Saturday, January 31, 2009

In her honor


Cheerleaders and fans wore pink in memory of recently departed NCSU women's head basketball coach Kay Yow, and in support of the battle against cancer. Good will transcends fanhood, and regardless of being the hardest of hardcore Tar Heel fans, I've always been a Kay Yow fan, just as I was a Jim Valvano fan. They're heroes in my book, largely because of their bravery battling cancer, but also just the depth of their character.

One NCSU fan, during today's UNC vs. NCSU game, had black hand-written lettering on his pink t-shirt that said: "This one's for Kay" Another placard referenced that the game was dedicated to Coach Yow. The coaching staffs of both teams wore white tennis shoes as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer awareness drive. And then the students, fans, and ultimately even the players showed how little regard they have for the legacies of those fallen heroes. Shame on them.

I understand wanting to win. But, I'll never comprehend sacrificing good sportsmanship toward that end. While the home fans moaned over obvious calls that just happened to go against their team and carried on their off-color chants, I found myself wondering: "which part of this behavior honors Coach Yow?" At the end of the game, Coach Williams substituted Michael Copeland into the game for his first action. With less than five seconds to go in the game, he (Copeland) gets a feed in the lane, and goes for a dunk. Wuss-packer McCauley runs at Copeland, not to block the shot, but to deliver an elbow to Copeland's temple. Copeland, getting up from the court, did exactly what I'd have done. He charged after McCauley. McCauley, instead of showing the slightest contrition or concern for Copeland's potential injury, taunted Copeland with: "Not in my house! Not in my house!" The lousy State fans got in on the act as well, throwing objects on the court.

Copeland was ejected (even though he didn't throw any blows) and McCauley wasn't (even though he did throw an elbow, and landed it). Anybody who would want to claim that the contact was just continuation of a play on the ball, lost that argument when MacCauley took full ownership of the act with his bragging.

Because I work in the Construction/Civil Engineering field in North Carolina, most of the people I've worked around in the past 20 years here are State fans and/or grads, NCSU being the predominant engineering school in the state. One place I worked, everyone else there was a State fan. All of them. Once, driving down the road, my employer volunteered to me his rationale for hating Carolina fans. First he said he hated Duke fans, because they didn't live in North Carolina.



Then he said, he hates Carolina fans because "they" think they're better than him.

"Let me get this straight," I said. You hate Tar Heel fans, because you think they think they're better than you? You say this knowing I'm a Carolina fan?"

"Well, not you so much..."

So, I just let that whole line of discussion die away without further participation.

Thing is, though, that's exactly how some folks think. They're so teeth-gnashingly jealous, that they project their ugliness on the people who they imagine are victimizing them: "If we were the 'haves' we'd look down our noses at you we're going to act slighted because of what we think you must think." Give me a fucking break.

Sam Cassell's "wine & cheese crowd" label is often quoted by the lamest of commentators (Vitale, Phelps, Limberger, Packer) as a slur against the fans of Carolina basketball, but looked at a different way, the way that most infuriates the haters, it's a slap at their team. Here it is, from our perspective:

Our team can beat your team...without OUR help.

We come out to see our team win, and cheer for the great things we see them do, while winning.


Not to intimidate the referees, not to embarrass the family of the players, not to spit on other fans, or throw shit on the floor.

I played a lot of pick-up basketball in my "more-agile" years (It wasn't THAT long ago!...) and due to my build, I could bang around in the paint with anyone. Plus, I had a 36" vertical leap in high school (yeah, my black teammates couldn't believe it either: "test him again!"). But, I can't remember ever swinging my arm down on someone else's head, like Duke's Gerald Henderson against Tyler Hansbrough or McCauley today against Copeland. Coach Williams did the right thing in both cases, publicly downplaying the incidents as a way of diffusing future ill-will. But privately, I hope he's as angry as I am. McCauley wasn't just playing hard, any more than Henderson. He was trying to injure Copeland. I ask myself, when was the last time I saw a Tar Heel player take a swipe at any player like that? The answer is never. It's a question of sportsmanship. NCSU's Lowe should have manned up in the post-game interview, and publicly apologized for his player and fans, and their poor taste and sorriness. He should have pulled McCauley from the game for his actions. He should suspend McCauley.

The culture of what passes for sport at NC State (as well as Duke, and some others) is shameful. What we see from opponents when we watch a game is: Our team, together with our fans will try to beat you, but when it becomes apparent that we can't outplay you, we'll resort to thuggery, and try to hurt you, because we think that you think that you're better than us.

And absolutely, the ACC should step up and levy a suspension against McCauley. If it doesn't, then it, the League, is equally complicit in the sorriness. The same goes for Lowe. He should be made to sit out the rest of the season. Just for fostering a culture of cheap-shot artists. In fact, that might also be a good thing for their level of competitiveness: I can't think of a less talented coach in the ACC; they'd probably do a lot better without him.

I don't hold myself as better than you, whoever you are. But regarding sportsmanship as conditional based on whether I'm winning? Yeah, I'm better than that! And, I hope the League starts insisting on being defined as better than that.

Rest In Peace Kay Yow. I will miss you. I appreciate your bravery and class. And the folks in Raleigh sure don't show any signs of having learned how to be good people from having had you around. I wish they had you back, or at least, that they'd find a better way to honor your memory.

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