Monthly Archives: April 2012

hear that? that was my skull

4/12/12

The verdict is in, and I have to get surgery for a deviated septum. So it is written: in 1999, while suicidal and hopeless, I was rolling one of those giant LA plastic garbage cans up my driveway on Beachwood Avenue, when it flipped up and back, catching me on the bridge of the nose.

I was instantly in shock, and it wasn’t until I saw the blood hitting the garage door (from my own head 10 feet away) that I truly understood what had happened. One of my roommates drove me to the emergency room, where I gave them a fake social security number – what the fuck did I care? – and they lied and told me my nose wasn’t broken.

Cue 12 years of sinus misery. TWELVE YEARS. Oh, the guaifenesin, the NyQuil, the Afrin, the 14 rounds of antibiotics in the last four years… they say everything should be a learning experience, but there was nothing to take away from mutilating your own face while depressed, other than “fuck you and your inner sense of fairness”.

And so last week otolaryngologist showed me a picture:

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…that confirmed what I’d known all along, that my right nostril takes several unauthorized journeys en route to delivering oxygen. The surgery is scheduled for May 4, so I’m trying to do a shitload before that happens, because the recovery period can vary wildly.

So have any of you ragtag lot been under the knife of late And has anybody out there had this particular surgery?

120 months of cool, cool jazz

4/10/12

Hey, do you know what today is? Oh, it’s just a little something I call my

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That’s right, all you crazy motherfuckers out there in houses and offices and smartphones across America, I’ve been doing this FOR TEN YEARS. Sure, I had a few spazmodic entries during my delightful PTSD months, but I started this online journal in earnest a decade ago tonight talking about my precious, precious feelings and swearing to do so every night for a year.

Very few people have done anything on the internet for ten years, which makes me look awesome and creepily old at the same time. When I started this thing, there was no way to embed videos because YouTube hadn’t been invented (it went beta as Tessa and I were figuring out a 4-week-old Lulubeans). People had to find each other in the comments section because Facebook didn’t exist (it launched the day I met Dean Smith).

When I first began, I would use people’s full names, rat out people I’d worked with, talk about intimate body parts and routinely embarrass my family and Tessa’s. Now all I talk about are intimate body parts. For some reason, it just never dawned on me that my diary would be searchable, or that anyone besides my mom would be reading.

Hi mom. Water your freesias. 10TH BLOGIVERSARY!!!!

If you stick around long enough, you not only get to see everything happen, you get to see its opposite. I’ve had people forbid me to use their names on here, then eight years later ask me to publicize their work – with absolutely no recollection of the former dictum. This is how it should be; web browsers, like webs themselves, specialize in ephemera.

In a way, the very existence of a journal like this is nonsensical. If journalism is the first draft of history, then blogs are the first draft of your emotions, and who wants to get splattered in that?

Yet for all its limitations, somehow this lo-fi edge of the internet still works, like an incandescent bulb dangling in a distant supply closet. The “web” as a personal place to own some real estate is pretty much gone: Facebook owns more than half of your creative output right off the bat, and the rest is Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr-esque sites. The intimate weblog as a genre is now hard to find, which is why – and I hate how twee this sounds – it’s probably a good idea I stick around.

I just went through the 50 blogs I have bookmarked, and FIVE of them have been updated in the last month. Which means folks like Eric and Anna and Helen Jane and Peter are to be celebrated. Even as Facebook came and tried to clobber us over the head, we grew elastic and adapted. This shit isn’t for everybody, but it’s for who it’s for; some people can be heartwarming, pithy and relatable in a two-sentence FB update, but I need two sentences just for the swear words.

I’ve been promising a redesign of this site for about four years – I’ve already got a FAQ and a Where To Start and Top 10 Most Unfair Rants and the like, but still taking ideas for design, if’n you have them. It would have been cool to unfurl a big site redecoration on my tenth anniversary, but I think we can all agree that doing it on time would have been jarringly out of character.

I have now broken my blog commandment “Don’t Talk About the Blog On the Blog” for 10 paragraphs and feeling queasy, so I leave you with this: People ask me how I can still do this (almost) every weekday, and while much of it has become a way Lucy can get a visceral feel for the world she inhabited as a li’l tot, it is y’all, just by existing, that has fed this beast.

Throughout my life, I have swung wildly between times of intense community and periods of isolation, and it being the latter right now, I’m always grateful being reminded that I belong to something greater than myself, and more powerful than my precious, precious feelings.

once got busy in a burger king bathroom

4/9/12

Before I unleash Sean’s second blog (as promised), I have to crow about my brother and his wife Jordana, as well as old friends Mac Rogers, Seth Shelden and others: their play Blast Radius is not only the Critic’s Pick for the New York Times…

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… it also resides smack in the “BRILLIANT” category of the New York Times Magazine Approval Matrix:

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click for bigger

Remember, this is for a show being performed in Long Island City, not even on the island of Manhattan. Truly remarkable, and there’s only two performances left that aren’t sold out, so get your tickets if you’re anywhere near New York.

And now that we have that bit of success out of the way, how about a pissed-off rant? Here’s my brother:

****

I want to talk about sex for a minute. And while the reason I usually want to talk about sex is because it is ALMOST ALWAYS what I happen to think about, this time I want to talk about sex because honestly, you’re an idiot.

If I’ve learned anything, it’s that the very things making the most noise in the political sphere right now are things that almost nobody actually cares about, they just like scoring points and semantics. A whole shit-ton of straight old men are having a war with each other while standing on a flotilla of drowning queers and none of the people actually doing the fighting give a crap about the people they’re standing on as long as they get to keep standing and slinging shit.

But HONESTLY, you’re gonna go put your lot in with those who want to deny the rights of LGBT couples? *THAT’S* your horse? “Yes,” a bunch of Americans say, “Yes, we need to make sure that gays can’t file a joint income tax.”

WHAT IS YOUR LIFE? HOW DO I GET YOUR EASY GODDAMN LIFE? Just so I understand, your afternoon, your evening – there’s no meal preparation in it, there is no homework to get through, you don’t have a second job or any kind of activity you enjoy, you don’t golf or go bowling or even… just sit around and talk about the New Testament? If you did ANY of these things, you’d never get around to talking about this crap.

Yes, even the New Testament, which says nothing about gays, no matter how many straws you grasp at. Jesus IS very clear about divorce but HAHAhermp-well,now,that’salljust-let’snotgothere,haHA! How do you even have an opinion about homosexuals, how did you get that far? Is it really THIS EASY to live in America, that you have all this extra time to talk about who’s cumming on whom?

How about this? At what point does someone become gay? I’ve heard a thousand times that you don’t hate the sinner, you hate the sin, right Christians? So when is it gay? Two guys engaging in anal intercourse – okay, fine, you got me, that’s gay. But what about a gay guy who doesn’t? What about two gay guys in a room masturbating, but they don’t touch each other. Still pretty gay, right?

What about a gay guy, stick with me here, what about a gay guy who’s having sex with a woman, but in order to survive it, he’s thinking about a man at the time. Is that still gay? I’ve got two kids, and both of them were planned – what if, during one of our three times a day sexual escapades, during the moment of climax – you’ve come with me this far, surely you’ll go the rest of the way – what if I was thinking about… Men’s shoes. Is that still gay? Is that so gay that I shouldn’t be allowed to marry?

HOW STUPID ARE YOU? You really think the sexual act – particularly that moment of climax – you think there’s something HOLY in that? Have you EVER had an orgasm? EVER?

You’re straight, you meet a woman and she’s a mystery. You date for months, you begin to unravel her, but there’s a million tiny things that continue to surprise you. You meet each other’s families and the challenges mount along with the pay-offs, each are both blessings and curses in a way you could never imagine.

You negotiate each other’s friends and you navigate the other’s needs, you plot and plan for how your life will unfold and you realize that you are prioritizing a life together that is larger than your individual goals, so you get married. During the course of your marriage, each of you changes in ways that make it almost intolerable to stay married, but you grab the steering wheel of your life and with every ounce of your strength you right the ship and you do this every single day. Money runs out, and money runs in, and there are kids or no kids, but the waters are murky and dangerous and to make it work you have to adapt and survive at an almost comical rate.

And then you look at the sex act and you say, “THIS. THIS is what is holy! This vaginal twitch, and this 35 c.c.s of semen, THAT is where GOD is.”

Baboons don’t go through everything you go through, but they still jerk off at the zoo, and you’re telling me that WHAT THE BABOON DOES IS HOLY. You’re TOTALLY OKAY with gay guys being gay, as long as they don’t do the thing that whales and octopuses and even educated FLEAS do. WHY do you even CARE.

There’s an entire political party whose message is based on rutting. Rutting the right way. One man, one woman, porking for babies. It makes as much sense to run a political platform based on limiting the amount of mayonnaise someone is allowed to ingest – MORE, actually, because while mayo certainly feeds our basest instinct, in large quantities IT IS actually kinda bad for you.

Look, as soon as we get brain scans that broadcast our every thought, a lot of this will change. Because when that happens, suddenly every closeted foot-fetishist and furry will get outed, we will learn what flashes through the mind of Rick Santorum when he’s ejaculating. And if he is – as he thinks he should be – thinking of babies during the moment of climax, then I hope we can all agree, he ought to be put in jail.

****

who invited that guy

4/8/12

Look, I know I can be a weird-looking guy – fourteen generations of seafaring Welsh coal miners have seen to that – but the way my own face confuses cutting-edge software is truly unnerving. I really ought to be in espionage if this is the best that computers can do. I’d be able to transverse forty cameras in any international airport, and each camera would think I’m a different guy.

The Mac’s iPhoto program is no software beast, but it has a pretty amazing success rate with “Faces”. You simply label four or five photos, and the software finds those faces in all the rest of your pictures. Tessa tried it with our family, and it worked brilliantly… except for me. The more she tried to teach it what I looked like, the more it spat out crap like this:

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Sometimes it wouldn’t even bother:

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just glad it didn’t get the dog right

Undaunted, I heard about Face.com’s age calculator and fed three pictures into it, all taken in the last few months. While it got my gender right (unlike the Burger King lady in Culver City two weeks ago), the algorithm for my age was, shall we say, “off”:

I’m 26!

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no, wait, I’m 34.

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strike that, I’m 29

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Okay, science. I’m turning 45 in a few weeks. Get your facial recognition shit working and catch some terrorists. I may occasionally have a face like unset Yorkshire pudding (to paraphrase Sean’s self-description) but sometimes I think you’re not even trying.

i think i’m a little lost

4/5/12

My brother Sean doesn’t keep his blog anymore, and the true irony is this: for someone who spends so much of his life supporting other writers – and bringing them to life on stage – his words can evoke emotions in me quicker than most poets. I’ve never fought with anyone as violently as I used to fight with Sean; in high school we would go at each other with bare fists, and there were times in the mid-’90s when we would say things to each other that verged on pathologically cruel.

It took years, decades, for me to understand that our fights (as well as the times he has made me laugh for three hours straight) have always been based on painful commiseration rather than antagonism. It’s like we were both screaming “I’M TAKING THE SAME EMOTION AWAY FROM THIS HORRIBLE SITUATION AS YOU, WHY CAN’T YOU SEE THAT???

Whatever he feels, I have once felt (or have just escaped feeling), and I think the same holds true for him. So when David – the winner of this year’s NCAA pool – said he couldn’t write the blog (something about “being a photographer”), I was keen to give our 4th place-finisher the nod.

Sean actually wrote two different entries, proof that these things get bottled up and need to explode. I’ll print the other one next week, but for now, here is my brother Sean.

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Sean and me, Iowa, 1971

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in LA, 1999

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Columbia County, 2011

****

We’ve done fundraising. We have. And we’ve done a pretty good job, here and there. Some slight of hand, some bravado, some braggadocio, some Verdi (why are we so Italian all of a sudden?) and we’ve done our fundraising. We’ve raised our funds.

And our profile, we’ve raised that too. We’ve invested and divested and vested ourselves twelves ways from Sunday – we’ve learned who we are and found our strengths and we’ve focused on making those work for us. Most importantly, we’ve raised it honestly and slowly, through revelation instead of decoration. Our profile is raised.

And God, it’s still like running up a muddy embankment in a rain storm.

And our bank account, wheezing along, gasping like an old asthmatic, all exhalation and terrible strains whenever it tries to bring air in, it’s still alive and trying to heal itself while we keep pouring what we can in the top, knowing there’s a hole in the bottom where it all just fountains out.

The sweet kids, healthy for one week out of every two – the girl puking every night as she sleeps, the boy losing a cough in time to get a cold, losing a cold in time to get a stomach flu, losing the flu in time to get an ear ache.

And we hold them to our chests, shielding them from the storm coming down as we, two-footed and one-handed, climb six inches forward and five back down this muddy soaked riverwall.

And one show opens and runs and is reviewed and tickets sell and people gush and silent people don’t gush but shrug and go away, and we greet them all at the door with one eye on the money draining out of our asthmatic barrel, and the other eye on the little creaturespawns we left in their cribs and the other eye on the next show and the other eye on our sagging middles and aching knees… and the show closes and we realize the next one is coming, and we aren’t ready, we aren’t ready at all.

And through it all, we have work, actual work, the work that pays us, the work that fills the holefilled bucket. And between shows we run to work, her to her office and me to the laptop, both of us moving numbers or pictures around, both of us daily worshipping Gods we care nothing about and it ends up only feeding the art and the kids, not necessarily, but sometimes, in that order.

And I have the girl, with my aunt donna’s eyes, watching a youtube video on one screen while I work on the other and the phone rings and it’s the boy, throwing up at school again, and I have to pick him up. And while I wait for him to be brought downstairs I check my phone for ticket sales (six) (which isn’t much) (but isn’t nothing) and when I see him, he’s yellow and purple-eyed and smiling and wearing shoes filled with vomit and I know I can’t cry…

And this is just another hour of another day, but I find myself thinking. Thinking bad thoughts.

I find myself looking at bank statements, I find myself thinking… if I wasn’t there to do the job badly, someone else would do it. Better, probably. I find myself doing the math, of how hard it would be without me here to help, but then, maybe… Not that hard? Maybe it would work out?

The trials, the hardships, they steel a person, right? The stuff that I’m doing so badly, I am doing it, and if I didn’t, someone else would have to – but that extra work might be good for them, right? It would be hard on them if I wasn’t here, but hard isn’t bad, right? It’s just hard.

There was a time when the hard work, the unhappiness was horribly shoved in between stretches of boredom or joy, but now the hard work, the misery, is the norm – that’s the base sensation, and the impossible – the guarantee of failure – that is what is horribly shoved in.

And the boy, so sick again, sits on my lap while I work. Verdi, I’m working on, and he asks to see the animation I’m doing, but it isn’t finished so he asks to hear the whole piece. I pull up iTunes and sit back as he lays in to me, so heavy, so hot, that I don’t dare move, I don’t dare get up to hit the playlist.

After Verdi, and before “Williams” (the music I’ve written, is Warren Zevon. “Shadows are falling and I’m running out of breath. Keep me in your heart for a while. If I leave you, it doesn’t mean I love you any less. Keep me in your heart for a while.”

And Barnaby says, “is that a daddy?” And I can’t speak, I just nod, my chin against his head. “Did he die?” he asks. I don’t know what to say – just like a thousand other times I’ve been left without knowing what to say, how to be a father to this little genius, this little poet, so I nod again. He listens to the song all the way through and says, “I love that song Daddy.”

I don’t know how I manage to say it, but I get out, “Me too.”

And what can we do? That asthmatic barrel, the one in my chest is now full, no holes, no strain when I breathe. For a brief moment, I’m healed and whole, and not even ashamed of how bad it was just a moment earlier.

I spend my hours kicking myself for falling short, but this kid just told me that he’s getting it, that he’s fine, he’s good. I spend my hours wondering how I can turn this little poet, this little genius into a man, and I know now that he’s turning me into one.

That is the sum total of what I know, and it’s why my blog has gone fallow, if you only know one thing there’s no point in continuing to say it. Most men live lives of quiet desperation, but mine has always been a giant screaming advertisement, and honestly I just got disgusted with myself. But if I have one moment to say something, I may as well say this – when it is all weighed and measured out, in the end, it’s worth it. I doubt I’ll ever make it to the top of the mudwall, and the rain will never stop, but at least my friends and my kids will know, I didn’t stop climbing.

****

how long to sing this song

4/4/12

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GFWD, scruggs, me and the Lulubeans, March ’11

I’m delighted to hand the reins over to Shannon “scruggs” Vecchiarello, another Top 3 finisher in our NCAA March Madness Sadness pool. She is the connective tissue between many of the folks who comment on here, as well as many friends of mine I have discovered hence. She is the Cincinnati (as we used to say) of the blog; a surprisingly-quick road trip to everywhere you want to go.

Plus, it’s always awesome to make math majors write, especially the ones who say they can’t when they so obviously can.

****

Yikes. I’ve worked a long while to avoid writing anything longer than a facebook status. Two UNC degrees and subsequent all careers related to math have helped ensure that… until now. This is my karmic punishment for picking Kentucky to win.

To stay in my comfort zone, it may be best for me to focus on numbers for this guest entry, and there is one in particular that has been on my mind a good bit lately. A question: What do all the below have in common?

• Standard volume of bottle of malt liquor

• Number of songs on Rick Dees’ weekly countdown

• Duration in days of the flood à la Noah’s ark

• Average length of pregnancy/gestation in weeks

• Number of winks in a nap

• Joseph Forte (wait, who?)

… the number 40: my age on my birthday this year. Of course, I shouldn’t fall into cliché and be overly dramatic about turning 40. Plenty of you fine folks have crossed that threshold and did not spontaneously combust. “Age is just a number.” Turning 30 didn’t bother me.

But, I’m still somewhat apprehensive about the big 4-0. It seems any birthday milestone mandates a State of the Union of some sorts. So, how are things? Well, I’m not (yet) a reality TV star with my own cookbook or margarita label; otherwise life can be pretty pleasant here in Suburbia.

This month will mark the 20th anniversary of my first date (Player’s counts as a date, right?) with Don, my husband. He’s as great a guy now as when I first met him. I’m thankful how, even after working all day for The Establishment, he is always plugged in to what we have going on at home. His efforts allow me the option to work part-time as an actuarial consultant; I love the flexibility that provides.

Most importantly, he is as hard-core a Carolina fan as I am, though I argue my UNC tattoo serves as the tiebreaker. This makes indoctrinating our kids on the evils of Dook, I mean, parenting, much easier. I haven’t caught the marathon/triathlon bug like a good number of folks in my age group, so I display a 0.0 bumper sticker on my car (um, minivan) to kid my pals who have. But I try to stay active by playing soccer and tennis every week.

However, given the daily logistics of work, home, activities, it has been easy to get caught up in life’s minutia and then find myself looking back just a little, amazed at how fast time has passed. Seems I was just in Chapel Hill sitting in The Pit, missing another class. This year I will be only 14 years younger than the age of my father when he died suddenly of a heart attack. Every second, minute, hour, day, year is indeed a gift but I often lose focus on making the most of “right now.”

As a mathematician by trade, I live for predictability and certainty – but need to start getting comfortable with risk without always trying to calculate it. I’m looking forward to seeing how this translates over the next stretch of 40 years.

So, what is your State of the Union? Any battle plans for your next milestone?

Shannon Family UNC Kenan

get off our lawns

4/3/12

The first of our guest-bloggers is the consistently-excellent Eric Gribbin, one of my Lodgemates at Carolina, and someone whose talents in sportswriting did not go unnoticed by his myriad friends. He may be a lawyer, but someday he and Chip should start their own Grantland. In the late ’80s he had a nice 3-pointer; not sure if it is still in his arsenal, but I have fond memories still.

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Eric and I waxing philosophical, March ’89

***

First of all, I’d like to thank Ian for the opportunity to reach a wider audience than the die-hards who read my little blog, the Mike Pepper Fan Club, although I will say that I appreciate the loyalty of my readers even more with each passing year (I just started my eighth year of blogging, which is twice as long as Mike Pepper was at UNC). Ian’s blog was my inspiration, and it has been bookmarked in my Favorites for as long as I’ve had Favorites. So thank you, Ian.

I’m sure all of you watched the national championship game last night, or as I like to call it, the 2012 NBA Pre-Draft Show. Before I get into my main topic, the disintegration of college basketball (picking up from where Ian left off in an entry a few weeks ago), I will say that I appreciated the quality of play Sunday night a lot more than I did the bumbling, stumbling efforts of UConn and Butler in the abominable 2011 title game, which, I hope, will remain the nadir of the sport at this level.

As I watched the game and heard the commentators repeatedly going out of their way to stress what a great job John Calipari did of making this group of early exiters into a “team” (let us not forget that his last two title game entrants have been wiped from the record books by probation—I love that one commentator emphasized that in neither case was the probation directly linked to Calipari; you know what? I don’t care—if Derrick Rose didn’t take his SAT, I lay that at the feet of the coach who played him 40 minutes a game for that one glorious year), I couldn’t help but feel a real sense of sadness about what college basketball has become.

The “one and done” rule has created a real opportunity for the Caliparis of the world, who are willing to hang out a shingle and take all comers without pretense of education and mold them into a humming unit for that one season that they’re going to spend in Lexington. Listening to his postgame speech was particularly deflating, as he bragged about how many first-round picks he had last year and how many he’ll have this year (five? six?) and how many freshman he’ll turn into first-round picks next year. This is a man who has found himself in the right place at the right time, a snake-oil salesman sitting at the helm of the biggest snake oil factory in the world at the peak of the market.

Do all of the gushing Jim Nantzes and Clark Kelloggs and Steve Kerrs and Dick Vitales think that the UK players are going to carry this selfless ethic to the next level? Of course not. A few years toiling for the Bobcats or the Kings or the Hornets will have them waving off picks just like Kobe did to the Mailman in that All-Star Game. John Calipari is not molding men, he is shaping commodities. And doing so at a breakneck pace. Will he catch lightning in a bottle every year? Probably not, but he’ll come darn close.

I don’t mean to say that “one and done” hasn’t seeped into the rest of the college hoops world. Just look at James Michael McAdoo, who is weighing his pro options after one year on Carolina’s bench, just like Marvin Williams did before him.

Is it the right thing to do? It’s hard to say. For every Kobe Bryant, there are three Brandan Wrights and, worse, a few Joseph Fortes. But it’s hard to tell a nineteen-year-old to spurn a guaranteed three-year contract in the NBA to stay in the ACC and risk injury or, worse, the tarnishing of one’s golden “potential.” The “P” word that, for one brief shining moment, made Darko Milicic look like Bill Russell to Larry Brown.

NBA scouts want to shake the present and guess what it is, but the thing they fear most in the world is opening it before they’ve sunk five years and $80 million into it. What that mindset leaves for the college game is a helter-skelter form of basketball, with tons of isolation moves and laughable half-court possessions and 30 percent shooting even in the national title game.

I will share with you a guest article I wrote for (gasp!) the Chronicle during my second year in law school at the former Trinity College. I wrote it in my room in Ferrum, Virginia, one blustery cold January night in 1997 after watching a bewildered Tar Heel squad blow a 22-point lead at home against Maryland. I found this during a house move last weekend, and I was struck with how my 26-year-old self said things that my 42-year-old self is still feeling today. (Okay, I’m not Nostradamus—see the reference to KG and Kobe):

– – – – “Last Wednesday night, my father and I watched college basketball die. I drove to Virginia to visit my dad, with whom I have seen hundreds of college hoops games over the past 20 years. We sat down to watch North Carolina host Maryland. Carolina jumped out to a big lead, which grew to 22 by early in the second half. Then the Heels fell apart; by the end of the game, three walk-ons were wandering aimlessly across the floor as Maryland players whizzed past them in a seemingly endless series of stolen passes, dunks and swished three-pointers.

Antawn Jamison, the only Tar Heel who seemed to know that a game was being played, watched helplessly as the band of misfits around him fumbled the game away. It was sad to watch Dean Smith’s team fail to run any semblance of an offense. The team concept upon which Smith has built his incredible string of 20-win seasons has been decimated by the lure of fat, guaranteed NBA contracts. This team should have featured the leadership of seniors Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace and Jeff McInnis.

All are gone. Wallace and Stackhouse are already NBA veterans, having left Chapel Hill two years ago. Thirty-seven underclassmen and two high school students entered the NBA draft last spring, making college basketball largely a game of freshmen and sophomores, a game that will be less fun to watch with each passing year as more and more players jump to the ever-expanding NBA—or elect to bypass college altogether, like Kevin Garnett. Who can blame these players? They’re getting millions in exchange for their collegiate eligibility.

Tim Duncan has elected to stay at Wake Forest to get a degree and try to win a title. [Ed. note from EG: The Heels’ game before the Maryland loss was an 81-57 thrashing by Wake Forest. But we still made the Final Four that year!] [Further ed. note from IW: that ’96-’97 became my favorite Heels team of all time, along with ’05-’06] How many of those who laud him for the purity of his intentions will resist the urge to criticize him (he could have had millions) should he suffer a serious injury this season?

Dean Smith will be the last to lament this state of affairs: He advised early jumpers James Worthy—who had already dealt with serious injury, suffering a season-ending broken leg as a freshman—and Michael Jordan to take the money and run. But back then, the early jumpers were people like Michael, Isaiah and Magic, whose legends had already outgrown the limitations of the college game. All had won NCAA titles and all were ready to move on to Hall of Fame careers. Do we really think they’re already making room up in Springfield, Mass. for Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant? [Ed. note from EG: Oops!]

It is hard to imagine what college basketball will be like in 10 years. As the collegiate talent pool dwindles and the NBA expands to Europe and beyond, creating ever more roster spots, fan interest in college ball will inevitably wane as will, eventually, commercial interest.

The NCAA tournament will become more like the College World Series, a contest among young men who saw college as merely one of several options. Imagine the marketing alternatives: There are 307 Division I basketball schools, but tens of thousands of high schools play basketball. Kids adorned with DeMatha jerseys, Oak Hill shorts and Dunbar sweats will dribble on blacktops across the land, dreaming of the day they, too, can make the jump from high school to the NBA. All of these new garments will bear that little swoosh stripe that helped bring college basketball into the spotlight and then helped kill it.

It was only a matter of time until the erosion of team loyalty and lust for big bucks that have ruined pro sports infected the college ranks. Solutions such as giving college players a stipend or even real salaries have been put forth to “save” the college game, but stipends pale in comparison to NBA dollars and, as for salary, I hope I am not around to see the first college free agent.

The only thing that could stave off the death of college basketball as we know it would be a decision by the NBA not to draft underclassmen. This will never happen and, really, such a decision would be unfair to the players who have a talent for which pro teams will pay huge money. American basketball has become a market-driven enterprise, and the market can no longer bear to wait four years for while its targets fuel the bonanza that big-time college basketball has become.

As Charlie McNairy, Web Tyndall, and Brad Frederick were flailing about the Smith Center the other night, trying to run the Carolina offense, Dick Vitale grew extremely agitated at the sight of people leaving the game in droves before the final buzzer. “The kids need you!” he kept yelling. Dick Vitale is as great a fan as the college game will ever know. He will go down with the ship. But he was missing the point. Those people were not walking out on the Tar Heels. They were walking out on college basketball, a game whose time has passed.” – – – –

Probably a little premature, but you get the point. I feel like such an old fogey when I talk about this. I, like so many readers of this blog, grew up eating, sleeping, and breathing Carolina basketball. Shooting (and making!) a free throw in Carmichael at age eight (thank you, nameless student manager!) before a Carolina practice was the highlight of my young life.

My first hero was George Karl; I loved Al Wood and Sam Perkins and Dave Colescott and Rich Yonaker’s sprints to the foul line and Jeff and Joe Wolf and Jimmy Black and, yes, Mike Pepper. I thought the world had ended when Michael Jordan went pro after his junior year. How could anyone leave Chapel Hill?

Nowadays, I still love Carolina basketball; I just painted my unborn son’s room Carolina blue because, well, because. But I get this feeling of melancholy in the pit of my stomach when I watch the games these days, knowing that the better the player, the more fleeting his time on the Hill is likely to be; I’m sick of feeling grateful when someone sticks around for his sophomore year.

As Ian pointed out, this is all just a function of the marketplace, and far it be it from me to advise a young Tar Heel to do anything other than take the money and run. I don’t know how the NFL gets away with blatantly violating the nation’s antitrust rules, but I don’t think the NBA could pull it off; the one and done rule is even on sketchy legal ground (the NBDL is not a viable alternative; ask Jackie Manuel how much he made there while he was tearing up the league a few years back). So it’s not going to get any better.

Like Ian, I will still be in my seat watching whatever constitutes the Tar Heels play whatever constitutes Duke until I can’t see anymore, but I can’t help but have the sinking sense that I was in on the secret before it got out to the rest of the world; back before March Madness and office pools and Sportscenter and conference realignment, when a slightly pudgy former reserve guard from Kansas patrolled the sidelines and had four years to make men out of boys. It’s still kind of entertaining, but back then, damn if it wasn’t a blast.

if i were you guys, i’d be, uh,

4/2/12

A big heartfelt congratulations to Praguedog, Eric “Grib” Gribbin and Shannon for their fantastic results in the 173,408,092th Annual NCAA Bracket Challenge!!! Yes, the results of last night’s game were a sad, tatty, foregone conclusion that celebrates everything most of us find demoralizing, but hey – there was no way to know that going in, and our top three were excellent prognosticators.

I’m psyched, as always, that 6 of the top 10 were women, and that Lucy beat Scotty Bullock, my nephew Sean Patrick, and, dare I say it, internationally-renown basketball writer Andrew Bagwell. SHE’S GOT THE RIGHT STUFF, I TELLSYA.

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As this is my “Easter break” (meaning Lucy’s Easter break, meaning we’re busier than ever), your top three winners will be (hopefully) writing some of this week’s blog entries. The only problem is that I don’t know who “Praguedog” is yet, although I’ve got some suspicions.

But today, we’ll have a question for y’all to answer, as it concerns a topic near and drear to my heart:

Were you bullied as a kid, did anybody do anything about it, and does it still affect you?