Monday, September 30, 2013

My Homage to the Great David Thompson

It has come to my attention that there are quite a few fans at N.C. State giving me the what-for these days for my formula that awarded Tyler Hansbrough more points toward enshrinement in the ACC Basketball Book of Fame than the great David Thompson.

There are flaws to the formula, which I readily admit throughout my book. As I wrote, it's the worst way of coming up with a threshold for admittance to a Hall of Fame, except for all the others that have been tried.

To my mind, the formula is far better for determining who should be in the Hall of Fame than it is for judging the best against the best. And by playing all four years, and for receiving decorations and accolades pretty much from the day he arrived, Hansbrough did end up with more points than DT.

If Thompson had been able to play as a freshman, when he probably was the best player in the league, he'd have blown the top off my formula. And I would have loved that.

The reason I didn't, in the end, adjust the formula to reflect the advantage a four-year player had over those who came before was that freshman eligibility came along just about the same time blacks were becoming a real force in the league. Art Heyman and Len Chappell were greats, but it's hard to tell how great because they never played against the likes of Len Bias or Michael Jordan or, that's right, David Thompson.

So as a peace offering to the Wolfpack faithful, and to ask that they read the book before the pass too harsh a judgment on it, I'm uploading my song about David Thompson. Hope you enjoy.

Bulls City Bound

My day job, which is just as likely to be a night job, has kept me hopping these past couple of weeks, what with trips to such far-flung (and disparate) destinations as West Point, NY, and Clemson, S.C. So it's about dern time I got back on here to tell everybody how much I appreciated seeing them last week at our signing at Quail Ridge Books and Music in Raleigh.

Also I'd like to mention that I'll back up in the Triangle this week for Thursday's (Oct. 3) signing at the Barnes and Noble in New Hope Commons in Durham. We'll start the night off with a rousing rendition of Sail With the Pilot at 7 sharp, so you know you don't want to be late.

The signing at Quail Ridge was by far my best ever. Not only is it one fabulous store, but a standing-room only crowd showed up for the occasion. Or at least it was standing room once my F&Fs (Friends and Family) drank that last round of beer in the T.K. Tripps across the parking lot and made it on over.

Saw some old friends and met some new ones and, as promised, we all had us a time.

Meanwhile some old buddies in the business are coming through, as I knew they would. Just a couple of days after Luke DeCock wrote that bang-up column about ACC Basketball Book of Fame for the News and Observer, the one and only Al Featherston chimed in with this review for that excellent website devoted to Blue Devil athletics, the Duke Basketball Report.

It's been interesting to see how much focus there has been on the formula I devised to select which players should be enshrined in my Hall of Fame, but I suspected that would be the case. What I really liked about Feather's piece is that he recognized that the real heart, the real essence, of the book is found in the stories about the various players I came up with. Many are them are stories I first heard from Feather and other sportswriting buddies as we sat around hospitality suites drinking free adult beverages and winding down from making (hopefully) another deadline at the ACC Tournament.

So of all the people I'd want to like and appreciate the book, it would be the guys who have been in the trenches with me covering ACC Basketball over the years.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Big Doings at Quail Ridge

Fair warning to Spudtowne and other assorted locales in the Greater Triangle. Your fair-haired (what there is left of it) boy is coming back to his old stomping grounds for Wednesday night's gala book signing at Quail Ridge Books and Music at 3522 Wade Avenue in Raleigh. The fun, replete with trivia, prizes, music and all forms of mindless frivolity, will commence sharply at 7:30 with a rousing rendition of a timeless gem from days gone by, Sail with the Pilot..

I'm happy to say that Luke DeCock, a compadre of mine over many an ACC mile, is writing a piece for Wednesday's News and Observer leading into tonight's occasion. Please check it out and be sure to email Luke and tell him what a hell of a guy he is for doing his buddy a solid.

Another friend named David Neugent brought up a line today that I warned him I was going to steal, that in ACC Country back in the 1960s and 70s, every child learned three songs. The first was The ABC Song, the second Jesus Loves Me.

And of course the third was Sail With the Pilot.

Sail With the Pilot All the Way,
And Get on Board that Pilot Ship today.

So don't be late if you want to lend your voice in song.

The occasion will also serve as a bon voyage, of sorts, to another fair-haired (again, what there is left of it) boy from Spudtowne. Crag T. Perry, along with his bride Tammy, are hell bent on the next chapter of their lives being written in the wilds of Houston, Tex. I'm sure there are plenty of folks out there who want to wish Crag T.and Tammy well and maybe a handful just as anxious to see that he's actually leaving.

I, for one, will miss them. But it consoles me to know he'll be able to join forces from time to time with another old Spud living down there named John Branch (who you may know from his Spudtowne Tatler fame as Bif Fazlo) in pursuit of good ground to play Cozmik Croquet (Houston is flat, so there should be possibilities) and a place to watch the Tar Heels on TV.

Maybe we'll sell enough books down in Houston that I can come down and join you for a weekend.

In the meantime, hope to see everyone out tonight in Ralphtown for the one event you would hate yourself til time immemorial for missing.

                                   (How about a great big hand for the artist who rendered this fabulous photo, my sister-in-law Kimberly T. Hawks).

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Here's Where You Come In

Now that all the jollification, merriment and unbridled revelry has at long last abated from Wednesday's gala book launch party -- and before I begin using this space to promote upcoming events such as Wednesday, Sept. 18 at Barnes and Noble in Winston and Thursday, Sept. 19 at B&N in Greensboro -- it's time to get down to what I meant this blog to be all about.

Let the brouhaha begin..

From the day I first hit a key stroke in the writing of ACC Basketball Book of Fame, I recognized full well what a mess I would be stirring up by selecting certain players for this noble honor while snubbing others. I could already hear the howls of anguish welling up from those whose heroes had been done downright dirty by Country Dan.

It's true the focus of the book evolved in the writing and editing. What began as a homage to Bill James (and his objective, calculated, statistics-based approach to assigning accomplishments and accolades) actually became first and foremost a history of the greatest college basketball conference through its greatest players. The stories are truly the heart of the book.

That said, I choose to take complete ownership of my formula, embrace it even, if for no other reason than the controversy certain to ensue. Controversy is marketable. Each Ka-ching of the cash register is one more board bought for Tybee's dream house at the beach.

What else I recognized from day one, or maybe it was the next day, was that by devising the criterion for admission the way I did, through an awards points system based on All-ACC voting and other accolades, the players would be enshrined not necessarily for how good they were but how good they were perceived to be those who watched them play. They would be decorated again for how lavishly they were decorated while they played, or else snubbed again because they were originally snubbed while they played.

And in doing so, I'd be doing certain players dirty. Downright dirty. I tried to make it up somewhat with the Portico of Promise included the ACC Basketball Book of Fame, but that's weak sauce for those parties as thoroughly aggrieved as a Dennis Scott, Elton Brand or Horace Grant. All were better players, I feel quite safe in saying, than some who are members in good standing of my ACC Basketball Book of Fame.

But as I write in the introduction, I never meant for my book to be the last word on who belongs in the ACC Basketball Hall of Fame.

I want it to be the first.

So that's where you guys come in. If you take even the least bit of umbrage over any of my selections, let me hear it. That's what this blog is here for. Make your case for Scott or Chris Paul or Walter Davis or anybody you feel should be immortalized in my book, then I'll be more than happy to hear it. Make it long and well enough and I'll post your essay or arguments and give you full credit as a Guest Poster.

I like Guest Posters.

The more you write, the less I'll have to.

But I really do want to hear from you, good or bad. Let me have it on my ol' bearded Scots-Irish jaw. I can take it. I relish it.

Because what else I wrote in the introduction was that I never spent 40 days and 40 nights on Mount Sinai to bring my Awards Points Formula down on two stone tablets.

I would really hate for anyone to think I was taking myself that seriously.

                                                           In Your Face Country Dan Collins

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Night I'll Never Forget

For a full day and most of another now I've been utterly remiss in not coming back on here and thanking everyone for showing up at the ACC Basketball Book of Fame launch party down at the Community Arts Cafe Wednesday night. And I hate, above almost all things, being remiss, especially utterly remiss.

I have to admit I was stressing a bit by the time I woke up Wednesday, but what put my mind to rest was knowing that those at the party would be the people who have been behind me for so long, most of them long before I ever got around to writing this book. I knew with them/you there for me, as they/you have always been, we'd have a time to remember.

And I was right.

If I start thanking individual people I know I'd leave someone out, and have to be utterly remiss once again. And nobody wants that.

But I will make an exception for family, and we had plenty of it there. I always have to start with my blushing (often for good reason) bride Tybee, and quickly get to the best daughter a man could have, Rebecca. And it's always a party with the other two Collins' boys in the house, and it meant so much that Tom was there with his bride Jenny from Raleigh and Joe made the long haul all the way up from Franklin with his bride Pam. Mayhem has been known to ensue when this crowd gets together, and some did, indeed, ensue Wednesday night.

Tybee's side of the family was also well-represented with her sisters Kim and Brenda up from the Triangle, along with Brenda's hubby Watts Ward and their two talented sons, Matt and Michael. Matt is so talented he brought his black Gibson Hummingbird and joined the All-ACC Hotshots on stage, and Michael is so talented it videoed the whole uproarious set. I've been too swamped to check out the results of Michael's handiwork yet, but if it's good stuff, which I imagine it is, I'll upload some songs onto the blog.

We really don't have that many occasions we know for absolute certain that we'll remember for the rest of our lives, but I experienced one Wednesday.

And to all that made it the special occasion that it was, thanks.

As an extra special treat from this blog, here's some photos of the grand occasion taken by Shannon Pierce of the good folks at Blair Publishing.

            (L-R Trisina Dickerson of Blair in the bad company of the Collins boys Dan, Tom and Joe)

                           The All-ACC Hotshots (L-R Johnny Hoots, Bubba Spear, Country Dan and Matt Ward: drummer Ed Snider was hiding behind the tom tom.)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Come One, Come All

Whether or not you've ever been to a Book Launch party, I can safely guarantee you've never experienced one like Blair Publishing is throwing for ACC Basketball Book of Fame at the Community Arts Cafe (Fourth and Spruce) in downtown Winston tonight. We're cranking it up at 5:30 and partying all the way to the wee hour of 7 p.m.

There will be fun and prizes, a trivia challenge, free adult beverages for the first 50 to show up and a cash bar thereafter, as well as the Shirley Temple type punch for those who don't imbibe.

And of course there will be music galore by the inimitable Twin City Buskers and well as the maiden performance of Country Dan Collins and the All-ACC Hotshots. Heath Combs and the Buskers will get the festivities off and roaring at 5:30 and the set for the Hotshots is scheduled to begin at 6.

If you're looking for one musical happening not to be missed this week in the Triad, forget Taylor Swift (please) at the Greensboro Coliseum tomorrow. The Community Arts Cafe tonight will be the place to be.

Really hope to see you all down there. We'll have us a time.

I promise.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Big Day Upon Me

A day I've had my sights on for some time now is upon me.
Up and out early to High Point for 7:15 plug at WGHP.
Dave Glenn, a buddy for years, is calling at 1. Always great being on with Dave. We'll have fun talking ACC Basketball. We've swapped a few stories over the years -- which is what this book is really all about -- and I imagine we'll swap some more tomorrow.
By 5 I'll be down at Fourth and Spruce for the gala ACC Basketball Book of Fame Launch Party the good folks at Blair Publishing are throwing at the Community Arts Cafe. We're cranking up the good times at 5:30 p.m. and roaring all the way to the wee hour of 7 p.m. And like Robert Earl Keen might (and did) sing we'll be painting the town beige.
Speaking of Robert Earl Keen, he's not on the bill. But we will have the next best thing or two with an appearance by the one and only Twin City Buskers sure to have the toes a tapping and the knees a slapping. When Heath Combs is in the house, the good times are sure to be rolling.
Or as the late great Sam Cooke sang it best:

Come on and let the good times roll,
We're going to stay here til we soothe our soul,
If it takes all night long.

Well in this case we're going to have to get it all done by 7 p.m., but might as well set our sights as high as we can.
And after Heath and Bubba Spear and Johnny Hoots and Ed Snider have reduced the crowd to a mass of quivering protoplasm, and they can bear no more, it'll be time for the much-ballyhooed debuting of Country Dan Collins and the All-ACC Hotshots laying out five tunes, all of them original except for the lid-lifting arrangement of the heart-rendering theme song of Saturday afternoons gone by Sail With the Pilot

Sail With the Pilot
At the Wheel
On a Ship Sturdy 
From It's Mast to Its Keel

Guides You Through Storm and Wave
Insures You While You Save

Sail with the Pilot
All the Way
So Get on Board that Pilot Ship Today.

Even while recognizing I could never as much as approach such a musical masterpiece, I felt strangely compelled to try. My efforts produced a couple of songs about giants who played leading roles in my book. The first was the coach who was the biggest name of the conference when it was coming into being back in 1954 and thankfully was on hand to help get it off right. He was the coach at N.C. State and his name was Everett Case. He's known to history as the Old Gray Fox, and he was quite the character. What convinced me that a song needed to be written about the Old Gray Fox was hearing how he was a bachelor who lived over in Cameron Village about the distance of a deep 3-pointer (which they didn't have back in his day) from the State College campus and how after games, he'd have everybody over to his house to wind down from the high. And by everybody I mean his players, sportswriters, referees, assorted acquaintances and guys from around town and, best of all, even the coaches for the team he'd just beaten. Tim Peeler at N.C. State has written some fabulous accounts of how Case would hold court in his den by the wet bar and how his players knew Coach liked his Imperial Whiskey over the rocks chased with water. And if the players wanted their own bit of libation, that was something that stayed over at 611 Daniels Street. To me there was a song in there and I had to write it.
The other tune is about the greatest ACC Player of All Time, the incomparable David Thompson. Seeings how I began writing sports as a college junior in 1972, the Great DT was where I came in. And I'm proud of it as I express repeatedly in the tune.
So almost 40 years later I'm headed to bed to get my good rest for a big day, a day I've had my sights on for some time. Hope to see you all at the grand occasion.
We'll have us a time.

Monday, September 9, 2013

For 31 years, four months and seven days I've basked in the rapture of marital bliss, a state of ecstasy interrupted only every day or so by a not-always-so-gentle reminder from my bride about a promise I purportedly made before our wedding.

I don't really remember promising her a house at the beach, but Tybee swears on everything she finds holy (which is virtually everything) that I did. And looking back, she's probably right. You know, whatever it took. . .

All of which is why I wrote the book I'm pushing with the blog. If enough of you guys buy ACC Basketball Book of Fame I can get Tybee her house at the beach and maybe, just maybe, at long last get her off my back. Buy three or four of them, and we'll even invite you down for the weekend.

Just don't expect to see Tybee unless you go down to the surf. She parks herself there at the break of dawn and has to be dragged kicking and screaming back to the house after the sun's gone down.

My real dream is to buy a beautiful seaside cottage at Emerald Isle, maybe even next door to one owned by Dave and Lynn Odom. And if Coach Odom gets fed up with all the racket emanating from our place at all hours of the day and night, he'll have himself at least partially to blame.

He wrote the foreword to my book.

Hope to see everyone down at the book launch party Blair Publishing is throwing downtown at the Community Arts Cafe (4th and Spruce) this Wednesday. The fun starts at 5:30 and roars til 7, in plenty of time for us old folks to get our proper rest.