It’s that time of year. Here in North Carolina, we are all in the “eat, breathe, sleep, dream, and talk about nothing but basketball” zone that overtakes our state like clockwork every March. To call it an obsession is no exaggeration at all. We’re hoops mad all the time but once the tournament begins, we get even crazier. Forget Easter or spring fever, for now it’s all hoops, all the time.
My team is the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, known affectionately as “the Heels.” The typical conversation starter these days is “How ‘bout those Heels?” and I hear that at work, in the grocery store, at the dentist, and from both friends and strangers pretty much everywhere I go. People carry their brackets around with them everywhere, and we compare notes about who we picked. I'm starting to get emails from old college buddies who want to talk about our chances. We pull out old “good luck” clothes or charms that helped us win previous championships in 1957 or 1982 or 1993 or 2005 and do various other things to try to please and appease the hoops gods (I have a very tattered but very lucky pompom that I build a shrine for).
I’m cautiously optimistic about our chances this year. We’re ranked Number One in the country, have the best player in the nation, have healed from some mid-season injuries, and are playing very very well. But winning it all in a “one-and-done” tournament like the NCAA is very difficult, and it only takes one giant killer playing the game of his life to knock a better team out. So while I’m trying to take it one game at a time (survive and advance), I can’t help but smile when I think about cutting the nets down on April 7. We’ll see what happens.
Here are a few photos. First is my nephew scoring a basket at the recently opened Carolina Basketball Museum. See all that light blue? That’s Carolina blue! One of our fight songs goes, “I’m Tar Heel born and I’m Tar Heel bred and when I die, I’ll be Tar Heel dead” and my nephews are being “bred” to carry on the tradition, just like my brother and I were.
Our star player was recently named National Player of the Year by Sports Illustrated. Some folks are concerned about an alleged SI cover jinx, but not me. I’m superstitious about other things but not that, and I’m happy for Tyler (aka Psycho T, what a cool nickname!).
The greatest player of all time (who started his amazing career as a Tar Heel) kissing our beloved retired coach Dean Smith. I’ll never forget the first national championship in my lifetime (1982). I was in college, and the Heels were playing Georgetown in the finals. The game was very close and nerve-wracking and then a skinny freshman player named Mike Jordan hit the jumper that put us ahead, and a star was born and the Heels won it all!