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Nuggets of Gold
Monday, December 8, 2008
By Adam Gold
Adam Gold is program director of the Triangle's "850 the Buzz" and host of "The G-spot with Adam Gold."

The thrill ride fit for champions

By Adam Gold
All rights reserved.

When I was a boy, growing up in the northeast, my dad used to take me to Coney Island to ride the Cyclone. One of the first roller coasters in the United States and the most famous to this day, the Cyclone was built in 1927 and still stands on the far western tip of Brooklyn.

Now there are literally thousands of roller coasters in the country. From Space Mountain in Walt Disney World in Florida, to the Beast and Son of Beast at Kings Mountain in Ohio, to the Kingda Ka at Six Flags in Jackson, New Jersey, the thrill rides keep getting bigger and faster and more stomach-churning.

The Kingda Ka, built just 3½ years ago, is 45 stories tall and the trains reach a top speed of 128 miles per hour. But, unlike other thrill-rides, that speed is at the beginning – before the big drop. Imagine, accelerating from a dead stop to 128 miles per hour in just 3.5 seconds, and then using that momentum to climb to the ride’s apex before a twisting, turning, seemingly out-of-control return to the earth before the train levels, traverses another smaller hill and screeches to a halt, all in 28 seconds.

Oh, that’s right — you’re all East Carolina football fans. You’ve been on this ride. Only yours started the last Saturday in August in Charlotte, North Carolina and came to an end the first Saturday in December in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The only thing the Kingda Ka has that the 2008 ECU football season didn’t: 4-5 G-forces, though I’m not entirely certain that some of you didn’t consider hurling yourself off a cliff after a season with such unbelievable promise nearly imploded among a string of disappointing results.

Like the Ka, the Pirates’ season came out of the chute with a blast, blocking a Virginia Tech punt and returning it for the winning touchdown in the closing minutes of the season-opener in Charlotte. A thorough beating of West Virginia ensued before ECU snatched victory from the jaws of defeat at Tulane and visions of BCS games were dancing beneath purple and gold caps.

Then came the 270-degree twisting plunge back to terra firma as the Pirates lost three straight games, the first of which was at the hands of their most-hated cousin, N.C. State, and it was a setback that likely melted away the icy confidence that Skip Holtz’ team displayed the first three weeks. Suddenly, the Pirates were 3-3, and forget about a BCS game, some were wondering if they’d ever win again! That’s the nature of college football.

Even a convincing win over Memphis, a school that had been to bowl games in five of the last six years (and would ultimately make it six in seven this season), did little to help smooth over the scars of what became of the dream season.

The Pirates struggled to a pair of overtime wins against second-division clubs, and then got hammered by Southern Miss on the road. And, even though ECU was still virtually assured of winning the Eastern Division, Pirate Nation was bent over the railing heaving what was left of the great start.

Fortunately, the ride wasn’t over. Unlike the Kingda Ka, East Carolina’s time wasn’t up after 28 seconds. The Pirates scratched out a win in Birmingham to clinch a spot in the conference championship game, warmed up with a rout of Texas-El Paso on Senior Day, and arrived in Tulsa the underdog – which, in retrospect, might be just how ECU likes it – and pillaged the Golden Hurricane offense for five interceptions and seven total turnovers.

When the last interception settled into the arms of Van Eskridge and the final seconds drained off the clock, the reality and satisfaction of being champions of Conference USA finally began to register.

The 14-week ride has finally come to a stop. And, it’s pretty clear that the steep climb, the sudden plunge and the ups and downs that followed along the tracks were worth it. Because I’m sure that there isn’t a person living in Pirate Nation that wouldn’t want to climb aboard again.

See you in Memphis on January 2 for the happiest of New Year’s celebrations.



12/08/2008 03:37:46 AM

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