Basketball Won’t Go Away

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

You probably saw the title of this post, and immediately began an inner-monologue, railing against me and what I stand for: “What in the hell is he thinking? I’ve waited since late spring for hoops to return. The NBA is locked-out, but I’ve finally got college ball to watch, and now this clown wants it to leave?!? What the…”  Just bear with me.

I’ve never said it in this space, but I won’t try to influence my daughter’s fandom. I’ll let her pick her allegiances on her own if/when she ever decides to do so. That said, she’s going to have a hard time ignoring the looming presence that Carolina basketball has had on her life, even before she took her first breath.

I’ve never been very close to the program. I’ve known folks who worked for the team. I’ve been lucky enough through various avenues in my life to have some access to the program. But, for a guy who for the most part, is just a rabid fan of Carolina Basketball, the nuance that has permeated my young adulthood/marriage/early fatherhood is pretty curious. No, I didn’t get to name her Raysheed McHarrisonbrough, but somehow, my personal road has intersected with Carolina hoops in some quite ironic ways. A few examples, if I may: 

My first date with my wife was the night of March 19, 2006. Tar Heel fans may recall that date brought one of the more painful and unexpected losses in Carolina Basketball history: George Mason defeated an upstart and overachieving Tar Heel team that included a freshman Tyler Hansbrough, on the way to a Final Four appearance. I like to think I did a good enough job avoiding thinking about that loss to at least be a decent date.

In the early part of the 2007 season, I was prepared to go to Las Vegas to see the Heels play in the Las Vegas Invitational. I bought tickets and a flight pretty early, and had booked a hotel to meet a group of buddies from college out there. I kept those plans for about 2 months before realizing that I was instead going have to cancel them to buy a piece of jewelry. (Note to daughter: always remember that Dad thought your mom was better than a week of gambling and wins over Old Dominion and BYU.) No worries, I thought, there’d be a chance next year to travel to some neat locale to see the Heels play in person…

…and it just so happened that Carolina was in the field for the 2008 Maui Invitational. A few couples we are close with had also decided they’d make this trip. They rented a house on the beach. A November getaway in paradise, with some Tar Heel basketball would be awesome. Only my bride-to-be and I reluctantly stayed home, planned and saved for our wedding.

Fast-foward a couple of months to February, 2009. We got married on Saturday, the 7th. You may not remember, but Carolina played UVA at home that day. You may remember that they held a halftime ceremony to honor those associated with the program who were members of the Naismith Hall of Fame. Among those mingling with our guests in the lobby of the Carolina Inn before/after the ceremony? Names like Smith, Guthridge, Worthy, McAdoo, etc.

Best Wedding Photo Ever?

And finally, somehow my wife went through 4 years at UNC, and an additional 7 living in Durham/Chapel Hill, and never went to a Carolina/Duke game in the Smith Center. My good husband deed for the year last season, was to get her in to see Senior Night, which saw the Heels take an 81-67 win. Also in tow for that game? A daughter who did somersaults  inside my wife’s belly the entire 2 hours, undoubtedly thrilled with a Carolina victory.

So, as the 2011-2012 campaign kicked off last Friday on board a freaking aircraft carrier(!!!), I reflected on what good feelings Carolina Basketball bears for me, and the seemingly ever-present but non-intrusive way it’s paralleled my recent coming of age. It’s now intertwined into the fabric of my family, too: Win or lose, even something as simple as watching a game has taken on so much more meaning for me. I also thought about the years ahead, and hopefully, the hundreds of games I’ll get to watch with my new game-viewing buddy. Even though this first season may not be too entertaining for her, it’ll be a blast for me. And while I won’t tell her who to root for, let’s hope that in our house, she just follows the crowd for a little while.

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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