Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Do something if you can

After another hectic night at the office, tracking down the results of all the area high school basketball games and getting a five-page section out on deadline, I drove home listening to BBC Radio as I usually do.

Following the blather about the Massachusetts Senate race and what it means, there was a segment of interviews with Haiti earthquake survivors. One man said he lost five members of his family — all of them — when his house collapsed in the suburbs of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince. He seemed so casual when confirming to the interviewer that his whole family was gone, buried in the rubble, that it was surreal listening to him. But this man's bigger problem was that he had very little food and water in the eight days since the earthquake hit last Tuesday.

I can't imagine what I would be like if my wife and son were killed in a disaster and I survived. I can't imagine what it would be like if I had to endure that and then try to keep myself alive amid what surely must be the most hellish place on earth right now. Life as many Haitians knew it — which was never that great anyway considering the country has long been considered the poorest on the planet — just got immeasurably worse. Suddenly the $419 power bill I got in the mail today (thanks, Wilson Energy!) seemed trite considering I'm sitting here typing this in a warm house with a warm bed waiting.

To whatever god you pray or even if you don't have a god, say a prayer for these folks in Haiti. Or even better, actually do something to help answer their prayers. I just went to the Web site for Doctors Without Borders and made a small donation. I wish I could do more but I can do that.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

CBA boys ranked 9th

The latest NCPreps.com high school basketball polls are out and Charles B. Aycock is listed ninth in the 3-A boys rankings.

That's quite a feat for the Golden Falcons, who at 13-1 have reeled off 12 straight victories after losing to Hunt in their second game. It was just a few years ago that Aycock endured a winless season and now David West has the Falcons among the best 3-A teams in the state.

Aycock has a deep team but two Falcons are attracting the attention of a lot of collegiate recruiters. Brandon Winford, a 6-foot-7 junior, has been contacted by many major NCAA Division I programs such as N.C. State and Georgetown while senior Isaac Ryals has some Div. I suitors as well as many Div. II schools in the region.

Aycock is the only team in The Wilson Times readership area that is ranked but Kinston is the No. 1 2-A boys team while Rocky Mount is fifth in the 3-A boys poll.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

UNC alumni game set for Feb. 12

If you're a North Carolina basketball fan then you probably want to make plans to be in Chapel Hill on Friday, Feb. 12 for the program's "Celebration of a Century" alumni game.

Three former Tar Heels who were U.S. Olympic team members — Bobby Jones, Walter Davis and J.R. Reid — have committed to play in the game, which is part of the program's year-long celebration of its 100th anniversary. Also on hand will be members of UNC's 1993 national championship team: Eric Montross, George Lynch, Brian Reese, Kevin Salvadori, Matt Wenstrom and Serge Zwikker. That's right, all four of the 7-footers from that team will be on hand. Also, Pete Chilcutt and Scott Williams, who were members of NBA championship teams in Houston and Chicago, respectively, are scheduled to play.

Besides the game, which should be interesting considering the ages of most of the players, there will be video tributes to UNC basketball history, interviews with selected former players and a post-game tribute to former head coach Dean Smith.

Tickets for the game are $10 and can be obtained at www.TarHeelBlue.com or by calling the ticket office at 919-962-2296. But hurry, because more than 17,000 tickets have already been sold and the Dean Dome holds less than 22,000.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Time to move on for Christmas and college football

Is it just me or are there a lot of private homes and businesses with Christmas decorations still up? There seem to be more than a few homes and businesses still sprouting holy wreaths, plastic Santas and those weird animated wire reindeer.

Now I'm not one of these people who arises early on Dec. 26 to take down every last stitch of yuletide decor but, growing up, we always adhered to the policy that by New Year's Day, it was time to move on.

I hold that philosophy when it comes to college football as well. I'm sitting here on Jan. 7 watching the BCS "national championship" game and that's just wrong just like the Super Bowl in February or the World Series in November or, for that matter, high school football games in the middle of August. Everything wants to overstay its welcome these days.

Here's the drill: you finish up college football on Jan. 1, except for the all-star games which nobody cares about anyway. Then you deal with January's dismal weather by focusing on college basketball and the NFL playoffs, which should wrap up neatly by the end of the month. Then February, the focus on college hoops intensifies but, at the same time, you have spring training to offer the eternal hope that it will be warm again real soon.

By March, it's all college basketball, which concludes just as it's time to start playing baseball, just like the way just before it hit the ground and exploded, the Road Runner would step out of a phone booth Wile E. Coyote had pushed off a cliff. It's seamless.

I can't get into NBA and NHL playoffs when they're still going on after Memorial Day. I used to but I just can't do it anymore. Sports are about seasonal rhythms for me. Just like that old song by The Byrds (which I think was taken from a Bible verse) : "To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven."

Right now, it's time to watch the ending of a game I very nearly turned the channel on an hour ago. The Legend of Garrett Gilbert (or is it Gilbert Garrett?) is about to be written.

Change in D.C.? Not really

Mike Shanahan is the latest NFL coach to take Daniel Snyder's money and try to turn his dismal Washington Redskins into the winner they once were.

Shanahan, who won two Super Bowls as the head coach of the Denver Broncos in the 1990s, was fired by Denver after missing the playoffs for the third straight year following the 2008 season. He fits Snyder's mold of having a past resume of greatness but I see no reason to believe he will fare any better than the other six guys who have had the job since Snyder bought the team in 1999.

From Norv Turner to Terry Robiskie to Marty Schottenheimer to Steve Spurrier to Joe Gibbs.2 to Jim Zorn, they have all failed to put the Redskins back in the Super Bowl where they practically lived in the 1980s. Shanahan will be no different. Hey, I know this time the Skins have a real general manager in Bruce Allen and not Vinny Cerrato, who Snyder finally dumped. But Cerrato wasn't the problem and neither were any of those coaches (except maybe Zorn).

The problem is Snyder and is insistence on throwing money at whatever free agent he thinks will be a good player. The Redskins are notoriously overpaid and when people collect a greater wage than even they think they're worth, they don't produce like they do when they're hungry.

I grew up a Redskins fan. They were the first team I ever liked, mainly because they had a player whose last name I thought was "Hamburger," which seemed tré cool to a 7-year-old in 1973. (It was really Chris Hanburger, who played collegiately at North Carolina but so what?). I've followed them through thick and thin but over the past 5 years, I just can't get excited anymore. Once Gibbs, who is the greatest NFL coach in my lifetime (that's right, Bill Walsh had Joe Montana; Gibbs had Joe Theismann, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien!) failed in his second coming in D.C., I knew that Snyder was the problem.

The sad thing about Snyder is that we are roughly the same age and he grew up a Skins fan, too. So I'm sure most of his formative experiences as a sports fan are similar to mine. I remember standing on the field in Candlestick Park back in December of 1999, shortly after Snyder became the owner. I had a field pass from the San Francisco 49ers office and was hanging out watching the teams warm up. At the time, I was not a Norv Turner fan at all and hoped Snyder would get rid of him. I watched Snyder making his rounds, chatting with various coaches and official-looking men and wondered if I should just go up to him, shake his hand and explain that we were both Skins fans since we started school and implore him to not let our team turn into one of the league's laughing stocks.

But I didn't do it and now if I had the chance to speak to Snyder directly, I'd let him know the past decade of failure lies squarely at his feet. But I have to believe he understands that now. Still, I don't expect the Redskins to go back to the Super Bowl until Snyder's association with the franchise is completely severed and that's not going to happen until he's dead or runs out of money.

Good luck, Shannie. You're going to need it!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Hesmer lands on collegiate all-decade team

Wilson native William Hesmer was recently honored with inclusion on the College Soccer News All-Decade Team as the second-team goalkeeper. The former Wake Forest University star was joined by three other Demon Deacons on the elite squad, including first-teamers Marcus Tracy and Corben Bone.

Hesmer, a Hunt High graduate and current goalkeeper for the Columbus Crew of MLS, was the second-team goalkeeper. He was twice named as an All-American at Wake, where his save percentage (.802) and goals against average (0.82) is among the top five all-time.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Jeffers impresses at GSK

Greenfield School senior Jeremy Jeffers earned the attention and respect of noted high school basketball observer Bob Gibbons at the GlaxoSmithKline Holiday Invitational at Raleigh Broughton High this week, reports Tim Stevens of the News & Observer.

Jeffers, who has signed with Drake University, averaged 15 points per game in the GSK, in which the Knights went 1-2.

Stevens quotes Gibbons as saying, "He is a guy that a lot of teams missed on. (Drake head coach and former N.C. State assistant) Mark Phelps came back into his old stomping grounds and has got an outstanding player."