Write Again … Those times were special

Published 12:06 am Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Friends, let me give you a “heads up” right now at the beginning: this not very important opining and remembering on my part is about sports.

So … please feel free to exercise your right to skip this week’s scribblings, and go on to other, more interesting things in our daily gazette, if sports isn’t your thing.

But (I was taught not to start a sentence with “but”), please come back next week, you heah?

Here it is. I’ve been an avid sports fan since, well, forever. As a youngster growing up, from a very early age, going to Pam Pack football games with my father was very, very special.

The UNC Tar Heels, with the incomparable Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice, Art Weiner, et al in the late 1940s were something really, really special, too. My first college game as a spectator was in Chapel Hill in 1949 as the home team took on the N.C. State (College then) Wolfpack. Memories …

Then in 1951, I saw my first college basketball game. It was at William Neal Reynolds Coliseum on the campus at State. The arena was only a couple of years old then, and it seemed quite a great hall.

The game? Duke versus West Virginia, in the semi-finals of the Southern Conference tournament. The Southern Conference? Yep. The ACC didn’t come into existence until 1953. Duke won that game, and State beat George Washington in the nitecap, to set up the following evening’s championship clash. In the first game Dick Groat scored 31 points. Remember him?

Then in 1956-57 the Tar Heels (did you know that the basketball teams at UNC were originally known as the White Phantoms?) did something really special. Their record was 32-0, and they won the national championship with a three-overtime win over Michigan State (remember Johnny Green?) on Friday night, and then a three-overtime (54-53) victory against Kansas (you do remember Wilt, for sure) on Saturday night. The Heels were led that season by Lennie Rosenbluth, and coached by Frank McGuire.

And yet, much credit should really go to N.C. State and Everett Case, for in the years following the war they really led our state into the top tier of college basketball.

Lots of memories. Good memories. Yet, age has tempered my fervor a bit for sports. Sometimes, with all of the advertising that takes place during televised games, it seems it takes forever to play a game. I rarely watch an entire contest.

Then too, the terribly bothersome practice of having the camera focus on the player who has just scored, and/or the dapper coach in his expensive dark business suit (they dress like it was a board meeting or a funeral) causes the viewer to miss out on the inbounds pass and movement up the court. This practice infuriates me. Sometimes important action is missed.

So … I just don’t watch too much of it anymore, truth to tell.

I did, however, thoroughly enjoy the years I spent coaching the Manteo High School basketball teams. We weren’t always the best, but we were probably the “most traveled” team. (Except for Cape Hatteras. Now, they really racked up the miles.) And believe me, I know something about bus fatigue and very late nights. Oh, yes.

So. How to end this bit of nostalgic rambling? If you were to ask me, “Who do you pull for?” I would answer:

All of’em. Any team from North Carolina. Pulling “for” rather than “against” is so much more enjoyable.

And, when in-state teams play each and one another?

Well, now. That’s a bit different. However, if any of these games go much past 10 p.m., I have to read in the morning paper who won.

That couldn’t be age, could it?