Finding Light in the Darkness

I know it has been a while, but with my beloved University under fire and my own personal misgivings about the situation it just hasn’t felt right. However, a recently published interview with UNC AD Bubba Cunningham has provided me with at least the hope that the athletic department has someone in charge who is up to the challenge. While, I understand there is a cynical view to be take here, you will get no such read from me. I am going to focus on the hope.

Bubba’s comments when asked about the planned renovations to the Tar Heel basketball cathedral should provide all Tar Heel fans with faith in his leadership:

I think we need to upgrade a number of our facilities, but I don’t think the timing is right. So it’s still there, it’s still on the back burner. And as soon as we feel like, as a University, that we’ve healed ourselves and we feel comfortable, then I think we’ll move forward.

I am most appreciative of the inward focus he shows here. The university community and family needs to come to grips with what we allowed to happen whether willingly or unwillingly. We all had a part to play in the compromise of the principals we said were so dear, and only when we as a Tar Heel community come together can we proceed.

But that’s when you have confidence and that’s when you have courage. And right now, we don’t. We’ve lost our own confidence; we’ve lost trust by our alumni, within the community, outside of the community…We have to get comfortable with who we are again and prove to people you can do both.

We have lost trust as a family just as the national academic and athletic community has lost faith in us. The University is too busy pointing fingers and plugging holes rather than focusing on the progress it has made to insure this will not occur again. We must focus on what needs to be done to prepare all who walk onto campus for the future whether they ever play a sport.

Some of it is time. And as Larry (Fedora) indicated when we hired him, I can say all of the right things, but we’ve got to do it. So we need to show that we’re going to admit students that can be successful. We need to provide them a great education while they’re here. They need to graduate. They need to get good jobs and go on and do things.

The University will not recover until it resolves to provide an education and opportunity to every student who sets foot on campus. That may seem like a sacrifice to some, but that is the place I fell in love with 25 years ago and the one to which I thought I belonged. Thank you Bubba, for allowing me to see that place once again.

“…but at some point, we can’t sit in neutral. We’ve got to move forward.”

Photo Credit: Zach Frailey via Flickr

Matters of State

I am the last person who should be writing anything that even closely resembles celebratory talk about the Wolfpack’s convincing 35–7 rout of the Tarheels yesterday. Why? Because I’ve barely laid an eye on the Pack all season. That said, I had a lot of fun watching the game, especially in the 4th quarter with about five minutes left when I finally let my guard down a bit, cautiously optimistic that the game was a bit out of reach even for the quick-strike Tarheels. I won’t lie, I even got a little greedy, practically begging the Pack’s defense to hold on for the shutout.

That was actually the most fun I’ve had watching Pack football in a long time. Games where we execute so consistently throughout the entire 60 minutes are few and far between, especially against our arch-rival1 Tarheels. Do I think UNC put their best foot forward yesterday? No way. To be honest, I was dreading this game after watching the performance the Tarheels put up against Duke two Thursdays ago. In fact, the optimistic spin that Tarheel fans might reasonably put on this is that this was a classic hangover/trap game after beating their real rivals, and of course the Pack would come out fired up with an extra week of preparation for their “Super Bowl”. Sour grapes for sure, but that’s to be expected from the wine and cheese crowd and, quite frankly, I’d much rather have this win than whatever’s next for the Pack. Calling it our Super Bowl is probably an apt observation.

Just a quick aside on the note of rivalry. The rise of Duke’s football program under David Cutcliffe certainly won’t do State fans any favors in the not-our-rival conversation. It certainly doesn’t help that Carolina and Duke are in the same division, with their match-ups having potential head-to-head implications if they can ever sync up their relative success. And on top of all of that, you have the Victory Bell – a tangible spoil for the victor.

What does it all mean about our respective programs? Not much more than what we’ve already seen all season. Carolina has shown glimpses of great football, but they still have a long way to go to get back to where they were headed a few years ago. The Pack’s glimpses have been more rare, but it’s nice to end the regular season on such a high note and so convincingly. Hopefully that victory gave the entire team a confidence boost that will propel them into their potential bowl game and on into next season. Don’t let up. Go Pack!

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Gerry Broome

  1. That’s right, I said it.

Leaving Landon

In January 2010, the stars aligned1 and I attended Landon Donovan’s debut at Goodison Park during his first stint with EPL’s Everton FC. Back in Europe after a less than fruitful early-career stint in Germany and six months before the shot heard ’round the world, Landon Donovan was on his way back. Donovan’s successful winter in Liverpool and his heroics in the World Cup set the stage and expectations for the next four years into high gear. And then, halfway through, burnout.

Fast forward to May 21st, 2014. Landon Donovan has returned to soccer, has returned to the US Men’s National Team and has re-emerged triumphant on the pitch. Grantland’s Noah Davis offers a prospectus on the future of American soccer, a prospectus that includes Landon Donovan even if only as a bridge from America’s mediocre football past to its seemingly bright future.

Bridges, oh how they burn.

On May 22nd, 2014, Jurgen Klinsmann’s 2014 World Cup roster is announced, and one name is notably missing. In an instant, the man who has scored more World Cup goals than Lionel Messi, Christiano Ronaldo, and Robin van Persie combined, more international goals than any US player in history, and more MLS goals than any other player in the league’s relatively young history is left to watch the World Cup at home like the rest of us.

I won’t pretend that I follow US Soccer with any more than passing glances at box scores and occasional forays into soccer blog rabbit holes. I love watching World Cup soccer, though, and for all of my adult life that has meant watching Landon Donovan. I have to admit, I took the news of Donovan’s exclusion from the roster like a punch in the stomach. I think we all did. The idea, the opportunity for one last hurrah; a farewell, of sorts, for Donovan on football’s biggest stage was just too good to ignore.

Donovan deserves his farewell, as much as anyone deserves such a thing, and I still believe he earned a place on this roster. But as much as Donovan deserves our respect and adoration, so too does Klinsmann deserve the right to build his team his way. I don’t have to agree with every Klinsmann decision to love what he’s doing and how he’s shaping the future of American soccer. This one stings, but I know this decision can’t take away what Landon has given us and I’m excited about what is still yet to come.

  1. A close friend graduating from Durham University, his dad a lifelong Everton fan, and serendipitous timing.

Additional Reading

SBNation: Why Landon Donovan’s Legacy Couldn’t Carry Him to the World Cup

Grantland: The Landon Donovan Decision

Slate: Why Jurgen Klinsmann Never Trusted Landon Donovan

Raleigh & Co.: Thank You, Landon