It's That Time Of The Year
You would think by this point in my life (72 ) that the excitement associated with the opening football game of the season would not be the same as when I first became a fan. Such is not the case, and even though I vow periodically to disengage myself somewhat from sports, for various reasons, I find that I am incapable of doing so. At least to this point. Another situation like the one on going with Coach Bliss at Baylor, however, and I may decide to try and find other ways to occupy my free time.
I guess the reason the opening football game generates so much excitement for me is that not only is it the first game, but the wait in sports has been so long for those of us who don't care particularly for baseball. It was in this context that last Saturday night I traveled to Kenan Stadium and attended my first "Meet The Team" event. I didn't know what I was missing. It was terrific and I left Kenan feeling that things have improved considerably in football from last year. I have never felt as insignificant physically as when I mingled with the players and looked like a midget at 6' and 200 pounds. Maybe it's because I have never been this close to the players in their pads before or it may be that there really is that much difference between my size and theirs. At any rate, I'm glad I'm not going to be meeting any of them on the field. I am duly impressed and our Strength and Conditioning people deserve praise for the job they have done.
I got a chance to talk with Steven Bell from Greensboro and I asked him how much weight he has gained in the two years he has been at Carolina. He told me he had added 40 pounds in two years and hopes to add 5 pounds more. That means that he currently weighs 280 and if he is successful in adding the 5 pounds will weigh 285. He should be well prepared to play with the "big boys" at that weight and one of our weaknesses last year, in my opinion, was that we seemed to be outweighed at most positions in the line.
Coach Bunting was his usual self, which is good, in speaking to the crowd of about 5,000 before Woody Durham introduced each player individually. Coach Bunting has an uncanny ability to come across as a "straight shooter" and I would like to go on record as being a Bunting supporter regardless of what our record is this season. I am convinced he is the right man to rebuild our football program and I know the wolves will howl (our wolves) if we have a disappointing record this year. I am prepared to give him as much time as is needed as long as the team demonstrates a desire to play the game with high energy and shows improvement. I can live with losing, but I can't live with the team giving less than an all out effort. I think Bunting is a good motivator and his NFL experience has got to be a plus in recruiting. He has had to learn a lot and he has had to learn it quickly.
I had hoped to get a photo of me and Coach Bunting together, but the line at his table was so long that I finally gave up. My camera is not of the best quality but I did manage to get a shot of him at his table and another of the Jumbotron.
I have had some apprehension about the Jumbotron, but if Saturday night in Kenan was an example of how it will be used at games, we are all right. The pictures are perfect, the sound is excellent and the material shown on the screen was excellent. I really think Carolina fans are going to love the Jumbotron, except maybe about 10% seated down near the Field House end zone. Those seats are generally assigned to visitors' fans so most UNC people should be able to see with no difficulty. The pictures were crisp during daylight and even more impressive after dark. I have a photo at the end of this article which shows the interlocking NC. Notice the two poles behind the goal posts. I have been told these poles are for a net which will be pulled in front of the screen so as to prevent damage to the $2,000,000 Jumbotron when extra points and field goals are attempted at that end of the field.
Little kids were rolling all over the grass which is in better condition than I have ever seen it. The rains we experienced this summer must have been responsible for it's almost magical growth because it is my understanding that the old grass was taken up at the beginning of the summer. I don't know if the grass is planted or sod but it is pretty.
Got to talk to several Tar Heel fans (see Guest Book) and everyone seems to be pleased with the overall football situation.
I didn't hear any wild expectations, but I did hear that fans want to see evidence of effort and it would be nice if we are competitive. No one with whom I talked expects a conference championship this year, but they do think it is reasonable to expect us to be in the fight for the title in '04.
I'm having as my guest at the Florida State game, Bill Hickman who was the backfield coach at UNC from '67-72. He left for the Redskins in '72 and coached in two Super Bowls. I'm not sure, but I don't think he has returned to Chapel Hill since he left. I can't wait to see his reaction to Bunting as coach because the last time he saw him, Bunting was a Tar Heel on the team that Hickman coached. Also, another friend of mine is going to have his jersey retired at halftime, but I'm not sure that it is intended this be publicized prior to the game. I will just give you one clue. He was Carolina's first two time All-American football player. Can you identify him? Fine man.
See you in Kenan