Lail: Crying Over Spilled Milk

One of the perks of living in Raleigh is the ability to attend the Chuck Amato radio show, which takes place each Wednesday evening at Bobby Murray Chevrolet on Capital Boulevard.

It's an interesting mix of people that come out for the show, all of them diehard Wolfpack fans (and 95 percent of them wearing red, apparently not caring that they are attending a RADIO show, not a TV show).

There are two things that make it worth your while to attend one of the shows as opposed to just listening on the radio. The first reason is the ability to watch the coach's facial expressions change according to the nature of the phone calls - something you just can't experience while driving in your car.

The other reason is the food. Did I mention it was from Bojangles? Did I also mention that it's free?

So it knocked me back a bit last week about an hour before the show was set to begin when my friend's wife went up to get some Italian Ice (which is also free) and came back with a bemused look on her face.

"I feel so bad for the Italian Ice guy," she said. "He said people were complaining about his flavors this week."

And with that, her husband - as loyal a State fan as there has ever been - sighed, grimaced and shook his head and asked, "When did our fans become so whiney?"

This friend of mine would be the first to admit that it's a stretch to categorize EVERY NC State fan as whiney. Certainly every school and every team has fans that complain about every alleged bad call that the officials make. Lord knows I've heard fans in the stands calling for a change at quarterback - and this was last year when the quarterback was a guy named Philip Rivers.

There have certainly been enough reasons, especially in the past few years, for Wolfpack fans to feel jaded. The connotation of being whiney is that the one doing the complaining truly has no reason to be whiney; there's no leg to stand on, so to speak. Is it fair to call someone out as being "whiney" when they're complaining about the flavors of free food? Absolutely. It is also unfair to call all Pack fans "whiney" following Saturday's never-will-we-soon-forget loss at North Carolina.

There's really no need to go back over what happened in the closing seconds of UNC's 30-24 win over the Pack. Depending upon where you were sitting in Kenan Stadium, whether or not you were able to watch the game on TV, or which team you were pulling for, the "facts" may never be conclusive. On Sunday evening, about 20 hours after the game's end, I saw three different camera angles on the evening news, one from Time Warner's feed, the other two from local newscasts' on-the-field cameramen, and I came away with three different conclusions: 1) T.A. McLendon scored a touchdown, 2) McLendon didn't score a touchdown, and 3) I don't know what to believe anymore.

What we do know is this: State still had one, and possibly two chances to score after the six points were taken off the scoreboard and didn't; and the game will go down in the record books as a win for Carolina and a loss for State. It will also go down as a black eye for ACC officiating, not necessarily for (allegedly) bungling the call, but for the way the crew handled it. As one veteran sports columnist wrote after the game, "Saturday night, I saw a good argument for instant replay in Atlantic Coast Conference football."

It is still baffling to think that the State-Carolina game, a rivalry of that magnitude, was not broadcast on network television, which, in the end, may have proved beneficial to Jim Knight and his officiating crew. There were no almost-instant replays for the fans at home to see. There was no play-by-play or color commentator to slow down the footage and circle where McLendon's knee allegedly hit the ground (or didn't) and to chastise the referees. All fans watching on TV could do was the same thing the fans watching in Chapel Hill could do: wonder what the heck happened.

There are worse things in the world than losing a football game, even if it is one to your rival (and even if that rival played a whale of a game and deserves congratulations for that). But at the same time, it's also OK to feel gypped every once in a while, to wonder why. It's doubtful anyone feels worse than McLendon, Jay Davis, Amato, et al, but those players and coaches have to be able to put that loss behind them and get ready for another potential down-to-the-wire game with the other hated team, the Maryland Terrapins.

The fans, however, don't have to move on quite yet. There are still a few days left to mull over what happened and wonder why. And it is sure to be THE topic of conversation Wednesday night at the Chuck Amato radio show where folks will hopefully enjoy their free food and make no complaints about it.

ACC Rankings - One Man's Opinion
1. Miami: Hurricanes face a litmus test from Louisville.
2. Virginia: Wahoos have looked like the most impressive ACC team so far, but they've managed to do that almost completely in the friendly confines of Carl Smith Center, home of David A. Harrison III Field at Scott Stadium on the campus of Thomas Jefferson's University of Virginia.
3. Florida State: Seminoles' stranglehold on "their" league will be tested by UVa.
4. Maryland: Terps should be focused squarely on the Wolfpack after faltering against Georgia Tech ...
5. NC State: ... while the Wolfpack has to find a way to put the UNC loss behind and squarely focus on the Terps. Shouldn't be hard, considering State's recent fortunes against Ralph Friedgen's team.
6. Virginia Tech: Hokies had to find a way to beat Wake Forest or Tech's season would've been figuratively over.
7. Georgia Tech: Winning in College Park is never easy, and the Chan Man's squad showed others just how you do it.
8. North Carolina: At No. 8 - and with a bullet. Tar Heels are quietly putting together a solid season.
9. Wake Forest: Deacons, unfortunately, keep finding ways to lose.
10. Clemson: Wonder if the Clemson administration is starting to regret that whole Tommy Bowden contract extension idea?
11. Duke: In the whacky world that is the ACC, would it really surprise anyone if the Devils went down to Georgia and beat the Bees?

This Week's Games
NC State at Maryland:
The Terps have been a thorn in the Pack's side the past four years, always finding a way to snatch victory from the wolves' jaws of defeat. With both teams coming off disappointing losses, you can expect a hard-hitting, intense contest which should again go down to the last minutes. Maryland has been very good at home (with the exception of last week's loss to Georgia Tech), but State's offense continues to get more balanced, and the Pack already has one close win on the road, at a much tougher place, Virginia Tech. Still, as tempting as it is to pick NCSU to win, it's almost too hard to think the Fridge will let his team lose twice in a row at home. "We Must Protect This House" 35, "Wolfpack In The House" 28

Louisville at Miami (Thursday): The Cardinals managed to sneak into Kenan Stadium last month and completely dismantle North Carolina. While Miami doesn't appear to be as talented as the Miami teams of yore, it still isn't Carolina. And the Orange Bowl is a wee bit more intimidating than Kenan. Miami 27, Louisville 14

Duke at Georgia Tech: The Blue Devils are probably feeling good about themselves following a win over The Citadel. Tech is probably feeling great about itself after a win at Maryland. The Jackets get the edge in this edition of the "Ted Roof Bowl." Georgia Tech 24, Duke 13

Florida A&M at Virginia Tech: Two of the most unique mascots in college football go head to head. In normal life a rattler would dispense easily of a bunch of turkeys. In this case, however, these Gobblers are much too fast and strong for these Rattlers. VPI & SU 44, FAMU 17

Utah State at Clemson: Statistically, the two teams are pretty even, with Clemson giving up more yards per game but Utah State giving up more points. The difference may be the fact that Tommy Bowden's back is against the wall. Clemson 27, Utah State 21

Virginia at Florida State: The first of what could be several "Games of the Year" in the ACC. UVa has looked formidable so far; FSU has looked beatable. Don't expect the Seminoles to give up their hold on the league just yet. FSU 32, Virginia 28

North Carolina at Utah: Perhaps lost in the hubbub of UNC's 30-24 win over State is the fact that the Tar Heels are beginning to look like a balanced team. The offense is there, the defense is there, and the special teams are there. UNC will need all three to beat a pesky Utes squad. Utah 30, UNC 27

Prognostication Record So Far (based on picking the correct winner only): 30-6 (1-3 last week)

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