Hey y’all I’m verging on six months into my eight month adventure around the world. I know generally write about places I’ve been, but today I’m writing about the place where my heart and soul is.
I remember the day as clear as yesterday. (And no, I did not consume any alcohol yesterday, so cognitive function is firing on all cylinders.) The sky matched our jerseys perfectly. I mean we all know God is a Tar Heel fan right? Like the diamonds on our sides, a dream soon to be realized sparkled in our eyes. It was warm, birds chirping, by all accounts a perfect spring day. A day to spring forth into history. The air seemed to hang a bit lower so we could walk upon it. 2016 was the year. The year I was to graduate, a year that would be memorialized in the form of a banner to hang from the Dean Dome’s rafters until the Earth refuses to spin.
I had work that day. It was a pretty simple desk job with a lot of down time to let the mind wonder. For once, instead of Carolina, I had up and gone to Texas in my mind. The hours ticked by slower than those between December 24th and fifth, but finally the desk top’s dial read 5:00 and I was out of the office faster than you could say, “take flight.” Next stop, teeter for beer. The lines were longer than when the triangle’s predicted to get an inch of snow. The closer it got to tip off, the more the laws of physics seemed to deteriorate to the point time felt like it was standing still. Fingers impatiently drumming my case of Bud Lite, “why didn’t I do this last night!?”
After what felt like ages, I finally checked out and was on to the next stop, home. But this wouldn’t, shouldn’t, couldn’t be the last stop of the night, oh no. My house was a ten minute walk from Franklin, or an adrenaline-infused three minute sprint. All aboard the ship: my best friend and her roommate drove in from Greensboro, my big bro (and fellow alumni) plus his friends bravely fought the traffic to reach the heart of Chapel Hill, add in the roomies and there you have the gang. The night proceeded as you’d expect; beer pong before tip off and during half time, but during game time all eyes and energy was focused on the T.V.
The battle raged on. Second half. We were verging near the moment the clock was to reach double zero. At first it didn’t seem like it would come down to the wire, in fact it seemed like the hammer had already come down. We were down by ten, but you know what I love about them Tar Heels? When the pressures on, all bets are off. Like something out of a movie, the Heels put more and more points on the board, gap closing, mind racing. I remember lacing up my vans and thinking, “this is happening, I hope we remember to lock the lock after we all sprint out.” I didn’t realized I was actually preparing to ride the ultimate roller coaster.
Marcus Paige made the three. Less than five seconds to go. All tied up. This is it. We’re going to overtime. No way those cats can hang in OT.
We were going to paint the town blue, we were going to greet the rising sun with bottles of campaign. Couches were at the ready to be burned in the street. (Note: we weren’t actually planning on setting our couch ablaze. However, considering it had already seen better days nearly a decade ago it would have been nice to offer up an ottoman to Roy’s Boys, but that is neither here nor He’s Not Here.)
Less than five seconds to go. Suddenly all that time that refused to pass earlier in the day flew by in the blink of an eye.
Villanova makes a three. Times up, clocks’ run out, over. Shock, disbelief. Mourning till morning. I remember going to bed that night, tears staining my pillow wondering how long it will be until the pain goes away.
One year later. Nothing and everything is the same.
Today I’m still sporting my UNC blue, but I’m far from the 919. Today I am writing this from a cozy, little cafe in Brighton, England where outside the sky is grey and the air is giving everyone the cold shoulder. Today is the kind of day you want to spend in bed and sleep away, but today is not just any day. No, today is the 2017 NCAA finals. Once again the Heels have simultaneously busted and fulfilled brackets to make it back to center court. Today it’s Gonzaga that stands between us and the coveted title of, “National Champions.” Win or lose tomorrow is another day. Another day that life will go on. Another day that I will be proud to be a Tar Heel. Another day I will bleed blue, but if there is one thing today is not, it’s not a day for déjà vu.
If I had the money to buy a round trip ticket from Heathrow to RDU to watch tonight’s game in Chapel Hill, you ducking bet I would have after Saturday night’s match up against Oregon. Why? Because that’s how much I believe in my Heels. However, I’m still in the “struggling” phase of my writing career and it was much too late to start a go fund me, so beginning at 2:20am GMT I will watch the game on this side of the pond. My heart is sure to skip a beat every now and close call, but being a Heels fan is worth the years it takes off your life due to the anxiety. Hey, when I die, I’m a Tar Heel dead.
I’m sure Gonzaga is chomping at the bit for victory, but if those Bulldogs should keep one thing in mind, it’s that redemption is a dish best served hungry, and the Heels have been starving for a year. Like I said, nothing and everything is the same and a lot can change in a year.