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….
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!!!
Until next time….TOODELLS.
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.
Proud Alumnus, Kassaundra S.
Yep, I am still dragging. I have made peace, for the most part with my 9ers losing. I am still somewhat avoiding ESPN. You do not realize how much they talk about the SuperBowl after the fact until your team loses. And if that “I’m going to Disney World” commercial chases me down one more time, I am going to scream. Thankfully, I have had the remote near by every time and I have managed to avoid hearing those words.
Since I have made peace, I am sure you are wondering why I am still dragging. Football season is now officially over. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!! Say it ain’t so!!!! What am I going to do?? No Olympics coming up to keep me occupied during the summer months. I do love college basketball and baseball though so I guess I will immerse myself in those. Although, my Wolfpack is not doing so well. *insert sigh* I have faith in them though! We will bounce back.
Last night there was not much to watch on tv, as usual. However, March Madness came early. I managed to catch the last nine minutes of the Michigan-Ohio State game. That was good stuff!! The back and forth. The barrage of threes. The defense. Overtime. Last second shots. Two of the biggest rivals in collegiate athletics. You could not ask for much more on a Tuesday night. Although, I am sad about football season being over, last night’s game was a great reminder of why I love March Madness. If last night’s game is any indication of what is to come in March then we are in for a treat.
Yeah, that is all I have for today. Until next time, TOODELLS!
Approximately 23 weeks until NFL Training Camps open!!!!!
The unthinkable happened on Saturday. I have been so busy the past few weeks that I forgot to put in my ticket request for the Duke game. Insert pout, foot stomping and watery eyes. In the 13 years since I have arrived in the Capital City, I have never missed a home game against Duke. Regardless, if we were having a winning season or not, I was there. I even ventured over to Cameron Indoor one year to take in the festivities from press row. I was smushed the whole game but the students were nice enough to help me over the table when I needed to get up. Yes, over the table. We lost that game but I got to meet the great Kareem Abdul-Jabar. I tried to contain my excitement but my mouth had other plans. It let out a squeal as soon as he entered the room.
Anywho, back to the topic. Ah, my beloved alma mater. This game had been hyped up since the beginning of the season. The Pack was picked to finish first in the ACC. Duke was picked second. The Pack was ranked number six in the preseason polls. I do not recall what Duke was ranked nor do I care. After two early season losses, there were really rumblings about whether or not the Pack could really take the ACC. All those questions were answered when the Pack shut up their critics hard on a warm Saturday in January. The questions about the Pack’s toughness, chemistry, ability to hang with top teams in the nation and killer instinct were trampled at mid-court as students(shoutsout to Will Privette….the student who rushed the court in his wheelchair and is kind of a big deal….that is how we roll!!!) rushed to celebrate with the young men who had essentially let the nation know that THE PACK IS BACK!!!
Sure, lots of folks, namely fans of the blew schools, think Pack fans are overreacting. Eh, who cares?! We just beat one blew school and we are not even sure if the other blew school has a basketball team this year. When Mark Gottfried came to State two years ago, he was a relative unknown. However, Athletic Director Debbie Yow saw something in him that convinced her that he was the man for the job. He immediately told WOLFPACK fans that he wanted to return the program to its prominence. He no longer wanted us to live off of our old history but create some new history. As much as I wanted to believe it, I had my doubts. I knew nothing about Gottfried but I am always willing to give a coach a chance because it only takes the right one to get things going. However, I never thought he would turn things around so quickly.
As I celebrated on Hillsborough Street on Saturday (hey, it is what we do), I reflected on our rich history. We are still one of only 14 schools to win multiple NCAA Championships. We are forever linked with the late great Jim Valvano. We can also claim that arguably the game’s best player EVER called Reynolds Coliseum home, David Thompson.
While most may not understand the jubilation Pack fans experienced Saturday, you do have to take a closer look and wonder what is going on in Raleigh. You nervous yet? You should be. The Pack played great Saturday but not nearly as great as they can. You still looking. You can stop now. You do not have a clue :-}. I will help you out and keep it simple for you, it’s a WOLFPACK THING, YOU WOULDN’T UNDERSTAND!!! Now howl on that.
Until next time….TOODELLS.
Well, the day has come. The last day of Twenty Twelve. I know you all are sitting around saying the same thing we say every year, “This year went by so fast.” I guessssss.
What a year it has been, personally and professionally. I have been tested in more ways than you can imagine but I MADE IT! GOD gets all the glory! When I started this blogging journey in August, I did not know what to expect. I knew I wanted to share my wealth of sports knowledge with the masses :-}. However, my goal was to inspire others by doing something I loved. The response to my blog has at times been overwhelming. I have been retweeted, followed by former writers and editors of magazines, chatted with ESPN anchors and have been told by many that they love my style of writing and that I inspire them to follow their dreams. WOW! With all the madness and sadness that we have all experienced in this world this year, I am truly grateful to have a place where I can spread a little sunshine.
I stepped out on faith this year and I am challenging you to do the same in 2K13. STEP OUT ON FAITH!!! Really, what do you have to lose? If it does not work out, cool! It was not meant to be but what if it does?!?! Imagine the possibilities!!!! In this world, you can not afford to be afraid or opportunities will pass by you faster than a Tony Romo interception. So sit down, write out your plan and then go after it! Somebody is waiting on you to get ‘er done!!
Until next time…..TOODELLS.
P.S. I would have loved to have done a ‘top 10 sports stories of the year’ post but I am just getting back from vacation, my beloved WOLFPACK plays their bowl game at 12(yeah, I know you are surprised I am not there) and I still need to squeeze in one last workout before midnight. So yeah, I do not have time to do it :-}. Whatever you are doing tonight, be safe!!! HAPPY 2K13!!! Peace and blessings to you in the new year.