A Rainbow Moment was a Prelude

February09/ 2015

A “Rainbow Moment” occurred Friday afternoon at Don Shea’s funeral.   That Moment , as a stand alone, would make for a great column.    Little did I know last Friday afternoon that Don Shea’s passing was simply a prelude to The Big One.    No, I don’t mean the passing of golf great Billy Casper.

I considered foregoing commenting at all about “you know what”.   That would be unlike me and unfair to those anticipating what I might say about “it”.  Those 8,000,000,000 Chinese remain apathetically disinterested as is their custom.

Several years ago we attended a friend’s  daughter’s wedding at a lovely lakeside setting.  As the minister was about to “now pronounce you…..” a real honest to goodness rainbow appeared over the lake.   The several hundred assembled all gasped at the timing….. How the heck did the mother of the bride arrange THAT?   I henceforth refer to such “what are the odds” timing situations as “Rainbow Moments”.

At a graveside service for a KIA marine some years ago, a lone hawk circled high overhead as the bugler played taps…. to the utter amazement of the attendees.

Friday afternoon at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Durham,  I was among several hundred family and friends gathered to pay their last respects to Don Shea.   I noticed “Burly John” Bunting seated several pews off to my right along with several Carolina-types.   I moved to intercept John as we exited the sanctuary.

I was following John up the aisle by 10-15’ when I saw him glance quickly to his right, break into a wide grin and give a manly embrace to a man standing against the wall.   I could not immediately ID the other man until they broke their hearty man-hug.

In my earlier column, I noted that one of Don’s most admirable qualities, IMO, was that he could be strongly partisan to one local sports program without manifesting overt hatred for rival programs.   98%+ of local partisans, alas, lack that ability.

Imagine my utter joy and surprise when, at Don Shea’s Funeral, I observed “Burly John” Bunting in a joyful man-hug with none other than – “Chuck The Chest” Amato.

What better tribute to Don than these two old rivals laying aside their theatrical roles to honor their mutual friend.  It was “a good thing”.

♦ ♦ ♦

Somewhere there are family, friends and former PGA Tour colleagues of Billy Casper who are honoring his memory via assorted expressions of respect for his passing on Saturday.   Billy’s passing matters to Gene Littler, Dow Finsterwald, Bob Goalby, et al.

Alas for “Buffalo Billy”, he got dealt the same coincidence card that Fate dealt Farrah Fawcett.   Farrah died on June 25, 2009.  So did Michael Jackson.   Guess who was extolled “above the fold”…. and with a BREAKING NEWS cyron across your HDTV?   Not Farrah.

Two Hall of Fame Sports legends died this past Saturday.   Both ironically were 83.   One was Billy Casper.  The other one wasn’t.

I was imbedded in Carolina Basketball from 1965-69 and have personal Dean & Me anecdotes that highlight the kindness and humanity of the man.   I will spare you mine as they pale besides the many thousands of others currently in print and on-line…. with more added by the minute.

There is one story involving the 11th hour in the recruiting of Charlie Scott that very few know of, but that one must stay under lock & key.   For one fateful phone call, Lefty Driesell would have signed Charlie for Davidson and secured that historical precedent.   If Lefty had, I’m sure Dean Smith would still have been Dean Smith in all other ways.

Yours truly was in Carolina Coliseum in Feb 1969 when Charlie was subjected to the crude racist catcalls from Gamecock fans that have become part of the legend.  It’s a true story.  I heard’em.

I absolutely respect both Dean Smith The Man and Dean Smith The Coach for their combined mountain of achievements.  I absolutely positively understand the global DEANIFICATION media blitz reaction to his passing.   Slightly short of “global” because neither China nor North Korea have lowered their flags in respect to Coach Smith…. yet.

Did you know that President Obama ordered a national flag-lowering at the drug-related death of Whitney Houston in February 2012.   Yep.   Thereby forever reducing any significance of that tradition.

Blondie was in the newspaper bizness some years ago.  When I told her Sunday morning – “Break out the 2nd Coming type”; she knew I meant something GIANORMUS had occurred.   “2nd Coming Type” is newspaper jargon for a super-sized headline type size reserved, supposedly, for when Christ Returns To Earth or an event of similar magnitude.

“OMG What ???” she asked.

“Dean Smith has died” I told her.

“How long will Princess Di be stuck in the well?” she asked referring to the epic media super saturation coverages of (1) Princess Di’s death and (2) “Little Jessica” in the well in Midland TX in 1987.   Blondie and I converse in historical wordplay that only Dennis Miller might appreciate.

“A minimum of two weeks.  Meanwhile a battalion of grief counselors are enroute to Orange County to deal with the pandemic of inconsolable desperation.”

“Would you get me another cup of coffee?” she asked as she went back to perusing Pintrest.

One of the traits my wife of 30 years and I share is that neither of us place politicians, actors, Vegas headliners, member of the British Royal Family or basketball coaches in our panteons of Heroes To Be Overtly Mourned.   In this market basketball coaches are “royalty”.

We do respect the sanctity of Life and it’s inevitable conclusion for us all….. Hall of Famers and otherwise.

Our “heroes” are sandwiches, soldiers and first-responders.   Those who place their own lives in danger to protect the lives of others.   Flag-draped coffins being unloaded from the cargo bay of a C-130 are really difficult for us.  Wounded Warrior PSAs are difficult for us too.   Sports figures, not so much excepting Lou Gehrig’s reverberating “…. Luckiest man……” speech.

Coach Smith’s passing is certainly newsworthy.  Any resultant renaming of Franklin Street or the City of Chapel Hill or The Old Well, Davie Poplar, or his statue to replace Silent Sam is fine.  No doubt such discussions are underway in that The Smith Center / Dean Dome was already designated decades ago.

ESPN being the 2nd largest employer of UNC alumni (#1 is The Obama Administration) no one was shocked that Bristol led the way in noting Coach Smith’s passing.   Good thing it wasn’t a week earlier.  A choice would have to have been made versus the Super Bowl.

Conversely, we can expect the reaction of rival fans while for the most part respectful will include a certain % of snideness from their bottom-feeders.   The memory of Jimmy V receives similar disrespect from rivals of his school.  The on-going accomplishments of Coach K are likewise unappreciated by rival partisans.

The thought did occur….. What will the media response be if we ever discover a cure for cancer? ….. or when those poor misunderstood Muslims blow up Southpointe Mall?

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