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Undeadening the Zone

Well, we are there. The last vestiges of the college sports season ended with North Carolina demonstrating that they are the masters of any and all collegiate baseball programs except for one, the one they keep meeting in Omaha. The 2006-7 collegiate sports season is officially over. We all know what that means.

Yes, it is the return of the Dead Zone, that vast sports wasteland that must be endured for the next ten weeks as we await that magical date of September 1 when the doldrums give way to another football season. Ten weeks? Yikes!

This Dead Zone will be a little deader than most. Thanks to the combined efforts of Peter Angelos and the Comcast Corporation, for the first time in pretty much my entire adult life I can no longer follow the Baltimore Orioles on television. Given the Angelos-induced disarray of the once-proud Orioles franchise, perhaps this is a good thing. A quick glance at the morning’s baseball scores and the standings is really all one needs to beware that the O’s have lost again and are sinking ever deeper into last place in the AL East as Angelos demonstrates that running what once was the model organization of professional baseball straight into the ground is no tougher than suing tobacco companies for millions, although, given the attendance figures these days at Camden Yards, far less profitable. The Nationals are no better, either on the field or getting onto my local cable system.

There is that amount of time not spent watching O’s relievers blow saves and attempting to figure out who might be managing the team. It must be filled, either by increasing my input of the Food and History channels or by devoting more energies to attacking those Civil War histories that are piling up around my reading chair [a different one from my television chair]. A recount of Pemberton’s blunders at Vicksburg or what cocktail Sandra Lee chooses to consume while preparing which dish is a tough call.

So is paying more attention or any whatsoever to the futuristic claims on the History Channel that the world will end on December 21, 2012, as forecast by sources as disparate as the Mayan calendar and the I Ching, or how the South’s limited industrial production combined with the federal blockade made it impossible for the Confederacy to equip its western armies into any kind of fighting trim.

Lee got all of the headlines while the war was lost in the west and while the end of civilization as we know it is still open to discussion and interpretation or a Hillary presidency, we do know the date the Confederate States of America ceased to exist along with the one that will start the 07 season. Of course, Lee over the first half of his schedule did not go up against the Union’s A-Team, instead inflicting RUTS on that collection of clowns that Lincoln kept trotting out as he desperately cast about for a winner, not unlike Carolina looking for a football coach. Given Butch’s proclivity for bragging on his coaching abilities, those who control Carolina’s huge athletic purse strings would seem to have decided on Joe Hooker.

A note to my Carolina friends who read my musings on a fairly regular basis [at least when I write them]: There are few coaches not named algroh, Petey or George that I have made such gleeful fun of over the years than Butch and none who have provided such a target-rich environment for shots. The truth is, of course, is that Butch is a fine coach as long as the opposing one is not named Frank or Bobby or JoePa. Butch’s history shows that, given the best talent in the country, he should be good for 5-8 wins per year, one more if Tech’s star quarterback suffers an injury, either from a high ankle sprain or a dog bite and misses the game.

Killing time during this Dead Zone will involve activities spent during all other ones. There are those Friday afternoons at my favorite watering hole in the company of the Hoo Lawyer. He has related some amusing stuff about everybody’s favorite Great NFL Legend.

algroh, with his back firmly against the pergola, is having an interesting time at various Hoo Club meetings around the state, explaining both those skyrocketing salary per victory ratios and the uncanny sense of timing displayed by the Hoo administration in jacking up donation requirements for football season tickets to Tech-like levels on the heels of a 5-7 record. The Great NFL Legend is professing to paying no attention whatsoever to that ‘Beat Frank or Else’ decree issued by Hoo AD Craig ‘We Didn’t Need Tubby To Keep Singletary Around’ Littlepage, preferring to focus his energies on potty training boygroh and his motto for the 07 season, ‘Boise or Bust.’ The high-dollar Hoos are apparently not nearly amused as I.

Then there is the Internet. I rarely tire of gazing at pictures of attractive young Asian ladies in various stages of undress, but there are only 20,000 or so pictures posted a day to the various Usenet groups devoted to the mysteries of the Orient.

The Sports Sections of most newspapers during this time of the year become an appendage to Newton Minnow’s vast wasteland; among those I read, most in the ACC area, there is precious little to learn. About the only news item of note was found a while back when it was announced that due to the deteriorating structural strength of the girders holding up the press box at the decrepit Orange Bowl, they can no longer support the weight of Canes AD Paul Dee. Since he will no longer be able to partake of those sumptuous Joe’s Stone Crab buffets provided for the handful of media that still covers the U, Dee is retiring. Good riddance.

My lasting memory of Dee will be that from what turned out to be the last meeting of Big East Athletic Directors that included those from the schools that were to be very shortly out the door. Television interviews with a Roanoke station and various stories depicted a smirking Dee, openly taunting those ADs he assumed, wrongly as it turned out, would be left behind. He was next seen at the live televised proceedings from Grandover when Little Johnny welcomed Dee and jimmy into the ACC. Dee wasn’t smirking so much that day, no doubt having incurred the wrath of the Dwarf Dyke of Miami when her scheme blew up. The last laughing done that day was by jimmy and Tech fans. The well-funded Canes athletic department that, as claimed, dominates the ACC in every single sport, stands as stark testament to the administrative skills of Dee. Adios, Paul. You won’t be missed.

Then there is a favorite Dead Zone activity, reading message boards. They are always good for laughs. The ones I read on a most regular basis are devoted to the East Carolina Strawgraspers. Reading some of the postings, especially the rants by Off His Rocker, is a sure-fire cure for summer Dead Zone blahs.

I hung the nick of Strawgraspers on ECU the last time they showed up on Tech’s schedule, in 2000. ECU message boards that Dead Zone were chock full of posts proclaiming that the Strawgraspers were going to take down the mighty Hokies, the team that was only a few games removed from playing in the Sugar Bowl for the MNC.

There were also a plethora of posts, most from somebody who knew somebody in the ECU Athletic Department who knew somebody who had a relative who roomed with somebody who knew somebody who fed Mikey’s geese that just as soon as Tech went down ECU would be given an immediate invitation to the Big East. The Pirates were ecstatic; their decade spent attempting to join the BE would be rewarded. The nick Strawgraspers seemed to fit. One of the more amusing sights I have beheld in my years spent chasing the Virginia Tech football team around the countryside was standing on the concourse behind the upper deck at dowdy Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium watching thousands of ECU fans doing Hoos at Halftime imitations, racing for the parking lots to escape a halftime scoreboard that read: Virginia Tech 31 East Carolina 0.

Seven years later, not much has changed, other than Tech has moved on to a much better conference. The Strawgraspers are STILL waiting for that BE invitation and the chance to be a part of exciting Friday night football. Taking a hint does not appear to be their strong suit. They are again gearing up for what they consider a program-defining Tech game. The postings are very much the same as they were in 2000, listing all of the positives ECU brings to the BE’s li’l table.

They would include a ‘terrific’ fan base that ranks in size somewhere between ACC football stalwarts Duke and Wake Forest. ECU partisans claim that they are the true ‘football’ school in their state. This would appear to be the case, as they have done the equivalent of writing off their basketball program by hiring Ricky Stokes. The ‘Stokes Effect’ is already producing those twenty-loss seasons Tech fans remember so fondly [and may be returning if Seth continues to display his remarkable knack for player retention]. It is claimed by some of the loonier message board loons that, given membership in the BE, some how or another ECU would quickly become the ‘dominant’ football power in North Carolina. They may have a point, given that along with Tech and Florida State and the JoePas, Butch displayed a decided inability to beat ECU [ECU? Yikes, Butch! Losing to Tech and FSU on a regular basis is one thing, but…..ECU?].

The trump card always played by ECU loons is that, given half a chance, they could become the ‘next Virginia Tech.’ There is certainly humor to be gleaned from imagining ECU AD Terry Holland explaining to Mikey that his current employer could be the ‘next Virginia Tech.’ Quite an environmental change from Hooville, eh, Terry?

As to predictions of beating Tech that were so widespread in 2000, there have been a few from the more spirited Strawgraspers. Most are expressing hope that Skippy can ‘keep the score close.’ Give them time. By the first of August, they will again be whipped into a frenzy of anticipation, salivating over the possibilities of a win over Tech and immediate entrance into the conference of their dreams. It will certainly make the Dead Zone a little more fun.

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