A Pilgrimage Into a Sea of Orange

 Each week, contributor and new parent Joey will post his thoughts as he undergoes the transformation from fanboy to father.

Any time you learn about a major event in your life, there comes a relative shift in your planning around that event. Think about it: you either take some time off of work for a move, clear your calendar around the holidays, train for weeks before a half-marathon, etc. If there’s a big to-do coming, chances are you’re going to incur some transitional time on either side of it.

On November 6, I learned that we were expecting our first child. From that date forward, I began viewing the most trivial of things in a “last gasp” light. I’d imagine that for most guys, you feel this twice: before marriage, and before the birth of your first kid. For example: “This is the last time as a single guy that I’ll be able to drive to get Gas Station Sushi and a Yoo-Hoo in my gym shirt and flip-flops.” Or, “This is the last time my wife and I can skip town last-minute and spend three days following a Styx tribute band through Iowa.” In that vein, I had a fairly strong feeling that as those nine months fell off of the calendar, “Guy Weekends” would begin going the way of the Dodo.

Despite playing under a black could for 12 games, Carolina Football qualified for a bowl game last season, and got invited to Nashville for the Music City Bowl. Coincidentally, most of my buddies were also expecting kids in the very near future. Nashville isn’t that far of a trek, so it’d be a relatively easy trip for most people on the East Coast. It was settled: Smashville, Tennessee, would be the site of one of our last hurrahs before we’d trade in our golf clubs and days off for Gripewater and Diaper Genies. We’d all get to bond, rage like we were 22 again, and watch Carolina play some football against an SEC team.

Once the Bowl Bid was announced, the trip really planned itself. About ten of us total made the journey, all relishing the chance to see Carolina play a bowl game outside of Charlotte, but most of all, to be responsibly irresponsible one last time. Besides, after the unbelievable roller coaster the UNC squad had been on throughout the season, we were just jacked to be watching a holiday bowl game involving our boys. I guess I didn’t expect to get as much out of this Bro-time Swan Song as I did.

Even though I chronicled the entire trip for Tar Heel Monthly (UNC Rams’ Club mag), I don’t remember as many of the game details as readily as I usually had. I can’t readily recall the final score. I have no idea what time the game even started and ended. What do I remember? I remember telling my college roommate, who had just become a father himself 2 weeks prior, that we were expecting. I remember missing home much more than usual for a 2-night trip. I remember passing up the opportunity to buy an awesome pair of cowboy boots because I didn’t think it was a prudent purchase. Okay, so that last part may seem trivial to you, but it’s more indicative of an overarching theme: this football getaway was the first time I really began thinking with something bigger in mind. Holy perspective, Batman! I was starting to view things like a parent!

Ironically, the Zac Brown Band was performing in Nashville the night before the football game. We were in Nashville; why not see one of the hottest country stars around? A few of us went to catch the show.

“It was the pleasure of my life,
And I cherished every time.
And my whole world
It begins and ends with you
On that Highway 20 ride… ”

“Highway 20 Ride”, Zac Brown Band

The lyrics above are written from the point of view of a divorced father who regrets not being able to spend as much time with his son as he’d like, and he’s singing about the travel on his permitted visits to see his son. I don’t think it had anything to do with hearing the song live, but for some reason those lyrics did hit me like a perfectly timed blitz from the UNC linebacker with a similar name. They hung in my head for a little while longer than usual, and carried a meaning that really hadn’t registered with me before.

So with a Carolina/Tennessee football tilt set as the backdrop, I’d set out on a quest to get one more lap in with the boys. It just so happened that somewhere along that 72 hour bender of bourbon, Jack’s BBQ, overtime football and “Rocky Top” on repeat by the Tennessee marching band, I started to see my place in this world just a tad bit differently.

2010 Music City Bowl

From Scrimmage

About Joey

While I cannot say lifelong (thanks, Dad), I am a long-time Tar Heel fan, '01 UNC grad, and consider myself just as passionate and knowledgable as the next guy. My wife, also a UNC alum, and I recently became first-time parents. I'm going to attempt to chronicle my personal struggle to come to grips with going from mouth-breathing Fanboy to only-somewhat-crazy Fan-Dad. The thoughts I share in this space are my own...though they may be heavily influenced by a lack of sleep.
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One Response to A Pilgrimage Into a Sea of Orange

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  1. Tammy Patterson says:

    Good article Joey. So true that our thinking and what is important changes as soon as we have our little ones. I did learn that even though I now had to be responsible I still had to set aside some fun time for myself or I would go crazy.

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