Guest post: A heart-stopping headline

Dane Huffman is executive Web producer at NBC-17 in the Triangle region of North Carolina. He previously worked at WRAL.com and, for 24 years, in the sports department of The News & Observer as a reporter and editor. In this guest post, first published on Facebook, Huffman looks back at how a headline captured the essence of the 1983 N.C. State basketball team.

I loved watching the ESPN special “Survive And Advance” on N.C. State’s miracle run to a national championship in 1983. One small part I played in that was coming up with the “Cardiac Pack” name. I was a student at UNC-Chapel Hill at the time, and I was working at The N&O when State beat UNLV on a Sunday.

Of course, at that point they’d had a miracle run through the ACC Tournament and had beaten Pepperdine in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. After that UNLV game, I was working at The N&O on Sunday evening and said we needed to come up with a nickname.

We were throwing out ideas, and I remembered the St. Louis Cardinals of the NFL had been the “Cardiac Cards” in the 1970s. So I suggested “Cardiac Pack,” and we put that in the headline Monday morning.

cardiacpack

Needless to say, the name took off — The N&O was really powerful then — and you soon saw it on bumper stickers and T-shirts and even on commemorative Coke bottles.

What was interesting back then is how people around the Triangle were pulling for State. Even UNC students were caught up in it at the time, and lots of Carolina students came to Raleigh (including me) for the night of the championship game.

Thanks to N&O news researcher Brooke Cain for providing the image of this newspaper page.