March 8, 2022
“That Game” from 30,000′
Yes, I watched That Game / Event last Saturday night. Pre-determined guaranteed to be “significant”, the event turned out to be far more impactful and memorable than ANYONE expected. Yes … “than ANYONE expected”.
I am on record as having lost all interest in the machinations of The NFL and The NBA. That said, I watched all seven NFL Playoff games and declare those seven games to be as “entertaining” as any collection of sports events in my memory … and I had no emotional attachments whatsoever to which team “won” any of those seven games.
Each one was as compellingly enjoyable as a good movie or a good book. So was THAT GAME/EVENT last Saturday night.
I say “… from 30,000 feet”. Whether you believe me or not. Yes I “went to college” at UNCCH over 50 years ago. I made some life-long “friends” and had the rite-of-passage experiences that “going off to college” provide wherever it takes place. Those four years did not shape me as a person any more than a half dozen other “rites-of-passage” over many decades.
I have evolved from being a Tar Heel expatriot wandering across Corporate America; to returning to Ground Zero 34 years ago and being surrounded by the several Hated Rivalries unique to this geographical market.
The absurdities and hypocrisies associated with Hated Rivalries and with EACH of their overly-caffeinated fan bases extinguished whatever “give a damn” I might have once had for these Sports Morality Plays. Good (Us) triumphing over Evil (Them)! I became bored with the silliness of it all.
Much of “all this” is ingrained in the regional DNA … just not in mine any more.
I do not HATE Carolina sports, their coaches or their players. I simply have no emotional connection to their successes or failures. Or to any sports teams pro or college.
Don’t worry. I have several “passions” in my life … just not “being a sports fan”.
As I watched the pre-game hoopla Saturday night I asked myself “who do I want to win?”. I had no answer.
I “assumed” like everyone else watching that Duke would win based on their earlier blow-out win in Dean’s Dome. Would it be another blow-out or a nail-biter decided by a referee call or buzzer-beater … Duke would prevail “because”. Coach K’s Curtain Call would play out as “it was suppose to”.
Under the above conditions, I offer these observations of THAT GAME / EVENT. In no particular order…
(1) As the game progressed it became obvious that the final outcome was NOT “obvious”. I began to wonder, in the extensive pre-planning meetings for THE EVENT, did anyone in the Duke athletics / administrative process dare to ask “What If … we lose the game? Do we need a What If Plan B?” Was that contingency – however remote – ever discussed? I doubt it … a lesson for future planners of such unpredictable events.
(2) If you took the rosters of both teams, dressed them all alike and lined them up single file – other than that tall guy with the long red-hair and beard – I could not tell you who played for which school. You could include their names and I still could not tell you “for which team”. 25+ anonymous young black men with funny haircuts.
(3) Since NC State fans have total contempt for both UNC and Duke teams and their fan bases, they simply ignored THAT GAME / EVENT choosing to revel in the success of their WOMENS Basketball program. … ignoring their woeful Mens Basketball Program completely. A side aspect of a quite Unusual Weekend.
(4) The multiple memes of “crying Cameron coeds” that flooded social media following THAT GAME looked exactly like the “crying Carolina coeds” a month earlier in Dean’s Dome following that blow-out … and following their screaming “F*** Coach K” … to the delight of UNC’s Lunatic Fringe. Mournful undergraduates unsuccessfully coping with Life’s Ultimate Unfairness – “OMG WE LOST – IT’S NOT FAIR… WAAAAA!” is a universal staple of misplaced priorities among post-adolescents all across college athletics.
(5) All the hyperbolic WE Won … WE Beat The Rat Yadda Yadda since Hubert Davis’ players did indeed defeat Mike Krzyzewski’s players is coming from the very same google-eyed galoots that were ready to run Hubert Davis out of Chapel Hill after that blow-out a month earlier. Absolutely NONE of whom expected a UNC victory last Saturday night. It’s OUR team when we win … it’s HIS team when they lose. The universal character flaw in rabid sports fans.
(6) A very perceptive friend of mine noticed in the immediate aftermath of THAT GAME … Yes, the “crazies” were hysterical … Yes, the 95 former Duke players on-hand were in stunned shock … Yes, the 9,000 Duke loyalists in Cameron including that goofy Asian guy were in various stages of disbelief. The One Group that were noticeably NOT “in shock” were …
The Duke players in uniform. They were NOT sitting with towels draped over their heads to hide their sorrow … they were NOT consoling each other. Rather they seemed oblivious to what had happened and the historic significance they would forever be linked to. It was simply another game for them … after only a few months of “being a very temporary part of Duke Basketball”.
(7) Remarkably, THE GAME did NOT hinge on a controversial referee call … an injury to a key player … a buzzer-beater or any of the usual real or contrived singular incidents. Carolina was equal to or simply “better than” /”outplayed” Duke for 75% of the game.
UNC’s 3-pointer at the first half buzzer was when I began to feel … “THIS could get Very Interesting … Indeed”! The outcome was no longer in doubt with two minutes to play. Who’d athunk it?
(8) Re: Coach K “losing his last home game” relative to Dean and Roy’s “last home games”. Totally ridiculous comparisons … both Saint Dean and Ol’ Roy (and Jimmy V) retired unexpectedly in the off-season so neither actually had a Celebratory Official Last Home Game to Win or to Lose. Had either had “a Final Home Game” for sure UNCCH would have staged a “circus” equal to or surpassing the Cameron Hoopla last Saturday night.
(9) Re: Coach K’s Victory Lap Season. Much criticism from the usual constipated K-Haters for him announcing his intent prior to the season and naming his successor. Was he grandstanding and wishing to wallowing in the anticipated adulations around the ACC? What an absurd assumption!
With 1,100+ Ws, five NCs and ever how many Gold Medals, et al … there is absolutely nothing in Mike Krzyzewski’s make-up that indicates he cares a whit about plaques and rocking chairs et al. No more so than Saint Dean Smith would have. Probably less so.
In the realities of Big Time College Basketball Circa 2022, not risking losing a recruiting class by being upfront about Who would be Duke’s next Head Coach was absolutely “the smart play”. Duke’s #1 rated 2022 recruiting class knows Jon Scheyer will be their coach. BTW… there is NO “R”. It is NOT Schreyer.
(10) Kudos aplenty for Hubert Davis and his team for SHOCKING College Basketball with their impressive convincing victory in THE Most Hostile of Environments. Whatever Big Ws and Titles might await Coach Davis in the years to come … THIS ONE in its uniqueness will forever be Special. UNC has itself a Head Coach fully capable of “Winning The Big Game”.
Big Time College Basketball is no longer the environment that Everett Case, Frank McGuire, Dean Smith, Vic Bubas, Bobby Knight, John Wooden, Jim Valvano, Ol’ Roy, and Mike Krzyzewski succeeded in so impressively. NIL, The Transfer Portal and American Society in general has changed forever and is continuing to change.
Comparisons to “by gone eras” will always be made by the nattering nabobs and overly-caffeinated goobers. Thats what nabobs and goobers do. … BUT …
THAT GAME / EVENT last Saturday night joins a handful of Games for the Ages – including State v Maryland 1974 – Skywalker’s Fall – Duke v Kentucky 1992 – UNC 3 OTs vs Kansas – Jimmy V’s Cinderella Game vs Houston – and UNC/Duke 8 down with 17 seconds to play.
How do I know?
Because over 247,670 knuckleheads are already claiming: “I was there in Cameron Indoor for Krzyzewski’s Last Game when Carolina Shocked The Basketball World … and I have the ticket stub somewhere to prove it.” … sigh.