Today’s lunch links will, to everyone’s relief no doubt, feature a brief break in the play-by-play descriptions of the ongoing meltdown over at the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Instead, we’ll focus on something a heck of a lot less depressing (at least some of the time that is): sports in North Carolina. In case you lost track and were wondering, however, after eight-plus months in control, the scoring line for the new HHS departmental leadership is: Zero runs, zero hits and umpteen errors.
Speaking of impressive scoring lines, how about those Durham Bulls? After last night’s come-from-behind 2-1 win  over those dirty, no good (and defending champion) Pawtucket Red Sox, our local boys are just two wins away from snagging the franchise’s fourth Governor’s Cup (as champions of the Triple A International League) in the past 12 seasons. Unfortunately, the Bulls’ big league brothers, the Tampa Bay Rays, continue to slide  and may not make the A.L. playoffs.
And speaking of troubling slides, is there anyone that can watch and truly enjoy big time college football anymore without experiencing a powerful sense that the whole thing has become an absurd cesspool of exploitation, deceit and corruption? The latest case-in-point, of course, is the big new series in Sports Illustrated documenting the abuses at Oklahoma State University . And if you’re wondering about the North Carolina connections to the story, today’s News & Observer reports  that UNC head coach Larry Fedora – a former assistant at OSU – finds the entire matter ”shocking.” Let’s hope fervently that, after all UNC has gone through of late, this isn’t a matter of Fedora channeling Claude Rains .
And speaking of worrisome developments (and of sports with more than a few players named Claude), the Carolina Hurricanes are getting ready to start the 2013-14 NHL season in just a few weeks. Unfortunately, the off- and pre-season news has not been overly encouraging. Not only have the Canes been deposited in a killer division in a killer conference as a result of league realignment, but they’ll also have to cope with the sudden loss of two team fixtures: stalwart defenseman (or “defenceman” as they say north of the border) Joni Pitkanen  and long-time front office inhabitant Jason Karmanos  – who, weirdly enough, got canned by his dad, team owner Peter Karmanos.
What is it about North Carolina millionaire sports team owners and their kids? Things have not gone well for Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson and his sons  either.
Finally, on a much, much more cheerful sports note, Triangle-area athletes (both serious and casual) should start dusting off their bicycles for a fun and important fundraiser coming up on Saturday October 5. The Cycle for Hope  raises money to support an amazing anti-homelessness nonprofit in Raleigh known as the Hope Center at Pullen . There is room for cyclists, non-cyclists, kids, seniors and just about anyone with a heart to participate. Click here for more information .