Closed Minds, Closed Societies

Good friends of mine – and if you’re reading this, you know who you are – are convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that Donald Trump’s presidency is and always will be illegitimate.

Personally I don’t know that to be true. But what I do know, and what I’ve repeated time and again over the years, is that the next best thing to winning is to lose with a good excuse.

Good friends of mine – and if you’re reading this, you too know who you are – are convinced beyond a shadow of the doubt that President Trump is a victim of a concentrated and baseless smear campaign by those who just can’t take the fact that he won the election fairly and squarely.

To that, I do find it delicious that so many of the same Republicans who have railed against victimhood for all these many years are so quick to describe the standard bearer of their party as a victim. But as for their deeper point, I’m willing to wait to see where the investigations into collusion and the role of the Russian meddling in our nation’s elections lead before drawing any firm and fast conclusions.

I have my suspicions, but to date, that’s all they are.

For I have, truth be told, been fooled before.

Case in point, there’s Frank Zappa. When I first saw a photograph of Zappa and listened to his music with Mothers of Invention, it became so obvious to everyone that here was a drug-crazed hippie. Well he may have been a hippie, depending, of course, on your definition, but he certainly wasn’t drug-crazed.

Quite the opposite, according to those who actually knew Zappa. Rock N’ Roll folklore has it that Zappa fired the legendary Lowell George of Little Feat fame because of the drug references in the song Willin’, an account that keyboardist Bill Payne of Little Feat found entirely credible.

Zappa, as it turns out, was a sharp guy, sharp enough to come up with a quote I stumbled across while ruminating about the topic of the day.

“A mind is like a parachute,’’ Zappa pontificated. “It doesn’t work if it’s not open.’’

And therein lies one of the pressing problems I see as we, as a nation, hurtle ever deeper into the dark recesses of history’s dustbin. There are too many among us whose minds are locked shut, never to again tolerate the light of day. The true believers can be found on both sides of the political debate, but it’s my take that the heaviest concentration is among those who are willing to forgive and defend President Trump at every turn, no matter how egregious, puerile and, ultimately destructive to the body politic his words and actions might be.

When we read quotes describing Trump as reckless, outrageous and undignified, and how he has undermined our democratic norms and ideas, how he has turned the office of the presidency into an adult day-care center, how he has debased the office and divided the country for political gain, it’s important to remember those charges are being leveled not only by the Hillary Clinton campaign or Democratic operatives, but from lifelong, card-carrying members of Trump’s own party.

A couple of bombshells landed in Washington today. Paul Manafort, hired by Trump to run his presidential campaign, was indicted along with an associate on 12 counts that included money laundering, lying to federal investigators and conspiracy against the United States.

I’d have to ask by brother Joe or nephew Ward, the lawyers in the family, what the legal ramifications might be for conspiracy against the United States. But it sure as hell sounds bad.

But what may prove to ultimately be more damaging was the news that George Papadopoulis, a foreign-policy adviser to the Trump campaign, has already pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about the nature of conversations he had with Russian operatives who purported to have “dirt’’ on Hillary Clinton.

The most foreboding revelation to the White House might be that Papadopoulis’ plea agreement required he cooperate with government investigators. As I mentioned earlier, I’m willing for all the investigations to run their course before I come to any hard and fast conclusions, other than this was not a good day for Donald Trump, the White House or, for that matter, the nation as a whole.

Trump, true to his nature, continues to call the whole investigation a hoax, a witch hunt and there is probably around 35 percent of the electorate who have already demonstrated they are willing to believe anything and everything the man says. So they’ll believe this is all fake news, made up to make their man look bad.

And even if Trump did wrong, whatever Hillary Clinton did or was purported to have done was worse.

There are many reasons I love history, but the first and foremost may be how it provides context to all that’s happening today. We’ve seen before what can happen to a society, nation or civilization ruled by the closed mind. We saw it in France in the 1780s, in Russia in 1917, in Germany in the 1930s and in China a decade later. Any nation that marches in lock-step is headed right over the nearest cliff.

It takes hard work to remain up on all the issues of the day, the kind of due diligence and thoughtful consideration that some are simply unwilling to put in. Too many folks among us – again from all political persuasions – want to arrive at a conclusion and be done with it. They want their minds to be made.

But a made mind is a closed mind, and a closed mind is an existential threat to who we are and have always been.

So keep an open mind. The future of our democracy depends on it.

The Unsinkable John Wolford

I get knocked down, but I get up again.

You’re never going to keep me down.’’Chumbawamba release of 1997.

As a sportswriter, I was taught to never root for any team or any player that I covered.

But try as I might, I couldn’t help over these past three and a half seasons becoming a huge fan of John Wolford.

Of all the quarterbacks I saw play at Wake Forest, I know I never saw any of them pick themselves off the ground and keep playing football more often than Wolford. And that’s why it warmed the cockles of this old heart to see the game Wolford had in the Deacons’ euphoric 42-32 victory over dastardly Louisville today at BB&T Field.

So many people seem to be sleeping this season on Lamar Jackson, but as we saw today last season’s Heisman Trophy winner may still be the best quarterback in college football.

But on this day, when so much was riding on the outcome and the bad blood between the teams was still simmering, John Wolford was better.

It’s hard to play better than Wolford did while completing 28 of 34 passes for 461 yards and five touchdowns. He should have had six touchdown passes, if not for Greg Dortch fumbling just before he crossed the goal line in the third quarter, so Wolford had to settle for just tying Riley Skinner’s school record for most in a game.

The yardage, meanwhile, ranked fifth all-time in school history, just behind the 478 yards Rusty LaRue accumulated against Georgia Tech in 1995 and just ahead of the 447 Jay Venuto piled up against South Carolina in 1980.

Not bad for a player who, even after starting 33 games over his first three seasons, entered preseason camp running second team behind Kendall Hinton.

Not bad for a player who was thrown into the fray as a first-year freshman, only to get sacked 101 times over those same three seasons.

Not bad, in fact, for anybody.

After watching the game on TV, I have to say I missed the victorious Wake post-game. I missed talking with Wolford after this one, though over all the times I picked his brain after a game it was never so much what he said that I found impressive as what he didn’t say.

He never complained about getting knocked down time and again while the offensive line matured in front of him. He never made excuses when he messed up and he always shared the credit when he did well.

Today, when talking to Dave Goren during the IMG Sports post-game, he couldn’t say enough nice things about the offensive line no matter how hard he tried.

He even said he forgave Dortch for losing grip of the ball at the goal line and costing him a school record, but of course it’s easy to give a break to a redshirt freshman who himself caught 10 passes for 167 yards and a school record four touchdowns.

And that’s why I made sure on the last practice I ever covered at Wake to find Wolford and tell him two things I wanted him to hear.

The first was to thank him for being as patient, understanding and decent as he always was all those many times I had to approach him after another tough  loss. So many times he was bruised and battered and heartsick.

The second was for him and his team to make me sorry that I retired before this season of all seasons.

Today, for the first time, I was sorry I retired before the season. But I’m getting ready to pop the top on an adult beverage and dish up another bowl of homemade chili, so I’ll get over that feeling really fast.

I hope the feeling John Wolford has right now lasts for a long, long time.

Where Have You Gone Zack Wary?

Watching Wake play football on television is, for the most part, a new experience.

Over my 25 seasons on the beat for the Winston-Salem Journal, I rarely missed a game live, and almost all the times I did came in recent campaigns when the Deacons’ fading late-season record and pressing budget issues kept me off the road.

So I’m having to get used to watching games like so many of the rest of you, camped out in front of my TV. A guy doesn’t do what I did for so long without retaining at least some interest, and this fall I’ve watched as closely as I could every game but one.

I missed the Utah State game because of a gig. The sun was shining, the crowd down at Salem Square was plenty big and enthusiastic enough, and I was sharing the bill with a couple of buddies, Randy Carter and Mike Baron. So, in truth, I didn’t really miss missing the Deacons’ 46-10 of the Aggies stomping much at all.

Rest assured I’ll be watching with intense interest when the Deacons play Louisville at BB&T Field tomorrow at 12:20. I can’t help but be a bit curious about whatever repercussions might take place from an episode that I, at least in a small way, helped wrought.

A few days after the Cardinals rallied to beat Wake 44-12 in Louisville last November I received an anonymous email. The writer, who I later determined to be a professor at Wake, was wondering if I had heard anything about Louisville knowing the Deacons’ plays in advance of the game.

Naturally I asked around, and sure enough, both Athletics Director Ron Wellman and Coach Dave Clawson revealed four days later that the university was investigating a possible security breach in the program that – as we all know by now – led to the Deacon Tower seat of Tommy Elrod, the former Wake quarterback and assistant coach who had, for the past three seasons, had been the color analyst for the IMG Sports broadcasts.

Within a news cycle or two, all hell broke loose and a new term had made its way into the national sports lexicon. The scandal was then, and will forever be known, as Wakeyleaks.

Clawson, in Tuesday’s media availability, downplayed the impact of what took place last November on Saturday’s game, and I suppose that makes sense. There’s little he can gain from making a big deal of the Cardinals’ transgressions – at least to anyone outside the Wake locker room.

Besides, he has other issues to consider, as football coaches always do. The Deacons, after bolting to a 4-0 record, have lost three in a row, and really need a victory with games at Notre Dame and Syracuse and visits from N.C. State and Duke remaining in the regular-season.

My last days as an everyday working (if it could be called that) sportswriter were spent this August watching the Deacons go through their preseason paces. Wakeyleaks gave Clawson the pretext to do what he had been itching to do since he arrived at Wake, which was to close practices. But he remained, thankfully, accommodating enough to allow Les Johns of Demon Deacons Digest and I watch the team come together during preseason – one of the few pastimes I find worth getting up before daybreak to do.

I’ll be watching the Wake-Louisville game tomorrow with the same pressing question I had all throughout August. Are the Deacons’ missing Zack Wary, and if so, how much?

Everyone knew there would be an adjustment to defensive coordinator Mike Elko leaving for Wake Forest, to be replaced by Jay Sawvel. But over the first seven games, the Deacons’ defense has held its own. Or at least it had before being rolled for 28 points in the final 31 minutes of last week’s 38-24 loss at Georgia Tech.

The Deacons were playing without defensive tackle Zeek Rodney at Tech, and I thought they could have used him. Rodney was welcomed back with open arms after his one-season sabbatical for personal reasons, and he became all-the-more invaluable after Chris Stewart – who, lest we forget, started 10 games in 2016 – was asked to leave the program for the ubiquitous violation of team rules.

But the biggest question I had about the defense this August concerned the inside linebacker corps of Grant Dawson and Jaboree Williams backed up by Justin Strnad.

It only stood to reason there might be some dropoff. For all that was lacking on the offensive side of the ball in Clawson’s first two seasons, it bears noting that in his first 24 games as head coach, Brandon Chubb and Marquel Lee started every game at linebacker. And Chubb was named first-team All-ACC in 2015 and Lee, a season later after Chubb had graduated, was named second-team All-ACC.

Dawson, originally a walk-on from Reagan High School, is a wonderful story, one I enjoyed writing at least four or five times for the Journal. And Williams has continued to put on weight and develop over his four seasons in the program.

So far I’ve been impressed with the defensive front anchored by ends Duke Ejiofor and Wendell Dunn. And I really like the secondary, especially Jessie Bates (and who doesn’t love Jessie Bates?) at safety and Amari Henderson at corner.

But no matter how hard I looked in August, and no matter how hard I’ve looked since, I haven’t seen anybody in any way resembling Brandon Chubb or Marquel Lee playing linebacker for the Deacons. I didn’t even see it last Saturday, when Dawson made a career-high 14 tackles at Tech.

Injuries are a part of the game, but I have to think one that set the program back was losing Wary, a linebacker from Rogers, Ark. before the start of last season. At 6-4, 235 pounds, Wary reminded me physically of Dustin Lyman of Boulder, Colorado, one of my favorites who was a first-team All-ACC linebacker for Jim Caldwell in 1999. And I know, from talking to Elko and Clawson, that the staff was excited to see what Wary could do.

As fate would have it, though, Wary was ruled medically ineligible going into the 2016 season. Reasons were undisclosed, but Wary had missed games as a redshirt freshman in 2015 because of concussion-like symptoms.

Maybe Wary would have been a bust. Some highly-touted players are. But as he watches the Deacon defenders chase Lamar Jackson around BB&T Field, you can bet Clawson wishes Zack Wary was doing at least some of the chasing.

Offensively I’ll be watching to see if the Deacons remember they have, in Cam Serigne, the best tight end in the history of the program with eligibility remaining.



 By nature I’m not a materialistic guy. The only two possessions I own that I would bother to chase somebody down the street to take back would be my Bolivian Sombrero and my 1967 Gibson J-45, affectionately known as Buckshot.

I love my Sombrero, partly because it’s a great show hat but even more for knowing that my fearless daugher Rebecca lugged it home from her post-undergrad back-packing hike through South America.

But I love Buckshot even more. We’ve been partners in music ever since I liberated her from a music store in Galax, Va. about 30 years ago.

Now’s the time I should mention that I’m not a patient guy either. But the one instance when I managed to control my impulses came following a heaven-sent financial windfall of around $900. I knew I finally needed a good guitar, and I knew I couldn’t spend the entire largess on one.

So I budgeted half the amount — $450 — and spent the next year looking for the guitar of my dreams. Not being all that confident in my musical abilities, I wanted a name brand, the kind of guitar that people would take note of when I pulled it from the case. So I knew I’d have to go the used route.

On every trip I made while covering football and basketball for the Winston-Salem Journal, I’d scour every music store and pawn shop I came across. I came close to pulling the trigger a couple of times. There was a Guild in Atlanta I almost convinced myself was the right guitar.

But I knew it really wasn’t, so I waited.

Then one day my cousin Rick Morris from Cherokee — an accomplished guitarist in my own writ — called me to say my search was over. He had gotten to know a couple of brothers who vacationed regularly up on the reservation, and they had mentioned how they had a guitar hanging in their store up in Galax with my name on it.

With great alacrity, I sped across Fancy Gap to find Jennings Music. And there, sure enough, was the guitar of dreams, just hanging there waiting on me. I knew she was the one as soon as I strummed the strings. And when I asked the price, I knew the search was successful.

She cost $450, of course, which proved to be the best $450 I ever spent.

All this reminds me a bit of the wonderfully haunting song by Guy Clark called “The Guitar,”  but I swear it’s all true. For the past 30 years we’ve been through thick and thin together as I chase my dream of making some kind of mark in music.

Our son Nate grew up to be a professional musician. He’s a classically trained percussionist living in Dallas who teaches on the side when he’s not playing with all kinds of orchestras, symphonies, musicals and ensembles throughout the Lone Star State. And Nate, like so many fine musicians, is particular about his instruments. He’s not big on others playing them, and I respect that.

In that regard — like in so many ways — I’m different. My take is that a guitar was made the be played, and the more people who have played Buckshot over the years the happier both she and I have been.

For 4 1/2 years I coordinated an Open Mic down at the Garage in downtown Winston-Salem. For the past 3 1/2 years I’ve ram-rodded an Open Mic at Muddy Creek Cafe down in Bethania. I’m partial to Open Mics. To me they’re communion.

Over all those years, whenever somebody showed up with a busted string, a dead battery on their pickup or maybe without the ax they conveniently forgot at home, I’d shove Buckshot in their hands and say “Play her.” She’s never happier than when being played, and she comes through every time.

Buckshot and I will be back at it tonight down in Bethania at our weekly Open Mic at Muddy Creek Cafe. We have a time every week, and would love for you to come be part of it.

And if you ask just right, I’ll even let you play Buckshot.

’64 Browns vs. ’16 Clemson: You Make the Call

The athlete I encountered upon first entering a college locker room as a sportswriter in the early 70s is, for the most part, a different species of human from those populating college sports today.

Advancements in the science of strength and conditioning have been so dramatic that it left me wondering a question I guess no one could really answer.

But that won’t stop me from asking it.

Could the Clemson Tigers of 2016 beat the 1964 Cleveland Browns?

How would they fare against the 1950 Los Angeles Rams?

And don’t you have to at least suspect that a select team of college football’s best players – given a full preseason to come together and learn the playbook– could take care of any team from before the NFL/AFL merger of 1966?

I do.

I base that on how much people have learned about training the body, and how it has been applied over these 50 years since a rehabilitating track athlete from Nebraska named Boyd Epley pretty much pioneered the field of strength and conditioning only two or three years before I launched my career.

Always before, coaches were suspicious of weight training, convinced almost to a man that it made players too bulky and slow.

That was before Epley convinced Coach Bob Devaney of the Cornhuskers that the regimen and program he had developed would make a difference on the gridiron, and all it took was a 47-0 stomping of arch-rival Oklahoma to convince Devaney that this Epley character may be on to something. The fateful game was in 1969, which means the whole field is only in its fifth decade.

But the impact has rocked the college football world. Back in my undergrad days, you could walk by a football player on campus without taking notice. There were players who weighed 235 pounds and would need a stiff wind at his back to break 5 seconds in the 40-yard dash who were starting at offensive guard for schools along Tobacco Road.

Well before I turned in my laptop in August all that had changed. Every player who is in good enough shape to help his team today is chiseled out of iron, the iron they lift for countless hours under the exacting demands of a strength and conditioning coach and his various assistants.

Call it progress. Call it evolution. Every generation of athlete is bigger, stronger, faster and in more peak condition than the one that came before. The changes I’ve seen boggle the mind.

It’s beyond imagination to wonder where it all lead during the lifetime of my granddaughter Isla, who turns two in a couple of weeks. If she’s like her mother, and dad, she’ll love to watch football.

And maybe one day she’ll sit down and write how the 2045 Wake Forest Demon Deacons could beat the 2017 New England Patriots.

Is it Jim Cutcliffe or David Grobe?

Every time I start a sentence by wondering, `Is it just me, or. . .’ I’m invariably interrupted by those who know me best.

“Yes,’’ I’ve been advised time and again, “it’s just you.’’

Undaunted, if nothing else, I’ve been wondering lately if it’s just me or is David Cutcliffe beginning to resemble Jim Grobe more with every passing Saturday?

I’m obviously not talking about a physical resemblance. They’re close in age, Grobe being 65 and Cutcliffe 63, but Jim looks more like the ex-linebacker from Virginia and Cutcliffe comes across as, shall we say, a tad more professorial.

But watching Duke lose to Pitt Saturday for its fourth-straight setback underscored how closely Cutcliffe’s tenure with the Blue Devils is starting to mirror the trajectory of Grobe’s 13 seasons at Wake Forest.

Anyone who knows any history of ACC football know what both of these men accomplished. Both moved mountains to turn perennial doormats into programs nobody in the conference wanted to play. Both succeeded where so many of their predecessors had failed.

Both will be remembered among the greatest football coaches in the ACC.

The best coach during my four decades of covering ACC football was George Welsh of Virginia. Before he took over the reins in Charlottesville before the 1982 season, the Cavaliers had enjoyed one winning season against conference competition, that being a 3-2 mark during a 1968 campaign shortened by two ACC games.

George could be a real curmudgeon, but the man knew how to coach football – as he proceeded to prove by directing Virginia to 16 winning seasons in 19 tries, 12 bowl appearances and a share of the ACC title (with Duke, of all programs) in 1989.

But Welsh performed his miracle at a state school with all the support and financial advantages a stage school has to offer. What made the accomplishments of Grobe and Cutcliffe so impressive is not as much what they did as where they did it.

Programs have bad seasons, and they have bad decades. The case can be made (I know, because it’s one I made on a number of occasions) that Wake Forest had the worst century of any college football program from the resumption of the program in 1908 through 2000.

The stats are grisly. Over 93 seasons, Wake Forest managed a winning record 28 times. Another 30 seasons, the Deacons could win no more than two games.

But the factoid I find most fascinating is that on the day Jim Grobe was announced as Wake Forest’s head football coach in December of 2000, eight of the nine ACC schools had, over the course of history, won more games than they had lost.

The outlier, Wake Forest, checked in with 350 wins and 542 losses, for a winning percentage of 39.6.

Within two seasons, Grobe had led Wake Forest to two winning seasons and a bowl victory. Over 48 previous ACC seasons, the Deacons had managed to win as many as three conference games all of 15 times. Grobe’s teams won at least three in 10 of his 13 seasons.

Within six seasons, the Deacons had won their first ACC title in 36 seasons and their second ever. Within eight seasons, they had fashioned five winning seasons – three of them in a row – and played in four bowl games.

And, of course, in the halycon season of 2006, Grobe was named coach of the year not just for the ACC but the nation as well.

When Cutcliffe took over at Duke before the 2008 campaign, the Blue Devils were stuck in the Marianas Trench of college football. His predecessor, Ted Roof, had won six games (and lost 45) in four seasons. The program had enjoyed only three winning seasons over 25 campaigns and more to the point, hadn’t won an ACC game in three seasons.

Rolling up his sleeves, Cutcliffe broke ground that had been fallow for decades. The nine victories over his first two seasons fell like raindrops on parched soil, and allowed him to easily weather the back-to-back three-win seasons of 2010 and 2011.

But the real bumper crop came in 2013, when Duke shocked the college football world by storming to 10 victories and winning the Coastal Division. And for his efforts, Cutcliffe, like Grobe seven seasons before, was presented the Bobby Dodd Award for best coach in college football.

Cutcliffe, like Grobe, was doing what so many said just couldn’t be done.

Like at Wake, the momentum carried Duke through two more magical seasons as the Blue Devils reeled off nine victories in 2014 and eight in 2015.
Then came the fall-off to 4-8 last season, which was way-too-reminiscent of Wake’s tumble to 3-9 by 2010. And with the four straight losses this season, I imagine there are those around the Duke program hoping beyond hope that the Blue Devils won’t continue the same slide into mediocrity for which Grobe’s final four seasons at Wake are, unfortunately, remembered.

Dave Clawson succeeded Grobe before the 2014 season convinced that he too can move mountains. And maybe he can. He has proven over his career to be a good football coach, and there’s a school of thought that the landscape of college football is changing in ways that benefit the smaller, private programs.

The buzzword of the 21st century is niche, as in niche art, niche fashion and niche economy. Maybe Wake and Clawson can fashion a niche that appeals to the player – or more likely his parents – who feels he can have the best of both worlds. He can play Power Five football while earning a quarter of a million dollar education.

But the problem facing both programs is not how they play, but who they play. For all the improvements that have been made in facilities at both Duke and Wake Forest – and they are considerable, believe me – there are other rivals in the league who want for practically nothing when it comes to administrative, financial and fan support.

Of all the sports, football is the ultimate numbers game. And when I see a game at Wake or Duke with sun reflecting off empty bleachers, I can’t help but compare it to the 80,000 strong that turn out religiously to see the likes of Clemson, Florida State and Virginia Tech play football.

Maybe I’m wrong. And I wouldn’t mind seeing Duke win five in a row and finish 9-4. Cutcliffe, as I’ve been told by those on the Blue Devils’ beat, is a good man who cares about those around him. That’s another way in which he reminds me of Jim Grobe.

My suspicions, however, are that as hard as it is to move mountains, it’s even harder to have that mountain stay put and not slide back into the rut where it has spent one previous decade after another.

But maybe it’s just me.

Where in the Hay was Cam Serigne?

Growing up in the Great Smokey Mountains, my Boy Scout troop took a trip or two down Highway 441 to Atlanta. It being a very large city, even way back then, we were always cautioned to stay with our traveling party or we might get lost.

Sometime between embarking from Winston-Salem Friday and losing Georgia Tech 38-24 at Bobby Dodd Stadium Saturday night, Wake Forest lost a member of its traveling party. I could have sworn I caught sight of Cam Serigne a time or two on television, but there’s no sign in the final stats that the best tight end to ever play for the Deacons was ever even there.

Not only did Serigne not catch a pass – for the second game this season – I don’t remember quarterback John Wolford ever looking his way.

All of which would have been perfectly understandable if the Deacons’ offense had continued to punish the Yellow Jacket defense in the second half the way it did in the first. But from the disaster of the first series of the third quarter – which began with a false start by fourth-year tackle Justin Herron and disintegrated on a snap by center Ryan Anderson past the ear of an unsuspecting Wolford – Wake Forest was summarily stymied over the final 30 minutes.

Whatever adjustments defensive coordinator Ted Roof of the Yellow Jackets made at halftime were the ones head coach Paul Johnson hired him to make. The Deacons, over seven second-half possessions, managed eight first downs and scored all of three points.

It bears noting that Wake, not Tech, had the extra week to prepare for this game.

The offense was sputtering even before starting guard Phil Haynes was sidelined by an injury midway through the third quarter – which required coach Dave Clawson to insert a green redshirt freshman, Je’Vionte’ Nash (he of the two hyphens in his first name) at tackle and bump Herron down to guard. But between the patchwork offensive line and the way Georgia Tech began loading up the box, the Deacons’ rushing attack conked out.

Wake Forest blocked the Yellow Jackets in the first half and had 71 rushing yards on 15 carries by halftime to show for its efforts. But the offensive line resembled of what we’ve grown all too used to seeing after halftime while carving out only 39 yards on the ground in 16 attempts.

Given the way quarterback TaQuon Marshall and the Tech offense whipped through the Deacons’ defense in the second half – on the way to four touchdowns over seven possessions – Wake Forest’s only chance of a victory was to keep moving the chains.

But come the fourth quarter, by which time the Deacons trailed 31-24, Wake faced a third and-five at its 42 and a third-and-two at the Tech 25. And twice the call was to send Cade Carney plowing into a defensive front stacked for the occasion – only to be stopped short of the sticks.

Before both plays I wondered if this might be the time for Clawson and offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero to slip Serigne into the flats for a short throw or have him curl across the middle on a play-action. Even with last night’s shutout, Serigne has caught 142 passes for 1,703 yards and 17 touchdowns. He holds the school record for touchdowns and yards gained by a tight end and is tied with John Henry Mills (1989-92) for most catches.

I suspected that might have been part of the discussion after mass confusion at the line forced Clawson, facing a fourth-and-one at the Tech 24, to call time with 3:49 remaining. I was wrong. Carney took the handoff and ran into a stone wall well short of the marker.

Three plays later Marshall sallied around right end for 70 yards and a touchdown, and that, folks, was the game.

The Deacons’ third-straight loss was a bitter pill, especially given the way they dominated the first 29 minutes en route to a 21-10 lead. You could see it on the face of Clawson in the post-game video provided by road-warrior Les Johns of the Demon Deacon Digest.

Football coaches, being the intense, meticulous beings they are, will review every moment, every call in a game. And Clawson did mention the personal foul against linebacker Jaboree Williams that moved Tech into range for a 42-yard field goal on the final play of the half.

But he’ll probably also take note that on the possession before, after Carney’s 16-yard rumble to the Tech one, there was still plenty of time remaining on the play clock when Wolford pulled the ball out of Carney’s gut and skirted right end for the touchdown.

Tech resumed possession with a minute remaining and scored on the final play with the half. You have to wonder.

A bigger question, however, is how the Deacons will respond next week for the game everyone in Black and Gold has been anticipating for the past year. Louisville, the co-conspirator in last season’s Tommy Elrod scandal, comes to town with Lamar Jackson, last season’s Heisman Trophy winner, at quarterback.

Will Wake Forest get its revenge? And will the Deacons remember that the best tight end in school history still has eligibility remaining?

The Electronic Strike Zone

Baseball would be a better game with an electronic strike zone.

All the squabbling over balls and strikes that has persisted since John J. McGraw was chewing on Hank O’Day’s ass back in the day is now, at long last, avoidable.

Season after season, decade after decade, players, managers, coaches and umpires come and go but the bellyaching over balls and strikes remains. Take calling the plate off the plate umpire and – what with replays and reviews – there would be very little to bellyache about.

How civilized that would be.

But what really breaks my heart is to see a pitcher in the throes of an impossible situation – bases loaded, ninth inning, tie game, 3-2 count – paint the outside corner at the knees and have the pitch of his dreams called a ball for a walk-off base on balls.

Equally galling is to see the hitter in that situation take a pitch three inches off the plate that is called a strike. The catcher charges out to hug the pitcher, fireworks light up the purple sky, the crowd goes bonkers and the poor hitter who has spent a career developing the kind of plate discipline he has just displayed walks off the goat.

Not fair. It’s just not fair. The game means too much to too many people for that to happen.

The umpires I crossed paths with during my three decades spent covering minor-league baseball seemed like most of the rest of us – good people wanting to do a good job. The ones I encountered were young and still learning, but they certainly weren’t villains or ne’er-do-wells.

But they are being asked to do is way too often humanly impossible. The rules of the game state that a pitch only has to cross any sliver of the plate to be called a strike, and the pitches of today are of the darting, dipping, cutting, sliding, waffling, spinning variety that have been known to arrive at speeds in excess of 100 miles an hour.

Good luck with that.

Don’t give me that balderdash about the “human element.’’ And what I’m not about to stand and listen to is how each umpire has his own personal zone, and how some are “pitchers’ umpires’’ and others are “hitters’ umpires’’ and how it’s up to the players to adjust.

Hogwash. Where does it say in the rule book it’s up to to player to alter his tactics and game-plan to adhere to the preference, if not whim, of a guy who gets paid whether he makes the right call or not?

Finally, at long last, we can clean up this sordid aspect of the game, the one that has induced so much of the bitching, moaning and corrosive ill will over the years.

We have cameras. We have computers. Heavens to Old Hoss Radbourn, we even have lasers.

The technology exits.

Institute the electronic strike zone for the 2018 season and it will be a far better game. MLB can even get really go 21st century with it and wire the plate in such a way that it turns a bright red whenever a pitch that is taken crosses the plate.

Once it’s done, it won’t take a couple of series for everyone to realize what a bad idea it was for humans to call – check that, attempt to call – balls and strikes.

The Kid From Waycross

Of all the great bioflicks never made, right at te top of the list is story of one of my heroes, Gram Parsons. He never found fame, never had a hit, but if you love music honesty compels you to admit how much you owe — how much we all owe — the Kid from Waycross. He also discovered Emmylou, and for that alone he deserves Sainthood.



The Great Renaissance

The most compelling evidence I’ve come across that we have a say in when we begin our ride through space and time is my birthday, August 16, 1952.

For a guy whose life would not be worth living without music, I could not have come up with a better time of arrival.

Think about it. My earliest musical memories were of Hank Williams, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Lefty Frizzell, Ray Charles, Jerry Lee “The Killer” Lewis, Carl Perkins and the one and only Elvis “The Pelvis’’ Presley laying down the asphalt on that magical, mystical musical highway to the Promised Land.

Then, at the tender age of 11, I sprawled out in front of our black-and-white Philco on Forest Avenue in Franklin, N.C. to watch four mop-top weirdos from someplace called Liverpool, England do their thang on The Ed Sullivan Show. I was transfixed. I was pole-axed. I was never, ever, ever, ever the same.

My mother, seeing my wide-eyed wonder, prayed for my soul.

She meant well, but she was too late.

All my life I’ve heard people debate which was the greatest decade of music. The two leading candidates seemed to be the 60s and 70s. Finally, after mulling the question for years, I realized the start and end of a decade is way too arbitrary for a line of demarcation.

Did music suddenly start to suck on Jan. 1, 1970. Of course not. American Beauty showed up in at the Record Exchange on Chapel Hill’s Franklin Street that year, as did Live at Leeds, Let It Be, Layla, Sweet Baby James, After the Gold Rush, Moondance, Bridge Over Troubled Water and CSNY’s Deja Vu.

And did the explosion continue to rock our world all through the 70s? This is just me talking, but I found less and less I really, really, REALLY wanted to listen to by the time the calendar finally turned to 1980.

There’s no doubt in my mind the Beatles hitting our shores in 1964 begat the Tsunami that deluged our musical consciousness for at least the next dozen years. And if I had to pick a time when it all started to peter (as in a verb, not a noun) out was when John Travolta disco danced across our theatre screens in Saturday Night Fever and the whole scene became less about the art and the soul and more about the clothes and what anyone could find to sniff up their nose. Style trumped substance, and we all suffered for it.

But oh those 12 years, from 1964 through 1975, what a time to be coming of age, to be cutting your musical teeth, to be alive. Oh what a lucky boy I was.

One of these days I plan to get around to writing a book about that period, and again, I’m halfway there. I already have my title:

The Great Renaissance.

I defy anyone to name a richer, more vibrant, creative and mind-expanding cosmic period of musical history than what I experienced (and yes, Jimi, I was experienced) from ages 11 through 23. Even the sub-groupings work out so perfectly in that if 1964-75 was the Great Renaissance, then the five years in the middle, 1967-72, was the High Renaissance. And if the double entendre escapes you, you obviously weren’t there.

And what great occurrence transpired right smack in the middle of the High Renaissance, in August of 1969 on a bucolic landscape in upstate New York.

That’s right. Woodstock.

My daughter Rebecca grumbles and rolls her eyes when I go on and on about our period of music. I’m actually proud of the way she champions and defends her music, the music that came along after she was born in 1990. And I’m not too lunk-headed to see that there have always been great musicians making great music. We danced our behinds off this June at Nate’s wedding to a 90s band called, appropriately enough, The Clinton Years. A rowdy and rollicking time was had by all.

But even Rebecca, in a weak moment, will acknowledge that there has never been and likely never will be a band like the Beatles.

As a former journalist, I was trained to qualify and quantify my assertions, to attribute, to deal in facts and not just fly by the seat of my pants. To that end, I spent the morning scrolling through Rolling Stones’ Top 500 albums of all time.

Now none of this is to say that Rolling Stone is the be-all, end-all arbiter of all things to do with popular music, but it is one source worth at least checking out.

And my suspicions were indeed confirmed. Of the list of Top 500 albums of all time, a grand total of 222 (or 44 percent) were released from 1964 through 1975. And that’s not even counting the Greatest Hits collections from artists of that period released later by Rhino and other retro-labels.

What also became apparent was that the concentration of albums from the Great Renaissance got heavier and heavier the higher up the list I went.

Of albums ranked 500-400, 31 were from the GR.

Of those ranked 400-300, there were 34.

Of those 300-200, there were 44.

From 200 to 100 it was 54.

And of Rolling Stones’ Top 100 albums of all time, 59 were from the greatest 12 years of music we’ve ever known.

But listen to this: Nine of the albums ranked in the all-time Top 10 were from the Great Renaissance.

No. 10 was The Beatles’ White Album (1968), No. 9 Bob Dylan’s Blond on Blond (1966), No. 7 The Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street (1972), No. 6 Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On? (1971), No. 5 The Beatles Rubber Soul (1965), No. 4 Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited (1965), No. 3 The Beatles’ Revolver (1965), No. 2 The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds (1966) and No. 1, of course, The Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.

With the one and only Billy Shears.

I know you’re wondering what was No. 8. It was the Clash’s London Calling, a call I have absolutely no trouble with.

How I would love to live through another period to match the Great Renaissance but I suspect one of those come along only in a Blue Moon of Kentucky.