What a conflict of Tar Heel emotions on Sunday morning. Live on NBC, you had alum (and former THM Tar Heel of the Year plus our July 2012 cover subject) Shalane Flanagan competing at the highest level in the world in the marathon in the Olympics. She stayed with the leaders for over 20 miles before eventually falling back over the final two miles and finishing tenth. Still, it was a remarkable achievement for an athlete who was competing in just her third-ever marathon.
It should have been a time of intense pride to be a Tar Heel.
But around the same time she crossed the finish line, news was starting to break about the stunning death of Kirk Urso, the captain of the 2011 Carolina soccer national champions. Urso played with the Columbus Crew, and as America woke up to the shocking news, heartfelt sentiment poured in from all corners of Tar Heel nation, including Mia Hamm, Olympian Heather O’Reilly, fellow 2011-12 Tar Heels Jacob Stallings and Kendall Marshall, and Urso’s Tar Heel teammate Ben Speas. The Columbus Dispatch has been the best place to keep up with the latest news on the story, including the emotional reaction of Urso's Crew teammates. Our thoughts go out to all of Urso’s family and his extended soccer family at a time of unimaginable tragedy.
On the playing field, Carolina opened 2012 training camp this weekend. They flashed a much leaner team at Meet the Heels on Saturday night. Turner will have much more from training camp beginning this week.
Roy Williams had some interesting comments on the players he recruits—and the ones he doesn’t recruit—over the weekend.
Have you tried to stay off Twitter and elsewhere to avoid finding out Olympic results, or have you been watching the live stream? I’ve been trying to watch pseudo-live with the kids each night, and it’s been a challenge to avoid find out results before NBC goes on the air each evening. Good news, though: in 2016, the Rio time difference will be just one hour, meaning most events will be live in prime time. This weekend’s non-UNC highlight might have been Great Britain’s incredible night on Saturday. Most college sports fans believe the home crowd makes a difference, right? It might have helped carry the host country in track on Saturday night, and Joe Posnanski, as usual, is brilliant in describing how it felt like the London environment provided a push.
By the way, two Tar Heels—Tobin Heath and Heather O’Reilly—will be in Olympic semifinal action against Canada on Monday afternoon. The match will be live on NBC Sports, a channel I didn’t even know I had until about 10 days ago. Canada is already whining about illegal United States tactics. However, a full-scale investigation has determined that giving the world Justin Bieber and Greg Newton (Sheed!) is much more objectionable than a bit of physical play inside the box.
NBC has taken some heat for perceived hometown announcing. But even the gymnastics commentators can’t compare to this, as the British TV talent goes nuts on Saturday night for Mo Farah and then are exhausted when they finish. If you get a strange sense of déjà vu watching the video, it might be because you thought you were watching the Michigan State radio broadcasters at the 2009 national title game, when they actually pounded on the press table because of perceived bad calls. I don’t remember exactly when that happened, but it was at a point that the game was still close…so, sometime in the first five minutes or so.
The most bizarre UNC-related story lately has been Carolina professor Paul Frampton’s legal troubles in Argentina. The situation has caused much consternation among the faculty, and much intrigue among the international press, including a skillful use of the word “honeytrap” in this Daily Mail headline. Note the difference in the accompanying photos chosen in the American story as compared to the British story.
The NFL’s Hall of Fame inductions were this weekend. Curtis Martin gave an incredible speech:
Elsewhere in pro football, Fast Willie Parker retired as a Steeler and got an appreciative reception from Pittsburgh fans. Parker is now trying to break into coaching in Division II.
Big weekend for Diamond Heels in major league baseball. Alex White has been recalled by the Colorado Rockies and threw very well in his return to the starting rotation. He’ll pitch again on Tuesday at Los Angeles. Another Tar Heel pitcher experiencing a resurrection is Andrew Miller, who is throwing well out of the bullpen for the Red Sox. That puts him in a unique position to comment on Daniel Bard, who was a Sox relief ace but is now in Pawtucket trying to rediscover his touch. Matt Harvey had his third MLB start on Sunday and lasted just five innings, but he’s impressed the Mets with his analytical approach to the game.
Keep an eye on Baltimore this week, where Dustin Ackley (.275 in his last 10 games) and Kyle Seager (.306 in his last 10) will be relatively close to home, as Seattle opens a three-game set at Camden Yards tonight.
What are you reading this summer? I started with Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, which is incredible both for its exhaustive research and for its compelling story. Yes, I’m two years late on discovering it. But, did you know that a UNC alum and Chapel Hill native, Draggan Mihailovich, played a big role in locating the infamous Bird from that book and trying to reunite him with Louis Zamperini? This video shows the results of Draggan’s research:
Now I’m on to Frank Deford’s Over Time, which as expected, is terrifically written. Anyone found any unexpected gems among their summer reading list?
Best story I read this weekend: this look at the struggles of being a father for the Eagles' Andy Reid. If you read a great story this weekend, let us know in the comments.
Three Tar Heel topics to watch this week:
1. Football training camp
2. O'Reilly and Heath go for gold in London
3. Seager and Ackley in Baltimore