THIS PAST WEEK'S SPORTS NEWS featuring the Tar Heel Nation illustrates several fundamental principles of the sporting life. The most prominent being: "It does not matter what you say about me, just make sure you spell my name right."
The Tar Heel Haters, of whom there are not a few, have enjoyed the last six months of bad news regarding the University of North Carolina's beleaguered football program. The NC State fan base of the Tar Heel Haters, of whom there are not a few, have particularly enjoyed watching the Tar Heel Nation squirm under the unforgiving light of multiple serial and simultaneous NCAA investigations.
But, and here comes, "It does not matter what you say about me, just make sure you spell my name right." It turns out "UNC" is hard to misspell. (And hardly anybody, it seems, confuses the University of North Carolina with the University of Northern Colorado.) All this negative press, and the prospect of NCAA probation and other sanctions, should have killed UNC's football recruiting, right? Wrong.
This week included the most important date of the football season: "Signing Day," the day in which football-playing high school seniors sign their binding letters of intent. And, in case you haven't noticed, players are what make up football teams. In the various national recruiting rankings, UNC, bad press and all, was listed as 19th, 15th and 13th in three different polls, while NC State, which had nothing but good press, what little there was of it, ended up 67th in one and unranked in the other two.
As for basketball, ESPN GameDay covered, on national television, for seven long minutes, more than a week after the fact, Roy Williams' televised press conference tirade against a "fan" who criticized his team and Williams' subsequent apology for his rant during his radio call-in show. This is, some would say, the kind of distraction that could knock a team off of its game. Some would be wrong.
The supposedly soft Heels proceeded to demolish a talented NC State team and obliterate a veteran Boston College squad. Former Duke player and Duke Law School graduate, Jay Bilas* said of Williams' rant, "I loved it because he was standing up for his players," adding, "I liked what Roy Williams said, and I'm sure his players did, too." I'm sure they did, too.
The Duke women and the Duke men let me down this week. The Duke men lost to St. John's, the eleventh place team in the Big East, by 15 points. Duke, as the only ranked team in the ACC, made the rest of the conference, including my Heels, look even more pathetic. Now we'll have to beat them to feel good about ourselves.
Likewise it goes for the Duke women’s team's loss to the University of Connecticut Huskies. As little a fan as I am of Joanne P. McCauley, I am even less a fan of the most undeserving coach in all of coachdom, Geno "I yell obscene things at teenagers because it makes them play better"** Auriemma. I pulled hard for the Devils until the game was over, that is, ten minutes into the game when the score was 23-2 Huskies. Now we'll have to beat them to feel good about ourselves.
* My lawyeresque wife once had an on-campus interview at a law school which shall remain unnamed with attorney Bilas for a summer internship at his law firm. She shocked some of her younger co-ed classmates with the frank evaluation she made of him afterwards: "He's cute!!"
** Auriemma’s player-directed obscenities are not a rumor or a second-hand report or even the transcript from a lip-reading friend of my wife who once interpreted Mike Krzyzewski's "comments" to an official during a televised game. It comes from an ear-tingling personal experience several years ago when I sat behind the UConn bench in the Smith Center. I won't tell you what Auriemma said because I don't repeat such things even in a whisper and certainly wouldn't put them in a family newspaper. One disgusting thing Auriemma once yelled at one of his players which I will repeat: "I don't even know why I recruited you!!!" Sweet guy, ain't he?
Gary D. Gaddy's wife, despite her Wahoo grad degree and her devilish legal credentials, is now and ever shall be, true Tar Heel blue.
A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday February 4, 2011.
Copyright 2011 Gary D. Gaddy