I consider myself very fortunate because journalism has been very good to me. Not because I've made a lot of money doing it (I haven't), or because I've made a lot of friends doing it (I haven't), but because it has done wonders for my mental health.
I grew up an NC State fan. From September until March (April if I was lucky) I would spend a large percentage of my days pulling for the Pack at either Carter-Finley or Reynolds. Those were magical times, but also extremely stressful. A child can age drastically pulling for a team that when it wins, it usually does so in dramatic fashion, and when they lose they do so in equally dramatic fashion. If you see a gray-haired 10-year-old walking around, the odds are he's a State fan.
But I learned to be objective during my years at NC State because I had to be. As a writer and then sports editor of Technician, I was prohibited from showing any signs of support for the Pack either on press row or in the press box. That turned out to be a very good thing. I learned to not fly off the handle after a State loss or get overly confident after a State win. I learned to take games (here's that cliche' again) "one game at a time."
And in that "take it game-by-game" journalist journey I also realized that talking smack was not for me. Now, I was never an avid smack-talker (and when I did do it, it was pretty weak anyway), but it usually came back to bite me in the, uh, posterior. Basically, I learned it's all about the Karma. Don't write checks your butt can't cash.
That's why I was shocked when I came across this (unedited) nugget on a Clemson message board last week prior to Thursday's State game against Clemson:
"Clemson's all time record against the pack is 44-25-1. You can say that it's a new year, but that's having your asses handed to you on a consistant basis. . I will compare you by saying that you guys have alot in common with our rivals in Columbia. You're so starved for a winning tradition, that when you have an 8-0 record over a much easier schedule, you guys start believing the hype. If the Pack is defeated this Thursday, it won't be an upset in my sights. It is being played in Death Valley, and 2 of 3 Clemson losses came to top 10 teams that we clearly outplayed. Special teams and turnovers decided the outcome. Virginia out played and out coached Clemson. . Clemson 34- Pack 27."
And this one:
"CLEMSON OWNS NCSU AND ALWAYS WILL!"
"I don't fear there running game as last year we were able to hold them in check."
So what happened? NC State owned Clemson to the tune of 38-6, and the State running game amassed 240 yards. Oh, and the Pack special teams got in on the action, too.
Instant Karma's gonna get you... Gonna look you right in the face.
Tiger fans weren't the first group to predict gloom and doom for the Pack this year, and they certainly won't be the last (CNNSI.com's Ivan Maisel has that market cornered). However, at this point in the season, don't you think other fans would realize that the whole no-respect theme is playing right into Chuck Amato's hands? Apparently not. Check out these bites from a Georgia Tech message board:
"What sweet joy next Sat. will bring when the Bees play four quarters of solid football and knock these pretenders on their arse!"
"They might beat us this Saturday, but NC State Football is the very definition of mediocre."
"NC States Defense is weak against the run and pass we must exploit them."
Instant Karma's gonna get you... Gonna knock you off your feet.
It should be noted that just as many, if not more, Clemson and Tech fans objectively discussed their respective games with the Pack, and I'm sure several "bad apple" State fans vomited at the mouth on message boards as well, and that's unfortunate. Somehow, at some time, Karma will prevail. Hopefully, for State's sake, it will prevail for yet another time on Saturday. And as if the Pack needed any further motivation, check out this one last nugget from a Tech fan:
"You know, Raleigh is really a beautiful college town...TOO BAD we're going to stink the city up for NC State Sat!!! Let's put our war paint on and hunt some wolf! Let's have them running in the streets dazed and confuzed with their tails between their legs this weekend! Let's all get Psyched!!!!! We can do it! After all, we've only won 6 out of the last 7 or so right?? And yes, they had Rivers last year too...they should be frightened, they have more to lose Sat...so lets rain on their parade!"
As Mr. Lennon sang: Come and get your share.
ACC Standings - One Man's Opinion
- NC State: Pack can thank Clemson for State's strength of schedule moving up... all the way from 86th to 85th!
- Florida State: Turmoil in tomahawk land.
- Maryland: Terps are putting pressure on the Noles and Pack.
- Virginia: The Cavs' second-half magic ran out against Tech - sort of.
- Wake Forest: Deacs may be getting FSU at the perfect time.
- Georgia Tech: Jackets stopped the bleeding against UVa.
- Clemson: It's never a good sign when a coach has to apologize to the fans.
- North Carolina: Heels are in shambles.
- Duke: Do the Devils have anything left in the tank?
This Week's Predictions:
Georgia Tech at NC State: Another week, another test for the Pack. Tech has confidence after its win over Virginia, but it's hard to see State losing this one because the Pack is so balanced and disciplined. Still, it will be a war. NC State 32, Georgia Tech 21
Clemson at Duke: Both of these teams are reeling, but Clemson has more at stake. Clemson 24, Duke 17
Florida State at Wake Forest: The Deacs are licking their chops for this one. (Yes, you read that right.) Wake Forest 24, Florida State 21
Maryland at North Carolina: Maryland has gotten better every game this year. Carolina seemingly has gotten worse. That's a bad combination. Maryland 40, North Carolina 10
Matt Lail is the former Managing Editor of ACCToday.com. As a student at NC State, he was the Sports Editor of Technician. He has also worked for the News & Observer and as the Managing Editor of The Wolfpacker.