Fourth and Long

Published 6:09 pm Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I spent this past weekend in Raleigh with friends in town for the Hurricanes and Devils game. They are huge sports fans and we looked forward to a busy weekend filled with sports action.

It started out with my beloved Tar Heels taking on Boston College. The Heels came out strong on the defensive end of the court, but played sloppy with the basketball in their hands.

The Eagles played good defense, but like a lot of young teams, Carolina time and time again took what the defense would give them instead of taking what they wanted. This resulted in a lot of outside shooting and not a lot of high percentage shots from within the paint.

This seems to be the game plan for how most teams want to attack the Heels. With the length of Tyler Zeller and John Henson inside I’m not surprised that teams would try and force Carolina into taking their shots from the perimeter.

The game was low scoring, closer than it should have been and ugly.

Still I thought it might give me a heart attack. Fortunately we pulled out the win and I left for the RBC Center in a good mood and ready for some hockey.

The seats were wonderful and the entire experience would have the same had the hockey been better.

The Hurricanes, like most NHL and NBA teams I have noticed tend to have a letdown of sorts on the second night of back-to-back games.

The Canes had retired Rod Brind’Amour’s jersey in a win against the Philadelphia Flyers Friday evening and from the moment they dropped the puck the Hurricanes looked flat.

Goalie and fan favorite Cam Ward gave up three goals in the first quarter, but he shouldn’t take the blame for all three. He had little help and by the time anyone in Raleigh knew better the home team was down three and the RBC Center was quiet.

The Hurricanes seemed to wake up in the second period and, for the most part, the remainder of the game was competitive.  The Canes were unable to even the score and while I was disappointed my Devil’s jersey wearing friends were pleased.

Sunday brought us the Daytona 500 and while NASCAR is still not really my thing I knew everyone else was excited about it and I have to admit I was even curious as to how the cars would do on the new track.

If you are one of the people who watch races just to see the crashes then you were certainly not disappointed. A new surface makes for fast speeds and, with cars bump drafting the way they were, accidents were unavoidable.

The race did provide for a good storyline to start out the new season.

A victory by a relatively unknown Trevor Bayne shocked everyone, including himself. The 20-year-olds first Sprint Cup win came on the biggest stage the sport has to offer and provided an exciting kickoff to the new year.

The last sporting event of the weekend (for us at least) was the NBA All Star Game. While defense is rarely played in these sorts of events it was nice to see some of the marquee players such as Kobe and Lebron still remain competitive.

It brought back memories of MJ, Magic and the great all star games of the 80s and 90s. Those games were always competitive and, while the players certainly had fun, there was no doubt once the fourth quarter started that neither team had any intentions of losing.

Speaking of the NBA, as a Carolina fan I have to admit that I am now the Denver Nuggets biggest fan. Coached by George Karl, Denver’s depth chart at point guard features Ty Lawson and Raymond Felton. Both are North Carolina guys and played under Roy Williams and his fast-paced offense. They may not have many players to pass to, but I expect the tempo will be quick.

If every weekend was as busy as this past one was I would get nothing accomplished. I would however have plenty to talk with you guys about.

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