Monthly Archives: June 2008

Legacy

So, the North Carolina baseball team lost last night to Fresno State and along with it were eliminated from the College World Series sending Fresno State to the finals.  I was sad last night as I watched the players do everything they could, but falling short on nearly every attempt.  Personally, I think Fresno State should take that homeplate umpire out to a nice dinner because he is partly responsible for them making the finals, but that’s neither here nor there.  I was sad still for the seniors on the team who had been to the College World Series the last three years and played their hearts out every time.  And then, I did what I always do after a Carolina win or loss.  I went to the Carolina Athletics website and I read Adam Lucas‘s article about the game.  Adam is the publisher of Tarheel Monthly, the official periodical publication of the University of North Carolina athletics.  He’s written four books on Carolina Basketball alone, and they are four of the best books I’ve ever read in my life.  (I minored in English in college.  I’ve read a lot of books.)  So, by the time I get to Adam’s article, it’s late, I’m irritated, and I have no idea what on earth Adam could possibly write to make me feel better. 

I suppose I should have known better.  I’ve been reading Adam’s work for several years now and he never fails to enlighten me of the brighter side of losses and the minute details of wins.  He has made me cry and laugh all in the same article several times.  I don’t find many people in my life who actually find their calling and know they have found it.  Adam has without a doubt found his calling.  So, when I clicked on the article, Lucas: Brave New World, I could only imagine what that title had in store for me.  His titles are ridiculously poignant.  What I got was yet another look on the brightside article.  Adam managed to turn a three time trip to the College World Series that came up short all three times into a look at the program that these seniors built because that is something that will last much longer than any National Championship.  And it’s true.  National Championships last for a year and then there’s a new one.  But, those seniors took the Carolina Baseball program from unknown and laughable to nationally ranked and respected in four years.  Of course we all wanted them to bring home the trophy if for no other reason but as a fruit of their labor, but what Adam wrote is that a trophy isn’t what defines them.  It’s the fact that Carolina Baseball is now capable of contending with Carolina Basketball in several aspects not the least of which are fans, fundraising, international prominence.  Those seniors believed that wearing the blue meant something more than leaky ceilings and old stadiums, and they believed in themselves enough to make a difference. 

For that, I can be nothing but proud and grateful that they have built a legacy that stretches far beyond the diamonds in Chapel Hill, Cary, and even Omaha.  And I’m really thankful to Adam Lucas for showing me the big picture.

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Grandly Underestimated

It took 28 hours and 35 minutes for North Carolina to eliminate LSU in Game 10 of the College World Series, but it was worth every second.  Sure I was frustrated Thursday night and Friday night when not one, but two lightning and rain storms passed over Omaha postponing and delaying the game.  But after all that, to have the Tar Heels win the way they did made all the stress of the situation worth it.  Even with my friends telling me that I could just turn off the TV and make the stress go away, I just couldn’t leave the boys.  I couldn’t give up on them.  Even when it was tied 3-3 for what seemed like an eternity, even when Alex White had to pitch himself out of a hole, even when the talking heads had to put up the stat about Carolina being hitless the last eleven times with runners in scoring position, I just couldn’t and wouldn’t leave them.  So, 28 hours and 35 minutes later, they rewarded themselves and their fans for hanging in there.

It was the 9th inning.  The LSU pitcher on the mound had been pitching a great game and didn’t appear to be interested in giving up anything to Carolina, but then he pitched himself into a corner.  At the beginning of the inning, the bottom two of Carolina’s batting order were up to bat.  Seemed simple enough, get those two out and you’re pitching to the top of the order needing only one more.  But, Ryan Graepel wouldn’t let that happen.  Ryan Graepel had sat through two storms trying to keep himself busy and warmed up for whenever play resumed.  Ryan Graepel had watched along with his teammates the night before a recap on the jumbotrons at Rosenblatt Stadium of the 2007 CWS where Carolina lost to Oregon State in the finals for the second straight year.  So, Ryan Graepel got a double on a hit to deep right center field leaving the LSU pitcher to contend with Dustin Ackley and only one out.  LSU’s strategy: intentionally walk Ackley and try for a strike out or a double play with the next batter.  Ok.

Mark Fleury came in to hit for Kyle Shelton, and LSU gets its wish: a strike out.  Now there’s two outs, but coming to the plate is Carolina’s .401 averaging Tim Fedroff.  What do you do?  Well if you’re the LSU coach, you tell your pitcher to intentionally walk Fedroff and load the bases because on deck is Tim Federowicz who based on stats is no where near as good as Fedroff, so the LSU pitcher should be able to strike him out like he did the last time Federowicz was at bat.  Ok.

Now remember the bases are loaded and the guy at the plate has hit only 4 home runs ALL SEASON LONG.  More than that he’s 1-11 so far this CWS and 11-61 in his CWS career.  Furthermore, the LSU pitcher has only given up one home run in 55 innings.  Oh yeah, and a grand slam hasn’t been hit in a College World Series game in Omaha since 2001.  No biggie, right.  Ok.

I tend to talk to my TV during sporting events.  It makes me feel better.  So, I kid you not when I tell you, Tim Federowicz is at the plate and I say to my TV, “You don’t even have to hit a home run.  You just have to hit a long drive out of the infield so that at least one run can come in and we can be leading going into the bottom of the 9th.”  I finished that statement just as the LSU pitcher’s 1-1 slider left his hand.  And all my begging in the previous 28 hours for someone in Carolina Blue to freaking knock one out of the daggum park was finally heard.

It wasn’t Chad Flack the senior leader who is arguably the best loved Carolina baseball player of all time and is known for hitting home runs in post season play to lift his team to victory.  It wasn’t Dustin Ackley who has a ridiculous on base percentage who was moved to the top of the batting order during the season to see how he’d do and ended up keeping that position.  It wasn’t Tim Fedroff with his .401 batting average and actual dirt from Yankee Stadium in his back pocket (he grew up in Jersey, forgive the kid).  It was Tim Federowicz.  The catcher.  The one that LSU was certain they could strike out.  The one with a .180 batting average in his CWS career.  He was supposed to be the goat.  He was supposed to play right into LSU’s hands.  He was supposed to increase Carolina’s number of hitless at bats with runners in scoring position.  He WAS NOT supposed to hit a home run resulting in a grand slam, something he’d never done in his career until last night.  But he did.  He hit that ball so hard, I pity the person in the left field stands who caught it.  And the best part about it was that Tim Federowicz seemed to know the instant it left his bat.  The way he flung the bat down and started running with a confident swagger in his step, you could tell he just knew that LSU had sorely underestimated him and that he was making them pay big time for it.

Last night, my friend Ashley and I talked a lot about judging and not judging a book by its cover.  Stats don’t tell the whole story of a player in any sport because stats don’t measure calm during adversity or a passion for the game that wills you to do things extraordinary or a heart of gold that says my team needs me to bring this home for them right now.  Carolina has to play and beat Fresno State twice now to reach the CWS finals, my only hope is that Fresno State reads the same stat sheet LSU read and perhaps underestimate another Carolina batter right into a grand slam.

Postponing the Inevitable

Last night, I got home later than usual, and the Carolina/LSU baseball game had already started.  Carolina was up 1-0 in the top of the 1st, and second baseman Kyle Seager had just been hit by a pitch.  This loaded the bases and brought senior third baseman Chad Flack to the plate where he was the recipient of four straight balls to walk in a run making the score 2-0 with the bases still loaded.  Then the lightning struck and the rain poured.  And for three hours, Carolina and LSU sat in the dugouts at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, NE hoping it would stop so they could get back to business.

This is an elimination game in bracket 2 of the 2008 College World Series.  One of these two teams is going home at the end of the game.  I’m hopeful it’s NOT Carolina and that the rain didn’t wash away Carolina’s momentum.  It took three hours for the NCAA to decide to postpone the game until tonight at 7pm where the top of the 1st will resume, but really all the rain did was postpone the inevitable for one of these teams.

Portraits of a Champion

I’ve watched a lot of championship games in my lifetime.  I’ve seen pretty much every reaction a person can have to “winning it all.”  The smiles are never more broad.  The tears are never more free flowing.  The hugs are never more bountiful.  There’s the yelling, the screaming, the jumping up and down, the dancing, the high fives, the words of encouragement to the runners up, and the congratulations to the winners that never seem to end.  Last night, I finally saw something new. 

A Gatorade shower at a basketball game.  Really, I sat there and tried to figure out if I’d ever seen that before.  Of course there’s a reason I don’t think I’ve ever seen it.  Basketball is played on hardwood floors that get slick if they’re wet.  Football (the typical venue for Gatorade showers) is played on a more absorbent surface.  But this…this was meaty.  I was incredibly impressed with Paul Pierce’s guts and Doc Rivers’s thankful reaction:

I fell asleep during the 3rd and 4th quarters.  Apparently, so did the Lakers.  I woke up with 2 minutes left and the lead at near 40 points.  I can’t honestly remember a win that lopsided in a Finals game.  Boston really wanted this one, and I’m really happy for them.  I have a soft spot for talented people like Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen who spend the better parts of their careers on teams with no help.  Basketball isn’t a game that can be won by a single individual (unless you’re playing one on one or against yourself).  It’s a team sport.  Let me repeat that for all the Kobe Bryants and Lebron Jameses out there.  IT’S A TEAM SPORT.  And when all the pieces of the puzzle come together, interlocking just perfectly, you get what I saw last night: a cohesive group of people that wouldn’t for one minute let the lights go out on their dream.

Then you get a celebration that is almost beyond compare.  You could see in their celebration how much they all wanted this, how they had worked their entire careers in order to come together for this one year for this one goal.  It’s not supposed to be this easy.  Organizations aren’t supposed to be able to trade and draft the kind of talent the Celtics have and make it work the first time out of the gate.  It’s supposed to take years to identify team leaders, to understand everyone’s work ethic, to adjust attitudes, to get everyone on the same page, if you will.  But these guys didn’t buy into that.  They believed in what every single one of them came to the NBA to do: win a championship, and that is what carried them through, what gave them the strength to come back from a 24 point deficit in game 4, what enabled them to put 2nd and 3rd string players in the game in the 4th quarter because 30-40 points was a strong enough cushion that the starters could take a load off. 

The celebration when the final seconds ticked off the clock was incredible.  It wasn’t so much about the storied history of the Boston Celtics as it was about what each of those players had been through to get to that point.  I still remember the Chicago Bulls’ 1991 championship.  It was the first of the first three-peat and Michael Jordan’s first.  He clutched that trophy as if he would never let go with his father sitting by his side as proud as a father could ever be. 

And then I remember the 1996 championship, which was the first of the second three-peat.  Michael’s father had been killed three years earlier and the Bulls won the 1996 championship on Father’s Day.  Michael laid face down on the floor of the locker room for what seemed like an eternity sobbing and shaking.  And every one of us who knew anything about that man knew exactly what he was thinking.  “I want my daddy.”  Michael and Scottie and BJ and Steve and John and Bill and Phil and the rest of the Bulls went through a lot together for those six championships, but those two are the ones I remember the most from the six.

Last night, a new memory was made.  I’m hopeful that sometime in the next two or three weeks Kevin Garnett will be able to gather his thoughts and say something coherent, but until then, I completely appreciate the rambling of this interview with Michelle Tafoya.  I often say that the way I feel after a team I follow wins a championship can’t be put into words, and this just seems to prove that there actually are no words for that feeling after all:

What is missing from this clip on YouTube is Kevin’s embrace with Bill Russell.  Kevin simply said, “I got one of my own.  I hope we made you proud.”  Yes, the Boston Celtics are world champions of the NBA.  And they managed, throughout the playoffs and the finals, to Become Legendary:

Drying Off

Well now boys that wouldn’t be y’all returning to Chapel Hill with your tails between your legs after having “tested the NBA waters,” would it?

Now personally I think at the very least Danny Green and Ty Lawson should have to run around the Dean Dome from now until Late Night with Roy Williams in October. Danny for his and his father’s shenanigans and Ty for his underage drinking and driving and disturbing the peace. Wayne, well, he just needs to learn how to resist peer pressure.

I guess we shall welcome you back with open arms even though apparently the information Coach Williams and his staff gave you to help you decide whether to stay or go was the same information you gathered during your water testing. Perhaps next time you’ll listen when Coach speaks.

Now dry off and let’s get to work.

(On a different note, Tiger is one lucky guy that Rocco missed that putt during sudden death.)

Monday Musings

I haven’t done a catch up list or newsworthy highlights in a while, so I thought I’d go that route today.

  • I saw/watched some movies this weekend. 
    • I’ve been Netflixing all of Alex O’Laughlin’s (Mick St. John on the now cancelled CBS show Moonlight) other roles.  That man has done some WEIRD movies, but he’s not half bad in them.  So, far I probably would only recommend August Rush where he plays the brother of Jonathan Rhys Meyers’s character.
    • I watched the second installment of the National Treasure movies.  It appears they’ve set it up for a third.  The second one was pretty good although I didn’t much care for Ed Harris playing a bad guy.
    • My friend Jessica and I went to see Iron Manon Saturday.  I’m a sucker for a Robert Downey, Jr. movie where he plays a sarcastic, smart a$$.  Oh wait, that’s all his roles except Chaplin.  In any case, this movie was really good.  I know ZERO about comic book super heroes.  My knowledge of super heroes was learned through movies and not the comic books they were based on.  I didn’t really like that everyone knows he’s the Iron Man.  I like it more when there’s maybe one of two people who know who the super hero is like Bruce Wayne/Batman has Alfred and Lucius.  Can anyone who has read the comic book on Iron Man bring me up to speed on that aspect of the character?
    • I watched The Holidayon Sunday night.  It was on one of the 800 Encore channels I get.  I was a little reluctant because I’m not a Jude Law, Kate Winslet, or Cameron Diaz fan.  So, basically I was watching for Jack Black, which in my opinion is plenty reason to watch anything.  However, I was pleasantly surprised.  The story was on the surface a bit predictable, but it was a cute little romantic comedy that had an underlying theme of finding and standing up for yourself.
  • Summer has come early here.  I grew up in Florida where it pretty much stays hot all year long except for those 2 weeks in December when it’s 40 degrees in the morning, but I gotta tell you, this weekend in Virginia was ridiculous.  It was so hot outside on Sunday afternoon when I was running errands that I got nauseous.  And the kicker is that it was cooler in Florida this weekend.  One of my co-workers sent me this little tidbit today:
    • It’s 6pm in Baghdad, and the heat index puts the temperature at 94 degrees.  It’s 10:45am in DC and the heat index puts the temperature at 99 degrees.  Now granted most of us are not outside holding automatic weapons and trying to stay alive, but still, DC is not the desert.
  • The College World Series teams are almost set.  North Carolina is through for the 3rd straight year.  They made it to the finals the last two years, so I’m hoping this is the 3rd time’s the charm deal.  This is the only time of year when I actually pay pretty good attention to baseball.  I LOVE college baseball.  I don’t really understand how I can watch college baseball and then be bored to tears watching the major league, so don’t ask me to explain.
  • Is it just me or are the number of DUI arrests of “celebrities” going up?  Now these may have been off your radar, but in the last week, Ty Lawson (UNC Basketball player), Cedric Benson (Chicago Bears football player), and Kenny “the Snake” Stabler (Former Alabama football player) were all arrested and charged with some form of driving under the influence.  Now my thought is that if you’re going to drink, please be responsible enough to NOT get behind the wheel.  Call a cab, hire a car, take a designated driver with you, but for crying outloud DO NOT GET BEHIND THE WHEEL.   
    • In Ty’s case, he’s underage and apparently his breathalyzer didn’t register over the legal limit, but he was arrested for other stupid things relating to the traffic stop he found himself in.  Just a thought, but maybe you oughta go ahead and hire that agent, dear. 
    • Cedric is on his second DUI arrest in the same month.  I’m thinking his days as a Bear are numbered.
    • Kenny…well I don’t know what to think there.
  • Tomorrow I will be two months out from my 30th birthday.  Yesterday, I told someone I was 30.  I died a little inside when I said it.  The bonus is that I talked to my best friend last week and she told me that she’s getting married.  The wedding is August 8th (two days before my birthday), so YEA…I’ll have something to preoccupy my thoughts!  Congratulations Angela and Rob!

A Quieted Voice

I can’t really pinpoint when the Kennedy family hit my radar screen.  I grew up when John Jr. was a hunk, many years after his father and uncle had been assassinated.  I wasn’t a child of the 50s or 60s when John and Bobby Kennedy were a major part of the political fiber of this country.  But throughout my life, I’ve learned a lot about them and what they tried to do for this country. 

Bobby Kennedy has always been my favorite, and today is the 40th anniversary of the day he died.  Yesterday was the anniversary of the day he was shot, but he didn’t die until the early morning hours of June 6th, 1968.  If you haven’t seen the film Bobby, I highly recommend it along with the TV movie RFK.  Be forewarned, though you know it’s coming, you will still jump when the gun goes off.  After his death and his funeral mass in New York City, Bobby’s coffin was returned to Washington, DC via train for interment at Arlington National Cemetery as part of the JFK memorial.  His gravesite is simple in comparison to his brother’s, but I prefer it that way.  Bobby always seemed like the odd Kennedy out.  Sure he came from this huge, wealthy family and went on to have his own huge, wealthy family, but his life’s work was cemented in the causes of the less fortunate.   

The New York Times ran three op-ed piecesby three of Bobby’s children yesterday telling of what their father and his vision meant to them.  He was a man well before his time with a vision that this country needed (and still needs) but wasn’t quite ready for.  His assassination saddens me still because I’ve always wondered what this country would be like today if Bobby had been allowed to finish that ’68 campaign and hopefully win the Presidency.  Would his vision have become a reality?  Would we have eradicated poverty and illiteracy?  Would there be true equality?  Would the word “justice” actually mean something we could believe in?  Would there be peace?  I wonder if this country is even ready for a vision like this now, 40 years later.

I wonder too about Bobby’s legacy.  His vision never seeing the real light of day isn’t what strikes me as the most important piece.  It is his courage, his determination, his willingness to fail greatly in order to achieve greatly.  He tried all the time to close the class system, to recognize where people were hurting, and find a way to make the pain stop.  No, his greatest legacy was not his plans for this country.  His greatest legacy was that he didn’t just listen to people, he heard them and worked to give them a voice.

Best. Meal. Ever.

I have been neglectful in informing you of all my adventures during my vacation to visit Lincoln.  My vacation actually started in Savannah, GA on a very HOT Saturday.  My parents have been going to Savannah at least once a year for the last few years for the express purpose of eating at The Lady and Sons Restaurant, better known as Paula Deen‘s restaurant.  A while back, I made the decision for them that we would meet there at the beginning of my vacation for Mother’s Day, and since my mother wouldn’t be a mother without my father, he was invited, too. 

In any case, the details were set.  They drove up to my Uncle and Aunt’s house in Orange Park, FL (near Jacksonville) earlier in the week, and then I flew down to Savannah on Saturday morning.  They picked me up at the airport, and we drove to downtown Savannah.  We took the Old Town Trolley Tour.  If you go to Savannah, take this tour and hope that you get Irenette (Nette for short) as your tour guide.  She was fantastic! 

After that, my parents explained the entire Lady and Sons Reservation Policy, so we could make our plans for the next morning.  Basically, the way it works is that you line up early in the morning and wait.  At 9:30am, the hostess comes out and starts taking names and time requests on a first come first serve basis.  The closer to the front of the line you are the more time options you have.  Since it was Memorial Day weekend and we weren’t staying in Savannah passed Sunday, I wanted to be absolutely certain that we got into The Lady and Sons for the Sunday Buffet with no problem.  I was not about to miss this opportunity.  Dad typically gets in line at 8am, so I said, take me down there so I can be in line by 7:30. 

My father didn’t understand why in the world I’d want to stand in line, but I told him that I wanted to experience the whole ordeal.  So he and I got up early and drove back down to the restaurant.  He dropped me off, and let me tell you, I was NOT the first person in line.  In fact, the first person in line got there at 5:45.  So, I brought a book and I just sat there on the sidewalk and read until they opened the line at 9:30. 

We chose the noon timeslot.  We were told to check back in at the hostess stand at 11:45 for seating at noon.  And then we drove back to the hotel to check out and pick up mom.  We stopped in the Paula Deen Store, which is right next to the restaurant for some shopping where I spent WAY TOO MUCH money, but it was worth it.  Then, we checked in at 11:45 and were seated by noon.  The whole system works like clockwork.  As soon as we sat down, Michael Schroder (our waiter) came over and took our drink order and directed us to the buffet. 

The all you can eat buffet included the following:

Fried and baked chicken, pork stew, black-eyed peas, collard greens, creamed corn, squash and zucchini casserole, green beans, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, and lima beans.  I think I got it all.  Oh yeah, they have a salad bar, but from what my parents tell me no one ever uses it.  (I did see a nice older lady who was behind me in the line that morning getting a salad, so I was happy about that.)

These are dishes that are not in the least bit out of the ordinary.  I’ve grown up on these dishes, so really I wasn’t expecting anything special even though it is PAULA DEEN.  However, that first bite of fried chicken, mac and cheese, and mashed potatoes nearly knocked my socks off (had I been wearing any…it’s sandal season, people).  It was without a doubt (and no offense to my mother’s pot roast, which is my favorite food) the best meal I have ever had in my entire life.  And what I think made it the best meal ever was the fact that everything was seasoned to perfection.  Nothing needed added salt or pepper, and nothing was over seasoned, either.  It was the very definition of perfect.  Oh and these people come around to the tables constantly bringing you fresh baked biscuits and hoecakes that (GASP) need no butter on them.

The woman and her team are incredibly brilliant from the reservation policy to the wait staff service to the buffet to the dessert.  Oh my the dessert.  This may have been the most brilliant part of it.  So, Paula obviously knows you’ve gorged yourself on the buffet already, so who needs some gigantic dessert.  Dessert is included in the very reasonably priced $15.99 buffet, but they don’t put them on the buffet table.  Our options for the day were banana pudding, gooey butter cake, and peach cobbler.  Since there were three of us, each of us got something different so we could try them all.  The desserts come in this little bowl that’s probably about 4 inches in diameter and not very deep.  It’s just enough dessert to give you that sweetness at the end of your meal but not overpower you or make you feel like it’s too much.  And of course they were each equally phenomenal. 

There were no sightings of Paula or the Sons, but no matter, it was the best food experience I’ve ever had.  Though I was completely stuffed and satisfied when we left the restaurant, but I know without a doubt, I could eat there every day of my life and never grow tired of it.  So, if you ever find yourself in Savannah, GA, be sure to stop by the corner of Whitaker and Congress streets in downtown.  Tell ’em Leann sent you and ask if Michael Schroder is waiting tables that day.  He’ll take great care of you.

Happy Baby

Well as I suspected, one week with Lincoln was not nearly enough. My little nephew is the happiest baby I’ve ever been around. His laugh is infectious. He smiles all the time this big gummy plus 2 teeth grin that makes his eyes light up. Speaking of eyes, his eyes are big and blue and beautiful. He’s very inquisitive and is at that stage where everything goes straight to the mouth. He’s also incredibly active. He kicks his feet all the time except when he’s asleep and jumps up and down when you stand him up. And he loves zerberts on his belly. It was so hard to walk into the airport yesterday and leave him in the car with my brother, but the time I spent with him during my vacation was priceless.

The slide show has 90 pictures in it, so you might be better off clicking on the View All link and clicking through them.