Coach Fonzie Amato

January17/ 2000

.. Following this recent FB season I asked my adult Wolfpack pals if they thought Chuck would cut back on the “eccentricities” (red shoes, etc).  Each one said “NO WAY because Chuck knows how much it irritates rival fans”…. I love that reasoning… It segues perfectly into how high profile coaches like Chuck and other public figures craft and cultivate their public images… 

   Two of television most memorable characters were “lovable rascals” Eddie Haskell and Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli.  Everybody remembers them right?  They were always “in trouble”, right?  They were petty crooks and hoodlums, right?  Are you sure about that?  They were “wise guys” and loved to strut their bravado … but did they ever REALLY cross the line?  Nope, not one time but don’t spoil that image.

   Fonzie and Eddie have been in mothballs for 20+ years yet we retain a perfectly clear image of them.  Throw in a bizarro named Cosmo Kramer for a 3rd “wise guy rascal” that you will never forget.

   It’s only been 6 years but bland Mike O’Cain could walk across The Brickyard wearing an “I’m Mike O’Cain” t-shirt handing out free Dove Bars and not draw a crowd.  Tom Reed could show up at a WPC meeting with a name tag and be mistaken for a State Farm agent from Fuquay.

   Gather a focus group of Tar Heel fans and throw out the name Chuck Amato.  What will be the immediate word associations?  “Crook & Cheater” (we will discuss that further down) … “ugly sunglasses” … “squeaky voice” …“silly red shoes” … “his chest”.  

   In 20+ years of recruiting in a fishbowl, Amato has zero convictions of malfeasance.  Oh, for sure rival fans and even rival coaches snort and bellow all manner of accusations … which rival fans and coaches even did to Ye Olde Legend too; yet “Ye Olde” remains America’s most famous virgin not named Mary Kate or Ashley. … those Oakley sunglasses are sold at every Sunglass Hut in America … even the red shoes are available at any Champs or Foot Locker.  As for the over-developed pectorals … Chuck and John might have the same “quantity” from their Adam’s Apple to their belly button … the load is simply distributed differently. 

   Add in a few inflammatory statements 3 years ago during Affair de’ AJ. If Toney Baker or Jon Hannah “does an AJ” this week in favor of UNC they will name sandwiches in their honor at Spanky’s on Franklin Street.  If John Bunting gleefully proclaims “It’s not over til it’s over” Carolina Sportswear will have it on t-shirts in an hour.

   Chuck Amato’s “image” is totally as seen through which partisan microscope.  As is Mike Krzyzewski’s or Jimmy V’s or Lefty’s or Skip’s or Dean’s.  Now, to be sure, Chuck has worked at making his image a bit “controversial”.  If Fonzie had traded the motorcycle jacket for a tennis sweater looped around his name and trimmed the ducktail into a flat top he might have still been popular with the chicks at Arnold’s … we’ll never know.  If Richie or Potzi had tried the “biker look” they would have been laughed out of Arnold’s.  Which is why it’s unlikely you will see Herb on the sidelines in red shoes EVER.

   One Wolfpacker friend proffered that a secondary reason for Chuck’s sartorial style is simply “an eccentric fashion sense”.  That brought to mind the late John Lotz of UNC Basketball.  No man of purer spirit ever walked this earth but John, in the late 60s and early 70s as a bench assistant to Dean, could have had Elton John shaking his head in amazement.  While Dean’s wardrobe ranged between shades of grays, John’s appearance on the Carmicheal sidelines was always a Joan River Red Carpet Moment.  One could imagine Alexander Julian’s daddy saying “John, are you SURE you want THAT tie with THAT jacket and THOSE shoes?”  

   Chuck Amato’s public image has made him arguably the 2nd most popular (to V) and THE most unpopular coach (to rivals) in NCSU history.  I give the man credit that he knows what he is doing.  At FSU there is only one “enduring image” – Papa Bowden with the leather hat and folksy euphemisms.  But, even at FSU, Chuck began cultivating his “bad boy” rep among Gator and Cane fans as he worked the mangrove swamps, the citrus groves and the parking lot of Killian High School.  When he came “home” to NC State he just added the glasses, the shoes and the Joe Pesci wisecracks.  It has sold a beaucoup of LTRs … and driven legions of Carolina fans agast in boiler busting fury.  

Chuck Amato, Mike Krzyzewski, & George W. Bush … 

you could combine those three into a giant sponge and 

purty near soak up all the hate in Orange County.

   Ultimately the man behind the image has to “walk the walk” and that’s why the next few years will be so interesting to watch.  IF T.A. had beaten Kahliff on Oct 9 the resultant changes in Chuck’s staff would have been far less significant. Kahliff stopped T.A. ergo the changes are “defections from the sinking ship” as observed from Franklin Street.  Those same Franklin Street loonies describe new Off Coord Mark Trestman as a “fired NFL reject”.  State partisans see him as “the Norm Chow of The NFL” … and those radical viewpoints surprise who?

   If Fonzie ever fell off his bike or showed up dateless at the prom he would have been laughed out of town.  And therein lies the danger in a “bravado image”.  It took 35 years but recall how fans relished seeing Broadway Joe’s drunken episode w/ Susie Kalber.  Even if Chuck did try to trim back the eccentricities they have already gained the half life of a uranium isotope.  “Amphibious” and “the parade” are both still going strong with no signs of losing “popularity”.

…Speaking of images … I absolutely loved Coach K’s quote in the recent SI article on J.J. Redick.  J.J. was boasting about how he enjoys being “hated” by Duke’s rival fans.  All the taunts and obscene chats inspire him to a better performance.  Mike said J.J. might be the 4th most hated Duke player ever, but the first three are  named Christian Laettner.”  

   Being around in the pre-Krzyzewski days, I would give some votes to both Art Heyman and Bob Verga for their ability to turn rival arenas into savage blood curdling snakepits.  Heyman’s memorable tussle with Larry Brown is still the closest to a Ron Artest moment in ACC history … that does not involve one of Frank McGuire’s Gamecock thugs.

   Carolina, of course, aggressively recruited all of Duke’s “hated homos” over the years.  Darn strange how just signing with Duke immediately turns All American eagle scouts into perverts and bi-sexual pedophiles … !!! 

   Some more coaching “images” …

   The Old Trenchfighter … Dools, from rural Mississippi, was a fisherman, not a golfer, and never once tried to “discuss Kierkeggard with theology profs at The Porthole”.  Ergo, Bill Dooley was never “accepted” in Chapel Hill.

   Dick Crum … had the professorial look but wore his sour disdain for barbecue and “southern living” on his sleeve … plus those silly mouse ear headphones.

   Mack Brown … Mack and Sallie pulled it off splendidly despite “Keldorf’s pass in the red zone”.  He had “the look” and was comfortable in the men’s grill at Quail Hollow Country Club playing backgammon with Johnny Harris.  His “work the room” charm countered Ye Olde Legend’s legendary aloofness.  Yeah verily, when “he lied to dem boys” that all evaporated.

   Herb Sendek … not a single personality quirk that appeals to the Trinity Road hooligan element but all the responsible adult attributes that appeal to the “responsible adult” element.  The power struggle between the two extremes of WuffNation will determine his fate.

   John Bunting … chockfull of “want to” with Old Well Water seeping from every pore.  The Buntings might suffer Dooley’s fate … except for that prodigal son legacy thing.  The difference between “a bit overweight” and “burly” is a Connor Barth field goal. He’s finally learned that a live microphone isn’t always your friend.

   Ol’ Roy … His compatability with his UNC constituents was enhanced by the Uncle Gut / Mad Matt 6-year gap from Ye Olde Legend.  Far more “tempestuous” than Dean, doesn’t wear his politics on his sleeve but quickly desiring to be as reclusive.  His volcanic sideline demeanor will excite the wingnuts and his 25-30 Ws each year and long March dances will keep the Fat Cats purring.


Swagger’s Stumper

Who “managed” Kelly, Sabrina, and Jill?


   Murphy Brown’s TV show was FYI.  Corky Sherwood married Mr Forest and became Corky Sherwood Forest.  You won’t get that sort of info listening to Jim Rome.

   Congrats to Justin Leonard for his victory at the Bob Hope.  Justin’s a fine fellow but with a personality deficiency that makes Herb seems like Red Skelton doing Gertrude & Heathcliff.

   Our new Deacon readers finally beginning to “get” this column.  We kick stoopid loonie butt regardless of its jersey color.

   Incoming … our boy Prince Dickie The Baddour done stepped in it AGAIN … this time over asking students to cover the Athletic Dept’s revenue shortfall.  This latest “oh for goodness sakes” will merit its very own column.

   BobLee ALIVE shows coming up in Henderson and Rocky Mount.  Contact TheGuys below to bring Swagger to your group.

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