Colgate (74) vs. North Carolina State (77) 11/13/2021

Game #99 of 358 28% complete

I visited the Quail Ridge bookstore in Durham on Saturday morning. I always try to visit an independent bookstore on my trips and buy a book to support them. This store however did not need my help as I waited in line behind customers holding baskets of books. I recommend this bookstore with its well organized shelves and friendly help ready to serve. At the risk of inflicting guffaws from my readers, I admit to purchasing an autographed copy of Nicholas Sparks book The Wish. Yeah I like his books so think what you want. :).

I recommend lunch at the Italian restaurant Amedeo’s before any NC State game. Right down the road from the PNC Center, the walls are adorned with NC State memorabilia from all sports. The pasta deluxe dish filled me to the brim along with a bottle of Peroni.

As had happened in the past, my perceived time of the game taken in the past from the NC Sate web site was an hour earlier than the actual game time (1PM vs. 2PM). Not sure if the time was changed or I messed up. So when I drive up to the PNC at about 12:30, the parking lots are almost empty. I did see some ushers gathering on the outside so I figured I was in the right place. The usher kindly informed me that the game time was 2PM so the gates will not open till 1PM. So what does one do after eating a heavy pasta lunch? You walk several times around the arena to kill time getting your steps in till the gates opened.

I will give the PNC two Operation 351 awards.

Award 1 – Best Bar in an Arena

This bar was way too high class for a basketball/ hockey arena but definitely a pretty slick site at a college basketball game.

Award 2 – Most Humungous TV Screen

The TV screen on the scoreboard was like watching a 100 ft TV in your living room. The image was sharp and enticing to watch vs. the live game itself.

I do want to say that the PNC did lose some points by not providing a program. No excuses for a D1 school to not provide a program, free or otherwise.

So now for some basketball. After almost witnessing an upset yesterday by Brown at North Carolina, my hopes for another upset today almost came to fruition. Colgate, like Brown yesterday, gave the ACC powerhouses fits. It was not prudent of me to cheer out loud for the underdogs at these two games but I gave under the seat fist pumps when Colgate continued to hang on right to the end..

The crowd was somewhat muted throughout the game perhaps in shock at the thought of losing. It came down to the last play when a NC State player Manny Seaborn was fouled on a very questionable call. The two foul shots put them up by two. After Colgate threw a long pass down the other end of the court, a Colgate player fouled, sending the Wolfpack back to the line. A replay review confirmed that the foul occurred before time had ended. The NC State player missed the foul shot. Colgate then attempted a three quarter court shot to win the game but was not even close. I was hoping to see a replay of UC Riverside’s upset over Arizona State.

Since this was an afternoon game, I had Saturday night free. My name on the Duke waiting list proved fruitless as tickets to Coach K’s last go around make tickets tough to find. I also considered going to the Carolina Hurricanes hockey game but tickets were over a $100. Not too much of a hockey fan to justify the cost. So perusing the web for Saturday night events in the Raleigh/Durham area, I came across the perfect scenario for a Jimmy Buffet parrothead like myself. The play Escape to Margaritaville was playing at the DPAC. Having seeing it once before made no difference. I ended siting in the upper balcony next to the president of the local parrot head club so I unabashedly sang all the lyrics out load with the rest of her crew. Till next time!

FINS UP!

Brown (87) vs North Carolina (94) 11/12/2021

Game #98 of 358 27% complete

Operation 351 is back on the road. Absence does make the heart grow fonder as the sound of sneakers squeaking in the gym, the sound of the pep band warming up and the sight of those bright lights when I enter an arena for the first time bring forth a deeper appreciation and gratitude for the chance to reconnect with my journey.

My life like many of yours was filled with changes and curves this past year, I am now a proud grandfather of a cute kid named Jack. Our family was fortunately unscathed by the ravages of COVID. My travel plans are made more difficult with canceled airlines, COVID restrictions and an apprehension of catching COVID even though I am triple vaccinated. There is a new normal out there undefined and ever changing. What will college basketball look like in 10 years? How will the United States with its increasing polarity and angst survive as we march forward with an uncertain future facing climate change and dangers to our democratic society? I vow never to bring politics into this blog but I am very nervous for my children and grandson.

I have vented enough.

During the last summer, I developed an application on the my desktop using Microsoft EXCEL and ACCESS to facilitate finding games near each other on consecutive days or the same day. I built a database of my remaining arenas to visit along with their longitude and latitude. I built a spreadsheet matching each arena with all the other arenas to calculate the distance. I input the home schedule of each team and run an SQL query to find games to visit find teams within 120 miles of each games playing within 3 days. It is probably not the most technological way to do it but it works for me. I relied on my IT skills from the nineties to accomplish this. Here is an example of one page of the report:

The home team and away team are the two teams playing the games. HOME and AWAY are not the best names. Just consider them team 1 and team 2. Game Date is the date team 1 is playing. Game date 2 is the date team 2 is playing. Both dates will be the same if they are playing on the same day. The distance is in miles between the two arenas for the two teams. By sorting the report by date, I match my open dates to dates where I can take advantage of multiple games on one trip. I have a more detailed write up on the construction and implementation of this application if anyone is interested.

As many of you who have started traveling again, air traveling now is a hit or miss affair where you are at the mercy of the airlines. I was due to arrive in Raleigh around 9:30AM on Friday 11/12. Given that the UNC game was not until 9PM, I had the whole day planed to visit the UNC and Duke basketball museums and partake of some local breweries. However, my connecting flight from DC to Raleigh was rescheduled to 9:45 PM which would not work. I saw a bunch of us trying to get standby for the next flight a few hours later. I wanted to be certain of making the game. I canceled the rescheduled flight from United and booked an early afternoon flight from Delta. (I need to speak about this to United!) All was well as I arrived in Raleigh around 4PM. My day was short circuited but my main goal for seeing the UNC game was accomplished.

I decided to head over to the Franklin Street area on campus and visit the TOPO or the Top of the Hill restaurant. About 12 years ago, my daughter and I ate here after a campus visit. She decided to go to Wake Forest but it was a fun trip. Many fans in the place were adorned in the UNC blue colors. I will say this about the UNC fans. You take first place in most fans who wear the team colors to a game.

I purchased pre paid parking after look at all the options. I have two rules of the road concerning parking:

  1. Never park in a campus parking garage. You will take forever single streaming out of the exit.
  2. Never use the campus shuttle system to get back to your parking spot. There were hordes of folks that night after the game waiting for the buses.

I prefer an open parking lot that may be not too convenient to the arena but close enough so I do not get a coronary waking to the game. I chose the 700 Hibbard Drive lot. I had no trouble getting in or getting out.

Ahh the Dean Dome! A classic on anyone’s list who is into college basketball. The first step inside gave me the impressions of a arena much bigger than I thought and a wave of Carolina blue on all the seats. Sitting up in section 213, I had plenty of room with open seats around me to spread out and take it all in.

Brown gave the Tar Heels all it could handle this game. Their disciplined offense gave UNC fits but talent and size usually wins the day with the Tar Heels coming out with a seven point victory. Kudos to Tar Heel point guard RJ Davis whose three pointer kept the Brownies at bay. He has a deadly pure jump shot which is a joy to watch.

That’s a wrap for now. I close by presenting a cool beer bottle consumed at the Atlanta airport. I wonder if every NFL city has the equivalent.

Southern Wesleyan (48) vs. Western Carolina (108) 01/25/18

57 of 351  16% complete

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I avoid see Division 2 teams play Division 1 teams like the plague. It is never a contest and most always results in blowouts like it did tonight. However I do have extenuating circumstances which made for an exception.

As I stated in a earlier post, my wife miraculously agreed to seeing a second game on our North Carolina trip. If you look at the map, UNC Asheville and Western Carolina in Cullowhee are fairly close to each other. If I did not do Western Carolina this time, I would have to make a separate trip and go to great lengths on that trip to see a second team probably in Tennessee or South Carolina. Make sense?

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I won’t talk about the game much because it was tough to watch. Western Carolina had superior height and quickness over the the Division 2 club. I will note that Western Carolina sets the record for most cheerleaders in Operation 351 so far with a grand total of 23.

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I knew that this was trouble when I saw the upper level seats covered with black cloth. I wondered why Western Carolina would schedule a D-II club late in January. A little research brought up the fact that this game was originally scheduled on 12/8/17 but was canceled due to snow. What made it worse that Southern Wesleyan was not even a good D-II team. They were 1-9 in their league and 2-17 overall.

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Here is a little sad news. The Western Carolina mascot is the catamount which was declared officially extinct this week.

http://www.wcax.com/content/news/Catamount-officially-declared-extinct-470983003.html

Here is a picture of one:

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That’s all for now.

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Next game : UNC Wilmington at Northeastern 02/03/18

 

 

Gardner-Webb (60) vs. UNC-Asheville (65) 01/24/18

56 of 351  15% complete

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My wife Linda is not a college basketball fan or a sports fan in general. She agrees to go on one Operation 351 trip a year as long as other activities are included that are for her. So this year, we picked the see UNC-Asheville followed by a visit to the Biltmore Mansion.

As you can see below, she is prepping for the game by reading a book on the Biltmore Mansion. However, she will shock me with a surprise which I reveal later below.

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I need to include a picture of the Biltmore Mansion because it is well worth a visit if you are in this area. But that is as far as I will diverge from the Operation 351 mission.

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As is customary, I always point out items that are a first for me during the Operation 351 journey.

Item #1

The UNC Asheville mascot entered the arena down a rope at center court. I think that this is a voluntary position or may be paid with a hot dog at the end of the game but that would be definitely be outside my job responsibilities if I were the mascot.

Item #2

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This blood pressure machine located in a college basketball arena is a first for me. My beloved UCONN boys have suffered through a terrible season and now are under NCAA investigation for recruiting violations. Based on some of the UCONN games personally attended this year, my blood pressure would have read off the scale if this baby was at the Gampel Arena.

Item #3

This is the first game in the Operation 351 journey where the mascots are the SAME for both teams. – Bulldogs. The scoreboard could only use one mascot name for the team. They chose to use GWU for Gardner-Webb.

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Gardner-Webb is from Boiling Springs, North Carolina which is only 1 1/2 hours away from Asheville. I sense that there is a rivalry between these Big South league teams. A loud and raucous group of Gardner-Webb fans showed up to cheer on their team. It was all good natured ribbing between the student bodies.

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The game was back and forth throughout the entire game. I was kidding Linda that this game could go into multiple overtimes prompting a scowl on her face.

I enjoyed watching Kevin Vannatta of UNC Asheville play. He was a hard nosed kid that played hard and wore his emotions on his sleeve. He was the type of player that you hate to play against. His spirited play helped the Bulldogs (oops UNC Asheville) pull the game out at the end.

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Yes that is a Hardees mascot in the corner.

The arena was an excellent place to see a game. I always wonder how branches of state universities afford such great arenas but I guess North Carolina must be doing well.

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Welcome to the smallest pep band so far in Operation 351. There were some older folks in the band. Perhaps the flu struck down the entire band and replacements were called in.

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So I am saving the biggest thrill of the night for last. In all my Operation 351 games to date, I have not a caught a T-shirt. Tonight I modified my technique to hug the shirt to my chest instead of having it bounce off my hands into the row in front of me.  SUCCESS!

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Of course, the “GASES” part brought chuckles from my wife and kids.

Next Game: Southern Wesleyan at Western Carolina 01/25/18

As I was contemplating what to do on our off night, I happen to glance at the Division 1 school map of the United States. Western Carolina looked pretty close about one hour away. I saw that Western Carolina was playing. I jokingly mentioned it to Linda not expecting to hear the words “Sure let’s go!”.  Of course, I rewarded her with more shopping trips the next morning but it was worth it. What a trooper!

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