It has been well documented that I am a fan of the University of North Carolina Tarheels. Of the 25 sports things to do before I die, 6 of them have to do with UNC. One item on this list is “Be present when UNC wins the NCAA Basketball Tourney.” Accomplishing this item will be one of the most difficult things to do because so much is out of my control: getting an impossible ticket, Carolina winning all the games to get to the final game, pulling it out in the end, etc. But I got a close second last weekend.
My best friend Lydia works in corporate land and is good at what she does. As acknowledgement for being one of the top sales people in the state, her company gave her tickets to first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament, being held in Charlotte, NC. For the first round, she took her husband and saw Carolina play (and win) against Long Island State on Friday. As one of the biggest UNC fans she knows, she invited me to see Sunday’s game against Washington and I immediately agreed, completely ignoring the fact that I was supposed to pick Alex up from the airport on Sunday. Other arrangements could be made-this was UNC in the NCAA Tourney!
Now, that would be enough. If the tickets were in the nosebleeds and I had to pay significant money to get them, I would still be excited. But these seats were not in the rafters. These babies were third row, center court (behind the media, not behind the players’ benches). When the camera panned the length of the court following the action, if I threw my arms up or stood up, I was on TV. Clark Kellogg and Jim Nantz were right there.
Apparently the “Haves” really do have it better than the “Have Nots.” We had our own special bathroom area-I never had to wait in line. The seats were huge, padded and comfortable, and with copious leg room. When someone passed by, they could literally walk past without you standing up or getting toes stepped on.
The trip down Sunday morning went smoothly, we drove into downtown Charlotte with very little traffic, found affordable parking right across from the Time Warner Cable Arena and had plenty of time to settle into our seats before the game. From the start of the game, it was quickly seen that it wasn’t going to be easy. Washington was aggressive and seemingly made every shot they put up. We lacked offensive rebounds and a couple of our players were having off games.
At halftime Washington was up 45-44; it had been tight all first half and continued to be close throughout the second. During the entire game, the atmosphere in the arena had been electric-no “wine and cheese” crowd here. Washington fans, whose home section was just to our left, were very loud and energetic. Compounded with the large contingent of Duke fans also present awaiting the second game, Carolina didn’t necessarily have the home field advantage in an arena practically in our own backyard.
I’ve never been more into a game in my life. I was light headed from screaming, I was visibly sweating under my arms, and I had a nervous knot in my stomach for the last few minutes of the game. At a certain point, I had to apologize to the poor woman next to me as I’m sure she was deaf by the constant yelling and a bit scared by the gibberish coming out of my mouth. We took it down to the wire but pulled it out in the end.
I had seen UNC win at a NCAA Tournament game, sending them to the Sweet 16 in fabulous Newark, New Jersey, the murder capital of the Northeast. As of today, they’re in the Elite 8, soundly taking care of Marquette last night.
We stayed for the next game, which was Duke v. Michigan. Lydia is an Ohio State fan so as such, was anti-Michigan. As Duke is the Montagues to UNC’s Capulets (or the Hatfields to our McCoys since we ARE in the South), I was cheering against Duke. So I’m sure our cheers just canceled each other out. Most UNC fans stayed to cheer against Duke. Some didn’t-the people next to me were UNC fans but cheered for Duke out of ACC loyalty, which I get. I’m an ACC loyalist but I draw the line at Duke. But the atmosphere was nowhere near what it was for the first game. Michigan fans showed up in fine form but I think the Washington fans were more engaged. I personally was exhausted and mostly just sat and watched the game, which is what it seemed most others were doing. I didn’t really get into the game until the final minutes when Michigan started to give Duke some serious trouble.
Unfortunately, DOOK is back in Durham tonight, having lost in the Sweet 16 against Arizona Thursday. Sad.
It was a day I will tell my children about. The only thing that could have made it any better would be if Duke had lost but I’ll take it just as it is.
I don’t know if I can go back to the nosebleeds after this.
What’s the best “score” you’ve gotten? Front row seats at a concert? Upgrade to First Class? VIP Penthouse in Vegas?