Blue is just another word for sad
-Me, over and over again, while I beat my head against a wall
Here’s a question: when did we as a society start to think that our sturdy, boxy cars weren’t good enough, and that what we really needed were bubbly spaceships made out of plastic. Here, this is what will keep you safe: a multi-ton death machine built to crumble around you instead of protect you! When did we replace functional, metal bumpers with sheets of plastic that can’t withstand any contact with another vehicle?
I hit a car. I hit an unoccupied, perfectly still vehicle inside a parking garage before the UNC-ECU game. Name the one car you don’t want to hit if you have a choice and I hit it. I hit a Lexus SUV in a parking garage and I was naïve enough to think that nothing would happen in the game that could suck worse.
You experience a complex mélange of emotions when you hit a car and there’s no one in it. What you should do (leave a note, we are a society etc. honesty is the best policy etc. lying never helped anyone except for politicians and CEOs etc.) is in direct opposition to what you could do, which would be to just drive away. It’s less about getting away with having made a mistake, and more about being able to do things in a vacuum. Like being home sick from school but you start to feel better by the afternoon, and you can run around the house naked or play video games and it’s entirely up to you whether anyone finds out what you’ve done, bad or benign. Like existing in another universe for a hot minute.
I did the honorable thing, though, I left a note under a windshield wiper and I parked right next to the car, but if I had known the way the game would turn out I would have driven to another spot, and then past that spot, and then out of Chapel Hill, and then right into Jordan Lake.
During the third quarter, I found myself wondering what would happen if Larry Fedora did that, simply led the Tar Heels off of the field and out of the stadium, mid-play. The ECU team would have to leave too, right? What would happen? If I have the option of walking away from my own mistakes, can’t Bryn Renner also walk away from his car-crash playing? They didn’t, and I didn’t, and the worst part of sitting through the drubbing Carolina was handed was that I couldn’t leave early, because I had to find out how much it was going to cost me to fix this guy’s bumper.
So I sat there, and I bathed in the boozy arrogance coming off of the ECU fans around me (the folks behind me, I swear if I’d wanted to I could have lit their breath on fire). A guy stood up whenever the Pirates did anything remotely good, wearing an outfit he was way too old for, and just waved his arms, screaming. It was the worst.
The problems with UNC’s defense seem to be that they’re running some kind of made-up scheme, they aren’t fast enough to get to where they need to be, and when they finally do get to where they need to be they somehow don’t know how to tackle. (The problems with the offense seem made up: someone has stolen Renner’s ability to throw a football. Eric Ebron insists on dropping one easy pass a game, like it’s in his contract along with a bowl of green M&M’s. The two most promising freshman on the team are both receivers, one is three feet tall and the other is named Bug. Nothing makes sense and I hate everything. There’s holding on every single play.)
My favorite backyard football play was made up by a friend of mine, who called it “Leaves.” When you run Leaves, the receivers sprint as fast as they can down the field, then turn around and sprint back, and the quarterback hits whichever one is open. Any group of humans could run Leaves ten times against the Tar Heels and score on 5 of their tries. Logan Thomas has picked this defense apart as of a day before the writing of this. Brandon Connette will pick this defense apart. So will whoever plays quarterback for Pitt, so will whoever plays quarterback for Old Dominion. This seems like just reverse-jinxing but it’s actual, legitimate despair: UNC can’t beat Duke. Duke’s offense is too good for this defense to handle. That’s a real sentence I just typed.
This is what it’s like to love UNC football, which can’t love you back and will eat you alive. You spend 90 percent of the time worrying about everything going to Hell and the remaining 10 percent of the time in Hell. The worst I’ve ever felt as a sports fan was after the Duke basketball game in March. The mini-breakdown I had that night culminated with a mental rundown of all of my regrets while I listened to Celtic Woman sing “O Holy Night” and drank beer until I fell asleep. This ECU game was close.
It felt like an episode of the Twilight Zone. At one point, the announcer shamed a student after she missed on her first field goal attempt for free chicken biscuits for life or some such, by saying “come on, it’s military appreciation day,” as if to say “get it together, you slob. People are dying all over the world and you can’t even knock an extra point in? Do you hate America?” The hype video before the 4th quarter only serves to remind people that there was a time when UNC football players knew how to hit the opposing team hard enough to affect them or stop them in some way, an idea wholly foreign to the group we trot out every week. Inside my head, I kept screaming for Rod Sterling to come out of the shadows and explain to me what lesson I had just learned so I could turn the TV off. I wanted someone to tell me that there was no creature on the wing, but all I saw was that grown man in cargo shorts and a cowboy hat making elaborate and infuriating first-down gestures every single time a run up the middle resulted in a 15 yard gain for the Pirates.
What hurts the most is that this was supposed to be The Year. We had a proven quarterback and a year of the new system under our belt, and a stable of running backs that was supposed to be at least reliable in the absence of Saint Giovanni. An ACC schedule without Florida State or Clemson that peaked in difficulty with the first game and then dropped off considerably. Even the most jaded fan could have looked at that schedule at the beginning of the year and seen 9 wins. But then again this was also supposed to be the year when I was responsible enough to not hit a parked car.
So I sat there in the parking garage and waited for whoever drove the Lexus to come and see the silly wreckage I’d perpetrated on its bumper, and when he finally did he looked at me and said the only true thing we ever came up with as a civilization: ‘shit happens.’