Art’s Angle: Writer Back On Beat


This is a story about a sportswriter and a football coach and the debatable definitions of each man’s job.

Ron Morris has written for newspapers in Chapel Hill, Durham and Tallahassee before becoming the lead sports columnist for The State in Columbia, S.C. He has known Steve Spurrier since The Visor was at Duke – as the Blue Devils’ offensive coordinator in the early 1980s and their head coach in the late ‘80s before going to Florida and winning a national championship.

morris billboardMorris is a controversial columnist whose points of view often push the envelope. He has endured various forms of public humiliation over his feud with Spurrier, the 68-year-old legendary South Carolina football coach, from callous billboards to constant calls for his firing.

In his nine years at Chief Gamecock, Spurrier has amassed the kind of power Bear Bryant had at Alabama (and Nick Saban has now), the late Joe Paterno had at Penn State, Dean Smith had at UNC and Mike Krzyzewski has at Duke. While all of those men wielded behind-the-scenes influence, some of them occasionally wound up in civic squabbles.

Smith once took on the entire Consolidated University of North Carolina over what he believed was an unfair report about (some of his) student athletes. Early in Krzyzewski’s tenure, he ripped the Duke Chronicle sports staff in private and, after seeing the account in the next day’s edition, learned that one of the student reporters had tape-recorded his tirade.

Paterno, of course, was lionized throughout his Hall of Fame career at Penn State, only to be fired in disgrace over his alleged negligence in the Jerry Sandusky child-abuse scandal. Paterno died shortly after from cancer.

In an ongoing controversy, Spurrier got Morris removed from the South Carolina football beat by complaining that Morris had written and opined inaccuracies about him. Spurrier began his campaign by refusing to answer questions in any press conference Morris attended during the 2011 season. He then held a secret meeting with The State’s Publisher and Executive Editor, after which Morris was ordered not to ask Spurrier any more questions and eventually told that he could no longer write anything about South Carolina football.

Morris had infuriated Spurrier during a radio interview by likening his power at South Carolina to the fiefdom Paterno established and said none of that could be good for any university or athletic department. When the Gamecocks played in the Outback Bowl after last season and when they opened the current season at home against UNC, Morris and his wife went to the movies.

The dispute had found its way into various media columns and became fodder for talk shows, but when Morris wrote stories about the South Carolina basketball and baseball teams the spat was considered old news. In the background, Spurrier had influenced The State to hire a noted “homer” to cover the Gamecocks on the paper’s website and later lobbied for him to get a raise.

Not until national media blogger Jim Romenesko published his well-researched piece in early September did Morris’ plight become a national story. USA Today chimed in and, after Romenesko’s blog went viral, The State reversed field and allowed its lead sports columnist to again cover the most popular subject in the newspaper’s circulation area.

As imagined, the debate goes on thanks to the interactive nature of today’s media. Every Internet article on the subject is followed by a comments section and the Pro-Spurrier and Pro-First Amendment sides continue to go after each other with a blurry line between supposed fact and off-the-wall opinion.

Morris was back in the Williams-Brice Stadium press box for Saturday night’s game against Vanderbilt. And, with the credibility and motives of his managers at The State being called into question, he will continue to be a lightning rod for both sides of the story.

If you are interested in the sordid details, here are inks to the column that most angered Spurrier, Romenesko’s blog that created the national backlash and the recanting of Morris’ position by The State.

Google Ron Morris-Steve Spurrier to find even more.

All make fascinating reading, no matter where you stand.

feature image by nsdis via flickr

Art’s Angle: Break Out The Bull


Larry Fedora knows where he’s at. And it must be driving him a little nuts.

The hyperactive, Red-Bull-guzzling head coach of the Tar Heels obviously sees the potential of Carolina football, or he wouldn’t be here. Saturday, he dressed his team in almost acrylic light-blue uniforms with black numbers and trim, cool togs the kids must like.

His ground crew filled the CAROLINA TAR HEELS painted in the Kenan Stadium end zones with the argyle design, which alum Alexander Julian (who invented it 21 years ago for the basketball unies) must have liked. The weather was certainly likeable, the opponent manageable and the players prepared. Well, almost.

Fedora half-joked Friday that he expected a so-so crowd for the home opener and didn’t want to invite any recruits to the game. He’s going after the cream of the crop, head to head with the rest of the ACC and much of the SEC, and he wants the atmosphere that playing rival games has seemed to generate in his one season heresofar.

Kudos to the home side of Kenan and the packed Tar Pit. They were in dire contrast to the rest of the house. Season ticket sales were inexplicably down despite an improving economy and football program, so the sun-side glistened with silver benches. Unfortunately, that’s the side the TV cameras see.

A capacity crowd fires up the players when they take the field. It also impresses high school players, which is why The Hat didn’t invite any to the home opener.

It appeared the Tar Heels were still waiting for everyone to show up when middlin’ Middle Tennessee drove 80 yards with the opening kick-off to an apparent touchdown. Fortunately, the Blue Raiders’ score was overturned in the replay booth, the defense came alive for an exciting goal line stand and the Heels dominated the rest of first half on the way to a 23-0 score.

Keep an eye on junior Norkeithus Otis, who had five tackles and three sacks from the hybrid Bandit position. He will steal your heart. Romar Morris equaled his previous career high by scoring two touchdowns and Bryn Renner sneaked to his first of the new season.

But one of the captains, who had deferred after winning the toss of the coin, forgot to say “the ball” or “we receive” or whatever they tell the officials to start the second half. When he said “defend this goal” we saw something we may never see again – one team receiving the kickoff to begin both halves.

“We were trying to give them a little extra help,” Fedora deadpanned after the game. Ninety minutes earlier he had something else to say to the captain who forgot what to say. And it wasn’t, “Good job.”

Middle promptly finished its long drive this time, bursting up the middle to ruin the shutout. After Chapel Hill’s Thomas Moore booted his second field goal of the game and third of the young season (and remained perfect with 55 career PATs), Middle stripped slot-back Ryan Switzer across the middle and ran the fumble in to make it a 26-13 game. Remember, this was the same Middle that upset the same Georgia Tech team that scored 68 points in the same Kenan Stadium in Fedora’s first season.

He may have reached for another Red Bull.

Carolina hung on with Renner’s second touchdown pass of the season to Quinshad Davis and freshman Bug Howard’s first (his lone catch of the day). It only mattered to Fedora’s acid reflux that Middle went back over the middle for one more score to make the 40-20 final respectable (but still covering the 17-point spread).

The Tar Heels not only doubled Middle, they doubled Fedora’s pleasure from last week, when his team blew the opener at South Carolina on a few blown plays.

“It’s always preferable to fix mistakes after a win,” he said. “You don’t have that knot in your stomach and bad taste in your mouth.”

Fedora will have two weeks to keep from falling under .500 again, preparing to stop a Georgia Tech triple option that scored 70 points on Elon in its season opener and might score at least half that many this Saturday at Duke. The program The Hat inherited has lost four straight to the Jackets, 13 of the last 15 and hasn’t won in Atlanta since Mack Brown’s 16-13 squeaker in 1997.

So there’ll be more to worry about than the home crowd. Break out the Bull.

Chansky: Cackle On, Coach!

duke spurrier kenan

Did you get as big of a kick as I did Sunday when Steve Spurrier gloated over his undefeated record against North Carolina?

C’mon, Head Ball Coach, surely winning a Heisman Trophy and a national championship are more impressive accomplishments to cackle over on your way to the Football Hall of Fame.

After all, the records of the four UNC teams you “swamped” were 5-6 (in Dick Crum’s last season), 1-10 and 1-10 (in Mack Brown’s first two) and 4-8 in Butch Davis’  only losing year in Chapel Hill (except of course losing his job in 2011).

Those vaunted Tar Heel teams were a combined 11-34 as you rolled over them in three years at Duke and the one meeting so far at South Carolina. That’s a real resume builder!

Actually, Spurrier has great affection for the Carolina where he almost coached. According to insiders, he wanted the UNC job after leaving the Washington Redskins midway through his second wash-out season in the NFL and nearly had it in 2004.

But, as the story goes, Carolina’s upset win over nationally ranked Miami that season squashed the subversive plan to replace favorite son John Bunting with the Head Ball Coach, who instead succeeded Lou Holtz at South Carolina.

Spurrier has never told that story in public but, after a cocktail or two, has been known to confirm it. The appointment would have sent lightning bolts across the Carolina blue sky because of Spurrier’s history with North Carolina while at Duke.

Recall (if you dare) his last game coaching the Blue Devils in 1989, before bolting for his alma mater Florida. It was Brown’s second season, after losing whatever good players he inherited from Crum and before his recruiting took hold. Duke was headed for its first bowl game in three decades when it swaggered over here looking for its third straight win vs. the Tar Heels — the first time the Blue Bellies would do that since the maiden days of the ACC more than 30 years earlier.

Duke rolled up 37 first downs and 656 yards of total offense on the way to a 41-0 slaughter. Chapel Hill’s Clarkston Hines caught eight balls for 162 yards and three touchdowns and running back Randy Cuthbert rumbled for 116 yards and one end sweep when he flattened a Tar Heel corner in the open field near the Duke sideline, which exploded in unison.

After the game, Spurrier needled his quarterback Dave Brown, who passed for 479 yards and two scores but missed a couple of open receivers in the end zone. Spurrier knew he was heading for Florida and apparently had promised a few Duke old grads that he would try to even the score from 1959 and Carolina’s famous 50-0 rout on Thanksgiving Day.

That’s when a Duke manager ran in and shouted that the electronic scoreboard in the southeast corner of the end zone was still showing the final score. The Duke sports information staff told the Head Ball Coach, “You may be leaving but we still have to live here. ” By that time, the Blue Devils had run back onto the field and flopped down in front of illuminated 41 under GUEST and 0 under CAROLINA. The picture above has since become a classic in the Duke annals.

Of course, Mack Brown (whom Spurrier kiddingly called “Mr. Football”) seethed with the rest of Tar Heel Nation and, while Duke changed coaches three times in his last eight years in Chapel Hill, he never lost that game again while outscoring the downtrodden Dukies by a collective 100 points in the midst of Carolina’s longest winning streak ever in the rivalry (13 in a row).

Brown went on to Texas where he became a real “Mr. Football” in the Lone Star State, matching Spurrier’s BCS championship at Florida with his own in the 2006 Rose Bowl. So you can see why after the Head Ball Coach tried the NFL, how polarizing his return to Kenan Stadium on the home sideline would have been. Fortunately, Connor Barth’s 44-yard boot as time expired against “The U” turned all that into an old wives’ tale at UNC.

Nevertheless, Spurrier won’t be far from our minds as long as he coaches in Columbia. After Thursday night’s season-opener down there on ESPN, the Battle of the Carolinas will move to Charlotte in 2015 in what could become a regular Border War. But Spurrier will be 70 by then, so he may be approaching his last cackle as the Head Ball Coach anywhere.

(Photo by Duke Sports Information)

A Mad, Sad Summer

BOSTON – In a way, it’s consoling that the turmoil that seems pervasive in Chapel Hill these days is pretty much everywhere in sports.

College athletics appears ready for either an evolution or a revolution, and standing pat is simply not an option. The PED scandal in Major League Baseball has already banished one all-star (Ryan Braun) for the season with others to follow, and now word is spreading that the next names exposed won’t be limited to the National Pastime or even professional sports.

But nowhere in the country is there more collective anxiety than here, where within four months a terrorist bombing shattered the Boston Marathon, a member of the revered New England Patriots was charged with first-degree murder and they finally broke up of Big Three that brought the Celtics their last NBA Championship.

Oh, and the Boston Bruins blew the Stanley Cup in 17 seconds of Game 6 while the Red Sox are hanging on for dear life with a decimated pitching staff. Plus, it’s raining cats and dogs, just like most of the summer in Carolina. What is a fan to do who uses sports as his or her escape?

NCAA President Mark Emmert is under siege from what – for the time being – has settled in as the big five conferences, the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 14 and Southeastern. All five commissioners, including the usually reserved John Swofford of the ACC, have used their football media days as bully pulpits to lobby for changes that run from the old (paying college athletes something) to the new (a football federation with a separate set of rules within the NCAA). Emmert has no choice but to support everything everyone is proposing, because apparently he is fighting for his job.

So far, no member of the Red Sox has been linked to the Biogenesis PED scandal, but supposedly that list is long and surprising. After the Marathon bombings that killed three and injured hundreds on April 15, the city rallied around the Sox who were trying to recover from their own relative disaster of losing 93 games in 2012 under beleaguered and since fired one-year manager Bobby Valentine.

After an exciting 20-8 start that took Boston’s mind off the Marathon, the Sox pitching staff began going down one by one, from closers to set-up men (including UNC’s Andrew Miller) to starters who started fast but either haven’t pitched since (Clay Buchholz, 9-0) or pitched poorly (Jon Lester, now 8-6). Somehow, the Sox still led the American League East by a half-game heading into the weekend.

Their biggest news also came with a sobering reminder. Dirtball second baseman Dustin Pedroia signed a $110 million contract extension, keeping the underrated, undersized and unrelenting captain of the team here for the next eight years. But such a signing was an easy reminder that 10 months after the Patriots extended Aaron Hernandez’s contract for five years and $40 million, the deeply troubled tight end was charged with murdering a friend and is now a suspect in at least two other slayings.

With NFL training camps open and Hernandez moving from his mansion to an eight-by-eight jail cell, that story simply won’t go away. Not even Coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady can quell the obtuse obsession by acknowledging the magnitude of the tragedy while vowing the Patriots will nevertheless move ahead and play football. People are still going nuts here over how and why Hernandez, an exemplary player with a checkered personal past, could throw away so many lives, including his own.

The sick joke here is that the Patriots knew they were gambling on Hernandez, who had failed a drug test at Florida and supposedly had gang relationships back in his hometown of Bristol, Connecticut, but everyone agreed “it’s not like he is going to kill anybody!”

And even though the Pats still have Belichick and Brady and are favored to win the AFC East for the fifth straight season, who the heck is Brady going to throw to? With Rob Gronkowski sidelined indefinitely and Wes Welker having gone to Denver to play with Peyton Manning, they don’t have a single receiver back who started a game last year.

Even the good news comes with apprehension. Yes, the Celtics parted with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce a year after Ray Allen signed with the Heat, and in return they wound up with nine first round draft choices over the next five years. But that’s FIVE YEARS! Who can wait that long?

And although young, bright Butler’s Brad Stevens is their new coach, why would Doc Rivers want to leave for the LA Clippers? And does general manager Danny Ainge really know what he’s doing with the storied franchise?

Hopefully, the Red Sox can hang on and return to the playoffs for the first time in three years. Remember, they blew a 10-game lead in September of 2011.

Everyone is talking, watching, wondering what will happen next. Not only here but everywhere in sports including back home.

Can Fedora’s offense score enough points and his defense stop anyone? What will Roy do with P.J. Hairston? Will Carolina ever be able to press the restart button with its athletic department?

Some crazy summer.  And, where ever you go, it’s still raining.

Shooting Stars

Bullock for two

Both come from pasts filled with trouble and temptation. Both were burgeoning college basketball stars. Both irritated their coach after last season, but for far different reasons.

Let’s start with Reggie Bullock, the third banana in the freshman class of 2011, due to Harrison Barnes’ star power, Kendall Marshall’s creativity with the ball and Bullock’s bum knee that hampered his shooting and required post-season surgery.

Bullock became a star as a sophomore when he took over as Carolina’s top lockdown defender after Dexter Strickland went down with his own knee injury. It was the first time the 6-7 long-armed gunner became known as more than a shooter.

Fatherless for his entire life on the mean streets of Kinston, North Carolina, Bullock honed his shot at the Holloway Rec Center, where he went to stay out of that trouble and away from that temptation. He had mentors like gym manager Skeet Davis and rec coach Derrick Sheffield, but there wasn’t always a game going on so Bullock shot and shot and shot by himself or with a rebounder who fed him the ball.

Although Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell and Charles Shackleford also came from Kinston, Bullock’s  hero and distant cousin was Jerry Stackhouse who was not from a broken family, helped his homies from an early age and always came back while at UNC and in the NBA. Bullock and a lot of kids from Kinston wanted to be just like Jerry, who is winding up an 18-year pro career as one of the most respected players in the NBA.

Bullock lived with his grandmother, a minister, until she died his junior year in high school, when he moved in with Kinston High School Coach Wells Gulledge. His mother was in town, but tending to his two younger half-sisters. By then he was used to finishing his homework and cleaning his room before he went out to play, and because he was a budding basketball star was “left alone” by the gangs and drug dealers he knew and passed by every day.

He made his family and friends proud at Carolina games, leaving them tickets behind the Tar Heel bench while becoming a reliable rebounder and outstanding guard on both ends of the floor. Over the last month of his junior season, Bullock was one of the five best all-around players in the ACC. He made second team all-conference, was a lock for first team as a senior and perhaps the leading candidate for ACC Player of the Year.

After avoiding the question for most of the season, Bullock surprised many fans and his own coach by entering the NBA draft. He was not projected as a definite first-round pick, which makes a big difference, and Roy Williams told Bullock the bold truth. Drafted in the second round by a team he could not make, he might be relegated to playing in Europe far away from home and for far less money he would be assured as a first-rounder after his expected stellar senior season.

Williams, who has happily sent more than a dozen underclassmen into the NBA lottery during his 25-year coaching career, did his homework with pro coaches, GMs and scouts. He told Bullock it was a risky proposition, gambling with his future like that.

P.J. Hairston and junior fellow Tar Heel sophomore James Michael McAdoo disdained the draft and watched Bullock move up on the mock boards after having outstanding performances and interviews at the pre-draft camps and team workouts. And they celebrated with the rest of Tar Heel Nation when the LA Clippers made Bullock the 25th pick in the first-round. Despite a roster with other outside shooters like J.J. Redick and free agents like Scott Wood, Bullock is guaranteed $3 million if he never plays a minute for the Clips (which, of course, is unlikely).

Hairston for two

Meanwhile, Hairston wasn’t as lucky with his choices after the season. The leading scorer and long bomber for the Tar Heels in 2013 was invited to the USA Team tryouts for the World Games, but injured his back and came home to rehab. Before then, Hairston went joy-riding with a couple of friends in a car rented by a convicted felon and, after being stopped by Durham police, was charged with possession of marijuana and a handgun with ammunition nearby. The felonious man involved has turned out to have some ties with UNC athletes, none of them very good.

Williams, who has had two other players arrested during his coaching career — at Kansas for circumstantial charges that were eventually dropped — could not remember being any madder. As the story has unfolded, Hairston’s future at UNC fell more into the hands of university policy than an internal disciplinary problem for the basketball program. Chances increased that Hairston will never suit up again for the Tar Heels, at the least not during the 2013-2014 season.

People who know Hairston say he straddled the line between loyalty to his old friends from the ‘hood in Greensboro and what is expected from a UNC player, a conflicting lifestyle that has landed one pro football star in jail charged with murder in a far more serious and highly publicized case.  For the once wealthy and talented Aaron Hernandez, his actions are more a matter of disbelief than merely bad choices. Hairston’s plight seems far less hopeless.

Hairston faced the same trouble and temptation as Bullock but could not and did not walk away, protected by the cocoon of Carolina basketball. Now, what was feared to be the wrong decision by one and hailed as the right decision by the other have flip-flopped, and the kid who took the biggest gamble with his career came out the clear winner.  Bullock will be in the NBA next season. Hairston faces a long and winding road to get back on any organized court.

Photos by Todd Melet

Jersey War Clinches Final Four

All season long’s “Hoop It Up” will be republishing select excerpts from Return To The Top on the 20th Anniversary of Dean Smith’s 2nd NCAA title season in 1993. Check back on Monday of each week for the next RTTT.

By Scott Cherry, UNC ‘93

The East Regional in the Meadowlands was another four-team tournament, with us Arkansas, Cincinnati and Virginia. No matter what we thought going to Winston-Salem a week earlier, we knew this weekend would be a challenge. Arkansas and Cincinnati were both cat-quick, athletic teams like Florida State, the teams that tended to give us trouble. And should we meet Virginia again, we knew we’d beaten them three times already and a fourth time would be difficult.

We checked into the Park Lane Hotel, overlooking Central Park, on Thursday. One of the great things about playing basketball at Carolina is that you travel first class in every respect. The coaches figure, as hard as we work and as much as we bring to the university in terms of recognition and revenue, without being paid anything beyond our scholarships, we at least ought to stay in the finest hotels and eat the best food. The Park Lane is one of the classiest hotels in the city, and it’s a super experience, especially for guys who haven’t been in New York much. We had a team meeting on the 41st floor, overlooking Central Park, and while the New York guys were sitting around the table before the meeting began, everyone else was looking out the window marveling at the view.

The games that weekend were a testament to the adaptability of our team to play up tempo styles, the individual abilities of each of our starters and key reserves, to our ability to play great defense in key situations and, finally, to the coaching of Dean Smith.

We were mind-boggled by some of the comments coming out of Arkansas during the week. One of their guys said they’d pressure us like we’d never seen before, in our faces, 94 feet, for 40 minutes. If they could pressure better than Florida State, we said, bring them on. Their comments were repeated many times during the week. They just fueled the fire already in us.

The game was just as we figured — nip and tuck, fast-paced, anyone’s game. We rallied from 11 down in the first half to tie it at halftime at 45. There was a flurry of transitions early in the second half that showcased what a wonderful blend of diversified athletes our team had become. For example, Eric Montross made a great pass, three-quarters court into the corner to Brian Reese, who flew by his man on that lightning-quick first step for a layup.

Our first big defensive play came with 2:34 left in the game, the Tar Heels up by two. We played tight for 45 seconds and forced them into a hurried, leaning shot with a hand in the face as the shot clock went off. That was huge. We went down and scored and we were up by four.

When Arkansas hit a three-pointer to cut it to 75-74 with 51 seconds left, we called a timeout and listened to Coach Smith go to work. I don’t know how many times we’ve seen it over the years, and I only had a four-year frame of reference. But Coach set up a play that everyone knew would work, and of course it did to perfection.

It was a backdoor play from George Lynch to Donald Williams. Coach told our guys what to do and what the Arkansas guys would do in response. It worked just like he drew it up. When George picked up his dribble at the top of the key, the Arkansas player expected a pass his way and broke in front of Donald to pick it off. Eric’s move supposedly to help George was significant, as he took his man with him, leaving a lane for Donald, who made a back door cut and caught George’s perfect pass for a layup.

The Cincinnati game had us a little worried in the first half when they broke on top by 15 points, 29-14. Nick Van Exel was hitting everything he looked at, including one 3-pointer falling out of bounds. We had a hand in his face most of the time, but he still made 6-of-10 three-pointers anyway.

We had rallied to cut the lead to one at the half and Coach told Derrick Phelps at halftime to stay on Van Exel and forget about helping or trapping. Derrick was walking around the locker room, saying, “He’s mine now. He’s mine now.” That shut Van Exel down and he got only two more points for the rest of the game.

A lot was made about Brian missing a dunk at the end of regulation with the game tied, but the officials said it would not have counted anyway. George got in everyone’s face in the huddle and told us we were only five minutes from New Orleans, True to his word, George refused to let us lose and Donald came through with two big three-pointers. When we finally won, 75-68, George was named MVP of the regional with 21 points, 14 rebounds and six steals in the game.

There was a little difference of opinion about whether to cut down the nets. A couple of guys wanted to but several others said no.

“Let’s wait till next week,” someone said. “We’ve got more work to do.”

We were pleased to have won. But satisfied? No way.

NEXT: Henrik Rodl’s diary of a weekend in The Big Easy.

The Unbearable Lightness of Boeing

Sixth Week:

Sitting in the Cockpit of a B-17 Bomber

There are, I admit, some perks to being in media. The first is I have near constant access to professional recording equipment for those times I feel like recording a rap. The second is that I know what Art Chansky’s going to be controversial about before anybody else** does. And the third is that, every once in a while, I get Media Access to a special event.

It’s how I got to go to opening night of PlayMakers’ Noises Off last season. It’s how I had an all-access pass to the Town of Chapel Hill’s Fourth of July Ceremony***. And it’s how today I wound up in Sanford at the Raleigh Executive Jetport for The Liberty Foundation’s Media Day at the B-17 Bomber, Memphis Belle.

Lots of bombs dropped,
Lots of Nazis downed,
Lots of gams shown.

Actually, let’s be clear here: this is not THE Memphis Belle, made famous by the 1990 movie starring Matthew Modine, Eric Stoltz, and a pre-Disney’s-Hercules Tate Donovan. No, this is “The Movie Memphis Belle” made famous by playing Memphis Belle IN the 1990 movie. Oh, AND it’s actually a Borate Bomber converted INTO a B-17 Bomber for the film because there aren’t enough B-17s left in the world for Hollywood to get their hands on****. Also, they’ve done extensive repairs to keep it well-maintained and flying.

It’s the old Ship of Theseus dilemma: if you replace all the parts of something, is it the same as the original*****?

It certainly felt like it; I got to climb all over that plane (and you know how I like to climb on things), and it was awesome. First off, The Gun Show:

No, sorry. Wrong picture. The Gun Show:

Nose Turrets: Not just street slang for cursing when you sneeze


Sperry Ball Turrets: They do all the comedy work for me.

Genuinely adorable.

And that’s not even HALF of the gunner positions onboard; there’s a reason the B-17 was called The Flying Fortress. In WWII, each plane housed 13 Browning M-2 .50 caliber machine guns and could hold up to 8000 pounds of bombs. That number rose to 17,600 pounds of bombs if they fitted the plane with a special external rack.

Yes, exactly like that.
(Photo credit:

I came THIS close to actually getting to fly in “The Movie Memphis Belle,” but we got grounded at the last second by a mechanical hiccup. The flight crew takes no chances******.

It’s actually fine; a single flight would have cost them over $1200 in fuel (at 200 gallons guzzled an hour, Belle’s really knocking them back), plus maintenance, flight staff, and other operating costs, totalling over $4500 an hour. It’s situations like this that are WHY they invented the phrase “Do you think you could chip in for gas?

My tour guide doing the B-17 equivalent of “Try cranking the engine, man.”

So, yes, it would have been cool, but I’m sure there’ll be another chance…!


The local public flights are this Saturday and Sunday, September 1 & 2, 2012.
at Raleigh Executive Jetport (700 Rod Sullivan Rd, Sanford, NC)
Flights run every 45 minutes starting at 9AM, going until Noon,
Ground Tours in the afternoon after the flights are over.
For more information and to reserve a spot, call (918) 340-0243

Now, you’re not media*******, so there is a charge. And it is a rather sizeable amount: $450.

Remember though:
1) they’re operating at a loss for that price,
2) this is kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,
3) The Liberty Foundation is a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit, so all donations are 100% tax deductible,
4) as my tour guide, Ray Fowler, said, “It’s better than putting it in a museum.”

Ray Fowler, the anti-Indiana Jones.
(Photo Credit: SP Murray)

I highly recommend checking out the public flights and tours (you can tour without flying if you’re strapped for cash) this weekend, if only to get a chance to climb around inside a piece of history…and snag your own shot like this:

** Sometimes including Art Chansky.
*** Includes two drink tickets, early entry and elevator privileges. Additional responsibilities may apply.
**** Of the 12,700 built in WWII, there are now only 12 left. Not funny. Just factual.
***** Or in this case, the original replica?
****** This is one of those sentences you’d like to think you could take for granted.
******* Ahem.

Remembering a Good Dad

This Father’s Day has an extra special meaning for me. It was 40 years ago that I left home for good, and I am thinking about my dad more than usual this week.
He died 13 years after I last lived with him, and I never said a proper goodbye. He succumbed to heart failure in the Bahamas while on vacation with my mother. Had he been stricken in the U.S., faster and better medical care might have saved or prolonged his life.
So I did not have any “last days” or weeks or months with my dad to thank him for characteristics that I now know he gave me: a quick wit and sense of humor, good salesmanship and the support he provided while other aspects of his life were falling apart. “Don’t go to strangers,” was his regular advice.
Despite a gambling problem that caused strain in his marriage and with the family, my dad never missed one of my little league, junior high or high school football and baseball games. At some point, I noticed him sitting off to the side in the folding beach chair he carried in his station wagon.
It was not uncommon for us to be playing catch in the backyard on a spring or summer Sunday morning, when he said, “You want to go to the ball game?” So we hopped in his car and drove into Boston, where tickets to old Fenway Park were cheap and easy to get because the Red Sox were pretty bad in those days.
We were there for Ted Williams’ last home game and part of the small crowd that saw Williams hit a home run in his final Major League at-bat. Often at odds with the media and fans, Williams doffed his cap as he crossed home plate and entered retirement when the season ended that day.
I don’t ever remember hugging my dad or telling him I loved him. That was long before the touchy-feely era of father-son relationships. But I felt his love from the attention he paid me. He liked taking me along on his salesman routes during school vacations, and on other days he came home with stories from being “on the road”.
One evening he said he had eaten his first “square hamburger” for lunch at a new restaurant named Wendy’s. Ever since I was old enough to pick my place, Wendy’s has been my favorite fast-food joint.
He had served in the Army and although he never went overseas, he always pointed out the hole in his stomach that he called a “shrapnel wound.” Later, I learned it was where they took out his appendix after he got out of the service. That was his “war story.”
His addiction was for the horses, and some years he lost most of the money he had made as a successful salesman. There were nights when he didn’t come home, and my mother covered for him by saying he was up in Maine or Vermont calling on customers.  I eventually learned he was too ashamed to show his face.
We lived through one incident that, years later, seemed like an episode from the Soprano’s. I came home from school on Thursday and my mother was upstairs packing my suitcase. She said we were going to Florida that night, when the trip wasn’t supposed to be until school vacation the next week.
Off we went, my brother and me sitting in the back seat, and we traveled the old Route 1 and the parts of Interstate 95 that were finished until arriving in Miami two days later. My father was gone every day that week, supposedly calling on customers. But my brother and I knew his territory was New England.
It turned out he was at Hialeah race track, and he had a good week. He won enough to pay off the loan sharks who were pressuring him, which is why we skipped town a few days early. He was in a much better mood on the drive home. That story came out after he died, when we were old enough to hear it from my mother and safe from Tony Soprano’s hit men.
Later in life, my father joined Gamblers Anonymous and actually got his addiction under control. Part of his recovery was taking my mother along to the race track under the agreement that they had a limit to bet and had to leave when ten bucks were gone. The last big fight I heard of them having was because my mother wanted to go back to the window for one more race, and he would not let her.
Children of alcoholics, gamblers and other addictions usually go one way or the other. They follow the imprinting they received from their parents or abstain completely. For me, I placed a few bets on pro sports as a young man and played in a couple of college poker games. I don’t think I ever won a single wager or hand. Since then, I have had zero interest in gambling, except for a few bucks on the golf course each weekend.
That did change last November when I was in Las Vegas, where gambling is legal at the sports books of almost every big hotel and casino. Thinking I knew something about college basketball, I got on a roll and won four straight bets, three times for teams to cover the point spread and once for an upset.
Then I got greedy and went back for one more round of bets. I doubled down on a team I was sure would cover and sat there and watched on the banks of TVs as it played like it had bet on the other team! I lost everything I had won, except for cab fare to the airport.
On that ride, I thought of my dad and we had a private laugh together. In his own way, he taught me not to do what he did. And although we never got to say a proper goodbye, I have plenty of poignant memories from life with a good father.

The Rite of Spring at 100

The Carolina Performing Arts presented a sneak peek of their 2012-2013 schedule to a gathering of their most ardent supporters last Wednesday evening May 16, 2012 at Memorial Hall on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus. Executive Director, Emil Kang, took us all on a historical journey to 100 years ago. Here in the United States the Girl Scouts had just been founded by Juliette Gordon Low and the famous cherry trees were being planted by the hundreds in Washington, DC. Meanwhile across the Atlantic in Paris, France a shocking and revolutionary artistic performance would be about to radically change music, ballet and art forever.

Kang animatedly explained to us all about the night of May 29, 1912 at the premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring.” The piece is about ancient rituals that mankind traditionally used to supplant the land and spirits to produce abundance as they emerged from winter to spring. The work displayed outrageous costumes, unusual choreography and a disconcerting story line about the pagan sacrifice of a young girl to appease the Gods. Everything about it was different– Stravinsky’s score featured a bassoon solo played in a higher range than anyone else had ever done; the ballet choreography was the reverse of the basic position with feet turned in rather than out; and it is said that the dissonant harmonies and jarring, irregular rhythms invoked an actual riot among the audience. 

Carolina Performing Arts is presenting Rite 100 in partnership with The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s College of Arts and Sciences and Institute for the Arts and Humanities. This celebration will feature 11 new works, nine world premieres (yes, you read that right!) and two U.S. premieres by some of the most talented artists of today. The people who attended the event on May 16 are supporters of the arts who, along with The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and The William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust, make it possible for a quaint town like Chapel Hill to be revered arts destination. The Rite of Spring shattered everyone’s expectations as will, I believe, this year’s incredible line-up of performances at Memorial Hall.

Be sure to view the new schedule or support Carolina Performing Arts.

Raymond B. Farrow, III, the Director of Development and Strategic Initiatives with Betty Kenan.

From left to right Betsy Hayes, Cliff Butler and Mary Moore.

Chapelboro’s own Jan Bollick and Art Chansky.

From left to right Susan Slatkoff, Ron Strauss, Emil Kang and Bruce Carney.

From left to right WCHL owners Barry Leffler and Jim Heavner with Woody Coley.

Be sure to look for this amazing bus around Chapelboro!

Thanks for reading! I am always looking for great photo stories to tell in the Chapelboro area. If you know of someone or something that should be documented please write to me at

LaLa Land Opus

LOS ANGELES — Despite 3,000 miles between us and seemingly 3 million people swarming this city, there were signs of home everywhere.  

Mitch Kupchak, the former UNC star (1976 ACC Player of the Year) and current general manager of the LA Lakers, is under fire for doing nothing about a franchise in turmoil and is rumored to be quitting or retiring after this season.

But what can he do?

The team that won back-to-back NBA championships in 2009 and 2010 under Phil Jackson has a new coach (LeBron’s old coach in Cleveland, Mike Brown) and is being run by owner Jerry Buss’ two sons and one daughter, and all together, they have attained the dreadful dysfunctional label.  

Kobe is unhappy, and it goes far beyond his impending mega multi-million dollar divorce.  Before the strike-shortened season began, he thought he had a new point guard, ex-Wake Forest star Chris Paul, who played his first four seasons in New Orleans.  But NBA Commissioner David Stern nixed the trade for reasons still not fully explained. Apparently, the Lakers would have been too good with perennial NBA All-Star Paul at the point.  

So what happened?  Paul winds up being traded to LA’s stepchild franchise, the Clippers, who play in the same Staples Center before a common-man crowd, compared to the show-time stars and starlets who arrive late and leave early to be seen at Laker games.  

I watched the Clippers beat the Denver Nuggets Wednesday night behind 36 points from Paul and 27 from high-flying center Blake Griffin.  

(If you want to play the Kevin Bacon game, Griffin was the Oklahoma All-American who lost his last college game in the 2009 Elite Eight to the Tar Heels, who went on to win the NCAA Championship. That Oklahoma team was coached by Jeff Capel, the former Dukie, whose brother Jason played for UNC and now coaches Appalachian State.  Jeff has since been fired at Oklahoma and is now back on the Duke Bench as one of the 7 or so suits who flank Mike Krzyzewski.)

The Nuggets are coached by Carolina favorite George Karl, who, at 60, has just finished his second gruesome battle with neck and throat cancer. He is looking comparatively svelte, coaching a no-name but talented team that runs, runs and runs (and lately loses) most of its games. UNC’s Ty Lawson, Karl’s bullet point guard, missed the Clippers loss with a sprained ankle.  

“We’re playing well, but the losing is killing me,” Karl said before the Clippers game. Relatively speaking; when you’ve beaten the Big C twice, the W’s aren’t quite as important in the grand scheme.  

Karl will be remembered by old-time Tar Heels as the pepperpot point guard who led Dean Smith’s star-studded 1972 team to the Final Four right here before losing to Florida State, which had yet to join the ACC.  

The Clippers and Lakers are separated by one game in their NBA division and waging a “city series” not unlike close-proximity college or high-school rivals. They have become the biggest games in town, both teams selling out the Staples Center nearly every time they play.  

Meanwhile, college basketball here has been moved to the back page or below the fold.  

UCLA, which once dominated the collegiate game and Southern California sports, has struggled with a lineup that has Tar Heel defectors David and Travis Wear and Larry Drew II.  The Bruins, who had a great run of Final Four appearances a few years ago, are in jeopardy of not making the NCAA tournament this season.

Ironically, their best chance is to win the Pac-12 tournament in early March that will be played in the Staples Center on one of the rare weekends when Kupchak, Kobe, the Lakers; Paul, Griffin, and the Clippers, will all be out of town.   

(Editor’s Note: This column was dictated to Hollywood stuntman Alex Chansky, the author’s nephew, because the author broke his computer and does not know how to use one of these high-falutin’ Macs!)