If you don’t care about college basketball, stop reading now.
I mean it, stop.
Being emotionally invested in a sports team must seem like sheer lunacy to most people. I’ve seen people in movies (“Field of Dreams,” “Any Given Sunday”) and plays (“Take Me Out”) try to explain how you could possibly hinge your mood on the actions of a bunch of guys playing a sport hundreds of miles away, but they all fail unless you already believe it. I won’t explain here why I have loved the University of North Carolina Tar Heels since my formative teenage years (there are books already doing that anyway) but suffice to say I go through enough hormonal gymnastics during games to create several poltergeists. Sociologists note that spousal abuse rates skyrocket after each Super Bowl; while that makes me want to go beat the shit out of these guys, their pathology doesn’t surprise me.
Dean Smith, Carolina’s coach from 1961 to 1997, said “if you live or die by winning or losing, you’re going to do an awful lot of dying.” And he’s right, I’ve been doing a lot of dying lately. Today we played Maryland at their new arena, and while I had only dim hopes of victory (they’re ranked Top 20 nationally), I suspected we’d probably lose by eight. Into the second half, we were down sixteen. I went to the bathroom, and suddenly we were down by twenty-six. I told Tessa we would lose by thirty-five, and switched off the game in misery. Turns out we lost by forty.
To put that into perspective, it is our worst loss in 53 years. The last time we took an ass-whipping that hard, Harry Truman had just handed the reins over to Ike. To find a more dreary low for us, you have to go back to 1915, when Woodrow Fuckin’ Wilson was president, when the basketball was a laced-up hog stomach and the game was still played in a cage. That year, we lost to the mighty Lynchburg Elks by 43.
No doubt some kid wearing breeches and a detachable collar was really bummed out about that game. Perhaps he didn’t have the religion of basketball quite the same way I do, but for his memory and mine, I’d like to post a picture of Michael Jordan wearing the blue & white, to remind us of what once was, and what one day could be again.
Jordan in ’83