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Streak for the Cash January winner: Beale St. Buc!

Just call it “Return of the Beale St. Buc!” Our good friend — and our winningest blog SFTC winner — Seth Jones won one of the most exciting blog contests ever, finishing with 81 victories in January. Seth held off B. Barrow (80) and D. Guido (79) by correctly picking Texas over Texas A&M in his final contest of the month.

It marks the ninth time Seth has won our little version of SFTC; he also won eight straight months (August 2009-March 2010). Dude, I’ll be back in the office in a couple of weeks and we’ll hook you up with something righteous.

Want to join our little gang of pickers? Go here, register and you can win stuff and recognition from us, along with the chance to win money from the four-letter network.

January’s top 10:

1. S. Jones — 81

2. B. Barrow — 80

3. D. Guido — 79

4. Hanks — 77

5. R. Capps — 69

6. D. Pollock — 67

7. K. Rouse — 58

8. J. Osterberg — 55

9. Hot Blonde — 54

10. J. Barrow — 53

All-time blog winners

2009

February: Flagan (F. Jones) – 43 wins

March: B. Pelletier – 60 wins

April: Flagan (F. Jones) – 59 wins

May: Flagan (F. Jones) – 57 wins

June: B. Pelletier – 53 wins

July: Flagan (F. Jones) – 69 wins

August: S. Jones (Beale St. Buc) – 69 wins

September: S. Jones (Beale St. Buc) – 69 wins

October: S. Jones (Beale St. Buc) – 62 wins

November: S. Jones (Beale St. Buc) – 83 wins

December: S. Jones (Beale St. Buc) & D. Guido – 91 wins

2010

January: S. Jones (Beale St. Buc) – 71 wins

February: S. Jones (Beale St. Buc) – 68 wins

March: S. Jones (Beale St. Buc) – 82 wins

April: J. Irvin (Jackson Irvin) – 77 wins

May: R. Capps (Randy Capps) – 75 wins

June: P. Howard (WolfpackPete) – 69 wins

July: J. Irvin (Jackson Irvin) – 80 wins

August: R. Capps (Randy Capps) – 87 wins

September: J. Irvin (Jackson Irvin) – 73 wins

October: J. Irvin (Jackson Irvin) — 79 wins

November: R. Capps (Randy Capps) — 79 wins

December: J. Osterberg — 79 wins

2011

January: S. Jones (Beale St. Buc) — 81

Howdy, y’all!

Well … January 2011 will certainly end up as my least-postingest month!

First, THANK YOU!!! to everyone who has called and sent me cards, e-mails, Facebook messages, texts and everything else during my recovery from back surgery. I cannot even begin to tell you how much it’s meant to me. As many of you know, I’ve been in Raleigh at the HB’s Dook-Loving Palace where she’s been taking most excellent care of me.

I’m up here until Feb. 9 at the earliest, but likely won’t be back in Kinston at TFP until Monday, Feb. 14, from what my doctor is telling me. I had surgery to repair a severe herniated disc last Tuesday and the recovery time at home is typically four to six weeks (with restraints on carrying stuff up to eight weeks), but I’m doing my best to recover quickly and get back to K-Town.

I want to throw some serious props out to my boss, FP Publisher/Editor Patrick Holmes and my AME Nancy Saunders, who have been picking up my slack while I’ve been laid up. Patrick is, quite honestly, the best boss I’ve ever had in my working career and I know he and Nancy — who already has a crazy workload — have been even more slammed with my absence. I truly appreciate both of them.

But I also appreciate the hard work of the reporters — David Anderson, Wesley Brown, Justin “The Kid” Hill and (reporter/night editor) Jane Moon — for also stepping up in my void. Their work, along with our talented photographers Charles Buchanan and Janet Sutton Carter, has remained excellent and I can’t wait to get back to Kinston to work with them again.

Also … I appreciate the hard work and, well, the friendship of one certain J-Dizzle — Jon Dawson. He’s pretty much called or checked up on me one way or another the whole time I’ve been up here and I really appreciate it, dudeage.

Additionally, I really appreciate the friendship of a guy you never hear about — Freedom ENC Desk Chief Richard Clark; like Dawson, he’s called me pretty much every day and it’s meant a lot to me. Richard is arguably the most important person in Freedom ENC — without his direction and 16-hour days, there would be THREE newspapers that would never see the light of day.

I’ve seriously overdosed on sports TV the past two weeks — to the point where I’m almost growing tired of watching sports … well, almost. The HB has the Mack Daddy Time-Warner Cable sports package and if there has been a game on, I’ve pretty much watched it.

I’ve also been reading a fascinating book: “Boys Will Be Boys” by Jeff Pearlman, a book about the rise and fall of the Jerry Jones-owned Dallas Cowboys. It is one of the best sports books I’ve ever read — a no-holds-barred look at the premier NFL franchise of the 1990s, how it was built and how it fell apart. If you want a good read, I suggest you go get it — although you’ll never look at Charles Haley the same way again. Seriously.

I’m more lucid (i.e., less Percocet!) now than I was last week, so my goal is to get this blog back up and moving this week. As hinted in previous posts, I have some good local nuggets to share with y’all about Charlie Stevens, Reggie Bullock, Joshua Lovick and others that I want to get out there to you.

Again — THANK YOU to everyone who has been so kind during this difficult time for me. I’ve missed being in Kinston — especially with having to cancel/postpone yesterday’s United Way Day of Basketball and missing the stretch run of  prep basketball season — but I’ve been so thankful to have a loving, awesome, beautiful person like Tina to take care of me during this time and to have the encouragement from all of you. I love y’all — and I’m not afraid to tell you that.

Stay tuned — I’m going to get this puppy back up and running, with the best nonsense you can stomach, ASAP.

P.S.: HAPPY BIRTHDAY to one of the most patient, most positive and sweetest people out there — Tammy Davis, the lovely wife of our very own Heelatious (B.J. Davis). I’ve never seen her without a smile on her face … funny, since she has to put up with Heelatious! Just joking, dude — you’re one of the good guys, too, despite your light blue leanings!

I also want to throw birthday greetings to one of my good friends in Eastern North Carolina – Rudy Coggins, the hard-working sports editor of the Goldsboro News-Argus. Rudy has been great to me through the years and I’m honored to count him as one of my friends.

And to show that, truly, Jan. 31 was a great day for folks to be born, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Timmi Toler, the city editor of the Jacksonville Daily News. She used to have one of the best blogs in the world, but I think — as happens to the best of us — she doesn’t have enough hours in the day to keep it up as much as she used to. Regardless, her excellent observations on life and great heart make her a pretty cool person.

Life update

Howdy, y’all…

Sorry for the lack of updates here on the blog of late, but I’ve been going through some medical difficulties in my life right now — and I figure it’s time to catch you guys and gals up on it.

Somehow, I’ve sustained a severe herniated disc in my back and it’s pretty much knocked me on my butt. To make a VERY long story short, I will be out of commission until at least Feb. 8 — I am having back surgery next week and will not be at The Free Press office until at least Feb. 8.

Furthermore, what this means is that the ninth annual United Way Day of Basketball (scheduled for Jan. 30) is, at the very least, postponed, and at worst, canceled for 2011. If we don’t have the 2011 UWDOB, I am going to try to put together an all-star softball game or something of the sort to make up for the loss of fundage for the Lenoir-Greene United Way — which desperately needs your help.

While I am awaiting the surgery, I am going to get back up to par here on the blog, at the very least. I am going to try to have your daily MNR, the final round-up of the blog pick ‘em standings and a ton of other information I am getting from all over the universe on other items, including a Charlie Stevens update (remember him?).

I cannot even begin to tell you how much I appreciate all the e-mails, Facebook messages and texts. I apologize for not getting back to each of you individually, but this has been a pretty tough time.

I also want to publicly thank my beautiful Hot Blonde — Tina Hughes — who has been taking extremely good care of me during this difficult time for me. Guys, I hope all of you have someone who cares as deeply for you as she does for me — she is truly a Godsend and I don’t know where I’d be without her.

Thanks for your support of the blog and I’ll keep you guys in the loop.

Thank you, y’all

Well … was going to try to have a MNR/ANR today, but real work won’t allow it. Anyhoo — thanks to all of you for the birthday wishes today; it’s been a slammed-pack day and I appreciate the well-wishes on Facebook, my voicemail and e-mail.

By the by, the HB and I will be at The Dugout tonight at 9 to watch the Dook game; come on out and say howdy!

Morning News Report

WOMAN DIES IN MORNING CRASH ON PAUL’S PATH ROAD

Paula Grant Woolard, 32, died in a single-car accident this morning as a result of the icy driving conditions.

My take: This is a developing story that you can keep up with at the above link.

I didn’t know Paula, but I know her through friends — and this is a tragedy. She has young children who will now have to grow up without their mother. Please join me in praying for Paula, Tim (who works for the KDPS) and their family.

AUBURN TEMPORARILY WINS NATIONAL TITLE

Auburn won an exciting BCS national championship last night over Oregon, 22-19.

My take: Well … they’ll hold onto the title until the NCAA fully investigates the program. Anyhoo — congrats to Free Press crime reporter Wesley Brown and Parks and Rec staffer/Auburn grad Jenny Inabinet for their Tigers’ victory.

IPHONE COMING TO VERIZON

As I’m typing this, Verizon is holding a press conference announcing the addition of the iPhone to their service, meaning AT&T won’t be the exclusive carrier.

My take: Not sure what this means for AT&T — who I’ve been with in different incarnations since 1994 — but competition is always good, right? The only thing that worries me is that I’m getting ready to upgrade to the iPhone4 from my iPhone 3G — and I wonder if this means the iPhone5 is coming soon…

The iPod shuffle

Shoot To Thrill — AC/DC

Rock And Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution — AC/DC

The Star-Spangled Banner — U2

If You Leave — Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark

Pride (In The Name Of Love) — U2

Afternoon News Report; Jan. 10, 2011

ARIZ. REP. STILL RECOVERING FROM GUNSHOT

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., is in a crucial 48-hour period of recovery after she was shot through her head by a would-be assassin Saturday in Tucson.

Six people — including a 9-year-old, a federal judge and two retirees older than 75 — were murdered Saturday.

My take: A senseless tragedy, to be sure. But this is no time for the anti-gun nuts to come out of their cocoons and try to shove their left-wing agenda down our throats.

There does, however, need to be a look at security for future events like this. Our David Anderson has a nice piece that will be in tomorrow’s FP on his talks with area politicians, including U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones and N.C. Rep. Stephen LaRoque about the situation.

TICKETS FOR TONIGHT’S NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP COSTLIEST EVER

Tickets for tonight’s BCS National Championship game between Auburn and Oregon are going for a minimum of $2,000 on Stubhub.com, a ticket-selling web site (which had to shut down sales for a while this weekend because it ran out of tickets).

And those are the cheap seats — a single ticket to the game is fetching as much as $15,000, according to some sources.

My take: Seriously? I love the Washington Redskins, Virginia athletics and the Boston Celtics … but if I’d purchased a ticket for $250 or so and someone was offering me $8,000 to $15,000 for it, I think I’d have to part with said ticket.

Does that make me a bad fan? I don’t think so — I’d buy me a 75-inch TV with the profit and watch the game with the HB and my buddies!

WINTER WEATHER BUSTING OUT

School is out, milk and bread is disappearing and you can’t drive 1/4 mile without throwing salt brine all over the place — it can only mean one thing: there’s a threat of a trace of snow in our area.

My take: Eh, whatever. For the best TV weather coverage, check out our good friend — and the area’s best meteorologist, PERIOD — Skip Waters at WCTI ABC-12.

The iPod shuffle

In Da Club — 50 Cent

One Step Closer — U2

All Eyez On Me — 2Pac & Syke

Walk On — U2

Woke Up This Morning — Alabama 3

Please pray for Reggie Bullock and his family

I’ve wrestled with posting something about this all day, but I think I should because of how strong I feel about Reggie Bullock and his grandma.

Reggie’s grandmother — Patricia Ann Williams, 66, of 8-F Carver Courts — passed away early this morning. She had been sick and had been confined to a wheelchair for a while.

She was Reggie’s rock and strength — he lived with her for many years and she was mostly responsible for raising him.

I had seen her at times in Kinston, but I had the honor of talking to her when she rode the bus to New York City to see Reggie play in the Jordan Brand Classic at Madison Square Garden. She helped organize the trip and was thoroughly excited to see her beloved grandson play in one of the greatest arenas in the world.

Reggie was so thankful to his grandma and the others who made the trip that he rode the bus back to Kinston in an overnight ride – instead of flying back the next day.

Ms. Williams sure taught her grandson how to be a good man.

Because of her passing, the Tar Heels are not sure if he’s going to play for UNC tomorrow in Charlottesville.

Anyway … funeral arrangements are incomplete at Swinson Funeral Service. When I get them, I’ll post them here.

Please join me in praying for Reggie and his family during this extremely tough time.

Afternoon News Report; Jan. 7, 2011

GOLDEN-VOICED FELON?

Actually, yes. The homeless man who has been an overnight sensation has quite the criminal record, according to The Smoking Gun.

My take: Does this mean he shouldn’t have a second chance (or fifth, sixth or seventh)? No. It just means that with his new-found wealth and notoriety that he should use it to pay his debts, take care of his children and other responsibilities.

I stand by what I said yesterday about this — only in America can someone be homeless one day and a multi-media sensation the next. Let’s just hope he stays on the straight and narrow and doesn’t revert to his old ways.

As a postscript: check out the comments on the linked story – some are pretty harsh!

LAETTNER, DAVIS IN A BUTTLOAD OF LEGAL TROUBLE

Former Duke basketball stars — and close, close friends — Christian Laettner and Brian Davis are being sued left and right for millions of dollars for their real estate dealings.

My take: Laettner and Davis have been involved in rumors about their close, close friendship for nearly 20 years, not that it has any bearing on this lawsuit story.

But it seems to me the couple have fallen victim to the same real estate woes many others did in the last decade — spending more money than they had.

JAIME PRESSLY ARRESTED FOR DUI

Kinston’s Jaime Pressly was arrested for suspicion of DUI Wednesday in Santa Monica, Calif. She was released yesterday after posting a $15,000 bond.

Her mugshot:

My take: While it is certainly irresponsible to be convicted of a DUI, there are far worse things out there. But isn’t a $15,000 bond for DUI pretty high?

I’m a pretty big fan of Jaime’s — and this is how I prefer to remember her:

Click on the photo for a better view and stuff.

The iPod shuffle

Ooh Ahh — Grits feat. tobyMac

I Heard It Through The Grapevine — Creedence Clearwater Revival

Little Earthquakes — Tori Amos

Barbara Ann — The Beach Boys

We Will Rock You — Queen