Tuesday, April 7, 2009

God Must Have Been a Tar Heel Fan...

Last night the University of North Carolina defeated the Michigan State Spartans 89-72 in the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship. I had guessed the final score at a BBQ on the rooftop of my BBQ the afternoon before after I had seen UNC take care of Villanova handily on Saturday Night. There is Danny Green up there front and center, Ty Lawson tucked away in the right corner and Roy Williams looking at Danny, smiling and thinking "Daggumit, Danny, after all these years of dealing with your reckless talent and sometimes out of control shots it sure feels good to have this title." What this shot doesn't have in it is Tyler Hansbrough who has become one of the most storied basketball players in NCAA history. Hansbrough will probably not go on to become an amazing pro; he doesn't have a singular skill set. However, he's got strength and he's got an amazing work ethic and if he is drafted to a decent team and fit into a rotation he will definitely provide a surprise contribution and boost off the bench in his rookie season in the NBA.

Also in this picture we don't see Wayne Ellington (my favorite player on this team) Deon Thompson and Ed Davis. These three, along with the three players mentioned above will all be playing in the NBA either next year or in the next year or two after that. It is amazing that this team will have six future pros. The last UNC championship team contributed four future pros: Rashad McCants (who I am still hoping will showcase his talents, seen above #32), Raymond Felton (solid), Sean May (injuries), and Marvin Williams (emerging on a good Hawks team).

This 2009 UNC team has been one of my favorites of all time. I have watched many of these guys (the seniors really) closely since their freshman season in 2005-2006. That year they had ramshackle team with only a handful of players leftover from their championship team in 2005, namely Rayshawn Terry and David Noel (solid roleplayers who had great years). That team had a disappointing second round exit to the 2006 Cinderella George Mason. The next year, my senior year of college I watched as UNC really hit their stride. They had a highly touted recruiting class with Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Deon Thompson. Hansbrough had truly become a national story as a sophmore, Green was talented off the bench and Rayshawn Terry had a sweet three point touch and senior leadership. However, as I did my radio show on a Sunday evening in March 2007 (heartbroken for another reason at the time) my heart only broke even more as I was forced to watch on the CBSSportsline.com as North Carolina choked away their regional final to Georgetown in overtime. I am still convinced North Carolina would have beaten Ohio State and then Florida in that Final Four. Last year, my father and I went to the Final Four in San Antonio with the hope of seeing UNC in the final game. Alas, they put up one of the most puzzling performances in sports history against Kansas in the National Semifinal and were gone. My dream of seeing a championship in person ruined.

This year the four was in Detroit, my dad and I decided to skip it. This year UNC was hailed as unbeatable before the season. With all their starters coming back and the top recruiting class in the country. But as this team has been wont to do the past 3 years, they got lazy and played erraticly, relying on their impressive talent to pull the wins in when sometimes defense and serious heart was needed. However, they pulled it together this past March and played like that unbeatable team everyone forecasted and brought home the 5th title for UNC.

For me, I have been a UNC fan since 1993 when I was seven years old. My dad took me, a burgeoning sports fan, to the sweet sixteen in East Rutherford, NJ. We arrived at the game and saw Cincinnati defeat Virginia. When the game was over, I was ready to go. That was when my dad blew my mind by telling me there was a second game. The second game saw UNC defeat Arkansas (who I hated for the 1994 and 1995 Corliss Williamson glory years). That night I became a die hard UNC fan because they stood for the good of basketball, seeing multiple games in one day at one venue. The beauty of the NCAA tournament. A week later on a Monday night my mom let me stay up late and watch the game at the next door neighbors house. While my dad and the other neighborhood dads drank beer and I got to eat chicken wings and stay up to midnight, Chris Webber called timeout when there were none remaining. UNC iced the free throws and won Dean Smith his second national championship. My fandom was cemented (hey little kids can get away with being frontrunners). I rode the glory years and underachievement of the 90's with future NBA stars like Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace, Antwain Jamison, and Vince Carter and even enjoyed more subtle players like Adema Okulaja, Dante Calabria, Serge Zwicker and even cult players like nasty point guard/Tupac lookalike Ed Cota.

Each season dug me deeper into the rich Carolina history. I learned easy lore like the 1982 team and their epic lineup. How a play drawn up for an earnest freshman started the career of the best player to ever play the game of basketball. I even learned about less heralded eras of UNC such as the Hubert Davis and Rick Fox years of the late 80's and early 90's. I stuck through the down years of Doherty (not a great coach but ended up as a pretty damn good recruiter). And here we are again. We have the glory once more. This is the Roy Williams era. We have the title from 2005 in one of the greatest NCAA Championship games of all time against Illinois (seriously, watch it again if you have NetFlix and 60 beers to kill to yourself). Now, we have the 2009 championship. The icing on the cake for one of the most talented teams of all time. Many of these players will be gone from Chapel Hill come late June when the draft rolls around. However, we still have Ed Davis(will be legendary), Tyler Zeller, Larry Drew III, Marcus Ginyard and the nation's number one recruiting class once more.

God must have been a Tar Heel fan because he made the sky Carolina blue.

Now for the literary side of things. The next installment of "From Here to the Last Mound of Dirt."


“Jake, its good to see you again.”

“Seeing you is like a shadow.”

“A shadow?”

“A mystery you mysterious woman of the lens.”

“I think you would’ve liked my mom.”

“Did you ever tell her about the ring?”


“I suppose that makes sense.”

He’s growing a beard I think. He has on a trench coat, or is it a pea coat? It’s dark anyway and it has a nice collar and big buttons on it. It makes him look like a man, which he is and always was. The one who gave me my first real orgasm anyway so that has to mean something. At least it does to most girls.

“Are you growing a beard?”

“Am I?”

“I don’t know if you are.”

“What do you want by bringing me here?”

“I don’t know. I think just you and your shadow beard.”

“Well you have it it looks like.”

He turns away from me and walks up along the grass past the other graves and stones. He walks past flapping flags stuck in the dirt and among the green blades. There are flowers too. Red, pink, purple, blue, yellow. The yellows are vivid. I’m not sure if it’s sunny or gray. He’s walking, his coat flapping and hitting his thighs. He looks back at me.

I walk towards him in the sun. Or is it gray?

The rain is falling against my bedroom window. How many days did I look out at the rain? It’s somewhat pathetic to look out at it and wish for things that could’ve been or should’ve been or maybe might be. But you do it when you’re younger. You can’t avoid it because that’s what adolescence is all about – dreams, dreaming and angst. Well, usually that and headphones, Led Zeppelin and pot. How I sat here in high school thinking about whoever my crush was at the time. I even kept a journal too, a running high school social commentary. I can picture my teenage self. I see her with her hair cut short in some sort of feminine rebellion. I can see her little stash of weed in the bottom desk drawer hidden behind old magazines and a small knitting set that was supposed to be a school project. I want to taunt her and her love of boys’ names. Mike, Johnny, Jordan, Blake. Which one do you love the most? Which one do you think you love the most? What are you looking for? And I can see her shrugging at me from my vantage point with my questions. She’s slipping on the headphones with the ripped pad on the right one. I can’t hear what she’s listening to, it’s muffled and she’s picking up a camera from the floor and looking out the window.

I’ve spent most of my life taking pictures and watching people. The moment of capture, motion and identity frozen in time. With photos you can stop blood, you can stop time, it is the static art and when observed closely it can reveal countless things to us about humanity and instantaneous occurrences that occur everyday. The little girl in the purple dress poking a flower in the white marble walls in Dubrovnik. The monk and the crab picture I took in Thailand. Or Even more simply the one of Jake when he spilt the wine and he stood over it with an umbrella as a walking stick.

“Oh, miss! Would you please take a picture of my wife and me?”

A flick of his wrist and the umbrella was lifted; he wrapped his arm around it.

“Don’t you feed her?”

“Please, she’s had a bit of an accident and she’s upset.”

“What seems to be the problem?”

“She was crying over spilt milk and well…”

“Ah, the wine.”

His laughter, hard and loud. Him poking the umbrella in my direction pretending as if it were a sword parrying me. I jumped back and snapped pictures in my socks. He moved closer and closer to me.

“No more business. You’re a dedicated professional woman.”

“It’s not business its art.”

“Shuah shuah.”

“I don’t have that accent.”

He was good at teasing me. He wrapped my waist and persuaded the camera out of my hand and in the same movement gently placed it on the table with the right hand while leaning me back with his left against the back of the couch. We fell over onto the cushions. He slid down to the floor his legs on my stomach and on the couch while his back rested on the rug and his face looked up at me.

“I love you, you know.”

I nodded.

“I’ll clean up the wine.”

I’m fondling my camera in my hand. Don’t look out the window at the rain coming down in the afternoon. Tom walked to church. He’s caught in the rain. Should I have gone with him? He seems strange. I know there is something similar in us. It’s a restlessness in our nature, even though he hasn’t gone anywhere and I’ve been so many places. We both got it from him. I think Tom might be taking all of this the hardest despite the fact that he hasn’t really showed it. He hasn’t shown much of anything since I’ve been here. I’ll talk to him tonight. The funeral is tomorrow.

There are boxes piled in my room, some of them empty some of them with filled with things. There are a few with leftover and old books. It’s mainly the closet that needs to be cleaned out. I haven’t lived here in so long but there are still things in the closet that you think you’ve thrown out but are still there. Old bins full of school papers, old clothes too. I even found a few stuffed animals. My old Winnie the Pooh and the cow that I sewed in home ec in eighth grade. I’ll take pictures of the boxes. There is something absolutely picturesque about them. It might be the cleanness of their shape, how simple and defined they are in their squaredom. This is a messy world and the objects in our boxes are messy too. But the boxes themselves can be beautiful.

There is the grass again. The mound of dirt and the flags sticking up here and there. Dad’s in a suit holding his bottle in his left jacket sleeve. He wears a red rose on his left lapel. There’s a wooden box above the hole and the wind moves the leaves. Someone touches my shoulder. It’s Jake again. He doesn’t have a beard. I think I’ll take a picture of him and the box.

I’ll bring my camera to the funeral.

Will I call him?

“You look beautiful.”

I can feel the singleness of my half full apartment in my slowly emptying room that isn’t even mine.

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