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Weekend of the living dead 

Sports, fights and zombies

College basketball announcer Dick Vitale was at UNC-Charlotte's student bookstore Thursday, signing copies of his new book, Living A Dream: Reflections of 25 Years Sitting in the Best Seat in the House. Say what you want about the guy, but Vitale's ability to parlay a failing basketball coaching career, bald head and glass eye into TV stardom is worth saluting. Of course, Vitale's high-octane schtick works best when there's a great game on, when his upper-register, upper-case voice works to amp up the excitement level to epic proportions.

He had plenty of chances to scream later that night, as the Charlotte 49ers took on the 9th-ranked Louisville Cardinals, led by celebrity coach Rick Pitino. After a last-second flurry, the Niners won, fans rushed the court, Vitale went apoplectic, and people started comparing the crunch time capabilities of "Gang Green" to Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme.

This was actually the third team ranked in the top 10 Charlotte has defeated this season, which is something you may or not been aware of unless you're an alum. Granted, the University is located out of the City Center, but so is Ballantyne, which doesn't hurt for exposure. So why the lack of love?

Recently, Mayor McCrory proposed changing the name of UNC-Charlotte to The University of Charlotte, which would help attract businesses to the area. Here's an idea. If you really want to help the school, try lobbying for it to receive the state funds it deserves based on its large enrollment, and not the paltry sums they're presently forced to work with. Speaking of sports, New England-based "emo rapper" Sage Francis had a few words for Panther fans in attendance at his performance at The Room Thursday night, singing the praises of his beloved Pats between songs. Sage also let the smokers have it, saying that he was a "real person" with asthma, and not a "movie screen." No offense, but if your constitution's that sensitive, should you be performing in clubs in the first place?After awhile -- just like in World Class Cities like Philadelphia! -- someone took Francis to task. And just like in Philly, the offended was a knucklehead. This frat boy (I checked -- no glasses -- not McCrory) began blowing smoke right in Francis' teetotaling face, and stated that he would kick his "white ass." (Note: It's a pretty stupid thing to say anytime, but even more so when you're white.) Long story short, he hits a couple guys, is led outside, hits a girl, and is dealt with appropriately by a small mob, which quickly disperses before the cops arrive. Yes, just like a big-time, major label-style hip hop show. The difference here? The music was actually pretty good.

Friday night's show by The Zombies at Amos' SouthEnd was one I'd been looking forward to for awhile. First of all, it was the freaking Zombies, one of the great underrated rock groups of all time. Secondly, I got to see what it was like to be one of the younger people at a show for a change.Reunion-type shows are usually a disappointment. Lots of bands are nowhere near as good on stage as they are on record, much less 35 years past their sell-by date. I was heartened, then, when I saw the tray of beer being carried to the stage. "These guys mean business," I thought, hoisting one of my own in salute.

I talked to a number of those assembled before the show began, all of whom had the look of a person waiting to see his or her once-hot spouse some years after they'd broken up. You want them to look good, if only to justify you showing up in the first place.

The Zombies not only passed muster, but they put on one of the best shows I've seen in quite some time. Colin Blunstone's heavenly lilt still resonated like an airhorn, and Rod Argent, 59, was even seen playing his trusty Hammond organ with his feet (!). Yes, for Argent, Blunstone and Co., it's still the time of the season -- for touring.

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