Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Give me credit or call it plagiarizing

It’s ironic, to say the least, that The News & Observer went hard after the University of North Carolina football program, especially going after a student who plagiarized his way through an upper level course, but the newspaper failed to stop one of its long-time reporters from doing the same—plagiarizing—in a recent column. At least, from where I sit, it looks that way.

In his Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011 column, Woeful finales abound in ACC today, sports writer Caulton Tudor, a fixture for numbers of years (back into the 1960s, I think) of The N&O sports pages and of the Raleigh Times before it folded its afternoon publishing and combined with The N&O, basically used an idea and very similar wording from an article I penned in the summer of 2009. My original writing was published in late June of 2009 on my blog, jimpomeranz.easyjournal.com (a website that no longer exists) and then, in part, What should the final game be?,in the Saturday, August 1 2009 edition of The News & Observer.

Both articles, mine then Tudor’s, zeroed in on the last regular season football weekend of the Atlantic Coast Conference and suggested the 12 ACC teams play conference games that finale Saturday. We both suggested the same match-ups, after comments by NC State football coach Tom O’Brien who called for the Wolfpack’s final game of the season to be against Wake Forest every year. He said it in 2009 prior to the season; he said it again last week prior to State’s finale against Maryland.

Though Tudor and I called for the same game match-ups, I went a step further and, reiterating what O’Brien said, identified the football games as ACC divisional contests which could have a bearing on winning either the Atlantic or Coastal divisions. We also each called for moving to earlier in the season the three ACC vs. SEC season-ending games: Clemson-South Carolina; Georgia Tech-Georgia; and. Florida State-Florida.

At the end of this post are the complete texts of our writing for the N&O, but here are exerts that are so similar that the idea of plagiarizing by Tudor is clear, or is it? I report; you decide:

Jim Pomeranz, Aug. 1, 2009: With divisional games—Maryland-Boston College; N.C. State-Wake Forest; Clemson-Florida State; Duke-North Carolina; Virginia-Virginia Tech; Georgia Tech-Miami—at the end of the season, it's possible and probable the division champs would be crowned late Saturday night every year, creating better conference interest and excitement. It wraps the conference into a nice little package that's much more marketable.

Caulton Tudor, Nov. 26, 2011: Here's a slate of regular-season finales that would be of more interest to ACC fans: Maryland vs. Boston College; Virginia vs. Virginia Tech; N.C. State vs. Wake Forest; Duke vs. North Carolina; Clemson vs. Florida State; Georgia Tech vs. Miami. The habit of playing three ACC vs. SEC games to end each season hardly helps ACC recruiting and builds little interest in the conference championship game.

So, is that plagiarism? Well, maybe not word for word—it doesn’t have to be—but it sure smacks of it. Imagine this: a seasoned reporter such as Tudor—who I’ve considered a friend and hope he remains so—reaching back to what I wrote 28 months ago to fill his space last week. I’m not sure he did it purposely but how about giving credit where credit is due.

The two articles along with links to The N&O website follow. Thanks for reading. Your comments are always encouraged.


What should the final game be?
by Jim Pomeranz, The News & Observer, Sat., Aug. 1, 2009

So Tom O'Brien, my N.C. State football coach, has drawn the proverbial line in the sand. He does not want my Wolfpack to play our biggest, self-proclaimed rival, the North Carolina Tar Heels, in the last game of the season. We've got 11 games between now and then. You just gave our players something else to think about through each one of those, and you provided the Tar Heels football players with bulletin board material.

What the heck were you thinking? Though actually, I agree with you.

I want to disrupt three other annual rival games (all nonconference) for a more equitable schedule involving all 12 Atlantic Coast Conference teams. The Georgia Tech-Georgia, Florida State-Florida and Clemson-South Carolina games need to change to earlier dates, paving the way for conference finales that showcase the league and point to the conference championship game.

In each case, the elephants in the room—television networks—have gotten involved and strongly encouraged no schedule change for games.

Well, with all due respect to those three college football rivalries and the TV guys, these schedule-moving discussions should resume. And if the ACC is serious about building a better football league, the ACC needs to push hard to move those games and put the final week to better use: league only, divisional games.

Play those three rivalry games Labor Day weekend, or during the middle of the season. Heck. Play those life-or-death in-state games as the next to the last game, if they wish. But, just move them from the week before the ACC championship game.

Not only do those games need to be moved, but in the name of conference fairness—partially accomplished by requiring all 12 league schools to play the weekend before the championship game—the ACC needs to play six divisional conference games the last week of the season.

The coaches should want the change (O'Brien obviously does). Each of the three rivalry games creates the mood at the losing school for the next eight months. It puts undue pressure on the coach to win, even if his team plays for and wins the conference title the next week. It can and has caused coaches to be fired, and a win may extend a contract when in reality it shouldn't have.

If those three games were played at the beginning of the season, there's a chance for the losing team and coach to recover with the fans and administration by season's end.

Currently, there's no equality in the way the schedule plays out. For instance, Miami could lead the Coastal Division and end the season against Florida Atlantic, and Clemson could have captured first in the Atlantic Division and have the final game at South Carolina. That's just one scenario, but if it happens, Clemson or Georgia Tech or Florida State—win or lose—could pour so much into coaching and playing that non-conference rivalry game there would be nothing left in them in the league title game, especially against a team that just played a game that meant much less emotionally.

With divisional games—Maryland-Boston College; N.C. State-Wake Forest; Clemson-Florida State; Duke-North Carolina; Virginia-Virginia Tech; Georgia Tech-Miami—at the end of the season, it's possible and probable the division champs would be crowned late Saturday night every year, creating better conference interest and excitement. It wraps the conference into a nice little package that's much more marketable.

When O'Brien, speaking recently at the annual ACC Football Kickoff, drew that line about playing North Carolina, put a distraction in front of his players, and gave UNC fodder for inspiration, he actually spoke what I have been saying for a while: “We'd be much better served as a conference, I think, to work games within the Coastal Division or Atlantic Division the last game.” Amen, Tom.


Woeful finales abound in ACC today
by Caulton Tudor, The News & Observer, Sat., Nov. 26, 2011

N.C. State will not—cannot—find an excuse should the Wolfpack lose today's game against Maryland.

Coach Tom O'Brien has made that point clear throughout the week.

But that being said, a Wolfpack vs. Terps game is no way to end the regular-season schedule for two charter members of the ACC.

For a league that's been around since 1953, the ACC has several uninspiring and what should be unacceptable, regular-season finales.

The only game today with any serious impact on the postseason is Virginia Tech's trip to Virginia.

And until the Hokies entered the league in 2004, the two finished the schedule with a nonconference game—the same as Florida State against Florida, Clemson against South Carolina and Georgia Tech against Georgia.

Something is terribly awry when there are only four conference games—Duke at North Carolina, Boston College at Miami, Virginia Tech at Virginia and Maryland at N.C. State—in a 12-team league that's on the way to adding two more members.

ACC officials have said repeatedly over the years that they've sought ways to arrange better finales, but with little success.

O'Brien said this week that the Wolfpack and Wake Forest (which is playing Vanderbilt, again) should be a traditional finale.

O'Brien couldn't be more correct. Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson has said several times that the Yellow Jackets should end with an ACC foe.

Here's a slate of regular-season finales that would be of more interest to ACC fans:

Maryland vs. Boston College.
Virginia vs. Virginia Tech.
N.C. State vs. Wake Forest.
Duke vs. North Carolina.
Clemson vs. Florida State.
Georgia Tech vs. Miami.

The habit of playing three ACC vs. SEC games to end each season hardly helps ACC recruiting and builds little interest in the conference championship game.

NOTE: The articles here were reprinted without permission of The News & Observer but then Tudor basically reprinted my column without the author's permission. So there!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Bad Service in Food Service at BWI Airport

It was late on a Wednesday afternoon in the Southwest Airlines terminal of the Thurgood Marshall Baltimore-Washington International Airport. It was about 7:00 p.m. and my connecting flight home was two and a half hours away. The day had been long; food had been little and far between. I was on the hunt for a nice sit-down meal.

Standing in front of Phillips Famous Seafood, I was reviewing my day and savoring what might be ahead. I had been told Phillips was very good.

This business trip was a one-dayer which included a 6:10 a.m. departing flight out of Raleigh, connecting in Baltimore and landing in Louisville before 9:30 a.m. The return included a 5:10 p.m. flight from Louisville with the lengthy layover in Baltimore and a scheduled 10:35 p.m. arrival into Raleigh. My alarm, set for 4:15 that morning, failed me and when I opened my eyes, the clock read 4:56!

It’s obvious now that I can shave, shower, and dress a little faster than usual. Even with a 15 minute drive to the airport, parking the car, walking to the terminal, having my briefcase checked through the scanning device twice and once by a TSA employee, and stopping long enough to purchase a copy of The News & Observer, I managed to board in my A28 spot in line.

The Baltimore connection was just 30 minutes, during which the first inkling of bad food service in one of the nicest terminals came straight at me. As I literally ran from arrival gate toward departure gate, I stopped in at McDonald’s for a cup of coffee and a breakfast something-a-rather, whatever the Golden Arches serves these days. I asked to put the cream and sugar into the cup myself and was told McDonald’s does it for you. The last time I was told the same, I ended up with three creams and three sugars. I prefer no more than one of each and sometimes less so, after this second try on the coffee, McDonald’s has lost me again as a customer. Arby’s fulfilled my request and sold me the egg, bacon, and cheese biscuit; I was off for Louisville.

What I did in Louisville is of no meaning or interest here, but it should turn out to be a success for business. So, what you are about to read (if you’ll keep going) is a true story and in one sense unbelievable but, considering the lack of desire some people have about working in the service industry even after taking the job, what happened to me could happen to you.

During that stop in Baltimore on the return trip, after pacing from one end of the terminal and back surveying most of the restaurant choices, I was standing in front of Phillips Famous Seafood, looking at the menu. I zeroed in on the fish selections and the crab cakes but was soon told those items were no longer available that evening. No problem, I thought, looking over the menu, when the hostess said quietly: “If you want a good crab cake, go to the other end of the terminal to Obrycki’s Restaurant and Bar. I’ve never eaten there but I’ve sent plenty of customers who came back to say thanks for the tip.”

Off I went; time was wasting. No, I was just a little more than two hours away from departure; a little hungrier; a lot more tired. Soon and very quickly after arrival, I was seated in Obrycki’s, very much a bar atmosphere in BWI but the menu looked wonderful. The waitress came right over and asked for a drink order. I just wanted a glass of water but was more interested in her menu suggestions. The decision, based on our talk, was the crab soup and the broiled crab cake. Others nearby seemed to be enjoying the same. I was anxious to enjoy mine. The order was set and off she went.

Five minutes later, no water yet, I caught the waitress’s eye and she immediately brought a large full glass. I was thirsty and quickly drank half of it. And then I waited for the food. And I waited and waited and waited. I was getting antsy. I looked around for her attention again, but she was busy on the other side of the restaurant. The couple next to me wished me luck in getting served, “but at least you got your water; we didn’t,” said the gentleman as he finished his food and paid his bill.

After 25 minutes of waiting, the waitress made her way back to my table. “Can I get you anything else?” she asked. “I’d just like my food,” I responded. “You’ve not gotten your food yet?” she said with some shock and then off she went as I looked perplexed at her response. Within a minute, she returned and asked, “Did you have the Caesar salad?” More the perplexed and a little perturbed, I told her “no” and reminded her of what I had ordered; her face showed more shock. Off she scurried. I followed with briefcase in tow, asking to see the manager. After a brief interlude, he came out and asked if I needed some assistance. I told him my problem. He was very abrupt and asked in harsh words, “Do you want your food or not?” It was too late for that, I explained as I walked out, hungrier, more and more tired, and getting a little more than miffed. My hunt for food continued.

Next stop, around the corner and closer to my departure gate, was the Silver Diner, an interesting place with a vast menu of breakfast, sandwiches, and other typical diner food including some seafood. Seating at Silver Diner includes some tables “outside” the main room in an area overlooking airport terminal construction, some tables inside a fake wrought iron fence, and two long “bars,” one facing an array of select adult beverage bottles and one facing the kitchen. “Would you like a table inside or out or would you prefer to sit at the bar and watch TV?” asked the host.

Not only did I opt for a bar seat but one at the long and empty area near the back of the room, facing the kitchen. I did so because there seemed to be a plethora of wait people and no one else was seated at any of the 25 seats. As I saddled up to the bar, waitresses a plenty walked back and forth in front of me, none paying any attention to this now weary and hungry traveler with about 90 minutes to take-off for home. I finally asked no one in particular if I could get a glass of water. “That’s your waitress over there,” one said. “She’ll be with you in a moment.”

Looking to my left, I noticed the waitress assigned to my space was talking with other of similar employment, none moving about taking care of the patrons. About 30 seconds later, she came over and asked if I knew what I wanted to order to drink. “Yes, a glass of water, but do you have any suggestions for dinner?” I responded. Then she mumbled something that ended with “grilled crab cakes and breakfast all day.” I asked for clarification of what she said in front of “grilled crab cakes and breakfast all day, and she mumbled again as she tried to move away, I think to get my water. I asked that she speak a little slower and she yelled, “I RECOMMEND THE GRILLED CRAB CAKES AND BREAKFAST ALL DAY!” Then she moved away, I thought to return with water.

Think again. Two minutes later, I had no water, there was no order taken, and no waitress was standing in front of me. She was down at the other end of the bar, gabbing to her fellow waitresses. She soon walked past and I asked again for water. She said she would get it soon. She started filling glasses with ice but none with water and walked past again with drinks in hand, set them down nearby and started her gabfest again. I asked no one in particular for the manager. Soon a slightly built man about six feet tall walked out from the back and asked if I had a problem. I explained what had just happened. His response, “Do you want to eat here? If so, sit down and someone will help you soon.”

That was enough for me. I said his chance was lost on this potential customer and I was soon headed past the fake wrought iron fence and back into the terminal proper. Quiznos, one of the fast food places along fast food row, was my next stop. I quickly ordered the Chicken Carbonara sub expecting somewhat quick service with a somewhat decent tasting sandwich. Guess again.

Just as I ordered, there was what seemed like a shift change in the production line. There appeared a bossy woman who told the others that she would take over and make the sandwiches. The only other person helping her was the guy at the other end of the toasting conveyor who pulled the completed sandwich from the oven, cut it in half, wrapped it, announced what it is and handed it to the claiming customer.

From the time I ordered to the time she took control making my dinner, three other customers ordered. All four orders were handed to her together and she positioned them in front of her. By now you may have guessed, my order, instead of being at the front of the line, now was at the back of the group. What was first became last, not a good sign for my needs. Irritation was increasing. I thought of Obrycki’s and the Silver Diner. I watched and waited as she started her process. She must have been related to the waitress at the Silver Diner because she was soon into a gabfest with anyone around her who would listen and all those who wouldn’t.

Of the three in front of me, she correctly prepared only one which means she made two wrong sandwiches. “My bad,” she said loudly, laughing. “I’ll just make’em again.” I wasn’t the only irritated soul on my side of the counter. Two others were in my camp. One said, “This is nuts. If she would just pay attention, she would get it right.” She made those two before tackling my Chicken Carbonara: “Chicken, bacon, mozzarella, mushrooms, Creamy Bacon Alfredo Sauce; Served on your choice of Artisan Breads: Italian White, 9 Grain Artisan Wheat, Rosemary Parmesan, or Italian Herb.” I chose wheat bread which did little to help my health. Here’s what the Quiznos website says about the sandwich: 515 calories, 25 grams of fat; 60 mg of cholesterol; 1130 mg of sodium. (The Arby's bacon, egg and cheese biscuit a few hours earlier: 450 calories, 26 fat grams, 165 mg of cholesterol, 1610 mg of sodium. Let's face it: Fast Food as we know it is terrible for anyone and everyone.) Now back to the story.

To her credit, she made it correctly the first time but after being first, now I was sixth. The sandwich made its way through the toasting oven and into the hands of the cutter and wrapper. He did his duty, announced “Chicken Carbonara” and started to hand it to me. As I reached for it, he pulled it back just a bit and asked, “Thank you?” I stared him down, grabbed the sandwich. “What, no ‘have a nice day,?” he asked as I walked away and soon found myself consuming a most terrible sandwich. It may have been better if she had made a mistake. No more Quiznos for me.

As I sat at the nearby table, pondering and noting what had transpired that evening, a gentleman at the next table who had seen my frustration spoke up. “They just don’t want to work around here,” he said.

“You’re right,” I said. “Not just here at Quiznos. Let me tell you about the rest of my evening.”

Friday, July 8, 2011

Outside The Lines: Parallel Parking in Apex

It was Sunday afternoon and I was in downtown Apex, sipping a Big Boss Brewing Bad Penny Draft Beer (say that ten times real fast) while sitting at a sidewalk table in front of the Salem Street Pub. An hour or so later, the music scheduled for inside the quaint bar, formerly a soda shop, would begin, but right then, as the deep colored, rich tasting Raleigh brew was disappearing, the entertainment was underway on the street in front of me.

It wasn’t a parade, but there was a steady stream of vehicles involved as supporting actors and actresses in a show that tickled. If you want a good laugh, which could be on you, “hurry, hurry, hurry and take a seat along Salem Street and watch with pain as drivers of all sizes and gender attempt to parallel park a car.” As someone who has never had a problem doing such, I get a kick and a hardy laugh when something as simple as parallel parking turns into mission impossible.

That bright, sunny afternoon as the sun set down the street, there was a plethora of attempters, some who made it safely tucked squarely and legitimately into the lengthy spaces and others who did an eye-ball-it drive by and opted for easier answers a block or so away face-first in a lot instead of sideways against the curb.

There was the lady driver of the small car that parked at an angle, diving in head first directly adjacent to my front row seat, leaving her left tail light a good foot into the street and the passenger side tire nearly up on the sidewalk.

There was the huge SUV which was small enough to fit inside the lines but which moved back and forth, gyrating little by little, easing halfway into the space when all of a sudden the two backseat passengers showed their “antsyness,” unloading and running to the Pub to put their names on the waiting list. “We’d better go ahead and order or we’ll never get served if we wait on her,” said the male as he walked across the street and sidewalk and into the restaurant. Over at the SUV, a frustrated female drive was exiting the car after she put it in park still more than halfway out in the street. The male front seat passenger was racing around the front of the car and soon assumed the driving position. In three quick moves—backwards, frontwards, backwards—the semi-tank was snugly in place. Dinner would be served shortly.

There were drivers with cars half the size of the space but who just had to edge over the forward line and into the space in ahead with no regard to the car forward in that area. And there was the male driver who parked so close to the car to his rear that the owner of that vehicle couldn’t drive away until one of the cars on either end of his departed.

There were the parading cars, those just cruising Salem Street, not looking for a place to park but just looking and who refused to wait for anyone to parallel park. The parallel parker would pull forward just past the desired space and start to back up when the car behind either would pull up close behind, not allowing the parker to park, or would race around into oncoming traffic.

Watching the drill was humorous and somewhat dangerous especially with so few people who know how to parallel park, at least on that afternoon in downtown Apex. There were no wrecks, but there could have been a fender bender or two. Being able to parallel park a vehicle is not a requirement for the driving test to get a driver’s license in North Carolina. If so, there’s no doubt there would be fewer licensed drivers in this state.

The key to successful parallel parking is using the side mirrors and to not turn around to look. You’d be better off if there was no rear window of your car. Turn on your right turn signal to let the car behind you know you’re about to attempt to park. (If that driver knows anything about parallel parking, it would give you room.) Pull past the desired space and somewhat close to the vehicle in the next space. Check your side mirrors and make sure the idiot in the car behind you has stopped far enough back and is not trying to pass. Back the car slightly until the midway point of your car is at the left rear point of the car next to you. Turn the steering wheel to the right and start back at a decent angle and into the space. As the front right point of your car arrives at the back left point of the car you’re parking behind, turn the steering wheel of your car back to the left and then, as the car enters the space completely, straighten the steering wheel and continue in a straight line parallel to the curb and toward the car in the space behind you. Stop just short of that car and then pull forward until you’re centered in the space.

It may sound complicated, but it’s not. It’s somewhat a work of art with a little geometry tossed in. It’s also fun (and painful) to watch others give it a try, especially along Salem Street in Apex, right out in front of the Pub, sipping a beer of choice. Next time, for more giggles and grins, those 1-10 rating cards may be in order.
Post Script: I was not sitting and drinking alone that Sunday in Apex in front of the Salem Street Pub. My wonderful wife, Nancy, was there with me. But, she doesn't see the humor in the subject of this writing because she is not an accomplished parallel parker!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Still "Screwed By The Town of Cary"?

After reading the latest—a story on the website of The News & Observer—in the saga between the Town of Cary (where I, a native North Carolinian not a relocated Yankee, have lived since 1982) and Cary resident David Bowden, the man who wrote “Screwed by the Town of Cary” on the side of his house because of a dispute over the widening of Maynard Road and the damaging results to his property and home, I dashed of a short email to all the members of the Cary Town Council. (Funny, it’s the Town of Cary, but it’s the Cary Town Council. Why isn’t it known as the Town of Cary Council?)

My email, sent to Gale Adcock, Don Frantz, Erv Portman, Jennifer Robinson, Julie Robison, Jack Smith, and Harold Weinbrecht, said: “Get over it. Move on. Quit spending my tax money on losing issues.

That was Wednesday, April 20th at 6:04 p.m. By 11:00 that night, I heard from Mr. Portman, an at-large member of the Town of Cary Council. Before 10:00 a.m. the next day, I heard from Mr. Weinbrecht, the honorable Mr. Mayor of the Town of Cary, or is he the Cary Town Mayor.

They each raise interesting and supportable points, and in all fairness to them and my fellow citizens of the Town of Cary, I offer the responses by Mr. Portman and Mr. Weinbrecht, just as written to me without editing. Here goes:

From Erv Portman, who copied all those to whom I sent my three-sentence email:


First thanks for sharing your thoughts on this issue. It helps to hear what citizens are thinking.

In this case I can tell you we have evaluated the towns case and the costs and have decided to appeal the judges decision. Having already met or nearly met our insurance deductible you will be happy to hear that this appeal is mostly covered by the insurance we have already paid for, so it's not on your tax dollar or mine.

I can also tell you that we feel strongly that the citizens of cary have a rights to regulate how our town looks, and that should not require us to regulate holiday decorations to do so. I expect the overwhelming majority of cary residents would not appreciate their neighbors turning their neighborhood into a series of house sized billboards.

Nor should cary residents be blackmailed into buying someones house just because they have a beef with the town. That's our money too, and frankly a bad precedent. 

Much is at stake over our ability to protect the look and feel of cary. It is unique and one of the reasons so many of us choose to live here. I feel this can be protected and not violate ones right to free speech. 

I suspect you may not agree, ant i respect that too, but my responsibility is to be open and explain my actions. If you care to discuss this further I am open to a call or meeting with you.

Respectfully in service to you and all of cary,

Erv portman
Cary town council member at large

And, without further ado or additional comments, here’s the response from Mr. Mayor, who included Susan Moran, Town of Cary Public Information Director, and Deanna Boone, Town of Cary Deputy Public Information Officer, on his distribution along with the rest of the Town of Cary Council. Again, without editing:

Mr. Pomeranz,

Thank you for contacting council members about the ongoing case on the sign ordinance.

Unfortunately, the article written was misleading, incomplete, and in my opinion was generating news rather than reporting it.

Here is some information you should know:

- To appeal the town had to ask Judge Flanagan to reconsider which we did a few weeks ago. Of course she said no but that is part of the process. So basically the N&O is rehashing old news and reporting that we are continuing a process (without printing it). To leave that point out makes it more sensational and helps sell papers.

- The cost of this appeal will be significantly less and may not cost us much more at all. The reason, the leading firm is appointed by the insurance company and we have reached our deductible. So most, if not all, of future costs will be shouldered by the insurance company. Once again, to leave this significant point out helps sell papers.

- If we don't appeal one of two things will happen: 1) we will not be able to regulate any kind of sign anywhere. This means your neighbor could put up a 50 foot sign will flashing lights and there would be nothing we could do about it. OR 2) we would have to regulate Christmas decorations which I personally think is absurd. Of course the paper has never printed the consequences of doing nothing.

- We believe this ruling is not about the 1st amendment. As a matter of fact Mr. Bowden has always been allowed to put his message on a sign in his yard. If he would have done this then none of this would ever have happened. Again, the paper fails to mention that he can put a sign in his yard.

- It is important to understand that the council's decision to appeal is to protect the sign ordinance which protects our citizens' quality of life.

I hope you find this information helpful.

Thanks again for taking the time to contact the council.

Harold Weinbrecht
Town of Cary
PO Box 8005
Cary, North Carolina 27512-8005

"In executing the duties of my present important station, I can promise nothing but purity of intentions, and, in carrying these into effect, fidelity, and diligence." - George Washington

Please note that e-mail sent to and from this address is subject to the North Carolina Public Records Law and may be disclosed to third parties including the media.

Thanks to Mr. Portman and Mr. Weinbrecht for their quick and thoughtful responses. It’ll be interesting to follow this case to the United States Supreme Court because win or lose by either party in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the United States Supreme Court will be asked to hear the case. It may refuse the case and leave standing whatever the Fourth Circuit decides.

Of course, if you wish to comment on the "story" or the responses from the Town of Cary Council members, there's space below, or send an email to the Town of Cary Mayor who I'm sure will share with his fellow Town of Cary Council members and me.


POST SCRIPT: Shortly after posting this story, I received an email from publicity hungry Don Frantz, also a member of the Town of Cary Council. He said:


Thank you very much for taking the time to contact the council with your thoughts regarding the David Bowden sign dispute. I see that councilmember Portman and the Mayor have already responded in detail and there is not much I can add to their comments. I will add however that I was disappointed - but not surprised - to see a number of my quotes left out of the News and Observer story.

The point I tried to get across to the reporter was that we are not trying to silence Mr. Bowden's right to free speech. We do however as a community have standards. He is more than welcome to place a sign in his yard that complies with town requirements that says exactly what his existing sign does now. We do not regulate content.

Thanks again for writing,

Don Frantz
Cary Town Council
District B

Monday, March 21, 2011

NC State-South Alabama: Just A Scrimmage

When NC State built Carter Stadium, which opened in 1966 and was later named Carter-Finley Stadium, it cost just over $3 million to construct. With interest, the bill came to around $5 million. The deal was simple: all income from the use of the facility, after game-day expenses, was to go to retire the debt. With big crowds at home and no more than six homes games a year, that debt was paid off early, but the athletics leadership had to create significant income to finance the entire program.

As a result, the Wolfpack played several away “money” football games. For instance, in 1973, State traveled to Nebraska, Georgia and Penn State, bringing home lots of money and three losses. It was exciting for the fans as the Wolfpack won the Atlantic Coast Conference title with a 6-0 league record and was 8-3 in the regular season with non-league wins over South Carolina and East Carolina. NC State was rewarded with a trip to the Liberty Bowl in which the Wolfpack defeated Kansas.

For the love of money by the athletics administrators, NC State fans were rewarded with one heck of a schedule, especially the five non-conference games. It’s the way schedules should be made. But not today.

Today, for the love of money and the need for a easy wins, NC State is more apt to compile a very weak non-conference schedule for two primary reasons: the away gates at major colleges do not pay as much as a home game with a perceived patsy; and, football coaches want somewhat guaranteed wins, especially when the team is seemingly young and inexperienced even though football schedules are usually determined years before the results of recruiting are known.

Going to Ohio State with an experienced Philip Rivers is okay because a win is possible. To schedule the same with a first-year starter is akin to killing your program because losing away to a big power with a small income is worse than winning big over a new program and including that game in a season ticket with other ho-hum games. There are some ho-hummers on this years home NC State schedule.

Along with four Atlantic Coast Conference games, you’ll find Liberty, South Alabama and Central Michigan, surely all formidable opponents when you hear the pregame jabber from head coach Tom O’Brien. Each game will gross between $1.25 million and $1.5 million in ticket sales, primarily due to the season ticket which also includes Georgia Tech, Clemson, Maryland and North Carolina, the hook that does the heavy lifting, especially when the Wolfpack seeks a fifth straight win over its primary rival.

On the surface, this year’s NC State schedule looks similar to Alabama’s weak home non-conference list of Kent State, North Texas and Georgia Southern except for one little thing: One of NC State’s non-conference games counts for nothing as a win and is huge as a loss. It might as well be a scrimmage.

The Wolfpack’s September 17th game with the University of South Alabama (USA) will have the look and feel of a football game, but, in the bigger picture of NCAA Division 1A (Football Bowl Subdivision), it counts for nothing as far as wins are concerned. The Jaguars, which started their football program in 2009, are, after two seasons not classified, in the first of two transitional seasons before obtaining its FBS status. In 2011, the first of two transitional years, games with South Alabama count as a NCAA-1AA (Football Championship Subdivision) game but not as a bowl eligible game for FBS teams (read that NC State).

So, a win over South Alabama will not count for the Wolfpack in the required six wins to be bowl eligible which makes the NC State’s season opening game against Liberty a must win. To take a straight-forward look at it, NC State’s game with South Alabama is no more than a glorified scrimmage. And it’s included in the seven home-game-season-ticket price, or you can purchase that game for $39 as a single ticket game. How many do you want?

If there is anything that it counts toward other than padded statistics (and I’m not sure stats compiled against USA count either), it’s that NC State must win the game…er…scrimmage to even think about competing for the National Title. A loss to South Alabama should keep an 11-1 Wolfpack out of the rankings altogether.

But, let’s be positive. The goal for all BCS teams—NC State included—is a berth in the National Title game. Let’s say the Wolfpack beats USA and wins the other 11 as well as the ACC championship game. A spot in the Orange Bowl will be as good as it gets. In my humble opinion, there’s no chance, just based on strength of schedule, that a 13-0 NC State would get a shot at the BCS Championship game, even as the only undefeated team out there. The voters will hold it against State and the computers will malfunction.

I’m sure that Wolfpack coach Tom O’Brien, who along with former NC State Athletics Director Lee Fowler is responsible for scheduling this game, will take the scrimmage seriously, and well he should. If previous results by the Jags are any indication of what’s to come, the Wolfpack could be in for a real tussle in its game #3 because USA probably will come in undefeated. Not just 2-0 for the 2011 season but completely undefeated for the less than storied history of the football program at the Mobile AL college.

The Jags are in their third season of playing intercollegiate football and enter the 2011 season completely undefeated, winning all games in 2009 and 2010 when the program had no NCAA classification.  In 2009, the Jags were 7-0 against Hargrave Military Academy, Army Prep, Georgia Military JC, Louisburg JC, Fork Union Military Academy, Milford Academy and Huntingdon College. Last fall, the Jags went 10-0 against Pikeville, Nicholls State, Edward Waters, Kentucky Wesleyan, Missouri S&T, Lamar, California-Davis, Georgia State, Henderson State and Arkansas-Monticello.

USA is 17-0 for the life of its program, and with 2011 opening games at home against West Alabama—a tough opener for South Alabama because the Tigers website, in announcing its 2011 schedule, says “A season opening clash at South Alabama highlights the 2011 West Alabama football schedule…”—and Lamar (Jags won 26-0 last year at Lamar), the Jags should be 2-0.

Because NC State should be 2-0 as well after opening at home with Liberty and then playing at Wake Forest, that mid-September scrimmage…er…game between the Wolfpack and USA could feature two undefeated teams in two developing football programs. There’s a good chance it make not make ESPN3.

Following USA’s game in Carter-Finley Stadium, the Jags fill out the 2011 schedule with Kent State, Texas-San Antonio, Tennessee-Martin, Georgia State, Henderson State, Mississippi Valley State and Cal Poly. I may be wrong on this because it was just took much trouble look it up, but I believe each school on USA’s 2011 schedule except NC State, is Division 1AA. So, at least the other nine schools get to count the game as a Football Championship Subdivision game.

NC State, though, just has a scrimmage that day with USA, but in 2012, it’s legit when the Jaguars return to Raleigh for a re-match. In 2012, NC State will have the option of using either South Alabama or The Citadel Bulldogs, but not both, as it’s one Division 1AA (Football Championship Subdivision) win on its way to six just to be bowl eligible. (Okay, okay. The Wolfpack also plays Tennessee in Atlanta and at Connecticut in 2012 so winning six is tougher.) even with just six home games, the cash comes in at the Carter-Finley gate and the players gain more confidence.

In 2015, according to USA’s future opponents web-page, NC State will be traveling to Mobile for game three in the series. From looking at each team’s future schedule, it seems USA is scheduling up while NC State, in many ways, is scheduling down. Not to take anything away from future NC State opponents, Wolfpack fans deserve better. Future NC State home opponents look better on paper but not nearly as good as they could and should be. While the money is not as good, I’d much rather lose at Alabama than play South Alabama at all. For strength of schedule, the loss to the Crimson Tide might be better than a win over USA.

Except for the money and the ability to give the unseasoned players a tough scrimmage, I’m not sure of the reasoning behind scheduling South Alabama in 2011, especially since the Jags are in a transitional season when a win counts for nothing for the Wolfpack and a loss would be extremely detrimental. Someone in a position to do so tried to explain it to me, but it still doesn’t make any sense.

If you feel the USA game this season is justifiable, if you feel it makes sense, look no further than 2013 to satisfy the same appetite. That’s when the UNC-Charlotte football team takes to the field to begin that program. Will the 49ers soon get to play in Carter-Finley Stadium? The Wolfpack’s schedule is full that season, but 2014 appears to have a vacancy.
For a look at South Alabama’s football scheduling timeline and information used to write about this scrimmage, go to University of South Alabama Football Scheduling Timeline and click on “program timeline” and “future opponents” found along the right hand side of the page. For a look at NC State future football opponents, go to Wolfpack football future opponents.

Monday, March 14, 2011

It's Tough To Be On Sidney Lowe Watch

The Sidney Lowe watch is on. It has been for a while and will not stop until either a Lowe-coached Wolfpack has a successful season or until he is dismissed as head basketball coach at NC State. As long as he’s the coach, he’ll be under the microscope because in his first five years “success” is not in the program’s description. It’s a painful process, especially when it’s one of your own.

It appears NC State fans are somewhat equally split between keeping him at least through his current contract or firing him before the contract is up, but you can bet the house that fans of the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Duke Blue Devils want him to stay put. Of course, that’s based on his winning percentage against those two. It’s also a prime reason that half the red coats want Sidney out.

This is a test—the toughest of tests—for NC State Director of Athletics Debbie Yow, who is considering her first major coaching decision since accepting the job last summer. And, let’s make something very clear. There are only two major coaching jobs at NC State: football and men’s basketball.

While most of the other sports on NC State’s roster of teams are good for the school, especially when there are more wins than losses and if there are conference titles every now and then. Let's face it, football and men’s basketball are so far above the other sports that Yow’s energy needs to take aim at those programs every day. After the football team did rather well last fall, 9-4 with a bowl win and a fourth consecutive victory over North Carolina, Debbie had no choice but to leave Tom O’Brien in place.

Men’s basketball is a different story. The losses keep piling up. Attendance is going down, especially in the “corporate donor” seats between the end lines in the lower level of the RBC Center. Those are the seats owned by non-Wolfpack loyal businesses who sometimes ask employees if they would like to use the tickets for a game such as NC State-Clemson February 17. Because the Wolfpack was not playing well and losing more than winning, there were few takers, even with a parking pass and the promise of a 10% raise tossed in.

With crowds announced at 14,500 and 16,300, attendance seems to be okay but it just doesn’t seem possible that many are there. I attended all the conference games and the games with reasonably good opposition, but I purposely skipped the games against Tennessee Tech and Fairleigh Dickinson. From looking at the empty seats, there’s no way every ticket stub taken at the door was counted as just one person. The numbers had to be padded.

So, for lack of wins and lack of attendance and other reasons, the Sidney Lowe watch is on. Will Debbie Yow keep him or let him go? Her decision, no doubt, will be based on what’s best for NC State University. Will it look bad for NC State to fire a former star player with time remaining on his contract? Will Debbie see past the record and conclude Sidney has the ability to build a winner from the talent base he’s gathered, moving the Wolfpack up the ladder in conference standings and national rankings? What will Debbie do with Sidney if her mind is on elevating the Wolfpack to Championship status?

Many in the greater basketball community believe NC State should not try to compete at the top level of the ACC. Those fans believe the top spot is reserved for the Tar Heels and the Blue Devils and, in many respects since 1997, that’s been true. Only three times from the 1997 season through the 2011 tournament has a team other than North Carolina or Duke finished at the top of the league standings for the regular season or won the ACC Tournament.

NC State should be able to compete on equal footing with North Carolina and Duke. First the University itself is a fine educational institution that offers a wide variety of majors that can be applicable to nearly any academic desire. Equally important, the Wolfpack’s basketball program is rich in winning tradition, but tradition alone, especially distant tradition, will not build the program to its rightful place at the top of the league. We cannot continue to reach back to conference championship teams coached by Everett Case or National Title winners coached by Norman Sloan and Jim Valvano. David Thompson's reign was nearly 40 years ago; Sidney Lowe's on-court heroics were nearly 30 years back. The last time the Wolfpack finished first in the regular season ACC standings was in 1989. The last time NC State won the conference title was in 1987. You do the math.

A successful and highly competitive basketball program is the responsibility of the head coach who must have a commitment from the entire University from the Chancellor to the Provost to the Deans to the Athletics Director. The basketball coach must have a certain set of skills from coaching to recruiting to game preparation to being a leader to take that university-wide commitment and turn it into a winning program.

So what about Sidney? I’ve known him since he came to NC State in the late 1970s to play basketball. In his senior season, he was Valvano’s coach on the floor. Great story told by Valvano: In the second half of one game, Sidney, playing every minute, was tired and winded, and he wanted to come out just for a short break. He asked Valvano about getting a rest. Valvano told him he could come out of the game when his eligibility was up. Sidney played.

To the casual observer of Wolfpack basketball, Sidney is still on the court coaching the game instead of taking a rest and letting his game preparation take over. Sidney’s personable, nice, and hard-working, but he has coaching flaws, just as I have writing flaws. It is said that 90 percent of coaching a college basketball team is done during practice. The other 10 percent is used to make adjustments during the games. From watching Sidney during the games, it’s as if his 90 percent is during the game. He says the team practices well but sometimes performs completely different. Maybe, just maybe, his practices are not what they should be. But what do I know? I’m not there. But I do see how the team competes or sometimes doesn't.

Sidney Lowe is a hot topic in these parts, these days. Debbie Yow will soon make a decision or she may make no decision which is the same as a decision. She has to come up with some reason to keep him or let him go. It has to be based on one thing: What’s best for NC State University. What will make the men’s basketball program successful?

Sidney had no college coaching experience when he was hired five years back. The overall results are not a very positive reflection on his coaching ability. He’s obviously a pretty good recruiter, but it took him a while to sign the caliber of player needed to win titles. Several players adapted to his professional-style and thick playbook, but he was unable this year to transition a player the talent of CJ Leslie from being an AAU player to college player. Even in the waning days of this season, it appeared many times as if Leslie was playing like a lone wolf instead of like a member of a Wolfpack. It takes a good coach to make it happen.

No one more than I has wanted Sidney Lowe to succeed as head coach at NC State because no one more than I wants NC State to succeed in basketball. I lived those glory days of Case, Sloan and Valvano and want them back.

If Debbie Yow decides that Sidney’s not the person to coach the Wolfpack to the highest level, then so be it. It’s her program and her call. If she makes a change we all hope it’ll be for a replacement that fits with the program, relates to the fans, has major college head coaching experience, and has the drive to get to the top. NC State needs someone with the ego to compete against Roy and Mike, but not so huge of an ego that the coach becomes bigger than the school.

It’s a tough call, Debbie. Or maybe not. But, because of the disappointing achievement by the basketball team the past five years, it’s even tougher to be on Sidney Lowe watch, especially for loyal Wolfpack fans.