It was the rarest of rarities (aside from Wolfpack championships) – a long profile in Sunday’s N&O that seemed tailor made for me. There are tons of great anecdotes (don’t miss the “shard grabbing” story) – read the whole thing. But the overriding theme reinforces what I like about Packer – his near slavish devotion to the pursuit of complete objectivity:
“What I’ve always loved is the competition of being able to go out there and say what I see and to be objective, but that in turn obviously annoys people, because 50 percent of them, that objectivity is not gonna be what they want to hear,” Packer says.
As bloggers, we here at SFN have heard that more than a time or two. And maybe it is specific to me – blogger, cynical NC State fan, engineering graduate – but I don’t want a stinking cheerleader or yes man analyzing the game. Just call it like you see it, and be fair. The truth is hard to take sometimes, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hear it. And, when you do hear intelligent honesty you should be appreciative; like Jeff shared almost two years ago when he proclaimed that “Billy Packer kicks ass” for some comments highlighted in that link.
I can remember Packer’s call of NC State’s ACC Tournament loss to Miami just two weeks ago. Thousands of words have been typed and spoken in ponderance of the absolute suckdom of 2007-08 Wolfpack hoops, but Packer cut to the quick with a few tersely delivered observations. The body language on the court and bench was bad. Miami clearly wanted the win more than the Pack, despite needing it less. Although this is paraphrased, I’m putting it in quotes for emphasis:
The ball spends too much time in the hands of players that are no threat whatsoever. And then the other guys stand around watching the player with the ball. Pretty easy to defend against that.
Packer went on to note that, while “obviously you wouldn’t want to structure your program this way long-term” – perhaps the only way to get results out of the talent that State had would have been to run the offense through McCauley, a player “who really likes to pass and is good at it.”
Now tell me – who else had the insight and the stones to come out and say things like that this season? Nobody.
What other non-partisan would study and break down an irrelevant, flailing team like NC State at that level, in preparation for a Thursday afternoon preliminary round ACCT game? Again, nobody. Certainly not a guy who has enough juice to call the Final Four for as long as I can remember.
What other non-partisan would have the stones to proclaim this event as the worst call in NCAA Tournament history while in the heat of the moment? Finally, nobody.
And there are dumb asses who really want him off the air?
Now, I will get off my soapbox and close with a lighter anecdote – one that involves our beloved James T. Valvano. One that I had never heard before:
Contrary to his image of inflexibility, the natural contrarian allows that he’s had a few regrets. He can think of two occasions on which he favored one side, not that it was immediately obvious on the air, but in his own mind, where most Packer performances are ultimately judged.
The first came in 1975, when he worked his first championship game and John Wooden was coaching his last for UCLA. He felt himself pulling for Wooden.
The second came a dozen years later, when he was hoping that injury-depleted Wake Forest could cling to a late lead against a superior N.C. State team. The thought bothered him so much, he says, that several days after NCSU’s overtime victory he told Wolfpack coach Jim Valvano he had been rooting for Wake. Valvano’s response, according to Packer: “Don’t tell anybody at State, but so was I.”