secondary brake

1/20/08

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our team at the Rutgers game in December – we had kickass seats

Yes, I’m talking about basketball today, so if you’re not interested, please turn your head and cough while I cup your balls. You’ve been warned.

I don’t need to tell most of you we lost our first game this weekend: the number one ranked college team in the nation got beat at home by one of the shittiest teams in the ACC, an 18-point underdog with a usually-bad, always-shit-talking point guard who managed 400 assists. Now, I’m not sure where I stand on the “what does losing teach you” spectrum. There are those who think it’s the best thing ever to happen to a team, and there are those who keep moaning “the only thing losing teaches you is how to lose.”

Because Carolina hoops is my religion, I have to opt for the former. In this day and age, going undefeated is not just about talent, it’s about a zen-like emotional laser focus mostly lost on folks aged 18-22… and luck. There are reasons no team has gone undefeated in the modern era, not since Bob Knight (the patron saint of fucked-up, sociopathic rage-aholics everwhere) did it in 1976, with far fewer games.

Nobody, especially this particular squad, is going to be cool with losing on network television to a team we should have oiled, sanded and shellacked. I have faith that Roy will set them to rights, either by giving them a few days off, or putting the fear of God (However Roy Sees Him) into his players. Certainly, I’m in a better mood than the fingertip pundits unleashing their inner demons on the message boards of Inside Carolina.

Seriously, when did the internet become such a terrible place to find succor when you’re low? Even when we win, our message boards fill with “sky is falling” missives, usually misspelled, heaping rancor on Roy Williams or whatever player hasn’t hit their shots (this week, it’s Wayne Ellington – never mind his mind-blower at Clemson). As with any public gathering, you need to do an immense amount of curation and read entries only from people you can stomach, but at some point that percentage dipped below .01%, which makes it hardly worth your time.

Given that, I’ll voice my worries. I love my Heels. With this particular generation, there’s a lot to love – even ABC’ers have got to find it in their hearts to appreciate the likes of Marcus Ginyard and Danny Green. Ty Lawson is quietly stunning in the way he drives, and has never shown anything but total grace to opponents. As for Tyler Hansbrough, I can see why other teams can’t stand him, or think he travels half the time he has the ball, but that’s only because I’ve harbored such hatred for opponents. As for me, Tyler has been a true inspiration for the last three years, to battle relentlessly through my own shortcomings and find a way to make things work. And my daughter is completely in love with him.

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yes, she’s wearing number 50 and those Play-Doh smiley faces are probably for him

My take on the last few games? We’re simply exhausted. I think we’ve hit something of a wall, and I’m not sure what coaching staffs do about it. I know the feeling: willing yourself past your endurance and then having nothing left, at least for a while. The way this team runs, their tempo, I wonder if it can be maintained. Those defensive screw-ups? It just looked like fatigue to me. It’s not like our guys didn’t know what they were supposed to be doing; the flesh was merely weak.

There’s a name for a team that peaks in January, then gets run so ragged, with so few substitutions in the name of a draconian coach, that they always flame out in March… and that name is “dook”. Please, for the sake of all that his holy, that ain’t us.

What do you do when this kind of thing happens? I mean, besides giving them backrubs and letting them watch “Fried Green Tomatoes?” Are there any sports psychologists around here?

0 thoughts on “secondary brake

  1. ken

    What is it about Carolina grads? I know of no other school with such fervent alumni supporters of their athletics. (Notre Dame is close, though.) And it seems to cut across all social boundries too, I know of UNC Grads who could care less about any other sport, pro or college, that still adore their Heels roundball. It’s impressive. That’s coming from a Big Ten grad no less, albeit a Big Ten school famous for its wrestling and field hockey programs.

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  2. chm

    Regardless or record and performance, the elimination of dark blue and argyle from the uniforms would add the most pleasure to watching Carolina games for me. Is there any gnarlier look–excepting maybe the classic Celtics uni, now also hopelessly compromised by a big sneaker company–than UNC’s classic “Carolina” fronts? I’m sorry, but there is none more gnarly.

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  3. Sharon

    I said to my daughter very early in the first half that I thought we might lose. This was especially troubling to her since her teacher is a Maryland fan (why in Raleigh NC??) Tyler was forcing his shots. The refs were not calling the game tightly so we weren’t going to go to the free throw line. And, Maryland did a good job of making us play half court offense. That’s not been a strength this year. Our transition game is a thing of beauty, but we’ve struggled with lesser teams than Maryland on running good plays and taking good shots. Saturday was a dark day in our household. Clinton won in Nevada, the promised snow did not materialize and the Heels lost. I thought the most depressing day of the year was supposed to be Jan. 24? In terms of the Heels’ future — I’m still optimistic. You knew we were going to have a bad night eventually. And, I felt we beat ourselves. That’s more frustrating, but also more fixable than getting beat by someone with more talent. I haven’t ventured over to IC, but I’m sure there are a million prescriptions for what needs to be done. My $.02 is that if the game is not going to be called tight & he’s not going to get to the foul line, Tyler needs to do a better job of dishing out when he’s double- or triple-teamed. I think he’s been conditioned to go to the basket so much that he doesn’t look for that extra pass.

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  4. DFB's&T's

    Ken — thanks for the comment and you have hit the nail on the head. There is a religion that binds many of us on the blog regardless of politics or traditional religion — UNC hoops.
    UNC hoops creates a fraternity that alums of other schools are never able to fathom. I went to Wake Forest for law school and those poor schleps have nothing like it — and this was during the Tim Duncan era!

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  5. Amy

    I’ve been waiting for a hoops post! I love this team, but I do think there’s been a little bit of rush to judgement in annoiting us the eventual champions. Our pre-season schedule was pretty weak, even though we were on the road so much. I had a feeling we were going to lose on Saturday, and while it breaks my heart and ruined my Saturday, I have to think it’s going to be good for us in the long run. Yeah, we’re good, but we’re not invincible. We have to play defense and play smart. And I am actually extremely relieved to not meet dook when we are ranked number 1 and undefeated. Those stakes are too high, my heart can’t take it!!
    I think the loss of Bobby Frasor is really causing problems, too.

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  6. Matt

    Carolina plays at Miami Wednesday and then has a week off. Hopefully, we can get our legs back during the off week. Go Heels!

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  7. GFWD

    Losing Bobby Frasor would have been an acceptable lament if he went down after Ty and QT had already fouled out of that particular game and we were left without a true point guard. Beyond that, it’s a bad crutch this long after his injury.
    Bobby won’t suit up for Carolina or don the practice jersey for the rest of the season. I know it, Roy knows it and everyone on the team knows it. To paraphrase Rick Pitino when he was the Celtic’s coach: “Bird, Parrish, McHale and Frasor ain’t coming through that door, folks!”
    Our pre-season schedule on paper was supposed to be MUCH tougher. It’s not our fault Louisville sucked and Kentucky is on life-support and Ohio State lost Oden and Conley in the off-season.
    Getting the loss to the Twerps out of the way now is fine. Takes silly “undefeated season” pressures off of the team and allows them to see that they won’t always be able to rely on a lucky ‘Weezy’ jumper (like the one he hit at Clemson) in the waning seconds if they don’t play solid D for most of the previous 39 minutes each game.
    I think our other bigs down low need to step up their offensive and defensive presence to relieve Tyler of some of the load. Thompson is soft and Stepheson’s stats don’t match up with his superior build and strength. And, as much as I love him, I’m a little tired of seeing Tyler battle three guys, when that’s leaving two of our other players wide open for outlet passes and, presumably, good shots. If he added the “assist” to his already formidable arsenal of playmaking ability, he’d elevate to another level.
    It’s one loss out 19 games. I’ll take another 18-0 run. 36-2 has a nice ring to it.
    Ken, I’m sorry your school does not share the same passion we Heels feel about our team. And, before you point out your alma mater’s success in wrestling and field hockey, let me point out that the Tar Heels have 5 national championships in field hockey and are the current reigning champs in that sport, too.
    Check out the link: http://www.usfieldhockey.com/ncaa/
    Unless you went to ODU or Maryland (neither of whom are in the Big Ten), your Iowa team better stick to just wrestling.

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  8. ken

    Whoa, easy tiger (GWFD) you win, UNC is the king (and queen) of all NCAA athletics. While you’re watching a Carolina game, I’ll curl up by the fire with one of the many books produced by an alumnus of my school’s writing program, say John Irving or Kurt Vonnegut or Raymond Carver.
    The follow up question is doesn’t it bother any of you (ostensibly smart) UNC grads that 90% of any given Carolina B-Ball team is populated with ‘student/athletes’ who scored in the teens on their ACT or couldn’t crack 1000 on the SAT? In other words, they wouldn’t have gotten into UNC were it not for their talent. Meanwhile you worked your asses off in high school to get the kind of grades and board scores and money to get into UNC to get the same degree some of them will get.

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  9. GFWD

    Really?
    An alum from a school tied for #68 in the national rankings (and, by that rationale would not qualify for the NCAA tournament) is going to throw stones from his glass porch at the school tied for a ranking of #28?
    http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/usnews/edu/college/rankings/brief/t1natudoc_brief.php
    Really?
    Part of me feels like Sonny Corleone being baited into the fray while my more sharp-witted Heels ignore the taunts. Another feels like googling Raymond Carver to see if he had anything to do with the the patent for peanut butter that Mr. Skippy and Mr. JIF stole from George Washington Carver, but I don’t want to take any Short Cuts.
    Rather than play into Ken’s hands, I guess I’ll be stuck with the writings of Thomas Wolfe and Charles Kuralt. The music of James Taylor, the TV shows of Andy Griffith and the political history of President James K. Polk.
    By the way, loved Kurt’s graduation speech. I’m still using the sunscreen, baby! (Yes, I know it was not really his speech, Anna Quindlen wrote it.)

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  10. ken

    Jeez, put it back in your pants, GFWD. This whole thing started with my praise of UNC grads and how dedicated they are to the Carolina basketball program. I’m eternally grateful to UNC for producing the finest basketball player to grace a court and who made my hometown Chicago Bulls a basketball dynasty.
    Then I lamented that my school had always suffered from mediocre athletic teams but had minor success with field hockey and wrestling but you had to trump that too. So, to defend myself, I posted up with the only thing my meager little backwater midwestern university could lay claim to, a writing program that produced a Pulitzer Prize or fourteen. But hey you got Andy Griffith and Dan Cortese for Pete’s sake, you win.
    You probabaly make more money than me, have a prettier wife, drive a better car and clearly are superior in every way, GFWD. All because of that top-notch UNC degree.

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  11. Andy

    oooookaaaayyy…. back to basketball….
    Like others, Ian, I long for the UNC Hoops posts. This might be heresy (sp?) but I’m not so sure this team doesn’t need another loss at Miami on Wednesday. These guys strike me as a bunch of super nice guys that need to get pissed off to play at their best. I actually want to see this team backed into a corner to see what they are made of.
    The only reason I don’t want to see this happen is the nature of the way the NCAA tournament sets up this year. The #1 seed in the East will not have to leave the state of North Carolina to play until the Final Four. That could be a HUGE advantage and I definitely don’t want the team-who-shall-not-be-named-down-the-road to get it. Otherwise, I’d say let’s get the losses out of the way now.
    As for being tired, let’s not forget that the team DROVE back from Atlanta on Wednesday night getting back to the Smith Center at 6:10am. Even when you are 20, that kind of thing will stick with you for a few days.
    Still, this team is among 5 or 6 that have all the tools necessary to be playing for a national championship this year. It may happen, it may not, but we are certainly in the mix. That’s all that we, as fans, can really ask for. Oh – and that dook not win it. But that’s it.

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  12. kjf

    gary williams has a great record of beating number one teams. unfortunately he has a shitty record when beating crappy teams (the terps lost to american university this year!)

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  13. Ian

    yikes! Let me say for the record that Iowa is an incredible school, responsible not just for the education of two of my brothers and my nephew, but also had my mom as composer-in-residence (and I went to the UI Music Camp). I’m a product of the Iowa public school system (until middle school), considered best in the country and founded the ITBS.
    That said, UNC’s student-athletes set the bar for almost all colleges. Our graduation rate hovers near 100%, thanks to Dean Smith and Roy Williams’ dedication to academics. Even Michael Jordan came back to get his degree, and Vince Carter caught hell for attending the graduation ceremony the morning of an NBA playoff game.
    So play nice, because we’re all blessed by our lucky choices!

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  14. Anne

    Alas, hoops is not really my thing. Unlike college hockey, which rules the world (but probably not in North Caroline, hee hee).
    Yesterday, however, it was pro football all the way. I was rooting for our Patriots and then the Giants. Needless to say, I was happy about the outcomes.

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  15. T.J.

    And so it goes.
    I’m a UNC fan/grad (undergrad and law school) through and through, but Vonnegut is one of my favorite, if not my favorite, writers. Also, Iowa/NFL QB Chuck Long graduated from the same Illinois high school I did. And any school that had a doctor for a basketball coach is fine by me.

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  16. T.J.

    Hey, and W.P. Kinsella graduated from Iowa! He wrote “Shoeless Joe,” which lead to the movie “Field of Dreams.” They both featured the character “Moonlight” Graham, based on a real baseball player who only played in the outfield in one major league game. He was the brother of UNC President/U.S. Senator Frank Porter Graham.
    And so it goes, again!

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  17. ken

    Let the record show, I came here to praise UNC and their alumni not bury them. (Read the first comment) I followed the cardinal rule of any potential conflict/barfight: don’t throw the first punch. I didn’t even mention where I went to school, GFWD did the research and sussed out where I went and went to town about UNC’s superiority to my humble alma mater, by then I had to defend myself a bit.
    No good deed goes unpunished, I guess.

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  18. GFWD

    Ken, as far as superiority over you because of my UNC degree, I could probably take you in Wii tennis and 80’s music trivia.
    Beyond that, my car is nothing that will turn heads, except to other dads who might confuse my Honda for theirs.
    My wife is a little hottie though, but she’s preggers now and a bit cranky in the home stretch, so her hotness factor is tempered by whether I’m viewing her from my doghouse or not.
    I guess you and I are going to have to don little skirts and battle it out on the field hockey pitch. Loser buys the beer!

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  19. kempbattle

    Hey, major dick move there, GFWD. And honestly, if you want to draw out the parallel between this whole sordid business of college ranking and ncaa basketball, UNC is Kansas State or Clemson. Pretty good, but I won’t be thinking about them come March (NB: I’m an alum). And I’ve always thought there was more of a range in the quality of students at UNC than anywhere else that I can think of. There are the out-of-staters who rank with the best students anywhere. Then, because we’re a state school and have to take people from the most backward pockets of NC, there are the kids from Tar Heel, Supply, and Advance. Yokels, not to put too fine a polish on it, who probably have no business being there from a strictly academic perspective. In short, let’s be mindful of our house’s own glass garage apartment.

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  20. GFWD

    Don’t know you kemp battle but it’s not a dick move to respond when someone takes a swipe at UNC’s academics. I kept my initial lobs and sussing out to sports by pointing out–in a joking manner–that Carolina was pretty good in other sports that weren’t necessarily coached by Roy. Honestly, do you think there’s a big field hockey faction out there?
    I believe Herr Ken (with whom I have no beef) then took it to the academic level. I simply responded with the rankings which kind of squashed that whole argument.
    So, kempbattle, methinks the only dick move here . . . is yours.

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  21. T.J.

    Hey, ken! Glenbard West, if I’m not mistaken, is where I went on my first real date (1985? 1986?). Every time I flip past “Lucas” on cable I see if I recognize anything.

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  22. ken

    GFWD-
    I promise this will be my last word on the subject but I just wanted to clarify one matter.
    I never impugned Carolina’s academic credentials (it’s no contest, U of Iowa vs. UNC) I just ceded the athletic contest to Carolina because I knew I’d lose, which was my point in the first place: Iowa’s athletics are consistently mediocre. So I ponied up with famous alumni, specifically those from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop because few schools can hold a candle there, even UNC. I mean that list is just amazing.
    We oughta duke it out somehow though, a trivia contest seems like a good idea. We’ll take it offline and go from there.

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  23. campbell

    Ken, I just have to tell you that Glenbard West has to be the most gorgeous high school I can imagine. I have been to Chicago but never to the surrounding area (Tar Heel bred and still live in NC) — that aerial shot is stunning.
    Go Heels.

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  24. ken

    Campbell-
    Yeah, it’s pretty tough to beat. I actually took that aerial shot in my post. Our rival schools called West ‘the dump on the hump’. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a prettier public high school and hell, I went there.

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  25. T.J.

    ken, no, I moved away after my freshman year at UNC (summer of ’88). I’ve been back for the 10- and 20-year reunions, but other than that I have virtually nothing to do with the area anymore. I’m in the Foothills of NC now. But I’m still a Cubs, Bears, and Bulls (even before UNC’s most famous alum showed up) fan.

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