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An Upset, Lawsuit and Exit

The closing acts of the college sports season has brought us a monumental upset. A fairly unusual defense strategy was employed in a lawsuit directed at an ACC member. And a comedic icon has left the stage. There are a few intriguing headlines floating just ahead of the impending Dead Zone.

It is human nature to root for underdogs. Unless one’s team happens to be the overdog going down, most people delight in seeing the George Mason’s or the Boise State’s of the sporting world slaying what were thought to be invincible athletic Goliaths. We have been treated to a real doozey at the baseball College World Series.

Head Coach Mike Fox has built a baseball juggernaut at North Carolina. Like most Carolina coaches in all sports except for one, he has leveraged those huge budgets into a very strong program, one that made its third straight trip to Omaha.

The hardball Heels were a major favorite going in, having spent the regular season at or near the top of the polls. There had been that embarrassing gaffe at the ACC tournament, but Carolina still entered the NCAA tournament as a Number One seed and, along with Miami, was the odds-on favorite to win it. At least Carolina lasted longer than did the Canes.

Not surprisingly, the Heels-loving good old N&O had already proclaimed Carolina the winner, in between all of the stories declaring Ol’ Roy’s boys the 2009 NCAA basketball champions. That the third trip to the CWS would be the charm for Fox’s crew after coming so tantalizingly close the previous two was a lead-pipe cinch. The good old N&O guaranteed Carolina dominance with a certitude not seen since two months ago when they were assuring its dwindling readership that it was a physical impossibility for Carolina to lose to Kansas in the Final Four.

Standing in the way of Carolina’s ascension to the NCAA baseball throne room was a rag-tag bunch from Fresno State. This was a crowd that had snuck into the NCAA tournament at the last second and had been astounding watchers ever since by winning both its regional challenges.

Unlike Carolina, Fresno operates its athletics on a shoestring, with a budget of roughly what UNC spends on country club memberships for Ol’ Roy or architect’s fees for Butch’s grandiose plans for Maximum Backness.

To make matters worse for the Bulldogs, they were a bruised and battered lot, wracked by injury, with its pitching staff decimated. Common sense dictated that Fresno State stood little chance against the mighty Tar Heels.

It became quickly noticeable very early in the first of what turned out to be three games between the two. Fresno State was wearing what looked like hand-me-down uniforms, most definitely not designed by the house of Alexander Julian. They had a decidedly Raggedy Andy appearance when compared to the fashionably-attired Heels.

Those thrift shop uniforms did a very good job of concealing the heart of the Fresno players. In a stunning pair of upsets, the Bulldogs handed Carolina both of its CWS defeats, sending the shocked Heels home and Tar Loons into a message board apoplexy that greatly resembled Tech ones after the latest bowl loss.

Fresno State now moves on to its final challenge, the best-of-three against Georgia for all the baseball marbles. All of the advantages in this all-Dawg final would seem to reside with Georgia, but I wouldn’t count those from Fresno State out. They are a very tough bunch.

We have been again reminded that upsets happen. There are reasons games are played on playing fields and not paper and certainly not the paper carrying print of the good old N&O. It seems to be a concept with which they have great difficulty.

And to all of my distraught Carolina friends who read these dispatches, if they are still reading this one, bear in mind that I once sat in Lane Stadium and watched a highly ranked Virginia Tech football team lose to 38-point underdog and previously- winless Temple. Stuff happens.

Stuff certainly happened for Duke last week. A few years ago, for reasons that defy logic, the Blue Devils scheduled a series of football games against Louisville. Following the first meeting in 2002, a 40-3 Cards RUTS of the Devils, now former Duke AD ‘Lackey’ Joe Aleva went into ‘Screw this’ mode and sat about attempting to schedule some wins, or at least one, by dumbing down hapless Duke’s OOC, ditching even decent teams in favor of I-AA’s, service academies and those private schools laboring under the same laborious and pesky academic requirements as Duke. Bye-bye, Cards.

Those fine, upstanding, slimy Louisville bastards did not seem to take kindly to Duke’s decision. They sued, demanding cold hard cash along with a replacement team of ‘Duke’s quality.’

Duke’s lawyers seized on that last item like a hungry lion to the throat of a gazelle. In a defense stratagem not often seen, they pointed out that the Duke football program was so miserably bad that Louisville could have scheduled most anybody, I-AA, junior college, Hargrave, or even high school teams and been up against the same quality of opposition. The judge bought this brilliant legal ploy and ruled in favor of the Devils. The famed ‘We Suck’ defense will no doubt be taught for decades to come in the Duke Law School.

Early Monday morning brought the news that comedian George Carlin had died. Carlin was a true icon of the genre. He began his career following in the underground footsteps of the late Lenny Bruce. Unlike, Bruce, Carlin was able to mainstream his comedy. He leveraged the fame and notoriety his famous ‘Seven Words’ brought him into mass market and multi-media appeal.

Carlin was certainly comfortable with profanity. He also had a keen awareness of how and when to use it, unlike many of today’s so-called ‘comedians,’ whose acts seem to consist solely of strings of obscenities screamed at the tops of their lungs.

Carlin also had the ability tone down his act for television and remain uproariously funny without uttering the ‘Seven Words.’ His Al Sleet, Hippy-Dippy Weatherman was classic. During his long career Carlin achieved success that often seemed to surprise even him. Along the way, he became court jester for an entire generation, that of the Baby Boomers, my own. Adios, George. I will miss you.

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