Tag Archives: Duke-Carolina

Good News Friday: A Down’s Syndrome boy gets an awesome surprise. The best show on TV (“The Americans”) is back! And an NFL player thanks the cancer-stricken author who changed his life

And a Happy Friday to you all! I’m writing this in the midst of three glorious, marathon days at the ACC Basketball Tournament in Brooklyn, where I’m writing, eating, and watching hoops to my heart’s content and having a blast. Stretching my old sportswriter muscles, and it feels good.

While I excitedly await Duke-Carolina Part 3 tonight, and of course Selection Sunday Sunday night, a few good news stories to send you into the weekend:

First off, this story is a few months old but it’s beautiful: A 17-year-old Las Vegas kid named Daniel has Down Syndrome, and really wanted to go to the school dance at his high school in Las Vegas. A classmate named Kylie asked him to the dance, and then the local FOX 5 affiliate “Surprise Squad” went to work.

This is awesome.

**Next up today, I am beyond excited that “The Americans,” the best show on TV, is back. The season 5 premiere aired Tuesday night, and while I’m not going to give anything away, I thought I was watching a whole different show the first few minutes.

Once it settled in, it was predictably awesome. I bang the drum for this show (airing on FX at 10 p.m. on Tuesdays) every year, several times a year, because it’s the best.

This season we get to see the further enmeshing of teenage daughter Paige into the family business of being KGB spies; our man Oleg in Russia with a whole new mission, and a strange new couple who’ve moved to the U.S. from the Soviet Union.

Best of all, looks like we get Margo Martindale back in the cast. Seriously, “The Americans” will hook you in immediately. It’s so beautifully acted with Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell, the writing is excellent, and the story is fabulous.

Yes, you have to pay attention and watch every week. But it’s so, so worth it. All the episodes from past seasons are on Amazon Prime video, if you want to catch up.

**Finally today, I don’t think I’ve seen a story quite like this one before. A wide receiver for the New England Patriots named Malcolm Mitchell was a junior in college when he discovered the children’s author Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Mitchell was enthralled and inspired by one of her books, and wrote a children’s book of his own while a senior at the University of Georgia. Mitchell even started a foundation, Read with Malcolm, which promotes reading stories to underprivileged children.

When Mitchell heard recently that Rosenthal was dying of ovarian cancer, he was crushed. Then he put together a video to cheer her up.

It’s pretty fabulous, where Mitchell tells Rosenthal how she changed his life.

Read the story of their new friendship here, and the video is great, too.



I go to one last Rangers-Islanders game at the Coliseum, and it’s awesome. A Simon and Garfunkel-themed video to help you deal with snow. And it’s Duke-Carolina day, a glorious day


NassauColiseumWhen I was a boy growing up in Commack, N.Y., on Long Island, Nassau Coliseum was a huge deal.
It was “our” arena, where we went to see the circus, or the major concert you really wanted to see (I took in Paula Abdul, New Kids on the Block, and Billy Joel, among others, there), or the indoor soccer game, or basically, any big event.

It was an “event” to go to the Coliseum; you’d be excited all day, and it seemed huge to me, driving up Hempstead Turnpike and seeing this giant spaceship-looking structure that looked so out of place amid the strip-malls and banks and hardware stores.

You walked in, and you felt something special was going to happen. Never more special than when I went to a Rangers-Islanders hockey game. My Dad took me sometimes, friends took me other times, but it was always fantastic.

The fact that I rooted for the visiting team made it even better; most of the crowd rooted for the Isles back then; in the 1980s they were the biggest sports thing going in New York.
I’d cheer my heart out for the Rangers, endure the horrendous “1940” chants (the last time the Blueshirts had won the Cup, as we were always reminded), and have the time of my life, as the roar of the crowd rang in my ears for days.

Then … I grew up. I started to go to lots of other pro sports venues, including hundreds as a sportswriter. And I realized … the Coliseum was a dump. The hallways are incredibly cramped, the building is dark and dirty, it’s really hard to get to, transportation-wise, and it’s antiseptic-feeling.

Just about every other arena I went to seemed better than the Coliseum, and millions of others agreed. For more than a decade the Islanders owner, Charles Wang, tried to get a new Coliseum built, but for reasons way too complicated to get into here, he failed.

So finally, Wang made a deal to move the Islanders to the beautiful new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which is great for the team (free agents often cited the crappy Coliseum as a reason not to sign), great for people like me who live in NYC and love hockey, but not as great for LI fans who’ve stuck with the team for decades.

So even as I felt myself being glad the old barn was going to the graveyard, I watched a few Rangers-Isles games on TV this season and felt nostalgic. The crowds are back, they’re loud, and for all its faults, the Coliseum has some of the best sightlines of any hockey arena, anywhere.

I decided I needed to say goodbye to the old place, where so many childhood memories were forged. Monday night one of my oldest friends and the biggest Islander fan I know went with me to the penultimate Rangers-Islanders game at the Coliseum.

It was, in a word … un-freaking-believable. The game was nuts, a 6-5 thriller won by the Rangers. The crowd was as loud as any I’ve heard live, the dueling “Let’s Go Islanders,” and “Let’s Go Rangers” chants still echoing in my head 24 hours later.

We had great seats right behind the net, we saw two great comebacks, lots of highlight-reel goals, and it was a night I didn’t want to end.

The Coliseum is rocking on its way to the grave, and it makes me very happy, even though I hate the damn Islanders.

As my sneakers stuck to the floor on the way out, I smiled and looked around.

I really am going to miss the old barn.

**Next up, the whole East Coast has been struggling through a pretty awful winter, with snow and freezing temperatures.

Well, sometimes the only thing to help you deal with winter is to make a cool video set to a classic song.

That’s what some people in Winnipeg did last year (and believe me, those people know from winter).

My awesome mother-in-law sent me this and it cracked me up; hope it gives you some relief before you put your mittens on and go shovel some more. It’s called “The Grounds for Violence,” a play on “The Sounds of Silence.”

And if you’re reading this in a warm-weather climate… have some empathy for us, will ya?

**Finally today, it’s Duke-Carolina day, which is always cause for celebration in my life. It seems like it’s super-late this year, as they haven’t played yet and it’s February 18, but that just means the anticipation has built up even more than usual.

I say it every year in this space and I’ll go to my grave believing it: It’s the greatest rivalry in sports. You can have Yankees-Red Sox, Ohio State-Michigan, USC-UCLA, Packers-Bears, and Bruins-Canadiens. Give me Jeff Capel with a half-court heave to force double-OT, Jamison and Carter dunking all over my Blue Devils, Laettner and Montross going at it … it’s just the best. And yes, the above video gave me chills watching it, as it does every year.

Tonight should be extra-special as it’s first Duke-Carolina game since Dean died; I’m sure there’ll be a wonderful pre-game tribute to a man who helped make the rivalry so special.

Duke’s the better team on paper this year, but that never matters in this rivalry.
Duke. Carolina. Nothing better.

It’s Duke-Carolina day, and I am happy. The Boy Scouts continue to be disgustingly intolerant of gay people. And a tale of true Olympic sportsmanship


Just a quick self-promotional plug: I’ve been blogging up a storm about the Olympics over at ThriveSports.com, writing about curling (the USA stinks so far), speedskating (we also have stunk at this), and skeleton (competition hasn’t started yet). Also did a feature on Kevin Pearce, a former champion snowboarder who suffered a traumatic brain injury five years ago, and whose life was chronicled in the awesome documentary “The Crash Reel.”

It’s not an exaggeration to say that today is a day I wait for for 10 months every year.
As soon as the college basketball season ends in early April, I start looking forward to the first Duke-UNC game of the year.
It’s funny; I’ve tried over the years explaining why this rivalry means so much to me and millions of others, and I never quite can do it.
I’ve said it’s like the Yankees and Red Sox, if they played eight miles apart. I’ve said it’s like Ohio State-Michigan or Packers-Bears, if both teams were in the Top 20 every year and traded national titles all the time, or had fans who shared the same barbershop and grocery stores all year.

But really, it can’t be explained easily. To me it’s the greatest rivalry in sports, and we only get to enjoy it two, maybe three times per year. So tonight I will put on my Duke paraphernalia, think about all the great games in the past, from the last five decades, including Austin Rivers’ amazing game-winner two years ago in Chapel Hill, and forget about the Olympics for a few hours.

If you’re a huge hoops fan, here’s 60 seconds to get you psyched up:

**Just when you think the Boy Scouts of America are ready to stop their bigoted, homophobic ways, they remind you they’re not quite ready to throw away their past.

After the last few years of progress, when they finally, after legal and PR fights that any sane organization would’ve given up decades ago, allowed gay young men to become Scouts, it seemed like things were turning.

But then I read a story like this, from ABCNews.com:

“Pascal Tessier, a high school senior from Kensington, Md., looked up to his older brother Lucien and followed him on the path in Boy Scouting to attain the highest rank of Eagle.

Last night, just nine months after the Boy Scouts of America lifted its longtime ban on admitting openly gay Scouts, 17-year-old Pascal became the first to receive that coveted award at the All Saints Episcopal Church in Chevy Chase, Md.

But his 21-year-old brother, who is also gay but had to keep his sexuality low key on his path to becoming an Eagle, can no longer participate in Scouting because he is an adult. In a two-tiered policy that began on Jan. 1, the Boy Scouts of America has embraced younger youth who are gay, but not those over 18.”

I mean, seriously??? What a disgraceful organization. If I ever am lucky enough to have a son, you can be damn sure he’ll never be a Scout.


**Finally, there are so many heartwarming stories at the Olympics, but my favorite are usually the ones involving an athlete suffering a major mishap during an event, only to have a coach or athlete from another country come to their aid.

It happens every time there’s an Olympics, and it happened Tuesday in a ski race. Canadian coach Justin Wadsworth was the do-gooder, and Bruce Arthur, the outstanding columnist from Canada’s National Post newspaper, wrote about it beautifully here.

Obama asks for and promises the moon in State of the Union. Duke-Carolina: It’s on again. And a tribute to Esther Vergeer, the most dominating athlete in the world


Well, I’d say Mr. Barack Obama has gotten his swagger back.
Not since the days of the ’08 campaign have I seen the guy I saw last night, standing in front of Mr. Agent Orange and Crazy Uncle Joe at the State of the Union.
This Obama was having his “I’m Keith Hernandez” moment as immortalized in “Seinfeld.” What I mean by that is he basically was saying to the world, and Congress: I won a second term, this is my last chance to do big things for the country, and I’m going to demand you get on board or get out of the way.

There were so many policy initiatives that had to thrill liberals, many of them drawing cheers from me and Mom who was watching with me.
Obama hit on, among other things:
— Raising the minimum wage
— Stricter climate change legislation
— Expanded pre-K education
— Immigration reform
— Unicorns for every American

OK, so I made the last one up. Still, it was refreshing to see topics hardly ever raised in the first four years (climate change, immigration, education, gun law reform) actually sound like priorities to Obama now.

I think he realizes this is his moment, his last chance to do something real. Realistically, he’s got 2 years before everyone starts looking toward 2016 and he becomes a bit of a lame duck.

I hope he follows through on what he said Tuesday. It was a soaring, inspiring speech that hit many high notes. Maybe, finally, this is the President we voted for in 2008.

**My two favorite words in all of sports get put together again tonight. It only happens twice a year, or if we’re really lucky, three times a year.
Duke-Carolina. Greatest rivalry in all of sports. Eight miles apart. Two of the top 4 programs in all of college basketball.
Hatred. Respect. Animosity. The grudging realization that without the other, one wouldn’t be as great.
OK, enough hype. They play tonight at Cameron Indoor Stadium, and on paper it looks like it’ll be a rout. My Blue Devils, even without Ryan Kelly, seem to be the far superior team. I even had a few Facebook friends who root for UNC pre-emptively congratulate me on tonight’s win.
I told them to shut up. Too many crazy things have happened in this rivalry for anything to surprise me. It’s so much worse when UNC wins in Cameron, though, so I really, really would hate to see it tonight.

Ah, so nice to once again yell the words: “Go to hell Carolina, go to hell (clap clap).

Can’t wait for 9 p.m.


**Finally today, a few words about an athlete I’m sure 99 percent of you have never heard of.  Her name is Esther Vergeer, she’s a 31-year-old Dutch woman, and she retired Tuesday from her sport.
That sport was tennis, and she was so good at it that she makes Roger Federer look like a club pro from Des Moines.
Vergeer was a star in wheelchair tennis, and she retired with a 470-match winning streak.
That’s right:  She hadn’t lost a match since Jan. 2003. That’s before we invaded Iraq, people; that’s how long ago it was.

Vergeer became paraplegic after spinal surgery at 8. Her first forays into wheelchair sports were in basketball, but she picked up tennis at 12 and decided to focus on it in 1998. By 1999, Vergeer had reached the No. 1 ranking.

Vergeer was so much more powerful than other wheelchair players; check out some video of her here. She brought her sport to new heights, and for that, I think she should be saluted today.

Duke-Carolina. And an Arizona principal gets in a lot of trouble

Tonight is Duke-Carolina. If I wrote 5,000 words, I couldn’t explain to you how much this rivalry means to me, or the millions of others who anxiously await the first meeting of the year like a 9-year-old pines for Christmas.

It is the greatest rivalry in sports. You can have Yankees-Red Sox, or Ohio State-Michigan, or Cowboys-Redskins, or any other historically great matchup you want to throw it out there. But the two basketball games a year that Duke and Carolina play (if we’re extraordinarily lucky, they play three times, with one matchup in the ACC Tournament), is the greatest, most intense spectacle in sports. Two incredible programs, eight miles apart, whose fans despise each other with the white hot flame of hatred.

This rivalry is about Art Heyman vs. Larry Brown. About Phil Ford and Gene Banks, about Christian Laettner and Donald Williams. About Eric Montross’ bloody face and Jeff Capel’s 40-foot heave, and Matt Doherty and Andre Buckner pushing and shoving … OK, enough.

I was extremely fortunate to get to cover four of these games when I worked in North Carolina, and each one is permanently embedded in my mind’s eye. I remember I was so excited to be covering my first Duke-Carolina game, that I showed up at 10 a.m. for a 3 p.m. tip-off.

I walked into the media room and completely startled the Duke sports information director, Mike Cragg. “Oh, how’re you doing?” he said, as he was still passing out the pregame media notes packets.

“Just wanted to get here extra early, walk around a little,” I replied. “It’s my first one of these.”

He smiled and nodded, because he knew. He knew there was nothing else like it.

I’m especially psyched for this one. Carolina has owned Duke lately, winning six of the last seven. That is absolutely and totally unacceptable. It turns around tonight.

9 p.m. ESPN. Duke-Carolina, for 228th time. Doesn’t get better.

**OK, here’s another reason why writing a fake “sarcastic’ letter is never a good idea.

Seems an elementary school principal in Litchfield, Ariz. was making a joke and wrote a letter to his students’ parents that he never in a million years intended to actually send.

The letter from principal Ron Sterr read, in part, “The math we do is really easy.  “If your child is either too lazy or too stupid to finish it in class, I’m sending it home so that you can work with them and judge for yourself whether it is laziness or idiocy that inhibits your child’s progress.”

Fabulous. I always love a guy who gives parents options. Let’s see, is my kid just stupid, or really lazy? And hey, I hope he put choice C on there, for “all of the above.”

Apparently a teacher mistakenly sent it home. Mr. Sterr will not be returning as principal, and may be fired altogether.

Instead, I see a great career for him as a motivational speaker. Read his new best-selling tome, “You’re Ugly, and your mother dresses you funny, too!”

The incredible UConn women. 4 days till Gameday. And a rough loss for the Dukies

So I’m not really that big a fan of women’s basketball. Oh, I love that there’s a WNBA, so young women hoopsters have something to aspire to.  But I don’t really watch much women’s basketball on TV, except for maybe the Final Four, and an occasional Duke-Carolina game (Hey, I’ll watch Duke-Carolina in badminton. Anything Duke-Carolina, I’m there.)

And I really don’t care for Connecticut women’s coach Geno Auriemma. I think he’s arrogant, rude and a poor sport. He makes fun of any program that dares take a top recruit from him, and he rules with an iron fist, cowering all who dare challenge him.

But given all that, I am right now a huge admirer of the incredible streak the Huskies program is on. It’s not just that they’ve won 57 consecutive games, the second-longest streak in women’s Division I history. It’s the way they’re beating teams.

They’re positively crushing everyone they play. During this remarkable run of 57 straight, they’ve won every game by at least 10 points. Do you realize how difficult that is to do? You’re getting everyone’s best shot, everyone wants to play their absolute best against you, and none of them are even coming close.

And this isn’t one of those Memphis John Calipari deals, where they only beat bad teams. Lately UConn has been beating up everyone who’s supposedly ranked close to them. They beat No.2 Stanford by 12. Then No. 7 UNC by 31. Then the Huskies destroyed No. 3 Notre Dame by 24, and Monday night they just throttled No. 7 Duke in Cameron Indoor, 81-48.

They play beautiful team basketball, with no egos and a wonderful flair. Check out their highlights like I’ve been lately, if you love the sport and want to see something special, something historic, in this sport.

Teams like this don’t come around too often.

***So it’s been hard for me concentrate on work this week. I’m all Jets, all the time. I think I had a dream last night that Darrelle Revis and I were in a mall together. Or maybe it was just me and Damien Woody, I can’t remember. I’m waiting for the Jets to announce how Super Bowl tickets will be dispersed, should they get there. I’m told it’ll be a lottery, and I have a scary feeling it’ll only be open to season-ticket holders. That’s OK, after waiting 34 years for this moment, I’ll find a way into the stadium.

Anyway, been reading everything I can about the Jets-Colts matchup Sunday, and my initial euphoria is starting to turn to concern. Yes, I still think the Jets can win. But I don’t see how they’re going to rattle Peyton Manning when the guy never gets sacked, and hardly ever gets hit. Dallas Clark is unstoppable. Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, rookie QB Mark Sanchez … oy.

I’m officially nervous. Sunday at 3 cannot get here fast enough.

***So every couple of years my Duke boys go into Raleigh and N.C. State wipes away years of frustration and kicks the holy hell out of the Blue Devils. It happened again Wednesday night; you’d think I’d cease being surprised after a while, but nope, kicked me in the shins again.

State played a great game, no doubt about it. They hustled and rebounded and made some incredibly athletic plays. But Duke looked awful on defense. And not just Brian Zoubek and Miles Plumlee, I mean everybody. They’re 0-3 on the road now, Singler’s still not shooting well, and nobody seems to ever want to pass to Andre Dawkins, even though he’s like the best shooter on the team.

Duke is 0-3 on the road, and at Clemson Saturday night in a national TV game. Uh-oh.