Chansky’s Notebook: Bigger In Death

Jimmy V continues to be bigger in death than in life.

Ever wonder why sports writers of Jim Valvano’s vintage are rarely caught upchucking with praise over him as more than the former N.C. State basketball coach and funny man? That’s because those who were in Valvano’s peer group see the irony, and perhaps paradox, in how Jimmy V’s life changed literally and figuratively when he was diagnosed with cancer in 1992.

Valvano was a rogue, to put it mildly, as a coach who put himself first in almost everything he did. After taking the Cardiac Pack to the 1983 NCAA championship, he talked his way into the athletic directorship in West Raleigh. Neither job lasted very long after rumors and then charges of rules violations surrounded him and his program. For the two years before his fatal diagnosis, V had his own ESPN road show, where he owned every room he entered.

Yes, it was tragic that he got sick, but that’s when the irony began and has continued to bestow near-sainthood on Jimmy V.  In his “Never Give Up” speech that they still ram down our throats 23 years later, Valvano praises Mike Krzyzewski for being such a good friend for the last few months of his life. Why not before? That’s because those who covered them both know they were far from close, much more fierce competitors with diametrically opposing styles. In spring of ’93, Krzyzewski WAS by his side during his dying months at Duke, which to me says more about Coach K than it does about Coach V.

Even the Jimmy V Foundation has turned out to be somewhat of a fraud, part of the growing notion that cancer research is dedicated to treatment but not to prevention or cure, lest the world’s economy would crumble in a multi-billion-dollar meltdown. Books and dozens of articles have been written on the theory, which makes financial if not moral sense. In the micro, the Jimmy V non-profit has undergone several investigations over just where all the money raised has gone.

So whenever his famous ESPY’s speech comes on, I can’t help but wonder what we’d think of Valvano today had he never gotten ill.

Chansky’s Notebook: Remembering Bruce Jenner

This is today’s Art Chansky’s Sports Notebook as heard on 97.9 WCHL. You can listen to previous Sports Notebooks here.

Say what you must about Caitlyn Jenner winning the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage Wednesday night on the ESPY’s. Heart-warming that this transgender has finally found her true inner self?  Freak show that cheapens those who have won the award for acts of courage toward others, like Dean Smith? Or just a big WHAT- EVER publicity stunt? Jesse Helms would have loved this girl-guy!

I prefer thinking about BRUCE Jenner, one of the most popular athletes in the country after winning the gold medal in the decathlon at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, where by the way, Smith led the U.S. men’s basketball team to its own gold medal. So, for the moment, let’s talk about her in the male gender.

Bruce Jenner was born in 1949, in Mount Kisco, New York. He had dyslexia and struggled in school at a young age, but excelled at sports such as water skiing, football, basketball and track. He accepted a football scholarship from Graceland College in Iowa, but after a knee injury took him out of that game, he concentrated on track and field. His college track coach, L.D. Weldon, convinced Jenner to train for the Olympic decathlon. Little did either know that Jenner would go on to become one of the most beloved athletes of the 1970s.

Jenner mastered the 10-sport decathlon, a grueling combination of track and field events where on Day One athletes compete in the 100 meters, long jump, shot put, high jump and 400 meters; on Day Two comes 110 meter hurdles, Discus throw, pole vault, javelin toss and the dramatic 1500 meters.

Weldon encouraged him to train for the 1972 Summer Games, and Jenner placed third in the Olympic trials to qualify and tenth in Munich, where by the way the U.S. men’s basketball team got screwed out of the gold medal. At Montreal four years later, Jenner scored 8,634 points to win the gold and set a new world record and become one of the famous athletes on the planet.

In subsequent years, Jenner appeared with his family on the reality show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and this year revealed in a Diane Sawyer interview that he is a transgender and identifies as a female. In June, Jenner announced on Twitter that she is a woman known as Caitlyn. The circus of publicity followed.

This may be her biggest battle, but I will always remember HIS golden moment.

UNC Well Represented At 2013 ESPYS

LOS ANGELES – In the annual ESPYS Awards show on ESPN Wednesday night, UNC was the only school in the country with two nominees (two of the four as a matter of fact) for an ESPY as Best Female College Athlete of the year.

Kara Cannizzaro of the Tar Heel lacrosse team and Crystal Dunn, of women’s soccer, each led their teams to the national championships in their respective sports.

The winner was Brittney Griner, of Baylor basketball, who led her team to the 2012 National Championship.

The winners are chosen in a vote of fans and announced in an Oscar-like ESPN telecast from Los Angeles.