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Friday, April 2, 2010
Deconstructing the Defenestrations of Prague

"DEFENESTRATION: Sales dive leads to turnover at the top," the online headline said, which prompted me to quiz my lovely and unsuspecting wife (who was also online at a different computer in the same room).  Reading the headline aloud, I asked: “What does defenestration mean?"  Her response: "It seems like I ought to know."

So, now for her and the rest of my reading public, I present a tutorial on defenestrations and their place in history.  With the help of tens of thousands of Wikipedia contributors, let me enlighten us all.

When I think defenestration, I think the Defenestration of Prague.  There were, however, two Defenestrations of Prague, not one as I had previously supposed, and neither led to World War I, as I had thought.  (The event I had conflated was probably the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914.)

The Defenestrations of Prague were, in fact, two distinct incidents in the history of Bohemia. (Right off, don't you love any event in the history of Bohemia?)  The first occurred in 1419 and the second in 1618.  The term "Defenestration of Prague" is more commonly used to refer to the latter incident (the one which I remembered vaguely).  Both incidents helped to trigger prolonged conflict within Bohemia and beyond.

But before history, let's do vocabulary.  Defenestration is the act of throwing someone out of a window. Etymologically it does not come directly from German (fenster: window), as I errantly thought, but is from Latin (de: out of, with a downward motion implied; fenestra: window).

The first Defenestration of Prague occurred on July 30, 1419 -- and was not a lot of fun as it involved the killing of seven members of the city council by a crowd of radical Czech Hussites. It marked the turning point between talk and action leading to the prolonged Hussite wars, which lasted until 1436.  (Hussites, you may be interested to know, are lineal predecessors of the Moravians who founded Old Salem and brought us those really tasty thin sugar cookies and gooey sugar cakes.)

The second, more famous, Defenestration of Prague was initiated when some members of the Bohemian aristocracy rebelled following the selection in 1617 of a much earlier Ferdinand, the Catholic Duke of Styria, as King of Bohemia. On May 23, 1618, an assemblage of Protestants led by Count Thurn, whom the Emperor had deprived of his post as Castellan (whatever that is) of Karlstadt, who reacting to an inflammatory letter from the Emperor's principal adviser, Bishop Klesl, exhorted his followers to throw the Regents appointed by the Emperor out the window "as is customary." (Don't you also love Bohemian customs?)

This group proceeded to bribe their way into the Prague Castle where the Regents were meeting.  Many present in the room later claimed that they thought the Regents were only going to be arrested, saying by the time they realized what was happening, it was too late to stop it. The two Regents, along with their secretary, Philip Fabricius, were thrown out the third floor window.  Falling almost 100 feet, the three landed, happily, I guess, on a large pile of manure -- and thus survived.  (I am not making this up.)

Fabricius, when later ennobled by the Emperor, was granted, apparently without tongue in cheek, the title of Baron von Hohenfall (literally meaning "of high fall").  Roman Catholic Imperial officials claimed that the three men survived due to the mercy of angels assisting the righteousness of the Catholic cause.  Protestant pamphleteers asserted that their survival had more to do with the horse excrement in which they landed than the benevolent acts of angels.  In any case, the defenestration was central to the start of the Thirty Years' War.

For those few of you for whom this little history still does not make clear sense, but who are up on their current events, just substitute Democrat for Catholic and Republican for Protestant (or vice versa), it will all become perfectly obvious.


Gary D. Gaddy has walked across the Latin Bridge over the River Miljacka in Sarajevo, Bosnia, near where the later Ferdinand was shot.

A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday April 2, 2010.

Copyright 2010  Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:01 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 8:57 AM EDT
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Friday, March 26, 2010
Why my dad married my mom, I think

IT'S A PRETTY GOOD LOVE STORY, my mom and dad.  As I have mentioned before, every Thanksgiving Dad tells the story of how they first met.  This is how it goes. During his freshman year, in the fall of 1940, my dad's roommate at Wingate Junior College, Paul Chapman, invited my dad home to Maiden for Thanksgiving weekend.

Paul asked his younger sister, Inez, then a high school senior, to set him up with a date with a particular girl from town and "to get a date for his roommate Cliff."  So, she did. She picked herself. (Please note that this is about 30 or 40 years before a girl could ask a boy for a date other than on Sadie Hawkins' Day.)

My dad says it was pretty much love at first sight.  If you ever saw my mom during that era (or any other, for that matter), you would understand.  The photo caption from the local newspaper read: "Beauty Queen: Miss Inez Chapman of Maiden recently elected beauty queen in the annual contest held at Wingate Junior College.  She is one the outstanding members of the freshman class, an honor student, and is campaigning for the secretaryship of the student body."  The picture makes the "Beauty Queen" heading quite redundant.

It may be Cliff fell for Inez because she fell for him too. My younger brother Bob recently found a copy of a book of poems which my mom wrote for an English assignment at Wingate. The book is entitled "These Will Remain" and it is dedicated to one Clifford Gaddy. This collection of 31 poems, many about her true love (including two different poems titled "To Clifford."), induced the professor to give her an "A."  My dad probably liked her poetry too.

If my dad had seen the future, he may have fallen for her even harder -- if that would have been possible.  As a dedicated wife, she supported him any way she could through the rest of his college and medical school years.  After he finished his internship and residency, my mom served in her church and her community in extraordinary ways. She was, among other things, at different times, the president of the local YWCA, of the Mental Health Association, and of the Wednesday Club, the local women's club for promoting culture and community service.

And she did this while raising six children (four boys and two girls), all born in a span of 11 years.  Most of them turned out pretty good. The six of us ended up with two doctorates, one medical degree, two master’s and the one who didn't finish college is a mechanical genius -- but all would agree that mom, who never finished college, is smarter than any of us.  For the record, my mom made straight "A" grades in school -- before she met my dad.  (Love will do that to you.)

And my mom is pretty sweet too. For her 80th birthday my sister Betty made a poster titled "80 Things We Love About Nez." She had to edit down the list of nominated suggestions made by her children and grandchildren. Probably should have made it 180.

However, my mother is not perfect (although smart, sweet, caring and pretty is a pretty good combination -- just ask my wife).  When I was playing Little League, my older brothers told me to "Always tell Mom practice gets out an hour earlier than it actually does."  So, being the obedient little brother that I was, I did.  On the day when the first practice finished -- right on time -- I looked up and Mom was driving up. Told you she raised smart kids.

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad!


Gary D. Gaddy's parents, Inez Chapman Gaddy and Clifford Garland Gaddy, Sr., have been married for sixty-five years this week. He is hoping the marriage works out. (See the January 8th birthday edition, "Ten or so things that I learned from my dad.")

 A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday March 26, 2010.

Copyright  2010  Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:25 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, March 26, 2010 9:06 AM EDT
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Friday, March 19, 2010
Welcome to Neologismia and other made-up words

ALL MY COLUMNS ARE WRITTEN IN WORDS.  Mostly the same old words (e.g., the, be, to, of, and, a, in, that, I).  This gets boring for me, so I am sure it gets boring for you, my dedicated readers. (I was thinking here of Sandra and Dan.)  So, this week's edition will move into new linguistic territory.  Welcome to Neologismia!

Let's start with a quiz.  (Please hum any tune from the "Sound of Music" as you answer.).

A neologism is: (C) An amalgam of the Greek words for new and word; (B) The antonym, sort of, of oldlogism; (E) A linguistic indicator of psychosis; (D) Just a made-up word; (A) All of the above.

The answer is: All of the above.

According to Wikipedia, neologism comes from the Greek νέος (neos "new") + λÏŒγος (logos "word" ), and is a newly coined word that has not yet been accepted into mainstream language.  According to the Oxford English Dictionary the word neologism was first used in print in AD 1483, back when neologism was a neologism.

Also, the use of "novel, idiosyncratic words [neologisms] . . . are evidence of psychosis (or possibly, of creativity)," according to Paula T. Trzepacz and Robert W. Baker, authors of "The Psychiatric Mental Status Examination."  [Confer an alternative linguistic indicator of psychosis, echolalia, which is the immediate and involuntary repetition of words or phrases just spoken by others, often characteristic of Miss America contestants.]

Oldlogism is, in fact, a neologism for an old neologism.

So, why should we care about neologisms, besides that they are funny and fun to say? Scholars suggest that neologisms are essential to every human's mental construction of the world.  The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis contends that the varying cultural concepts and categories inherent in different languages constrain the cognitive classification of the experienced world in such a way that speakers of different languages think (and thus behave) differently because of them.  In other words, we cannot think or act outside the confines of our language.

So, whenever we can't explain the world with existing vocabulary, we invent new words.

But, now, let's take another neologism quiz.

Arrange the following neologisms in the order of their first appearance in print from earliest to latest: truthiness, prequel, Internet, retronym, Blogosphere.

This was easy.  They are in order from oldest to newest.

Truthiness was first attested in print in 1824, according to the Oxford English Dictionary  It meant truthful. In its more recent incarnation, truthiness is a "truth" that a person claims to know intuitively "from the gut" without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination -- or facts.  Comedian Stephen Colbert presented this newer definition during his political satire program The Colbert Report in 2005.

Prequel first appeared in print in 1958 in an article by Anthony Boucher in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and refers to a "sequel" which comes in time before the original. Other sequel variants include midquel, sidequel and threequel.

Internet was first used, as shorthand for internetworking; in 1974, starting out as an adjective rather than the noun it is most frequently today.

Retronym, coined by Frank Mankiewicz in 1980, is a new or augmented name for an object or concept to differentiate the original from a more recent form or version.  An example of a retronym is "acoustic guitar" (coined after electric guitars appeared).

Blogosphere was so named by Brad L. Graham in 1999, as a joke. The Blogosphere is the collective community of all blogs.  A blog (a contraction of "web log") is a type of website, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary and descriptions of events, with the entries displayed in reverse-chronological order.  In 2007, the blog search engine Technorati was tracking more than 112 million blogs worldwide.

[Note: The primary sources of infauxmation used in this column are the venerable Oxford English Dictionary and Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Please note that the Wikipedia policy on neologisms, as referenced in the article on neologisms, is to avoid neologisms, which ignores that all words were once neologisms.]


Gary D. Gaddy is a neologist of the superial rankitude. ( is his planet in the Blogosphere.)

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday March 19, 2010.

Copyright  2010  Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:01 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, March 17, 2010 5:30 PM EDT
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Friday, March 12, 2010
Chapel Hill's problem is Chapel Hill

THE PROBLEM WITH CHAPEL HILL is often it doesn't seem to know that it is the problem with Chapel Hill.

(By Chapel Hill I don't mean the all the town’s citizenry.  By Chapel Hill I mean the town's political establishment and the governing bureaucracy.  Don't get me wrong, many of these people are well-meaning.  But don't get me wrong on this either. Well-meaning is a pejorative.  Well-meaning is synonymous with blithely wrongheaded.)

Chapel Hill doesn't seem to understand that while taxes and regulation are necessary -- if we are to have any government at all -- they are a necessary evil.  They don't seem to understand that the private property in Chapel Hill does not belong to the town; it belongs to the property owners.

Briefly, in the aftermath of Hurricane Fran in 1996, Chapel Hill police restricted access to the town at the town limits.  I thought it was an appropriate move for Chapel Hill, making Chapel Hill the state's only gated municipality.  But, it was unnecessary anyway.  The town has built a barrier much tougher to breach: a massive wall made of land-use taxes, fees, rules and regulations that take a special ladder constructed of dollar bills to get over.

Periodically, local governments study the cost of housing in Chapel Hill.  These taskforces, study groups and advisory boards work hard to figure out why housing costs so much here.  A small mirror would be a lot simpler.

Currently, Chapel Hill assesses a $6,092 impact fee on every new single-family home.  This is a horribly regressive tax (0.6 percent on a million dollar house but 6.0 percent on a $100,000 house -- if such a thing could be built in Chapel Hill).

Eleven years ago, the Chapel Hill Fire Department had 56 members, only one of whom owned a home in Chapel Hill.  Chapel Hill's solution?  “To keep more firefighters, and other workers, in town,” the town "would require developers to build a certain percentage of affordable homes in each subdivision," reported  This rule, as implemented, requires 15 percent of the homes be “affordable” whenever a developer needs a special-use permit.

This, of course, has worked wonders for keeping housing costs down in Chapel Hill.  There is nothing like additional costs and extra regulations to reduce development costs.  While such a zoning ordinance can extort a handful of affordable units from the few developers willing to deal with its strictures, put together with a time-consuming and complicated approval process, it raises, quite obviously, the cost of the other units in the same development.  Further, these additional costs and restrictions keep some developers from even entering the market.  Reduced competition and a reduced supply of housing lead directly to higher prices.

How much higher?  A 2006 study in 50 metro areas of growth-management land-use policies, such as those in Chapel Hill, showed "smart-growth" policies added more than $100,000 per home.  Not so smart, it seems to me.

So, what does Chapel Hill now propose?  An ordinance which would make the affordable housing set-aside rule apply to all housing developments.  Given such an "affordable housing" set-aside, developers will, and have, targeted higher-end homes.  The evidence?  According to, the average price in 2008 for all housing units in Chapel Hill was $411,506.  Is that affordable enough for you?

As the economist Walter Williams has noted, "Politicians love visible beneficiaries and invisible victims."  While a few dozen, easily countable, modest-income homeowners will get their "set-aside houses," we have no way of directly counting the far more numerous modest-income homeowners, who would “rather be in Chapel Hill,” who had to buy houses in Mebane, Butner or Saxapahaw and now make long daily commutes to their Chapel Hill jobs.

Chapel Hill says Chapel Hill is the Southern Part of Heaven.  It says so right on the town's website.  It certainly might be so, because, you know, Chapel Hill does have many neighborhoods where the driveways could be paved in gold.


Gary D. Gaddy served on the Orange County Commissioners Affordable Housing Advisory Board from 2005 to 2010. During his tenure the price of local housing did not go down.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday March 12, 2010.

Copyright  2010  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 11:21 AM EST
Updated: Friday, March 12, 2010 11:36 AM EST
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Friday, March 5, 2010
It's little ol' me versus the killer deer

I AM AT WAR WITH THE DEER.  Over the years I have killed two of them – but, understand, they were trying to kill me first.  Back when it was my car against unarmed deer, my car won.  So, the deer upped the stakes, resorting to biological warfare.  (This is not a joke, they really did.)

Deer are dangerous.  It is not just shrubs and flowers that they harm; they maim and kill humans daily.  Really.  For the public's safety, not just pleasant greenery, the Governor's Club, and Duke Forest, should continue to cull the growing herds which roam their lands -- as should Chapel Hill and about every other community in North Carolina.

Here's why.  Nationally, collisions between deer and vehicles cause more than 150 fatalities each year, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.  In 2009 State Farm insurance estimated that an average of 100,000 collisions between deer and vehicles occur in the U.S. each month   One of these encounters, which cost on average $3000, occurs every 26 seconds, at a cost of over $3.6 billion every year.  Crashes reported to police involving deer in 2008 in North Carolina numbered almost 20,000, nearly 10 percent of all vehicle accidents. And many more such wrecks go unreported to police, including some leading to fatalities.

Further, this problem is worsening.  Over a five-year span, deer-related crashes increased 27 percent, while total crashes decreased by seven percent, according to UNC's Highway Safety Research Center.  In urban areas it’s even worse.  Mecklenburg County has had a 92 percent increase in deer-related crashes since 2002.

Then there is deer-borne disease.  It is no coincidence that the first detailed description of Lyme disease appeared in 1764 after a visit to the Island of Jura (Deer Island) off the west coast of Scotland.

Lyme disease is one of the fastest-growing infectious diseases in the United States.  Cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control in 2008 numbered over 35,000.  Many more are unreported or even undiagnosed.  Delayed or inadequate treatment can lead to serious symptoms, which can be disabling and difficult to treat.  Late treatment occurs commonly since many people do not recognize the common disease indicators (flu-like symptoms such as headache, muscle soreness, fever, malaise and bull’s-eye-patterned rash) as Lyme disease.

The deer-borne Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a serious even life-threatening disease with over 1000 cases reported in the U.S. each year, and North Carolina having one of the highest rates.  Despite the availability of effective treatment, an estimated 30 to 50 Americans die each year from Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Thankfully deer-tick-borne diseases can be dramatically reduced simply by culling the deer population that the ticks depend upon for reproduction.  Currently there are an estimated 21 deer per square mile for the entire state of North Carolina.  For some local areas, the numbers are much higher. Researchers estimate there are as many as 80 deer per square mile in parts of Duke Forest, making my backyard a dangerous place.

By lowering the deer population to 8 to 10 per square mile, the tick numbers can be brought down to levels too low to spread tick-borne diseases.  In one study, when the deer population was reduced by 74%, ticks decreased by 92%.  Furthermore, as deer density decreased, and ticks decreased, so did the risk of Lyme disease.  When deer were reduced from about 77 to about 10 deer per square mile, after two years of controlled hunting, the risk of humans contracting Lyme disease was reduced by more than 90%.

An estimated 10,000 white-tailed deer inhabited North Carolina in 1900; there are now 1,100,000.  While for the state as a whole the deer population has been slightly decreasing of late, deer populations are rapidly increasing in many urban and suburban areas where hunting as a management tool has been hindered.  Hunting is the most effective way to cull the deer population, according to Jon Shaw, a North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission biologist.

Bowing hunting, properly done, is safe and effective, even in urban neighborhoods.  If bows and arrows don't work, I recommend Uzis and AK-47s.


Gary D. Gaddy has tested positive for Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, both likely contracted in his backyard.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday March 5, 2010.

Copyright  2010  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:05 AM EST
Updated: Friday, March 5, 2010 9:09 AM EST
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Friday, February 26, 2010
"Are you stupid?" A gaffe of Olympic proportions

VANCOUVER, via satellite -- It would have gone down as one of the great gaffes in sports history, if it had been in a sport that anyone cared about.  It would have been right there with the World Series grounder that went through the legs of Red Sox first-baseman Bill Buckner.  It would have been right next to Dallas Cowboy Leon Lett's premature celebration for his presumed Super Bowl touchdown.  It would have been right along with the non-existent timeout that Michigan's Chris Webber called in the waning seconds of UNC’s NCAA basketball championship victory.

And, actually, it will -- in the Netherlands.  I am speaking, of course, of Dutch speed skater Sven Kramer's Olympic-record, gold-medal winning performance that never happened – officially – in the 10,000-meter final at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

For those of you who didn't see it live (that is, for the non-Dutch in my reading audience), Sven Kramer, 23, is the current Dutch, European and World All-Around Speed Skating Champion, and reigning world champion and world-record holder in the 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters and the 4,000-meter team-pursuit event.  Kramer had already won the gold medal in the 5000-meter event.

This is big in Holland.  The Dutch claim their children learn to walk and skate at the same time.  Speed skating, especially long track, is the Dutch national pastime as well as the national sport.  (Think baseball, basketball and football rolled into one for Americans.)  Kramer's star-crossed 10,000-meter race was seen by 5,168,000 viewers in the Netherlands, which has a population of 16,443,269, meaning 31% of the country was viewing.  (By comparison, the recent Super Bowl was seen by over 106 million people, 35% of the U.S. population, making it the most watched program in American. TV history -- but half of those were watching for the commercials.)

How big is Kramer, the son of a Dutch Olympic speed skater, in Holland?  In 2007 Kramer dated Dutch supermodel Doutzen Kroes, who is currently one of the Victoria's Secret Angels. 

How big does Kramer think that he is?  As noted by the Fourth-Place Medal blog, Olympic reporters planning to interview a gold medalist should make sure they know which gold medalist they're talking to.  A young female TV reporter learned that lesson the hard way last weekend.  She began her interview by asking gold medalist Kramer, "I need you to say your name and your country and what you just won here."  To which Kramer responded, "Are you stupid?"  The reporter continued, "For tape identification purposes."   To which Kramer exclaimed, "Hell no!  I'm not gonna do that!"

About the reporter’s questions.  They were asked to make sure the recording was properly identified, that is, to prevent a stupid mistake from happening; something Kramer may be becoming very familiar with these days.

Here's what happened in the 10,000-meter speed skating final.  Kramer completed the grueling 6.21-mile circuit in what he thought was an Olympic record and gold-medal winning time.  But he was wrong.  He had made a mistake but even the broadcast commentators did not realize it when it happened, saying that what they saw, his skate hitting a lane-dividing cone, was not a disqualifying error.  But what Kramer actually had done -- when his coach told him to -- was change from the outer lane to the inner lane of the rink -- but on the wrong lap.

Here's how Kramer explained it after the race.  "I wanted to go on the outer lane, then just before the cone,  Gerard (his coach Gerard Kemkers) shouted, 'Inner lane!'  I thought he was probably right,” said Kramer.  "I should have gone with my own thoughts but I was brought into doubt. This really sucks. This is a real expensive mistake. This really sucks,'' Kramer concluded.

Before the 10,000 meter race, journalist Jerry Brewer said, "With a legitimate shot at three gold medals, Kramer . . . could be the face of these Games."   Although his reasoning may have been flawed, Brewer now looks like a prophet.


In 1968, Gary D. Gaddy, in an 880-yard track event, was knocked to the ground by a competitor, but got up and finished fourth anyway -- but was disqualified just after the race for, supposedly, cutting off the runner who knocked him down.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday February 26, 2010.

Copyright  2010  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:00 AM EST
Updated: Friday, February 26, 2010 10:28 AM EST
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Friday, February 19, 2010
Inflating Carolina: Achieving a workable solution

GRADE INFLATION IS SUCH A PROBLEM for the University of North Carolina that I can’t even find a list of UNC's recent valedictorians.  Why not?  Probably because printing it out would cause a nationwide paper shortage.  Earnestly, after decades of grades lofting into the stratosphere, is there anything our university (and others) can do to reverse grade inflation, or at least to compensate for the progressively more meaningless and misleading GPA?

In 2007, when grade inflation last came up for discussion at UNC, some professors and students opposed any system that rations grades, including quotas like those implemented at Princeton University and mandatory departmental averages like at Wellesley College.

“My old boss called these the power tools.  It’s amputation for a small injury,” said UNC professor Andrew Perrin, one of those who studied grade inflation for the faculty. “But it does have the advantage that it is very transparent, and it’s easy to explain to the outside community," Perrin added.

Happily, there exists a better, if more complex, system for ranking students.  A proposal made to UNC several years ago is back: add the Achievement Index to students’ grade reports, a measure that filters out variations in grading among different academic departments and among individual professors.  It is a great idea.

As the Daily Tar Heel describes it, the Achievement Index is a “strength of schedule” analysis.  The Achievement Index (AI) measures a student's performance against their classmates’ performance given those classmates' grades in other courses.

The Achievement Index was developed by a biostatistician, Valen Johnson, as a method for combining the information from grades earned across college courses; where the overarching goal is to measure each student’s academic performance while factoring out differences among individual instructors' grading practices.  (Further information on grade inflation is available in the book "Grade Inflation: A Crisis in College Education" by Valen E. Johnson, and a briefer synopsis of the technical aspects of the AI can be found by Googling "Primer on the Achievement Index".)

The basic concept is this: an A in a class where everyone got an A tells us nothing.  An A in a class filled with classmates whose grades in other courses were poor is less of an accomplishment than a B in a course filled with classmates with A's in other tougher courses.  Put differently, an A in a crip course is not as telling as a B in a killer -- as every college sophomore knows.

And research shows the AI works better than the GPA -- even using the exact grades now used to calculate the GPA.  In 2007, UNC’s faculty Educational Policy Committee studied the validity of the AI with two tests comparing pairs of UNC students enrolled in the same class at the same time. GPA and AI were assessed by examining whether GPA ranking or AI ranking better predicts these students’ performance in the very same class.  In 61% of 22,000 cases where students in such pairs earned different grades in the same class, the higher grade was earned by the student who ranked higher on AI but lower on GPA.  

Likewise, based on 14,000 pairs of students in exactly the same class, where one student would have received a degree with distinction using AI (but not GPA), the AI-honor student earned a higher grade than the student with a GPA-honor almost twice as often.  So, clearly, for both assessments, the AI is a better, more valid measure of academic performance.

In the spring of 2007, UNC's Educational Policy Committee recommended that Carolina list their AI on students’ transcripts along with their GPA, that UNC award graduation honors based on AI and also use AI to determine class rank.   After what was described as "a spirited debate," the faculty governing body voted 34-31 against adopting the Achievement Index.   We can hope, in the meantime, at least two faculty members have gained some common sense.

Gary D. Gaddy’s nephew, Benjamin Gaddy, was one of 129 valedictorians at North Carolina State University in 2007.  He had a 4.0 in electrical engineering.  Who do you think should have been THE valedictorian?

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday February 19, 2010.

Copyright  2010  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:01 AM EST
Updated: Friday, November 5, 2010 10:01 AM EDT
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Friday, February 12, 2010
Inflating Carolina: The root of the problem

CAROLINA, AND ABOUT EVERY OTHER COLLEGE in America, has a problem with continually inflating grades, having become an institution where all the students are above average -- almost literally.  As the Daily Tar Heel said last fall regarding grade inflation: "The numbers are striking.  So striking that many people don’t believe them."

Between the late 1960s and now, the overall grade point average at the University of North Carolina has risen almost a point.  In 1967, the average GPA was a 2.49.  Last fall, it was a 3.21. This trend has made grades nearly useless, or worse, for distinguishing among students’ abilities. The most common grade given out at UNC is an A, and 82 percent of all grades are either A’s or B’s.  Once upon a time C meant average.

In a UNC report on grading, Donna Gilleskie notes that, in addition to grade inflation, UNC is experiencing grade compression, which means the best students cannot be distinguished from each other.  UNC is also experiencing grade inequality as different departments and different instructors assign different grades for similar performance.

Grade inequality makes grade comparisons between students in departments not just difficult but completely misleading.  For example, the average GPA, using a scale where an F is 0.0 and an A is 4.0, in the UNC math department for the fall of 2008 was a 2.62, while the average in the School of Education was a 3.72.  (I worked on university campuses, including UNC, for a couple of decades, and, just for the record, students taking education courses are not smarter than those taking mathematics.)

This is not a random inequality; this is a perverse, inverted distribution of grades where the highest grades are given in the most vacuous courses, which leads students searching for better GPAs to take easy classes from easy graders.  This does not lead to the optimal educational experience for them, needless to say.

And it is now easy to find easy. Googling "Pick-A-Prof" gets this description of their service: "View official school records to see how many A's professors give before you register."  Students have long found crip courses from pushover profs -- albeit with poorer, hearsay data.  I have often counseled students that they can get a great education simply by taking classes from the professors everyone else is avoiding "because they're too tough."   In my experience, they are generally among the best teachers on campus.  But for many this would be GPA suicide.

While the Vietnam War and the draft once drove grade inflation, the main driver now is the relationship between easy grading and student evaluations -- combined with the omnipresent desire of students to get high GPAs.  Having students evaluate teachers is a good thing, in my view, but there is one major problem: these evaluations are used in tenure and other hiring decisions, and students give higher evaluations to courses (and professors who teach them) in which they think that they are getting higher grades.

And in return, whether consciously or not, faculty give high grades because students' perception of what grade they are going to get in a class is the primary factor in their course evaluations.  In 2000, UNC's Educational Policy Committee found that instructors who awarded an average grade of 2.7 suffered, holding all else constant, a 32-percentile-point disadvantage in student approval compared to those who awarded a 3.6 average grade.  It just happens the second bout of grade inflation began in the late 1980s, at the time that the UNC mandated student course evaluations for all faculty.

As a consequence, for a faculty member, giving higher grades thus means a higher chance of getting tenure or getting promoted.  Since higher grades cost teachers nothing, there is an incessant pressure on faculty to increase grades (and thus their evaluations).

So, is it inevitable that UNC remain LWSU -- Lake Wobegone State University?   You’ll see when you come back next week to find out what UNC can do about spiraling grades.

Gary D. Gaddy graduated from Furman University in 1975 mit fast ein drei punkt fünf auf Deutsch.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday February 12, 2010.

Copyright  2010  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:00 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, February 11, 2010 9:25 PM EST
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Friday, February 5, 2010
The New York Times v. Citizens United v. FEC

YOU MAY HAVE HEARD ABOUT the recent Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.  Some of the organs of the major mass media, which I won't mention by name, but the New York Times comes to mind, decried the court's decision.

"With a single, disastrous 5-to-4 ruling, the Supreme Court has thrust politics back to the robber-baron era of the 19th century.  Disingenuously waving the flag of the First Amendment, the court’s conservative majority has paved the way for corporations to use their vast treasuries to overwhelm elections and intimidate elected officials into doing their bidding," said the New York Times.

New York Times Company, you should know, is a corporation which publishes two national and 16 regional newspapers; owns eight network-affiliated television stations, two New York radio stations and more than 40 web sites -- and published on October 23, 2008 an endorsement editorial entitled "Barack Obama for President."

The Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, overturned significant parts of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, commonly called McCain-Feingold, that had banned the broadcast, cable or satellite transmission of “electioneering communications” paid for by corporations and unions in the 30 days before a presidential primary and in the 60 days before the general election, but the law notably exempted new technologies, like YouTube, and old ones, like newspapers.

Citizens United, a conservative advocacy group and a nonprofit corporation, produced for broadcast “Hillary: The Movie,” a scathingly hostile look at Hillary Clinton not unlike Michael Moore’s take on George W. Bush in “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

Two basic questions came before the court in this case: Is the film the kind of “electioneering communication” that McCain-Feingold says may not be broadcast in certain time windows before elections?  And if so, is the law itself constitutional given the First Amendment?

On the first, I say, of course.  On the second, personally, I don't know much about precedent, stare decisis, or any other technicalities involving the constitutionality of any particular law -- but I do know how to read, and this is how the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads: "Congress shall make no law  . . . abridging the freedom of speech."  And I do have a notion of what that means.  Here's my take: "Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech." 

Now, one cannot be rigidly absolute in the interpretation of this simple sentence.  The famous counter example to the absolutist free-speech position is that you can't yell "Fire!" in a crowded movie theater.  But this is not that.  It is a documentary.  The theater is not likely to be crowded.

Before this decision came down, the law applied to communications “susceptible to no reasonable interpretation other than as an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate.”  The net effect, according to Citizens United's president, David Bossie, is censorship. “I can put it in as many theaters as I want across the country,” he said of the documentary, but since he can't spend money advertising it, “I just can’t let anyone know about it.”

At the first Supreme Court argument back in March, Fred Wertheimer, a lawyer supporting the FEC's case, seemed reluctant to answer questions about the government’s regulation of books, but when pressed, said, “A campaign document in the form of a book can be banned.”

“Governments are often hostile to speech,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy. “But . . . it seems stranger than fiction for our government to make . . . political speech a crime. Yet this is the statute’s purpose and design.”

I agree with the court and with Floyd Abrams, the noted First-Amendment lawyer, who in opposing the law, said, “Criminalizing a movie about Hillary Clinton is a constitutional desecration.”  How the New York Times can't see that is beyond me.

Gary D. Gaddy based the facts of this column almost entirely on New York Times coverage, which is, in his opinion, even without legal exemption, protected by the First Amendment.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday February 5, 2010.

Copyright  2010  Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:00 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, February 11, 2010 9:27 PM EST
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Friday, January 29, 2010
The Devil and the Reverend Dr. Robertson


Following the earthquake in Haiti, televangelist Rev. Pat Robertson made this statement: "They (the Haitians) were under the heel of the French, you know Napoleon the third and whatever, and they got together and swore a pact to the Devil. . . .They said, 'We will serve you if you will get us free from the French.'  True story.  And so the Devil said, 'OK, it's a deal.'  And they kicked the French out. . . .But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after another."

Since then Robertson has gotten almost nothing but scorn and derision for his comment.  Even Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, called the comments "embarrassing" and the result of "theological arrogance matched to ignorance."  Mohler mostly faults Robertson for presuming to know the mind of God -- which, looking carefully, this statement by Robertson does not do.  (I have more of a problem with Robertson quoting the Devil.  What was his source on that?)

Robertson also did not say God has cursed Haiti. He said "ever since they have been cursed by one thing after another."  This statement seems undeniable in the figurative if not the literal sense.  If ever there was a nation cursed, Haiti would be it.

Notably, while this "pact with the Devil" may never have occurred (it has many earmarks of a legend), many Haitians believe it did.  Boukman Dutty, the acknowledged leader of the Haitian revolt, was a Voodoo priest.  According to journalist Edward Fudge, "a report commissioned by the Haitian Ministry of Culture and submitted in 1999 included evidence of such quantity and detail . . . that [the event’s] authenticity is well confirmed."

Still, let us step back from Robertson's statement, so full of inference and implication, to several possibilities and the questions they engender.

Either there is a spiritual world or there is not.  Either there is a God or not.  Either there is a devil or not. Most Americans believe in all three. (Even for the most controversial, according to polls by Harris and Gallup, about two-thirds of Americans believe in the existence of the Devil.)

So, I infer, most of us think there is some sort of spiritual war going on around us.

When we sing and pray "God bless America," those acts imply there is an alternative.  That is, God may not bless America.  Most Americans believe he has and hope he will continue to do so.

Now, if God can bless, presumably he can withhold blessing.  If he can protect, he can withhold protection.  If someone doesn't believe that why would they expend their breath praying?

As to the spiritual state of Haiti, Lynne Warberg, a photographer who has documented Haitian Voodoo for more than a decade, says this: "One common saying is that Haitians are 70 percent Catholic, 30 percent Protestant, and 100 percent Voodoo."  More technically, according to AP reporter Michael Norton, in 2003 an estimated 70 percent of Haiti’s 8.8 million people practice Voodoo to some extent.  And in April 2003 an executive decree by then Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide sanctioned Voodoo as an officially recognized religion.

I don't know what God or the Devil has been doing to Haiti, but if spiritual choices have material consequences, then the whole world, Haiti included, makes more sense than if they don't.

I can't be certain who cursed Haiti; I do know who has been trying to bless it: Operation Blessing International, a charity that operates in 105 countries, according to its website.

Beginning before the earthquake, Operation Blessing partnered with a Haitian charity to help fund a fish-farming program that will provide food and income for nearly 100 families, worked with the Haitian ministry of health to provide every school-aged child in Haiti with anti-parasite medication and basic hygiene, and conducted a pilot project with Lifesaver USA to distribute portable, family-size water filters to villages lacking clean water sources.

Further, Operation Blessing was set to start a hatchery for Gambusia – tiny fish that eat mosquito larvae – as a sustainable method of mosquito control and has two ongoing projects focused on providing clean water to hospitals. (Incredibly, even before the earthquake none of the general hospitals in the country had clean, running water.)

Since the earthquake, Operation Blessing set up a medical clinic and is installing a water purification plant in the national soccer stadium as well as delivering hospital equipment to Dr. Paul Farmer's Partners in Health.

Did I mention that Operation Blessing is a ministry founded by Pat Robertson?  So, that’s what he's been doing to bless Haiti.  What about you?


Gary D. Gaddy went to grad school in Virginia Beach where he spent a lot of time not believing everything Pat Robertson said.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday January 29, 2010.

Copyright  2010  Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:00 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, January 27, 2010 8:51 PM EST
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Friday, January 22, 2010
Coaches association expels Duke's Cutcliffe

WACO, Texas -- Meeting in emergency session, the executive committee of the American Football Coaches Association voted unanimously to expel Duke University head football coach David Cutcliffe from its ranks for "conduct unbecoming a collegiate head football coach."

"He is making us all look bad," said Edward Spitzenmaus, the executive director of the AFCA. "Coach Cutcliffe's actions have disrupted the entire football hierarchy, a set system which his willful actions have damaged, hopefully not irreparably," said Spitzenmaus.

"A coach at a place such as Duke simply cannot turn down an offer from a place such as the University of Tennessee, not without grave consequences to college football as a whole," added Spitzenmaus.

According to football analyst Mel Kiper, Jr., “When the NFL's Seattle Seahawks fired their coach Jim Mora, after one season's tenure, Cutcliffe should have known that day that he would be changing jobs.  The coaching carousel is pretty predictable really.

"Here's the way it goes. Mora's gone on Friday. University of Southern California's Pete Carroll is hired by Seattle on Tuesday; the same day Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffen is hired by USC to replace Carroll.  Cutcliffe should have been picking out his suit for the press conference in Knoxville on Wednesday. 

“Instead he was 'mulling over the decision.'  That was OK, playing hard to get is a standard part of the salary negotiation process -- but announcing on Friday that he is staying at Duke, that is nigh unto unforgiveable," said Kiper.  “The man didn’t even ask Duke for a raise,” a clearly befuddled Kiper added.

The ripple effect of Cutcliffe's "inexplicable inaction" is still being felt, said Myles Brand, the president of the NCAA, in support of the AFCA's decision.  "How do you think Lane Kiffin felt when Cutcliffe refused to leave Duke?  Kiffin was willing to sacrifice his family, putting his responsibility to the larger system above personal factors," said Brand.

As analyst Kiper explained Kiffin's sacrifice, "When he took the USC job, Kiffin didn’t have time to tell his brother-in-law, David Reaves, one of his assistant coaches.  Reaves found out Kiffin was gone while sitting in a restaurant watching TV.   Kiffin gets it."

"Cutcliffe obviously doesn't.  He was talking to his wife and his child, and, God help us, 'praying about his decision,' when he should have been negotiating with the Tennessee AD.  The man has no sense of propriety," Kiper added.

Since it was founded in 1922, the improvement of the coaching profession and the sport of football has always been among the top priorities of the American Football Coaches Association. re-activated

CHAPEL HILL -- Following three consecutive losses, and four losses in the past five games by the University of North Carolina men's basketball team, Nathaniel Naibobb has announced that he has re-activated the website.  Naibobb says he expects traffic to be brisk.

The site, which was de-activated in April 2009 following UNC's national championship win, promotes itself as "a place for those disgruntled with Roy Williams to become more disgruntled."

"Oh, sure, the yea-sayers are going to say that Coach Williams has the best winning percentage among all active Division I head basketball coaches -- but who wouldn't with the players he has had?" asks Naibobb.

"Take John Calipari, head coach of the soon-to-be number-one-ranked University of Kentucky Wildcats.  If you give him credit for the two final-four seasons worth of wins that were vacated for NCAA-rules violations, his record may be just about as good, maybe better," Naibobb observed.

"UNC’s national championship was great and all that -- but I can't count the sleepless nights I’ve spent since then thinking about underclassmen going pro, recruits who got away, and games missed because of injury.  We fans deserve better." said Naibobb.

The Tar Heels, who were ranked in the preseason poll in the top 10 for one primary reason (jersey color), now teeter on the brink of extinction at number 24.


Gary D. Gaddy has figured out a way for Roy to tell the Tar Heel twins, Travis and David Wear, apart.  One of them wears "43" and the other doesn't

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday January 22, 2010.

Copyright  2010  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 7:04 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, February 11, 2010 9:32 PM EST
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Friday, January 15, 2010
Some players who have gone pro early

AS THE NEW SEMESTER BEGINS, my thoughts turn to today, January 15, the deadline for eligible college football players to declare for the National Football League draft.  (Happily, for me, Tar Heel football fan, all of  the University of North Carolina football team's underclassmen who were draft-eligible have declared they are staying for another year.  Whether the decisions are smart ones for them, only a year will tell.)

Anyway, this annual day of decision inspired me to write a column on some of the players who have gone pro early that you may not have heard about.

Edwin H. Land (founder of Polaroid Corporation and developer of the Polaroid Land instant camera) left Harvard University after his freshman year. Land was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award given to a U.S. citizen, for his work in optics.

Michael Dell (founder of Dell, Inc.) dropped out of college at 19.  But don't say that college didn't help him.  He started his computer company in his college dorm room during his brief stay at the University of Texas at Austin.  As of 2009, Forbes estimates Dell's net worth at $12.3 billion.

Steven Spielberg (co-founder of DreamWorks and director of, among other movies, the Star Wars series) was denied acceptance to film school and dropped out of California State University, Long Beach.  Four of Spielberg's films each became the highest-grossing film made at the time of their release.

Bill Gates (co-founder of Microsoft and the richest man in the world), like Land dropped out of Harvard but after his second year. As he later noted, “I realized the error of my ways and decided I could make do with a high school diploma.”  In 2009, Gates was ranked as the world's wealthiest person and is perhaps the world's greatest philanthropist.

But please do understand that not every successful entrepreneur has been a college dropout.   Some never made it to college.

Henry Ford (the founder of Ford Motor Company and the father of mass production) never graduated from high school.  Ford created one of the most powerful companies in the world, and in doing do amassed one of the world's largest fortunes.

John D. Rockefeller Sr. (the founder of Standard Oil, the first multinational corporation) was a high school dropout who became the first American billionaire and, perhaps, the richest man in history.

Thomas Alva Edison (the founder of General Electric, currently one of the largest publicly traded companies in the world, and holder of 1,097 American patents) never got far enough to even drop out of high school, dropping out at age 12 to join the railroad, quitting quit formal schooling after his teacher called him addled.

But just in case you think, based on the preceding list, that dropping out of school guarantees success in life, consider also that Ben Affleck, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Aniston, Christina Applegate, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Dan Aykroyd (to sample only those celebrities whose last names begin with the letter "A") also never finished college.  So, dropping out of college doesn't guarantee any worthwhile contribution to humanity -- other than a fat wallet -- but it does seem to assure the dropout fame, whether justified or not.

For my educated readers who are not so sure that I should be promoting dropping out of school, which I am not, in a town which has as its major industry the University of North Carolina, I have non-rhetorical question: Do you know how to get a Carolina graduate off your porch?  Answer: Pay for the pizza.

Gary D. Gaddy, who graduated from college with a lucrative degree in German, was, at one time, a college dropout, taking an 18-month sabbatical in the middle of his first senior year at Furman University.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday January 15, 2010.

Copyright  2010  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:01 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, January 21, 2010 7:08 PM EST
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Friday, January 8, 2010
Ten or so things that I learned from my dad

MY DAD'S BIRTHDAY is today.  My birthday present for Dr. Clifford Garland Gaddy, Sr., M.D., is a recounting of some of the best gifts he has given to me: things I have learned from watching him.

Money is not all that matters; it might not even be third or fourth.  Once when I was maybe 10 years old, I was helping my dad send out medical bills because his secretary had been out sick.  One bill was for over $2000.  (A lot of money back then.)  I said, "Oh, boy!"  My dad looked at the bill, said, "He has headaches already and he can't pay this anyway."  He threw the bill in the trash.

Everybody deserves the same respect regardless of their station in life.  Just by listening you couldn't tell if my dad was talking to Harrison, the sharecropper who worked our farm, or to the president of American National Bank.

Big isn't measured in inches.  My dad is big man in every way but height. But I will have to admit that he did enjoy meeting Muggsy Bogues in person, with my dad verifying that he was taller than an NBA basketball player.

Colorblind is good.  My dad is colorblind, literally and figuratively.  He can't tell a red light from a green light except one's on the top and the other's on the bottom.  If my mom didn't pick out his ties for him, he would look really funny some days.  But that's not the kind of colorblind I'm talking about.  Dad says one of his proudest days was the first time that a black player started for our formerly all-white high school's basketball team -- even though his son, my brother Steve, was the player who lost his spot to him.

Give more than you take; leave the place in better shape than you found it.  Once when our family went to Ridgecrest for a family summer camp, a friend loaned us his cabin.  Our last afternoon at the camp our family did yard work around the cabin, leaving the grounds looking great, not because we had to, or even we were asked to, but because it was a good thing to do.  At the time I didn't get it.

Friendships are measured not in days but in decades.  My parents have friends, the Dickersons and the Cresenzos, whose close friendships they kept across seven, soon to be eight, different decades.  My parents always made time to do things with their friends even when it would have been easier not to.  Family vacations with two families with 11 kids are not easy but are a great way to bond.

Loving your children equally well doesn't mean treating them all the same.  I am sure that my dad (and my mom) must have had favorites among their six children.  But, to this day, I don't know who they are -- and that's not because they mechanically treated us the same, because they didn't.

If you are going to do something, do it right.  My dad took up golf as an adult and became quite adept -- and has trophies to prove it -- which you could attribute to his love of the game.  But in his youth he was a Golden Gloves state boxing champion -- though he never really liked the sport -- as you might expect of someone born to be doctor.  As a physician he studied continually -- and was the best prepared practitioner of internal medicine you could imagine.

Keep your promises -- even those made in haste.  My dad promised my brother he would "build a shuffle board court in our backyard" if he won that week's campwide shuffle board tournament.  My dad wasn't too worried about paying off the bet since my brother had just learned to play that week.  Steve beat the man who taught him to play in the finals.  We had a shuffle board court in our backyard.

Love your wife.  Every Thanksgiving Dad tells the story about meeting Inez.  After more than sixty years of marriage, it's a love story every time he tells it.

These are hardly the only things I learned from my dad.  In fact, they are just the first 10 that came into my head.  Happy birthday, Dad!


Gary D. Gaddy would love to be remembered as Dr. Gaddy’s son.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday January 8, 2010.

Copyright  2010  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:00 AM EST
Updated: Friday, January 8, 2010 8:46 AM EST
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Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Sometimes it is good to lose -- sometimes


IT IS GOOD TO LOSE -- sometimes.  No, this is not an article written to give small consolation to Wolfpack men’s basketball fans disconsolate over their loss to the University of Florida Gators the other night on a 75-foot buzzer-beater.  No one needs to console the fans of a team that won a national championship on an air ball.

Nor is this column written to console the North Carolina Central women's basketball team which recently lost to Duke 117 to 28.  No, somebody at NCCU should have read up on regional holiday customs before booking that gig.  In New Jersey, it is a long-standing tradition to invite over your neighbors around New Year's and beat the snot out of them.  Gracious is not a good description of the Duke women as neighborly hosts.

The NCCU athletic administration might have watched the news feeds from Bangor, Maine, then they could have seen this coming   Current Duke and former Maine coach Joanne P. McCallie was honored before Duke's game at the University of Maine just before Christmas with a standing ovation as a banner with her name was unveiled alongside Maine’s retired player jerseys.  Duke went on to beat Maine 75-34.  Gracious is not a good description of the Duke women as neighborly guests either.

No, in thinking it is good to lose -- sometimes -- I was thinking of the Tar Heel men's football team.  Losing the Car Parts Bowl down in Charlotte the day after Christmas, that was a good thing.

Let me explain by corollary. Winning is not always good.  In 2005 the UNC men's basketball team won the national championship over Illinois with a team dominated by underclassmen.  Think about it, fans.  Sure, it felt good getting treated at the Burn Center after that night's bonfire celebrations, but what about a couple of days later when the painkillers wore off and you realized your entire team was going pro?  The starters -- and a freshman who didn't start a single game -- gone.  The sophomore water boy took a job with Gatorade.  And the consequence? The dreaded re-building season.

(If it had not been for the incoming freshman class, Roy's Boys, headed by Tyler Hansbrough, beating the Duke out of Duke at Duke on "Duke's Senior Night," this could have been a depressing and distressing season for us Tar Heel fans.)

In 2009 the UNC men's basketball team won the national championship in a rout of Michigan State.  So, what happens to our batch of talented underclassmen?  You got it, off to the NBA, leaving us with . . . the dreaded re-building season.

(Note to Coach Williams: Roy, please have your Tar Babies win at Duke on Saturday March 6, 2010 on Jon Scheyer’s "Senior Night."  It will help us hapless fans make it through another dreaded re-building season.)

The Tar Heel football team, in contrast, not only had the sense to lose but to do it as a team.  No player on the team had an outstanding game.  Last year, in the previous Car Parts Bowl, some players did not cooperate in the loss.  I am thinking here of unaccommodating junior Hakeem Nicks, who, playing in his hometown, set three school receiving records and shattered his career-high game in yards receiving, catching eight passes for a bowl-record 217 yards and three touchdowns -- and, of course, immediately went pro.

This season's loss in the Car Parts Bowl was good because parts of our football team which might have gone pro early did not.  So, when the season kicks off against LSU next season, the Heels will be built, not re-building.

And, for those of you who think I am ignoring the elephant in the locker room, no, I am not talking about an overtime loss by the UNC men to a sub-mid-major team.  That game is a great example of the Tar Heels being gracious guests at the College of Charleston’s ironically named Carolina First Arena -- and another good example of life during the dreaded re-building season.


Gary D. Gaddy left college early to work in a pizza-pie crust factory.

Copyright  2010  Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 5:34 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, January 6, 2010 5:38 PM EST
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Friday, January 1, 2010
The bottom eight news stories from 2009

THE YEAR-END, AND YEAR-EARLY-DECADE-END, lists are rolling in.  This is one you haven't seen:  the bottom eight news stories from 2009.  Some of them aren't completely  made up.

Ashland passes Carrboro as wackiest town

CARRBORO -- The Carrboro Board of Alderpersons met in emergency session late last night following news reports that Ashland, Oregon, may have surpassed Carrboro as the wackiest town in America. 

Ashland city council member Eric Navickas, to protest proposed limits on public nudity in the town, held a clothing-optional showing in his art gallery of nude portraits and conceptual art involving naked people.  Nudity is currently legal in Ashland, except in the city center and public parks, where people are required to cover their genitals.

Although the Carrboro board did not act, they are mulling future clothing-optional board meetings.

Same-day registration increases voting

RALEIGH -- The institution of same-day voter registration in North Carolina has dramatically increased voting, one election expert has found.  With same-day registration and voting, many more voters are voting earlier and more often, according to N.C. State political scientist Ward Heeler.

"Before same-day registration, voter fraud was too onerous for many would-be voters, discouraging their participation in vote buying, vote rigging and other basic elements of the electoral process.  Before same-day registration took effect, it wasn't that hard to find a homeless vagrant to register but it was often burdensome or even impossible to find them again on election day to actually get the vote tallied," said the University of Chicago graduate.

"Now, with a single six-pack, a person can be registered and vote in one simple step.  With proper transportation, one individual can register and vote in multiple precincts or even municipalities without undue effort.  This greatly enhances voter participation rates which have been flagging over time," added Prof. Heeler.

UNC goes green, replaces coal plant with nuke

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- The University of North Carolina, in its biggest push to reduce its "carbon footprint," has begun plans to replace the University's aging coal-fired power plant with a third-generation breeder reactor.  Based on the never-constructed Clinch River Breeder Reactor, UNC's nuclear power plant should provide enough electricity to light up Kenan Stadium several times over

Satan sues Santa for "image infringement"

NEW YORK -- B.L.Z. Satan, the founder, CEO and COO of Satan, Inc., filed suit today in U.S. federal district court in New York, against Santa K. K. Claus and Associates for "intellectual image infringement."

"The case hardly needs to be stated.  For example, the red suit is pretty obvious.  Only a forked tail and pitch fork would be clearer," said Harold Kleinman, the attorney for Satan, Inc.  A spokesman for Claus and Associates had no comment.

Sponsors flee Wie

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Pro golfer Michelle Wie, who was until recently the highest-earning and most-publicized golfer on the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour, now finds herself losing multiple endorsements and being abandoned by her sponsors.  Experts say when Wie, 20, won her first professional individual tournament, the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, marketers then realized she would never be her sport's Anna Kournikova.

U.S. voted "Best Destination for Terrorism"

SANA‘A, YEMEN -- The United States has been voted the "Best Destination for Terrorism" in 2009 by the International Organization of Terrorists and Terrorist Associations.  Insiders say the vote wasn't even close.

Sequel to Shakespeare's Hamlet found

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- UNC literary historians have found what they believe to be the first newly discovered major work by the English playwright William Shakespeare in nearly 400 years.  The play, which is thought to be a sequel to the tragedy "Hamlet," is a comedy entitled "Omelet" which is set in Ye Olde Waffle House in a "Chapell on the Hill."

U2 to become U3

NEW YORK -- Singer Cher has announced plans to re-unite with Bono, forming a group to be called U3.


Gary D. Gaddy, who has been voted, for the third consecutive year, one of the bottom eight Chapel Hill Herald Local Voices columnists, would like to wish his reader a joyous new year.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday January 1, 2010.

Copyright  2010  Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:00 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, January 21, 2010 7:23 PM EST
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Friday, December 25, 2009
A Christmas column -- or maybe not

I WAS PLANNING TO WRITE a Christmas column, what with it being Christmas and all, but then I started reading the newspaper and now I'm not sure I can.  Apparently it is not correct to speak of Christmas anymore.  (If you can figure out how I can talk about not talking about Christmas without talking about Christmas, please let me know.)

So, how to proceed?  Since in Cary the city puts up a seasonally displayed, ornamentally decorated evergreen tree and calls it a community tree (which coincidentally shows up at about the time a Christmas tree would show up), I considered emulating them.  But I really couldn't call my column a community column because I want to write it all by myself.

My next thought: Maybe I could call it an X-mas column.  Then the "X" could mean one thing to atheists (and their existentialist fellow travelers) but something else to Christians.  In that way it would be one of those secret symbols, like the fish emblem you see on cars that you have wondered so much about.

X-mas, it would seem, would take the Christ out of Christmas -- X him right out, so to speak.  But some atheists would still find X-mas offensive since it would, even in negation, point to Christ.  (Don't think I'm joking.  Many atheists don't like being called atheist because the root of the word is theist which refers to God, who as they would be glad to point out, doesn't exist.  So, some of them have lobbied to have themselves referred to as "brights."  Again, I'm not making this up.)

Here's another problem with an X-mas column.  X-mas is not, some scholars say, a non-Christian, an a-Christian or an anti-Christian term.  Among the religious, objections to Xmas usually fall along the line that this takes Christ out of Christmas, replacing him with an unknown (since the English letter x is a common mathematical symbol for an unknown quantity) -- but this isn't so.  X-mas long predates the 20th-century secularization of the holiday.  The term was a widely used symbol for Christmas in the time of Gutenberg, five centuries earlier, and has no irreverent implication whatsoever.

I contemplated briefly going with the Raleigh solution, as in the dueling seasonal displays in Moore Square, Raleigh's free speech zone. (The U.S. used to be a free speech zone, but something happened, I think.)  In Raleigh, the duel is Son versus Sun.  Call2Action put up a Nativity Scene.  The Triangle Freethought Society put up a poster celebrating the Winter Solstice.

The more sophisticated worship the Sun instead the Son.  Don't laugh, their faith seems more effectual than that of mainstream Christianity.  I don't know exactly how they do it but about this time of year, every year, Sun worshippers start praying for the Sun to return, and in a matter of months it does. Christians have been praying for the return of Christ for two thousand years, and he has yet to come back.

The most powerful Sun-worshipping prayers come from Norway.  I have friend from Tromsø, Norway, which is 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle.  Lene called me all excited one spring with this declaration: "The sun is back!"  In Norway they don't just pray the sun to revive from its diminished state; they have to pray it back into existence.  And they do -- every year.

Anyway, under the Raleigh model I would have to get liability insurance and a government-issued permit, so I just decided to take a pass on the combined Yes Christmas! No Christmas! column as well.

That leaves me with a column which cites a work of literature, where the original wording is retained to maintain the authenticity of the historical text.

    Christmas is a-coming; the goose is getting fat.
    Please put a penny in the old man's hat.
    If you haven't got a penny, a ha'penny will do.
    If you haven't got a ha'penny, then God bless you!


Gary D. Gaddy agrees with Rabbi Marc Gellman that "Christmas without Christ is just 'mas,' which in Spanish means more."

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday December 25, 2009.

Copyright  2009  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 7:59 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, December 22, 2009 1:42 PM EST
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Friday, December 18, 2009
Lessons we can all learn from Tiger Woods

FOR A LONG TIME lots of people have wanted to learn from Tiger Woods.  Many were golfers who wanted to improve their game.  Sadly, most people can't improve their golf strokes by watching someone like Tiger drive, chip and putt, anymore than they could learn to dunk by watching Michael Jordan jump.  But while you may not learn how to continuously bounce a golf ball off a nine iron by watching a Nike golf ad, if you pay attention to the right things you might learn something about life by making note of Tiger's life.

Here are a few of the lessons we can learn from Tiger Woods:

All men are stupid, crass and driven by lower instincts.  (In case my feminist friends think, based on this statement, that I have gone over to their side, sorry.  I am using man in its antiquated, sexist form.  So, this covers you females too.)  Even people who seem to be perfect, maybe especially people who seem to be perfect, well, they're not.  Men, all of humanity, male and female alike, are fallen creatures, depraved and capable of remarkable cupidity and substantial stupidity.  I try to note when watching a wonderful and gifted life implode, that there, but for the grace of God, go I.

Money doesn't satisfying the deepest longings of man.  (And, apparently, collecting major sports titles doesn't either.)  Due to his "transgressions," Tiger may never make his second billion.  But, you know what, if his first billion dollars didn't bring him personal satisfaction, I am betting the next ones wouldn't have either.  I suggest that you and I and Tiger look for real meaning elsewhere.

Power corrupts.  (And a consistent 300-plus-yard drive is, apparently, a good source of power as well as evidence of it.)  Given power over others, most humans cannot resist exploiting them for their own selfish purposes -- even when they think they are not.

What is done in secret will be exposed.  (If it does not happen in this life, I promise it will happen in the next.)  Deleting text messages, erasing emails, hiring lawyers to make payoffs are all well and good, but, in the long haul, the truth will out.

Love has multiple meanings.  (In this respect, Greek is a far superior language to English.)  Let's not confuse erotic love (eros) with brotherly love (phileo) or either of those with unconditional love (agape).  Unconditional love is the foundation of a lasting marriage.  Uncontrolled erotic love is a good basis for wrecking one.

One final lesson we can learn from Tiger Woods: man was not made to be worshipped.  (Like Michael Jackson, Tiger began being adored by the public when he was just a child.)  Tiger may not have asked for worship but he co urted popular adulation -- and he got it.  Tiger, perhaps the world’s best-known athlete, had a Q score, a ranksing of entertainers by how likable and recognizable they are, which was among the highest of all entertainment figures.  In other words, the world knew and loved Tiger Woods.

Such adulation is very corrosive (confer Michael Jackson) -- but it does not have to be.  For decades Billy Graham has been among the most admired people in America, being named in the top 10 in Gallup's annual "most admired men" list more than 50 times.  He was once even named the "Greatest Living American."

Despite this public exaltation, there is no evidence Graham ever fell to sexual temptation.  I don't think it was because he was personally stronger -- but perhaps he was humbler.  Graham recognized his own weakness and depended on God to help him in spite of himself.

It is also reported that he never met with a woman behind closed doors.  He was not only aware of his own frailty, he was wise.  In this he protected himself from temptation but also from false accusation -- something Tiger might wish for now as well.


Gary D. Gaddy used to admire Tiger Woods, now he just feels sorry for him.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday December 18, 2009.

Copyright  2009  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 7:59 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 3:03 PM EST
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Friday, December 11, 2009
Coach Anson Dorrance's losses mount

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


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:02 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, December 10, 2009 2:08 PM EST
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Friday, December 4, 2009
Gameday notes & other sports-related excretions

Note:  Due to recent events near the North Carolina State Fairgrounds, this column's coverage of football has been suspended until bowl season.

A new year's resolution

For the coming new year my resolution is . . . HD 1080p -- where 1080p is the HDTV video mode with a widescreen frame resolution of 1920×1080, or 2,073,600 pixels in total.  The point is with HD 1080p, you can see Tyler Hansbrough’s lost contact lens on the floor before he does.

Sports-related excretions

I watch sports, lots of sports.  I even watch baseball when it comes time for the World Series -- a tradition that was perhaps fostered in my elementary school days when more than one of my teachers brought a TV to our classroom so we could watch.  (And people wonder how I became so well-rounded in my erudition.)  Thus began my education on sports-related excretions.

Boxing is known for blood spurting but also snot flying (hence the expression "knocked the snot out of him"), while basketball is known for sweat dripping (hence towel boys and girls beneath the backboard), but baseball is known for its spit shooting and the noxious drool that chewing tobacco produces squirting on the field (hence the declining popularity of the sport among those with even modest aesthetic sensibilities).

The consolation prize (of sorts)

The quote:  "Coach . . . and I have become very close over the last year and a half," said Harrison Barnes, the number-one high-school basketball recruit in this year's class.  [The school] "has high academics and is just unique in a variety of ways," he added.  Barnes was speaking of Coach Mike Krzyzewski and Duke University -- on the day he signed with North Carolina.  I would guess that this would be some sort of consolation to our Duke-fan friends -- but I could be wrong.

They're not booing .  .  .

Often, it is necessary to explain that "they're not booing . . ." because, well, they aren't.  It may sound like "booooo" but actually the fans are cheering.  For example, it may be "Zouuuuuub" if we are in Cameron Enclosed Stadium (where the Duke faithful are acknowledging the efforts of Devil big man Bryan Zoubek).  In the Dean E. Smith Student Activities Center, it is commonly "Dreeeeeew" (for Tar Heel point guard Larry Drew Two).  Rarely do the home fans in either venue boo their own (though Jeff Capel might beg to differ).

"Over-rated! Over-rated!"

Or they may be chanting "Over-rated! Over-rated!" as Syracuse fans and Tar Heel haters did at Madison Square Garden as the Orange crushed the Heels in a men's basketball game last Friday night.  In doing so, these astute observers confirmed Roy Williams contention, which was that UNC should not have been rated that highly with four new starters on the team, especially this early in the season.  But as for the chanting ‘Cuse fans, they may as well have been saying "We are not as good as we appear to be!  We are not as good as we appear to be!"

Threat level reduced to yellow

Officials of the Atlantic Coast Conference's Internal Security Department announced today that the threat level on the Gary Williams exploding-head watch has been reduced again, this time from orange to yellow.

Up Cane Creek and more

Now some actual, factual news:  This Sunday come hear Up Cane Creek perform from 1-3 p.m. at a fun-filled family afternoon also including Ramses the Ram, Santa Claus and a band doing Mexican music at the Lake Hogan Farms Club House on December 6.   The event, which will run from 1-6 p.m., is a fundraiser for Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, the leading audiobook service for those with visual impairment and dyslexia.

On a sad note, this week the United States Tennis Association, as part of a wholesale reallocation of tennis ratings, changed Gary D. Gaddy from a 3.5 to a 4.0.  The passing of his mediocre status will be mourned.


A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday December 4, 2009.

Copyright  2009  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:08 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, December 3, 2009 5:05 PM EST
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Friday, November 27, 2009
It's official: Butch Davis is a genius

IT'S OFFICIAL.  Butch Davis is a genius.  I told my wife, a couple of years ago, when the University of North Carolina head football coach hired Everett Withers as his defensive coordinator (and to coach the defensive secondary), that Butch Davis was a genius -- if he knew what he was doing.  I said it rashly because I knew only one pertinent fact about Coach Withers:  Withers was coming to UNC after one season as the University of Minnesota's defensive coordinator -- where the Golden Gophers football team had the worst defense in Bowl Subdivision football.

Personally, I thought, that's not whom I would hire.  (Actually, I thought “who I would hire” -- but let’s keep that between you and me.)

Apparently Butch Davis doesn’t think like me – or, perhaps, Davis had read more of Withers' resume than I had.  For one thing, Davis may have noticed that the Gophers also had one of the worst defenses in the nation before Withers arrived there for his single season.

Davis might have noticed that Withers spent six seasons with the NFL's Tennessee Titans from 2001 until 2006 where their defense greatly improved during his stay.

Davis also appears to have noticed that prior to working with the Titans, Withers was defensive secondary coach under former Tar Heel coach Mack Brown at Texas from 1998 until 2000, where the Longhorns pass defense improved from 75th in the nation in 1997 to first in the nation in 2000.

Davis may have noticed that Withers was the defensive coordinator at Louisville from 1995 to 1997 and that his 1996 defensive unit ranked fourth nationally in both total defense and rushing defense and led the NCAA in turnovers forced.

Here’s the story now.  UNC’s defense, through 11 games, is ranked twelfth in the nation in points allowed, fifth in tackles for a loss, ninth in turnovers gained, sixth in interceptions made, and is tied for first in interceptions returned for touch downs.  And, in what is the best measure of total defense, yards allowed, is fifth -- behind only Alabama, Florida, Texas and Texas Christian, four undefeated teams -- all with really good offenses.

(For those uninformed on football calculus, a good offense makes its team's defense look better since while your offense is on the field the other's team's offense ain't.)  Of the 120 teams ranked in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision, Alabama ranks 30 in total offense, Florida 15, Texas 17, Texas Christian 5 -- and UNC a lowly 113.

To illustrate how good UNC’s defense can be, consider the last UNC football game, a game against a Boston College team that was still in the running for a berth in the ACC championship game.  UNC won almost entirely on the stout backs and sticky fingers of its defense.

For the contest, BC's offense had an anemic 198 total yards. UNC's defense almost matched BC's offense with 171 yards on six returns (five interceptions and one fumble).  In the game's second half, BC’s seven offensive possessions consisted of 19 offensive plays which gained a total of 50 yards.  They never crossed the mid-field line.

For the game BC's offense was outscored 14 to 13 by UNC's defense (even giving no credit for an interception UNC’s defense returned to the one-yard line.)  For most of the game, UNC's best offense consisted of kicking to BC.

And so, yes, it is now official that Butch Davis is a genius. (And Everett Withers probably ain't far behind.)  It is also official that I am a moron -- for ever doubting that Butch Davis was genius.

But I’m learning.  Here’s my current advice to Coach Davis.  Hire Timm Rosenbach to be the Tar Heel’s new offensive coordinator.  Rosenbach has been that position for one year at New Mexico State.  You can’t go wrong -- the Aggies are last in the Bowl Subdivision in total offense.


Gary D. Gaddy is hoping the Tar Heels are invited to the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl in Nashville, where he’ll treat his wife to her dream combination of bluegrass music and Tar Heel football.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday November 27, 2009.

Copyright  2009  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 7:59 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 3:10 PM EST
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