Fourth and Long

Published 9:22 am Thursday, December 16, 2010

Is it just me or is it a good time to be a sports fan. There seems to be a lot of exciting things happening throughout the sports spectrum.

The NFL season has been filled with storylines from Brett Favre and the implosion of the recently hopeful Minnesota Vikings to Tom Brady and the somehow overachieving New England Patriots.

The comeback of Michael Vick has been fun to watch, but not nearly as fun to watch as the building up of the New York Jets only to watch them fall apart on national television the last few weeks. No team or player can avoid the eventual impact of karma. Just ask Big Ben Roethlisberger.

I have news for some of you sports fans of something special happening that you may not have noticed, the NBA is back. The league itself didn’t really go anywhere; most of us just stopped paying attention to it.

The retirement of players like Jordan, Magic, Bird, Barkley, Ewing and Wilkins brought with it the end of the NBA’s greatest era. Players like Shaq, Kobe, Iverson and Carter promised to keep people exclaiming…”I Love This Game”.

Despite the success Shaq and Kobe had in L.A., people stopped loving.

Prepare to love again. The league is full of great young talent and has more personalities than the NBA has seen since the days of Earl the Pearl and Ice Man Gervin.

The last two years have been owned by Kobe and the Lakers, but in case you hadn’t heard, there was some free agent movement in the offseason and Chris Bosh and Lebron James too their talents to South Beach. Miami, Dallas and Boston all looked to contend with the Lakers this year.

The continued improvement of players like Derrick Rose in Chicago, Deron Williams in Utah and Amare Stoudemire in New York promises to make the NBA fun to watch. I’m watching again.

Speaking of Stoudemire, would anyone have believed me if I had told them a few months ago that the most impactful moves in the offseason were the ones that brought Stoudemire from Phoenix and Raymond Felton from Charlotte to Madison Square Garden?

It’s still early, but the return of both players to an offensive system that allows them to run the floor and push the ball up court has made the Knicks one of the most entertaining teams to watch.

College football has certainly provided us with some good bowl games to look forward to. The National Championship game between Oregon and Auburn should be a humdinger as some here in the south might say. Virginia Tech versus Stanford and Wisconsin versus TCU should also be two great football games.

I don’t know how many teams graced the top of the polls at one point or another this season, but it sure seemed like a lot. Unlike many years, it appears to me like the BCS standings got it right and the two best teams will meet for a National Championship.

College basketball is up and running and the story of the year thus far has been the tremendous play of Duke. We have yet to see how the loss of Kyrie Erving will affect this team, but don’t go expecting them to become a shell of the team they were. Duke simply has too much talent to go away. Ohio state, Kansas, UConn and Syracuse all look good as well but the Blue Devils are still head and shoulders better than everyone else.

Women’s basketball over the last few years has been all about UConn. It still is and deservedly so, however, a local product has been getting a lot of press as of late.

Bertie’s own Jessica Breland has made quite a splash with her actions both on and off the court in Chapel Hill. On the court she is averaging 13 points and eight rebounds a game while relishing the role of leader. Off the court she continues to raise awareness and money for a disease that she fights to overcome every day. She is an inspiration to everyone with or without cancer.

It has been such a treat watching Breland and Tydreke Powell leave our community and become leaders, adults and role models in front of our very eyes. Both have overcome the type of struggles that have made lesser men and women give in and give up on life.

They have become hero’s to some for their actions, their attitude and their values. All three can tell you a lot about whom a person is and where a person is from. We should all be proud. We should all be supportive. I know I am!

David Friedman is a long-time contributor to the Roanoke-Chowan News Herald. A Bertie High School graduate, he and his wife currently reside in Wilmington. David can be reached via e-mail at