At various times this weekend I’ve been in a football stadium, a basketball arena, at a Mexican restaurant for an impromptu mid-afternoon date with my sweet wife, and in a Bi-Lo supermarket the size of the British Museum.
Welcome to my November, in which the sports seasons are changing and you have to stay flexible.
Saturday was a beautiful fall day, as it seems like it always is when Davidson plays home football games. The Wildcats finished their home schedule today with a Homecoming game against the University of San Diego. As it turned out, I didn’t cover the game for anyone, but did stay for a half to enjoy a little live college football and catch up with a couple of media colleagues I hadn’t seen in a while.
Davidson, which has struggled through another football season, fell to 3-7 with a 29-15 loss to the wonderfully-nicknamed and pass-happy Toreros. But the Wildcats did give their fans a moment worthy of ESPN’s “Plays of the Day” just before halftime.
Senior tight end Lanny Funsten, for my money the Wildcats’ best receiver, put Davidson on the scoreboard in the last minute of the second quarter. with an outstretched diving catch in the end zone of a 41-yard pass from freshman quarterback Jonathan Carkhuff. The catch was all the more remarkable because it was executed while Funsten’s legs were entangled with those of a San Diego defender.
That was as much as I got to see, because, as the Isley Brothers once sang, I had work to do. I left at halftime and after an improvised meet-up with Jayne at a Mexican place in south Charlotte, I made my way down to Rock Hill for a 4 p.m. college basketball season opener, Queens at Winthrop.
These meetings of Division I vs. Division II have become common in the pre-season. But they’re much rarer in the regular season as Division I teams have to watch their RPI, a measure including strength of schedule that plays into a team’s NCAA tournament chances. But teams like Winthrop have to get to the Big Dance the way they did it last year, by winning their post-season conference tournament, so there’s probably little downside.
Queens, which finished 13-15 last season, looks like they’ll be much better this season if Saturday afternoon is any indication. The Royals lost 70-61, but were down just six points with 2-1/2 minutes left – much to the chagrin of Winthrop students and alumni who turned out for their Homecoming game probably expecting the Eagles to run away with it. (Basketball as Homecoming is probably worth another blog post, but probably later.) Sophomore forward Antonio Stabler was outstanding for Queens with a 12-point, 11-rebound game.
On the trip back home, I stopped by the aforementioned Super Bi-Lo store on Cherry Road to continue a food quest that is rapidly becoming an obsession.
If you doubt that there’s a huge difference between North and South Carolina, you’ve probably never talked about barbecue with a resident of either state. Growing up in the Piedmont region of South Carolina, I’ve long been a lover of barbecue hash, a term that I realize has different meanings in different regions of the country. But in South Carolina, its main ingredient is barbecue pork that has been simmered in a pot with other ingredients for hours and can be eaten by itself or – my preference – over rice.
Having lived outside South Carolina for over a quarter of a century, I don’t get much of a chance to eat it any more. But an article in a recent issue of Garden & Gun, Charleston-based magazine about the South, reminded me of this dish, which has been served and sold for decades by several barbecue establishments within 30 miles of where I grew up. On my last trip back there several weeks ago, I was told that some Bi-Lo stores stocked quart jars of the stuff made by Dowd’s BBQ of Newberry. (If I hadn’t had the writing assignment yesterday, I probably would have headed down early to Wingate’s football game at Newberry yesterday afternoon.) I’ve been looking for it ever since.
At the Bi-Lo store about five minutes from my house in Charlotte, my attempts to explain what I was looking for reminded me of asking people for directions on the streets of Budapest when we visited that city two years ago. I figured that a Bi-Lo in South Carolina might be more likely to have it, but I struck out last night, too.
So back in the car and headed back across the state line, I tune the radio to the comfortable rhythms of a college football broadcast, Clemson at Florida State. There aren’t that many more games left, really, so I’m enjoying them while I can. Home to spend some time with Jayne before she’s off to another travel assignment, and as Samuel Pepys the diarist said, thus to bed.