KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE BALL, Coach Dorrance might say. Don't be distracted by the man watching from the sidelines, I counter.
In the aftermath of winning his 20th NCAA-sanctioned national championship, like a clever slight-of-hand magician, UNC head women's soccer coach Anson Dorrance brought up his supposed 21st, his AIWA (whatever that is) championship. In doing so, he cleverly tried to distract us from a stack of disturbing facts: his mounting losses. In his 31 years as head coach, Dorrance has now lost 36 games. That's more losses than years, if you can believe it. And eight of the losses came in the last four years. Do the math, that’s two a year!
If Dorrance continues on this slippery slope, like Bobby Bowen, he'll be having a .500 season, probably sometime in the 22nd century -- supposing we would tolerate him that long. Trust us, Anson, we won't.
Goodbye and good riddance, Casey
A lot of people have been celebrating Casey Nogueira’s career this week, what with her team winning another national championship and her being named the College Cup's Most Outstanding Player on Offense -- again. But these are the sentiments of the typical what-have-you-done-for-me-lately fans that we see everywhere we go in sports. But real fans don't just focus on what been done for us lately, we remember what was done to us a while ago too.
Four years ago, the Tar Heel women's soccer team did to us fans what had not been done to us in twenty-three years. They lost the first game of the season.
I remember like it was yesterday: the pain I felt reading the news story a couple of days after the game. A measly national championship or three can't erase memories like those for real fans.
But, you might ask, how can I blame that loss on Casey Nogueira? Isn't it true that Casey didn't play in that game? Well, yes, but is that my fault? If Casey and fellow freshman Tobin Heath, projected starters for UNC, decide to go play with the U.S. National Team in Russia at the Under-20 World Championship, is that my problem? Well, when "their team" loses their first game, it is.
And here's the way it’s been lately: two years running an unbeaten and untied challenger has faced the Nogueira-led North Carolina in the NCAA championship match. And so, while two years in a row, the Tar Heels have beaten them, making sure that UNC remained the only program ever to finish a season unbeaten and untied, it is but little consolation when our championships come with blemishes -- like losses and ties.
And if Casey’s so great, how is it that in 27 games this year, with Tar Heel opponents scoring a total of 12 goals, Casey barely outscored them with 13 goals of her own?
I don’t think I have been so disappointed in a Tar Heel women's soccer player since 1992 when senior Kristine Lilly failed to repeat as national player of the year -- being beat out by a player on her own team, some girl named Mia.
The Blind Side: A blatant plug
I never thought I would reduce myself to this, but I am shilling for Hollywood. I do it for one reason: a Hollywood movie worth seeing. It's a true story -- and, somehow, they didn't mess it up.
The movie tells the story of Michael Oher, who is now a rookie offensive tackle for the NFL's Baltimore Ravens. It is a tale of his overcoming seemingly overwhelming adversity with the help of some caring people. I don't want to give away too much of the story, but Oher's success, given that he had one of the most inadequate educations imaginable in a country with compulsory school attendance laws, is truly inspiring.
Go see it. You won't need to care about football, I promise.
Gary D. Gaddy watched the Ravens play the Packers on Monday Night Football this week and spent most of the time watching offensive line play.
A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday December 11, 2009.
Copyright 2009 Gary D. Gaddy