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Nuggets of Gold
Thursday, June 4, 2009
By Adam Gold
Adam Gold is program director of the Triangle's "850 the Buzz" and host of "The G-spot with Adam Gold."

More than pride at stake this time

By Adam Gold
All rights reserved.

In the last half dozen years, East Carolina’s football team has taken its swings at its two in-state rivals — with some success. Though the Pirates haven’t fared all that well against N.C. State during that span — winning just one of four meetings, including last year’s come-from-ahead loss in Raleigh — they managed to split a pair of matchups with North Carolina.

This season, on Sept. 19, Skip Holtz brings the Purple and Gold to Chapel Hill for an early season showdown.
But what are the stakes? Let’s assume that East Carolina beats the Tar Heels. Apart from getting to be the alpha dog at the water cooler, what is the prize?

I guess you could carry that around with you all through the fall, but unless the Pirates were to run the table and compete for a national championship, it’s only about trash-talking your buddies at the corner bar.

It’s a little bit like the guy who got with Sandra Bullock during her time in Greenville and loves to remind everyone about his conquest. Meanwhile, she’s kicking it with tattooed biker magnate Jesse James and wouldn’t remember that guy — nor the five minutes of glory — if he was standing next to her on the red carpet on Oscar Night.

That’s what makes this weekend’s Super Regional against the Tar Heels so important for East Carolina. When it comes to competing for championships, the Pirates don’t play on a level playing field with North Carolina or N.C. State in football. Just with the opinion polls alone, the deck is stacked against ECU as long as the BCS is the law of the land.

And there’s no sense even bringing up basketball. Even with the notion that every team in Division 1 has a chance because of the NCAA Tournament, there’s the obvious reality that hoops is a complete afterthought in Greenville. Honestly, if you seriously think that the Pirates are going to be competing with North Carolina for a Final Four berth in the foreseeable future, then that is probably a sign that you live too close to a landfill.

To the good folks down east and all of the Pirate Nation: I present to you your very best chance at a meaningful, lasting victory.

As everyone knows, it’s the birthright of every Tar Heel fan to support winners. Their women’s soccer program invented winning. Last I checked they were pretty solid on a regular basis in men’s basketball — what with two national championships in the last five years. Women’s hoops is a conference leader; they’re good in softball, wrestling, lacrosse, volleyball and — now all of a sudden — they’re looking for a fourth straight trip to the College World Series.

The only thing standing in their way is little ol’ East Carolina.

But, here’s the beauty of it all: College baseball truly is a level playing field for all comers — at least as much as is possible in college sports. No team is fully funded in terms of scholarships, there isn’t a league or a team with a huge advantage in terms of television exposure — like a Duke or North Carolina in basketball — and everyone’s using titanium-lithium-corbonite jet-propelled bats.

If the University of Maine can make it to the College World Series four straight years, then it’s possible for East Carolina to play its way to Omaha starting this weekend at Boshamer Stadium.

And no matter how good the Heels may have looked over the weekend in slaughtering Coastal Carolina and Kansas, ECU knows it can beat its big brothers to the west. The Pirates and Tar Heels split their two meetings this year with each team winning at home.

On top of that, if there’s such a thing as playing with house money then East Carolina is living proof. After losing to South Carolina in their second game of the Greenville regional on Saturday, the Pirates won three times in the next day and a half, including the incredible rally from 6 runs down on Monday night against the Gamecocks.

That was not a fluke. East Carolina is plenty good enough to leave Chapel Hill with two wins because college baseball doesn’t automatically play favorites.

This is East Carolina’s best chance to reach its first College World Series. And its best chance to beat an in-state rival and take away more than just bragging rights.



06/17/2009 01:22:05 AM

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