Archive for March, 2009

Brown does his business with class

Austin, Texas — This is not to reflect on the caliber of the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award, but Mack Brown would gladly swap it for a fair shake in national championship politics. There are two human polls and several computer polls that get fed a diet of stuff he doesn’t understand, and the computer geeks won’t explain what it bases its vote on.

So that’s where we stood (or sat) in his office on the first day of spring football practice at Texas. Mack is one of the voting coaches. “It used to be a secret ballot, but not any more. I’d prefer it that way. I come in late at night after a game, I rush to get the scores, just who won or lost, no details, and I have to cast my vote in the dark,” he said. “I don’t like that.”

He is thinking of resigning from the electorate, but the timing is bad. He doesn’t want to look like a sore loser. But he is sore. Texas beat Oklahoma on neutral ground. In Dallas, about midway between Austin and Norman. Each lost one game, but the …

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Ex-Brave Mazzone wants to get back into coaching

He arises in the early darkness. No alarm jangling in his ears. (“I traveled all those years with the Braves and never needed an alarm clock,”)

Drives to the WCNN studio on Piedmont Road for one of the two “Rude Awakenings” on the local air — one is named for a guy, the other an attitude — and by 10 o’clock it’s over.

He’s free until the next morning. “It’s like every day is an off day,” Leo Mazzone said. “And it stinks.” Not his life in radio, not life in Roswell, which shall always be his home, he says. But life out of baseball, out of that uniform. He enjoys his banter with the radio guys, Christopher and Laurentino and the callers. He gets national exposure occasionally as analyst with Fox on major league games.

But when spring training came last year, and Leo was out of baseball for the first time in 40 years, and nobody came calling, it hit hard. He thought he might make a connection with the Tigers, but Jim Leyland went for a younger man.

Now …

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The Case of ACC basketball

Basketball in the South began to develop some muscle shortly after World War II when a traveling shoe salesman named Chuck Taylor told suffering officials at N.C. State about a high school coach in Indiana. N.C. State teams had been playing to half-empty Thompson Gym, and more punishing, both Duke and Carolina had been wiping their feet on the Wolfpack. So, Everett Case arrived in West Raleigh in 1946, and basketball below the Mason-Dixon Line would never be the same again.

With such imports as Dick Dickey, Sammy Ranzino, Norm Sloan and Vic Bubas, N.C. State dominated the Southern Conference to the point of embarrassment. Everybody else was playing for runner-up. The conference tournament had been played in a cozy little auditorium in Raleigh, seating about 3,500. Teams played on a stage to an audience seated theater-style. But once Case arrived, the tournament had to be switched to Duke, same old stone barn that’s now home of the Blue Devils; and work that had been started …

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Fine wine to go with whine of the engines

Gentlemen, start your corkage! Don’t know if you’ve heard the news or not — are you ready for this? — but stock-car smoothies are switching from beer to wine! I don’t mean those corporate types who occupy luxury suites. (You know, what NASCAR used to call “booths.”) I mean, guys behind the wheels. Some of them are going from guzzlin’ to sipping, pinkie properly deployed at a sophisticated angle.

Ye gods, try to imagine Joe Weatherly, Fireball Roberts, or even Richard Petty strolling around the garage area with a glass of cabernet savignon in hand. Don’t know if you’ll be seeing a lot of it around the garages out at the Hampton track Sunday or not, but they say that it’s a growing trend.

You have to understand, stock-car pilots ain’t the chawing, p-tooey, greasy-nails fellers you find diggin’ under the hood any more. They leave that to their crew, staff, whatever they’re called these days. Oh, I know, some of them get in there with their mechanical …

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