Hail Mary – Hail Daniel!

January18/ 2000

… OK, it wasn’t technically a Hail Mary.  It wasn’t Flutie to Phelan but it did involve Boston College.  And, it wasn’t Daniel to Andrew … but for WuffNation and for their embattled coach it was one magical night at Carter Finley. … And for you Dad Johnny …  OH, YE OF LITTLE FAITH! … “up in the booth” Papa Evans had already proclaimed the 5 point loss as an “average” debut for Daniel … and 28 miles to the west, a day that could not possibly get any worse … definitely did! … DOA In Death Valley!

Returning from our day in Death Valley (never more aptly named) Mizzus Swagger and I were literally driving by the Hwy 54 exit on I-40 when Daniel found Dunlap in the end zone and the column I had already written in my mind … “DOA In Death Valley” … got crumpled up and tossed away.

Let me backtrack just a tad … the previous SSays column on “the Evans and the Bomars” had already “gone platinum” and moved into 2nd place in total views among the 1000+ commentaries that have appeared here over the past six years.  Surpassed only by “F-Bomb Alley” last September.  As I replied to the 100s of reader responses we received on Dads, Sons and Dreams … I need columns like that one to control the latent cynicism that often threatens to take over my thoughts here.

I can’t rag Johnny Evans too much on his “lack of faith” as I too had written off Daniel’s QB debut as a noble effort in yet another losing cause for Triangle area teams.  There had already been enough “neat” elements to the story … a story book finish, well, only happens in story books. …… “Once upon a time a kid named Daniel Evans ….”

Daniel’s beleaguered coach, Chuck Amato, had found himself sitting in a VERY hot tub of high octane jet fuel while media and message board monkeys struck flint to steel in a taunting attempt to turn the once bombastic one into a quite “crispy critter”.  But Chuck’s dire circumstance could have been so different but for two goal line mishaps … at The Horseshoe in Columbus on ’03, and that fateful night in Kenan in ’04.  Reverse those two plays and Chuck might indeed be “the toast of Hillsborough Street” instead of just “toast”.  So perhaps it is fitting that Saturday night’s“Daniel To Dunlap” miracle finish at least temporarily cuts Chuckie some slack.  …… but not enough slack to resurrect the Oakleys and the shoes … not nearly that much slack.

NOTE:  BobLee spoke w/  Johnny for a few seconds at Sunday School.  Johnny Evans is a humble man not boastful in any way … but the fatherly pride was oozing out of every pore.

Yes, we will discuss “DOA In Death Valley” in just a moment … alas and alack we must.  The Swaggers had our usual “great day at a college football game regardless of the score”.  We were guests of Tilden and Sue Martin at their beautiful Lake Keowee home just 10 minutes from Death Valley.  Tilden and I shared the Hickey-Dooley Transition experience at UNC in the late 60s … and had gone our separate ways over 37 intervening years.  Tilden is a member of The Peach Bowl (ne Chick Fil A Bowl) selection committee.

My “Carolina Junction Boys” column several years ago reached Tilden and, like the rest of you, he had become an addicted BobLee Buddy.  Our in-person reunion on Saturday was best described by Mizzus Swagger … “I’ve never seen two men talk non-stop for 12 hours with both remembering so much minutiae from 35 years ago”.  

Indeed we ran the gamut … “Pat Jessup … Van Warrington … Gene Link … Rad Kivette … Duncan and Miggs and The Hub … The hootchee cootchee show at the Derm County Fair … Alonzo Squires … Oakie and Ozella … Carmody the psycho … CQ, Watts, Stan and Spencer Barrow … Mr Lacey and the hangover medicine … Bill Estes’ new corvettes … for TWELVE SOLID HOURS!

This was my first visit to “Death Valley” in many many years … WHAT AN ENVIRONMENT FOR COLLEGE FOOTBALL!  If I was an athletic 18 year old with a 4th grade reading comprehension I do believe I would be suitably impressed by 85,000 screaming fans all dressed on orange, Tiger Rag, the rock and the run down the hill, etc etc.  MEGA COOL!

Again, it was Mizzus Swagger who provided the exclamation point to our impression of Memorial Stadium and Frank Howard Field in Clemson.  Mizzus knows how I ridicule  Tar Heels loonies who drone on about how wonderful Kenan Stadium is “with all the pine trees”.  As we watched the opening “run down the hill” Mizzus noted “Look, they have trees TOO!” … indeed a grove of hardwoods lines the open end zone … how beautiful that will be in another 3-4 weeks! … we then proceeded to make silly jokes about the guy Clemson named their soccer field after … a Mr Riggs.  Apparently his first name is “Historic” as the announcer kept referring to Historic Riggs Field.  Trust me if you were a Tar Heel fan in Death Valley on Saturday you found humor any way you could.  Gotta wonder if Marv Sanders would enjoy the Historic Riggs joke … probably not.

Lordy, Lordy, Lordy … yet another rough afternoon for the fine fellow and quite impressive “brightest young defensive coordinator in all of college football” … a key cog in “one of the most outstanding staffs “in all of college football” …. OOOOKay!

For the second week in a row, an offense from an “upstate” South Carolina college managed to perplex Marv.  94 points given up in only 8 quarters.

Thank Gawd Almighty we don’t play Bob Jones University, Converse, and Seneca Community College. … it might eventually get kinda embarrassing don’t cha think?

Speaking of Mizzus Swagger.  Among her wealth of talents, football coaching techniques ain’t on the short list but even The Mizzus remarked … “Why is Carolina trying to tackle Clemson with their arms?  Are they afraid of getting hurt?  … and that observation did not cost UNC $22,000/game!

Prehaps it was the SwaggerSays ballcap I was sporting, but a number of disconsolate Heels’ fans were asking me in the second half how I ranked this latest “bloody massacre” with the other bloody massacres over the past six years … specifically 59-21 v Maryland in ’03 … 56-24 v UVa in ’04 … 69-14 v Louisville in ’05 … and 46-16 v Utah in ’04.  I was more fortunate than my pal VineSwamp … I only saw the UVa bloody massacre in 04 in person.  I never rate “bloody massacres” unless I was “an eye witness”.

Mizzus was with me in Hooville in ’04 and, of course, in Death Valley for this one.  She says “this one” was worse but I think that’s because it’s still fresh in her conscious memory.  With 6:23 to go in the FIRST Quarter she asked if we could go back to Tilden’s and go tubing.  I ixnayed that option as I knew youans needed me to record the carnage that was well underway on the shores of Lake Hartwell.

We did eventually bail early in the 4th quarter and missed Carolina offensive explosion to avoid the shutout.  As we exited I got a call from Swagger Inner Circle Confidante “CokeDaddy” who was NOT a happy “CokeDaddy”.  From our upper deck Napa Valley perch in Kenan, he and I have discussed various Doomsday scenarios that might come to pass this season.  “CokeDaddy” said at halftime he gathered up the family and they huddled in the basement with the six week water supply and MREs, pretty certain that some sort of Armaggedon has indeed arrived for Tar Heel football fans.

All of which brings us to another memorable low point of the day for all members of the Choo Choo Clan.  Leave it to Prince Tassel Loafer to top it off as only he can.

None of you have gone to Athletics Director training school, right?  But just from reading this column, you would instinctively know that if you were the AD of a school whose football program is a gossamer thread away from being a national punch line and someone asks you “Hey Baddour are you going to fire Bunting?”  

The correct answer is ALWAYS … “We have “X” more games to play.  We evaluate all our programs at the end of their season, not before” … period, shut up!  Sure it’s an annoying cliché BUT IT WORKS!  Not our boy Dickie!  … Asked by a “disgruntled fan” if Bunting might be fired at the end of this season, Dickie replied “ABSOLUTELY NOT!”  … maybe Dickie thought the question was “will YOU fire Bunting at the end of this season?”  A not-so-subtle different question altogether.

There is only one circumstance under which The Dickster should give such an emphatic answer … if Dawn Bunting had a pair of vice grips attached to the Baddour family jewels and was one squeeze away from giving Dickie a higher pitched voice than Chuck.  Dawn was nowhere to be seen.

The race is officially “on” now.  Who will utter the most ridiculous statements over the next 60 days. … Dickie Baddour or the goggle-eyed Loonie Lynch Mob?

I don’t like to see my friend John Bunting so maligned, beleaguered and embattled.  Indeed, the man “bleeds blue” … much more so than I ever have or ever will.  I don’t “want” him to ever lose his “dream job”.  I’m not paid $250,000/year to run the UNC Athletics Dept.  Rather I make my living trying to be straight-up honest and spit-up funny to you folks … the loyal readers of this website.

Meanwhile over in Winston-Salem in a not very fancy office without even a gold fish bowl or a fancy player’s lounge, Jim Grobe orders a large pepperoni pizza for his staff as they start studying film on Liberty and dreaming of 5-0 … visions of BCS dancing in their heads? … probably not, but a happy bunch of coaches none the less.

And in their North Raleigh home, Johnny, Beth and “the quads” bend their knees and bow their heads to give thanks to God for a night that “the Evans”, and WuffNation, will never forget.


 Did Clemson really score more points on Burly John than they did against Ol’ Roy?


    Johnny Evans was recruited to NCSU by Lou Holtz but played under Bo Rein.

   Thanks again to the 1,000s of you who enjoyed the column on Dads, Sons, & Dreams.  Your kind responses were sincerely appreciated.  Comparing BobLee to the legendary sportswriter Jim Murray might have been a bit much but I’ll sure use that one in the preface to my next book.

    Has Marv contacted his Duke counterpart asking for their film with “Open Date” so he can plan “schemes” for Carolina’s upcoming encounter with “Open Date”.  Please tell me “Open Date” does not use the “flex bone”! 

   There is an unconfirmed rumor that the USGA has approached Dickie Baddour about being US Ryder Cup Captain in ’08.  Might as well …

    Want to e-mail BobLee?

[email protected]

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