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January 21, 2008DURHAM, N.C. - He's 22 years old, but Kenny George doesn't own a driver's license - and it's not because he can't merge onto a freeway or parallel park.
At 7-foot-7 and 360 pounds, George is too big to fit behind the wheel of a car.
When the UNC-Asheville basketball team goes on road trips, the local bus company removes two seats in the back so George can extend his legs. He has to sleep diagonally to fit into hotel beds, and in class George often sits on the floor because he can't squeeze into a chair.
Suffice to say, the next time someone leans their seat back on an airplane, I probably won't complain.
George, a Chicago native, may be the tallest player in the history of college basketball. And while it may seem cool to dunk without leaving your feet, the truth is that his situation isn't always that fun.
Especially when it comes to travel.
Imagine talking with a friend in an airport and being interrupted every few sentences by a fan wanting a picture. Or being stared and pointed at as you chew your food at a restaurant.
It really is tough not to feel for George. He's college basketball's bearded lady, and everyone, it seems, wants a peek.
"There are times," George has told reporters, "that I wish I weren't so tall."
More and more these days, the Bulldogs are becoming protective of their friend and teammate.
"I feel bad for him," guard K.J. Garland told the Associated Press. "You go into a restaurant and he's not normal. He can't enjoy a normal meal. I try to take up for him at times. I'll tell people to back off a little bit. He's done a tremendous job of dealing with it."
Being under the spotlight has caused George to become soft-spoken and shy. He doesn't enjoy doing interviews and tries to avoid discussions about his health.
Gigantism is a condition in which a tumor on the pituitary gland causes an oversecretion of growth hormone. Deceased pro wrestler Andre the Giant - who weighed more than 500 pounds - is one of the more notable athletes who was affected by gigantism.
Nike has designed a size 28 shoe just for George, who stands 7-9 in sneakers. Academic issues forced George to miss his freshman season, and he redshirted the following year because of knee problems.
After averaging just 11 minutes a game last year, George has blossomed into one of the top players for the 14-4 Bulldogs. Along with 12.4 points, George is averaging 8.8 rebounds and 4.6 blocks in only 20 minutes a game.
George's passions include graphic design and animation, and although he'd love a career in comic books and cartoons, he's hoping his future includes a stint in the NBA.
"Can he play in the NBA? Yes," Bulldogs coach Eddie Biedenbach told the AP. "Do I think he will? He's got to stay healthy. If he stays healthy for these two years, he'll play in the NBA."
Sizzlin'Memphis and Kansas - It's not far-fetched to think that both of these teams could finished the regular season undefeated.
Rob and Big - The new season is underway on MTV. Meaty and Mini-Horse have already made appearances, but still no sign of Bobby Light.
Texas Roadhouse - Becoming one of my favorite non-wing restaurants. Steak, ribs, salad and loaded tater for 15 bucks. And don't forget the peanuts and the rolls with cinnamon butter. There's a reason this place is always packed.
DeMarcus Nelson - In one of the biggest goof-ups of my career, I somehow left the Duke standout off of my midseason All-Senior Team last week. Dumb as that was, I felt like even more of a moron as I watched from courtside as Nelson dropped 24 on Clemson Saturday.
Tennessee Hoops - Two schools (Memphis and Tennessee) in the Top 10 and another (Vanderbilt) in the Top 25. Just another reason to visit one of the country's most underrated states. Rocco Russo - This guy e-mailed me and told me I would always be a wing fraud until I ate some bird in Buffalo. Hate to say it, but he's probably right. Luckily Rocco Russo - sorry, I just can't say the first name without the last - provided me with an extensive list of wing haunts for my trip there this spring. Now I need a tour guide.
WWE Royal Rumble - One of the year's top-grossing pay-per-views airs Sunday from Miami. Sean Michaels, Mick Foley, The Undertaker and Kane are great and all. But I'd love to see a surprise appearance by Kamala, just for old time's sake.
Torrie Wilson - Speaking of wrestling, you won't want to miss next week's Spicy Dish interview with the prettiest diva in the history of the WWE. Torrie couldn't have been any sweeter during our 25-minute chat, which included a discussion about her new business venture, Jaded.
Gary Williams - Maryland coach has defeated seven No. 1-ranked teams during his career, with the latest victory coming Saturday against North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
Lucky Dogs/Pinks - A few weeks ago I complained about size of the franks at the legendary Pink's Hot Dogs in Los Angeles. Although the toppings (bacon, chili, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, etc.) were tremendous, I felt like I was eating a Slim Jim on a bun. Luckily, I came up with a solution to this problem during a 3 a.m. trek back to my hotel from Bourbon Street.
After plowing though a few half-pound Lucky Dogs, I realized that Pink's needs to combine forces with the New Orleans chain. Meshing the creative concoctions at Pink's with the big wieners at Lucky Dog's would make for the world's best frank. Takeru Kobayashi would've met his match.
Goin' staleMichael Vick in Kansas - Vick has been transferred to Leavenworth prison, which is about 30 miles from my house. Suddenly my dog, Eddie, won't come out from under the bed.
Subway Smell - Thanks to Jared and the low-fat sandwiches's, I'll always be a fan. But every time someone leaves one of these joints their clothes end up reeking for the rest of the day. Seriously, what is that smell? Onions? Peppers? Bread? Ugh.
Southwest flight attendants who (try to) sing - Not that I'm a bitter person, but nothing grates on the nerves more than a flight attendant who mistakes the plane for a karaoke bar when she's on the intercom. Just hand me my peanuts, ma'am.
Eddie Sutton - Still think he's a good man, but returning to coaching (at San Francisco) just so he can get his 800th win is bad for his image and makes him look selfish.
Whataburger ketchup - Even one of the world's greatest fast-food places has a flaw. I'll eat my fries dry before I smother them with that nasty stuff.
Ohio State excuses - Spent most of the last 10 days being amused by the excuses I heard from Buckeyes fans about their team's 38-24 loss to LSU in the national title game. If we wouldn't have had five personal foul penalties, things may have been different. True, so next time, don't commit them. If we wouldn't have thrown two picks, we would've had a chance. True, so next time, don't throw them. We only lost by 14 points. How can you call that a blowout? I don't count touchdowns that are scored while the opposing coach is being doused with Gatorade.
Basketball in the Lone Star state - Texas loses to Missouri and squeaks by Colorado. Texas A&M gets embarrassed by Texas Tech and Kansas State. What's this? My alma mater, Baylor, is suddenly the class of the state? And people said we didn't belong in the Big 12. Ha!
This week's spicy dishIf you've read this column before, you know that Friday Night Lights ranks as one of my favorite all-time television shows - right up there with Melrose Place, The Jefferson's Gomer Pyle, WWE Raw, Alice and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
Still, every program has flaws, and I think I'm speaking for every FNL fan when I say "More Jana Kramer, please!"
Kramer, who joined the show this season, has done an excellent job in her role as Noelle Davenport, the significant other who also helped "advise" Smash during the recruiting process. Here's hoping her air-time expands.
As an actress, Kramer has proven she's more than capable of hanging with an extremely talented cast. And let's face it: She's the prettiest girl on a show that's already heavy in the hottie department with Minka Kelly, Adrianne Palicki, Aimee Teagarden and Connie Britton.
Kramer, 24, was nice enough to chat this week about Friday Night Lights, her love of athletics and her aspiring country band, Moonshine. Do yourself a favor and click here to listen to the songs "Montgomery" and "Burn It." If you're a country fan you wont' be disappointed.
KOTR: You grew up in Detroit but now you're in Los Angeles? What has that transition been like?
KOTR: What's the future of Friday Night Lights?
KOTR: What if the show eventually returns to television? Will you be back?
KOTR: What was your reaction when you were asked to join the FNL cast?
KOTR: The way it's shot?
KOTR: Any good stories about the cast?
KOTR: I know you're a huge sports fan - especially when it comes to your beloved Detroit Red Wings. But are you much of an athlete yourself?
KOTR: When did you give up figure skating?
KOTR: Would you ever want to be in sports movie?
KOTR: With Friday Night Lights on hold, what are you doing to keep busy?
KOTR: Tell me more about your band, Moonshine.
KOTR: Are you enjoying the LA scene? What do you do in your free time?
KOTR: Last question: Who has been the biggest influence on your acting and singing career and, since we like to talk about food here, name your favorite restaurants in Los Angeles, Austin and Detroit.
Table scrapsIf I can throw out my opinions each week then you certainly deserve to offer yours. From this point on, each King of the Road column will feature a Food Poll. The inaugural category: Best Fast Food Hamburger. Be sure to check back to view updated results.
Here are a few things I've enjoyed during my travels the last few weeks:
Sweet Tea at McDonald's - Maybe it's just a Mississippi thing, but it hit the spot when I was in Oxford.
Eggs Mexicana at Taco Cabana - Every college town should have a TC near its bar district. Their nachos, black bean burritos and fajita tacos are great, but there's something about scrambled eggs drizzled with cheese that tastes good on top of all those Miller Lites at 3 a.m. Or so I'm told.
Baked Cheetos - If you love chips - but are trying to cut calories - these are the way to go.
Chili's ranch - Order a cup of it with your chips and salsa.
General Tsao's Chicken - A staple of any trip to a Chinese buffet
May I suggesstA Kansas Citian is likely to go Gundy if you tell him the world's best barbeque resides in Texas. Others swear the meat to beat is in Memphis and North Carolina.
As for me, I'm an Oklahoma guy. I'm not about to claim that the Sooner State is elite when it comes to barbeque. But it does tout one of the country's best restaurants. On that, I'll bet the bank.
Now, I'd be tellin' a tall one if I said I discovered Leo's on my own. The truth is that I went there on a tip from Guy Fieri, who profiled the joint on his hit show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network. When I walked through the door I was greeted by a photograph of former Sooners and Dallas Cowboys coach Barry Switzer, who has made Leo's a regular stop for years. Another famous fan is Ice Cube, one of the great all-time rappers.
The top draw at Leo's is their pork ribs, so I was fully prepared to order a full slab of those bad boys when I sat down at my table.
But after scanning the menu - and realizing I probably wouldn't be back for awhile unless Bob Stoops quits calling on-sides kicks - I threw the waitress a curveball and ordered the Leo's special: brisket, hot links, fried bologna, potato salad, beans and, of course, three of their famous pork ribs.
I honestly hadn't come across a deal this good since I found a Mark McGwire's Olympic card for 25 cents at a garage sale nearly 20 years ago.
With so much buildup from Guy, I had to use my first bite on a rib. I used to think it was cheesy and staged when people like Rachael Ray made a face of ecstasy after chomping into a freshly cooked meal. But now I was having one of those moments, too. I literally put down my rib, made eye contact with the cook and gave him a thumbs-up. Then I looked back down at my plate and realized there were only two ribs there and not three.
"The other one is coming," the waitress told me. "He wanted to make sure it was juuuussssst right."
Now I understood Leo's motto: "We make our food with love."
Speaking of love, there isn't a better word to describe the rest of the grub I scarfed down that afternoon. The fried bologna was sliced into triangles and reminded me of the fried bologna and mayo sandwiches my dad used to make, except Leo's drains off the grease. Probably the best touch, though, was the piece of strawberry and banana white cake that comes free with each meal. Glazed lightly with frosting, it was the perfect ending to what may have been the single-best eating experience of my life. The following day I actually caught a later plane back to Kansas City so I could go back to Leo's. Hey, maybe that could be their new motto: "Leo's Barbeque: So good you'll change your flight."
Lord of the wingsThe people who say that everything is bigger in Texas must not have tried the wings at Angry Dog, which is known in the Dallas area for having some of the best hot wings in the city. At least that's what the usually-reliable food critics at the Dallas Observer have said time and time again over the past five or six years.
Honestly, I could walk up to a candy machine with a dollar in quarters and get more filled up than I did by eating 20 of those little suckers at the Angry Dog. These aren't chicken wings - they're chicklet wings. And that tears me apart considering everything else about this bar is so great.
It's been awhile, so things may have changed, but the best wings I've ever had in Dallas were at the Renaissance Hotel off of Interstate 35 near downtown. Been there three or four times, and Raoul, the cook, has always hooked me up. The wings at the Renaissance are among the hidden food gems of the city - right up there with the taco stand at Fuel Stop on Industrial Blvd. and the chicken fried steak at Prego's on Greenville Ave.
***P.S. - If you're keeping track, I've had some nice things to say about the wings at The Watering Hole in Lincoln, The Peanut in Kansas City and the Lazy Dog in Boulder. I love suggestions, so don't hesitate to pass along a tip or two.
Movie award resultsDuring our last visit we asked readers to cast their votes for the Sports Movie Awards. Thousands of you weighed in. Although it's not too late to participate in the poll, these are what I'll deem as the "official" results (first, second and third place only):
BEST SYMPATHETIC FIGURE
MOST MEMORABLE PLAY/MOMENT
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jason King is a college football and basketball writer for Yahoo! Sports. Send Jason a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.