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Mitch Pucks Up

It's increasingly difficult to live here and not get caught up in the
Hurricanes startling post-season success. Last night, they knocked off the
heavily favored Detroit Red Wings in overtime to take a 1-0 lead in the Stanley
Cup Finals. Who could have ever expected that? Still, we're not huge
hockey fans, but it's made sweeter still by some comments by a Detroit

Mitch Albom, who is almost universally highly regarded, made some dumb
comments on 850 The Buzz, comparing Raleigh to Mayberry. Ha, ha, ha, and
we have moonshine too, and we all married our cousins and commit incest even in
onanism. Easy jokes, cheap jokes. What's wrong with Mayberry,
anyway? In this state, it's part of our heritage, and it's one of the best
parts, too. Too bad Albom doesn't get it.

So while we're not huge fans, it is fun to see Mitch with some 'splainin' to

He's right about one thing - it's not exactly a hockey hotbed, despite the
success. The arena is sold out, but is the buzz the same as when Duke or
UNC make the Final Four? Or when March Madness is upon us?

Not really. Not even close. The Hurricanes have gotten a lot of support, but
it's not the same level of intensity. Relatively few people could
name the starters for instance.

Still, they have really accomplished something. They've expanded their
fan base to natives, as opposed to just transplants, and they've figured out a
lot of things about how to appeal to people here, and that's much to their
credit. One thing the Hornets never really figured out was that people in
this state would not be impressed by very rich athletes with lousy attitudes -
much less owners.

The Hurricanes have built a modest team into a gutty team which should be
playing the Rocky theme every night. It's dramatic, it's exciting, and
it's fun to follow.

Before we forget, every time we mention pro sports and Charlotte in the same
breath, we get e-mail from people who think we're ripping Charlotte. Not at
all. The Hornets deserved to get ripped on a regular basis, largely
because of the insufferable owners. The Panthers, by contrast, have
sucked, and still really suck. But despite the lack of success, they seem
to be managed fairly well, and haven't alienated anyone. Aside from
traffic, who could dislike Charlotte? Look at what that city has accomplished.
Thirty years ago, Charlotte and Richmond were virtually the same - sleepy
southern towns with no particular traction. Charlotte has become dynamic
and fairly amazing.

In the beginning, the Hurricanes didn't make a lot of friends, but the good
will towards the team now is palpable. It's a product of success, of
course - if they returned to their traditional level of mediocrity next season,
the buzz would die down quickly. But that's pro sports for you.

Anyway, it's pretty great to watch this all happen, and speaking for every
North Carolinian who has had to hear jokes about Mayberry, and Barney, and the
rest, well, welcome to Mayberry. It's quiet and slow for you big city
boys, but chances are pretty good your car will be where you left it after the
last game, and everything will work the way it is supposed to, too.