Monthly Archives: December 2015

Observations from the ACC Championship – Daniel Bayer

I was thinking of writing a column on ACC officiating and the officials’ blunder from this past weekend, but it has seemingly been talked about ad nauseam and no one wants to hear a guy from Carolina whining about officiating anyways. So, what I have decided to do is basically share some notes, thoughts, and possibly some rants from this past weekend’s ACC Championship in what I like to call…

“The Weekly Mumble”

•I have been blessed to have been a part of many unique sporting experiences in my short life: I had the job of playing the music/sound effects at Durham Bulls games (Funny story, there was a player who was going through a big hitting slump, so I randomly played “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” for his walk-up music and he got a hit. So, I kept playing the song and he kept getting hits, but I got the dreaded phone call from the dugout telling me to stop playing the song because it was not funny anymore. I did my best to help him, but needless to say, that player never got called up to the majors), Dean Smith watched a basketball game that I happened to be coaching, and I was a Charlotte Hornets ball boy in middle and high school (there are so many cool stories from that experience that it is worth its own column). This past weekend was another one of those unique experiences in my life. I was given the opportunity to cover the ACC Championship in Charlotte for 252 ESPN Radio, and it is something that I will never forget. I covered/watched the game from the press box, went on the field after the game, and interviewed some players (actually, I just stuck my phone out while they talked or answered other reporters’ questions).

•I was so pumped about having a Press Pass that I was walking around Panthers Stadium like Wayne and Garth…


•It took me a little while before I took the diehard sports fan hat off (not a literal hat because my mom always taught me never to wear a hat indoors) and realized that I was there to do a job (and it is really hard to even call it a job whenever you are having so much fun doing it). I sat in the North Carolina section of the Press Box, so it was really neat getting to sit near some of my favorite writers and radio personalities. I even got to stare at the back of Adam Gold’s head most of the night. A special thanks to Jordan Honeycutt, journalist from the New Bern Sun Journal, for showing me around and helping me with the team/player interviews after the game.

•I met a guy that has a radio show on ESPN Upstate who was a dead ringer for the comedian, Ron White. Too bad we didn’t have tater salad for dinner or that would have been a funny coincidence.

•Speaking of dinner, the Carolina Panthers staff or whoever was in charge of dinner, put out an awesome spread of friend chicken, mac and cheese, and barbecue (Lexington style, which is my favorite).

•I think I hurt my neck from moving it back and forth between watching the game on the field and the games on the bank of TVs behind press row. I couldn’t keep my eyes off the amazing Steph Curry and how he seemed to effortlessly put up 44 points on the Raptors (I had this game circled as the one that the Warriors were finally going to lose…wrong again). He is just so fun to watch, and I am a big fan of his.

•It is amazing to me that after every big play or when there is a break in the action, everyone is either checking their Twitter feed or sending out a tweet. I just don’t get this Twitter thing (said in my old man voice).

•At the time of this writing, I am still waiting for the ACC’s apology for the mistake on the “offsides kick”.

•It is kind of surreal watching a sporting event from the press box. No one is allowed to cheer whenever a big play occurs or when a team scores a touchdown, but also you really can’t even hear the fans in the stadium cheering/screaming. It could have been deafening after all of those Clemson touchdowns, but I have no idea because it just sounded like a muffled roar. I am not going to complain because with all of those Clemson fans there, they certainly had a lot of touchdowns to celebrate and I bet it was loud.

•Please tell me someone on TV pointed out that the reason there were 85% Clemson fans in the stadium was because they had a 2-3 week head start to buy up all of the tickets.

•I wonder if Clemson fans need to take that extra pause at the end of their fight song, “Tiger Rag”, in order to really think hard about how to spell Clemson. Low blow…I know.

•Everyone knows what it is like to watch a youth sporting event where there is that one kid who is just so much faster, stronger, and just plain better than the other kids. Yea, Deshaun Watson is that kid and he made UNC’s defense look extremely slow. I was amazed at how fast he was and how he just effortlessly glided around the field. He certainly put on a show and dominated that game with over 400 yards of total offense and 5 touchdowns. I am happy to see that he was a finalist for the Heisman and I really hope he wins it.

•Was anyone brave enough to ask for ham and pineapple on their pizza at the party thrown by Dabo Swinney?

•I kept waiting for Clemson to just pull away and blow out UNC, as I made a note of this after a couple of the Clemson touchdowns in the 2nd half. However, the coaching staff and players for UNC deserve a ton of credit for continuing to fight and keep that game close, even with a chance to possibly recover an onside kick and score a touchdown to tie the game up. “Grit” was the theme for this team throughout the year, and they showed a lot of it in the championship game.

•A lot of credit should go to Clemson’s front 7 on defense for Marquise’s early struggles. They were getting a lot of pressure on Marquise, which seemed to really rattle him at the start of the game. He made a lot of errant throws, but that was due to the quickness of the pass rush that was getting to him. Plus, every time he looked to scramble, the defense used their speed to close any of those running lanes and keep him from getting to the open field in the secondary (where he has had a lot of success this year).

•I hate it for Marquise because he has heard all year about his 3 turnover game in his previous trip to Charlotte, but that turnover in the first drive of the second half was a killer. Especially, since Clemson followed it up by marching right down the field and scoring a touchdown on a 96 yard drive.

•Mitch Trubisky is going to be a very good starting quarterback for UNC next year.

•The length of the game was 3 hours and 42 minutes, and it felt every bit of that, if not longer; however, I should not complain because I am sure it felt a lot longer than that sitting in the 30 degree weather. The length of the timeouts for commercials and the time it takes for instant replay reviews is way too long (again, in my old man voice).

•Great job by Bubba Cunningham and UNC for showing their commitment to Larry Fedora and the football program. With a new 7-year contract for Fedora and a new 25 million dollar indoor practice facility, the administration is committed to making sure football is successful at UNC.

•It may have been a bit of a sloppy game, with neither team playing its best; however, there were exciting plays, star players, an exciting (yet controversial) finish, and both teams showed the national audience why the ACC is not just a basketball conference.

Catch DANIEL BAYER every TUESDAY on THE DRIVE on the 252 ESPN Radio Network !

The Case of Kobe vs The Haters – Sean Finnerty

        Kobe Bryant has been a polarizing figure, to say the least, over the length of his illustrious career. He has almost as many haters as he does adoring fans who worship the very ground he stands on (I am a card carrying member of the Kobe fan club by the way). In all honesty, the aforementioned haters make some fair points when they criticize the Black Mamba. The many criticisms range from taking too many shots, being a difficult teammate, copying Michael Jordan, to driving away Shaq and ruining what should have been the most dominant duo in NBA history.

While, yes, some of those are fair criticisms (I’ll get to the bogus one in a bit), Kobe has done plenty to earn the love and respect of basketball fans everywhere. First and foremost Kobe is a winner, evidenced by the five championship rings in his possession. He is also one of the best scorers to ever play the game. He just always found a way to put the ball in the bucket, be it launching a three with a hand in his face, slashing to the rim and dunking on some poor fool, or that patented turn around fade away jumper. With his arsenal of offensive moves Kobe put on maybe the most impressive scoring performance in NBA history, when he dropped 81 points on the Toronto Raptors (which also happened to occur on my birthday). I can hear you now yelling at your computer screen while reading this saying, “how can scoring 81 points be more impressive than Wilt Chamberlain scoring 100 points?” My reasoning is that I’m more impressed with a guard scoring with midrange jumpers and contested threes than a seven footer dominating the paint, but that’s just my humble opinion. That reasoning also ties in to another aspect that draws people to watch Kobe; he is just so darn entertaining to watch. The degree of difficulty of his shots is astounding. The majority of the shots he takes are actually bad shots, in that they usually taken with a hand in his face and he is turning while shooting, fading away, or a combination of the two. But he is Kobe after all and makes those shots (or made those shots, I should say, because at his current age he doesn’t hit those with anywhere near the same regularity). So you’re left sitting there in amazement, thinking how on Earth did he make that shot?
Earlier, I alluded to a bogus criticism of Kobe, and of course I’m referring to the fact that people like to bash Kobe for copying Jordan. First off, it’s called inspiration. Kobe grew up watching basketball and at the time, Jordan was the best player on the planet. So, of course Kobe was inspired and influenced by MJ. It’s sort of similar to how MJ has said he was influenced by Dr. J. That’s how sports and life in general works; someone who is very successful in a given field, be it basketball, music, acting, or even politics influences and inspires younger people to be achieve greatness as well. Just as Kobe was influenced by MJ, the current young stars of the NBA were influenced by growing up watching Kobe.

There is another bogus criticism that kind of piggy backs off of him copying MJ, which is that Kobe is not as good as MJ, as if not being as good as the greatest of all time is some sort of failure. Yes, I can admit Kobe didn’t quite reach the heights of MJ but no one else did either. Many were dubbed “The Next Jordan” (such as Harold Miner, Tracy McGrady, Jerry Stackhouse, Penny Hardaway, and Vince Carter) but Kobe is the only one to get close. He did so by creating highlight reels, putting up gaudy statistics, and of course, most importantly, winning championships.
Love him or hate him, the NBA was better off with him in it. It is sad to see an all-time great retire and no longer grace us with his talents; but it is also sweet to see him receive the respect and adulation he so thoroughly deserves.

Catch SEAN FINNERTY on THE DRIVE every Monday, Wednesday & Thursday on 252 ESPN Radio

The Re-aWAKEning of the Demon Deacons – Daniel Bayer

Daniel Bayer , 252 ESPN Radio

It’s early in the season (the ACC/Big Ten Challenge is just getting underway); however, I like what I have seen at the start of the season from Wake Forest. So much so, that I think this may be the start of the re-aWAKEning (cheesy, I know) of Wake Forest basketball. Since the departure of Dino Gaudio, Wake Forest has not sniffed the NCAA Tournament, has had a record of 51-76 record under Jeff Bzdelik, and has fallen off the national radar, while the other big 3 area schools (UNC, Duke, and NC State) have won ACC and NCAA Championships.

We are entering year two of the Danny Manning era, and coming off a year with a 13-19 record, yes, there is really no where to go but up with this team.
Manning was a good hire for Wake, and has already shown promise both on the court and on the recruiting trail (I hate that he missed out on getting Harry Giles, as this certainly would have helped speed up Wake’s reemergence as a contender). Coaches may not be able to teach height, but I have a feeling that Manning will be able to coach and develop players with height (there are four players on the team that are listed 6’10’’ and taller).


Now, I am not ready to go on record and say that this team is going to be cutting down the nets in April (they have not made the NCAA tournament since 2010) or that they will be contending for the ACC Championship, but I do think that this team is going to finish better than 11th in the league, as they did last year. Even as the college basketball game is trending (similar to the NBA) towards a guard-oriented league, Wake Forest’s height is going to cause problems for teams this year.


While many of you were going back for second helpings of turkey and mashed potatoes, Wake Forest was taking home 3rd place at the Maui Invitational. This is certainly one of the more elite early-season tournaments and my personal favorite tournament, so for Wake Forest to come out of Hawaii with two upset wins against UCLA and Indiana, it should help give them confidence as they get ready for the ACC season.

Early on Wake Forest has been led by Devin Thomas and Konstantinos Mitoglou. Thomas is going to be counted on throughout the year for his rebounding and inside scoring, and if he can improve his free-throw shooting, he will be one of the elite big men in the ACC. Mitoglou presents a defensive challenge for opposing teams with the ability to hit shots from 3-point range, which stretches the opposing team’s defense and allows for Thomas to operate on the inside. Even though you never want your leading scorer to be out for an extended period of time, the injury to Codi Miller-McIntytre has given both Mitchell Wilbekin and Bryant Crawford valuable early season on-the-job experience. This will only help in their confidence as the season progresses. Crawford, one of the top recruited point guards out of high school, has been the second leading scorer early on in the season. Now that forward Cornelius Hudson (a Sophomore who averaged 7 points a game last year) has been reinstated, it will help with creating a deeper bench, which was an issue for the Deacons in the first few games of the season.

In my opinion, once their leading scorer and Senior point guard returns from his injury, this Wake Forest team will be one that gets the Screamin’ Demons rocking in Joel Coliseum and will have their rivals up the road nervous that this team is no longer just an easy notch in the win column.


The Drive with Mark Panichelli – Amani Toomer 11-11-15

From NBC Sports Radio – Former NFL Standout WR Amani Toomer joins Mark to talk NFL .

IRVING, TX - JANUARY 13:  Wide receiver Amani Toomer #81 of the New York Giants scores a 52 yard touchdown reception against the Dallas Cowboys during the first quarter of the NFC Divisional Playoff game at Texas Stadium on January 13, 2008 in Irving, Texas.  The Giants defeated the Cowboys 21-17.   (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

IRVING, TX – JANUARY 13: Wide receiver Amani Toomer #81 of the New York Giants scores a 52 yard touchdown reception against the Dallas Cowboys during the first quarter of the NFC Divisional Playoff game at Texas Stadium on January 13, 2008 in Irving, Texas. The Giants defeated the Cowboys 21-17. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)