Countdown to Graduation
One senior scrambles to cram in all things Carolina before heading out into the real world.
It's had some time to settle in, but I still think there is no way I can do April 6, 2009 any justice in a blog post. That doesn't mean I won't try though!
As soon as I woke up Sunday morning, I couldn't think about much else but Monday night. The thought of the National Championship game consumed me, and to put it lightly, I was nervous. I had seen us implode last year in the Final Four, the memory was all too clear. It's true that we were better this year, more experienced and more focused. Michigan State had the best story. Hometown heroes in a struggling state beating the all powerful UNC had journalists salivating, I'm sure. But, what about my story? It's my senior year and I couldn't think of a better ending to my college career.
A group of us watched the game at my friend Christian's house, who actually lives right across the street from the Tyler, Bobby, Danny and Marcus. I thought that was a pretty good omen. Plus, it was only about a 10-minute walk to Franklin if for some reason after the game we felt the need to make that walk. We crammed about 20 people into Christian's living room and all tried to find our perfect seats with our perfect view of the game. I chose the floor and leaning on my friend Bryan's legs. Sure, the floor was no couch, but it was front and center with no one blocking my view. To calm my nerves before the game started, I continuously checked Bryan's blackberry for the score of the Cubs game. That kept me pretty happy since the Cubs were winning their first game of the season and my love for the Cubs is only surpassed by my love for the Tar Heels.
All in all, the actual game was probably the least interesting part of the evening. Of course I watched every second with bated breath and lost my voice yelling at the TV, but now that it's all said and done, we can all be honest. That game was over in the first five minutes. I was still on the edge of my seat (hypothetically), but in the back of my head I was making plans to hit Franklin St. by storm. I do have a couple of thoughts on the game because I know the actual game can get lost in all the celebration. First, in my humble and unbiased opinion, I think that Deon Thompson is the most improved player in all of the NCAA. His confidence and his shooting skills soared after last season and he was a big part of the win Monday night. I'll sing Danny Green's graces until I'm blue in the face, but I have to give props where they are due. I even started a couple of Deon-Thompson-for-MVP chants during the game. Also, when all of our five starters scored within ten possessions or so, I could almost feel my heart swelling up with pride. Tyler Hansbrough is the returning national player of the year and Ty Lawson is the best point guard in the country, but our team has always lived and died by a balanced attack and I don't think that could have been any more evident Monday night. There is just something about playing at Carolina that screams teamwork and this whole team deserved the championship, not just the stars.
We all jumped up and counted down the final seconds of the game. The jubilation in that room was insane, but I don't think anything could compare to Tyler's jumping up and down in the confetti. And it felt like I hugged everyone I knew that night, and some I didn't, but none of those hugs could compare to Tyler and Roy's embrace. We all spilled out the door to head to Franklin, then about six of us had the brilliant idea of sprinting to Franklin. Well, I had a roast beef sandwich and about five beers in me that weren't too happy with the idea, but I ignored that and raced off. After only taking one or two "oh my gosh I'm out of breath" breaks, we arrived on Franklin. I'm glad we sprinted there because we saw a pretty tame Franklin, as compared to the outrageous Franklin which was to come. As I was sprinting past a cop, he shouted after me and asked what was in my purse. I replied, out of breath, just a camera and a wallet. He then ushered me on. It did strike me as odd that he just took my word for it and didn't look. Let's just say I didn't necessarily feel that secure, but later as I was getting trampled by the masses of Carolina blue, I realized the cops were pretty much just there for decoration anyways.
It was only relatively calm for a couple of minutes, then the fires started and the people never stopped appearing. My friend Lorelle and I went in search of a fire to jump over. I found a small one that I thought I could handle and started my jump. It turns out, it's not the size of the fire that matters, or even the size of the jump, it's avoiding all the other jumpers who end up pushing you into the fire. Well, I guess you could call me a fire jumping novice, so I got a little burnt on my ankle. That was nothing compared to another girl I saw that fell flat on her back into the fire. Her shirt caught on fire, but she didn't even notice. She was still laughing and smiling as a bunch of guys tried to pat her back down. That scared me a little bit, so Lorelle and I went off to find our other friends. Well, that was easier said than done in a crowd of thousands of people all wearing the same color. We drifted around a bit, taking in the scene. Amidst the chaos, I would randomly see friends I hadn't seen in years who would pick me up and then we would scream together.
We finally found Heather and Bryan in front of Kidzu, and then tried to make our way to a less crowded part of the street. It was at this point in the night where I feared for my life. It was just one big mass of people all pushing back and forth and I could barely stand up straight. Bryan held on to my arm and wouldn't let go, so I joked with him that I have him to thank for my life. But, looking back on it, it probably wasn't too much of a joke. We finally made it to Columbia St. and breathed in the fresh air and basked in the coolness of the night. It was still crowded there, but we could at least walk. The next 30 minutes or so were spent trying to find the people I came with as well as running into other people I knew and screaming "go heels!" accompanied by a bear hug. I watched all the pole climbers and the crowd surfers with enjoyment, but heeded the chancellor's burn warnings and stayed to the side. After we finally found a good group of our friends, we were starting to get a little chilly and headed to Bub's (it seems to be becoming a tradition, one associated with winning). After finding some more people, and some more screaming, we played some foosball. Somehow 3 a.m. rolled around and Heather and I were shivering on a corner looking for a taxi. We finally got picked up by a nice guy who advised us to drink a lot of water, so we wouldn't have headaches in the morning. After cooking a couple of grilled cheeses, I went to sleep for about three hours.
I had a 7 a.m. wake up call, so I could go to work at Tarheel Bookstore. We had boxes and boxes of T-shirts coming in and were expecting a huge crowd. Though I was dead tired, working there was really a great end to the whole experience because I just kept reliving the game over and over again with all the customers and it was nice to be around so many people that were just as excited as me that the University of North Carolina men's basketball team were National Champions once again.
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