Monthly Archives: March 2009

Become Legendary: 2009 Collection

These are the Jordan Brand (Jumpman23) commercials that have been airing during March Madness.  I still smile EVERY TIME I see the Carolina one.  Best.Airball.Ever.

There are a couple missing that Jumpman23Productions hasn’t uploaded to YouTube, yet.  When they do, I’ll add them to this post.

Clear and Present Danger

Thy name is Villanova. 

If you thought I was scared to death over Gonzaga, I’m not sure my own psyche can handle the thoughts that are going to run through my head this week leading up to Saturday night’s Final Four game against Villanova. 

A lot of people will tell you what an honor it is to make the Final Four.  How great it is to be playing the final WEEKEND of college basketball.  But mark my words there is not one player, coach, trainer, or team physician who worked their entire season to ONLY play the last WEEKEND of college basketball.  They all worked their entire season to play on the last MONDAY of college basketball, and the only way to get there is through the Final Four.

Oh…and in case you missed it:

Psychology 101

Normally I wouldn’t do this.  Normally the stream of consciousness that runs through my head is the one thing I keep to myself.  The one thing that the blog, the Facebook, the friends, and the family don’t know.  It’s just there and I know it and I hold on to it for dear life.  But for some reason I’m willing to share it this time.  What you’re about to read are thoughts that have run through my head since the conclusion of the UNC/LSU game last Saturday.  It’s a window into the psyche of this sports fanatic.  It shows how superstition can get the better of a person.  How you have to talk yourself off the ledge sometimes just to get through the day.  How you come up with things that if you do them or don’t do them it will somehow build the good karma for your team. 

Enter my brain at your own risk:

  • I wonder if Ty Lawson got a numbing shot at halftime…21 points in the second half?
  • If Ty Lawson’s toe swells up like it did after the Duke game, we’re toast.
  • Gosh I love Roy Williams…and I love him for calling that time out and calling the entire team on the carpet asking if this is how they wanted their season to end after letting LSU go on a 13-3 run to start the second half.
  • Heaven help me…Gonzaga.  I do NOT want to play Gonzaga.  I’m still feeling the pains of that loss in the pre-season NIT two years ago.  Why couldn’t Western Kentucky have pulled that out.  I would have felt more comfortable with them.
  • How tall is Heytvelt?  (web browser…dubba dubba dubba dot espn dot com…search Gonzaga…roster…heytvelt)  CRAP…6’11”
  • Wait…wasn’t that Heytvelt kid one of the guys who was arrested and suspended from the team for drug possession not long after they beat us two years ago?  (web browser…dubba dubba dubba dot wikipedia dot com…search…josh heytvelt…blah…blah…blah) Drug Charges…YEP!
  • What are Gonzaga’s colors?  I have to remember not to wear those colors on Friday.  Purple is the local Gonzaga high school colors…ahh…yes…blue and red…great…that’s half my wardrobe.   
  • Where the heck is the Monday morning press conference?  I want to know how Ty’s toe is today.  And Larry Drew’s back.  And Deon Thompson’s ankle. 
  • Furthermore, where are the quotes from Roy’s Monday Radio Show? 
  • Please can we keep everyone healthy especially Ed Davis.  He’s making a stretch run like I haven’t seen in a long time from one of our players.
  • Wayne Ellington…he’s like a different player in March.  23 points against LSU…25 against Radford.  He’s a beast.  But Gonzaga’s gonna be all over that.  Of course that might open something up for another player. 
  • Ok…so they pushed the Monday press conference to Tuesday.  Ty’s toe is doing well.  He participated in all of practice on Monday.  This is a good sign.  Larry Drew is still feeling some pain, but he’ll be alright.  Good.  Deon Thompson’s ankle has been fine since the ACC Tourney…good to know…now if we could just get his head in the game.
  • Really…Gonzaga shoots nearly 50% from the field.  Ah…CRAP.  Oh…AND they hold their opponents to under 40%…UGH…I may hurl before the Friday sun even thinks about rising. 
  • It’s looking like tequila for breakfast Saturday morning.
  • If Ty Lawson has to guard this Pargo kid and play perfect defense…oh I just can’t even complete that sentence…not even in my head.
  • Is this really all going to be over on Friday night?  Am I really going to have to say good bye to Tyler, Bobby, Danny, and Mike (and possibly Ty and Wayne) so soon?
  • I have to remind myself that I was never supposed to get 3 or 4 years out of some of these guys to begin with.  They were supposed to be long gone by now.  So anything I get this last time around is a gift.  It’s been such a phenomenal ride to this point. 
  • I just hate for any of them to have their last game in a Tar Heel uniform be not a win.  Can’t say that L word…I just can’t.
  • So, if I throw this trash towards the trashcan and it goes in…that’s a good sign, right.  And if it doesn’t go in…well I’ll come up with some excuse as to why it didn’t go in.  It bounced off some trash that was already in the can…I threw too short…I threw too far…
  • It’s just not fair…these seniors have worked so hard.  They deserve a good ending.  But wait…all the teams have seniors, right…don’t they all deserve to have a good ending.  Of course they do…but none of them wear Carolina Blue. 
  • What if one of the Gonzaga players comes out and purposely steps on Ty Lawson’s toe…then what.  Giving the kid an intentional foul doesn’t fix Ty’s toe. 
  • Grocery list…limes and salt to go with the tequila for Saturday morning breakfast.
  • Please don’t make me have to see Tyler’s tears again this year.  I couldn’t hardly handle them last year after that game.  Oh that game…don’t go there…it’s not worth it.
  • Even if we win…are we just postponing the inevitable?  Do we have enough left in the tank for 3 more games after that?  Is our frustration of the last three tournaments enough to carry us to cutting down the nets?  Second Round exit, Elight Eight exit, Final Four exit…
  • Good heavens how I hate uncertainty. 
  • Maybe if Michael Jordan is at the game…we seem to play well when he’s at the game.
  • There’s nothing I can do.  I can’t play the game for them…and wouldn’t THAT be horrid if I did.  YIKES!
  • How much is too much tequila before the game starts????

Can’t say I didn’t warn you about entering at your own risk.

Off-Season Training

Ever wonder what NFL players do during the off-season?  Well the video below gives you a little glimpse into the life of NFL QB Peyton Manning.  He and Kenny Chesney have been friends for years (going back to Peyton’s time at Tennessee).  Peyton and his wife Ashley even danced to a Kenny Chesney song (sung live by Kenny) at their wedding and as a present for their 5th anniversary, Peyton had Kenny surprise Ashley at a restaurant and sing that same song.  And…no the song was not, “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy.”  It was “Me and You.” Yeah, I know…even jocks have hearts. 

In any case, this is the goofy side of Peyton Manning, which Tony Dungy tells us is more like the actual Peyton Manning than the scary, focused guy we see on Sundays.  Shout-out to Carl Willis for the link to the video.  I’d heard about this, but hadn’t seen the video, yet.

Oh…and today is Peyton’s 33rd birthday, so Happy Birthday, Peyton.

Lincoln Update

Lincoln had his 18 month appointment this week.  Can you believe he’s 18 months old?  Actually he’s 18 and a half months old.  The doctor’s said he looked great and were really pleased with his measurements.  He’s up to 33 1/2 inches!  Well on his way to being Roy Williams’s future recruit (if his mimi and aunt Leann has anything to say about it).

Cute story update: Andy (my brother and Lincoln’s daddy) coached an all-star high school basketball game this weekend.  Well apparently a news station filmed it and during the second half, they had Andy mic’d up (I can only imagine what they might have heard him say…OY!).  In any case, Andy was watching the tape of the broadcast and Lincoln walked in.  Lincoln looked at the TV and then at Andy and then back and forth saying “dat tee, dat tee, dat tee.”  Doesn’t that just melt your heart?!?!?

Here are some pictures from this past weekend.  Enjoy!

Borrowed Time

It’s the last hurrah.  It’s not just win or go home.  It’s win or it’s completely finished.  It’s a right big toe and 3 points to the history books.  It’s the end of an era.  It’s the last chance for that One Shining Moment.  It’s shooting slumps and game winning threes.  It’s learning from George Mason, Georgetown, and That Team That Shall Remain Nameless.  It’s torn ligaments and stress fractures.  It’s shins and ankles.  It’s broken wrists.  It’s fraternity house cannonballs.  It’s pow-wows at the free throw line.  It’s jump balls in our favor.  It’s taking a charge.  It’s chest bumps and fist pumps.  It’s pressure.  It’s desire.  It’s balance and skill.  It’s dunk shots and finger rolls.  It’s baseline to baseline in 4 seconds flat.  It’s and-1s.  It’s steals and blocks.  It’s fast breaks.  It’s BISCUITS.  It’s clutch free throws with 23 seconds left on the clock and down by one.  It’s assists and passes.  It’s Roy Williams calling that timeout not when YOU THINK he needs to, but when HE KNOWS he needs to at the exact, right, perfect time.  It’s expecting Mike Copeland to have a different hand shake for each of the starting five when they’re introduced.  It’s knowing that at some point Ty Lawson WILL BE ok if he has to grit his teeth to do it.  It’s feeling the agony of Marcus Ginyard as he sits on the bench in his suit as the best dressed cheerleader in the building.  It’s thinking how much Ed Davis has grown in just one season and hoping he’s not a one and doner.  It’s wondering if Tyler Zeller can provide just enough edge to frustrate the opposition.  It’s seeing Larry Drew II face the legacy of not just the starting point guard on his own team, but the legacy of his own father as well.  It’s watching as Bobby Frasor closes out the most turbulent, yet exhilarating 4 years of his life.  It’s wishing you knew just what is going on inside the head of Danny Green.  It’s feeling the heat from the fire that comes from Wayne Ellington’s hands when he shoots the perfect 3 over and over and over.  It’s counting on Deon Thompson to bank it in at that exact moment when the team needs him to.  It’s timing the 10-0 runs just right so that Tyler Hansbrough can comfortably take his scheduled time on the bench before the first official timeout where the trainer will drape the towel over Tyler’s left shoulder and Tyler will lift his right hand up to his right shoulder at the exact moment that same trainer puts the cup of water in Tyler’s hand.  It’s memorizing every one of their moves.  It’s 40 minutes times 6.  It is, in a word, MADNESS. 

Tomorrow at roughly 2:50pm Eastern Standard Time the North Carolina Tar Heels will take the floor in Greensboro to play the 1st round game of the 2009 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament against Radford.  And I’m horrified.  I’m scared out of my mind.  I’ve been holding the tears back for the last two weeks afraid that if I let them flow it will all be over too soon.  There are words and phrases that aren’t spoken this time of year because it might cause the earth’s axis to tilt just the wrong way at just the wrong time in another team’s favor.  I hold my breath more times in these three weeks every year than I do the rest of the year combined.

But this time…this time…it’s different.  This time there is no let’s go back to Chapel Hill, regroup, and take it to them next year.  There is no next year.  There is no decision to return to school to be made for the seniors.  This is their last shot.  And more likely than not, this is Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington’s last shot.  As I look back at the last four years and think about just how far these guys (including the juniors and freshmen) have come, I feel like it’s all been building up to this…to these three weeks.  Everything that every player on this team has endured for the last year, two years, three years, and four years has led to this.  This one shot to get it right.  There have just been so many bumps along the way that I wonder constantly if it’s just not meant to be.  I remind myself that it took Dean Smith 20 years to win his first title and that Phil Ford never did.  I remind myself that winning any championship is incredibly difficult and that my track record with the athletes I follow really ain’t that good. 

And then I hope. 

I hope that all the doubt from the critics and all the bumps along the way have made this team stronger.  I hope they have shut out the entire world with the exception of the one opponent they’re playing at that exact moment.  I hope that when it’s all said and done and each team dances their way home, that they are the team left with a full dance card, a pair of scissors, and a ladder. 

I wish it didn’t have to end even if the end is the most glorious of all outcomes.  Because all the frustrations and tears and stresses are worth it for the laughter and smiles and fun that they’ve had and that I’ve had just being a fan.  I expect more tears at some point in the next three weeks.  I just don’t know what kind of tears they’ll be.  Every question has been asked of this team.  And they’ve answered just about all of them.  But I just have one question for them…

Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?

Acknowledging Existence

I pride myself on the fact that I can actually convince myself that certain people don’t exist in this world.  In the case of Bill Belichick, I only have to admit he exists one Sunday or Monday a year…sometimes it’s twice a year, but really that’s rare.  Then along comes this very important charity event benefiting a non-profit organization called Hannah and Friends that helps improve the quality of life for children and adults with special needs.  Jon Bon Jovi was in attendance at the event and Mike and Mike in the Morning had mentioned it on their show last week because they were going as well.  Bill Belichick and Charlie Weis (not really a Notre Dame fan, so it’s really easy to convince myself that he doesn’t exist either) were going to be there, too.  Well, you see, Jon Bon Jovi has been friends with Bill Belichick for many years, but I’ve always been able to ignore their friendship because you rarely have to see them together.  And then this happened and ruined a perfectly good song for me.  And now my brain can’t really function when I have to admit that someone exists who for over 350 days a year doesn’t exist.  Oh how I miss my little non-Bill Belichick bubble. 

1,205 Days

UPDATE: North Carolina won 79-71 on Sunday afternoon, and let me stress the importance of how I worded that.  North Carolina won the game.  Not Tyler, Not Lawson, Not Danny, Not Ellington, Not any ONE player.  The North Carolina Men’s Basketball team won the game.  Coach Williams sent all 7 seniors and Ty Lawson (who was questionable going into the game after a toe injury in practice) out on the court in advance of the tip but advised the referees to wave off the Biscuit Crew prior to the actual tip.  It was the best way to do it.  Start the scholarship seniors and Ty Lawson but send them all out there to act like there would be 8 UNC players for the tip…perfect.  If you’re interested, you can watch the senior speeches from after the game here.  If for some reason the link doesn’t automatically start the video, mouse over the Special Features box on the right hand side and select “Senior Night Speeches.”  Jack Wooten made me laugh the hardest followed closely by Bobby Frasor.  Tyler Hansbrough made me cry of course, but only when he started to thank his older brother Greg who recovered from a brain tumor at age 7 and became Tyler’s inspiration to persevere no matter what.  What an incredible journey these guys have all taken us on!

=====

On Sunday, March 8th it will have been 1,205 days since the current North Carolina senior class stepped on the Smith Center court to play the first game of their college careers.  The game was against Gardner-Webb, and North Carolina won 83-80.  These were their stats: 

PLAYER

MIN

FGM-A

FTM-A

OFF

REB

AST

PF

PTS

         

T. Hansbrough, F

28

9-12

3-4

1

4

1

2

21

         

B. Frasor, G

21

1-6

0-1

0

2

7

1

2

         

D. Green, G-F

13

4-6

6-6

1

1

1

1

17

         

M. Copeland, F

2

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

0

0

         

These guys started out together as a group that was supposed to rebuild a team that had been gutted by a national championship.  They weren’t picked in the preseason top 25.  I’m not even sure they were considered one of the top 100 teams in the country.  The analysts said they’d be lucky to make it to the NIT that season.  I still laugh every time I hear that because not only did they make the NCAA tournament, but they got an at-large bid and a #3 seed.  Granted they promptly lost in the 2nd round to eventual Final Four bound George Mason, but when that season was over, I just smiled because nearly everything people said they couldn’t do, they did.  We all knew they weren’t going to win the ACC title (though they came close, losing to BC in the semifinals).  And, we all knew they weren’t going to win the national championship.  There was just too much of a learning curve for that to happen.  But the Tar Heel faithful among us knew that they at least wouldn’t embarrass the North Carolina name. 

Flash forward to two days from now when these same four guys and three walk-on seniors take the court one last time at the Smith Center.  Think about that.  Really think about that.  Four college basketball players with scholarships to one of the elite basketball programs in the country not only silenced the critics as freshmen, but are graduating together.  Tell me the last time you remember a senior class staying intact for their entire four years and graduating together without anyone leaving early for the NBA.  That may take a while, so I’ll let you get back to me on that one.  But let me say this, we Tar Heel fans are DARN lucky to have experienced 1 day with them much less 1,205 days.

Sunday is special because it’s Senior Night.  On Senior Night at North Carolina (as it is at many college campuses) consists of introductions of the seniors (all of them) with their parents before the game.  The starting lineup for the game will be ALL seniors.  I do not envy Coach having to choose 5 of the 7 to start the game.  If only Marcus Ginyard hadn’t gotten hurt, it would have been a no-brainer…scholarship seniors start, but as is the case here, Coach will have to pick one of three walk-ons to start the game.  After the game, each of the 7 seniors will have an opportunity to address the Smith Center crowd and thank whomever they choose.  It’s usually families, coaches, teammates, and fans who get the thank yous, but it’s really always fun to hear what they have to say after spending 4 years wearing the greatest uniform in college basketball.

I’m writing this entry in advance of the game because I don’t want whatever happens in the game to cloud my feelings for these 7 guys that I have watched become men right before my eyes.  So, let me see if I can get through this without getting any tears in my keyboard. 

The Biscuit Crew (Patrick Moody, JB Tanner, and Jack Wooten):

patrickjbjack

  • Some people call them the mop up crew, bench warmers, walkons.  I call them the Biscuit Crew.  If you watch any amount of Tar Heel basketball games you’ll sometimes hear the announcers say something about free biscuits.  In the Triangle area of Tobacco Road, whenever North Carolina breaks 100 points in a basketball game, the local Bojangles offers 2 sausage biscuits for $1 to the UNC students.  Typically the only time we break 100 in a game is when the game is in hand and Coach sends out the walkons to finish off the clock.  I LOVE it when they get to play, but not for the reason you might think.  It’s not because the game is in hand so Carolina is going to win.  No, it’s because these guys play like the game is NOT in hand and they have to make the game winning shot.  I love that every one of them EARNED the right to wear that jersey.  The college recruiters didn’t come to their high school games to see them and offer a scholarship.  Instead, these guys answered the campus-wide opportunity to walk on to the basketball team.  They started with the JV squad, one of the few left in this country, and worked hard enough to be called on by Coach to sit at the end of the bench and earn biscuits for the rest of their fellow students.  They have the best seats in the house, get to go on all the road trips, which this year included the Maui Invitational, and they got to scrimmage with the President of the United States!  Their greatest contribution may be something we fans never get to see, and that’s practice.  On a weekly basis these guys have mimicked some of the best players in the country and certainly in the ACC in order to prepare their fellow teammates for what they should expect in the game.  I adore them and am constantly amazed by them. 

Mike Copeland:

80157080MW049_Clemson_v_Nor

  • When Mike Copeland smiles, you smile.  There is no way around it.  It’s infectious and fighting it is counter-intuitive.  Mike grew up a die hard Carolina fan and even now after four years his father (also a die hard fan) can’t believe his son is a Carolina basketball player.  Mike gets it.  He understands what a privilege it is to be a scholarship basketball player at UNC.  He may very well have the greatest personality on the entire team.  I can’t imagine whenever he is down on life that he’s ever down too long.  It surprised me earlier in the season when he was hard fouled at NC State and he got up ready to pounced on his assailant.  I knew at that moment that the hard foul had to have been pretty awful because it seems to me that you have to do some pretty terrible things before Mike will get after you.  I’m really going to miss his positive attitude and that smile!

Bobby Frasor:

bobby

  • Yep…that’s Bobby Frasor…jumping into an above ground swimming pool…4 months after tearing his ACL.  Gosh I Love college kids.  The hardest injury I’ve every had to watch of any of these guys (including Tyler breaking his nose) was when Bobby tore his ACL.  It was in a game against Nevada, and Bobby had just made a textbook steal.  On the breakaway, he stepped just wrong enough to tear it.  The minute he went down I knew.  The reason it was so hard is because it was Bobby’s 3rd major injury of his college career.  His freshman season was pretty good.  Then his sophomore season he hurt his foot, which probably never really healed because he later came back and ended up sitting due to soreness in the foot and a bruised hip.  Then, his junior season came the ACL tear.  He is the epitome of never giving up, but the best thing about Bobby is that he is the best TEAMMATE anyone could ask for.  Once he had torn his ACL, he sat faithfully on the bench for every game of the rest of that season and cheered his team on.  During the last few seconds of an overtime game against Clemson, Wayne Ellington hits a game winning three pointer.  Bobby gets so wrapped up in pumping his fist and cheering that he falls right over the bench.  You can see the YouTube video at the bottom of this post.  Bobby is the one in the suit at the end of the bench.  He’ll be in the top left corner when he falls.  He LOVES the game of basketball and someday will probably be a coach.  In fact, I expect in my lifetime that he will be introduced as the head coach of the North Carolina Tar Heels, and any team that gets him along the way in his coaching career will be truly blessed.  He understands that winning isn’t all about scoring points.  Sure they help, but it’s also about how you keep the other team from scoring points.  He also knows that the extra hustle and that desire that all true competitors have goes a long way to achieving your goals.  On the other hand, his pun-laced humor could use a little work.

Danny Green:

danny

  • Danny may be the most mature student-athlete out there.  Danny had to grow up pretty fast and not by choice.  His father had some legal issues that I won’t go into here out of respect for Danny, and Danny had to learn to be a full on adult right away including paying the family bills (not just his), taking care of his younger sibling, and going through the highs and lows of being a college student without the help of a parent he could call.  I admire him greatly for what he has been through just in the last 4 years personally.  He has weathered the storm that comes with being the 6th man with grace.  He has been the spark off the bench we needed more times than I can count.  His defense has improved incredibly over the last four years to the point that we can count on him to block shots and get in people’s faces.  His footwork…there just are no words.  He has a clear presence about him that tells you he knows not only where he is on the floor, but also where everyone else is.  He will work his behind off for whatever team he ends up on in the NBA because there seems to be no greater joy to him than watching a basketball fly through the net.  He’s also a pretty darn good dancer (see second video below). 

Tyler Hansbrough:

tylertyler2

  • Are there even enough words in the English language to describe how much of my joy of watching Tar Heel basketball games is tied to this guy?  This guy was supposed to be a one or two year guy.  He’s supposed to be traveling around the country with his NBA team right now.  He’s not supposed to be going to Swahili classes and study halls.  I have never…and I mean never…been more proud of a Tar Heel basketball player than the day the University issued Tyler’s statement last spring saying that he was returning for his senior season not just for basketball but to complete his education.  I have asked myself countless times, “what planet is he from?”.  I have marveled in his ability to shake off a double and triple team and still make the shot.  But the greatest thing I have been witness to is his team-first focus.  I watched as he sat out the first ever games of his college career at the beginning of this season due to a shin injury.  There were times it seemed he couldn’t get enough of watching his teammates play.  This kid from Poplar Bluff, MO arrived in Chapel Hill, NC and never looked back.  He has fully immersed himself in the Chapel Hill culture and the North Carolina tradition.  He has been called every name in the book and his own real name has been butchered in ways you can never imagine from Taylor Hansburrow to an apparent connection to a toy manufacturing company when an announcer called him Tyler Hasbro during a game…true story.  You will never out work him.  He will dive for that ball and fight for it to the whistle.  He will work early hours, late hours, whatever hours that he has to to be a better player or the player you think he needs to be.  And really what more could you ask for than a player who is never content with his game.  He is 70 points away from being the greatest scorer in ACC history.  Yes, his jersey will hang from the rafters one day, but I know without a doubt he’d give it all back for another banner to hang there instead.