Fans Send Tar Heels to Final Four

UNC fans gathered outside of the Dean E. Smith Center on Wednesday evening to wish the Tar Heels luck as they prepare to take on the No. 10 Syracuse Orange in the Final Four in Houston this weekend.

The North Carolina Tar Heels are the only No. 1 seed remaining in the NCAA Tournament.

Carolina is heading to the Final Four for a record 19th time.

The Tar Heels have been led by one of the best seasons in UNC history from Brice Johnson; the senior forward has been named first-team All-America by the Associated Press, US Basketball Writers Association and the National Association of Basketball Coaches. Johnson is also one of five players who have been invited to Los Angeles for the Wooden Award presentation on April 8; the award is given annually to the nation’s most outstanding basketball player.

UNC will face Syracuse in the second game on Saturday night after the festivities get started with a matchup of two No. 2 seeds, Villanova and Oklahoma.

Fracking will affect air & water quality in the Triangle

Triangle residents may not realize that fracking areas run through Wake, Durham, Chatham, Orange, and Lee counties, affecting the water supply of 2.4 million people.  This map shows watersheds and fracking areas (slide 2 at this link).

North Carolina has the least separation between water and natural gas layers of rock, where fracking fluids could irreversibly pollute the water supply.  Some fracking fluids contain 93 times more benzene than diesel.   ProPublica identified 1,000+ documented cases of water contamination nationwide near fracking sites prior to 2009.   In Houston, there is more air pollution from fracking than cars!  A Texas hospital reported asthma rates 3x higher than the state average in counties with drilling sites, with one-quarter of children having asthma.  A new shale health office has opened in Pennsylvania.  For 387 mostly temporary jobs and a five year supply of low-priced natural gas in NC, the current legislature is willing to sell out our air and water quality.

I am afraid we will open a Pandora’s Box if we allow fracking in our state. Health problems seen at the new shale health clinic in PA are suspiciously similar to those that caused the mayor of Dish, TX to move out of his own town where he allowed fracking – the severe nosebleeds of his kids. All the different Ethyl Methyl Deathyl chemicals fracking puts into the air are not a happy addition to our already ozone-polluted air in NC. The industry will have jurisdiction over municipalities on this, where municipalities have no control. Our watersheds are exactly where the shale rock is located.

If other states have not been able to make fracking work without creating health problems, what makes us think it can be done safely in ours?

Governor Perdue’s veto early this week is the only thing that can stop this.

What are your thoughts? Is North Carolina different from PA and TX? Is Governor Perdue going to make the right decision? Let us know in the Comments below.

Fantasy Football Tips: Week 2 of the NFL Regular Season

Many postulated Week 1 of the NFL would be an interesting one with multiple records tied and even shattered – it certainly did not disappoint.  Now that Fanagers have the first match up of the year under their belts, it is time to prepare for Week 2. Whether Week 1 left you with woes or wins (I locked down 3 of the latter; that’s right 3-0 to start off the year!), there are several lessons that should be taken away from last week, and more than a few that should not as you set forth in your line up determinations this weekend.
Veterans still deserve the benefit of the doubt. Sure, some players did disappoint, including some of the most historically productive and reliable players (I’m talking to you Chris Johnson), but this is a new week and Week 1 performances should be taken with a grain of salt. There are a variety of reasons that may have kept your studs from delivering their typical noteworthy peformances last week that are not likely to have the same effect this week, e.g. reprimand for contract hold-outs (still talking to you Chris Johnson) or an apparent unawareness that the season has started (Pittsburgh Steelers). Big Ben (Roethlisberger) started the season off with an abysmal performance against the Ravens last week, but I think it is fair to say that the odds of the Seahawks coming into the Steelers’ house and shutting them down in the same fashion are unlikely. So, just because one of your normally high-scoring players may have “dropped the ball” last week (pun totally intended), doesn’t mean that they should ride the bench this week.
By the same token, a solid performance in Week 1 does not guarantee equal or greater success in Week 2. I am not just talking about Cam Newton’s record-breaking rookie debut against a questionable Arizona secondary. Injuries, previous performances, opponents, and game strategy will factor into whether or not repeat performances will be seen.  Arian Foster looks to be back for the Texans this week (although how big a role he will play will depend on how thoroughly he has recovered from his hamstring issue), which will likely reduce the productivity of Ben Tate as well as Derrick Ward. Moreover, I think we can all agree that we would be shocked to see Chad Henne come through with the second-best Fantasy performance again this week, no offense to Dolphins fans.
Also, if you are going to start using statistics this week to plan your line up, be sure that you incorporate last year’s numbers or rankings into the equation as a single game will not be an accurate predictor for most teams’ success thoroughout the season. Houston was ranked 30th in overall defense last year, but after their Week 1 match against a Peyton Manning-less Colts team, they now are ranked 5th for the 2011 season. Whether their jump from the worst ranked passing defense in 2010 to the 9th ranked PD last week was due to Manning’s absence or substantial improvements made by the Texans in the off-season will be left for Houston to decide this week (although I think we know this answer).
Be conservative on the waiver wire, especially if waiver order is determined based on the number of player additions. Don’t forfeit a great waiver position unless the player you want to add is really worth it. You never know how an unknown player will consistently compete; plus, someone new may emerge this weekend who you want even more, but if you give up the early waiver preference then you may have to wait in line.
Finally, keep watching. The first 4 weeks are critical to select supplemental players that will help you make it through the upcoming Bye weeks (starting in Week 5), or possibly sooner in the unfortunate case that your team is riddled with injury or unproductive players. Just as the sun will rise, so will new talent in the NFL, and just as certain, old talents will fall.
As you head into this weekend, don’t be discouraged no matter where you stand after Week 1. As Malcolm Forbes said, “Failure is success if we learn from it”; perhaps someone should have passed that along to the Vikings.

The Butch Davis Experiment

For the accomplished chemist, Holden Thorp, the first phase of the “Butch Davis Experiment” went off like another everyday application of E = mc2. With mass, energy and velocity, Carolina sent James Madison hurtling into the September night.
For whatever reasons, some of which we may never know, UNC’s young chancellor jettisoned his four-year head coach a week before practice started and hoped it would result in addition by subtraction. Thorp admittedly knows a lot more chemistry than football, but the experiment worked like magic from the opening kick.
With Davis a guest in one of the suites of the $70 million Blue Zone he force-fed on the university, his spirit apparently was far more helpful than his presence on the sideline, where his last call of regulation in the Music City Bowl set off a Chinese fire drill that somehow resulted in one more play and eventually a win in overtime (college football has since closed that loophole like they do in the NFL with something that could affectionately be called the “Butch Davis 10-Second Run-off Rule”).
Whether Thorp considered the distraction Davis’ continued presence might have caused as much as the pain and suffering already inflicted on a proud university, banishing Butch left what appeared to be a totally focused football team with a first-year head coach and rookie quarterback operating like Belichick and Brady. They were both that good.
Everett Withers slid into the big chair like it had been fitted and waiting on him for years, and Bryn Renner had to make fans wonder if the Tar Heels might have been better than 7-5 in the 2010 regular season had four-year starter T.J. Yates not taken every freakin’ snap but TWO. Sure, the Heels were terrific under severe adversity, but more-consistent quarterbacking might have beaten LSU, Georgia Tech, Miami and/or N.C. State a year ago.
Renner, whose father coaches Davis’ kid at East Chapel Hill, never got the chance to start for Drew Davis’ dad, but he looked like a seasoned vet under Withers, who will be on a fall quest to have the “Interim” removed from his title. Renner sought out his new head coach after going 22-for-23 in his college debut, and they shared an embrace they said was dedicated to Davis, who brought them both to Chapel Hill.
Yes, the Experiment is working so far despite the misplaced martyr-ism.
Withers got a few camera shots, about the same as JMU’s losing coach Mickey Matthews, and Davis was only a sidebar rather than the sideshow for the Fox Sports TV announcers. Basically, what it was – as Andy Griffith used to say – was football on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in not-so-quaint Kenan Stadium, where a few thousand empty seats replaced what used to be about the same number of tall, pristine pines peeking into the east end zone.
The monstrosity sits, opulent inside and out, as testimony to the emphasis on Carolina football. The de-emphasis belongs to the people who have yet to buy the seats and fill up the so-called Butch Mahal. More than one person wondered what happened to those classic clay barrel roof tiles from the demolished old field house. Will they be auctioned off at the next Ram’s Club fund-raiser to help pay down the debt?
If head-coaching is overrated on Saturday, Thorp’s formula will be on the blackboard at his next chemistry lecture (do chancellors sometimes still do that?). Withers repeatedly praised the preparation turned in by the “great coaches” on the Carolina staff, and Renner not only played like a pro but he handled the post-game media with both humility and confidence (which is some tough concoction to pull off), as a well as personality fans will come to adore.
In short, and several players said as much, Saturday was about playing football in front of a great crowd on Labor Day weekend, U-N-C trumping N-C-A-A in the alphabet wars of the current craziness that has become college football. Besides Renner, there was a deep and talented backfield the size of Houston and a fleet of fleet receivers who ran for daylight and, after catching everything thrown to them, glory. 
Davis certainly did not depart leaving the cupboard bare, even with a handful of guys who missed an armful of games. The “O” and “D” lines looked dominating, the LBs as active as the bigger names we came to know and the young secondary good enough (though they will be tested against better downfield passing teams in weeks to come).
After the game, everyone said the right things, and none of the wrong questions that would have continued to plague Davis were posed. Praised by Withers and his former players, who say they will paint up the game ball and give it to their old coach, Davis may not realize that he wound up watching from on high as a sympathetic character he never could have been still stalking the sideline.
It’s only Week 1, but the day went as perfectly as a coach or chemist could have drawn it up.
Somewhere, Holden Thorp is wearing a well-deserved smile. So far, it looks like he’s found the right formula.
Don’t you think?