Monthly Archives: March 2013

Sport Man Toe Episode 10: The Septuple Calamity

Today Spike is in the car, journeying from Seattle to San Francisco (the reverse of his ancestors), and we’re hitting all the noteworthy shit to happen in sports, from Jennifer Capriati’s stalker tendencies to rumors of an NFL player coming out, to a concept we invented called the Septuple Calamity. In the end, we all agree that Roger Goodell should be watching us in a Panopticon.

For extra audio/video/picture mentioned on the show, and the episode itself, check our Tumblr: Sport Man Toe

 

Subscribe on iTunes:

Just click “view in iTunes” once you reach this link, and then ‘subscribe for free.’ If you liked the show and want to write a positive review, that would be a huge help.

Here are some other things:

Download the mp3 of this episode directly

RSS Feed

Here’s how to get in touch with us:

Podcast Twitter: @SportManToe

Spike Twitter: @SpikeFriedman

Shane twitter: @ShaneRyanHere

Email us your weird sports stories: Sportmantoe@gmail.com

Voicemail/Text: 765-38-SPORT (765-387-7678)

Posted in Miscellaneous | 1 Comment

You Merely Adopted the Dark, P.J. Hairston Was Born In It

The best part of any movie ever is that scene in the cemetery at the end of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Every aspect of film cooperates to deliver an inarguable three-minute snippet of pure genius: Tuco knows the location of the graveyard, but not the name on the headstone under which is buried a fortune in Confederate gold. Clint Eastwood knows the name, but up until this point did not know where the graveyard was. Every event in the film has been leading inexorably up to this point, and the greatest film score in history is playing behind it.

Similarly, the best part of college basketball is that scene at the end of the ACC regular season when Duke and UNC play, after the Wolfpack has faded back into regional obscurity (watch that clip again: symbolically, perhaps, a dog scurries away at 0:43). Every moment of the season has led us here, and various sundry other clichés. The stories, which have woven together like fine tapestries all year, finally take their place on the wall above the hearth of the 2012-13 season, etc. etc. bar-none the Finest Rivalry in Sports etc. etc.

Which all can and will be discussed by folks with better working knowledge of basketball and a more complete understanding of Tobacco Road history, so I’m going to focus on taking a bright spot on this years Carolina team and making it just a little bit brighter. We’re finally going to give P.J. Hairston what he deserves: a monochromatic animal nickname!

In 2010, Harrison Barnes rolled into Chapel Hill  surrounded by a Tasmanian Devil tornado of hype, bearing the “Black Falcon” moniker. The story goes that he wanted a nom de guerre along the lines of Jordan’s “Black Cat” and Kobe’s “Black Mamba,” and someone who works for ESPN obliged him (the part about him wanting said nickname might make it invalid, though, based on my understanding of the rules of nicknaming).

In January of 2011, the creator and proprietor of this very website, the benevolent Odin to Tobacco Road Blues’ Asgard, dubbed Ryan Kelly “The White Raven,” which put him (intentionally or not) in binary opposition to Barnes, because Kelly had gone to Ravenscroft, a Raleigh school with a similarly passerine mascot.

Which brings us to now. With our Black Falcon gone, Duke’s White Raven stands as the only animal-man in the triangle, exploring the duality of light and dark, good and evil.

P.J. Hairston’s rise to popularity and overall excellence was predicted on this very website, and it is now time to bestow upon him such a nickname, to let him know he has arrived.

Firstly, is P.J. a bird? The answer is no. Does he soar? Sure, but he plays gritty, he plays low to the ground, he spends as much time sliding on the hardwood as he does gliding to the basket. P.J. plays yeoman’s basketball. He plays hurt and gets concussions, and absolutely he sinks those long three-balls, but he’ll rebound with players twice his height as well.

Secondly, does a White Raven even exist in nature? The answer is yes. The white-necked raven is indigenous to the mountainous regions of Southern Africa. It is a scavenging bird of prey, a scoundrel of the air. Most reasonable people dislike the white-necked raven.

Thirdly, does this real-life white raven have any natural predators, perhaps a non-avian one that could serve as a nice basis for Hairston’s very own nickname? Why yes, and thank you kindly for asking such a specific and leading question. The white-necked raven faces great danger from an animal called a Marten, which invades its nest and feasts upon the raven’s eggs. The Marten is a small but ferocious mammal, a close cousin to the badger as well as to the most accurate animal descriptor for Mr. Hairston: the wolverine.

So is he a wolverine of the light or a wolverine of the shadows? Is he Chapel Hill’s White Knight or is he Dean Dome Batman? I’ll answer that question with another question: when the White Raven is flying around, riding the thermals upward into the sky, what does he fear? Ryan Kelly will score lots of points on Saturday, I don’t think anyone has doubts about that. He’ll score lots of points and play phenomenal basketball and Duke will be the complete, excellent, terrifying unit that they were at the beginning of the season. But P.J. Hairston will do work, he’ll hit threes but he’ll also dive over scorers tables and scrap around under the paint and steal the ball from Seth Curry and get fouled about 17 times by Mason Plumlee, and he’ll exhibit great quantities of what they call grit. It might not be enough to win the Tar Heels the game, but at some point P.J. Hairston is going to sneak into the White Raven’s nest and eat some eggs.

P.J. Hairston is in the starting lineup now because he excelled in the shadows, and by becoming an idea he forced a mythologically obstinate man to change the way he coaches basketball.

He is the hero that UNC deserves and needs. A silent guardian. A watchful protector.

The Black Wolverine.

(Goosebumps, right? I got goosebumps)

Posted in Duke, UNC | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

SportManToe Episode 9: Electing a Sports Pope, Corrupt Softball Leagues

This week, Spike and Shane are in serious discussions about choosing a sports pope who can rule the athletic world with an iron fist. Spike also saves Shane from embarrassing himself on twitter, while Cricket or Tricket comes to an exciting conclusion and the latest mug battle, which involves picking the winners of each conference tourney, is afoot. Spike solves the World Baseball Classic crisis, and we decide that Toronto is just a garbage city. With token appearances by Dennis Rodman and North Korea. Plus, the official introduction of Spike’s dog, Edgar Martinez. At the end, we force each other to rhyme, and it’s awkward and delightful. One week away from double digits, when the sponsors come flocking.

For extra audio/video/picture mentioned on the show, and the episode itself, check our Tumblr: Sport Man Toe

 

Subscribe on iTunes:

Just click “view in iTunes” once you reach this link, and then ‘subscribe for free.’ If you liked the show and want to write a positive review, that would be a huge help.

Here are some other things:

Download the mp3 of this episode directly

RSS Feed

Here’s how to get in touch with us:

Podcast Twitter: @SportManToe

Spike Twitter: @SpikeFriedman

Shane twitter: @ShaneRyanHere

Email us your weird sports stories: Sportmantoe@gmail.com

Voicemail/Text: 765-38-SPORT (765-387-7678)

Posted in Miscellaneous | Leave a comment

Sport Man Toe Episode 8: North Korean Nightmares, Scorpion Realities

Today Shane and Spike are really making the rounds, tackling everything from North Korean basketball rules to scorpion stings to hilarious British soccer hooligan hijinx. Along the way, we touch on the fickle nature of American sports postseasons, chess philosophy, and more. Cricket or Tricket, Game 5, takes place at the end. The audio in the last 15 minutes is compromised- sorry about that. Won’t happen again.

For extra audio/video/picture mentioned on the show, and the episode itself, check our Tumblr: Sport Man Toe

 

Subscribe on iTunes:

Just click “view in iTunes” once you reach this link, and then ‘subscribe for free.’ If you liked the show and want to write a positive review, that would be a huge help.

Here are some other things:

Download the mp3 of this episode directly

RSS Feed

Here’s how to get in touch with us:

Podcast Twitter: @SportManToe

Spike Twitter: @SpikeFriedman

Shane twitter: @ShaneRyanHere

Email us your weird sports stories: Sportmantoe@gmail.com

Voicemail/Text: 765-38-SPORT (765-387-7678)

Posted in Miscellaneous | 7 Comments

A Definitive History of Ryan Kelly’s “White Raven” Nickname

Yesterday, Dan Patrick had Ryan Kelly as a guest on his radio show, and this exchange took place:

Dan Patrick: Uh, the nickname. Who came up with that nickname?

Ryan Kelly: The White Raven?

Dan Patrick: Yeah.

Ryan Kelly: Honestly, I don’t know. It’s stuck, I guess-

Dan Patrick: Wait, but what’s it mean, Ryan? The White Raven?

 
Whenever the ‘White Raven’ comes up among the sports media, it’s often shrouded in mystery. And, if we’re being honest, disdain. Dan Patrick clearly didn’t like the nickname, and Fox Sports’ Andrew Jones came out as a member of the lunatic anti-Raven fringe back in January. The article is clearly the work of a zealot and extremist, and consider this fair warning that the following excerpts might upset those readers with frail sensibilities:

  • “What Ryan Kelly really needs is a nickname.”
  • “I don’t know why that is, but apparently the fans have a nickname for me now, the ‘White Raven,'” Kelly said Saturday after scoring 22 points in an 80-62 win over Wake Forest.”
  • “And as for the White Raven deal, if the fans haven’t chanted it during games, it doesn’t exist. They haven’t.”

As I’ll soon show, this is nothing but ruling-class propaganda. And what these media bigshots don’t realize is that it’s out of their goddam hands. This is a grassroots movement that even Big Media can’t kill. The White Raven is a populist phenomenon, and the people have spoken.

I take you now back to January 5, 2011, to a blog called Seth Curry Saves Duke. I was the author of this blog, and that date happened to be my 28th birthday. That’s where “The White Raven” nickname was born. I had a feature called “Hot Potato,” where I picked one player and the commenters had to guess how many points he’d score. That day, I wrote:

TODAY’S HOT POTATO IS:


The White Raven

Kelly went to a high school in Raleigh called Ravenscroft, hence the nickname. Just kinda floating a trial balloon on that one, I’m not married to it. But it makes me laugh because a) putting ‘white’ in front of anything is funny (one of my friends from high school is nicknamed ‘White Jesus’), and b) it makes him sound like a badass character from a terrible sci-fi novel. Yea, though the forces of evil do beset us, hope yet remains! The White Raven cometh ‘pon wings of glory!

I’ve invented a lot of nicknames in my time, but as far as I know, this is the only one that’s ever caught on. I even created a few works of fan-art depicting Kelly as the White Raven, and in my mind they hold up as seminal period pieces. I think it was the next season, 2011-12, when the Cameron Indoor Stadium fans began to flap their arms like raven wings, and we as a community have never looked back. You see also that Mr. Jones was wrong- the White Raven Experience is well established in Cameron, and as CNNSI’s Luke Winn noted this week, the students chant “Fly, Raven, Fly!”

Over the past two year, the name has gained legitimacy by degrees; it started with the blogs, moved to the student newspapers, and eventually reached the mainstream. The name was even briefly co-opted yesterday by GoDuke.com, the official school site, although all references to the nickname appear to have been scrubbed clean and you can only find a match via Google; the original title of that article was “The White Raven is Soaring Again.” This was the Chronicle’s spread when Kelly returned from his foot injury and scored 36 against Miami in his first game back:

Another good sign, of course, is that the fascists patrolling the Duke message boards disapprove of the nickname. They understand that the common man rising represents a danger to their fragile sense of narrative control. The local underground, meanwhile- in the form of alternative weeklies- has seized on the nickname as a symbol of the youth rebellion.

Another interesting note from the original post that I had forgotten: The inspiration for the nickname was Kelly’s high school, Ravenscroft, and not the “Black Falcon” nickname that Harrison Barnes gave himself. That contrast was a happy accident that made the nickname even better, and in later explanations I assumed it had been part of the creative intent. It apparently was not, but I like to believe fate was guiding me on a subconscious level. You’ve probably noticed by now that events around the White Raven operate with a strange kind of synchronicity, and I don’t believe this is a coincidence.

There are a few other noteworthy episodes in the White Raven saga.

*In August 2011, a fellow by the name of Zach Lambert seemed to try to take credit for “The White Raven” in an article by Dan Wiederer. This was later cleared up on twitter. (As you can see, Jim Young from @ACCSports has, at various times, also tried to take credit for the name. He’s a wildly dangerous and subversive internet element, and shouldn’t be trusted.)

*Last year, after Austin Rivers hit his famous three-pointer to beat UNC at the Dean Dome, I found Kelly outside the locker room. When the interview was finished, I couldn’t resist a last question about the nickname. Had he heard of it? Yes. He thought it was funny that the Crazies flapped their arms when he made a shot. You can read the four-line interview here.

*On January 5 of this year, my 30th birthday (there’s that synchronicity again), there was a giant misunderstanding when my stepfather texted me that ESPN announcers had just used the “White Raven” nickname for Kelly in a game against Wake Forest. This turned out to be wrong, but I tweeted it out as if it were true, which led to this appearing on the screen in the second half:


There’s more information here if you want.

So now, I hope, the air has been cleared. I was the inventor, but the people were the engine. We’ve taken the body blows from the powerful elites, and we’ve endured. Nobody can ground The White Raven. I’ll leave you now with a .gif to honor the legend:

Posted in Miscellaneous | 10 Comments

It’s Not the Size of Your Frontcourt but the Motion of Your Jump Shot

While I’m sure in two minutes of googling I could find 50 or so quotes from esteemed sportsmen about how there are no moral victories in sports, what the hell, I’m calling the Duke game a moral victory.

Duke has been the superior team all year, and Cameron Indoor Stadium has been tough on veteran UNC teams in the past. I wouldn’t have been surprised if this year’s squad had gotten blown out by 20, so to keep it within single digits is something for this team to be proud of.[1]

More than that, though, it was just a fun game to watch. The first half, when UNC was holding on to a solid lead and every Carolina fan was thinking we might actually win this, was the most enjoyable half of Carolina basketball this year, no matter the final score.

Plus, in hindsight, that game gave UNC fans something even better: the “small-ball” lineup.

One of the biggest pains of the basketball season so far has been watching the cycle of incompetency that has been UNC’s rotation at center so far this season.  Desmond Hubert and Joel James, both athletic yet raw players, would at this point have a hard time filling the shoes of Luke Zeller, let alone Tyler Zeller.

Fortunately, Roy, in a surprising display of coaching flexibility, realized this, and went to his four-guard lineup with James Michael McAdoo at center. It’s worked beautifully so far, nearly catching Duke by surprise and even helping net a victory against a big Georgia Tech frontcourt, largely for the surprisingly simple reason that McAdoo and these four guards are the best five players on the Heels roster this season.

While I love having a big body in the paint who can play as a true center[2], this year’s UNC squad just doesn’t have the personnel for that, and it’s good to see Roy has stopped trying to force round pegs into square holes and adjust his strategy to the players he does have.[3]

UNC is still sitting precariously close to, or on the NCAA tournament bubble (depending on the “bracketology” writer of your choice), but if the Heels can keep this level of play up it should have no problem getting the wins necessary in a weak ACC to lock up a tourney spot.

Plus, we’ll always have that first half in Cameron.


[1] It somewhat reminds me of the 2006 UNC team. They lost their first game against Duke in a matchup that was closer than it should have been, and, while disappointing, as a UNC fan you could still feel confident seeing that young team growing up so fast. They eventually ended that regular season with one of the best upsets in the history of the UNC-Duke rivalry. I don’t think this team is as talented as that ’06 squad was, but a guy can dream right?

[2] Something Kennedy Meeks will hopefully be able to provide next season

[3] Which he’s been reluctant to do in the past

Posted in Miscellaneous | 2 Comments