Jeff Gravley

My thoughts on a year I'll never forget

Posted December 29, 2016
Updated February 21

USA Track and Field

I don’t know if I will ever be able to top 2016 from a career standpoint. How many in the media can say they covered the Super Bowl, the Final Four, the Olympics and had two trips to the White House?

That’s a heck of a CAREER, much less have it happen all in one YEAR.

I think back to the Panthers run to Super Bowl 50. The prelude turned out to be better than the game. It was two brutal performances by both offenses. To be at Super Bowl 50 is like covering the first one or the 100th. I won’t be around for the century mark.

There are some years when I expect one of our local basketball teams to make the Final Four and 2016 was one of them.

North Carolina had the right combination of talent and experience to reach Houston. Getting to cover Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson in the ACC and NCAA tournament was a joy. Paige is on my list of all-time favorites to interview. I always learned something.

Being an NBC affiliate this year made it different covering the Final Four. I had to leave the game before it was over to be live outside of the dome. Luckily our engineering guru, Tony Gupton, had set up a monitor at our live shot so we could watch the end of the game. But it was on a seven second delay-the Janet Jackson rule.

So we would hear screams from inside NRG Stadium then seven seconds later we would see what happened on our TV. When Marcus Paige hit that incredible, acrobatic shot, the building shook and we quickly turned to the monitor. Simply amazing.

It was minutes later that Kris Jenkins ended the game with a dramatic jumper. Judging from the sound, I could tell it was a buzzer beater. I was live on the air watching the game with reporter Ken Smith, and then seven seconds later, we saw the winning shot for the first time.

Glad I didn’t blurt out an expletive on TV.

Gut wrenching for North Carolina and pure euphoria for Villanova. It was the first buzzer beater in a national championship game since NC State in 1983.

At the end of the Super Bowl, I found out I would be going to the Olympics. I had never been to Rio nor had I ever been to the Olympic Games.

For 23 days we soaked ourselves in the Olympic spirit. Just about everywhere we turned people were smiling. Happiness is a universal language.

The first weekend produced one of my top moments. NC State swimmer Ryan Held was on a USA relay team that captured gold. The guy who touched the wall to send Held into the water was Michael Phelps. Held cried on the medal stand then pounded his chest, wearing a great big smile as we met in the interview area.

I got to cover a lot of USA basketball and enjoyed the interviews with Coach K and his group of NBA stars.

It wasn’t all joy in Rio. I met hurdler Ronnie Ash, who went to East Wake High School. He made the finals of the 50 meter hurdles and with 3 hurdles to clear he was in medal contention.

But he clipped the last hurdle and tumbled before the finish line.

Ash was disqualified and dejected but minutes after one of the biggest disappointments of his life, Ronnie took time to do an interview with us. What class he showed.

My first trip to the White House was to cover the 1983 NC State basketball team who finally got their championship visit to Pennsylvania Avenue. In November I returned to the White House to witness Michael Jordan and an incredible class receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. There I am in the same room with the President, Jordan, Bruce Springsteen, Diana Ross, Tom Hanks, Robert Redford...I could keep dropping names.

Who knows what 2017 will bring but I do have one wish.

Can we please wrap up the long battle between the NCAA and the University of North Carolina? I think I wrote that last December too, and the one before that, and the one before that...

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