Monthly Archives: February 2010
Believe it or not, every season of Carolina Basketball I get so frustrated with them that I seriously consider not watching ever again. I’m conditioned to believe that they’ll win every game they play when in fact they’ve only gone undefeated once in 100 seasons. I sort of did that last season when I got so angry with them beating themselves (all 4 times), that I would DVR the game and not start watching it from the beginning until the 2nd half started. That way, by the time I caught up to the live feed, the game was over or almost over and I would know the outcome. It helped save a few years on the end of my life, so that was worth it. This season, to say the least, has been frustrating. So frustrating, that I’m at the point where I have to laugh to keep from crying. Last night watching the UNC/FSU game, I actually physically hurt when one turnover after another just made my muscles ache.
Then, I got up this morning, and as I do after every game, I log on to tarheelblue.com and read Adam Lucas’s post-game column. I’ve studied most of the great literary writers in history. Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations is still a page turner, and I find something I missed in Shakespeare every time I read him. But no one has ever made me feel like he was sitting in my living room watching the game with me like Adam Lucas. Like clock work, after every game, Adam posts a column not about the stats and percentages but about the story behind the game. He’s moved me to tears and made me laugh…sometimes in the same column. In short, he’s more often than not put what I was thinking in print because he’s just as much a fan as the rest of us.
North Carolina is currently a .500 team that could end up being a below .500 team before it’s all said and done. A rare occurence at best. In the 100 years of Tar Heel Basketball, the program has amassed a nearly 74% winning percentage second only to Kentucky in the history of college basketball. This losing thing is really kind of new to all of us. In those 100 seasons, the program has experienced a .500 or below season just 11 times. ELEVEN TIMES! Think about that. It’s entirely possible that someone had an entire lifetime without EVER seeing Carolina have a losing season. So, as I read the words that Adam Lucas wrote to remind us all that no fan of any other team is feeling sorry for us…that in fact, they’re likely rejoicing in our learning how the other half lives, I laughed. I remembered just how incredibly lucky I am to be a Carolina fan. To know that the one place where people like Michael Jordan, James Worthy, Vince Carter, and Antawn Jamison are just “one of the guys” is tiny little Chapel Hill, NC because those bigger than life NBA and former NBA players will never be bigger than the program itself.
Using the advice his own father gave him after a Carolina loss, Adam reminded us just how important it is to be a Carolina fan during the good times AND the bad times. “You have to sit through the bad ones to enjoy the good ones.” Truer words were never spoken. I remember feeling the sweetness when we won the National Championship just 11 months ago (yes…that was just 11 months ago) because the year before had ended on such a horribly sour note in the Final Four. I remember crying all the way to church the next day because I was so upset, and then I remember just 12 months later not being able to wipe the stupid, silly grin off my face. Even now, when I think about that run to the championship, I still giggle a little. Someday, we’ll all look back on this and laugh…I hope…when we think about how frustrated we all were. How we all felt like a program that has spent nearly 90% of its lifetime winning more games during the season than losing them couldn’t catch a break this season. And I hope when we are at that point, we will look back and remember that Adam Lucas was the one who set us on this course by finding the silver lining in the midst of misery.
Feb. 24, 2010
By Adam Lucas
In the spring of 1986, I cried when Louisville beat Carolina in the NCAA Tournament round of 16. It was a sound 15-point whipping, as “Never Nervous” Pervis Ellison was in the middle of one of the best months of his basketball life. It left my beloved Tar Heels without a Final Four for the fourth year in a row–imagine that, four straight years without a Final Four!–and I went to my room, cried, and wished evil things for Never Nervous Pervis (it worked, as he was drafted by the Sacramento Kings).
I’m not particularly proud of the reaction. Since then, I have moved on to much more mature responses to losses, such as breaking things. At the time, though, I think my parents were a little concerned about what type of weirdo/person they were raising. After what I imagine was probably some intense negotiation, with my mother slamming down her fist and yelling, “I have to pack his lunch every day, do you know what it’s like to make peanut butter and jelly five days a week?” my dad came into my room very cautiously.
It was at that moment that he gave me some of the most profound advice he ever shared with me. Yes, even ahead of, “Don’t plan on being tall,” or, “A red light is a great place to catch a nap.”
This is what he said: “You have to sit through the bad ones to enjoy the good ones.”
And he was right. It didn’t make me like Never Nervous Pervis (you’d be surprised how many ways a 9-year-old can find to make fun of a name like “Pervis”) any better, but it did make it feel a little sweeter seven years later when George Lynch and the Tar Heels were on top of that ladder cutting down the nets in the Superdome. Somehow, I felt like I’d earned it. I’d weathered Louisville and Syracuse and Arizona and Kansas. Michigan felt good.
The truth is, we don’t sit through many bad ones as Carolina basketball fans. No one feels sorry for us. You know that, right? They love this. They are downright gleeful that for three months out of our lives, we’re experiencing what it’s like to be everyone else. We’re even having to talk about…next year.
We stink at talking about next year. That’s because we have no practice at it. Next year to us might as well be 20 years away (same with last year, but that’s a different column). Most every year that I’ve been alive except for maybe three, a Carolina basketball season has been about this year until the last possible second elapses in the NCAA Tournament.
Take Roy Williams’s first year. That team couldn’t figure out how to play together long enough for the water to get hot. But when the brackets came out on Selection Sunday, do you know what everyone said? “Carolina is a Final Four sleeper.” This year.
That was crazy talk. But it was Carolina, so it made sense. Struggles are never a permanent condition. The Tar Heels are .500 right now and every national media outlet is wondering what’s wrong. You know where this team will be next November? Right back in the national preseason top-25. This isn’t a foundation-shaking season. It’s just a disappointing season.
If you’re a Tar Heel, in most years sitting through the bad ones means that maybe six or seven times a season, you’re miserable. This year is different. This year, now that I’m a father and don’t want to risk raising my son to be the same weirdo/person that I am, I’m having to come up with different ways to answer the question, “Daddy, did the Tar Heels win last night?” at the breakfast table each morning after a game.
Usually, I try to distract him with Spiderman, which has a remarkable success rate.
Maybe it would be better to tell him the truth, to prepare him that there will be some bad ones along the way to all the good ones. And the truth is that Wednesday night was a bad one. On Wednesday night, Florida State was demonstrably better than Carolina. The Tar Heels couldn’t get stops when they needed them, shot 52 percent from the field in the first half and still trailed by 15 points, and committed too many silly turnovers.
You don’t worry about the upperclassmen quite as much, because they’ve won at Carolina and know how to win. It’s the freshmen that concern you.
“I don’t want to feel like this ever again,” Dexter Strickland said. “I feel embarrassed. It’s probably the worst game I’ve ever played and it’s aggravating.”
Without prompting, though, he quickly turned the focus to the future.
“This season will help us in the future,” he said. “This feeling I have right now, it makes me want to play even harder to make sure I never feel this way again.”
The freshmen don’t have to look far to see recent examples of other Tar Heels who endured first-year hardships on the way to eventual success. Raymond Felton played in the NIT. Jawad Williams was on a team that didn’t even qualify for the NIT.
Both left Carolina as national champions, which means when they return to Chapel Hill they are kings. They played through the bad ones to get to the good ones, and both would tell you even today that the ending was a little bit sweeter because of the way it all began.
“I talked to Melvin (Scott) the other day,” John Henson said. “He told me you have to keep pushing. He said they had their rough times, and if you fold up, it’s going to be worse. We can’t do that.”
Adam Lucas is the publisher of Tar Heel Monthly. He is also the author or co-author of five books on Carolina basketball, including the just-released book on the 2009 national title, One Fantastic Ride. Get real-time UNC sports updates from the THM staff on Twitter.
Read the full text here.
Note to reader: This post has no catchy title and it also has no ability to submit comments. This matter deserves neither a catchy play on words for a title nor the ability for readers to use the comment section of this blog as an avenue to bash another human being however imperfect he may be.
Let me begin by saying that in no way, shape, or form is it acceptable to cheat on a significant other. I am not trying to excuse what Tiger Woods did with any woman who was not his wife. That said, let’s see if I can concisely explain how I felt when Tiger’s press conference was complete yesterday, which as soon as it was over, the only word that came to mind was WOW. I’m throwing out how controlled the entire environment was from the specific people invited to the intentional placement of the people in the front row. I couldn’t care less who was there and who wasn’t because those people were not the one behind the podium. I’m also throwing out any kind of body language analysis. What comes from this is not going to be found in his eye twitches, his body shifts, the tone of his voice, or his hand movements.
The absolute truth in all of this is that Tiger Woods does not in any way owe me an apology. He did nothing to me, never promised me anything. Was I disappointed when I heard what he’d done? Absolutely, but I had no right to be. If I passed Tiger Woods on the street, he wouldn’t know who I was any more than he’d know any other stranger on that same street. What he did is a matter between him, his wife, his family, her family, and their children. I have been through this with some of my friends, and it is incredibly hard to sit back and watch the life they had fall apart. It’s difficult to support them when they choose to go back to the person who cheated and it’s just as difficult to watch them physically and mentally hurt when they have to walk away because going back didn’t work out. But when it comes right down to it, those are the decisions that each person has to make for themselves based on their situation. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s still each person’s decision.
I want to believe that people are basically good and sincere. I know that this is not always the case, but I still want to believe it. It’s also in my nature to forgive. I want to believe that what Tiger said yesterday was honest and from his heart, but the only way to know if it was will be from his behavior beyond this point. The most accurate statement that Tiger made yesterday was:
As Elin pointed out to me, my real apology to her will not come in the form of words; it will come from my behavior over time.
While he doesn’t owe it to any of us but his family to prove that he has changed his behavior, that is the only way we will know that he meant what he said in his statement. Right now what he said is just words. It is now up to him to prove that he meant them. Do I believe him? Honestly, I don’t know, but I am willing to give him the opportunity to prove himself. I’m not willing to write him off just, yet.
I realize what he did is horrible by every stretch of the imagination, but at the end of the day, he is an imperfect human and in every day of my almost 32 years of life, I have NEVER met a perfect human. We are all imperfect. We all make mistakes. Some of us make more mistakes than others, and some of us make a lot of mistakes in a short amount of time. And I don’t really care if he was with one woman or twenty because one is enough to make it wrong. But nothing anyone does can make him or her perfect. I learned a long time ago that judging people was a waste of time. Do I have opinions about what is right and what is wrong? Absolutely. But the ultimate decision on that is not mine and it is not right for me to judge him on his actions.
I understand that it is human nature to not want to forgive him and to judge him and criticize him. But the bottom line as I’ve mentioned already in this post is that this is a private matter between him and his family. Yes, he’s a public figure. Yes, there are a lot of children who looked up to him. And for their sake, I appreciated him addressing them directly because children don’t understand yet that human’s are imperfect. But to be perfectly honest, using any public figure as a role model for your children is playing with fire. Every parent should strive to be the role model for their children rather than using a celebrity to fill that position. At the end of the day, I will always believe that becoming a public figure should not mean that the person has to give up their privacy. The worst part of Tiger’s statement yesterday was hearing him talk about how the media had followed Elin and Sam to school one day to take pictures and ultimately harass them. I am ashamed that I live in a world where harassment is acceptable to get a picture of a child whose father made mistakes.
I know a lot of people went into that press conference not even willing to actually hear what he said. People who wanted to hear what he had to say so they could criticize him even more, rake him over the coals one more time, and attempt to get more support for a public stoning. People who had already decided what they thought about the situation and nothing he said yesterday or does in the future will change their opinion. And those people are completely entitled to their opinion, but for those people who haven’t made up their minds, I hope they actually listened and actually heard the words he said. I hope that in the months and years to come as he attempts to build a new (and hopefully different) life for himself and for his family, that he will live the words he expressed. That he will remember that he is NOT entitled to act any way he wants to. That he will remember that his behavior was selfish and that it hurt the people he loved more than he ever could have imagined. That he will truly see the error of his ways and change for the better. I hope, in short, that he will be the Tiger Woods we all thought he was before Thanksgiving.
I know the exact moment I became a Colts fan. It was the morning of April 18th, 1998, the spring semester of my sophomore year in college. I set my alarm because at that point in my life I could still sleep late. I got up and went out to the living room TV so I wouldn’t wake my roommate and I turned on the NFL draft. Until that very morning, the Colts were still going back and forth between Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf for their 1st overall pick. I’d already promised myself I’d become a fan of whatever team chose Peyton Manning. So, when Paul Tagliabue stepped to the podium, I was glued to the screen and at that very moment, I became a Colts fan. I turned off the TV and went back to bed because again, at that point in my life, I could still do that.
So maybe I got to the party late. Maybe I didn’t suffer through the moving from Baltimore to Indianapolis or the bad seasons. But nevertheless, I wanted to engross myself in being a Colts fan. I wanted to soak up every bit of history so I could defend my team to the death. I wanted to learn to wear my team colors when they won AND when they lost. I wanted to understand how to hold my head high no matter what the outcome because I’d rather have bad times with my team than good times with any other team out there. On that Saturday morning in April 1998, I had no idea just how much I would fall in love with these people who took a chance on Peyton and made him the cornerstone of the franchise.
In the Colts, I found owner Jim Irsay (the polar opposite of his demonic father), quite possibly one of the most genuine human beings I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. This man LOVES his job, and he cares so deeply about every player, employee, and fan that he makes sure the product he gives us is the highest quality he can make it. In 13 short years, he has transformed the franchise from a laughing stock to one of the most respected franchises in the league. I found Bill Polian, who doesn’t always make popular decisions, but I have never seen a man more capable of recognizing talent in some of the most obscure places. In a world where having the right pieces in all the right places is the only way to have success, he is the chess master. And I hope he has taught his son (likely the general manager/president in waiting) every last facet of what he knows and looks for and sees. I found Bob Lamey, the heartfelt voice of the Colts who is employed by the franchise but has the heart of a fan. I grew up in a family of Tampa Bay Buccaneer fans who, try as they might, never could get me on board that ship, but the one impression that lasted the longest with me was how deeply rooted Gene Deckerhoff (the voice of the Bucs) was in being a fan of the team. When Gene is disappointed in a performance, you hear it in his voice, and when Bob is disappointed in a performance, you hear it in his voice. Equally so, when they’re excited about something, it’ll make you jump out of your seat. In my head, I can still hear Bob calling the end of the 2006 AFC championship game that sent the Colts to their first Super Bowl since 1971. “Intercepted Marlin Jackson. Marlin’s got it. We’re going to the Super Bowl. We’re going to the Super Bowl.” That soundbite still makes me tear up. I found the city of Indianapolis, one of the quietest metropolises in the country aptly nicknamed “Naptown.” These people allowed themselves to subvert their traditional basketball and racing history and become a football town…to become a group of people who supported their team to the bitter end no matter what.
When it all first started…my obsession with the Colts…it was clearly geared towards Peyton Manning, but over time I decided that if I was going to pull for Peyton, I was going to have to pull for the Colts, too. And if I’m going to pull for the Colts, I should know a little something about them. Where “little” here means every last piece of information I could get my hands on. At this point, I feel like I’ve studied them as much as Peyton studies game film, but yet every now and then I unearth a story about one of the players that adds just one more layer. When I say “we” in reference to the team, I don’t feel strange saying it because I feel like so much a part of them. I will never, ever know what it’s like to play football, to win or lose a game as a player, or to talk to the media when you’re just dying inside for throwing an interception, allowing a touchdown, or shanking a kick wide right…but those guys who suit up every fall are now a part of who I am, so I say we.
I love that we have so many undrafted free agents on the team. I love that the leader of the defense is one of them, and given the choice of any other defensive player in the NFL, I’d still pick Gary Brackett every time. I love that the defense gets pissed off when a team goes for it on 4th down and that somehow, someway they become a brick wall because of it. I love that Bill Polian takes wide receivers and tight ends and running backs that other teams wouldn’t bat an eye at and throws them at Peyton and says, “make them incredible.” But I love even more that Peyton does it and does it so well…turning a no name Division III receiver into one of the most talked about players in the league. I love that the offensive line protects the pocket as if it’s their own son or daughter. I love that Antoine Bethea gets mad when he forces an incomplete pass on 3rd down because the ball hit the ground instead of him intercepting it. I love that when the most athletic player on defense is placed on injured reserve for the umpteenth time in his career, no one in the entire organization from top to bottom, Jim Irsay to fan, blinks because the next man up will fill the void and fill it well. I love that all but 2 starters (offense, defense, and special teams) have played their entire careers for the Colts. I love how much fun they have out on that field and how tight knit of a group they are off the field. I love that these men are some of the finest people to ever walk this planet. They have their priorities straight, which is to say faith and family come first.
Every player that has come through this franchise is a family member. And when they leave to retire or go to another team, I always try to keep track of where they are and wish for them the best. At some point during their time with the Colts, I know they made me smile. And that is why at a time like this when we fell one game short of the ultimate goal, I still smile, I still hold my head up proudly, I still love them just as much as I loved them the day before the game…maybe even more. There are a million people out there who would love to finish a season 16-3. There are a million people out there who would love to have an explosive offense like the one led by Peyton Manning and Jeff Saturday…to know that a series starting on the 99 yard line is just as likely to end in the end zone as a series that starts anywhere else on the field. There are a million people out there who would love to have a scrappy defense that never gives up and demands respect with every play. There are a million people out there who would love to know that when their defensive end gets hurt in a game, that there is absolutely no doubt in his mind or ours that he’ll be playing in the next game…injured or not. There are a million people out there who would love to have as much confidence as we have in a 42 year old kicker.
As a fan of the Indianapolis Colts, I have led a charmed life, but in April 1998, I had no idea I could love a franchise as much as I love them. I had no idea that I would fight for them when they lose just as hard as I fight for them when they win. I had no idea I would feel so deeply for them that I would physically hurt when they hurt. Have I questioned them from time to time…of course…what fan hasn’t questioned their team, but when I look back at the last decade of football, I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I may have lost years off the end of my life just from the stress alone, but these guys have shown this girl one heck of a good time. Jim Irsay always says the journey is more important than the destination, and he’s right. If you don’t enjoy the ride along the way, what’s the point of any of it at the end.
Thank you, Indianapolis Colts for the last 12 years. I look forward to going into battle with you for the rest of my life.
Believe in Blue
Make it Personal
United We Stand