Tuesday, when, at lunch in Miami (North Bay Village, actually, on the 79th Street Causeway), sitting on the deck at Shuckers overlooking the north bay with breezes to strong putting napkins in your lap was not possible, I finally got around to reading the sports section of USA Today and was quick to see a photo on page 3 of Carl Franks squatting along the sideline when he was head coach at Duke in 2003. The story came with a note that Duke has the number one historically hapless football program in the six major conferences according to the website LostLetterman.com.
I was quick to take a photo of the photo with my Blackberry phone and sent it via text message to two Duke fans who were just as quick to respond with something about the Blue Devils football win over NC State last fall. Just as quick as they were to respond with their response about a one-year superiority over the Wolfpack, they also failed to remember the category: Historically Hapless Football Programs. Enough said. Hand downs!
That was just after midday between appointments. It was later in the evening, just after 7:00 when I heard from one of the two again, this time through instant messaging as I was back at the bar at Shuckers, work done for the day, knocking back Amber Bocks and eating calamari while I think he was at home experimenting with Zinfandel instead of his standard Merlot or single malt something, though he claimed he was drinking a white zinfandel from the Biltmore Grape-Growing Land and Winery. Best I can figure out is he was licking the inside of the bottle of Biltmore’s Zinfandel Blanc de Noir. (“Pretty good with salsa,” he explained via text.) The phrase “blanc de noir” is a French term meaning “white wine from red grapes” and which could be a pale pink wine made from zinfandel grapes. How and why he came about with that bottle, there is probably no easy answer. Why and how I was drinking Amber Bock can be explained but not now.
Anyway, I noticed across the bottom of the SportsCenter screen hanging slightly above the Shuckers bar that Mike Garrett, the athletics director at Southern California, is out and Pat Hayden is in as the Trojans try to change its nasty and rule breaking image. I mentioned that in a text it to him. “Garret was an (expletive),” he returned. “He got (former Duke football coach) Mike McGee fired at his first USC job.” McGee was athletics director at USC west (LA CA) and USC east (Columbia SC), his second USC job. Actually, I believe, he was AD at both schools at the same time for several days, weeks, whatever, trying to wrap up one job while starting the other.
My response to his mention of McGee leaving Southern Cal for Southern Car was “Yeah” as I tried to steer away from a long discussion about anything Duke other than what I started several hours earlier. The short reaction was not what he wanted to hear or read, so, then he forced the conversation in this direction:
Him: “Wait. I start talking about Duke guys and all I get is ‘yeah’?”
Me: “They could have hired Debbie Yow. She’s available and has eight national titles in field hockey and women’s lacrosse.”
Him: “Yeah, you guys jumped too early.”
Me: “Not ‘you guys.’ Chancellor (Randy) Woodson jumped. He’s not one of us.”
Him: “So the Purdue guy isn’t a Wolfie?”
Me: “Not a Wolfie yet. You have to earn it.”
Him: “Yes, just like my daughter (a State student).”
Me: “She’s close but not there yet. Too much fuss about the importance of cheerleading.”
Him: “She will have a red class ring next year just like you Dad’s, which she will be very proud of.”
Me: “Not LIKE my dad’s. She’s close; just tell her to drop the rah-rah squad importance. She also pulls for Duke too much. Good Wolfies, true Wolfies, don’t do that.”
Him: “Smart ones do.”
Me: “No. To be a real, true Wolfie, you hope Carolina and Duke lose everything, and when the two play each other, we hope they finish the game so late the newspapers do not have coverage. She hasn’t taken the oath, not earned the right to be a Wolfie. Anyone, if they can get in, can pay to go (to State) and get a degree (if they do the work), but it takes a commitment to be a Wolfie for life. She sat at Carter-Finley Stadium last fall and pulled for Duke (to beat State), and two years ago, she was there pulling for South Carolina because one of her high school friends plays for South Carolina. That’s not a true Wolfie.”
Him: “Yeah, I guess just going to college for four years doesn’t count at State. That’s like earning a degree anywhere else in three years.”
Me: “Like at Duke where the requirements are only 75 percent of the NCSU requirements. Hard to get into Duke; easy to get a degree there. Half the students and most of the athletes couldn’t cut it at State. Sounds like my post for tomorrow.”
Him: “Right. You really believe that. I think State is a great school but academically it isn’t Duke. I’m good at helping you with column subjects.”
Me: “Other way around. Professors are easy at Duke to make sure they have high graduation rates. School policy.”
Him: “It only takes me 20 minutes, and you have another column.”
Me: “Battery going dead. This State grad lost his wall charger in Tampa. Keep it coming.”
Him: “Wonder who got Shakespeare going?”
Then it was back to talking about wine, before the battery really went dead and spent timeout in the rental-mobile getting its strength back on the car charger. When the Blackberry came back to life two hours later, the conversation continued and didn’t miss a beat.
Me: “The N&O got Marvin Austin’s Twitter transcript and wrote a story. Believe it or not, the writer actually used “(sic)” after misspelled and misused words. On Twitter! It’s okay on Twitter and the N&O writer does that!”
Him: “Oh, you State guys are so happy UNC may be in trouble after all your Wolfpack inequities. Almost like me reveling in the Wake County school system’s problems after all the grief Raleigh has given Durham.”
Me: “Only on probation or sanctions the last time Duke was: 1972-73.”
Him: “But we are mature enough to learn from our mistakes and not revel in the problems of our brother institutions.”
Me: “How much Zin have you had tonight?”
Him: “Enough. By the way, we both wish we have football players that agents wanted to take to South Beach.”
Maybe so, but Duke’s got to get over that top spot on that historically hapless football programs before that’ll happen. From the USA Today report: Duke is all kinds of atrocious on the gridiron, having won three bowl games in the program’s history—the last one 50 years ago. And the Blue Devils have been home for the holidays every year since the 1994 season. Duke has gone almost all downhill since Steve Spurrier left to coach Florida in 1990. That includes a 23-game losing streak from 1999-2001 because, as former head coach Carl Franks put it, “Winning football games has certainly been harder than I anticipated.”
Historically, speaking to my two buddies, NC State is nowhere close to the haplessness of Duke when it comes to football. On the other hand, if the Wolfpack has a fifth straight losing season…