AJ's Weekly Musings

There was no Musings last week because I was on vacation in Cooperstown, N.Y., visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame and watching my favorite player, Eddie Murray, become immortalized.

Cooperstown is a beautiful small town sitting on Lake Ostego in between the Catskilss and Adirondacks mountains. It has Norman Rockwell written all over it, and never lets you down.

Main Street in the Village of Cooperstown is baseball. No matter what you are looking for, you will find it in one of the shops specializing in literally anything that has to do with America's national pastime.

I really enjoyed flipping through vintage photos of players from Cy Young and Ty Cobb to Hank Aaron and Roberto Clemente. I also had a blast checking out the thousands of signed baseballs, jerseys, hats, and any artifact having to do with Murray.

The experience got me thinking about what I would write about for this week's Musings. While the Baseball Hall of Fame has very little to do with the University of North Carolina, it does have something to do with passion and tradition. Many UNC fans reading this piece can certainly relate.

The baseball fans I continually bumped into are passionate about their connection to the sport, their teams and players. The game and those whom they cheer for have a special meaning in their lives, as it has become part of who they are. I am that way with Murray and the Baltimore Orioles (regardless of how bad they are), and I know many of you are with Carolina and your favorite former Tar Heel.

Not intending to get the ABCers in an uproar (this is a UNC-related site) I will list some of my favorite all-time UNC players. I would like to do this for all nine ACC schools, but space and time don't permit that today.

I do have a favorite Tar Heel, but couldn't make this list without mentioning Dean Smith.

While I believe Smith should have won one or two more national titles, he no less had as much of an impact on the game as anyone in the last 60 years. Not a fan of some of his political views, I have tremendous respect for what he did as a person, especially his efforts in helping to integrate Chapel Hill, which is clearly his most important legacy. His emphasis on doing things the right way and his players being legitimate college students are two more amazing legacies he has left.

As for players, I thoroughly enjoyed covering Shammond Williams. He was straightforward, intelligent, had a good personality and quick wit, and had such an amazing work ethic. He made himself into an excellent college player and is in the NBA.

Antawn Jamison was also a joy to cover. Listen carefully when he speaks, because he usually has something very interesting to say. Plus, watching him was pure joy.

Steve Hale played the game the all hoopsters should. Not super gifted physically, Hale did all of the little things that made Carolina so good when he was in Chapel Hill. He did, however, have some hops. Remember the dunk at Arkansas?

Silent Sam Perkins was as smooth as silk. I will never forget the 1983 game at Virginia when he nailed long J after long J.

Kenny Smith was a wizard handling the ball and running the team. He could stroke the long jumper, penetrate and scoop a nifty layup, or dump the ball to an open teammate, often spotting them before they got free.

George Lynch embodied what being a Tar Heel was all about. A hard worker and intelligent player, Lynch got as much out of his physical gifts as anyone who has worn a UNC uniform.

Al Wood, Mike O'Koren, Mitch Kupchak and John Kuester were all objects of my desire. But nobody has ever touched me as a basketball player more than the great Phil Ford.

Former Tar Heel defensive end Greg Ellis was a great quote. He was so easy to talk to after games and always had a good story about the game. Oh yeah, he was a stud too.

Julius Peppers and Dre' Bly did so much for UNC football. Peppers' notoriety was aided by his efforts on the basketball court, but his accomplishments in football gave UNC fans something to feel good about during a rough stretch for the Heels. Bly was as exciting as any UNC player in many years and represented one of Carolina's three best periods on the gridiron.

The respect I have for Ronal Curry grew with each of his seasons in Chapel Hill. Despite winning a pair of bowl game MVPs and being the point guard on the No. 1 basketball team in the nation during his career, he never developed into the athletic star so many people expected, but he did become a wonderful person in so many other ways. I have nothing but tremendous respect for him and how he handled his years at Carolina and before.

Kelvin Bryant was on his way to a Heisman Trophy in 1981 (and perhaps UNC was headed to the Orange Bowl instead of Clemson) but tore his knee in a win at Georgia Tech. Bryant was such a splendid runner and later played a key role on some great Washington Redskins teams.

As a former offensive lineman, I always liked following UNC's blockers. Kevin Donnalley was my favorite, just a smidge ahead of David Dreschler.

Jason Stanicek never had much of a shot to make an NFL roster, but he sure was an excellent college QB. The way he led UNC to a blowout win over Southern California in the 1993 opener gave the football program the shot it needed to ultimately reach the top ten as it did a few years later. He was a gutsy player and tremendous leader.

I can actually remember watching James "Boom Boom" Betterson play in the early 1970s. Just his name alone is worth mentioning.

My favorite all-time Heel gridder is "Famous" Amos Lawrence. Despite not having acclaimed the honors necessary to have his number and name honored at Kenan Stadium, he should still be there. He was the second college player to ever rush for 1,000 yards in all four of his seasons, and made a major impact on Tar Heel football.

A few years ago there was some tweaking to the requirements to have your name and number honored at the Dean Dome. It's time they do the same for football. Lawrence as well as Stanicek (still the school's all-time leader in total yards) should be recognized.

Because this is a UNC site I won't get into the other schools. If I did this piece would end up being 15,000 words. So I am sticking with UNC athletes only.

There are some items I would like to have, like shoes, cleats, jerseys, etc. But would rather know what the readers want. This week's question is what former UNC players in football and basketball mean the most to you? What single item would you treasure the most? I will select several responses and post in next week's Musings. Please send all e-mails to: totlsprts@aol.com.

Reader Response

The questions two weeks ago were do you feel most sports writers are biased? Do you believe newspaper sports sections are biased? Do you believe broadcasters are biased? If so for any, please explain why. Also, do you agree that most fans read and listen with biases?

Ian Thomas

Being a former journalism major at UNC, I think that this is a great question. I can remember being in school and hearing our professors preach to us to not show bias or opinion in many of our stories, however, this was always a difficult thing for me to do when I was writing sports articles. I believe that it is truly an individual characteristic as to whether a person is biased when they are writing about or calling a game.

Numerous times I've watch Billy Packer calling a Carolina game thinking how incredibly biased he was towards Wake Forest and how much he hated Carolina. At the same time, I thought it was great when the Carolina alums were calling the games on TV last year (and outsiders probably had the same feelings I had about Billy Packer).

I think that many writers and sportscaster attempt to be objective, but it is human nature to pick a favorite. The true test of a journalist is how well they can hind their biases to make the story as good as possible. On the other hand, I will continue to enjoy articles with a pro UNC slant, and despise articles that hail to another school. Now that's objectivity, and probably the reason I'm not a journalist anymore!

Glenn H. A. Gillen, Durham, N.C.

People tend to gravitate toward and agree with news articles and reports that support their own political views while ignoring or forgetting those that do not. I believe the same concept applies to judging whether or not a sports writers or broadcaster is biased.

Unless we can come up with an objective definition of sports bias that everyone can agree on, we're left to the subjective opinions of the readers/audience. Two fans of opposing schools can read the exact same article and reach contradictory conclusions about whether to not it is biased. Their opinions reflect more on their own allegiances than those of the sports writer.

Being in the Triangle area, I can't tell you how sick I am of people who constantly write letters to the editors of the (Raleigh) News & Observing accusing them of favoring (a school they don't like) and not nearly providing enough coverage of (school they follow). I have two words for these people. "Go online!" If you are such a fan of so-and-so school or such-and-such team, then by all means don't rely on one journalistic source for news on that team. Get over it and go to those teams' official and unofficial Web sites.

Ian C. MacBryde, Webster Groves, Missouri

First the easy part: almost all fans are biased--that's why they are fans. They have likes and dislikes, and they should because it's fun and noone pays them not to.

Because fans approach any story from their own personal set of biases they tend to feel that any report which can be read as critical or not "supportive" of their team is biased; while any report that seems to reflect favorably on their team is "fair and accurate reporting."

In my experience most print reporters work very hard at being objective. But there are fans who actually seem to believe, for example, that reporters should withhold information that is critical of their team. That kind of passion makes it tough on reporters, but the good news is that criticism goes with the territory and most journalists knew it before they had been in the business very long. That's why they develop a thick skin.

As for electronic journalists? Well, for the most part, that's a contradiction in terms, and by now we should all recognize that.

Brett Ayers

I have enjoyed several of your articles that I have read on IC as well as others you have written for your paper that have been passed along to me by a friend of mine Murray Pool. I certainly think you give a very positive take on most of what you cover which in and of itself is not a bad thing. I think you do supply honesty as you see it when and where needed. Still, however, I think that most if not all sports writers have a certain set of built in biasness that they bring to the table. Let me explain.

Most reporters are completely beholden to the whims of the SID, and even more so the coach of any particular team for access to that team. As is the case with big time college basketball, a topic near and dear to my heart since I was once part of the meat grinder that is Division I basketball, to report all anyone sees will lose you access rather quickly.

Big time college basketball has very few who are willing to speak the truth about what it is, what it continues to develop into and just how damaging for the most part it is to the kids it chews up and spits out. There are far to many examples of reporters I have heard of and a few I have known in passing who have looked the other way when covering some of the more storied programs in this country and or coaches. I am not sure I can name two dozen clean college hoops programs right now, including the Ivy leagues and academies. To me this is where the bias exists, not so much in the rah-rah type of bias that many are seemingly claiming from you.

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