Lail: The Joys of Being a Fan

The phone rang at my office Monday morning, and the voice on the other end sounded vaguely familiar: high-pitched, raspy, Italian.

Was Chuck Amato actually calling me?

Nah. Turns out it was a friend, phoning to welcome me back home from vacation and (the real reason) to voice his concern for the (sad) state of N.C. State football.

"My voice sounds like this because I spent all day Saturday yelling," he hoarsely admitted. Not the good kind of yelling, either, he explained. Bad, unhappy yelling due to the events of the N.C. State-Georgia Tech game.

As I described last year in this same space, there is something healthy and cathartic about going on vacation to a place where you're not constantly reminded of football scores (or in the case of this latest jaunt, campaign ads). Throw in the fact that I was nowhere near ESPN or the 'Net, and I had a recipe for complete relaxation for an entire week. I didn't know what had transpired in the world of Wolfpack football from the Clemson game to the Georgia Tech game, and that was good, in hindsight. The last glimpse I had of a score before I boarded a plane two Saturdays ago showed State in a 3-3 deadlock at Death Valley in the first half. I knew nothing of the anguish that would follow, or of the (all-too-familiar) roller-coaster ride of the game versus the Yellow Jackets.

I was lucky.

Unfortunately, the friends I left behind, the ones who actually witnessed the two games weren't so lucky.

"I don't expect national championships or even an ACC championship," another friend and Pack fan wrote in an email. "I expect to be competitive every week. My biggest issue right now is that we have more talent than every team we have played except for Miami, and we are 4-5. That means the players are not executing a game plan and strategy that allows us to win. And, bottom line, that is the coaches' fault."

He went on.

"If I see one more penalty that 8-year-olds playing Pop Warner don't make, I am going to remove my head and chuck it Sleepy Hollow-style at the Ichabod Crane coach who is responsible for that position."

One of the fascinating aspects of fanaticism is the way fans begin to nit-pick at relatively innocuous aspects when the on-the-field or on-court performances began to sour. For the past several years, some Pack fans have complained about the lack of red in basketball coach Herb Sendek's game day attire.

"Why can't he just wear a red tie?" they have asked.

The fact of the matter is if Sendek were to lead the Pack to the Final Four, no one would really care if he wore a pink tunic or a rainbow wig or even one of those beer can helmets. Just win, baby.

Which brings us back to Amato.

"You know what? Just wear normal shoes and take off the sunglasses! Who wears sunglasses at night?" stated my raspy-voiced friend on Monday.

As for nit-picking, another friend wrote "As far as the Walk of Champions, it is time to scrap the whole thing. It was weak when were good and it is downright pathetic now that we suck."

The good news for Amato is that some success can quickly turn away the hounds - sort of.

"Herb is looking better on a daily basis," said one friend. "Besides that I feel great."

ACC Rankings - One Man's Opinion
1. Virginia: I, for one, thought the Cavaliers were over-rated in the preseason and given too much hype in the early part of the season. Shows you how much I know.
2. Florida State: Seminoles are about two plays away from being undefeated and in the top three in the nation. Of course, so are some other teams.
3. Virginia Tech: Hokies have to be wondering how in the world they lost at home to the Wolfpack.
4. Miami: The Hurricanes' first season in the league wasn't supposed to go like this.
5. (tie) Clemson, Georgia Tech and North Carolina: It's hard to tell these three teams apart. They each have nice wins and some bad losses. But all three are better than the teams below them but not as good as the four teams ahead. Simple as that.
8. N.C. State: A disappointing year all around. And Philip Rivers isn't even getting any playing time in San Diego. Sigh.
9. Maryland: Terps are here because they lost to the Pack.
10. Wake Forest: This season could've developed into so much more for Jim Grobe's team, but Wake just doesn't have the horses to compete.
11. Duke: Just another Blue Devil-kind of year.

This Week's Games
North Carolina at Wake Forest:
Wake has had the Tar Heels' number in recent years, and this year's game could go the same way. However, UNC is playing with supreme confidence - something that Wake is grasping for. UNC 28, Wake 21

Clemson at Duke: The Blue Devils have put together some gutsy performances this season, only to fall short in the second half. Expect the same this time around. Clemson 27, Duke 10

UConn at Georgia Tech: This game could bite the Jackets in the behind if they're not careful. Tech 21, UConn 17

Miami at Virginia: Most thought all along that this could be the game to shake up the ACC standings. But who knew that it would have to be Miami winning to shake things up? There is little doubt that this is the biggest game in UVa history. Having said that, it's hard to believe that Larry Coker will allow his team to lose three straight. Miami 35, Virginia 28

Prognostication Record So Far (based on picking the correct winner only): 40-7 (4-0 last time, pre-vacation)

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