Welcome Aboard

It would be terribly remiss of me to not acknowledge and thank all the folks who have found their way to My Take on Whatever these past few weeks.

And heaven forbid it be said that Country Dan Collins has ever even once in his 66 years on this planet been remiss. I shudder at the thought, wondering just how I could sleep at night.

So thanks from the bottom of my heart, and welcome aboard. To expand the circle means more fun for everybody.

Upon launching this blog a little more than year ago, I wasn’t exactly sure what I intended to do with it other than write about whatever interested me at the time I was writing it. But I had just retired after 40 years spent writing sports for the Winston-Salem Journal, and I did know I get off on writing too much to just stop.

And I don’t have the patience, discipline and focus to write all those novels I was so bent on writing “One of these days.’’ So I decided to go with the next-best thing.

One of my many close friends from our Thursday night gatherings for Open Mic at Muddy Creek Cafe is a wise soul named Nancy Burney Douglass. And in this case, NBD knew me better than I knew myself.

“Most people blog their way into a career in journalism,’’ she observed. “Well, you’re blogging your way out.’’

Bingo.

No singer-songwriter has been covered more than John Prine over our 4 ½ years of making music the way it’s meant to be made among friends down at Open Mic at Muddy Creek. And that’s a good thing. No complaints here.

On Prine’s latest offering, Tree of Forgiveness, there was a couplet that really hit home, off the tune Lonesome Friends of Science.

I live way down inside my head,

Well, long ago I made my bed.’’

John Prine and I share the same address, but I’m not so deep inside my head not to know what has driven so many of you my way. That would be the anguish and utter despair over the demise of a once-proud basketball program at Wake.

And some of you might even know I was on hand to chronicle so many of the golden moments in the history of Wake basketball, from the time I was assigned to the beat in 1992 until my retirement in August of 2017. There was a time when I was known to brag to anyone who would listen about having the best college basketball beat in America.

Sadly, those times are long gone, buried beneath the rubble of losses to Stetson, Winthrop, UNC Wilmington, Presbyterian, Wofford, Delaware State, Georgia Southern, Liberty, Houston Baptist and – as recently as last night – a Richmond team so bad that Chris Mooney will have to hustle like hell to survive his 14th season as the Spiders’ head coach.

Losing at Richmond wouldn’t be so devastating except for three reasons. One, this is, again, a really, really bad Richmond team, bad enough to lose – AT HOME — to Longwood (63-58) and Hampton (86-66). Two, the loss was just so utterly predictable for a team so disjointed and hapless as to be a team in name only.

And three, and most important, the yet-one-more ignominious setback came in Danny Manning’s FIFTH season as head coach. Not his first, not his third, but his fifth, when he has had all the time any coach worth his mettle would need to rectify whatever problems were left over from the program-crippling hire of Jeff Bzdelik on that fateful day in April of 2010.

Along the way the link to My Take on Whatever surfaced on enough sites on social media – Demon Deacons Sports Nation on Facebook, DemonDeaconDigest and that mother lode of all Wake sites, Old Gold & Black Boards — that my number of hits exploded exponentially.

The number exploded from the 50 or so hits I was lucky to get on a good day to where two recent posts have roared past 2,000. I recognize that’s small potatoes in the greater blogosphere of the Interweb, but it’s one big fat spud for this old grizzled retiree sitting on his ever-widening behind in his cluttered den out in Oldtown.

And, again, it’s greatly appreciated, as are the comments flowing in from one and all.

What I hate, for you as well as me, is that I couldn’t be writing about the stirring success of a Wake program battling back from the doldrums into ACC and national contention. I hate that the hire of Danny Manning hasn’t worked out. I really do. He was a great player, and seems to be a decent man – though I have to admit I was never really given the opportunity to get to know him.

But an explanation I always had for those who found fault with my coverage of Wake sports came in three words. Cause and effect.

If Manning was 7-0 right now instead of 4-3 against one of the weakest schedules in school history, if Manning were 52-20 in the ACC instead of 20-52, if Manning had ever finished better than 10th in the regular season, if Manning had really followed through with his promise of making defense the strength his program would hang its hat on, then my thesaurus wouldn’t have enough nice words for me to write about the man.

Which leaves me having to write what’s going on, and what’s going on is Wake keeps losing season after soul-crushing season in basketball and those who have a say in the matter have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they don’t care enough about their ever-dwindling core of fans to do anything about it.

And to me, that’s what’s really sad.

Lest you newbies get the wrong idea, my blog is not devoted exclusively to Wake sports. Again, I write about whatever interests me, and my interests are wide and varied.

My deepest passion is music, which has resulted in the aforementioned Open Mic sessions down at Muddy Creek Cafe. And although I have been writing sports forever – since my junior year of high school, going on 50 years ago — I’ve been writing songs even longer.

All my life I’ve threatened to record a CD of original songs, and I’m proud to say I am, at present, finally making good on that threat. I’ve enlisted a sharp young engineer, musician and recent graduate of Wake named Geoff Weber (He of the band Bad Cameo, hottest thing going) and we’re laying down tracks at his home studio that I’m increasingly excited about.

For those interested, I’ll keep you apprised of the progress, and make sure you have a chance to listen to how it comes out.

What I don’t want to do is spend all my retirement taking a metaphorical cudgel to Danny Manning’s kneecaps. Honest I don’t.

But if I didn’t write what was going on, what reason would anybody have to read anything I write? And if nobody read what I write, that would be sadder than Wake losing to Houston Baptist in basketball.

Well, almost.

10 thoughts on “Welcome Aboard

  1. You are now free to say what you might have thought before
    but were constrained from saying so directly. Lucky you! I totally agree with your Take on Wake. WFU is so emeshed with Manning it is a challenge to see how they can least painfully extricate themselves.

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  2. The Wake program can’t survive beyond this season with Manning at the helm. Attendance is now approaching the laughable stage at the Joel. Wellman will have no choice but the jettison his hapless basketball coach come February or March.

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  3. Glad 2,000 people have read some recent blogs. I can only hope that number includes people who can help Ron Wellman prepare his retirement announcement … and maybe an influential member or two from the Board of Trustees. Time for Nathan Hatch to also feel some heat.

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  4. i pray that the rumor about an $18 million guaranteed contract extension is not true. If true, Manning should be applauded for being one heck of a negotiator, regardless of his coaching acumen.

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    1. If that’s your only hope, then the situation is indeed hopeless, What is this “pull” of which you speak? I didn’t have any when I actually worked for a living, and I certainly don’t have any now. But I appreciate you reading, and your comment. Thanks.

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  5. Mr. Collins,

    I was thrilled to find your blog. I always enjoyed your articles and commentary in WSJ, and especially MTOW, so please keep the insights coming.

    I haven’t quite summoned the mental and emotional strength to write (much less think too much) about the job that Danny Manning has done with the basketball team so far, especially with the looming prospect of Ron Wellman having given Manning such an outrageous contract. At this point, it seems like there’s at least some talent on the roster, so hopefully the team improves over the course of the year and actually stays long enough to experience some success, with the current coach or the next.

    Moving to another topic, I’ve always been curious about your “take” on the larger issue of compliance with NCAA rules from your vantage point covering Wake athletics. There are so many angles (paying players stipends beyond their scholarship benefits, reforming the rules, etc.) that the topic may not be conducive to a single blog post, but I’d be particularly curious about your views on how Wake has navigated the compliance minefield over the years while competing in a conference where some programs (e.g. UNC, Louisville, FSU, etc.) are perceived to be far less scrupulous than others.

    I suppose I’m fascinated with this topic for a variety of reasons, but ultimately, I examine it through the lens of a supporter and alum of Wake Forest who is proud to compete with these others schools and badly wants to beat them without having to resort to breaking the spirit of what surely is a set of tedious rules. Difficult times for the basketball team make me wonder whether the current structure of NCAA basketball makes that possible (although I’m quite heartened that the success that Dave Clawson has had with the football team seems to indicate that it is, if we have the right staff in place!). Again, I appreciate your “take”!

    Like

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