A Place In The Rafters??

January17/ 2000

… Rashad McCants’ UNC career may be in its swan song … 6-8 more weeks, then By By Prison, Hello Milwaukee or Altoona or Bogata or wherever.  Understandably, every generation of Carolina fans defend “their era players” as “the best”.  Lennie Rosenbluth and Billy Cunningham get fewer and fewer votes on “All Time Favorites” lists each year.  Where will this inigmatic young man end up –  “among the rafters” or simply with the Tom Gauntletts, Steve Bucknalls, and Dante Calabrias … will this young man ever seize His Moment?

   Sports is a microcosm of Life; except its just a game and the final score really doesn’t matter.  Your game stats don’t really go on “your permanent record”.  But, as with Life, coincidences, circumstances, and “time and place” so often determine our destinys.

   He may never do anything else in his college career but Connor Barth’s name is forever written in the Official Rick Brewer Tar Heel Trivia Ledger.  187,000 “loyal fans” will someday swear they were in Kenan when Connor kicked the game winner to beat Miami.  That 187,000 is still less than the 375,894 who will swear they were in Carmichael when Walter Davis hit the jumper to beat Duke in the “8 down with 17 to play” game.  Walter and Connor were chosen by Coach Coincidence to be “the man in the moment” and they delivered.

   #23 from Wilmington had “a moment” in New Orleans in 1982 that just might endure the test of time … ya think?  Charlie Scott had his, Phil FordBig Game JamesBilly CunninghamLarry Miller, Lee Dedmon (well, you DO remember that jump ball!), Donald WilliamsDudley BradleyGeorge Lynch, and various blueclad warriors over the decades.

 For the purposes of this column, “the rafters for Tar Heel heroes” are emotional memories more than physical construction elements.  Each fan has his/her own criteria which may well differ from the ceiling of Ye Olde Legend’s Lair.


   As noted in the earlier column on this week’s Duke game, that game was “just a game” during the season.  It certainly does not preclude Roys’ Boyz from taking it all in St Louis in April.  But it WAS a Duke game and it had a memorable ending … and Rashad McCants is not a part of anyone’s memory except by his unmemorable performance.  Real trivia nuts might agonize for a few decades over why Raymond didn’t “do something, anything”.  It might go down as one of Sean May’s greatest games, but I think he will leave us with even better memories.  But what about Rashad?

   Among all the undeniable heroes in the rafters and among all the “almost heroes” almost in the rafters where will destiny write the name of Rashad McCants?  

   Times they do achange … and this ain’t Robert McAdoo’s Carolina … it’s not J.R. Reid’s … but it’s close to Joseph Forte’s Carolina.  Joseph Forte is not in the rafters.  Refer to the definition above. He could have been; but circumstance brought him to Chapel Hill during a window of time unlike any other in 40 years and he left town on a sweet & sour note.  A sweet game with a sour disposition.  Will Rashad McCants follow in Joseph Forte’s sneakerprints?

   We can only pose “what might be” now.  There are pages left to write.  This season’s highest drama awaits in the Madness of March.  There will be a trip to the RBC Center that offers Rashad a chance to leave his mark as he sort of did last year in Raleigh.  And Duke comes to The Dome in just a few weeks to pick up where it bounced sadly out of bounds in Cameron.  Then it’s The Phone Booth in Washington for THE TOURNAMENT followed by that anti-climactic little dealie that the NCAA puts on in March.

   The standard issue Tar Heel apologists might blast Billy Packer for, well for most anything; but especially for pointing out that Rashad was indeed an empty uni in Cameron on Wednesday night.  The stage was set for a Dudley Bradley steal from Clyde or a Larry Miller intercepted pass and headlong drive between 4 Demon Deacons or a Sweet D jumper or Rick Fox against Oklahoma or Charlie Scott against Davidson or Michael … or Phil … or.  But Rashad missed his 3 from the top of the key and history has written it as “that time we couldn’t get off a shot”.

   Rashad McCants dances to a different drummer than most of those who preceded him in the pantheon.  He is of a different era, playing for a different coach, and Dame Fortune is pretty particular with whom she dances. 

   Somehow I don’t see Rashad as a student of Tar Heel basketball lore.  Sure he knows about MJ and James and Vince.  I wonder if he has ever seen the film of “Dudley’s steal”?  I have some State buddies who will NEVER get that one out of their memory.  Has he ever seen that clip of Charlie floating down the lane in Cole Field House and driving a dagger into Lefty’s heart?  Howsabout an old black & white of Tommy Kearns flinging the ball into the rafters in Kansas City in ’57?  “The Kangaroo Kid” going in for the slam dunk vs Duke and the ball bouncing back to midcourt.  Larry Brown and Art “The Pest” Heyman duking it out.  Will our only historical recall of Rashad be simply an awesome athletic move in a meaningless game like Jerry’s monster dunk versus VaTech in Greensboro?   

   I don’t know how much Rashad listens to anyone but if he listens to you, tell him that “the rafters” are reserved for a special breed of Tar Heel … young men who are ready when that special moment arrives … time stands still … the million eyes of the TarHeelNation are watching … and from the rafters hark the sound of a heroes chorus asking: 

“Rashad, here is the moment. Are you the man?”

   Yes, those lovable sociopaths on the message boards will go on the warpath with this.  Sending that crowd “over-the-edge” just takes a gentle nudge.


Swagger’s Stumper

Where was Dana Delany’s field hospital?


   A Two-Fer for you folks today.  Notice we reprinted our highly acclaimed column on Jose Canseco from over at SimplySwagger.  It’s a sporty theme and worth a read.  Click back to the Home Page and look right below this one.

   BobLee starting to book speaking dates for Spring.  First come … first served as always.

   Kid Swagger got to meet POTUS Dubyah today … pretty freakin’ neat.  Details to follow.

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