Countdown to Graduation
One senior scrambles to cram in all things Carolina before heading out into the real world.
Last Sunday was my self-proclaimed senior night. I guess some guys named Tyler, Danny and Bobby joined in on my fun, and I'm okay with that. Finally, after three years of watching the best game of the season on TV, I was in the Dean Dome for UNC v. Duke. And not just there, I had some pretty sweet seats, lower level 10 or so rows up from the risers. At first, I was frustrated with the game being during Spring Break. I had plans to go to Spain, and I could have left a couple of days earlier if it wasn't for the game. I even wondered if I should have just skipped the game altogether, but after being there, I know I would not have wanted to miss it for anything.
I was so preoccupied with my Spring Break plans and getting everything prepared, that I didn't even realize the game was at 4 p.m. I just assumed it would be at 9 because of its primetime matchup. Because of my inattention to detail, I had agreed to work until 3 that day at Tarheel Bookstore. Luckily for me, they understood that was just no longer a possibility and agreed to let me leave earlier. To be honest, I was kind of hoping they wouldn't need me to come in at all because I had stayed up pretty late the night before watching hilarious HBO shows with my friend Ryan in addition to losing an hour to daylight saving time. But, apparently they just can't keep the store running without me (I kid.) It turned out to be just the thing I needed to boost my excitement. The store was packed from the time I got there at 11 to when I left at 1. Franklin St. was full of fans clad head to toe in Carolina blue, and everyone was in a great mood. I joked and talked about the game with customers, and even had some legitimate basketball conversations with fans brought on by my #14 North Carolina basketball shirt I was wearing. Turns out I'm not the only one who thinks Danny Green is THE man. Unfortunately, I got my shirt at Roses not at Tarheel Bookstore which is really not the most business savvy move on my part.
My friend Cathy has a parking pass in Craige Deck which was absolutely amazing considering it was about 80 degrees outside and that walk to the Dean Dome might have left me looking a little tattered for my senior night. I'm also about 93 percent sure I saw Jeff Reed of the Superbowl winning Pittsburgh Steelers walking across Franklin St recognizable with his current haircut of spiky bleach blonde hair. Unfortunately I don't have many friends who know who Jeff Reed is so I couldn't share my excitement. Cathy, Katie, David (Katie's boyfriend) and I got to the Smith Center and only had to wait in the Natatorium for about thirty minutes before heading inside where we then waited for another two hours for the game to start. I didn't mind the waiting, this was my last game as a student viewer in the Dean Dome and I was going to bask in every second of it. We did the requisite Duke booing and UNC cheering during the warm-ups. Can I just mention one more time how much I HATE Duke? This was the first time I'd seen their unfortunate faces in person and I have to say my hate only worsened.
What's funny though is that once the game started, it honestly didn't feel much different than any other game I'd attended against any other ACC school. I can't say I cheered harder than I would have or wanted to win more than usual. It was a great game though, and those who know me know this is hard for me to admit, but I really think Bobby Frasor was the unsung hero of that game. His charge and forced jump ball were the crucial moments of the game, with Tyler's three pointers coming in at a close second.
Once the game ended, the reality of the situation really hit me. This was the last time I'd see one of the greatest college basketball players ever Tyler Hansbrough and the other seniors play. I've always realized how lucky I was to go to UNC and have the opportunity to see legends in action, but I never really thought about when that time would be over. The team cut off the net as ACC Champions and while that was cool to see, I feel like it might have taken 20 more minutes than I would have liked. I was waiting for the ball boys to get up there next.
After the net cutting was what I was really looking forward to, the senior speeches. For some reason no one asked me to speak, maybe they are waiting until my graduation. First came the walk ons. I thought it was cute how a lot of them included their girlfriends or fiancés, but thought it set a precedent where all must include their significant others or be forced to deal with the consequences. Mike Copeland's speech wasn't as funny as I expected it to be because he's such a joker. Bobby's was right on target like everything he's said as a Tar Heel. He can always be expected to be an eloquent and appropriate voice for the team. Danny's was the real tear jerker for me. He's improved so much over the years to become one of the best college basketball players in the country. I also kept waiting for him to bust out a dance in the Dean Dome one last time and I wasn't disappointed.
Then, came Tyler's tear filled goodbye. I'm definitely appreciative of a man who can express his feelings and even cry once in a while, but it also kind of felt like I was a part of a really personal moment that maybe I shouldn't have been a part of. It's kind of hard to explain, but maybe that's the point. Maybe I am supposed to be a part of it as a member of the UNC family. He felt comfortable enough with the whole UNC fan base to cry in front of thousands of people because of everything he's meant to us and we've meant to him throughout the last four years. Needless to say, I wasn't embarrassed to have tears wet my cheeks at the same time.
Rushing Franklin St. was kind of a moot point by then because it was almost an hour after the game was over and I was in reflective mood as a soon to be graduated senior saying goodbye to the Dean Dome just like the guys in uniform. Though I do love rushing Franklin St. and the excitement that comes along with it, I think it was a fitting way for it all to end. I left the Smith Center in a somber mood because it was like saying goodbye to a good friend, a gesture I will be sure to get used to in the coming months. I'm sure I'll be back, but never as a carefree student who really does think that beating Duke is the most important thing in the world. My love for UNC basketball is not likely to subside no matter what I have going on in the so called "real world" and I doubt my hate for Duke will lose much of its intensity either.
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