Things have been a little hectic here in the Gravel Pit as of late, and I must apologize to my loyal readers for going AWOL the last two weeks. No worries, though - I'm back now, and I suppose that's all that matters.
The main reason I haven't produced anything recently should come as no surprise to those who know me well: I can't seem to write anything non-sports related. And who can blame me? The NFL off-season is kicking into gear (the draft will be upon us before we know it), March Madness is here, baseball is right around the corner and - perhaps most importantly - the NBA just keeps getting more entertaining with each passing day.
That being said, I need to wax poetic on sports this week - if I don't, I'll slowly start developing a tumor on my frontal lobe.
Every once in a while, there's a story that sort of transcends sport. Remember the autistic teenager a few years ago who came off the bench to score 21 points for his high school team? That's the kind of story I'm talking about. The one that doesn't just lead-off Sports Center, but makes headlines nationwide.
Before I go any further, I need to make two points: (1) I hate the North Carolina Tar Heels and (2) I hate the Duke Blue Devils even more.
But Sunday night, as I watched Duke fall to UNC in one of sports' greatest rivalries, I saw that indelible, inspirational aspect of sport personified as Tyler Hansborough (whom I also resent, but that's beside the point) walked to center court and stood before his home crowd one last time.
For those of you who wondered why Hansborough opted to finish his four-year career at UNC and forego millions of NBA dollars, I recommend that you look up the video of Tyler as he waves to the mammoth powder-blue crowd. The scene speaks for itself. His parents, standing court side, weep tears of joy as their son welcomes the accolades of some 20,000 crazed fans.
Whatever you think about Hansborough, give credit where credit is due. Some players play for themselves, some play for a shot at the pros, where lucrative signing bonuses and endorsements await. Amen, brother. Get that money anyway you can - especially since many of these athletes come from underprivileged backgrounds and end up using their new-found wealth to give back to their families and hometowns.
But other players, they play for the soul of the game. That's Hansborough. Night-in and night-out, he sacrifices his body (remember the nasty bloody nose he endured in that Duke game a few years ago?) to bring his team glory.
Perhaps the most moving part of the evening came post-game when UNC head coach Roy Williams had to walk out on his own press conference.
"It's been a tremendous honor to coach this group of athletes," he said, and then promptly stood up, with tears in his eyes, and walked away.
That's the best sports has to offer. Time and time again, you hear about coaches having a lasting affect on players, but only once in a great often do you hear about those steely, hard-nosed coaches being impacted by a group of players.
So maybe I do have a reason for writing about sports obsessively. Go scan the headlines and look for some good, uplifting news. Finished? What did you find? Not much, eh?
Sports will always be a source of the heart-warming and the uplifting, especially when the rest of the world seems destined for doom and gloom.
And somehow, that brings us to Matt Hobbs. I'm just not sure how.
Chris Morris is a freelance reporter for Denton Publications. His column will appear regularly.