I was thinking of writing a column on ACC officiating and the officials’ blunder from this past weekend, but it has seemingly been talked about ad nauseam and no one wants to hear a guy from Carolina whining about officiating anyways. So, what I have decided to do is basically share some notes, thoughts, and possibly some rants from this past weekend’s ACC Championship in what I like to call…
“The Weekly Mumble”
•I have been blessed to have been a part of many unique sporting experiences in my short life: I had the job of playing the music/sound effects at Durham Bulls games (Funny story, there was a player who was going through a big hitting slump, so I randomly played “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” for his walk-up music and he got a hit. So, I kept playing the song and he kept getting hits, but I got the dreaded phone call from the dugout telling me to stop playing the song because it was not funny anymore. I did my best to help him, but needless to say, that player never got called up to the majors), Dean Smith watched a basketball game that I happened to be coaching, and I was a Charlotte Hornets ball boy in middle and high school (there are so many cool stories from that experience that it is worth its own column). This past weekend was another one of those unique experiences in my life. I was given the opportunity to cover the ACC Championship in Charlotte for 252 ESPN Radio, and it is something that I will never forget. I covered/watched the game from the press box, went on the field after the game, and interviewed some players (actually, I just stuck my phone out while they talked or answered other reporters’ questions).
•I was so pumped about having a Press Pass that I was walking around Panthers Stadium like Wayne and Garth…
•It took me a little while before I took the diehard sports fan hat off (not a literal hat because my mom always taught me never to wear a hat indoors) and realized that I was there to do a job (and it is really hard to even call it a job whenever you are having so much fun doing it). I sat in the North Carolina section of the Press Box, so it was really neat getting to sit near some of my favorite writers and radio personalities. I even got to stare at the back of Adam Gold’s head most of the night. A special thanks to Jordan Honeycutt, journalist from the New Bern Sun Journal, for showing me around and helping me with the team/player interviews after the game.
•I met a guy that has a radio show on ESPN Upstate who was a dead ringer for the comedian, Ron White. Too bad we didn’t have tater salad for dinner or that would have been a funny coincidence.
•Speaking of dinner, the Carolina Panthers staff or whoever was in charge of dinner, put out an awesome spread of friend chicken, mac and cheese, and barbecue (Lexington style, which is my favorite).
•I think I hurt my neck from moving it back and forth between watching the game on the field and the games on the bank of TVs behind press row. I couldn’t keep my eyes off the amazing Steph Curry and how he seemed to effortlessly put up 44 points on the Raptors (I had this game circled as the one that the Warriors were finally going to lose…wrong again). He is just so fun to watch, and I am a big fan of his.
•It is amazing to me that after every big play or when there is a break in the action, everyone is either checking their Twitter feed or sending out a tweet. I just don’t get this Twitter thing (said in my old man voice).
•At the time of this writing, I am still waiting for the ACC’s apology for the mistake on the “offsides kick”.
•It is kind of surreal watching a sporting event from the press box. No one is allowed to cheer whenever a big play occurs or when a team scores a touchdown, but also you really can’t even hear the fans in the stadium cheering/screaming. It could have been deafening after all of those Clemson touchdowns, but I have no idea because it just sounded like a muffled roar. I am not going to complain because with all of those Clemson fans there, they certainly had a lot of touchdowns to celebrate and I bet it was loud.
•Please tell me someone on TV pointed out that the reason there were 85% Clemson fans in the stadium was because they had a 2-3 week head start to buy up all of the tickets.
•I wonder if Clemson fans need to take that extra pause at the end of their fight song, “Tiger Rag”, in order to really think hard about how to spell Clemson. Low blow…I know.
•Everyone knows what it is like to watch a youth sporting event where there is that one kid who is just so much faster, stronger, and just plain better than the other kids. Yea, Deshaun Watson is that kid and he made UNC’s defense look extremely slow. I was amazed at how fast he was and how he just effortlessly glided around the field. He certainly put on a show and dominated that game with over 400 yards of total offense and 5 touchdowns. I am happy to see that he was a finalist for the Heisman and I really hope he wins it.
•Was anyone brave enough to ask for ham and pineapple on their pizza at the party thrown by Dabo Swinney?
•I kept waiting for Clemson to just pull away and blow out UNC, as I made a note of this after a couple of the Clemson touchdowns in the 2nd half. However, the coaching staff and players for UNC deserve a ton of credit for continuing to fight and keep that game close, even with a chance to possibly recover an onside kick and score a touchdown to tie the game up. “Grit” was the theme for this team throughout the year, and they showed a lot of it in the championship game.
•A lot of credit should go to Clemson’s front 7 on defense for Marquise’s early struggles. They were getting a lot of pressure on Marquise, which seemed to really rattle him at the start of the game. He made a lot of errant throws, but that was due to the quickness of the pass rush that was getting to him. Plus, every time he looked to scramble, the defense used their speed to close any of those running lanes and keep him from getting to the open field in the secondary (where he has had a lot of success this year).
•I hate it for Marquise because he has heard all year about his 3 turnover game in his previous trip to Charlotte, but that turnover in the first drive of the second half was a killer. Especially, since Clemson followed it up by marching right down the field and scoring a touchdown on a 96 yard drive.
•Mitch Trubisky is going to be a very good starting quarterback for UNC next year.
•The length of the game was 3 hours and 42 minutes, and it felt every bit of that, if not longer; however, I should not complain because I am sure it felt a lot longer than that sitting in the 30 degree weather. The length of the timeouts for commercials and the time it takes for instant replay reviews is way too long (again, in my old man voice).
•Great job by Bubba Cunningham and UNC for showing their commitment to Larry Fedora and the football program. With a new 7-year contract for Fedora and a new 25 million dollar indoor practice facility, the administration is committed to making sure football is successful at UNC.
•It may have been a bit of a sloppy game, with neither team playing its best; however, there were exciting plays, star players, an exciting (yet controversial) finish, and both teams showed the national audience why the ACC is not just a basketball conference.
Catch DANIEL BAYER every TUESDAY on THE DRIVE on the 252 ESPN Radio Network !