Sunday, February 8, 2015

Dean Smith, UNC and the Carolina Way at the Heights

I've always liked North Carolina Basketball.  Although they enjoyed the same kind of success as the hated Duke Blue Devils, UNC always seemed like a nicer, more benevolent alternative to ACC Basketball.  UNC had Michael Jordan, James Worthy and Vince Carter.  Duke had Christian Laettner and Cherokee Parks.  Enough said.  I always liked North Carolina.

That's why Dean Smith's passing saddened me so much.  More than Roy Williams, Dean Smith was an icon.  He made North Carolina Basketball.  Jesus, they named the Tar Heels home court after the man, instead of after some tobacco company!  You can read a lot of better obituary-type odes to Dean Smith.  He was the first Deep South program to recruit a Black player.  He was the catalyst that gave us the shot clock (Because of his 4 corners offense). And he was the believer of the "Carolina Way."

Which made it somewhat ironic that we saw the Boston College game versus the Tar Heels just hours before he died.  The Tar Heels, still ranked No. 12 in the Country despite losing convincingly to the Virgina Cavaliers earlier in the week, was looking for an easy win as they went into their showdown with Duke in a couple of days.  Boston College, mired in the bottom half of the league with a losing record (1-9 in conference) was checking out how Billy Curley's (Take that Tar Heels!) students were doing down in the South Shore.  Similar to our Duke game last year, we were looking forward to the opponent more than the home team.  Although, Roy Williams doesn't have the same cache as Coach K, we were still interested in seeing how Dean Smith's successor works his 5.

Chestnut Hill, MA.  3pm.  We enjoyed great seats, right next to the BC band in Section C.  Close enough to see the action but so close that the annoying drunk college students were getting in our way because they wouldn't sit down.

It was a great game to begin.  For a Saturday afternoon, the crowd was pumped up considering the enduring legacy of Conte Forum is that they don't sell beer at the games.  A little bit had to do with the fact that the Tar Heels were making one of their first appearances at the Heights (and brought all of their fans with them), a little had to do with the fact that it was Saturday afternoon in the middle of 4 feet of snow.  What else were we going to do?  The boys were just as pumped up too.  Although they couldn't name anyone on the current roster, they did know Harrison Barnes and Michael Jordan, and that made it better than BC.

Now BC was led by a high scoring guard named Olivier Hanlan, BC's 6'4" Junior from Puerto Rico.  He's really the only Eagle who has a chance to go to the next level.  It wasn't a fair fight, when you think about it.  But that didn't stop BC from making a game of it.  At the end of the First Half, the game was tied at 36.

The Human Slinky was our halftime show.  What the Hell was that?

North Carolina comes out in the Second Half ready to take over.  They break out a run at the beginning of the half to take a 13 point lead.  North Carolina's strategy of playing all of its big men together seemed to finally be working.  Even Justin Jackson, the Freshman who runs like he's 50 years old got in on the action.

At the end, despite a couple of mini runs by the Eagles, The Tar Heels prevailed by 11 points, 79-68.  North Carolina even broke out some of the 4 corners delay tactics at the end as they were drawing the shot clock down.  The Carolina Way, indeed.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Brady, Butler and Edelman - Super Bowl Champions

Super Bowl XLIX - Patriots 28, Seahawks 24.  Super Bowl Champions!

The first thing I thought of after Tom Brady's second kneel down is that the Patriots have to build a new room at the Hall of Fame for this Lombardi Trophy.  At first glance, this game set up a lot like the Patriots last two Super Bowls.  A tough match up against a strong, stout defense.  A QB that people were hyping up because no one knows what a good QB looks like any more.  A lot of talk about "legacies," "history" and "gates."  The game featured a miraculous play, big come backs and questionable play-calling.

Only the game was flipped on its head.  While some would say that Jerome Kearse's fumbling and bumbling catch on the Seahawk's last drive was miraculous, the real miracle came when Malcolm Butler jumped the quick slant on one yard line to intercept Russell Wilson's pass to seal the game.  While some would say that the Seahawks almost drove down the field in 2 minutes to wing the Super Bowl, the real big comeback was the Patriots erasure of a 10 point deficit in the Fourth Quarter to score 14 unanswered points.  And while I was certainly questioning Belichick's decision not to call time out when the Seahawks had the ball on the one yard line, the real questionable call was that pass on second and goal.  Why not run the ball on second down, call the timeout and then pass if you don't get in?

A couple of fleeting thoughts:

1.  C told me after the Seahawks took the 24-14 lead that "That's it.  The Patriots lost."  I actually told him that I would not be able to handle it if he talks about that again.

2.  G went over a friends house with his cheesy nachos.  While I did most of the work, he actually did chopping and other prep as well as the cheese topping.  He texted us after the game about whether we watched the game.

3.  DLG was pretty sure that the Patriots won the Super Bowl, she was too busy working on her Minecraft mansion.

Carroll took a Dump, I agree
4.  Pete Carroll's explanation for why they called a pass on that last play of the game was non-sensical.  Way to step up and take the blame for the Offensive Coordinator who called a terrible play.

5.  On that subject, I am convinced that the Seahawks were Hell-bent on making sure that Marshawn Lynch was not going to be the star of the game, the MVP of the Super Bowl or the face of the franchise.  At the time of the interception, Russell Wilson had 2 TDs, but did not look dominating.  Lynch had one TD and a second may have put him over the hump for the MVP award.  Not only should they have run Lynch one more time, but when you see the overhead view of the play, Lynch was open in the flat for an easy touchdown on that Butler play.  He could have waltzed into the end zone.  Carroll just hates these kinds of guys who don't believe in his "ra ra" motivational voodoo.

6.  I think Carroll wanted his guy, Wilson, to win the game.  It would have been sweet for Carroll to show Robert Kraft what was what after all those years ago when Carroll was fired.

7.  If Kearse's catch at the end of the game would have led to a Seahawks' victory, would we be calling the last 8 years the curse of Spygate?

8.  I don't think Edelman suffered a concussion on that hit by Kam Chancellor.  It was just a big hit that staggered him for a couple of moments.  I think he also hurt himself on that play right in front of the goal line.

9.  Who allowed Mark Mark out on the field at the end of the game?

10.  Why were the commercials trying to get people to cry?  Nationwide and dead children.  Budweiser and a lost puppy.  Nissan and an absent Father.  #likeagirl, Toyota and sad Fathers.  What the Hell was this all about?

In any event, to coin a term from Bill Belichick, We're on to Baseball season.