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...

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