 50 and won the game by 31, 93-62.

I know, I know, I'm a Tar Heel fan and I'm sitting here picking on State, but they just happen to be a perfect example for this post. I also know that the scores of the past week or so are not wholly unique (although St. Louis' score was a newsmaker)...there are low-scoring teams every year. Maybe it's just because I'm used to the Heels scoring 90 or so points per game, but there just seems to be a bigger discrepancy between the high scoring teams and the low scoring teams this year...and there seems to be a lot more low scoring teams. I hope this doesn't lead to a snoozer of a NCAA tournament this spring.

Monday, January 07, 2008

I Heart Bobby Frasor (and Wayne Ellington)

Okay, I'll admit it. I wasn't too concerned when Bobby Frasor went down with a torn ACL against Nevada last month. It's not that I didn't like Bobby, or that I didn't appreciate his talent, or that I had some personal grudge against him. I just figured that the Heels are a talented enough team to get along without him. And, well, they might be. But after watching last night's game, I'm fretting that torn ACL more and more.


Ty Lawson can't play the whole game, and when Ty goes out, QT comes in. My mom loves QT. She always tells her fourth grade students what a good team player he is. Which is probably a valid point. But, if I had to choose between QT and Bobby, my money would go to Bobby. The QT factor was absent for the first few games after Frasor's injury because QT also had an injury, but it was out in full force last night: 8 minutes of playing time, 3 turnovers, and an ill-advised scoop shot that might as well have been a fourth turnover. But I suppose Roy doesn't really want Marcus Ginyard playing backup point guard for the rest of the season, which is what took place while QT was injured.

On another note...maybe it was because I was so distracted by the score last night, but I think that during the Wayne Ellington had the quietest 36 points I've ever seen. Now we get to debate whether Clemson is "really that good," or if Carolina is "not as good as advertised." The truth probably lies somewhere in between, although Clemson could have major problems if they don't improve their foul shooting (they would have won the game had they not missed almost half of their free throws). Clemson did find a way to shut down Tyler Hansbrough--if you consider 12 points and 12 rebounds as being shut down. My friends and I wondered if Tyler was sick, since his face looked much redder than usual. But then again, maybe he was working harder than usual. Or my buddies at FSN threw the color off, which is always a likely answer :)

In conclusion: Bobby Frasor, we salute you. Go take care of that knee. Wayne Ellington, we also salute you. Keep on knocking them down.