It was August 1999 and I was a freshman at North Carolina State University. I had a pretty, white desktop computer that was hooked up to the fastest ethernet the largest public university in the state could provide. The screen was wide, the fonts were big and I was thrilled to now be connected to the internet full-time. Well, while I was in my dorm room.
When I finally received the notification that my connection was active, my first order of business was not to check my schedule, locate some building on campus or check out the bus schedule. Before I could do any of that I had to get the most important tool set up that I would need for the next four years: AOL Instant Messenger.
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.
NFL Conference Championship Sunday I found myself in a struggle. Here I was, a die-hard San Francisco 49ers Faithful contemplating doing the unthinkable-cheering for the rival Seattle Seahawks.
Ok, let me back up. That particular Sunday, I was actually cheering for the Green Bay Packers. As a Faithful, there was no way I could cheer for our rival even if they had only recently become that. A rival is a rival and I draw the line deep in the dirt when rivalries are involved. I cheered against Seattle in the Superbowl last year and I have cheered against them all season. It was the right thing to do.
That Sunday, I left the house in confidence. I had been spending some time with my nephew and it was time to take him home. I know what you are thinking. She left during the game? Yes I did but any real football fan will have the NFL Mobile app on their phone so they always have access to the game. However, this particular time I did not even bother to turn the game on so I could listen. Green Bay had a 12 point lead with about five minutes left, I think. I was confident they were going to win and I could celebrate Seattle watching the big game at home, like us. You know payback for last year’s NFC Championship game. You still do not want to get me started on that.
I got out of my car at my brother’s, left my phone inside and got my nephew’s belongings. After chatting inside for about 15 minutes, it was back to the car to tune in to Green Bay’s celebration of their win and return trip to the Superbowl. WRONG!! Surely my eyes were deceiving me. They had to be! I know the score did not say Green Bay 19-Seattle 22. Ummm, what? What happened?? I was shocked, stunned and beffuddled. How could this have possibly happened??
Two words. Two words I am very familiar with. Russell. Wilson.
Early in the second half, in an ominous moment of foreshadowing, I sent out a tweet. It said, “Packers bet not let up. Never count out Russell Wilson! #GBvsSEA.” You see. I knew what Wilson was capable of. I saw his capabilities up close and personal when he was the starting quarterback of my beloved North Carolina State University Wolfpack. There were games where our wins could single handedly be contributed to Wilson’s uncanny nack for making things happen on the field. As long as he was behind center, we had a chance. Always. When his path to the NFL took him from Raleigh to Wisconsin, it was the same thing over and over. Wilson making things happen when it almost seemed impossible to get it done. So never count him out.
My return trip from my brother’s house included a stop at the grocery store. This is where NFL Mobile is clutch. The stop was necessary and me watching the game was definite. So there I was, in the grocery store, with a basket and my phone tuned into the game. Yes, the actual game. I pretty much got nothing accomplished. I should have just went straight home. I was by the salads when it happened. The legend of Russell Wilson grew by miles. Green Bay had tied the game right before the end of regulation to send the NFC Championship into overtime. Seattle won the coin toss and could punch their ticket to the Superbowl if they scored a TD on their first possession. Well, yep, that is exactly what they did. Wilson dropped one of the prettiest dimes I have seen him thrown perfectly into the waiting arms and hands of Jerome Kearse who then landed in the endzone to give Seattle a chance at being the first repeat champions since 2004.
Again, I was shocked, stunned and befuddled. How could this be? What happened? Oh, Russell Wilson happened. As I surprisingly rushed out of the store to get home and watch post-game coverage, all I could do was shake my head. Then it happened. En route, I found out that Wilson cried during his post game interview while giving God the credit. And everything over here changed.
I could no longer fight the love I have for my fellow Wolfpacker. Everyone who knows me well knows I am all the way loyal to my Wolfpack. However, when it comes to professional football, my loyalties lie with my teams first, Peyton Manning second then my Wolfpackers third. Sometimes, I will pull for my fellow Wolfpackers when they are playing against Peyton if the win is needed to help boost their possible playoff appearance. No matter what though, I pull for no one over my 9ers or Panthers. So imagine the disloyalty I felt to my 9ers when I begin to feel happy for Wilson. This was not suppose to happen or was it? Could I possibly be happy for Wilson without being happy for his team? Eh. Not really but you catch the drift.
Ever since he stepped foot onto the campus at North Carolina State, Wilson has exemplified what it means to be a champion. He has proven himself to be humble, a great role model, a leader, an inspiration and one of the top quarterbacks in the league. As a Wolfpacker and a person who just generally likes to see good guys win, it is almost impossible not to cheer for him and want to see him succeed.
With that said, Go Russell!!!! Go get that second ring! This 49er Faithful is rooting for you! For now….
“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…
Alright here it is…Louisville, Notre Dame, Florida and my alma mater, North Carolina State :-}. I wholeheartedly believe if we can get pass Indiana, we can make it all the way to Atlanta. Bold picks, right? We will see what happens.
Oh I have Louisville and Florida playing for the championship with Louisville winning. Let the madness begin!!