The Good Doc’s Abbreviated Basketball Preview

The 2006-2007 preseason college basketball coaches poll is out, and I noticed something wrong with it.

1. Florida
No issues here.  The Gators are the most-talented, scariest defending national champions since Duke was in 2002.  They return everyone and they’ll be tough to beat.

2. Carolina
I’m just really hoping there are serious chemistry issues on this team.  I cannot emphasize this enough.  Really. 

3. Kansas
Bill Self lost starting center Sasha Kaun through Christmas after having already suspended his backup, C.J. Giles.  Kaun averaged eight and five while Giles averaged six and five last season.  Kansas will be ok. 

4. Ohio State
If Oden is healthy by Christmas, this is a legitimate national championship contender.

5. Pitt, UCLA (tied)
These are two really good teams that I don’t really care all that much about.

What bothers me is how on earth in the name of Lakista McCuller can you leave out Sidney Lowe’s mighty Cardiac Pack? 

Shameful. 

This is a team that averaged 74.5 points per game in its ’05-’06 campaign and returns 27.1 of that with the hobbled Engin Atsur (10.8), wet-back Gavin Grant (8.3), Brandon Costner (2.8), Ben McCauley (2.1), Courtney Fells (2.0), Braxton Albritton (0.9), and #20 in your programs but #1 in your hearts, Bryan Nieman (0.2). 

How can you underestimate a squad bringing back 36% of its total scoring and 34% of its total minutes?  How can you not be excited about a team that will start three guys that combined to average seven points and six minutes per game last season?

This team is reminiscent of that 1995 team, which beat Carolina in Reynolds when they were #1 and then-undefeated and also gave second-ranked Kansas everything they could handle.  Of course, we don’t have a dominant center like Todd Fuller.  Actually, that ’95 team finished 3-13 in the conference and lost to Duke in the Les Robinson Classic, so let’s not reminisce after all. 

All that really matters is that this team has a new coach with a new attitude, new style, but the same (winning) tradition.  Plus, the new traditional-looking uniforms and the Reynolds-esque paint scheme on the court are both very sharp and have the Doc’s complete approval.

So to the Woffords, Deleware States, and Gardner Webbs out there: beware.  This is a team that could really step up and surprise some people this season.  This is a team that is very capable of finishing as high as tenth in the conference, and should not be overlooked. 

State vs. FSU Preview

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this all week: When Bobby and Chuck have their traditional meal at Amedeo’s, does Bobby order the baked ziti or does he go with the lasagna?  This just seems important to me, for some reason. 

As for the game, a few quick hits:

[1] Andre Brown gets his 53 yards to put him at 1,000 for his career.  Big accomplishment for a sophomore that’s had two 200-yd plus games in his career.  Really stands out. 

[2] Deraney gets a lot of work.  Punting.

[3] Daniel Evans gets carted off in a body bag when someone on our O-line (choose one) imitates that white racist dude from Remember the Titans and steps out of the way on the snap and gives Buster Davis a blind-siding beeline to the 170-lb Evans.

[4] Chuck and Bobby meet at midfield for a pre-game smootch and then again for a post-game lovers’ embrace.

Final Score: FSU 2-0. 

Quick Outs

With 00:46 to play Saturday night, Daniel Evans was largely unremarkable at 12-for-27 for 107 measely yards and one undeniably crucial interception deep in his own territory with just three minutes to play.

These are the stats that get you benched and make the seat even hotter for your egomaniac of a coach.  The fans lose whatever hope they had left.  There’s really only one way to make people forget how bad your numbers really were.

Lead a game-winning drive and lay the groundwork for becoming a Legend. 

No one will remember that the under-sized hometown kid who grew up rooting for the Pack had completed only 44% of his passes until that final drive.  And no one will ever care.

Because when it was over, our new team leader had produced gaudy numbers of 15-for-32 for 179 yards and most of all, The Touchdown that none of us who saw it will ever forget. 

I’ve been a State fan my entire life.  I can likely recap every game we’ve played since around 1991 or so with reasonable accuracy (I’ll save that for my book).  I’ve seen some great game-winning drives by some pretty damn good quarterbacks like Montgomery, Harvey, and Barnette, as well as the expected masterful drives by the Football Jesus, but in all my years, I’d never seen a quarterback lead us to victory on the final offensive play of the game like Daniel Evans did against Boston College. 

So now let’s hope we find some semblance of an O-line before we’re carting our New Hero off the field on a stretcher when Florida State comes to town. 

I’d also like to add that even in victory Chuck Amato made questionable decisions.  After that final touchdown, there is absolutely no $^&* reason for kicking a PAT.  Nothing good can come from it.  A two-point lead is no different in any way than a one-point lead and all you do by kicking that PAT is give BC an opportunity to block it and return it for two points and the 17-16 victory.  It happens; I was at an App St./Furman game several years ago where Furman scored with 0:03 to play for a 15-14 lead and opted to go for two to make it a FG game; App interecepted the ensuing pass and returned it 100 yards for the 18-17 victory.  With the new clock rules in place this season, what we should have done was snap the ball, take a knee and then kick off and make the tackle.  There wasn’t enough time to return it and get into FG range, so all we did by kicking that PAT was take a huge gamble.  It worked this time…but what happens against FSU?  Just saying.

Quick Outs

Here’s what comes to mind after a near-perfect Saturday with picture-in-picture and a fridge full of beer…

The Auburn victory over LSU was by far the best 7-3 game I’ve ever seen.  It proves why SEC football will always be so great to watch, even when no one scores.  Those were two physical teams with stingy defenses and hard-nosed, between-the-tackles offenses; say what you will about SEC power football, but that game was more enjoyable than any West Coast game I’ve seen this year.  Auburn will win the SEC hands-down and this time they won’t get snubbed by the BCS.

My Sooners got hosed twice in the last minute of their game against Oregon.  I think replay in college football stinks, if only because it fails to work way too often, and always when the game is on the line.  If you’re going to institute replay in college football, at least have competent officials reviewing the video.  The onside kick review was conclusive from every angle, and yet the referee announced it was “conclusive” in the wrong direction.  The pass interference call where the ball was apparently tipped at the line looked obvious, but was arguably inconclusive.  Even still, Oregon scored twice in the final two minutes and blocked the potential winning field goal to stay undefeated.  

While Brady Quinn can likely forget his NYC invite to the Heisman Trophy ceremony in December, the Irish aren’t out of the hunt for a national championship just yet; it will be very difficult for any team to finish undefeated this season.  However, next up for the Irish is a road trip to Michigan State, who played a solid and complete game in its victory over Pitt Saturday.  A loss to the Spartans will certainly have Notre Dame looking at a second-tier bowl.

Conversely, Michigan was impressive all-around and is a contender as well.  They appear to have fixed their offensive issues from 2005 and they have a favorable schedule with Wisconsin (next week), Iowa, and Michigan State at home.  That finale in Columbus will be huge, as usual.

Clemson did what they do best, play inconsistent football.  The best part of that whole game was Tommy Bowden saying at halftime that he wouldn’t kick again for any reason.  The solution to a winning field goal?  Running the ball in for a touchdown from the one yard line with 0:08 to play.  They kept their ACC title hopes alive, but will need help; Boston College, who needed 2OT again against BYU, will have to lose twice.

Chris Leak played with poise and finesse against Tennessee, and the Gators look tough and should be in everyone’s national championship conversations…Nebraska may be better, but they are definitely not back, which is understandable with a playbook where every audible is a short essay…USC is definitely a contender, especially in a per-usual lopsided PAC-10…TCU held Texas Tech to a field goal, which is absolutely mesmorizing…

And last, and certainly least, a call into Terry Harvey’s post-game call-in show:

Caller: “Terry, is it possible that Southern Miss is just significantly better than what we thought?”

Terry: “No.”

NC State to the MAC

Just so we’re clear…

All these years we’ve labored under the apparently misguided presumption that if we spend millions of dollars and build extravagant field houses and pressbox towers complete with extravagant suites and weight rooms and practice fields, and we enclose our antiquated, yet somewhat charming, cow pasture of a stadium and erect massive statues and scoreboards and we launch a seemingly uncoordinated attack on the entire gameday “experience” in order to bring the attention onto the actual game itself and we keep making everything pretty, and we have contrived “traditions” like a Walk of damn Champions…

Then naturally we’ll draw the five-star and blue chip talent from South Florida to Raleigh that will promptly catapult us out of ACC mediocrity and into Jacksonville in December and Tempe in January.

All these years we’ve tried to draw a correlation between all of the above and winning…

And we now know, that in fact, we are not at that next level because we do not accept non-qualifiers into our program.  Seems like an easy fix to me.

We should just secede to the MAC.  Surely we could finish second in that conference.

Akron Beware

Like Gary Hahn said, Happy Appy was the first #1 team State has beaten at Carter-Finley, although we got within six touchdowns a few times against FSU in the early to mid 90s.  Hahn was just as serious with that comment as he was the night we won the Hispanic College Fund Classic by beating The Citadel and one of the Loyolas and he said “It never gets old hoisting championship trophies, does it Tony?”

So I have to think this is the perfect letdown game for us.  Beat #1 and then fall to the defending MAC champion.  We’ve seen it before (Baylor 1998).

Three reasons Akron will win:

[1] The Zips held JoPa’s rushing attack to 76 yards and allowed only 282 yards altogether against a much superior offensive team.  If they shut down Brown and Baker, do we play for the pick-six? 

[2] QB Luke Getsy, a fifth-year senior (notice, when you’re a senior you lose the “redshirt” prefix), passed 42 times and completed 22 of those for 160 yards.  Unimpressive, right?  Well, it’s a 7.3 YPC average and indicates that he’s skilled at the short passing game and managing the clock with it; i.e., not many three-and-outs.  Must be nice.

[3] A.J. Davis is out.  Anyone remember the 2003 Texas Tech game where B.J. Symons threw for about 900 yards?  Getsy had about a half-dozen games like that last year.

Three reasons State will win:

[1] Penn State’s pass rush had a fun day against the Akron O-line.  Ours should, too.     

[2] Marcus Stone was impressive against App, completing all of his 36 yards off his back foot.  For those of you that think that isn’t impressive, Peyton Manning throws off his back foot a lot, too.

[3] We’re the Red & White from State and we know we are the best.  We have a Walk of damn Champions to prove it. 

Prediction: Akron 49 – 35

TNL Countdown to Football, Part 8

This was only one of two TNLs for the 2004 season; I actually missed the Ohio State, Wake Forest, Florida State, and ECU games that year.  Remember how good Jay Davis was going to be?  TNL never did live up to the hype bestowed upon its first volume in 2003.  Perhaps expectations were just too high.  Perhaps it just got too big too fast.  Regardless, that jeans shorts picture never stops being funny… 

The Tailgating newsletter: 2004 summer special
“We only ask because we care”
Volume 2, Issue 1
July 13, 2004
Cary

A MESSAGE FROM YOUR TAILGATING PRESIDENT
It was indeed a tremendous honor for me and J.R. Crawford to humbly accept the nomination to serve again in 2004 as your Tailgating President and Vice President, respectively, at the Second Annual Tropical Shindig held at longtime supporter Ben Crawford’s modest home in Cary, NC.

As promised in the acceptance speech (inset) and subsequent rally, we promise to promote the core values that this great tailgating conference holds so dear.  I promise to you that I will do all that is in my power to ensure that the deep-fried turkey is moist and tender and flavorful and that there is more shrimp than Old Bay; I will make every effort to ensure that the coolers remain full of icy cold beer and that we have plenty of ice for those dreaded ninety-five degree afternoons; I will make it my personal duty to make sure Jacob (“Hey, take my picture!”) is in every single picture taken at all tailgates, because everyone knows that a drunk Jacob makes for wonderful entertainment.
 
But most of all, I promise to try and make every tailgate into a memorable memory to be remembered by many.  And we will strive to document those memorable memories of yonder autumn winds gone by in the weekly editions of The Tailgating Newsletter. 

Furthermore, I promise to take TNL to another level and become the most ground-breaking independent tailgating publication in East-Central North Carolina.  We’ve spent the summer lining up a series of guest columnists – football insiders – for the season’s regular weekly publications, and we are very excited to have them aboard the TNL team. 

The first of those guest columnists contributed to this issue, the TNL Summer Special.  She is on loan from the NC State Sports Information Department and she has an inspiring story about a relative unknown recruiting prospect that I hope you’ll find fascinating and moving. 

We’re also excited to have several other ideas that will turn up in future issues that we here on the TNL staff hope you’ll find exciting as well.  And of course you can expect to see some of the same crowd favorites that made TNL the industry-respected publication it is today.

But in the end, it’s the tailgaters – the little people like each of you – that subscribe to TNL that make tailgating the great American festival that it is.  Jacob and I will do everything in our power to make our Tailgating Conference strong at home and well-respected abroad.  We are both veteran tailgaters and we know what it takes to make tailgating wonderful.  We are honored that you have once again placed your confidence in us.

Remember, ask not what your fellow tailgaters can do for you; ask what you can do for your fellow tailgaters.  I’m R.L. Bentley, III, and I approved this message.

R.L. Bentley, III, MD, PhD
Tailgating President
Chief of Neurosurgery, Wilkes Hospital
 
PRESEASON FOOTBALL DIARY
By Annabelle Vaughan

I can’t believe football season is less than two months away!!  I’m trying to get used to this summer schedule and the heat is so intense; I had to pour water all over myself and let it run down my body, even though I was wearing a white T-shirt (none of the guys minded).  The freshmen haven’t even reported yet, but it already sounds different out here.  These guys are making a lot noise for me.

I spent time watching the quarterbacks today – there is a lot of talent out there.  In an underdog story that could rival Rudy and Hoosiers, a British-Canadian named Matthew Edwards will vie for the coveted starting quarterback position for Chuck Amato’s fifth squad.  Edwards, a virtual no-name outside of his local North Carolina Audi club, has never played organized football in his life, but feels like he has the heart and drive to secure a slot on the roster and hopes to one day be under center for the Wolfpack.
 
His delivery is eerily similar to Philip Rivers’ and Coach says it could pay off come fall.  “This kid could really be something special,” Coach said in his usual raspy voice, “No one thought Philip would amount to anything either…but daggummit, and I can’t say this enough: we have to start tackling better.”

Edwards’ inexperience and size, though, could prove quite the hindrance in the long run.  At 5’10”/155, Edwards doesn’t quite match up to Rivers in size; nor does he measure up well against front-runners Jay Davis (JR, 6’2”/205) and Marcus Stone (RS FR, 6’4”/226), for that matter.  But what amazes me is the size of his hands – they’re so big!

Recruiting expert James Henderson says he’s never even heard of Edwards.  “We at Statefans.com know everything about anything NC State sports related, but somehow this kid has slipped under the radar.  I found out about him on a post buried in some thread titled I heard from a good source that Sendek was the Lakers’ first choice and was just about to lock it when someone slipped in a post about him.  We hope to have a recruiting bio on him though in the new Pack Pride magazine.”

Of course, the biggest concern at this time for the Wolfpack staff isn’t Edwards’ size, but his eligibility: Edwards has already graduated from college and by NCAA rules has no eligibility remaining.  NC State Director of Compliance, Michelle Lee, has already filed the necessary paperwork to petition the NCAA for an extension of eligibility based on an obscure hardship rule; apparently Edwards didn’t realize his dream was to play college football until after he had already graduated.  The ACLU has joined the fight and his chances are promising.  We hope to have a stirring update when the season starts.

Tomorrow: Independent workouts at one of the guy’s houses

PROFILES IN DRUNKENNESS: SECOND ANNUAL TROPICAL SHINDIG
There are times when words will just not suffice.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and yet I’m speechless.

A LETTER TO THE EDITOR
I would like to extend a special thanks to all the fellow tailgaters that were trying, in their own less-than-subtle ways, to help me “get some ass” on Saturday night at The Shindig…  I’d like to thank each of you for ignoring me when I pleaded with you to relax, calm down, and let me handle it on my own; instead ya’ll surmised that my way was not, indeed, the best course of action and could in no way be in my best interest. 

I’d like to offer my sincere gratitude to Jacob for taking it upon himself to loudly and repeatedly inform everyone within earshot to be quiet or go outside because I was “trying to get some ass;” as benign and wholehearted as his efforts were, even at a distance of ten feet his voice somehow, as inexplicable as it might be, transcended through the soundproof, wooden door of my bedroom.  Thank you, Ben, for unselfishly telling Matt you had to close the computer room door because I needed some privacy because I was trying to “get some,” while said “give some” girl was coming out of the bathroom two feet behind you.  Gracias, Shawn, for pulling me to the side on at least five occasions to inform me just how disappointed you’d be in me if I didn’t “close” (once with her right beside me).  Worm, I appreciate you proclaiming to all who would listen that I was “getting served.”  And I’d like to bestow a very special Kiss My Ass to Nate II for informing me that, while married, he still has better game than me.

I’d like to thank you all for instilling in me a poignant laugh while in a room alone with a girl who had come into my room and shut the door.  While we both listened to ya’ll and joked about it, even trying to feed the frenzy a little, she may have realized that I was a little pathetic and was likely good friend material, but I knew better: I knew that I had some drunk ass friends who in their own way were just looking out for me.  With friends like them, who needs enemies?

But please, while your fascination with my love life, or lack thereof, is flattering, please know that I have things under control.  And please for the love of honoring the process, don’t help me anymore! 

Lucas Miller
2003 Herb Sendek Award for Excellence Recipient

IN CLOSING
It’s been a long off-season and you can’t quite yet smell those dog days of summer when the two-a-days kick back into high gear and the days get shorter, but it is coming.  So until then we’ll just bide our time by watching old game tapes and ESPN Classic.  And while uncertainties abound for the 2004 Wolfpack on the field, we can all be certain that the tailgating will be plentiful and exhilarating.  Folks, we’re staring down the loaded barrel of probably the greatest home schedule in NC State history and as the intensity of the competition heats up, we have to match that intensity in our own little way by taking our festivities up another notch. 

And remember, I’m not just the tailgating president, I’m also a member.

– R.L. 

TNL Countdown to Football, Part 7

I’d like to note that I got the Unsung Hero Award at my high school senior awards ceremony; my mom informed me it was the “award” they gave to anyone that didn’t get any other kind of award, so that no one was left out.  Looking back, I was perhaps the only one on that stage holding that award that wasn’t looking forward to graduation so I’d have more time to work on my Trans Am.

The Tailgating newsletter: The season in review
“We only ask because we care”
Volume 1, Issue 8
December 2003

A MESSAGE FROM YOUR PRESIDENT
IT’S BEEN SAID THAT THE MORE THINGS CHANGE, THE MORE THEY REMAIN THE SAME. 

I’ll say.

It seems like just yesterday when we were eagerly anticipating those dreaded Dog Days of Summer, where once again on Saturdays, everything would again be right with the world.  And here we are, on the cusp of the Yuletide season, reminiscing about another season of autumn winds gone by, wondering: “What do we have to look forward to this Saturday?”

But we can cherish the memories of another fine season and continue to build on the relationships and bonds we developed in those seven short weekends in the autumn of 2003. 

As you indubitably might recall, we entered this season with several uncertainties.  Would we be able to maintain our intensity like the bygone days of our youth?  How would expansion affect the group and would the newest member (Worm) really solidify our position among the tailgating elite?  Would we become more organized and less erratic in our preparation for game day?

And as we look back and evaluate each performance, we can certainly answer, in a positive way, some of the questions that lingered in August.  But we must never become content – contentment breeds mediocrity, and we must never settle for anything less than national prominence.   

Am I pleased with our performance this season?  Well, there is certainly room for improvement.  But at the same time, we, as a group, have to continue to chop wood and honor the process.  And I would have to believe that our group can match up with any tailgating group in the nation; whether it is a group from LSU, Ole Miss, or Wisconsin.  We just need to improve on our cohesiveness as a unit and remember that we live in day-tight compartments.

Before we can move forward, though, we must look back.  And when we look back we can certainly find the positives on which to build, so that we may grow as a group, each individual doing his (or her) part to make our tailgating experience more memorable.  Individual honors only serve to illustrate how each individual participant can be so instrumental in the overall success of the tailgate.  The first annual TNL Awards were voted on by an anonymous panel and with great pride I have included them in this special edition TNL.  

1st ANNUAL TAILGATING HONORS

MVP – STEVE EDWARDS
Edwards, in his rookie tailgating season, proved his value immediately at the Western Carolina game with his mocking of the “Move the Chains” chant and subsequent and seemingly innocent “Who was that?”  Edwards showed tremendous upside week-after-week, and he showed incredible versatility en route to his first tailgating MVP award; whether it be enlightening the younger participants with his wisdom and wit or carving the turkey, Edwards was always on top of his game.  “Steve Edwards was invaluable to us this season.  He is fearless,” J.R. Crawford says of Edwards.  “He is unafraid to dish it out and he can certainly take it; absolutely.”  

12TH MAN – STEVEN WILKES
Wilkes, of Lincoln County, was a free-agent pickup for the UNC game and if anyone ‘honors the process,’ this Cat does.  “He brings so many intangibles to a tailgate,” Jeremy McGinnis says of Wilkes.  “He has tremendous length and there really is no ‘quit’ in him.”  Wilkes is always on top of his game; he keeps a case of beer between his seats for just such occasions.  Wilkes is a quiet observer of those around him, and his wit is unyielding: “I don’t have any vices,” Wilkes proclaims, taking a drag from his Marlboro and then a long pull from his can of Budweiser.   

UNSUNG HERO – EMILY “EASY-E” HINES
Hines is simply a force unto herself.  “She’s an angel; she’s a saint – those are two things that I ain’t,” Jacob Crawford says matter-of-factly of his long-time girlfriend.  Lord knows she must be to deal with his sorry ass all the time – as well as the rest of us, might I add.  Her Easiness always shows up ready to contribute.  She’s usually quite serene but has a feistiness that’s simply unmatched.  She proclaimed her “Greatest Person Ever” status during the season and emphatically remains a modest and ubiquitous presence among the group. 

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR – L.D. WILLIAMS
Williams, fighting off an early season, non-tailgating related illness, made her return in remarkable fashion to participate fully in nearly all tailgating activities.  She proved invaluable with her preparation of numerous food items and snacks, especially the Deviled Eggs and S’mores Brownies (which she made despite not being on the roster for that game; talk about taking one for the team).  Her love for Philip Rivers boundless, Williams sported her red #17 jersey with pink letters proudly at each game she was healthy.  “Williams is truly an inspiration to us all to fight like she did and be such an integral part of Section 30, Rows Y and Z,” said fellow tailgater, Easy-E Hines.

HENCH AWARD – JEREMY MCGINNIS
McGinnis’ tailgating worth most certainly has to be measured through the intangibles.  “He has tremendous depth,” Shawn Williams says.  Whether it is a “blackout” or an inappropriate and snide comment at exactly the right time, Worm always seems to know how to shun conventional cynicism and offer his own biased approach to life.  His comebacks are pithy and his wit unabashed.  There is simply no replacement for overstating the obvious with such poignant comments as “At least I’m getting laid,” “Tackle someone!” or “He’s horrible!”  The addition of McGinnis has certainly brought more character to Saturdays outside Carter-Finley. 

MOST LIKELY TO NOT BE AROUND NEXT SEASON AWARD – BEN MILLER
At the outset of the 2003 tailgating season, it appeared that if ever there was a tailgater that was past his prime, it was Ben.  This once ferocious and intimidating lion had been reduced to little more than a mild-tempered, purring kitten.  Ben, seemingly down and out – not permitted to make any decisions for himself, it seemed – continued to fight, however, and eventually regained some of the respect he lost by what most of the participants termed as his “utter abandonment” of all tailgating principles.  “I’m not going to lie – he was dead to me,” admits Lucas Miller.  “But then I realized he was just another poor, whooped soul like so
many others I know, and – it just breaks my heart to see him like that.”  Ben continued chopping wood, though, and on several occasions he actually drank real beer.  (“It’s that wussy beer – it must be Ben’s,” chimed Steve Edwards on various occasions.)  By season’s end, though, the sleeves had come off, and this year’s recipient of the Doug Christie jersey had made enormous inroads towards regaining his elite tailgating status.   

SMEAR THE BEER AWARD – SHAWN WILLIAMS
B. Shawn Williams, like John Elway and Barry Sanders before him, decided to go out while he was on top.  Williams became the first champion of America’s new favorite pastime, Smear the Beer, and then, just as abruptly and unlikely as an Adam Kiker chip-shot, he walked away from it all, basking in the glory of that brief, albeit unforgettable, moment.  “It was truly a great throw, and I’ll never forget the feel of Mr. Fonville’s Miller Lite splattering all over me,” Matt Edwards said after the game, the overpowering emotion still lingering in the air.  “I’ll always remember Williams’ throw – it was so cohesive.”

GREG GOLDEN AWARD – JACOB CRAWFORD
It unfolded like the memorable plays always do: The abnormally warm, late-November sunshine beat down on the asphalt and their rolled-up-sleeves-exposed shoulders; but they would have to ignore the heat because it was fourth down and goal and the game was on the line.  Just as The Great Emmy Miller went under center, waiting to take the snap from Brooke Shevitz, sixth-year senior cornerback Jacob Crawford crept towards the line of scrimmage, showing Bump-and-Run coverage on the true freshman wide out, Katie Hilborn; Miller, like all great quarterbacks do, recognized the changing coverage and called an audible at the line.  She took the snap and quickly released the football, avoiding the brutal pass rush by Shawn Williams and Ben Crawford, who swarmed past Shevitz in a fury.  The pass was a tight spiral and the ball hit Hilborn in the hands just as she posted and turned; Crawford had went for the interception and was beat terribly, just like his idol – “That’s my boy!” – Greg Golden, always was.  Katie ran the pass in for a touchdown and Jacob could only hang his head in shame afterwards.  “I would match Emmy and Katie up against any quarterback/receiver combo in the nation,” Jacob said; he then claimed there was offensive pass interference, but replays refuted his claim and further showed that he was just flat-out beat by a shorter, smaller, slower, less-athletic girl.

MOST VERSATILE – MATT EDWARDS
The Junior Edwards was instrumental in the recruitment process every week, bringing in outside participants to increase depth among the group.  His wit is unpretentious and he is a social magnet; “Matt knows a lot of people,” Shawn Williams says of Edwards.  Quietly modest and often unassuming, Matt has a fiercely raw sense of humor and pulls no punches when the circumstances call for him to step up and represent the group.  Perhaps his paramount acquisition was the aforementioned MVP, his father, Steve Edwards, for which the group is indisputably stronger.

THE HERB SENDEK AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE – LUCAS MILLER
Miller is living proof that bad things do, indeed, happen to good people.  “If this is all one big joke, then Lucas’ life is the punch line.”  He has strived to be simply mediocre and honestly believes one day he will become just that.  He might be a grown-ass man unable to get a date, but by God he can recognize a ton of college fight songs, knows an untold quantity of sports trivia, is undeniably good friend material, and is mastering the art of deep-frying a Cajun-spiced turkey.  His pathetic existence brashly provides the basis for most of the group’s entertainment, and that is merely irreplaceable.

IN CLOSING, THIS YEAR WAS MEMORABLE, BUT WE MUST INDEED STRIVE TO IMPROVE.  Looking to next season, we have the opportunity to turn it up a notch and build on the success we have bestowed upon ourselves.  Whether it be another expansion or something as tangible as adding a Pig Cooker, we must never become content.  If we had two tents this season, then we must strive to have three next; if four coolers was satisfactory in 2003, then let’s make it our goal to need five in 2004.  Let’s never settle fellow tailgaters. 

Remember, life is like a sled dog team: unless you’re the lead dog, the view never changes.

Until 2004,

Dr. R.L. Bentley, III, MD, PhD, PE
Tailgating President/CEO
Chief of Neurosurgery, Wilkes Hospital

TNL Countdown to Football, Part 6

Issue 6 was invariably lost, which is a real shame because I remember it being a tribute to Cash, who we found out died the morning of the Ohio State game, when most of us watched that game on the big screen in Jemily’s clubhouse; that was a fun day; I remember being totally exhausted that weekend after flying in late Friday from Biloxi and knowing I had to drive to Raleigh so I could fly back out the following morning, and we were in Stool Pigeons around 10 or so that night and Gary and I were both dozing…that might have been the exact moment we were officially old.    

The Doug Christie issue.  I remember Jacob was helping me move from Spartanburg to Gastonia, and right before he put the master lock on upside down, effectively locking us out of the U-Haul until we found a hammer big enough to beat that thing off, he had this incredible idea (in response to Ben missing the Western game, which had then yet to happen): “We’re buying Ben a Doug Christie jersey.”  There was no turning back once that fantastic idea had been proposed.

It led to this…

The TAILGATING NEWSLETTER
“We only ask because we care.”
VOLUME 1, Issue 7
SEPTEMBER 25, 2003
Gastonia

IT WAS A MAGNIFICENT Homecoming Saturday, one for the ages in grand ole Raleigh, home of our beloved Wolfpack – and, well, Shawn and Lauren and Ben and Lizzy and Matt and one day, again, me.  Anyway, Isabel had reared her ugliness throughout the Old North State just a few days earlier, but in her wake she left a sweltering yet serene atmosphere for football and tailgating; friends and laughter; moving the chains and “woo-woo-woo-wooing.”  The morning began, of course, with the obligatory Bo-Bo’s breakfast and soon led to some unusually-responsible beer-drinking and a downright unforgettable award ceremony for one of our members. 

After the tailgating festivities, we were treated by #17 and Co. to a relentless spanking of Lubbock’s Finest – although at last check, it appears the Pack D is still surrendering passing yards to Symons, who just surpassed 2,200 yards on 156-for-221 passing; the Red Raiders have scored again to close the Wolfpack lead to 224-35.

After the game, the tailgating festivities moved to Ben’s house in the swanky Lake Pine Drive area of Cary, where Ben served his party guests cheeseburgers and hotdogs; he generously allowed them to bring their own beverages.

Once there, the guests chose sides in the Georgia/LSU game and it turned into a very heated fourth quarter; one in which Lucas at one time berated Jacob with a stirring rendition of the Georgia fight song (Glory, Glory Hallelujah) after the Dawgs scored on a 93-yard TD pass to tie the Bayou Bengals late in the game.

Although LSU eventually won, Jacob was unable to counter with the Tigers’ fight song, which was a victory in itself to Lucas, who prides himself in his vast knowledge of college fight songs.

It’s a wonder he’s still single, isn’t it…

THEY SAID IT: STEVE EDWARDS QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“…Except for Ben – he drinks that wussy beer.”

TNL EXCLUSIVE: BEN’S ‘WHOOPEDNESS’ AWARDED


Ben looks on in anticipation as Matt presents him with the Doug Christie jersey.  “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man alive,” Ben said, fighting back tears in an emotional acceptance speech.

IN A LAUGHTER-FILLED and emotional ceremony Saturday morning in the parking lot behind the RBC Center, Ben was presented with the inaugural Doug Christie jersey.  The Tailgating President and CEO, R.L. Bentley, III, MD, PhD, delivered a heartfelt speech as Matt Edwards had the distinguished honor of presenting Ben with the jersey.  In the speech, President Bentley alluded to Ben’s “whoopedness” and how Lizzy has so successfully “revoked [his] decision-making abilities.”

Ben was nearly driven to tears in anticipation as he accepted this award; he was almost reluctant to don the jersey at first, but eventually relented and proudly modeled the jersey for all in attendance to see.

“Today, I consider myself the luckiest man alive,” Ben said, fighting back tears in his emotional acceptance speech.  “I’d like to first of all thank the owner of my leash and girlfriend, Elizabeth, without out whom none of this would be possible.”

Ben, from all of us at TNL, we want you to know we were laughing at you and not with you.

THE “I’M COOL BECAUSE I CAN DRINK A TON” AWARD
So, Lizzy and I are on the deck Saturday evening discussing Ben’s temper and The Other Shawn comes out to smoke a cigarette.  Anyway, Lizzy and I were essentially discussing how lame we both are and how we both feel so old; we agree that we can’t drink like we used to. 

So this cat chides in and informs us of just how much he can drink.  “I can’t drink enough that I can’t drive.  I can always drink myself sober.”

Just for clarity, he said “I can always drink myself sober.” 

Well I’ll be a son of a bitch, all these years the experts have said that cold showers and coffee won’t sober you up; only time will.  And here he up and disproves this for the ridiculous theory that it obviously is; all these years we could have been drinking ourselves sober.  1998 would have been so much different had we known this (although, I am quite certain most of us probably tried this at least a few times).

But then he expounds on just how much he can drink: Apparently, he got a fifth of Jim Beam for his birthday this year, and when challenged, he turned that fifth up and drained it in 15 seconds.  15 seconds!  For those of you wondering, a fifth will fill up a 20-ounce Coke bottle with a little to spare. 

“I was so shitty I fell off the cooler…but three hours later I was ready to go to the Longbranch.”

FANTASY FOOTBALL
The Killer Millers (2-1), who have won two straight despite having what some have termed an inferior lineup, stormed out of the gates this weekend, easily defeating No-No-Notorious (1-2) 112-88 in a high-scoring affair. 

The Pocket Rockets (2-1) were flaccid early, but soon stiffened up and found a way to hold off The Infamous Tracy’s Belmont Playboys 95-89, handing them their first loss of the season.

“Playoffs?!?!  Playoffs?!?!” Coach Worm responded after the Pocket Rockets second straight sub-100-point weekend.

In this week’s pillow fight, Pimpin aint EZ (1-2) found the win column for the first time by defeating Allyour$20belongtome (1-2) 78-72.  Coach Matt Edwards was quoted after the game as saying that “his team would have the most points with the worst record.”  Hey, stats are for losers, Coach.

In the final game of the weekend, the Jive Turkeys (1-2) struggled again, losing to the Wolflovers (2-1) 107-78.  This second straight week of futility and lack of offensive performance prompted Coach Shawn Williams to make some changes in his roster for next week.

“I needed to get some new blood in there with my poor point production,” a disappointed Williams said in a terse press conference following this weekend’s game.

“I think [he] just offended the word ‘poor,’” Pocket Rockets coach Worm was quoted in response to Williams’ press conference. 

BEN VERSUS WORM: WEEK 3
WORM 317
BEN 291

Ben lost ground on Worm in Week 3, falling to 25 points behind.  TNL will continue to track this side bet as it develops.

COME O’ER THE HILL CAROLINE
Did you know that Johnny “The Mouth” Bunting “almost won the Division-III championship at Glassboro State”?  (FYI, TNL discovered that the former Glassboro State is now known as Rowan University and is located in New Jersey).

“Anyone that says Coach Bunting isn’t one of the best college coaches in the nation is only fooling themselves!”

The Pack prepares this week for the always-intense rivalry match-up with the Heels.  The dominant C.J. Stephens, Darkhorse Heisman candidate Darian Durant, and Rabbit will bring the nation’s 108th ranked rushing defense to Carter-Finley looking for their first victory.

Seriously, ya’ll, if you haven’t visited johnbunting.com yet, what are you waiting for? 
 
NEWS AND NOTES
Tailgating festivities will commence at 8am Saturday morning.  The menu will include shrimp, potatoes, corn-on-the-cob, and possibly hushpuppies.  A grill will also be available for cooking burgers and/or dogs for those weirdos that don’t eat shrimp.  Losers.

Gashley will grace us with their presence on Saturday, which will perpetually trigger countless stories of the glory days of Freshman Gary – for the record, Freshman Gary lasted from 1997 to somewhere around 2001, when he reprehensibly settled down and became a responsible homeowner and fiancé; reprehensible, I know.

And for those of you that don’t know Lincoln County’s Steven Wilkes…well, you’re in for quite a treat.  No words I write could possibly do justice to just how unique this cat is.

See you Saturday.

R. L.