Off the Record

• I drove by the Warren County Parks and Recreation complex on a recent weekday evening as several youth ballgames were being contested. I didn’t see any sights like that last spring or summer. Three cheers for normalcy.

• Even better: Thanks to the state of North Carolina’s move to allow increased capacity at live sporting events, the Carolina Hurricanes had their first true home crowd last week in a first-round NHL Playoffs game against the Nashville Predators. The Caniacs always show up in the playoffs whether the Raleigh arena is full or not. “We had 12,000 tonight,” goalie Alex Nedeljkovic said in the postgame press conference, “And it felt like 24,000.”

• Along with the NHL and NBA playoffs, this last weekend was an outstanding one for sports backdrops when you factor in the PGA Tour Championship at Kiawah Island’s scenic Ocean Course in South Carolina and NASCAR’s new road course in Austin, Texas.

• Phil Mickelson became golf’s oldest major winner on Sunday at 50 years, 11 months. One of the golfers that he topped in that category was Old Tom Morris, who won the 1867 Open Championship in Scotland at age 46. You give me one good reason why we aren’t using nicknames like that anymore.

• One of the best parts about covering high school sports, which I did for many years, is watching young athletes transform from kids into star performers. I met Virginia Tech softball pitcher Keely Rochard when she was a sophomore in Williamsburg, Va. I recently watched her college team on ESPN as she led the Hokies to their second-ever Super Regional and first since 2008. Tech took down host Arizona State, which has 12 all-time Women’s College World Series appearances. Next, the Hokies play at No. 2 overall seed UCLA, which has 30 WCWS appearances and won the whole thing as recently as 2019. What an experience. 

• Chicken Sandwich Wars: Add Hardee’s to the list of all the fast food restaurants that were forced to up their game when Popeye’s ignited the fried chicken sandwich free-for-all in August of 2019. Hardee’s has a new sandwich and it’s basically just like all the other ones that followed the one at Popeyes. And really, we’d all just prefer to go to Chick-fil-A instead.

• Is it just me or are men’s XL shirts smaller than they used to be? And don’t you dare blame the chicken sandwiches.

• Why do all the Hallmark movies seem to have the same actors? Can’t they give someone else a try?

• Sometimes I dread having to drive places because of the time or distance involved and I think about how unexceptional it has become now to drive at speeds that were unthought of in say, 1867. What if I told Old Tom Morris that driving 70 mph in my car was boring? He’d probably say, “What’s a car?”

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“The South moves north, the North moves south

A star is born, a star burns out

The only thing that stays the same is

Everything changes, everything changes”

~ Tracy Lawrence, “Time marches on”