“I have the best family and friends ever,” no truer words have ever been spoken.
Today, is the last day of Black History Month. Today marks the culmination of a push across America to squeeze in as much information into the minds of those who will listen about the contributions of black people in America. While today signifies the end of the collective focus, spanning various races, it does not signify the end of the cycle to educate, highlight and uncover facts that need not be ignored.
But that’s not why I’m here.
I could go on and on about the lack of teaching when it comes to black history.
On Halloween, I received a text. At the time of receipt, I was fully engaged in trying to cheer my beloved North Carolina State Wolfpack onto victory against the number one team in the country. I quickly glanced at the text and said to myself, “I’ll check it later once I get stationary.”
November 1. I finally settled in to catch up on what I had missed that weekend. I soon found out there was a party going on and I was beyond fashionably late. The internet was all abuzz. My social media feeds were filled with people talking about it. The unexpected was happening.
“To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. Number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.” ~Jimmy V
I had a full day yesterday. Jimmy V would be proud. I laugh daily. My mind is constantly bombarded with thoughts. However, I do not allow myself to be moved to tears on a daily basis. Mainly because I do not always allow myself time to really sit down and reflect on the things that would bring tears to my eyes. When you hear the word tears, most of us immediately equate them with sadness. Often, when I do cry, it is not because I am sad. Most times I cry out of thankfulness. Thankfulness for my relationship I have with GOD. Thankfulness for my family and friends. Thankfulness for the life I have been blessed to live. In a sense, every day I should be moved to tears because every day I have something to be thankful for.
As I watched my favorite awards show, the ESPYs, last night I was reminded how truly blessed I am every day I am above ground. I watched as athlete after athlete graced the stage to thank countless people who helped them achieve the success they are experiencing. However, despite all the fan voted awards that are given, the award I anticipate the most is the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance.
March 4, 1993. The day Coach Jim Valvano delivered a speech that would change how many viewed life. I was nine years old and very much oblivious to the fact that one of the sports worlds most beloved personalities was fighting the battle of his life. As tumors laid rage on his body, Jimmy V issued a challenge to everyone. He only needed seven words, with three of them being repeated twice, to put many on a path to living a life of destiny: “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” On that night, as Jimmy V stood giant-like and announced the formation of the V Foundation for Cancer Research, lives of people all across the country and world were being intertwined.
The late Coach Kay Yow. Kevin Everett. Don Meyer. George Karl. Anthony Robles. Eric LeGrand. Dick & Rick Hoyt. Stuart Scott. Some names are recognizable while others are not. What they all have in common is that they share the honor of being recognized with the Jimmy V Award. In 2007, I cried a river as I watched a woman whom I had the privilege to share words, hugs and gather pearls of wisdom from, Coach Yow, accept the award that beared the name of her late friend. I love hearing the stories of people who have overcome or are overcoming obstacles that stand in their way. They are no different than you and I.
Last night, as I watched Scott eloquently describe his fight against the c word, I was moved to tears. My day was complete. I watched as Scott beamed with joy over the fact that “Jack Bauer” presented him with his award. I was watched as Scott proudly talked about the support he has received from his employers and colleagues. I watched as Scott dropped the bombshell on us that he had just been released from a grueling seven day hospital stay three days earlier. Words cannot describe the amount of respect I have for this man. I watched as Scott laid out for us, firmly, his motivation for never giving up: his daughters. As he called for his daughter, Taylor, to join him on stage, I fell apart. Over 3,000 miles away I could feel the love between them as they embraced. As my eyes fell on my yellow bracelet on my arm, the same one that Scott wears regularly, I was reminded that we are all in this together.
Something was different about this year’s ESPYs. Maybe it was the fact that everyone’s Twitter handle associated with ESPN was changed to the V Foundation logo for the day. Maybe it was the fact that the ESPYs was honoring one of its most popular anchors. Or maybe its just the fact that as times goes on, I have become more in tune with what really tugs at my heart strings. From Scott’s moving speech where he told us how to beat cancer to US Veteran and hero, Jeff Sweeney, accepting the Pat Tillman Award for Service, the show was full of heroes who embody the spirit of never giving up.
As I rewound the broadcast to watch Scott’s speech again, I flashbacked to a scene that took place about seven years ago in Chapel Hill. I was invited to Late Night with Roy by a member of my extended family. In true Kassie fashion, I ventured over the enemy territory sporting North Carolina State red from almost head to toe. Scott was the host. In true Scott fashion, I was picked out of the crowd and the jokes began. After the event, I got to talk with Scott and he thanked me for participating and having fun with him. As we set to bid farewell, we posed for a picture and went our separate ways.
Back in the present, I once again looked down at my wrist. My yellow bracelet was shining brightly. The bracelet that links myself to Scott as well as others. My LIVESTRONG bracelet. The bracelet that has become a universal symbol for the fight against the c word. While I can not empathize with what Scott is experiencing, my life experiences unite us. My grandfather had it. My grandmother had it. Three times. My next door neighbor, who was like a grandmother to me, had it. My cousin had it. My friend Laura had it. My friend Trinita had it. My colleague Maria had it. My friend Celena just finished battling it. My friend Quincy is battling it. The names are countless. The number of people that have been effected are endless. The lives that have been changed are numerous.
Last night’s ESPYs shined a bright light on the community that surrounds those fighting the c word. As tweets scrolled across the bottom of the screen, including one from me, from people who are fighting or fight for others, I was reminded, once again, that we are all in this together. No one who battles the c word should have to battle alone. We should all fight together. We should all fight to ensure that generations to come never have to experience a life plagued by the disease. We should all fight to ensure that many more birthdays are experienced. We should all fight to ensure that each and every person who is fighting is held up by someone who is willing to fight with them and for them. We should all fight to ensure that Jimmy V’s word will forever reign…”Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” Actions speak louder than words. What do yours say about you?
I have held off as long as I could but the PR major in me will not allow me not to keep quiet any longer. My twelve cents.
Rashad McCants is talking, AGAIN. And he is not backing down. Oh boy. This is about to get REAL ugly. Wait, too late. This is about to get UGLIER.
Now look. Everyone knows about my disdain for the university of north carolina at chapel hill, when it comes to sports. A lot of smerfs like to claim it is because they have won some championships since the last time my beloved Wolfpack did. Never. Just a little friendly rivalry where I always manage to get up under their skin. I do not like hate them or anything but between their feelings of entitlement and the whine and cheesers that are prevalent throughout smerf nation they always make for great comedy.
Anyways, McCants is talking, AGAIN. Did you miss that UNC-CH? He is talking, AGAIN!!! And again, UNCH-CH is giving me the impression that they are hoping this situation will just blow over. How many accusations must come out of that department before the school is willing to address this situation head on? This situation has gotten so bad that even I, a proud alumna of The North Carolina State University, am at the point where if they would let me, I would be willing to step in and help them stop this sinking ship.
This has gotten out of hand and it has been out of hand, pocket and control since 2011 when the first allegations of academic fraud within the football program surfaced. Since those first allegations surfaced, the football program has voided some wins and instituted a post season ban in 2012. When I proposed a theory back in 2011, few wanted wanted to listen to me. I had no proof but I told quite a few people that the basketball program was next. All the UNC-CH supporters that I told accused me of being a “hater”, of course. Even with no proof, I knew what I was talking about. My spidey senses were kicking in. Just think about it. Why would an institution work so hard to cover up academic fraud within a program that is not their big moneymaker? This is not a program that has multiple national championship banners. Shoot, they do not even have any recent ACC Championship banners. So why would all the fraud be confined to this one program? It is not like the program was on the cusp of greatness, unless I missed that memo. This was a deflection. A few papers written by some tutors cost a coach his job, a tutor her job, a chancellor exited stage left to go be a PROVOST and an AD retired. Something ain’t riiiiiiiiiiight.
And now we have McCants, a member of the 2005 NCAA Championship team, coming forward with claims that his whole academic career at UNC-CH was nothing short of a sham. According to McCants, he rarely went to class, received numerous A’s in “paper classes” and was in danger of being declared ineligible when Roy Williams stepped in an saved the day. Oh boy. Now McCants is no saint in this. If the allegations are true, then he is just as liable as whomever in the department knew what was going on. He knew what was being asked of him was wrong and he went along with it anyway. Is he a snitch? Yep. He has definitely violated the code of conduct in the brotherhood that is collegiate sports. However, I will applaud him for having the guts to take on this high powered operation.
For all the talking McCants is doing, he is not even the one doing the most damage right now. Do you all realize who is really sinking this ship? Roy Williams. His responses to McCants accusations are nothing short of head scratching. Now I am going to assume that he is being advised by the same horrible PR representatives that have been butchering this situation since 2011. That is the only explanation for him making such ridiculous statements such as he strongly disagrees with what McCants is accusing him of. Or this jewel that he gave us after McCants latest interview. Williams said, “We have a very defined system here at the University of North Carolina. I have somewhat control over the basketball program. I don’t have control over the academic side. But the academic side and our athletic director and our president want me to emphasize that academic side every single day, and they want our players to understand that. They want us to be concerned and to emphasize it but they don’t want us to step over to the academic side. They don’t want that to happen.”
Are you serious right now Roy? You are the HEAD COACH. You emphasize academics but you are not involved with your players, academically? You want us to believe that you have no idea what is going on in the classroom? You were hired just to coach these ATHLETE-students? I mean STUDENT-athletes? C’mon! In the words of Jay-Z, “We don’t believe you! You need more people!”
Somebody better do something, QUICK. A great PR person is needed badly in Chapel Hill. Badly. And I know where they can find one :-).
Until next time…TOODELLS.
P.S. Btw, I am placing blame on that wishy-washy NCAA as well. If only they were consistent…
Just a few little random thoughts from yours truly…
1. If the Miami Heat lose tonight, which I believe they will, LeBron James is going to catch slander like we have never seen before. The 27 game win streak, the MVP and the domination from him we have seen throughout the playoffs will not matter to most critics and analysts. We are going to hear that he did not get the job done, he did not show up when it mattered most and that he choked once again. As much as the LeBron slander annoys me, I will say that he has seemed off during these finals. His drive and passion to win another ring just does not seem as prevalent as it was last year. Maybe it is because he already has a ring. Maybe it is because he thought getting past the San Antonio Spurs would be easy. And maybe, just maybe, he does not have “it” at all times.
2. When the Spurs win this fifth ring, can we now enter Greg Popovich into the discuss of the greatest coaches ever? I promise you that he does not get enough respect. Let me rephrase that, he does not get a lot of exposure. I think that is because of the market he is in and the team he coaches. The Spurs have long been considered “boring” but I think they have dispelled that myth with this playoff run. Pop gets the most out of his players. I mean who would have ever thought the Spurs would gain a second “Big 3” in the Finals: Kawhi Leonard, Gary Neal and Danny Green. That Greg Popovich man. Genius.
3. Is Tiger ever going to win another major? Every time it looks like this might be the tournament he break though, he does not. It is a struggle watching him constantly finish anywhere other than first. If only he would have left those women alone…
4. I really hope the Boston Bruins win the Stanley Cup. That will be great for that city after this year’s tragedy. Go Bruins!! #BostonStrong
5. Let me just say this whole Jason Kidd coaching the Nets baffles me, still. It is the Nets though. *Kanye shrug*
6. The WOLFPACK baseball team has started off strong in Omaha. Thrashed the smerfs. UCLA up next. LETS GO #PACK9!!
7. 79 days until the NFL Season starts!!!! YESSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!
Last night I laughed, I thought, I cried. I laughed some more. I thought some more. I cried some more. The more thoughts ran through my mind, the more I cried. The more I watched ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary, Survive and Advance, the more I realized just how special this story was.
It was over a year ago when I was perusing the North Carolina State University Pack Pride message board and I saw a thread(discussion) about a new 30 for 30 documentary. It was almost too good to be true. ESPN was producing a new documentary on the 1983 Men’s Basketball National Championship team. Seriously? Whoop whoooop!! I was beyond excited for two reasons: 1. 30 for 30 documentaries are huge! 2. They were doing a positive 30 for 30 documentary about my school. How cool is that? At the time, I wondered how well I would be able to contain my excitement.
On April 4, 1983, the North Carolina State University men’s basketball team shocked the world. One year old me was probably asleep in my crib, unaware of the historical moment that was taking place in the world. My mother knew. My grandparents knew. My brothers knew. However, as fate would have it, I would become the one with the most ties to the story.
August 2001, my junior year at North Carolina State University. I was a Student Assistant in the North Carolina State University Athletic Media Relations Office. As a Student Assistant, I would generate press releases, assist in the production of media guides and press conferences, field calls from the local and national media and serve as a media liaison at countless sporting events. I loved being a Student Assistant! It afforded me the opportunity to meet Wolfpack legends David Thompson(DT), Coach Kay Yow, Tommy Burleson, Monte Towe, Torry Holt, Julius Hodge as well as Kareem Adbdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Coach Pat Summitt, and Kirk Herbstreit, just to name a few. While I enjoyed doing all these things as they gave me a tremendous amount of hands on experience, one of my favorite things to do was the hang out in The Dungeon. The Dungeon was the nickname given to the locked cage in the basement of Reynolds Coliseum(former home of the men’s basketball team). In The Dungeon, we kept numerous file cabinets that housed folders filled with photos, newspaper articles, magazine clippings, collectibles, trophies and videos of student-athletes, past and present. I am talking DT, Burleson, Tom Brown, Tab Thacker, Julie Shea, Roman Gabriel, Holt, Genia Beasley, Tab Ramos and the 1983 championship team.
It was never unusual for me to go down to The Dungeon with the intent of grabbing a picture out of DT’s folder, only to end up browsing through the 1983 championship folder to see if I could find out something new. The story was absolutely fascinating and it truly played out like a movie. A man had a dream. A dream to cut down the nets. This man took a job at a university with a rich basketball tradition with the same end goal in mind, cutting down the nets. In the the midst of the man’s third year at the helm, with his team enjoying one of their best starts, his star player, a senior, went down with a broken foot. From that point on the man’s team experienced an up and down year where it seemingly tried to find its footing in a very competitive Atlantic Coast Conference. Just when it seemed like the impossible would indeed be that, a road never traveled opened up…
The documents I found in The Dungeon helped me to somewhat grasp just how special this man’s team was. I began to understand a little more why Wolfpackers, past and present, always beamed with pride when talking about that team. Wanting to know more, I would often talk with Assistant Media Relations Director Bruce Winkworth, who was working at North Carolina State during the time of the 1983 run. The stories he would tell about that magical season always left me wishing I could rewind time and relive those moments as a student. The pictures he shared from pep rallies, games and the celebrations on Hillsborough Street and in the Brickyard after the championship game gave me chills down my spine and always left me just a little bit jealous.
March 17, 2013, the world premiere of the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary “Survive and Advance.” The story of the 1983 North Carolina State University Men’s Basketball National Championship team and the man who inspired the dream, Jim Valvano affectionately known by Wolfpackers as Jimmy V. As I sat and watched the star player, Dereck Whittenburg, insert his humor into such a compelling story, I began to do what many others before me have done, beam with pride. Hearing the story from the mouths of Whittenburg, Thurl Bailey, Ernie Myers, Terry Gannon, Cozell McQueen and former Graduate Assistant, Max Perry infused with footage of Jimmy V, was more than enough to bring a grown woman and many grown men to tears. Up until last night, I understood how big this story was to Wolfpack Nation. After last night, I understood how big this story was to the ENTIRE nation. As Twitter blew up, with five of the top 10 nationwide trends, centering on this particular story, I realized that the 1983 championship run was crafted to inspire millions in a way I think no one at that time ever imagined. As an alumnus of North Carolina State University, pride is the best way to describe how I felt knowing I was connected to what Sports Illustrated named “the greatest moment in college basketball history in the 20th Century.”
During my tenure in the North Carolina State University Athletic Department, I had the pleasure of meeting members from the 1983 team. Most of the meetings were brief and some members were even shocked that I knew who they were. I am not sure if I ever said thank you to any of them. I am hoping I did because their belief in themselves strengthened a nation’s resolve to follow in their lead. Unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of meeting Jimmy V. What an honor it would have been to be in his presence and grab nuggets of wisdom from him. I am sure we would have shared some laughs as well. Not only was he destined to lead champions on the court but his courageous battle with cancer destined him to inspire generations after him to never quit. After watching the documentary, I truly believe this end was result was what God had planned all along.
To the late great Coach Jimmy V and the 1983 championship team: THANK YOU!!! Thank you for showing us how to believe. Thank you for dreaming. Thank you for never saying never. Thank you for seeing beyond what you saw. Thank you for fighting. Thank you for making us laugh, think and cry. Thank you for loving one another. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for being a part of THE PACK! Thank you for being a living example of the V Foundation’s motto, “Don’t give up! Don’t ever give up!” Thank you for teaching us how to SURVIVE obstacles that come our way and how to ADVANCE pass them. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!
I want to send a special THANK YOU to the documentary’s director, Jonathan Hock. What an amazing piece of art. You should definitely get some awards for this. If you do not, I am sure Wolfpack Nation will be very unhappy. You know how passionate we are.