1,600 Miles Away

Born and raised in Colorado Springs, I am very familiar with transplants from other states.  We didn’t like them.  We were proud to be from Colorado and upset that anyone had the gall to think they could just move to Colorado.  There were bumper stickers proclaiming “Native” just so that everyone driving around you knew that this traffic issue wasn’t your fault; they closely resembled the “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted For …” monstrosities (coming soon to devastated drivers/voters near you!)

I understand why I’ve been called a front-runner for the better part of 17 years.  Growing up 1600 miles away from Chapel Hill still causes people to question why I would be a Tar Heel fan, and how dare I cheer for basketball royalty so far away when the scrappy teams around me were playing in front of empty seats?!

Name the last time the University of Colorado had a captivating basketball team.  Or Colorado State University.  Or, how about my hometown squad, the Air Force Falcons. Answers: don’t know, don’t care, Jeff Bdzelik’s (!!!) squads.

The point being that there wasn’t much local basketball being played well or watched in droves.  If I wanted to watch good basketball, I gravitated towards the Saturday broadcasts on CBS and other nationally televised games, all culminating in what was becoming my favorite 3 weeks of my young life: March Madness.

I probably did start as a front runner.  All kids do.

 I can’t remember the very first time I cheered for the Tar Heels, but I know it was sometime around my 11th birthday.  I can’t rattle off all 1997’s starting five, but I know the first time I was enthralled by the team: 2000’s run to the Final Four as an 8 seed and it was magical.  I was hooked.  I loved that team.

Then I earned my stripes with Doh.  Doh vetted me and made me feel like a real fan, loss after loss, embarrassment after embarrassment.

Around the end of Doh, I went off to college and got an up-close feel for what real passion for a college squad is like.  My first stop was a small town in Nebraska and I learned what passion looked like in football just like Jamaal Lord learned: through vociferous boos directed at Jamaal Lord.  After I trasnferred to a small college in Missouri, and married into a family of huge KU fans, I learned what a college blue blood looked like up close when watching the Jayhawks play in the Phog.

My wife took me to Chapel Hill in early 2011 for a Tar Heel game and brought my passion education full circle in the process.  It was the best Christmas present ever.  The highlights included Kendall replacing Some Other Kid in the starting lineup and a victory over Clemson.

However, the tour around the campus taught me the most.  I was chided for not knowing where the argyle came from in the unis.  I heard superiority drip from our tour guide’s lips when he spoke of State and hatred spill out as he described Duke.  Just like my stops in Nebraska and Missouri, that tour shed light on what I missed growing up in Colorado.

I’m especially excited for this season, though not for basketball reasons.  This year’s squad could be great or middle of the road or, if everything falls apart, terrible.  All of that factors into fandom and is a part of our experience. The excitement this year stems from feeling more a part of the Carolina fan base than ever.  Regional alliances will always provide the strongest connections, but we live in a time where you can follow a team several thousand miles away and follow them well.

Want to watch all of the games?  Thanks FullCourt and illegal internet streams!

Want to feel close to the players? Thanks twitter! (@DaBully35: “I want a french bulldog, anyone selling or know somebody to refer me to?”)

Want to talk smack and feel like an integral part of the bad blood during rivalry weeks?  Thanks message boards and trolls! (#specialshoutout @TheDevilWolf, King of Trolls)

Our kids will grow up in this new world and cheer for the flavor of the week just like kids have always done.  People have never had to grow up around a “football school” to love the Tide or suffer with Irish.  We have never had to hail from a basketball hotbed to appreciate Roy’s uptempo style and take naps during the first 3o minutes of Big Ten games.  The difference now is that we can choose a team, stick with them, and feel like a part of the region, a part of the fan base.  We can just about fit in with the folks from the Triangle (the actual Triangle, not UK, UL, and IU) and can passably feign belonging to their passionate fanbases. The availability of knowledge and information can make fanatics out of us all and for that reason alone, I can’t wait for the season to officially tip off, overreact after every Heels game, good or bad, and start trolling rival fans after their first loss.

I’ll always be the kid from Colorado who drove around with a “Native” bumper sticker, glaring passive-aggressively at the folks from California and Texas, but now I’ll be the guy with the ‘Sheed avatar, taking passive-aggressive shots at Duke and State fans.

Happy College Basketball Season!

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2 Responses to 1,600 Miles Away

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  1. sircyclops says:

    I dunno, man. I guess I don’t really understand why people root for teams they have no personal/geographic connection to. Stick to the teams in your back yard, I say. Duke and Carolina is an ESPN bonanza so everyone across the country gets a taste, but you don’t really get it if you aren’t from here. Being a Carolina bandwagoner is about the easiest thing you can do. Same with rooting from afar for Duke, really, but everyone “hates” Duke now not that anyone really cares in Colorado anyway cuz its all about the Broncos and snowboarding and legal pot, or whatever y’all do out there.

    I’m old enough to have experienced the glory years of the late-80s and early 90s in person (in Durham), and what made it awesome wasn’t just that they won titles, but how many times the Devils came up short (or got their asses handed to them) before finally winning it all. Its objectively easy to be a Duke fan anywhere I guess, but the thing is that living here (the Triangle) you have to deal with loud mouth Carolina fans all the time, and there isn’t, shall we say, the same population of Devils fans, so you better be ready to talk shit 5 to 1 if you’re out and about and come clean with the fact that one of the greatest nights of your life was “82-50.” I mean, look at your editor here, he knows that being a Duke grad/fan is basically uncool (especially in Carrboro), so he dresses down his articles with passive-aggressive barbs at the Devils or describes his fandom as “complicated” or something so as to (I suppose) gain acceptance from all the snarky pricks in the local and national media who make their living writing about the exploits of jocks and the outsized population of smug Heels fans who run shit around there.

    Sorry to be a dick, but when I hear of Heels fans in Colorado, it reminds me of all the bozos I see with NC plates and their cars covered in Yankees or Steelers stickers (Steeler Nation cannot possibly be that thick down here). Now if you had been a State fan from afar I’d have given you some props, cuz everyone knows that those guys are the only real fans around these parts. But who bandwagons perpetually mediocre teams?

  2. So, in order to argue my point that fandom is now more of a subjective experience than ever due to the abundance of information along with bantering back and forth between fanbases on the Internet, you give subjective evidence while arguing with me on the Internet?

    Furthermore, of course I was a bandwagon fan to start. Every kid is. Teams that are on TV and winning always snag the coveted 7-12 year old demographic. But my counter would be that it hasn’t been awesome being a Heels fan that whole time. I can’t argue back as far as you due to my youth, but Doh being Doh, the struggles of 2010, and all manor of small freak outs make me feel a part of the fan base. I’d be no more of a fan if I moved to The Triangle than if I moved to Alaska. To assert that fandom can only be directly tied to geography is silly. What if I moved there at 14? Too late? Just right? What about 7? Then I’m good? Do I have to cheer for Mizzou now that I live in their backyard?

    As far as I’m concerned, picking a team, sticking with them, and following them closely year and year out will make anyone more of a fan than their address, childhood or otherwise. Go Heels.

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