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Thursday, May 3, 2007
God concedes: Atheists are right

CHAPEL HILL -- In the face of the massive onslaught of bestselling books espousing atheism, God has finally given in. In a special two-hour edition of Larry King Live, broadcast worldwide from the Dean E. Smith Center on the campus of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, God spoke candidly with King, in a relaxed but serious Q & A session.

God began by noting just a few of the many recent titles (Atheist Manifesto; The Quotable Atheist; Letter to a Christian Nation; God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows that God Does Not Exist; and The God Delusion) which make the case against His existence. God started by saying even He couldn't keep up with reading required to refute the seemingly endless arguments that dedicated atheists were putting out.

The excerpts below are from the show which will be broadcast on CNN on Thursday from 9 pm to 11 pm (EDT).

GOD: "Let me get right to the point, Larry: I concede. The atheists are right. I don't exist, never did."

KING: "Why now? Why give up now after all these millennia?"

GOD: "Back when it was no more than Madalyn Murray O'Hair ranting, as annoying as she was, I figured next to nobody was even listening. When Nobel Prize laureates started scribbling away, it got very discouraging.

"Ever since creation I have been inspiring man to believe, giving him ample evidence of my existence, and what do I get? Sass and backtalk from impudent little know-it-alls. It finally wore me out."

Later God admitted to King that He has been battling with writer's block himself, not having authored anything since The Revelation of Jesus Christ.

GOD: "I conceded some shelf space to these nihilistic nimwits, but if you've ever even skimmed Revelations you can see that would take something out of an author -- and it’d be hard to top. It's pretty far out."

KING: "Do I have this right; you now say that you never believed in yourself?"

GOD: "Larry, I don't have to believe. I know. I don't have to hope that I exist. I am. Remember, what I told Moses? I am. Anyway, that's what I used to say; now I say nothing, because I don't exist."

KING: "What do you hope to accomplish with your concession?"

GOD: "I'm doing it just to stop the bickering. I'm telling the atheists they are right, which I really think is all they want to hear. Maybe now they'll stop with these infernal books. Please.

"I'll admit that I am still tempted to say to some of these guys, 'I know that many of your arguments are very logical, some of your facts factual, sometimes you're almost persuasive, but did you ever think about the simple fact that you can think. How do you think that happened? Some nuts and bolts fell in bucket and just kind of put themselves together? I gave you more sense than that, I thought.'

"Honestly, on any clear night, anybody can look up in the sky and see the Milky Way. Just how do think that got there? The Big Bang? Here, I'll give you clueless a clue. The Big Boy started the Big Bang. You guys think it just sorta happened? Nothing, absolutely nothing caused all this to be? Boy, I'll tell you, you've got more faith than Elijah, Elisha and Moses put together. If you can believe in something that preposterous, sure seems like you could believe in a concept as simple as God. Even a child can do that -- and I'm glad that some of them still do.

"But, anyway, let me reiterate, Larry: I don't exist."

When asked by King why He didn't make His announcement on the "more obvious choice," the Rush Limbaugh Show, God answered, "Larry, that's easy, we couldn't find a room big enough to hold us both."



"This is Ron Stutts, WCHL Radio News, speaking from downtown Chapel Hill.

"Following the end of "Larry King Live" in the Dean Dome, thousands of atheists and atheistically leaning agnostics stormed onto Franklin Street in celebration of their greatest victory. The raucous celebration quickly faded as the celebrants realized that they no longer had a raison d'etre.

"As one person said, 'It's like Duke announcing they're dropping basketball. As much as we hate them, we love beating them even more. Without them, the game wouldn't be worth playing,' said Edgar L. Polonack, a doctoral student in philosophy from King's Mountain.

"The suddenly morose crowd dispersed as dispirited individuals in sullen clumps understood that this was not the happy day that they had hoped it would be.

"As the street emptied, the bonfire they had set extinguished itself, and the street grew dark.

"This is Ron Stutts."


Gary D. Gaddy, whom God may or may not believe in, does believe in God. (Go to for other illogical theological treatises.)

A version of this article was published in the Chapel Hill Herald, Thursday May 3, 2007. Copyright  2007 Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 7:30 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, January 25, 2011 2:18 PM EST
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Thursday, April 26, 2007
Is Chapel Hill safer than Blacksburg?

"In the wake of the shootings at Virginia Tech, do you think the UNC campus is safe?" This Monday the Chapel Hill Herald "Community Speakout" asked as well that of five students. They all said "yes." They must also think the Blacksburg campus was safe the day before the killings happened there. Virginia Tech had a person on their campus who was clearly and obviously mentally ill, and chronically angry, isolated and dangerous as well: Cho Seung-Hui. For the record, Virginia Tech was not safe.

Apparently these UNC students didn't notice alumnus Mohammad Taheri-Azar driving an SUV through the heart of UNC's campus last March. Taheri-Azar was charged with nine counts of attempted first-degree murder. Only his incompetence as a mass murderer kept him from rivaling the total in Blacksburg.

Taheri-Azar said he did this to avenge the deaths of Muslims around the world. He likely had a brain disorder also.  His sister says he has tried to kill himself at least twice since his arrest. At last report he was at Dorothea Dix Hospital undergoing a psychiatric evaluation. His lawyer says his client "has a severe mental illness." He was very angry, isolated and dangerous as well.

We should also remember Wendell Williamson. On January 26, 1995, Williamson, then a third-year law student at UNC, killed two people during a shooting spree on Chapel Hill's Henderson Street. Williamson also shot and wounded two others. A jury found Williamson not guilty by reason of insanity. Clearly Williamson received inadequate treatment for his mental illness, having won a $500,000 medical malpractice suit against his psychiatrist.

Williamson had 600 rounds of ammunition in his knapsack when he was arrested. He later said that he originally planned on going up on the hill above the Smith Center at game time for his killing spree -- but he didn't. If he had, dozens, if not hundreds, could have died.

No one can make any place else really safe from individuals who are willing to die in order to kill. There are not enough gun control laws, armed guards or metal detectors in the world to make it truly physically safe.

I can promise you that the task force established in Virginia to evaluate their tragedy will recommend improvements in the campus and the state mental health systems. They should.

Recently, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) graded the state mental health systems. North Carolina got a D+. Virginia got a D. Our mental health treatment systems do not have minor flaws or gaps; they have gaping crevasses that make the Grand Canyon look like a hairline crack.

We can make things substantially safer, starting by providing significantly better and more assertive treatment for people who have serious mental illnesses, especially those who are a potential danger to themselves or others. We know how to do this.

This does not mean locking up every person who mutters to himself or looks strange. Most people with mental illness are not dangerous to anyone -- not if their illness is properly treated and they are incorporated into a close and caring community.

Kicking those with mental illnesses out of school, or the workplace, will only move the problem. A valid and up-to-date student ID is not what allowed Cho and Williamson to kill, nor what kept Taheri-Azar from trying.

Shunning, isolating and marginalizing those with mental illness will not make anyone in this world any safer. Doing these things will make it more dangerous. Appropriate treatment and communities that care about those with mental illness will make things better and safer. Such treatment does exist -- but there is far too little of it and there are too many barriers to receiving it for those in need. And such communities do exist -- but they are too few and too far between.

Sometimes treatment may involve involuntary commitment in locked ward in a mental hospital. (And this should not be only after tragic acts of violence against themselves or others.) But when it does, it should also include appropriate placement in supportive transitional housing after hospitalization, and appropriate community support after that. (Some of which is just what North Carolina is cutting right now, believe it or not.)

Laws to allow for involuntary out-patient treatment would also keep us all safer. Someone hospitalized as dangerous then made safe by medical treatment should not leave the hospital without support and monitoring to assure that they stay on that treatment lest they return to their previous condition unobserved.

We can do this. We must demand this. If we don't, when the next horror happens, we won't have to look for someone else to blame, we can just look for a mirror.


Gary D. Gaddy serves on the board of NAMI Orange County.

A version of  this column was first published in the Chapel Hill Herald, April 26, 2007.  Copyright  2007  Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 9:34 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, January 22, 2011 4:21 PM EST
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Thursday, April 19, 2007
UNC's Biscuit Burke goes pro

CHAPEL HILL -- Already on edge from the possibly impending announcement that the University of North Carolina basketball team's starting forward Brandan Wright would opt to leave school early to make himself eligible for the National Basketball Association college player draft, the Tar Heel Nation was stunned today at the totally unexpected decision by reserve guard Dewey Burke to go pro.

Some top college basketball analysts were shocked at the announcement since Burke, optimistically listed at six foot and 185 pounds, played sparingly and started but a single game during his time at UNC. Draft insider Dave Telep, director of basketball recruiting for, however, did note that former UNC player Marvin Williams, who did not start any games for the Heels, was picked second overall by the Atlanta Hawks in the 2005 draft.

Many basketball analysts had not seen Burke going pro at all -- based strictly on his personal and performance statistics. But after the season, a more careful dissection of UNC team outcomes showed that Burke was the key player on the team. Said Telep, "Burke played in 21 games this season -- all 21 of which were Tar Heel victories. Further, all seven of the team's defeats came without Burke. The team only went 10 and 7 when Dewey did not play." Telep noted that Burke's sole start as a Tar Heel varsity player came in no less of a game than UNC's final home contest, a series-sweeping victory over Duke.

"Clearly, 'Biscuit' was worth more to this team than just a cheap breakfast the day after games in which the Heels scored 100 points or more," said former Duke player and current CBS color analyst, Jay Bilas. "More incredibly than just wins and no losses, Burke's contribution came with an average of only one and half minutes played per game," he added.

As a point of comparison, said sportswriter Art Chansky, even the legendary Michael Jordan never had an impact even close to Burke's. In his best year at UNC, the national championship season of 1981-82, when Jordan played the team went 32 and 2, but that took him an average of nearly 30 minutes a game to accomplish, added Chansky.

ACC basketball guru and current Orange County Commissioner Barry Jacobs said he believes that Burke has the best winning percentage of any player for North Carolina in the last 50 years, exceeding even that of Timo Makkonen, who played for the Tar Heels under Dean Smith from 1981 until 1984, who went 15-0 during the 1983-84 season.

Jacobs noted that Burke made three of the most important plays of the season for the Heels. The first two were 3-pointers that pushed the Tar Heels over the century mark. (January 3 versus Penn and January 31 versus Miami), for which, Burke earned his nickname "Biscuit," as they allow fans to purchase two sausage biscuits at participating Bojangles restaurants for 99 cents as compared to a regular price of $1.79 each.

But Burke also executed the single play that many experts say set up UNC's ACC tournament championship during the Bloody Broken Nose episode at the end of Carolina's regular-season-ending victory over Duke. Without Burke's carefully performed bearhug of the bloodied Tyler Hansbrough, it is likely that UNC would have lost the All-American for one or more tournament games -- as Gerald Henderson would have lost his head again, this time literally.

TV basketball analyst Billy Packer made a special note of the fact that Burke did not play a single second in UNC's NCAA regional finals loss to Georgetown. Packer was emphatic that he would have started him -- and had him jump center.

David Glenn, editor of the ACC Sports Journal, was stunned by Burke's move. "I expected Kevin Durant to opt for the draft," said Glenn. "Greg Oden I could see, but I have to admit that I was blindsided by Burke. I had so much focus on underclassmen. I guess I should have taken note that he was a senior," said Glenn.

An employment placement specialist with Manpower, Inc., Dianne Ving says that Burke, a senior sociology major, could sign an employment contract with "any number of service industries." She said, based on recent statistics for sociology graduates and given his demonstrated charisma and leadership characteristics, could expect to earn an annual salary in "the low-to-mid-five-digit range."

Rumors are that Bojangles is offering Burke an assistant manager position at "the franchise of his choice."

Curiously, Burke has been given little interest in the National Football League for their upcoming draft even though he was originally recruited by Fairfield University as a quarterback but transferred to North Carolina without playing after the school discontinued its football program.


Gary D. Gaddy believes that he saw Makkonen score all 20 of his career points (in person or on TV) and definitely did see Finland's finest's two points during the 1981-82 season, but was always more impressed with his fellow Finn, former UNC women’s player Jenni Laaksonen. (Go to to see past columns.)

A version of  this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald, April 19, 2007.  Copyright  2007  Gary D. Gaddy



Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 10:07 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, May 3, 2007 3:06 PM EDT
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Sunday, April 15, 2007
End the Legacy of Racism at UNC

APOLOGIZING, as the NC Senate did recently, for slavery was a nice gesture. Now we should do something about it. Since slavery has been abolished already, without any help from the NC state legislature, we don't need to do that. But there are things North Carolina could, and should, do.

One thing that has already been done by the University of North Carolina is the Carolina Covenant. This is a great idea for the Chapel Hill campus because it opens a magnificent university to more of the people of our state by reducing the economic barriers for poorer students.

It is a great idea because it helps remediate the impact of past racist policies that excluded African-Americans from its campus, except as groundskeepers, housecleaners and maintenance workers, thereby helping to keep these poor people poor. But all that past isn't past us yet. The real, the literal racist legacy of UNC is not a historical artifact; it's a current admissions policy.

In the world of college admissions, legacies are the children and step-children of University alumni, and a "legacy policy" really means a "pro-legacy policy," that is, giving preference to legacies in admission. Legacy admissions, by perpetuating the impact of past discriminaton, are figuratively the step-children of our state's racist past.

In 2005 UNC's Advisory Committee on Undergraduate Admissions reviewed then-current practices and "endorsed the general principle of legacy admissions." In 2004 it was reported that UNC reserves about 80 spaces for out-of-state legacy students. For those against quotas, here's a "quota" to be against.

A purely merit-based admissions process provides advantage enough for these children who had the benefit of parents who were Carolina grads. This is a real, undeniable and irrevocable advantage. Having grown up in educated and relatively well-to-do Tar Heel families, these legacies are likely to be better students. I do not propose that we discriminate against them. This is a case, where we must acknowledge that life's not fair and get over it. But we also certainly don't need to promote and enhance such unfairness.

As affirmative action for rich kids, legacy admissions don't have much to recommend them as measure for promoting equality or social justice -- but they are a good way of getting big donors to make big donations. And that's one of the main reasons that they still exist.

The only good reason justifying legacy admissions is that they build the school's sense of loyalty and community across time. Almost by definition, however, this process of building community across time using legacies is opposed to diversity. Bias in favor of legacies will leave a school in the future looking more like it was in the past than the surrounding population in the present -- as compared to how it would look using pure merit.

The legacy policies are generally more pronounced at Ivy League colleges and at private colleges with Ivy-League-level aspirations than they are generally at public schools. According to The Wall Street Journal, legacy admissions account for 10 percent to 15 percent of students at most Ivy League schools. In 2003, at Penn, Princeton and Harvard, the chances of being accepted increase two-, three- and four-fold, respectively, for legacies.

But private schools, in my libertarian view, should be allowed to continue the practice if they wish -- and the best students should make note of it and go elsewhere if they do.

Because, even in the context of a supposedly non-discriminatory past, legacy policies still perpetuate the past inequities. Even if Harvard in 1850 didn't discriminate against African-American students (which I doubt is true), since most of the African Americans were being kept as slaves and deprived of formal education, not many were ever admitted. This left Harvard, Yale and other such schools with predominately white alumni and thus predominately white legacies.

Legacy admissions aren't an issue for non-selective colleges. Elizabeth City State University may or may not have pro-legacy admissions policy; it really doesn't matter. Anybody can get in anyway. Harvard, Yale and Princeton do have pro-legacy admissions policies, and they really do matter. If you graduate from one of these fine institutes of learning, whether you learn anything or not (cf. George W. Bush, John Kerry or any Kennedy), you may get to run the country. Many brighter and harder working students did not get the same chance, and most no doubt have succeeded in life, but perhaps did not have the same opportunity to succeed at the national level. America is poorer for that.

On this issue we can't fix Harvard, but we can fix Chapel Hill. Ending the legacy admissions preference, by bringing in the best qualified students possible regardless of birthright, would do two really good things: make UNC, and North Carolina, more elite and at the same time less elitist. I'm for that. How about you?


Gary D. Gaddy lives in Orange County not too far from Chapel Hill and holds a doctorate from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

A version of this article was published in the News and Observer (of Raleigh) April 15, 2007.  Copyright  2007 Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 2:29 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, May 3, 2007 3:07 PM EDT
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Thursday, April 12, 2007
A fan's memo to Coach Butch Davis

THE DOGWOODS are blooming; the sweet smell of pine pollen is in the air. That can only mean one thing: it's time for spring football -- and for the fans to start coaching the coach.

Please know we already love you, Coach Davis. Signing Day made sure of that. Anybody who can snatch an Everybody's All-American from the grubby hands of Notre Dame should be on the fast track to sainthood (not that you'll get any help from Pope Benedict on that.)

Still, my question to you is this: Do you really want to be a head football coach? If the answer is yes, I would like for you to know that new medications are coming out every day that may treat this syndrome. But if you can't be dissuaded, here are a few tips to make your stay happier, healthier, longer and less perplexing.

Since your introductory press conference, I am sure you've been told that North Carolina is the state; Carolina is the school. We don't "recruit Carolina." Don't get mixed up by James Taylor singing, "In my mind I'm goin' to Carolina." After you get an overpass over a minor creek named after you, you can call this state anything you want too -- until then stick to standard usage.

But on second thought, given how well you "recruited Carolina," we could care less what you call this place.

Don't let delusional people in the state of South Carolina who think that some university down there is "Carolina" get you befuddled either. Simply note that they still fly a Confederate flag on their state capitol grounds, so it is to be expected that their knowledge of historical geography is a bit muddled.

Yes, as you noted in a newspaper Q&A about the N.C. State rivalry, UNC is the chief rival of most of its ACC opponents. Yes -- but that doesn't make them ours! Our beloved alma mater does not say "Go to Hell, BC, Clemson, Tech, Miami or Wake!" During football season, it says quite clearly and distinctly, "Go to Hell, State!" (Not that I share such a crass sentiment, but that's what it says.) Don't get me wrong, we like beating those other schools -- but the one we hate is NC State!

Our football team has lost a bazillion games in row in Scott Stadium in Charlottesville; nobody cares. If you add a few more to the string, nobody will care. Lose three straight to N.C. State and you will care that your lawyer put a fat buyout clause in your contract. (Don't believe me? Ask Chuck Amato.)

Since you may lose a few games before you start winning them all, please note that we like good winners, but even more than that we dislike bad losers.

Exemplars of how to conduct yourself before the press include Dean Smith, Anson Dorrance, Sylvia Hatchell, Roy Williams, but I personally would recommend John Bunting. This university, maybe no university, has ever had a coach who conducted himself with more class and dignity in victory and in defeat. Like John Bunting, when you win, don't take credit, pass it on. When you lose, don't make excuses, take the blame -- and don't pass it on.

Also, you'll win lots of friends if you'll do like Coach Bunting and stay to the last note of the alma mater with your hat over your heart. (Concerning substitution patterns for running backs, however, maybe you should look for another role model.)

And we don't like coaches running up the score -- unless it’s when we play Steve Superior’s South Carolina Gamecocks next season. And we don’t like gloating -- unless it’s after whuppin' up on Steve Superior’s South Carolina Gamecocks next season.

And while we are happy to read about recruits committing to us in February, we don't like to read about crimes they are committing on others in November. And we will be especially happy to read about games they win early in January.

Finally, Carolina is a basketball school. Win five national championships before the basketball team wins another and perhaps that will change. In the meantime, we are glad that you understand that until our basketball players start sacking our quarterback, basketball success doesn't hurt football; it helps.

Other coaches may not have understood this. I earnestly think the beginning of the end for Mack Brown at UNC was the day in 1997 he held his regularly scheduled weekly press conference, when his team was on its way to finishing the season ranked fourth in the nation -- and no one showed up. No one. Reports were it really bothered him. This will happen in Chapel Hill whenever Dean Smith holds his retirement press conference.


Gary D. Gaddy, according to his brother-in-law who really wouldn't know, stays in the stadium until after the coach has gone home, win, lose or draw. 

A version of this article appeared in the April 12, 2007 Chapel Hill Herald.    Copyright  2007 Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 2:04 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, April 14, 2007 2:27 PM EDT
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Thursday, April 5, 2007
Hollow Rock's Most Mediocre Member

(This article is re-printed from the very latest issue of the Hollow Rock Racquet and Swim Club Newsletter for those of you who aren't fortunate enough to be on their mailing list and just can’t get enough information about your favorite regular Thursday Chapel Hill Herald columnist.)

Hollow Rock Member Spotlight

Starting (and perhaps ending) with this issue, the Hollow Rock Newsletter (HRN, to those in the know) will feature a Member Spotlight, bringing out from the recesses of the unlit backcourts a member who all the other members would or should have some reason to know more about. This might be a member with notable recent accomplishments on the courts or off, or a person with an interesting life story, or maybe one with a checkered criminal past -- somebody we club members may all want to keep our collective eyes and ears on. (I was thinking here of extremely interim club manager Terry O'Culligan or board member in perpetuity Terry O'Regan but I can't remember which. Perhaps I will clear this up in a future issue. Perhaps not.)

Rather than beginning the Member Spotlight with the obvious and hackneyed "member with another national championship" or "up and coming junior we may be seeing at Wimbledon in five or six years," we will begin (and perhaps end) our series with Hollow Rock's most mediocre tennis member. I know a lot of you are getting excited at this point in anticipation of a feature about you; sorry, this story features the "most mediocre member," not just any ordinary player. Mediocrity, in its technical sense, is just as rare as excellence. Just as only one player can be the "best in the world" (Roger Federer), only one member can be Hollow Rock's "most mediocre" (Gary Gaddy). Again, I know many of you, male and female tennis players alike, are saying, "Wait, I'm every bit as bad as Gaddy. How come I'm not Hollow Rock's Most Mediocre Member?"

Let me go through this slowly and carefully, so those of you who are of sub-mediocre intellect or education can understand. People toss the word mediocre around like it means bad. It doesn't. Look it up in your Funk & Wagnalls. Mediocre means average, in the middle. Its etymology is from the French médiocre, which is from Latin mediocris, meaning "midway up a mountain." Notice the word midway, not at the bottom. Remember your bell-shaped curve from college psychology or statistics? Mediocrity is the high point on the curve. OK, that's confusing. Just believe me, it means average.

In any case, the ultimate in mediocrity means in the middle in every respect. Mediocre forehand, average backhand, middling serve, ordinary volley: this is Gaddy. The only thing that would make Gaddy any more mediocre would be if his given name was Norm. (When he went through elementary school, however, the most popular name at the time was Gary, which is to say, Gary was the modal, or average, name.)

But more than the elementary mediocrity of his individual skills, his overall tennis game is mediocre. Regardless what level the group he's playing with, how good his partner, how bad his opponents, whether it's with men, women or children, competitive or social, his chance of winning: 50%. Every time, all the time. Although he doesn't keep match detailed records on each of his matches like some of our members (you know who you are), his lifetime career winning percentage is 50%. His lifetime first serve percentage is 50%. Likelihood that any given volley will land in or out? 50%. Probability that an overhead will hit the fence? 50%. You get the picture.

A few miscellaneous facts on Hollow Rock's médiocrité extrodinaire: USTA rating 3.5 (the most common rating for men or women), height 5'9" (the average height for American men), weight 178 lbs. (the average weight for American men), education Ph.D. (the average educational attainment for an adult Hollow Rock member), current USTA national ranking (335,112 out of 670,224 USTA members). Other informative statistics: Gaddy has two cats, two above-average natural children, two above-average stepchildren and one wife who is smarter than he is -- as is true for the average married Hollow Rock male.

Next issue (if there is a next issue): A statistical analysis of why our doubles partners are always losing more points, games, sets and matches than we do.


Gary D. Gaddy really is a member of the Hollow Rock Racquet and Swim Club, which is conveniently located on the Durham/Orange county line, halfway between Duke and UNC. If you come by on any given day you can easily recognize him: he’s the one in tennis-appropriate attire with a tennis racquet in his dominant right hand.

A prettied-up version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald, Thursday April 5, 2007.  Copyright 2007 Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 10:07 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, April 5, 2007 10:18 AM EDT
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Thursday, March 29, 2007
God drops out of NCAA playoffs

VATICAN CITY and CHAPEL HILL -- God announced today that He will cease immediately taking a position on specific sporting events, including, of most significance locally, the college basketball playoffs. The announcement came directly as a "Word from God" to Pope Benedict XVI, as he mediated before Vespers yesterday evening. Pope Benedict, in his weekly appearance on the balcony of Saint Peter's Basilica, made the proclamation on behalf of God to an obviously disappointed crowd composed of devout pilgrims, ordinary Roman citizens and curious tourists of all faiths from around the world.

"After millennia of considering the prayers of both players and fans, God said that there was simply no way any longer to be impartial, even for Him, God Almighty," said Benedict.

Here's the way He put it: "St. Johns plays Notre Dame, for example, how is anybody, including me, going to do right in that situation?  Priests, nuns, small children, grandmothers are all praying fervently for their team. I try to be fair, I really do, but any way I go there are players with broken hearts, cheerleaders with tears in their eyes and coaches with curses, and rightfully so, on their lips. This just couldn't go on."

Benedict was emphatic, however, that God was not saying that He was stopping listening to prayer in general.

"God made a point He would still answer prayer in other domains. For example, God said, He will continue to answer prayers for the sick, if only intermittently. God pointed out that it is a rare occasion that one petitioner is praying for healing and another, equally devout, is praying for death for the same person. It happens, He said, but only now and then."

Benedict continued, "But, God said, to consider for a moment pre-game locker room prayers for any tournament game, with dozens of guys praying on both sides, many of them sincerely. ‘How in the heck am I supposed to deal with that?’ asked God."

"Back when it was the Christians versus the lions," Benedict said, "God said He felt could adjudicate those contests fairly.  But when it's the Lions versus the Bears, and you've got entire, albeit only nominally Christian, cities praying on each side, that's a whole different matter." 

TIVO, said God, is what finished it for Him. "When people started praying over digitally delayed broadcasts, ‘That’s about enough,' I said."

As late as the 1960's, when Catholic boys were earnestly crossing themselves before shooting free throws, God said, according to Benedict, He thought that was "kind of cute."  But once it became just a ritual, and then when "believers on both teams started asking me to cover the point spread, then I just wanted to quit."

Benedict said he had emailed this "Word" to former University of North Carolina head basketball coach Dean Smith before revealing it to the College of Cardinals late last night. Smith, said Benedict, was already familiar with the decision.

"God passed it by me," said Smith, "and I reluctantly agreed. He said that the real deciding event was the Georgetown-Carolina NCAA Division I basketball tournament regional final. With all the nuns on one-side and all the Baptist school children on the other, he just couldn't handle it. With about seven minutes left, He said He stopped watching."

Then Smith added, "God made it clear He is still a Tar Heel; He's just stepping back from in-game management of outcomes. One factor that God said weighed heavily on Him were the bedeviled and demonized souls at places like Duke and Wake, who were falling farther and farther away from God as they failed to see any Divine favor coming in their direction -- especially at 'crunch-time' in close games."

According to Smith, people should not get confused about what this means, or make it any bigger than it is. "God said He will not stop blessing the Tar Heels any more than He will be changing the sky color from Carolina Blue. Chapel Hill hasn’t moved anywhere, said God, it’s still the southern part of Heaven," relayed Smith.

Pope Benedict also wanted make sure that the general populace understood that God was making a clear distinction between the efficacy of prayer on games of skill and on games of chance.

"With games of skill you can work, train, study and prepare, so you don't really need me, the way I look at it. On games of chance, well, what else have you got? Winning the Powerball lottery, hitting double zero on a roulette wheel, making a draw to fill an inside straight, without divine intervention, what chance do you have?"


Gary D. Gaddy once attended a Sunday school class taught by Dean Smith. At the time he felt very close to God.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on March 29, 2007.  Copyright 2007 Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:38 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, June 27, 2007 5:07 PM EDT
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Wednesday, March 28, 2007
We need to treat, not arrest, those with mental illness

BEFORE I really begin, let me make one personal recommendation to you: If you are going to get a disease — choose your organ carefully — because if you have heart failure, you can get a pacemaker; if you have pancreas failure, you can get an insulin pump; if you have kidney failure, you can get put on dialysis — but if you have brain failure, you can get put in jail. And I mean today, in America; right here in good old Chapel Hill.

Only for the diseases of the brain called mental illness are people arrested for their symptoms.

Can you imagine your child suffering from a disease — but it hasn’t killed him yet — then watching him being denied treatment because your insurance (and I quote) "only hospitalizes for matters of life and death"? Then after your child leaves the hospital, still with a deadly disease, you have to watch him get arrested for his symptoms.

I don’t have to imagine, I’ve been there. My child had a brain disorder. And he was insured as a minor, and I had insurance coverage — as a state employee.

With schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder or any other mental illness which manifests itself in psychosis, you can be arrested (and people are, every day) for manifesting its symptoms — delusions, hallucinations, paranoia. Isn’t it punishment enough to lose your job, your home and your family, as many do when they are hospitalized? Wouldn't treatment be better for us all?

A bill before the U.S. Congress now, informally called the Mental Health Parity Act, would help do that. It would require mental illness be treated like other diseases by insurance companies — a bill the New York Times said "it looks as if Congress may be ready" to pass. Please note the word "may."

I have often said that I could convince anyone with either a heart or a brain that the government should do its part to insure that people with mental illness get early and effective treatment.

For those with a heart, I call for compassion to help those who cannot, by virtue of their diseases, help themselves. If government is to help anyone, it would be them.

For those with only a brain, I point out how much more expensive it is to support someone for a lifetime, than it is to treat the illness early, and how much more cost effective treatment centers are than jails and prisons, where many of those with severe mental illness are today — simply because they did not get appropriate treatment. And we will all be better off if people disabled by brain disorders have safe and decent places to live rather than being left untreated and homeless with begging and petty theft as their only means of support.

Mental health insurance parity is one step towards getting treatment to those with mental illness.

People with mental illness, just like people with any other illness, need to be treated so that their diseases don’t progress into lifetime disabilities. The health insurance system is one way we should do that. Currently, most health insurance policies do not cover mental illness like they do other illnesses. Because of what amounts to a system-wide insurance embargo on paying for treatment for mental illness, many episodes of mental illness go untreated until the individuals are so ill that they must be hospitalized — usually at great public expense.

Only an estimated 20% of children and adolescents with mental illnesses currently receive treatment. Because of this many lives are unnecessarily destroyed by these diseases.

Fixing this gap in coverage would not be expensive, and in the long run will save our society money as permanent disabilities and revolving door hospitalizations are prevented. The Congressional Budget Office estimates requiring coverage for mental illness will increase the average premium about 1% the cost of the current average benefit.

Beyond the simple issue of fairness to those struck by mental illness, this would be modest investment in the health of people of our society.

Email or call 1-800-614-2803 to send a message to ours senators, Richard Burr and Elizabeth Dole, and to our congressman, David Price, to express your views on mental health parity. Let them know you are a voter and leave your name, phone number and address, so there won't be any doubt. Your call or email could make a difference.


Gary D. Gaddy is friend and an advocate for those with mental illness who lives in Orange County, NC.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill News on March 28, 2007. Copyright 2007 Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:31 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, April 5, 2007 10:19 AM EDT
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Thursday, March 22, 2007
Hooters' Carrboro encounter

CARRBORO, N.C. -- Hooters of America, Inc., the Atlanta-based operator and franchiser of Hooters restaurants, announced today that they will be opening a new franchise in Carrboro early next year.

Executive vice-president for franchise relations, Zach Barnes, said that he thinks this new location will be a breakthrough both for Hooters and Carrboro. "We have been trying to expand our reach to a more sophisticated, creative-class clientele, this location will do that. At the same time, Carrboro will profit from the cultural benefits that Hooters will bring with it to the town."

Barnes said he understands that the ethos of Carrboro is different from that of most of their other locations but says that "Hooters will be a great fit for a great little town." Barnes then added, "After opening stores back-to-back in Aruba and Singapore, I think we can handle Carrboro."

Barnes said he knows that there may be some resistance to a "national" restaurant coming to town, saying that he understands that Carrboro likes to "eat, sleep and drink local" -- but, he said, "the new Hooters location will allow them to do just that."

"Just for beginners, we will hire locals to staff the store. We understand that this will require that we loosen corporate policies on skin graphics as well as navel, nose, lip, tongue and ear piercings, but we can do that. Hey, we have an all-Chinese staff in Beijing, so we're flexible," said Barnes.

Richardson Boreal, Hooters' head of public relations, adds, "All Hooters have always allowed for a variety of hair colors so we'll just have to broaden the acceptable color spectrum a little. And just like at every other Hooters in the U.S., we plan on hiring local Mexicans for the food preparation staff."

Boreal said that he thinks that Carrboro will benefit from having a Hooters within town limits as it will serve to increase the town’s already ample diversity. "We know that Carrboro treasures its culturally diverse population. Hooters will enhance that as it brings across the town limits people who would rarely come here otherwise, such as the indigenous populations of far western and northern portions of Orange County. This is one of the few things that would get them into Carrboro outside of a stock car race around Carr Mill Mall or a Jesse Helms tribute night at the Century Center."

Tytoni Hawks, who will manage the Carrboro location, said she thinks the restaurant will be the first national chain food franchise to accept NC Plenties as legal tender for food purchases and waitstaff gratuities.

Hawks said the company has taken an option-to-purchase on the space currently occupied by Spotted Dog Bar & Restaurant between Main and Weaver streets near the Carrboro Century Center and directly across the street from Weaver Street Market.

According to the Carrboro Citizen, the planned April 1st grand opening, if it occurs at all, will take place amid a rash of protests from those adamantly opposed to Hooters on ecological grounds.

"This is objectification at its most degrading," said evylenE sorotkiN, a performance artist from Carrboro. "These cartoonish portrayals with exaggerated features which Hooters promotes only elevate debasing stereotypes into the status of social reality," said sorotkiN.

sorotkiN's views were endorsed by her colleague Imanda Wright, the James and Myrtle Beech Endowed Chair in Two-Dimensional Art at UNC, who said that while she valued freedom of expression, "Hooters depictions of the owl are outside the pale. Their caricatures are, in my mind, hate speech. Even a Norman Rockwell print of an eagle wouldn't be as bad. The combination of bad art and animal abuse is beyond the bounds of acceptability."

Hooters of America, Inc. is a privately held corporation which operates or franchises over 435 Hooters locations in 46 states, as well as Argentina, Aruba, Austria, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, England, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan, Trinidad and Venezuela. The owl-themed restaurant chain currently has no locations in Orange County.

Non-errata: One of my knowledgeable and observant regular readers (that would be Moody Smith) says I could not have beaten Ludwig Wittgenstein at chess as I claimed in one of my many fine biographical blurbs since Wittgenstein died less than three months after I was born. Let me clarify: I did not say I beat the Ludwig Wittgenstein at chess; I said I beat Ludwig Wittgenstein. My Ludwig Wittgenstein was the Ludwig Wittgenstein's eccentric nephew. I beat him using a satisfying sucker sacrifice of my queen in a classic match in Zell am See, Austria, in the fall of 1971. I did not offer a rematch.


Gary D. Gaddy once went to a Hooters in Raleigh for a surprise office birthday party for a colleague of his at the female-owned Chapel Hill research company where he worked. He never did get what the big deal was about the place.

A version of this column first appeared in the Chapel Hill Herald, Thursday March 22, 2007.   Copyright  2007  Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 11:15 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 3:59 PM EST
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Thursday, March 15, 2007
Duke discovers it's in North Carolina

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke University President Richard Broadhead announced today that researchers from the University's geography department had just discovered that the Duke campus was physically located in the state of North Carolina.  University officials, at first, were at a loss to explain why this hadn't been observed sooner. 

"As part of the Ivy League everyone had assumed that Duke was in the Northeast," said Duke geographer Maurice D'Sorentos.

President Broadhead readily admitted that this revelation had come as quite a shock to the Duke community, including himself.  "Do you really think I would have left Yale if I had known Duke was in North Carolina?" asked Broadhead with an obviously rhetorical intonation. 

The news hit the student body hard.  As the word spread around campus numerous drinking binges and bonfires were abandoned as students stopped to consider what this would mean to them and their inheritances.

Sophomore Nancye Botogliosi was startled at the revelation. 

"I'm from New Jersey, of course.  The whole reason I came to Duke was so I could stay close to home.  I'm thinking about transferring to Rutgers.  They are The State University of New Jersey, or at least that's what they say.  I'm going to have someone check it out this time," Botogliosi.

Dean of Students Berting Dinglehump said that he was going to institute a series of seminars, lectures and colloquia to help Duke adjust to the changed “context in which Duke now finds itself.”  As part of the campus-wide program, said Dinglehump, "We hope to bring some 'locals' on to the campus so that our students and faculty can see what they are like."  Dinglehump said the current visiting scholars program could be readily adapted to this "meet and greet" program.  Translation services, said Dinglehump, would be provided by faculty on loan from the English Department at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

Seminar topics currently planned include, “Brunswick Stew: What Is It?  How Do You Eat It?,” “Southern Linguistics: Why Speaking Loudly To Southerners Won't Make Them Talk Any Faster,” “NASCAR: Why The Shiniest Car Doesn't Always Finish First” and “Southern Sensibilities: Why Southerners Don't Like Loud, Rude And Obnoxious People.”

The seminars will not just be amusing looks at an alien culture but would give practical tips for everyday living, according to Professor of the Anthropology of Primitive Peoples Lance Grabber. "For example, in North Carolina, we have found, it is not useful to honk at drivers who stop at stop signs and stop lights," said Dr. Grabber.  "Stopping is a local custom here.  As annoying as it is, we should try to tolerate it."

Duke is now considering broadening its diversity policy to include a Southerner, said Director of Admissions West Eloté.  "Others don't agree, but I think that it could be an enriching experience for our student body to get to know someone from the South.  It will make them appreciate their own culture and heritage.  But if we do admit a Southerner, we will be very deliberate in our selection, and we will certainly maintain our campus-wide ban on cars with a bluebook value less than our annual tuition and, of course, all pickup trucks."

Campus changes necessitated by the discovery could be quite expensive, according to Duke's Director of Buildings and Grounds, Dennis Dunn.  Hundreds of campus signs reading "Duke: THE University of New Jersey at Durham" will have to be removed or replaced.  Many of the signs campus entrances will need to be changed.  According to Dunn, the "big arrow at the main campus entrance pointing north, labeled 'New York City,' certainly will stay."

Duke Director of Public Relations Albert Ohlmann vehemently denied rumors that Duke had only revealed this now in an attempt to steal some reflected glory from the University of North Carolina's recent national championship in men's basketball.  According to Ohlmann, the Duke community has not even been paying much attention to basketball lately as it is trying to emphasize "more authentic North Carolina traditions, such as those that natives call hollerin' and banjo pickin'."

In other news:  A study released today by the University of Wisconsin-Stout's Department of Sports Psychology shows that the "cheesehead" hats, worn most notably by Green Bay Packers and University of Wisconsin-Madison fans, are "not primarily, as previously thought, an ensign of team loyalty but rather an affordable form of head insulation."


Gary D. Gaddy, who has a brother who intentionally earned a degree from Duke University and a wife, who is actually from North Carolina, who got a law degree there, apparently inadvertently, attended Boston University himself, which is, of course, in Brookline.

A version of this column first appeared in the Chapel Hill Herald, Thursday March 15, 2007.   Copyright  2007  Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 11:31 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, March 21, 2007 1:43 PM EDT
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Thursday, March 8, 2007
UNC finds cure for Political Incorrectness

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Political Incorrectness (PnC), a neurological condition often characterized by scholars as narrow-mindedness, can now be effectively and efficiently cured, researchers at the University of North Carolina announced today.  The treatment, called Oxymoron, is of the class of drugs known as n-objecterase inhibitors, which suppress any synaptic activity not originating in the obdula oblongata, the part of the brain in which higher flights of fancy and general broadmindness reside. 

Oxymoron was shown in clinical trials to be the most effective of the n-objecterase inhibitors in restraining substantive thought relating to gender, race, religion, sexuality and ethnicity.  It is also more effective and faster acting than the standard treatment regime of "talk" therapy in eradicating PnC.

 "Talk therapy often took two, three, four years to treat an incoming freshman,"  said Named Chair of Sociology Dr. Links Sprecher.  "And we didn't reach all of them; the Young Republicans were proof enough of that."

"Like any communicable disease, PnC will keep springing back up if it is not eliminated altogether."

Modest doses of Oxymoron produced positive outcomes within one semester.  Chief among them were an end to bothersome classroom debates and to annoying bouts of campus dissent. University faculty were unanimous in the opinion that campus speech was now the freest it has ever been.

"Once we all agree on everything, academic freedom is no longer an issue," said Dean of Very Liberal Arts Norman Thomas.  "I was so tired of 'traditional values' being brought up semester after semester."

Some researchers were initially concerned about possible negative side effects of Oxymoron, but those concerns have been allayed.

"While Oxymoron effectively treats narrow-mindedness, we were relieved to find it has no significant effect on close-mindness," said sociobiologist  Morris Les.

"It is ironic, and I use that word in its technically correct sense, that a cure for PnC would be found on the campus of a liberal arts university, since political incorrectness was already almost eradicated here," said Professor of Post-Modernity Markus Fischbinder. 

Experts estimate that less than five percent of the faculty at major research universities suffer from political incorrectness, as compared to over fifty percent among the general population -- as estimated from recent election results.

During the announcement University officials noted that they have been adding Oxymoron, in addition to sodium flouride, to the campus water system since August.

A spokesperson for campus police and security said not so such much as a pro forma protest demonstration accompanied the Oxymoron public announcement.


GSK to end RLS

Research Triangle Park, N.C. -- Restless Lips Syndrome (RLS), which experts say affects one in four Americans, one in two women, and 95% of all Hollywood stars, will shortly be a thing of the past like smallpox, yellow fever and the black death, say researchers at GlaxoSmithKline.

The new pharmaceutical formulation tradenamed LipLox was a byproduct of research into the causes of lockjaw.  That research also generated the frequently prescribed LipLax, which is not only highly effective in treating lockjaw but is proving very successful in diminishing the symptoms of shyness, tongue-tiedness and social inhibition in general.

LipLax has been so effective that across America Toastmasters Clubs have been closing at an unprecedented rate.  Trade analysts also say that fees for public speakers of all kinds have collapsed as the dramatic increase in the number of fluent banquet hosts, inspirational speakers, orators and lecturers has flooded the market.

LipLox, say GlaxoSmithKline executives, is just the product to restore balance to the speakers’ market.  In addition, if marketed as successfully as LipLax, they say that they expect that LipLox will reduce cell phone usage by as much as 45%.

Even as all across America ordinary citizens, many of whom are still haunted by careless words said last night -- or years ago, hailed the breakthrough, the National Association of Gossip Columnists filed papers in federal court to stop the distribution of the drug saying it will "inhibit the free trade of ideas, one of the bedrock principles on which this nation stands."

Bloggers are also rallying to the print columnists’ cause, saying that this is a “slippery slope,” that any inhibition, chemically induced or not, may prevent the next great idea from ever making it to the light of day.

Groggy72, a blogger from Canton, Ohio, asked this question:  “If Thom. Jefferson had taken LipLox, don’t U think maybe we would have gotten ‘Life, Liberty’ but never have gotten to the ‘Pursuit of Happyness’ part?”

The lawsuit is expected to be heard in the United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit in early September.

Gary D. Gaddy is an admirer of Tom Swift, Jonathan Swift and Swift's Premium® Hams and Bacon, but is not, despite his stellar times in the President's Council on Physical Fitness’s 600 yard run, always all that swift himself. 

A version of this column first appeared in the Chapel Hill Herald, Thursday March 8, 2007.   Copyright  2007  Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 7:27 PM EST
Updated: Friday, March 9, 2007 9:58 PM EST
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Thursday, March 1, 2007
Expanding on the ACC expansion

 After demonstrating that football is bigger than basketball at UNC (11/27/06), I will now undertake a much easier task: to show, two and a half years into the new and improved Atlantic Coast Conference, the many benefits expansion has brought to us, the sports fans of the Atlantic coast region.

More national publicity.  The gun-related events of Virginia Tech and University of Miami football players alone have brought more press coverage than the stellar academic and athletic performances of all the so-called Olympic sport athletes at all the original ACC schools combined.  Who cares about an academic All-American at UNC setting conference records in the 200 meter fly or a Wake Forest sophomore scoring a hat-trick in field hockey when you can be reading about ex-Hokie QB Marcus Vick allegedly brandishing a handgun in a McDonald's parking lot, or a University of Miami football player allegedly "returning fire" after his teammate is shot in the buttocks?

More parity.  When Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech joined the ACC as national football powers, they sensed immediately the imbalance they could create in the basketball-oriented league, consequently they responded responsibly by becoming mediocre.  Now Wake Forest and Georgia Tech can play for a berth in the Orange Bowl, and with further parity, next year it could be Duke and UNC -- if they hadn't been put in the same division!

More fairness.  With the elimination of the double-round-robin format in basketball, in which every team played each other twice, once on each home court, basketball immediately became fairer, giving lesser teams a chance to compete against the so-called national powers.  A great example is in women's basketball in which Duke, UNC and Maryland all went to the Final Four last year and started this season ranked one, two and three in the national polls.  This hardly seems fair to other teams who would likely lose to each of them and have no chance of finishing better than fourth in the conference -- but not with expansion!  Florida State, which is currently unranked in the national polls, got to play Duke, UNC and Maryland each one time -- and all in Tallahassee.  With a little expansive luck, the Lady Seminoles could have finished first in the ACC.

Bigger arenas.  Although BC, Virginia Tech and Miami don't have large basketball venues themselves (their arenas are actually rather small by ACC standards), because conference championship tickets need to be divided 12 ways instead of nine, the men's basketball conference championship will likely be held only in indoor football stadiums from now on out.  Fans will now have the marvelous opportunity to watch basketball games in football stadiums, something that up until now only Syracuse fans and Final Four attendees had had the pleasure of experiencing.

Less boring repetition.  Schools don't have to play the same teams year after year anymore.  For example, in football Wake Forest and NC State had played each other every year since a pig skin really was the skin of pig raised on the State College campus.  Now they get to skip years which means both teams’ fans also get to rest from the tiresome competitive banter before, during and after these innovative fallow seasons.  Instead they get to meet teams from distant places that they had never played before and begin building new century-long rivalries.

Wider media exposure.  First, the ACC captured media markets of Boston and Miami.  No longer do Bostonians even care about the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins or Patriots, being totally consumed by the big, upcoming Eagles/Yellow Jackets game -- in whatever sport.  Likewise in the Miami metropolitan area, the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins may soon disband as fans and media  alike are completely enthralled with the next contest in the historic (since 2005) Hurricane/Cavalier rivalry.  Also the ACC now has a complete corner on the coveted Blacksburg media market.

Expansion’s success leads me to  recommend to ACC Commissioner John Swofford approaching the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals as the lucky thirteenth member.  Although it would a little unconventional to add an admittedly professional team, not only would the Bengals bring the southcentral Ohio radio and TV markets but their league-leading publicity generating roster of nine players arrested in the last nine months.

DID YOU KNOW? (Random facts that fell out of the fact-checkers file.)  John Swofford, who came to UNC as a quarterback but was moved to defensive back, once listed in the football media guide as his favorite song, according to my wife's memory from 38 years ago, Melanie's "Brand New Key" (also known as "The Roller Skate Song").

Gary D. Gaddy enrolled at Boston University, not Boston College, for the fateful school year of 1969-70, attending exactly one sporting event (not counting anti-war riots and be-ins), a football game in an almost empty stadium -- to watch a Terrier team that went 9-1 for the season.

 A version of this column first appeared in the Chapel Hill Herald, Thursday March 1, 2007.   Copyright  2007  Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 1:08 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, March 6, 2007 1:14 PM EST
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Thursday, February 22, 2007
ACC intellectualizes athletic schedule

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Under continuing criticism that it "overemphasizes athletics," the Atlantic Coast Conference has decided to add chess, bridge, crosswords and sudoku to its roster of public competitions.

ACC commissioner John Swofford explained that the Commissioner's Commission on Athletics and Competitive Academics had recommended the changes after analyzing the current list of athletic events and scientifically determining that they consistently reward physicality over mentality.

"Our analysis was surprisingly clear," said Swofford. "When you boil it down, football is big men carrying a ball; basketball is big men bouncing a ball, baseball is big men hitting a ball. And, although some might disagree, there is really very little deep thought involved in moving a small sphere from one place to another."

Swofford also noted that with the obvious, and apparently one-time, exception of Wake Forest's Muggsy Bogues, there has been up until now no place for the small person in ACC revenue sports, something heights-rights activists have long decried. Feminists are lauding the ACC's decision not to gender segregate these new "intelli-sports."

Outside experts say that while these changes have been brewing for some time, N.C. State's acceptance of head men's basketball coach Herb Sendek's resignation and hiring this spring of Sidney Lowe made it clear to ACC higher ups that the conference was moving in the wrong direction intellectually. (Editor's note: Sendek had a 3.95 GPA from Carnegie-Mellon, while Lowe, at the time, was a high school graduate.)

Adding events which eliminate balls was key to realignment, said Swofford. "Obviously, simply downplaying athletic prowess was not the answer. Up-playing intellectual endeavors is the better approach."

To make room for these intellectual contests on the TV schedule, Swofford says that the conference will be reducing the football schedule to eight from the current 11 games and reducing the basketball schedule from 14 to 10 conference games, making those stadia more available for chess, bridge, crosswords and sudoku competitions.

Massive new stadium videoboards has made the additions feasible. "The potential for chess has long been evident by the small crowds gathering at 'chess-in-the-park' venues, but the number of spectators has been limited to those with an unobstructed view. With 150-foot-wide videoboards, tens of thousands of roaring fans can now actively participate in live matches," said Swofford.

Although a final decision has not been made, insiders say that the stadium chess contests will feature modestly speed-timed games, best two out of three matches (like tennis), with two intermissions (like hockey). While consideration had been given to having traditional marching bands during the interludes, the conference currently is leaning toward a battle of the marching orchestras format.

One of the first signs that this move would be welcomed by students was evident in Duke's Krzyzewskiville, where students camping out for tickets for the UNC game had set up chess boards in the spaces between tents and were playing chess late into the night rather than holding drinking contests.

"We knew something was on when students missed the ticket distribution time because they were all crowded around a board watching Jeffrey Sussmann (the Cameron crazy who is usually the "D" in Duke) and Rajiv Chandrasekaran Gupta (the guy who wears the turban) as they whizzed through classic endgame moves reminiscent of Fisher and Spassky's first match in Iceland in July 1972," said Duke Athletic Director Joe Alleva.

Alleva says he is confident that Duke can get more students into Wallace Wade for a chess match than it does now for football.

Early indications are competitive academics will dramatically shift the dominance hierarchy within the ACC. Because of the glare which comes off beach sand, none of the proposed additions (chess, bridge, crosswords or sudoku) have never been popular at any of the Florida universities. Conversely, the success of Florida schools in football has long been explained as primarily a function of the weather and the attendant great grass-growing conditions there.

Experts say the cold and overcast conditions which keep students indoors all winter in New England will favor Boston College. They also say that the larger crania of their average students may favor Georgia Tech and Duke in the short haul, before other schools begin recruiting geeks and "eggheads" themselves.

Swofford said the suggestion, which was quickly dismissed, made by ACC-newcomer University of Miami to add Jai-Alai and dog racing to the intelli-sports schedule was apparently the result of their misapprehension of the term intellectual. According to the league office, calculating gambling odds is not generally considered a higher mental function. Florida State's request to add "Chutes and Ladders" was also declined.


Gary D. Gaddy, who attended Glenn Wilkes Basketball School for two weeks, played several years of Little League baseball and one season of JV football in high school, once beat Ludwig Wittgenstein in chess.

Non-errata: One of my knowledgeable and observant regular readers (that would be Moody Smith) says I could not have beaten Ludwig Wittgenstein at chess as I claimed in one of my many fine biographical blurbs since Wittgenstein died less than three months after I was born. Let me clarify: I did not say I beat the Ludwig Wittgenstein at chess; I said I beat Ludwig Wittgenstein. My Ludwig Wittgenstein was the Ludwig Wittgenstein's eccentric nephew. I beat him using a satisfying sucker sacrifice of my queen in a classic match in Zell am See, Austria, in the fall of 1971. I did not offer a rematch.

A version of this column first appeared in the Chapel Hill Herald, Thursday February 22, 2007.   Copyright  2007  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 10:31 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, June 12, 2011 7:27 PM EDT
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Thursday, February 15, 2007
Leaving our state's education to chance

Most of my columns to this point have been about various aspects of sport. This column is also about one of my very favorite sports: government bashing. Just like when UNC plays Clemson in men's basketball in Chapel Hill, it is so easy that it is not much of a sport, but it sure is fun! Today's topic will be the North Carolina Education Lottery.

What I do love is the way government can outlaw something one minute as an insidious moral evil, and the next moment, legalize, operate and promote it as a great benefit to society -- and by separating the two by a fraction of a second, avoid even the appearance of hypocrisy. I am working on learning how to do the same thing myself. If I succeed, it will be one way the lottery helped in my education.

With a nod to Phil Woodhall, Duke grad, "second-career potter" and all-round funny guy from Southern Pines, I am calling this column "Leaving education to chance: How the lottery has helped educate North Carolina." By including a prominent colon in the title, I aspire to give my article a subtle gloss of academic respectability.

Let me catalog some of the many successes of the lottery in educating North Carolina. Critics can say what they may, but the lottery has done marvels for education in North Carolina by providing innumerable teaching moments to the state's children and adults, both to losers and winners. For one, it's been instructive even to those well-to-do taxpayers who, by not participating in the lottery, are now letting poor people pay for government services for them, providing a concrete illustration of the meaning of the term regressive funding scheme.

The education lottery also teaches about the concepts of unobserved costs, trade-offs and opportunity costs. As the late Milton Friedman and the late Gary Gaddy have tried repeatedly to teach the public: "There is no free lunch." (Friedman is late because he died recently. I am late because of all the time wasted as I stand in line at the Mini-Mart with my "Two Dogs for Two Dollars" rapidly cooling, behind some guy buying eight Pick Threes, two Carolina Cash Fives and three Powerball tickets.)

The lottery has also provided clear examples to those teaching business strategy, especially the concept of expected return. As in, bet a dollar, expect to get 52 cents in return.

The lottery has greatly simplified the teaching of mathematics. It has never been so easy to teach combinatorial statistics as now. The lottery commission practically writes the tests for the instructors. And lottery wagerers are, of course, always calculating the odds that they will win -- the wonderfully favorable odds being what keeps them betting. For example, how can anyone resist the Powerball odds of having a one in 146,107,962 chance of winning the Jackpot? With odds like these your ship is always just about to come in. Bet once a day and expect to win big in the Year of our Lord 202153, just 200 millenia from now.

The lottery has exemplified moral lessons as well, such as the deceitfulness of riches. Many preachers have harangued their flocks about the false allure of wealth, but to no avail. Now, thanks to the lottery, a number of North Carolinians have learned on their own that money doesn't solve your ills. As one study of lottery winners showed, a couple of years after they hit the jackpot even big lottery winners are no happier than they were before -- often because they also no richer.

The lottery has helped citizens learn about rhetoric by giving them the opportunity to compare politicians' promises to what they actually deliver. This may take a little longer than some of the other lessons but it will soon be clear that the politicians have indeed delivered on their promises that more money will be going to education after the lottery than would have had there been none.

The lottery also will help us learn patience as we wait to see that day.

The clearest evidence that the lottery education program is working is not in higher mathematics tests scores by the state's students, but in the recent report that lottery revenues are far below what the lottery commission had projected, indicating that we are already much smarter than they thought we would be.


Gary D. Gaddy, who once was a Statistician III, according to the state of North Carolina, has calculated the odds that he will lose money on the lottery to be a statistical certainty – even though he has never played -- because of the resources other suckers are wasting by playing it.

A version of this column first appeared in the Chapel Hill Herald, Thursday February 15, 2007.   Copyright  2007  Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 10:38 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 9:07 PM EST
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Thursday, February 8, 2007
Fair or Unfair? A John Edwards Quiz

Many claims have been made concerning Chapel Hill's very own John Edwards, one of the leading prematurely announced candidates for the Democrat nomination for the presidency of the United States in 2008. For example, some have accused him of living in a 29,000 square foot Orange County estate, when it's not even finished -- so how can they know that?

In the name of fairness, these assertions should be addressed rationally, dispassionately and in an unbiased fashion. But we will leave that for another day; for now I'll give you my take. Each of the following things has been said in the media about John Edwards, but are they fair or unfair?

Great trial lawyer -- fair -- but it is unfair to bring it up. The man has moved on in his life and dredging up sludge like this has no place in modern American political life. Those who say that he spent most of what little energy he spent in the U.S. Senate defending personal injury attorneys must understand that they are people too, usually being citizens who vote and, more importantly, donate to political candidates and so have same right as any other American to buy a candidate, not that this would have been necessary in this particular case.

The Breck Girl -- unfair. His hair appears to have much more mousse than any Breck Girl in recent memory. Still, it has been said that "perfection is a direction." Well, if John Edwards' hair is to be entered into evidence, that statement is not true because his hair has definitely arrived. But more to the point for his career trajectory, if Edwards doesn't make it as president, there will always a place for him anchoring "The News at Six."

Robotic speech reader -- unfair. This is based on his 2004 campaign speech. He did not read it; he had it memorized. (Please note the use of the singular here.) This is not, however, that impressive an accomplishment. His campaign workers had it memorized as well, often mouthing his words as he gave "the" speech. But, also, he was not robotic. Based on what I heard, Edwards actually gave one of the more authentic recitations from memory I've personally experienced, in the same league with Karen Shields recitation of the Apostle Paul's Love Chapter (I Corinthians 13) in the sixth grade Sunday School class at First Baptist Church in Danville, Virginia in 1963.

Former North Carolina state government employee -- fair. The etymology of the word "employee" (from Middle French employer, from Old French empleier, from Latin implicare "enfold, involve, be connected with") indicates this would mean that John Edwards was connected with the government of the state of North Carolina. That he was. He was definitely on the payroll. Evidence that he is a state government worker (oxymoronic as that might sound), however, is very limited, based on news reports showing that he was rarely in the state during this time.

Son of a millworker -- fair. Since Edwards is the only one who brings this up, and boy does he ever, it would be hard to believe it’s not true or to criticize him for it.

Millionaire -- unfair. Yes, he has millions, but compared to a billionaire like John Kerry (spouse of Teresa Heinz), John Edwards is a pauper. Calling him a millionaire makes him sound rich, and he's not, once forced to live off the donations of tens of thousands of political supporters, the earnings from his part of the more than $150 million in jury awards he collected while a practicing tort attorney and a state salary ($40,000 for a part-time job "finding ways to alleviate poverty").

Knowledgeable on foreign affairs -- unfair even to ask. We need to remember that John Edwards was against foreign affairs quizzes before he was for them. Before Edwards "passed" his Hardball quiz this fall, he "passed on taking" the previous Hardball quiz the last time Chris Matthews tried to give him intellectual batting practice.

America's sexiest politician -- fair -- though it depends on which sex you're asking. None, not one, of the guys I hang out with find him the least bit attractive. However, Edwards was named People magazine's sexiest politician in 2000, so someone over there, possibly a female, must have.

Former U.S. senator -- unfair. While he is clearly "former," it is not at all clear he ever was actually a senator. Extensive research into the congressional archives finds few indications that Edwards performed senatorial duties during his nominal six-year term, with the clear exceptions of several key fact-finding trips to Iowa and New Hampshire.

Gary D. Gaddy married an attorney, "worked" for the state, grew up in a milltown, read several speeches, is a millionaire (in lira), and has a sister who sometimes uses Breck shampoos, but is definitely not the sexiest politician in America.

A slightly neutered version of this column first appeared in the Chapel Hill Herald, Thursday February 8, 2007.    Copyright  2007  Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 10:28 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, July 12, 2008 1:25 PM EDT
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Thursday, February 1, 2007
My next job? North Carolina State House Historian

Sometimes we just don't know God's plans for our lives but we still feel like we are being prepared for something bigger. I have often wondered during my arduous two-month tenure as the regular Thursday columnist for the Chapel Hill Herald -- a job for which there is little thanks and even less pay, why? Why me, Lord?

But, then, just the other day I opened a local daily newspaper (one printed by a competitor so which shall remain nameless but is published in our state capital and has a name that rhymes with "Noise and Disturber"), and right there before me was an article about a position in state government which appears to be coming open, which my columnist position has perfectly prepared me for: State House Historian.

First, let me give you a little history, very little history, of the State House Historian. Before May 2005 the position did not exist. But after Ann Lassiter came under scrutiny as the House page coordinator (having sent teenage pages to stay with her son, a felon with a history of drug and alcohol abuse), the kind and generous Mr. James B. Black (D-Mecklenburg), then Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, in coordination with former Representative William T. Culpepper (D-Chowan), helped create the much-needed position.

It is a position about which Lassiter is quoted as saying, "If you are offered a job making $50,000 a year that happens to have had limited responsibilities, is it your fault for accepting it?" Then asking, "How many of your readers would have done the same?" I don't know about Paxton Media newspaper readers in general but for mine (both Ben and Hank), the answer is certainly, all.

But Ms. Lassiter wrote 23 pages in 20 months -- I don’t know if I can do that. However, with $80,000 in pay and a padded state retirement at stake, I could try.

As Mark Twain supposedly wrote as a postscript to a long and discursive letter to a friend, "I'm terribly sorry to have written such a long letter. I didn't have time to write a short one." It will be, without a doubt, harder to write drivel concisely than it is just to spew it out. So, it will doubtless be a burden on me to write about half as much as I do now, but with four times the time I think I will be up to the task. But, based on the writing samples left to me by the previous holder of the office, I will have to scale back my vocabulary somewhat.

This is where some of my other previous work experience will serve me well. Over the past couple of years, on occasion, I have served as a substitute teacher at the Trinity School of Durham and Chapel Hill. My longest stretch being three days with the fifth-grade "Green Class," I believe it was called. The State Historian, based on the exemplary history left for me to follow, should write approximately on a fifth-grade level. (So as not to denigrate the boys and girls of Trinity School, I will say that apparently the state historian’s spelling and grammar does not need to be as good as theirs.)

Further, as her report opens with a lyric from the Who's 35-year-old hit "Won't Get Fooled Again," my extensive knowledge of late 60's and early 70's rock lyrics I am sure will serve me and the people of the state of North Carolina well.

Since the illustrious Jim Black has been relieved of his duties as Speaker, what is not clear to me is whom I need to be cozying up to. Joe Hackney, the new Speaker, may seem like the obvious choice, but I'm not at all certain that he has the vision and creativity to see what a boon a new House Historian could be to this state, or to recognize that even though I have a college degree and even though I wasn't run out of my last state job, I am still preeminently qualified for it.

In any case I will end my report now as Ms. Lassiter began hers, "Power is a wonderful thing when used to make life better for the majority" -- or, at the very least, I might add, for the majority leaders’ cronies.


Gary D. Gaddy is an art historian, once having taken one art history course at the Institute of European Studies in Vienna, where his Austrian suitemate, Siegfried Horina, had memorized the lyrics of all of Leonard Cohen’s then-extant songs. It was an existentially depressing semester, and very European.

A slightly neutered version of this column first appeared in the Chapel Hill Herald, Thursday February 1, 2007.   Copyright  2007  Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 10:19 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, November 12, 2008 1:49 PM EST
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Thursday, January 25, 2007
Devil's Dictionary of college football bowls

Now that the college football bowl season is over, I would like to explain it to those many of you who are still confused. With apologies to Ambrose Bierce (the dyspeptic author of the Devil's Dictionary), I (the dyspeptic author of this regular Thursday column) would like to clarify the complexities of this interwoven athletic, financial and educational system. For simplicity’s sake, I will use acronyms.

NCAA -- National Collegiate Athletic Association. A voluntary association of institutions, conferences and organizations that protects the athletic programs of colleges and universities from themselves.

BCS -- Bowl Championship Series. (See also BCS -- Bowl Cartel Scheme.) The system of post-season play constructed by the major college football conferences designed to ensure that they continue to be the major college football conferences.

Tostitos® Fiesta Bowl – A really big football game between OU and BSU to promote ingestion of deep-fried corn chips.

OU -- University of Oklahoma. A football factory which maintains a university to keep its football players occupied during the brief non-football related parts of the day.

BSU -- Boise State University. An obscure school from a non-BCS conference which experts did not think could even compete in, much less win, a BCS Bowl against a real college football team (e.g., OU).

BS -- Having the quality or character of the explanations given by BCS defenders for why undefeated BSU should not have even the opportunity to play for a national championship.

OB -- Orange Bowl. A really big football game between WFU and UofL to promote the ingestion of citrus products.

WFU -- A small private, formerly Baptist affiliated university located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which found itself in the OB due to the strength of the prayers of its pious fans.

UofL -- A large private, formerly basketball affiliated university located in Louisville, Kentucky, which found itself in the OB due to the strength of the players on its football team.

MPC Computers Bowl -- A not-so-big football game, matching UNR and The U, played in Boise, Idaho, on bright blue artificial turf, which was also the color of the fingers and toes of the dedicated fans and players during this late December bowl.

The U -- The University of Miami. A private school located in south Florida most noted for its programs in the pugilistic arts including extreme fighting, handgun marksmanship and professional football skills training.

UNR - The University of Nevada, Reno. A land-grant institution most noted for being located in Nevada.

Tostitos® Bowl Championship Series Bowl -- An even bigger football game between UF and TOSU to promote even greater ingestion of deep-fried corn chips. (See also Bowls, Department of Redundancy Department Bowl.)

UF -- University of Florida. The flagship university of the Florida college sports system, highly successful in both revenue sports, noted for the lush green which covers its campus, which also has some nice plants.

TOSU -- THE Ohio State University. THE premiere institution of higher education in the state of Ohio. THE premiere football program in the state of Ohio THE premiere basketball program in the state of Ohio. THE most pretentious name for a university ever.

32,000,000 -- Number of reasons coach Nick Saban had for leaving the Miami Dolphin's professional football team to go to the University of Alabama Crimson Tide's amateur football team (in U.S. dollars).

501(c)(3) -- The provision of the U.S. tax code exempting charitable, religious and educational institutions from federal taxes and giving tax deductible status to donations to the charitable cause of the salary of Nick Saban (and every other college coach).

300,914,781 -- The number of people who would benefit from removing the 501(c)(3) exemption from the tax code for quasi-professional college athletics (calculated as the current U.S. population minus 119 Division 1-A football coaches).

D-Line -- Defensive line, as, for example, the NCAA's contention that college football is "for the benefit of the student-athlete," or the BCS’s contention that "playoffs would hurt the student-athletes by keeping them from their collegiate studies."

O-Line -- Offensive line, as, for example, the NCAA's contention that college football is "for the benefit of the student-athlete," or the BCS’s contention that "playoffs would hurt the student-athletes by keeping them from their collegiate studies."

210,000,000 -- Number of good reasons the BCS system has to justify its bowl system as the best way to determine a national champion (in U.S. dollars).

Gary D. Gaddy, who as a child used to read encyclopedias and dictionaries just for the fun of it, actually is, really, I mean it, a fan of college football.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald, January 25, 2007. Copyright 2007  Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 3:10 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, January 7, 2009 9:38 AM EST
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Thursday, January 18, 2007
How Everybody Wins: They Cheat!

Having exposed the Wake Forest University Demon Deacon football team for what they are (liars, cheats and thieves), I am now embroiled in further controversy. The vast unwashed masses which make up my regular readership (I am referring here to Ben Elliott) have risen up in arms in defense of poor, pitiful Wake, making the standard excuse of eleven-year-old miscreants everywhere: everybody does it.

Of course they do. But we expect better of a formerly nominally Baptist institution.

Certainly all football teams cheat. That's why the games have penalties. Ever seen a college football game without a penalty? Didn't think so. But I'm not speaking of an "illegal shift" or a "substitution infraction" or even "illegal touching" (which is not nearly as bad as it sounds -- not that I could explain why not in family paper such as this). What I am speaking of is the endemic and systemic epidemic of vile and corrupt practices that threaten to turn an esteemed American institution into something akin to the United States Congress. Yeah, it’s that bad.

In some cases the cheating in college football is so out in the open no one notices. How's this for truth in advertising? Sooner, the nickname for the University of Oklahoma actually means cheater. Don't believe me? Open your textbook, "A Brief History of the Desolate Interior Portions of the North American Continent," to page 318. Follow as I read: "On April 22, 1889, the first day homesteading was permitted, 50,000 people swarmed into the Oklahoma Territory. Those who left before the noon starting gun were called Sooners, hence the nickname." Here's what Funk & Wagnalls say: "Sooner: a person who settles on government land before it is legally opened to settlers in order to gain the choice of location, thus, more generally, a person who gains an unfair advantage by getting ahead of others."

Makes you wonder how the honor code at Oklahoma reads, don't it?

Also consider this: "Boomer Sooner," the fight song for the University of Oklahoma was written by Arthur M. Alden in 1905 with a tune "borrowed" from "Boola Boola," the fight song of Yale University. An addition added a year later was "borrowed" from UNC's "I'm a Tar Heel Born."

But, you say, having actually watched some of many fine corporately sponsored holiday season football bowl games, the cheaters didn't always win. Settle down. Don't you remember what I said? They all cheat. So, while all the winners did cheat, some of the cheaters did lose. The best case in point is Oklahoma. Of course the Sooners cheated, they just got out-cheated in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl by the Broncos of Boise State. The three biggest plays of the game? All "trick" plays. The game winning play? The Statue of Liberty -- which was outlawed by the Geneva Conventions in 1949.

The Wednesday Morning Quarterbacks all also want to know why Wake, if they cheat so much, didn't win against Louisville (which is not pronounced Lewis-ville, as many might think, but Louie-ville). The answer is simple. Louisville cheated more, better and faster. Anyone who watched the Orange Bowl will have noticed that the biggest play for the Louisville Cardinals was a cross-field halfback pass.

Now just where might you think that Louisville got this play? Simple, they stole it from the playbook they pilfered from Wake Forest.

And if these results are not enough to make my point, anyone who watched carefully the Tostitos BCS Bowl will testify that the Florida Gators appeared to be the Demon Deacons on steroids -- literally. The deception, fakery and connivances of the Gators were so effective that UF coach Urban Meyer could have won without THE Ohio State University Buckeyes’ star, Ted Ginn, Jr., injuring himself celebrating 14 seconds into the game, or for THE Ohio State University coach Jim Tressel opting to go for it on fourth and one at their own 29 yard line when down by 10 points in the second quarter -- not that Coach Meyer didn’t appreciate the help

Errata from the "How does Wake's football team win?" column.  Kent University alumni were incensed that I did not know that while Kent State University had changed its name to Kent University it had since reverted back to Kent State University. Sorry, it's my fault I didn't have them on speed-dial. If it's any consolation to them, I don't know what to call Theresa Heinz Kerry Heinz either.

Gary D. Gaddy is just back from an early January trip to south Florida where he and one of his WFU brothers took their father, who matriculated at Wake Forest College in 1941 and then went on to Bowman-Gray Medical School, to a special four-hour therapy session intended to relieve over 65 years of chronic pain. The treatment was partially successful.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald, January 18, 2007.   Copyright 2007 Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 5:16 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, February 15, 2007 10:46 AM EST
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Thursday, January 11, 2007
Crazy: America's Mental Health Madness

Sometimes the journalist comes to the story; sometimes the story comes to the journalist. This time the story came to Pete Earley, and it wasn't pretty. "Crazy" is one of the kinder words Earley could have used to describe what he found in his investigation of the intersection of the mentally ill with the American criminal justice system. Earley's own discovery of the failed social system began for him the way it began for many of us: when s family member’s psychosis made a seemingly inevitable collision with the police.

The difference between Pete Earley and most of the rest of us is that he is a former Washington Post reporter, who is able not only to articulate his own experience but to observe, probe and report on the experience of others. Earley uses his head and heart to collate into comprehensive form the facts and figures that show that his experiences, and that of his son, were the norm, not deviations from it. The result of Earley’s personal experience and his subsequent research is the kind of account which I believe many more caring people need to comprehend if anything is ever to change for the better in our social systems, or lack thereof, for dealing with mental illness. .

Earley's book, Crazy: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness, consists of three separate but interwoven strands: the story of his son's experience of criminal justice for the mentally ill, accounts of mentally ill individuals in Miami whose lives Earley documents, and research that reveals the systemic mistreatment of the mentally ill, sadly done in the name of individual rights. Not to give away details better told by Earley than me, this mistreatment includes mentally ill prisoners being kept naked in practically refrigerated cells while awaiting trial. Other mentally ill prisoners cycle through a Kafkaesque procedure in which after a court hearing they are sent to a mental hospital to be made "competent to stand trial." There they are usually compelled to take medication to treat their illness, but then are returned to jail where they are not, often held there long enough to decompensate so that they are no longer "competent to stand trial." So, back they go to the mental hospital. This circle of futility may spin multiple times and last for months, even years.

Many of us may know the answer to the unfortunately popular (in the circles in which I travel) trivia question: "What institution in the United States houses the most people with mental illness?" (Answer: the Los Angeles County Jail.) That sounds bad, but what many of us haven't known is how bad jail conditions really are for those individuals who happen to be afflicted with the particular diseases of the brain called mental illness. Earley's own story gives a sample of some of the personal anguish that family members and loved ones experience, while the people whose lives he chronicles show that his experience was neither unique nor extreme. Earley puts faces on the facts and souls behind the statistics that are painful enough when they are anonymous. He shows that the systematic mistreatment he documents is not at all the exception but the rule -- and what a sad set of rules they are.

Crazy is not a book for the faint of heart, and definitely not for those whose parents, children, brothers or sisters are themselves mentally ill, and whose experiences have left them currently in serious emotional pain. For those who can read it, they should. While Earley's accounts are graphic, I see no evidence that he exaggerates anything that he has seen. Nevertheless, the reality he reports is as cold and hard as the cells that some of those with mental illness occupy. While reading the book will be particularly painful for anyone with a heart, and deeply distressing for anyone with brain, it will be enlightening for anyone with eyes to see what an inhumane system we have created, and allow to continue, "for" those with mental illness.

In the end, Crazy is a convincing plea that we change the way we deal with the mentally ill who find themselves in our criminal justice system, for their sakes and for ours as well.

Those who wish to work for a better, fairer and more humane mental health system in North Carolina are invited to listen and talk to our legislators at the Annual Legislative Breakfast for Mental Health, which will feature writer Lee Smith at the Friday Center across from Meadowmont in Chapel Hill on Saturday, January 13, 2007 from 9:00 am - 11:30 am.

Gary D. Gaddy facilitates a local class as part of the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ Family-to-Family program, a 12-week course for the family members of individuals with serious mental illness. If you have a family member with mental illness, go to NAMI.ORG to learn more about this highly successful course.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald, January 11, 2007. Copyright 2007 Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 5:07 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, February 15, 2007 10:54 AM EST
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Sunday, January 7, 2007
Working Together Against Mental Illness

Among the most insidious of evils of this life are illness and disease, especially the brain disorders commonly called mental illness. Besides the toll they can take on a life, on a career, on the person him or herself, mental illness can destroy a family. But it doesn't have to be that way.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness's Family-to-Family Program is an intervention designed to help improve the lives of people who have been struck by mental illness, directly or indirectly, by educating their families about brain disorders, and offering practical strategies for dealing with their effects on daily life.

As one of the few people who has both been the one involuntarily committed to a psychiatric institution and also the one doing the committing, I can tell you unequivocally, it isn't any fun from either side. My single near-catastrophic episode of 35 years ago has never been repeated. For most struck by mental illness that is not so. Since that time, I have also been blessed by the opportunity to take part in a program that works to help make the lives of those impacted by severe mental illness better, and would like to pass the blessing along.

In my experience, and that of many other participants, this program works. NAMI calls the program Family-to-Family because everyone involved has a close family member who is dealing with a serious mental illness: a brother, a mother, a husband, a child. This holds true not only for the class members but also for the class facilitators. Everyone involved in organizing and leading the class is an unpaid volunteer who has been through the same kinds of circumstances that many of the class members are now in.

Over 115,000 family members nationwide have graduated from Family-to-Family. A remarkable statistic, given no one is making money off the program, and the volunteers who make the program go are people who took the course -- and the training necessary to lead it. The course is free to the participants, but requires a 12-week commitment for the students, all of whom are or may become caregivers of a family member with a severe mental illness.

The curriculum is nationally recognized, providing current information about schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder (also called manic depression), panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, borderline personality disorder, as well as co-occurring brain and addictive disorders.

Beyond covering basic scientific facts about brain disorders and the most effective current treatments for promoting recovery, including the latest medications, side effects and strategies for improving medication adherence, the Family-to-Family curriculum covers strategies for handling crises and relapse. These include workshops in problem solving, listening skills and communication techniques as well as exercises designed to help family members gain empathy for the experience of a person with mental illness.

Other course components focus on care for the caregiver, including coping with worry, stress, and emotional overload and giving guidance on locating appropriate support and services within the community. A final element of the course helps empower family members by informing them of advocacy initiatives designed to improve and expand services, showing them how they can be part of making things better.

More than anything else, NAMI as an organization, and Family-to-Family as a program, are about hope, realistic hope. We may cope for today but we will hope for tomorrow. Continual advances in pharmacology give us real reason to have real hope for treatments that are already light years ahead of where they were 35 years ago.

And we can realistically hope that things can be better at the human level for those with mental illness -- if we study, learn and work to make ourselves more capable of helping them. And we can realistically hope that things can be better for the families of those with mental illness -- if we band together to help make their lives better by our kindness, caring, concern and assistance. And we can realistically hope that things can be better for our society -- if we stand together and demand together that our society treat those with mental illness fairly and compassionately.

Gary D. Gaddy serves on the board of the NAMI in Orange County, NC and of Club Nova in Carrboro, a rehabilitation clubhouse program for individuals with mental illness in Carrboro.  Go to NAMI.ORG to learn more about the Family-to-Family Program, or to see how you can work to make things better for those with mental illness.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill News, Sunday, January 7, 2007.  Copyright   2007  Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 5:01 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, February 15, 2007 10:57 AM EST
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