Wednesday, August 4, 2010

UNC Football Primer for the New and Ignorant, Part 2

Before we get going with all that, a quick question:

It's not possible for A-Rod to remain on home run #599 for the rest of his life, is it?

Whiny Kid Voice: I'm being serious, guys.

What the hell is going on here? Take a look at his stats since hitting his last home run sometime in 1993 (July 22nd, 2010):

12 games, 8-45, .178/.240/.222, 10 strikeouts

Most of those 8 hits came in the three games immediately following #599. He's currently riding an 0-17 slide, and the debate about whether the pressure of the milestone is affecting his approach can be put to rest. The 'ayes' have it; as a Toronto announcer pointed out last night, he's basically swinging at anything the pitcher offers. He looks jumpy and nervous at the plate, he can't lay off breaking balls, and even when he gets a nice fastball, he's swinging under it.

And every single at-bat, we go through the whole charade of changing balls, listening to the same old spiel from the announcers, and bracing ourselves for 'history.' It's been a tense and frustrating process for the fans, so I can only imagine what's swirling around A-Rod's head.

Plainly, he's in an anxiety funk. He needs to get lucky. In Paul O'Neill's words, "he needs to run into one." The sample size of players who have hit 600 home runs is obviously small, but among those legends, Willie Mays took the longest between 599 and 600. It was 21 at-bats for the say-hey kid. A-Rod is currently in the high 40s. He might as well just close his eyes, pray for a fastball, and swing hard. Until then, we'll continue to miss his bat in the 4-hole. And the faltering Yankee offense (I mean, have you seen Jeter lately?) can't afford that.

The Yanks have lost 3 straight for only the 4th time all year. We haven't yet lost 4 in a row, but if Hughes can't turn things around tonight, that will fall by the wayside. In worse news, Tampa Bay took over the AL East lead, and the title of best team in baseball. With two months left in the season, we're officially in the dog days. We need to avoid the sweep tonight, and make a statement against Boston. As A-Rod could tell you, you don't want to let these little slumps spiral out of control.

Okay, on to UNC football. Last night, I got an e-mail from a long lost Dukie pal named Mike. The subject line was "Supporting traitors is treasonous." I thought somebody had finally discovered my underground network of terrorists (when I say 'underground,' I mean it literally; getting the digging permit was the hardest part of the move to Carolina), but it turned out Mike had just read yesterday's blog. But instead of reprimand, he decided to aid and abet my efforts, as you can see in the full text of the e-mail:

To help you support your new friends:

That's the recruiting wrap-up for the Tar Heels, and the writer makes the case that they have the best incoming class in the ACC. Which jives with yesterday's comments from the UNC die-hards about Butch Davis' relative strength in that area. So a big thanks to Mike for smoothing my transition to UNC fandom. Without further ado, let's get to it. Again, these are my questions, and the answers from the die-hards at a UNC football forums. See this post for questions 1-5.

UNC Football Primer for the New and Ignorant, Part 2

Question 6: What's the biggest game of the season?

-the first one ;) all seriousness, there are lots of good games and its a good time to be a student at Carolina with Clemson, VT, state, and GT at home, a big time neutral game against LS

-@ Miami

-the next one

-Check back each week. Right now it's LSU. Then it'll be GT. Then Clemson, etc, etc.

-Tough question. I'll say Ga Tech -- one of our Coastal Division rivals at home could set the tone for the season.

-At first glance its LSU without a doubt and on a national scale it is, but the Vatek game is bigger cause it obviously effects our ACC title hopes, and bowl destination. Hopefully we can say the ACC title game or our bowl was the biggest game at the end of the season.

-LSU-Away Home-VTech

-The LSU game is the biggest game of the season, without question. It provides the best opportunity for the Heels to really make a national splash, and beating a program that is less than five years removed from winning the national championship signals that the UNC program is not far away from competing for its own championships.

-LSU. It will tell us whether we are pretenders still.

Question 7: Who do you predict to win each division of the ACC, and the overall title?

-I've got BC and VT.....BC, because their schedule is VERY easy, and I think any of the 4 good teams in the Coastal can win it, but VT has proven to be in the mix year after year, so they're the default selection for me....wouldn't surprise me a bit to see that I'm wrong on both predictions.

-FSU and VT (VT wins)

-HEAD:atlantic- FSU
coastal- Miami
title game- pick em

HEART: atlantic- FSU
coastal- us
title game- we avenge loss at fsu with 1st acc title game victory

-The ACC is so crazy it's easier saying who won't win instead. Maryland won't win the Atlantic and dook won't win the Coastal. Anything else is possible.

-Coastal -- Miami Atlantic -- FSU -- Champion -- Miami

-Us in the coastal, with FSU in the Atlantic. And yes kinda hoping on my part but I do believe we can win it all.

-VTech if they get by us

-I got the Heels winning the entire ACC, but then again, I always do.

-I predict Florida State to win the Atlantic, and Miami to win the Coastal. Miami will win the ACC this year, and play Florida in the Orange Bowl.

-Coastal: VT; Atlantic: FSU; ACC: VT

Question 8: Is there a 'golden era' of UNC football? What was the best year or stretch of years? Who was the best UNC coach ever?

-there have been short spurts of high hopes for the program.....the Charlie "Choo-Choo" Justice years, Dooley, Mack Brown in the 90s, etc....I think that we're off to a good start for another potential "golden age" with Butch

-The Justice era. My dad says Jim Tatum was the best coach UNC ever had. Mack Brown was coach when I was in school and we never had a losing record in my 4.5 years.

-golden era? before i was born. we were really good for a period in the late 70's early 80's and then again in the mid 90's. best coach probably Mack Brown

-The Mack Brown years were the best in my lifetime. Didn't really appreciate them back the either since we had no shot of winning the ACC and could do no better than the Gator Bowl. How I'd love to go back to those days.

-For me, it was 1979-1982...I believe we had 4 straight bowl wins & a couple of Top 10 seasons. We also won the ACC in 1980. We beat Michigan & Texas in two of those Bowls.

-Well I'm pretty young so can't speak too much on this one but as everyone else said the Choo Choo era. The early 80s we had a lot of great players and teams, and the late 90s. Names such as LT,Kelvin Bryant, Amos Lawrence, Ethan Horton, Harris Barton, Dre Bly, Greg Ellis,Ebenezer Ekuban come from these two eras.

-Mack Brown was the best/worst. I only say worst cause he ditched us.

-There are a few periods where you could really point to a nice stretch for the UNC program, but the most recent renaissance came in the 1990s under Mack Brown. There are a number of good teams in Tar Heel history (1980 is the best team to point to since they're the last UNC team to win the ACC), but the best player argument is a hot debate between Lawrence Taylor, Charlie "Choo-Choo" Justice, and Julius Peppers. The best coach in Tar Heel history is either Dick Crum or Bill Dooley in my opinion, but Mack Brown wouldn't be a bad choice either.

-the Choo Choo era was THE golden era for Carolina football, period. We went to 3 MAJOR bowl games in 4 years. We were competitive and nationally respected. This is not debatable.

There were, IIRC, three times we went 11-1 since then: maybe '72, '80 or '81, and '97. And those were mostly surrounded by other strong seasons as well (except '73). I loved the Dooley, Crum and Brown eras, which included my time as the son of grad students, an undergrad, and a season ticket holder later. But don't kid yourself - as good as those teams were, nothing in our history even compares to the Justice era ('46 to '49). Look it up. Part of the problem: by the time we had those great football teams in the '70's through '90's, the media already had us pegged as a basketball school, and we never got the rankings or the big bowl bids we deserved.

-1990s. Mack Brown. Take away the 2-20 start and he has the highest winning percentage of any UNC football coach (.720) and it isn't close.

Question 9: What's the tailgating culture like? Does UNC have "good" (enthusiastic) football fans? Do they travel well? Is it hard for other teams to play in Carolina?

-Carolina football has its fair share hard core football fans, but (sadly) many more only come out of the woodwork when the team is winning. There has undoubtedly been renewed excitement in the program since Butch has gotten here, and UNC football is a hot ticket again. Tailgating on campus has always been an issue for Tar Heel football fans. Not a ton of space since the stadium is right in the middle of campus and near a busy hospital, but if you get there soon enough, you can always find a good crowd to hang out with.

-Tailgating is fine but the stadium is in the middle of campus and there is not a lot of parking. You have to find your spots and those are becoming less and less in number. In 12 years of going to games since graduation, I have had to move spots three times. If you give enough to the Ram's Club, you can get primo parking, but otherwise you have to make it work. I think ultimately, there will be a move to the park and rides (this is how Texas does it) which currently can accomodate tailgating galore.

Alternatively, lots of folks just hang out on Franklin Street prior to the game and walk from there. IMO, UNC has the most underrated fans as we get labelled "wine and cheese" or sit on your hands-type fans. I'm sure part of this is based on how rival fans want to construe us. But we're spoiled. To whom is the comparison? I've been to Clemson, State, and ECU games where the fanbase was silent. Conversely, the Dean Dome is deafening at times and when there is something to cheer on in BKS (State and Miami games in '04, ND game '08), the fans bring it as well as any I have ever experienced.

-A lot has been said on this board about building a "football culture" at Carolina. According to most, this "culture" is on the rise, though it's still in its fledgling stages. Tailgating is one of the most visible signs of this improvement: While there has always been a small, die-hard contingent of tailgaters scattered all over the on- and off-campus lots that has persisted even during the crappiest of the Bunting years, it's beginning to look like pregame festivities are starting to grow. On-campus students still wake up at around 11:50 for noon kickoffs though.

The biggest challenge is the fact that there's no massive parking lot next to the stadium to consolidate tailgating... but in the last year I've been most impressed by the amount of pregame stuff going on in the neighborhoods just north of Franklin.

-what's tailgating? haha. our fans are getting better but aren't typicaly rabid or incredibly loud(i am), but travel fairly well depending on locale. if the games at noon it's easy to play us in bks. otherwise it can be difficult depending on opponent.

-Fans are good if kickoff is 3:00 or later. No we don't travel well except for perhaps the LSU game this year (and going to dook doesn't count). Is it hard for opposing teams to play at Carolina? Depends on how we're playing. I mean we lost to Virginia last year.

-Its kinda hard cause we don't have a parking lot right outside the stadium. Yes, we can get excited when somethign good happens though we could stand to be more enthusiastic. We travel pretty well, its getting harder evry yr.

-Tailgaiting it to spaced out, no parking, loud at times, loudest at night (night games rock) Conner FG win against MIAMI (loudest EVER!) My ears are still ringing, I think I need Quietis??

-Tailgating at UNC isnt the best, due to lack of space and parking. Keep the alcohol in cups on campus and you shouldnt have a problem, basically dont draw attention to yourself like some by being a beligerent drunk. That is for NC State fans.

-As for the fanbase, its getting MUCH better. There have been great strides since Butch took over and the fanbase is really starting to change. If you would have told even the most optimistic Heels fans 5 years ago that we'd put 30,000 people in BKS for the 2010 spring game, they'd say you were bat-**** crazy.

If you get tickets to a game, get there early, wear Carolina blue and cheer loud. You will see a lot of folks use gamedays as a social event. But, that withstanding, there is a reason "Carolina Girls are the Best in the World." The scenery can be magnificent.

-Tailgating culture at UNC is up-and-coming, but really pales in comparison with some of the other traditional programs. This is mainly a byproduct of a lack of space and parking around the stadium, coupled with strict alcohol regulations by the campus. UNC fans are passionate when the teams are good, and less so when the teams are bad, but football-first fans (such as yours truly) are hard to find no matter how good the team might be. There are fans that travel, but certainly nothing like other ACC teams like Virginia Tech, Florida State, or Clemson. The Kenan Stadium atmosphere has improved dramatically with the arrival of Coach Davis and the subsequent improvement of the team, but prior to that it was apathetic at best.

-As for the tailgating culture, I was never able to participate in it. My Freshman year was Mack Brown's first year (1988), and I played in the Marching Tar Heels all four years. However, I was really surprised by the football culture. Football seems to be an all-day thing, while basketball seems to start about an hour before tip-off and just last through the game.

-Carolina fans actually travel pretty well to bowl games. I've attended a bunch in person, and we generally give a good account of ourselves. Yes, Kenan can be casual, tailgating is a challenge, etc., but our fans can bring it when necessary, especially at night.

-Limited places to tailgate on campus so it isn't as lively as some schools. Fans are very pumped. Travel very well. Great home field advantage.

Question 10: Is there something interesting about Carolina football that I don't know but should have asked?

-UNC used to be known as "Tailback U," and has produced (IIRC) 25 1,000 yd rushers, including one in 13 straight years during the late 70s and 80s. However, USC has since passed us for most 1,000 yd rushers since we haven't had one since the early-mid 90s.

-UNC actually has an above average football tradition (probably the 5th best in the conference) but it's overshadowed by our basketball program. The two are often the sources of discussion as to which is more important, preferred, etc., but there is nothing to suggest that success in both can't be achieved in both as observed by short-term successes by Florida, Texas, and Ohio State. The goal is to be the first school to achieve longterm and consistent success in both.

-we used to be "tailback u" with the most 1,000 yard rushers in ncaa history. we've been passed by usc recently but are still a close second.

-No. You didn't mention anything about LT, Quan's drug arrest, Marvin or the NCAA investigations. You're good.

-You prolly already know this but it's worth repeating Carolina had the best defensive player ever in LT!!! Also Steve Young wanted to come to Carolina.

-We love football only after basketball is over and we want to win we just don't want to stand and cheer when its hot or an early game.

-Stay away from this board after a loss, you will see the meltdown squad in full effect.

-You should know that UNC football has its doubters. A lot of people - be they UNC fans or otherwise - will always feel as though UNC will never be a football powerhouse. What Coach Davis and his staff has been trying to prove is that not only can the Heels be great at football, but they can also provide just as much of a buzz around campus as the lauded men's basketball program. Know that although your fandom will be tested at times, being a part of the UNC football culture is a rewarding experience, particularly after being involved for a long time and seeing the program finally reach the heights that so many thought possible.

-"The Oldest Rivalry in the South" is UNC-UVA. UVA really should be more of a rivalry because of similarities as "public ivy" universities and culture. They are the only fanbase in the ACC more snobby than us.

In the late Mack years and just after we had more players in the NFL than any other school.

Go ahead and look up the origin of "Tar Heel" because all your friends and family will be asking you.

Also, go ahead and memorize the alma mater cause it is sung after each game.

-This is how good we can be when we have the coach (well Mack had left for Texas by this game but it is his team), the players, the resources, and the passion.

There you go, readers. That's a lot of material- you've done well to read this far. Until later...


  1. I think it would help tremendously to stop with the ball-swap charade. For a known choker, that sort of immediately apparent pressure seems insurmountable - I mean, since it obviously has been.

  2. Until now, my friend! It took a while, but #600 has come and GONE.


  3. That's why I left that comment TODAY. So he would hit #600. Today.