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Remembering J.J.

My Sunday column — one I wish I didn’t have to write 

In 20 years of covering prep sports in virtually every corner of the state of North Carolina, I’ve had the opportunity to see thousands of student-athletes take the field, court or pitch.

J.J. Thompson was one of the best I had the honor to write about. The former Greene Central High School star was the best player in our area in 2006, when The Free Press named him its overall player of the year.

Friday night, J.J. succumbed to cancer, less than a month after his 23rd birthday. The news of his untimely death spread quickly throughout Greene County and North Carolina on Saturday.

Jim Bob Bryant won the Associated Press Coach of the Year award this past season at Havelock High School. In 2006, though, Bryant was Greene Central’s head football coach.

Saturday afternoon, Bryant was driving back from a coach’s clinic in Western North Carolina; more than 12 hours after finding out about J.J.’s untimely death, the coach’s voice still cracked with emotion.

“I love all my players and they know that,” Bryant said. “But J.J. was like a son to me. If he’d have ever wanted to move in with me and my family, he could have in a heartbeat — that’s how much we thought of him.”

One of J.J.’s closest friends was his defensive coordinator at Greene Central, Andre Quinerly. “Coach Q” was the catalyst in bringing J.J. back in 2011 to the Rams’ sideline, where the recent Winston-Salem State University graduate coached Quinerly’s linebackers.

“I lost a fantastic player and coach, but more than that, I lost a good friend,” Q told me Saturday afternoon, his voice shaking. “Yes, he was young, but he was going to be a great coach because the kids really admired him.”

Bryant agreed.

“He had just received his business degree from Winston-Salem State, but I told him as soon as he got his teaching certification, he had a spot on my Havelock staff,” said Bryant, who added that J.J. would’ve been a great head coach one day.

His first three years of high school, J.J. was a defensive star at Greene Central and a blocking back on offense. His senior year, though, team issues forced him to become the Rams’ starting tailback, a position he hadn’t played since middle school.

He rose to the challenge — rushing for over 1,000 yards and 16 touchdowns, along with leading the Rams to a 9-3 record on a squad that included other great Rams players such as defensive star Brandon Sutton, quarterback Cameron Shelton and receiver/defensive back Harrison Walston.

“That’s just the way he was; he was unselfish and a total team player,” Quinerly said of J.J., who received a football scholarship to WSSU. “His commitment was to his team. He’d sacrifice his own health to do what was best for the team.”

Bryant said, “He was a team-first player. He told me, ‘If it helps the team, I’ll move anywhere you need me.’ He didn’t care about glory for himself — he just wanted his teammates to be successful.”

Quinerly said J.J.’s greatest game was a non-conference affair against Kinston in September 2006. In a game no one expected Greene Central to win, J.J. rushed for 84 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries in the Rams’ 22-21 victory in Snow Hill. More importantly, though, he finished with 13 tackles, including six for loss, on defense.

“Like he always did, he put the team on his back that night,” Quinerly recalled. “He was hyped up and he guaranteed the team, ‘We’re winning this game.’ And we did — because of his heart.”

Most Greene Central fans remember how the charismatic Brandon Sutton led those teams with his skill and talent; Sutton — now a rookie with Richmond Raiders of the Arena Football League after a spectacular career at Catawba College — said he was always pushed by J.J.

“He made sure the person beside him was always doing his job,” Sutton said. “And he always motivated me. If I got a sack, he said he was going to get two. If I had an interception, he had to get one, too. He was the ultimate teammate and a great friend since we were in fifth grade.”

The last couple of times I saw J.J. in football season and at a basketball game, he busted my chops about my need to write a story about his return to the sideline as an assistant coach for Greene Central. I tried to tell him I wasn’t the sports guy any longer with The Free Press, but that I’d put something together for the upcoming football season.

He persisted, though.

“C’mon, Mr. Hanks — you know you want to write this story!” J.J. said with a laugh in our final conversation. “It’ll be like old times!”

I wish I could’ve written that story instead of the one I’m typing now. Rest in peace, young man.

Bryan C. Hanks’ column appears in The Free Press every Sunday. You can reach him at 252-559-1074 or at bhanks@freedomenc.com. Check out his blog at bhanks.encblogs.com and follow him on Twitter at BCHanks.

Morning News Report; March 28, 2012

Bloggees: before I get started, I want to send a sincere thank you to all of you who took the time to write, call, email, Facebook and tweet me and our Free Press family while we mourned the loss of our friend and coworker, Charles Buchanan.

We’ve had several columns and tributes to the man, including my Sunday column, Jon Dawson’s column yesterday and even a poignant letter to the editor from former Free Press City Editor Jennifer Shrader.

We miss Charles. It’s been awful at the office this week without him … I keep waiting for him to poke his head in my office and I can’t pass his office without getting a lump in my throat.

We lost a good one, y’all — and it’s going to be very hard for The Free Press to recover from this loss.

CELL PHONE USE BY DRIVERS BANNED IN CHAPEL HILL

The town of Chapel Hill became the first in the nation to ban the use of cell phones by all drivers in its city limits. The ban is for traditional and hands-free phones.

My take: Thanks, Big Brother. We, as humans, are too stupid to make our own decisions, so it’s nice we have a government (at least in Chapel Hill) that cares enough to take care of us.

Sarcasm intended.

DODGERS SOLD FOR $2 BILLION

The L.A. Dodgers are set to be sold for (gulp!) $2 billion by a group that includes Magic Johnson.

My take: Wow … just wow. And we wonder why it costs $300 for a family of four to go to one of 81 home games a year for a MLB game. Jeez.

MEGA MILLIONS HITS $476 MILLION JACKPOT (OR MORE)

After no one won the Mega Millions jackpot last night, Friday’s estimated total is (gulp!) $476 million. There were three-hour waits last night for tickets in some areas.

My take: Yep … I’m not a big lottery ticket buyer, but I’ll be one of those idiots buying $5 worth of tickets for Friday’s drawing.

The iPod shuffle

The Tide Is High — Blondie

Electric Avenue — Eddy Grant

Damn Girl — Justin Timberlake featuring will.i.am

The Electric Co. — U2

Always Be My Baby — Mariah Carey

Rest in peace, Charles Buchanan

This is a tremendously sad day at The Free Press, where we have lost our co-worker, our dear friend and the most talented photographer I have ever worked alongside in Charles Buchanan.

Charles was the most professional photojournalist I’ve ever known. He was ethical to his core — if he was covering an event, he was NEVER late and he treated every single assignment as if it was the most important assignment he was ever going to shoot.

He had an eye for shots the average person couldn’t see — until they were on my desk (and later in your paper or on your screen).

Please join me and our Free Press family in praying for the love of Charles’ life, his beautiful wife Patsy.

Afternoon News Report; Feb. 29, 2012

DAVY JONES DIES

Davy Jones, lead singer of the iconic ’60s group The Monkees, died today at the age of 66.

My take: And another icon of my childhood has passed.

Honestly, I wasn’t a huge fan of The Monkees growing up — not that I’m a super-fan now — but I dated a woman in the 1990s who was a huge fan. One of the best trips we ever made was when I got us credentialled for a Monkees show at the Myrtle Beach House of Blues and she got to meet Peter Tork and Mickey Dolenz after the show. And they were pretty good fellows, too.

Rest in peace, Daydream Believer.

FREE PRESS TO ACCEPT 20 NCPA AWARDS

When the North Carolina Press Association hands out its editorial excellence awards tomorrow night in Chapel Hill, The Free Press newsroom will receive at least 20 of those awards.

My take: I can’t even begin to tell you how proud I am of everyone in our newsroom. We work in an industry that is being told all the time that we’re a dying breed. The level of pay we receive for the amount of work we put in is almost embarrassingly disproportionate. We’ve seen our paper and our staff shrink in these tough economic times.

Yet, every day, the staff with whom I work bring their “A” game and bring home these type of awards.

Many thanks to Nancy Saunders, David Anderson, Wesley Brown, Jon Dawson, Justin Hill, Jane Moon, Charles Buchanan, Janet S. Carter, Ryan Herman, David Hall and Richard Clark for the work they did this past year. Also, I’m very appreciative of Keith Spence, Michael Moon and Zach Frailey for their contributions to our effort throughout the year.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank our publisher/editor Patrick Holmes — the best boss I’ve ever had. He truly cares about his employees, this town and this product and not just his own ego or the bottom line — traits extremely rare in this field.

KINSTON BOYS ADVANCE TO SIXTH STRAIGHT REGIONAL FINALS

As you can see from my play-by-play below, the Kinston boys’ basketball team defeated Wilson Beddingfield last night, 64-53, to advance to the squad’s sixth consecutive trip to the Eastern Regional finals (2007-09in 3A; 2010-12 in 2A). The Vikings will play Reidsville Saturday at noon in the 2A Eastern Regional final for a berth in the state championship.

My take: One word comes to mind about Tuesday’s game — impressive. When is the last time you’ve seen a high school basketball team only turn the ball over four times in 32 minutes? That’s what Kinston did.

When you also consider Josh Dawson had eight assists to only one turnover and Denzel Keyes scored 20 points in the second half, it’s that much more impressive.

Saturday is going to be tough — Reidsville is very athletic, smart and the Rams have a little chip on their shoulder going back to the 2A Eastern Regional football championship when Denzel Keyes caught a Hail Mary touchdown pass from C.J. Bradshaw on the final play of the game. It should be a heck of a game and one I’ll be tweeting and blogging at again.

The iPod shuffle

Tusk — Fleetwood Mac

Pop Life — Prince

Paint It Black — U2

It’s Now Or Never — Elvis Presley

We Will Rock You — Queen

P.S.: For my Tar Heel friends, you’ll have a special “treat” tomorrow; I lost a bet with our good friend Jon Dawson over last weekend’s UNC-Virginia basketball game … so I have to wear a Carolina shirt to work tomorrow. Yes, there’ll be a photo up here to prove it.

Sigh. If only Sammy Zeglinski could hit a freaking 3-pointer…

Afternoon News Report; Feb. 16, 2012

REALIGNMENT IN FINAL STAGES

The NCHSAA has released its final preliminary realignment plan – schools have until March 1 to appeal and on March 15, may make their appeals.

As expected, five of the six public schools in our area (Kinston, North Lenoir, South Lenoir, Greene Central and Ayden-Grifton) will be in one 2A league along with Goldsboro. Our other public school, Jones Senior, will be in a 1A league with East Carteret, Lejeune, Jacksonville Northside, Pamlico and Chocowinity Southside.

To see the proposed 2A league, click here. For the 1A league, click here.

My takes: For starters … Ryan Herman is one lucky SOB. Back in the old days when I covered sports, all our schools were pretty much split up in separate conferences. Now … he gets five of our six schools in one league? Damn.

Seriously, though, I’m happy for him, because this means readers of TFP will get even better coverage. Now, if Parrott Academy, Bethel Academy and Mt. Calvary could all join the same league, we’d be in Nirvana. That AIN’T gonna happen, though.

I’m wondering what the new league is going to be named. I seriously doubt it’ll be the Eastern Plains 2A, because four of the existing seven members (Farmville Central, North Pitt, SW Edgecombe and Wilson Beddingfield) of the EP2A are going to be in the same league in the new realignment.

Greene Central was one of the founding members of the EPC in the 1960s and I know Snow Hill legend Rabbit Fulghum would like his Rams to remain in the league (which it has inhabited since the mid-1980s). Again, it’s unlikely to happen unless Ol’ Rabbit puts some heat on some folks.

There are a lot of six-team leagues in this realignment, but that won’t hurt as much as it might seem. I’d like to think Kinston football will finally get East Duplin — and former Vikings coach Battle Holley — on its schedule, especially since ED is also in a six-team league.

In fact, THIS would be a great non-conference schedule for the Vikings: East Duplin, Jacksonville Northside (which I can’t believe dropped to 1A!), Greenville Rose, Havelock, Jones Senior and Tarboro. Of course, that would mean Kinston’s schedule would be one of the toughest in the state, but it would certainly get them ready for the 2A playoffs!

You know South Lenoir is going to keep East Duplin on its non-conference football schedule (or, I hope so anyway). Spring Creek has also been a mainstay on the SL sked, but I’d love to see Jones Senior back on the Devils’ slate, along with Richlands (Kevin Wilson connection) and one of the existing EP2A members (like North Pitt, Beddingfield or SW Edgecombe).

North Lenoir will probably keep Eastern Wayne, C.B. Aycock and Southern Wayne on its’ non-league football schedule — teams the Hawks have played for decades. Whatever else happens, though — there’s no freaking reason for the Hawks to be playing Davidson Day School or West Montgomery in the new realignment.

Maybe the powers-that-be at Jones Senior will get the three Lenoir County schools — along with Greene Central and Jones Senior — in its non-conference rotation, making Herman’s life THAT much easier!

I can’t remember the last time — if ever — I’ve been this pumped for a realignment. It’s going to be fun here from 2013-17!

‘COLBERT REPORT’ TEMPORARILY SUSPENDED

“The Colbert Report,” Comedy Central’s satirical look at politics, announced it will not tape an episode today. The show aired a re-run last night, too.

My take: Speculation is there is a family emergency; earlier today, there was speculation that Comedy Central might be pulling it, although that wouldn’t make sense since the Report is one of the channel’s top-viewed programs.

And yes, I’m a fan. Colbert is notoriously anti-GOP, but he’s also very intelligent and, well, funny. Here’s hoping he’s back soon.

GARY CARTER DIES OF BRAIN CANCER

One of baseball’s all-timers, Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter, has succumbed to brain cancer.

My take: Along with Pete Rose, “The Kid” was my first baseball hero. I was one of the few Montreal Expo fans in high school — mainly because of Carter.

RIP to one of the best.

The iPod shuffle

Losing My Way — Justin Timberlake

Play That Funky Music — White Cherry

Communication Breakdown — Led Zeppelin

In A Little While — U2

Before You Accuse Me (Take A Look At Yourself) — Eric Clapton

Morning News Report; Nov. 9, 2011

Here’s a king-sized MNR, since I was Election Boy yesterday; speaking of which, I’m going to have a separate blog post on all the local results after this not-so-little ditty…

PATERNO LIKELY OUT AT PENN STATE SOON

In the wake of the disgusting Jerry Sandusky situation at Penn State, Nittany Lions football coach Joe Paterno is probably preparing for his final home game of his legendary career in Happy Valley.

My take: Honestly, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened quicker than this.

It’s this simple — JoePa was told nine years ago that his close friend and assistant coach of four decades RAPED A 10-YEAR-OLD BOY IN A LOCKER-ROOM SHOWER ON HIS FREAKING CAMPUS. Process that for a second.

Now put yourself in JoePa’s position: what kept him from beating the dogsh*t out of Sandusky? Protecting his own job? Disbelief? Fear? There is NOTHING that should’ve kept Paterno from reporting this to law enforcement … NOTHING. Even if his supervisors threatened him, he should’ve gone to the police with this. And honestly now, who has been king at Penn State for 50 years?

Another disgusting thing that has come from this whole mess — and believe me, there’s more than a normal person can digest here — was the way PSU students and fans gathered on Paterno’s lawn last night and serenaded him with cheers and tears. They should’ve been there with pitchforks and torches.

ECU STUDENT-RUN PAPER RUNS PHOTOS OF STREAKER

Two days ago here on this very blog, we debated whether we’d run photos of that idiot streaker in The Free Press or on Kinston.com who ruined the halftime salute to the military at Saturday’s ECU-Southern Miss game in Greenville.

Well … the ECU student newspaper trumped us all — the East Carolinian published three unblurred photos on the front of yesterday’s edition and online.

My take: All I have to say about this is that wouldn’t fly in Kinston. I held a newsroom discussion about this Monday and it was about 75-25 to run blurred photos.

But unblurred photos? Eh, no.

Am I slamming the East Carolinian? Absolutely not. College newspapers are a bit more liberal than family publications such as your Daily Free Press. It was a gutsy (albeit, stupid) move that’s going to probably bite someone in the ass. Pun intended. But I respect the paper’s student editors for making the decision — they’re certainly getting the buzz they were trying to get.

WOMAN SET TO HAVE 20TH(!) BABY

A 45-year-old woman — and reality TV “star” — is going to have her 20th baby.

My take: Normally wouldn’t be the kind of story I’d post here, except for this hilarious nugget — the best sports talk host in the world (Steve Czaban, listen to him on Yahoo Sports Radio or on your Tune-In app from 6-9 a.m. every day) had this line: “Ms. Duggars, your uterus isn’t a clown car.”

Gold, Jerry, gold.

CAIN TAKES ON ACCUSERS

The GOP front-runner for president in 2012, Herman Cain, is being attacked left and right on sexual harassment charges. He is fighting back and says he’s staying in the race.

My take: Only Cain and his accusers know the truth about these charges. Until I see some real proof (i.e., photos, tapes, etc.), it’s going to be hard to convince me these allegations are true.

One thing I will agree with Cain with is this, from a campaign email sent to his supporters:

“… the emphasis on ‘gaffes,’ gotcha questions and time devoted to trivial nonsense – and everyone knows the process only became further detached from relevance this week as the media published anonymous, ancient, vague personal allegations against me.

Once this kind of nonsense starts, the media’s rules say you have to act in a certain way.”

And he’s right. In this age of TMZ and gotcha journalism, this is what is going to continue to happen. I blame Richard Nixon.

RIP, SMOKIN’ JOE FRAZIER

One of boxing’s all-time greats, Smokin’ Joe Frazier, died of liver cancer on Monday at the age of 67.

My take: Admittedly, his time in the sun was before I was cognizant of sports — and boxing — but he was a heck of a boxer and man. To put up with the junk Muhammad Ali threw at him proved that.

KYLE BUSCH PARKED BY NASCAR

A few days late, but worthy of a note here — after wrecking a fellow driver during a caution period in a truck race Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway NASCAR bad boy Kyle Busch found himself in the pits for Saturday and Sunday’s races. He was also fined $50,000 and placed on probation for the rest of the season.

My take: And this is what NASCAR deserves; it bragged about how it was bringing back old-time racing and fightin’ in the preseason and all Busch did was live up to it.

NASCAR IS A JOKE. If you’re still watching it, you’re the type of mindless sheep the quasi-sport wants in its camp. Congrats. And how long are the sponsors going to stay on board? You have to figure M&Ms are just ecstatic about their poster-boy doing this.

NBA PLAYERS HAVE UNTIL 5 P.M. TODAY TO MAKE DEAL

NBA owners have given their players until 5 p.m. to accept their latest offer — or it’s going to be even worse … allegedly.

My take:If you’re an NBA fan — and yes, I count myself among that quickly fading group — prepare yourself for a 40-game season, if we even get one at all.

The only good news to come out of this, though, is something I’ve said here before — if you thought tickets were easy to get in Charlotte before, wait until this mess is over. The Bobcats will practically be giving tickets away to get butts in the seats.

HAYNESWORTH CUT BY PATRIOTS

The New England Patriots cut malcontent defensive end Albert Haynesworth yesterday.

My take: Nothing much to say here other than this:

 

The iPod shuffle

Graceland — Paul Simon

Wait For Me — Daryl Hall & John Oates

Private Eyes — Daryl Hall & John Oates (wow … three Hall & Oates in two days?)

Elevation — U2

Zombie — The Cranberries

Deacon Blues — Steely Dan

I Look Good — Chalie Boy

Animal — Def Leppard

So Cruel — U2

Against The Wind — Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band

Morning News Report; Oct. 17, 2011

SUNDAY COLUMN REDUX

The response has been simply overwhelming to my Sunday column about my Hot Blonde and her battle with breast cancer. We’ve received dozens of emails, voicemails and Facebook messages — and they’re all appreciated.

My take: Tina and I appreciate and love each of you, especially the faithful bloggees who have taken the time to leave a message on the preview below. You guys and gals will NEVER be able to realize how much we appreciate you.

One name, though, that was accidentally left out of the column was my good friend Jon Dawson — and I don’t know how the heck I didn’t include him. He has been my rock since the beginning — allowing me to hang at his place, calling me all the time to check on Tina and just generally being a great friend. Thanks, dude.

WHELDON DIES IN INDYCAR TRAGEDY

Two-time and defending Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon died yesterday following a fiery IndyCar crash in Las Vegas.

My take: Horrible, horrible tragedy yesterday — so bad that ABC/ESPN wouldn’t show the replay of it; and for that, I applaud them.

I covered an IndyCar race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1999 when three spectators were killed by a tire that flew from an accident. There should never be a death at a sporting event — never.

49ERS, LIONS COACH HAVE CONFRONTATION

Following San Francisco’s 25-19 win at Detroit yesterday, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and Lions coach Jim Schwartz had a little tiff when a pumped-up Harbaugh shook Schwartz’s hand a little too hard and smacked him on the back.

My take: I appreciate the sportsmanship of the post-game NFL game handshake … but is it really necessary? There is so much testosterone flowing and you KNEW this was going to happen one day (although I figured it’d be Bill Belichik taking a swipe at someone).

Harbaugh is in the wrong here. There is such a thing as winning with grace and Harbaugh didn’t do that. You can be excited — who wouldn’t be? — but shake the man’s hand and get your ass to the locker room.

The iPod shuffle

Brown Sugar — The Rolling Stones

While You Doooo — Teebs

Bang Your Head (Mental Health) — Quiet Riot

Down And Out — Tantric

Maxed Out — Roscoe Dash

Nightly News Report; Oct. 10, 2011

OCCUPY WALL STREET

The phenomenon known as “Occupy Wall Street” — liberal citizens, mostly unemployed — is entering its fourth week and is spreading all over the country and the world. Here’s an informative primer from the Washington Post on the movement.

My take: Well … if you’re unemployed and don’t have anything to do, I guess it’s cool to go hang out with other unemployed people and whine a little bit.

Yes, as the writer of the link states, it is appalling that the top 1 percent of households in our country own anywhere from 30 to 40 percent of the wealth.

But here’s the beauty of America and the American Dream: the top 1 percent is NOT keeping you from joining its ranks. Go out and invent something. Work your ass off and earn your way into wealth. Go to school and get an education.

I am nowhere near wealthy, rich or even remotely financially comfortable. But I have worked my whole life to get to where I am in life — and I started from virtually nothing. These lazy “Occupiers” want to whine, cry and protest, with the hopes of … what? I really have no idea.

This is another area I agree with Rep. Stephen LaRoque, R-Lenoir, who basically had an “Occupier” contact him recently — if you want a job, they’re there. So what if it’s not the job you dream about? Work that job until you’re able to GET the job you want.

In fact, Wesley Brown’s well-written feature in Sunday’s Free Press was about the reality that there aren’t enough native workers to work the fields, so area farmers HAVE to get workers — legal and illegal — to harvest their crops. Where are the people who used to work with their hands?

It’s this simple: Life ain’t fair. Get over it and stop whining to those who have worked their asses off to get to where they are in life. They’re not going to share with you — nor should they.

MARIO WILLIAMS OUT FOR SEASON

Houston Texans defensive star Mario Williams — a Richlands High School product who played for current South Lenoir coach Kevin Wilson and later became the NFL’s No. 1 overall pick after playing at N.C. State — is out for the season after tearing his pectoral muscle.

My take: It’s too bad, too, because Super Mario was finding his rhythm after being moved to outside linebacker for the Texans.

One thing is certain — there’s absolutely NO argument about who would’ve been the better overall No. 1 pick: Mario Williams or Reggie Bush, who Texans fans wanted their team to pick. Williams has shown how valuable he is to Houston — and they’re about to find out even more after he’s gone with this injury.

RIP, AL DAVIS

It’s a few days old, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the passing of Al Davis, the architect of the Oakland Raiders and a true football legend, whether you liked him or not.

My take: I sort of feel about Al Davis the way I felt about Dale Earnhardt — couldn’t stand him, but respected the hell out of him.

Sure, Davis’ time had passed a while ago, but once upon a time, kiddies: Al Davis was THE man in the NFL. He created a personna that permeated the entire Raiders organization and embraced being the bad guy.

In the late 80s and early 90s — thanks to their winning ways on the field and to NWA — the Raiders were THE epitome in cool in the NFL.

I did think it was poignant and just downright cool that the Raiders won Sunday and to see the reaction of those closest to him.

HOTTEST CHEERLEADERS IN 2011?

Thanks to FOB Richard Clark for this one — a website named the ECU cheerleading staff the 10th-best in the country. There’s not another North Carolina school in the top 20 and only Florida State (12), Miami (13) and Virginia Tech (17) made the list from the ACC.

Here’s the photo of some ECU lovelies they use in the feature:

As always, click on the photo for a much, much better view of ENC’s finest.

My take: Nice. THIS might be reason enough to get ECU into the ACC, right? The Big East, at least?

Makes me wonder if I should re-start the Cheerleader of the Day feature we did for a while a couple of years ago. Your input?

The iPod shuffle

Sweet Talkin’ Woman — Electric Light Orchestra

I Just Want To Be Your Everything — Andy Gibb

99 Problems (Acapella) — Jay-Z

Dr. Feelgood — Motley Crue

Walk On Water — Aerosmith

P.S.: Check out my column this week on a way for you to get some free East Coast Wings in your belly — simply by retweeting Free Press stories on Twitter. I also muse about that awesome freaking game between Kinston and Tarboro that ended up with the hometown Vikings winning 54-48 in overtime.

Didn’t have a chance to put this in the story … but Tarboro coach Jeff Craddock is a really classy dude. He’d just gone up and down a three-and-a-half hour rollercoaster that ended with his team losing a tough game, but he hung around for 15 minutes after the game and answered every question posed to him by a half-dozen reporters. It’s easy to be classy when your team is winning, but to still be classy when your team has lost a tough game is a lost art. Thanks, Coach Craddock.

Whilest you’re at it, check out my boy Richard Clark’s strong column about men needing to be, well, men. Excellent read.

Afternoon News Report, Oct. 6, 2011

RIP, STEVE JOBS

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died yesterday at the age of 56 after losing a battle to pancreatic cancer.

My take: There are literally tens of thousands of tributes to Jobs on the Internet right now, but I’ll add my few inconsequential words.

Steve Jobs was — as some said last night — our generation’s Thomas Edison, our Leonardo da Vinci. That PC you’re reading this on? He had a hand in its development. The iPod you have all your CDs on? That was his vision. The iPhone that every other company in the world has (unsuccessfully, I might add) attempted to mimic? It was his dream.

Steve Jobs IS the American Dream personified. He was a college dropout with big dreams — and with his own sweat, blood and tears, he made his dreams come true.

When I was a teenager, I thought 56 was old. Now that I’m 42, I realize what a fool I was as a teenager. Jobs had 20, 30 and 40 more years to dazzle us with his inventions and ideas … and now he’s gone. Where is the next Steve Jobs?

Here is that YouTube video everyone was referencing last night on Twitter and in his memorials throughout the world. PLEASE take 15 minutes and watch it. I just did — even though I was interrupted five (!) times by real life, but it was worth it. You will appreciate his words.

Stay hungry. Stay foolish. Indeed — what a great man who will truly be missed. 

PALIN DECIDES NOT TO RUN IN 2012

In a letter to supporters last night, Sarah Palin announced she will not run for president in 2012.

My take: I was a little bit surprised, but not shocked. As this excellent column from CNN’s L.Z. Granderson states, she showed exactly how smart she is by not running for the country’s top office.

My favorite part of Granderson’s well-written piece:

She’s like a performance artist whose opinions are rarely second-guessed, whose tongue is rarely censored. She’s rich and famous and essentially has no one to answer to. Her persona is so mesmerizing that her daughter Bristol, a mother at 18, gets paid to talk about abstinence.

We should all be as dumb as Sarah Palin.

And he’s right on point — why run and be politically assassinated every day by CNN and MSNBC when she can be the (beautiful) hero on the white horse, riding in to help all the GOP candidates who are inevitably going to clean up next year in the anti-Obama furor that’s going to exist next year.

She’s a lot smarter than we give her credit for.

ESPN, HANK WILLIAMS JR. DIVORCE

ESPN informed Hank Williams Jr. it will no longer be using his “Are You Ready For Some Football” opening to its Monday Night Football intro after the country singer compared President Obama to Adolf Hitler. Williams, however, is claiming he broke up with ESPN.

Regardless — and this might be the best news of this whole misadventure — we won’t have to hear that overplayed ditty ever again to start MNF.

My take: So … who will sing the next MNF intro? Any suggestions?

SIDNEY LOWE FINDS A JOB

Former N.C. State head basketball coach Sidney Lowe is now an assistant coach for the Utah Jazz.

My take: Good for Coach Lowe — one of the decent human beings out there. Hope he gets back on his feet and has his own team — college or NBA — soon.

The iPod shuffle

Hell Yeah — The Bloodhound Gang

Hot In The City — Billy Idol

Call On Me — Chicago

We Right Here — DMX

Devil Inside — INXS

Morning News Report; Sept. 13, 2011

JWADE REDUX

Here is Ryan Herman’s story on Kinston High School baseball coach Jason Wade’s firing.

My take: I feel much the same way as I did yesterday when I broke this on the blog – this is a stupid move and one that will set KHS baseball back at least five years. I’ve since talked to several parents of current players and I know this much: some of these players will be transferring to other schools because of this decision.

It is kind of crappy that she decided to do this AFTER school started in an attempt to keep kids from transferring. If she had made this move before school started (and she had the opportunity to do so), it would’ve been easier for them to do so.

And I am perplexed this decision was made without conferring with the athletics director.

Regardless, keep your head up, JWade — you’re a faithful man and I know God has other things for you out there. Maybe next time you’ll go somewhere you’re appreciated.

I’ve already talked to about a dozen coaches, teachers, parents and athletes at KHS — and not one of them is happy with this decision. I know this much: Ms. Bryant stirred up a whole pot o’ stuff with this move (and other decisions she’s made); I’ll have more here later.

SAME-SEX CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT CLEARS N.C. HOUSE

A gay marriage ban and potential amendment to the N.C. Constitution passed the state House last night, 75-42. The bill — which would put the potential amendment on the May 2012 primary ballot — now moves to the N.C. Senate.

My take: Seriously? With no money for teachers, our state budget hemorrhaging money and all the other problems our state has … we’re going to waste time and money on keeping dudes or lesbians from marrying? Seriously?

I’ve been pretty straight-forward from the jump on gay rights — I think homosexuals have as much right to be miserable as straight folks. If they want to marry, by golly, let them. It’s been proven time and again, you don’t choose to be gay, so why punish them? And that’s what you’re doing when you deny homosexuals basic rights.

North Carolina prides itself on not being the back-woods type of state like our neighbors in South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi. You enact this type of bill and our state won’t be getting the kind of progressive companies such as Google to relocate here. But it’s all right … we have tobacco and textiles to fall back on.

Oops.

NORTHERN GUILFORD SUING NCHSAA FOR TITLE IT CHEATED FOR

Remember that Northern Guilford team that cheated to win a 3A state title in 2009 (the one that beat Kinston in the Eastern Regional finals that year)? Well, now some parents and coaches from that dishonored squad are trying to win the title back in court after the NCHSAA stripped them of it following a school board investigation in Guilford County.

My take: Another idiotic move from a program that continues to make idiotic moves. This has NO CHANCE (yes, in all caps so maybe it’ll be read in Guilford County) of being successful. In fact, if the NCHSAA is forced to restore NG’s 2009 championship, I’ll paint the school’s mascot on my chest and perform a dance on The Free Press’ front yard.

I wouldn’t get the ol’ camcorder fired up, though, ’cause it isn’t going to happen.

By the by, here’s a good column from FOB and highschoolOT.com’s Nick Stevens on the matter. And he’s right.

MANNY BEING MANNY MEANS SPOUSAL ABUSE?

Baseball’s former bad boy, Manny Ramirez, was arrested for a domestic violence incident yesterday.

My take: First, he retires instead of sitting out a 100-game steroid suspension and now this? He certainly wasn’t going to be a first-ballot Hall of Fame player … now, he’s probably NEVER going to make it to Cooperstown.

TRAGIC BURLINGTON STORY WITH A LIFE LESSON FOR YOUTH

I didn’t post it here last month but I’m sure most of you heard about the Burlington Williams quarterback who died two days after leading his team to a season-opening victory.

Investigators now know why the young man passed away — Harry Cohen took his grandmother’s pain medication and it caused him to have a heart attack.

My take: A tremendously sad story but one that kids all over the state can learn from — DO NOT take medication unless it is prescribed to you. This young man was in the best shape of his life and he couldn’t handle his grandmother’s medication. Just because you feel like you’re Superman or Superwoman doesn’t mean that you are.

Also, please take a moment and read the story — it is extremely well-written by Freedom Communications’ Roselee Papandrea.

The iPod shuffle

Sassafras Root — Green Day

Mama Said — The Shirelles

Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me — Elton John

Saturday In The Park — Chicago

Wild Horses — The Rolling Stones

P.S.: I can eat crow with the best of ‘em, so here goes … congrats to Freedom ENC Desk Chief Richard Clark, who whipped my candy ass in our HBFL Live opening game this week, 108-97. What makes this sting more is this was Richard’s inaugural game in fantasy football while this is the start of my 17th year playing. Damn. While I’m at it, congrats to two-time defending HBFL Online champ Brent Pelletier for beating me, 87-79, in Week 1 of that league. Sheesh.

P.P.S.S.: And we’ll close today’s MNR on a somber note — a great man passed away on Sunday in the person of the Honorable Rodney R. Goodman, a longtime Kinston judge. I got to know Judge Goodman while I was dating his niece and he was certainly a funny, smart and wise man. Please join me in throwing some prayers up there for Judge Goodman’s family.