It was the first UNC game I had memory of and even that is but a fragment. While I have seen it replayed a thousand times, in my mind’s eye I only see the pass from Fred Brown to James Worthy followed by Worthy attempting to dribble to clock away until he was fouled with 2 seconds left. And that is all I have. I am assuming that is all my seven year old brain decided to retain at the time. Of course I also remember my father who, for some inexplicable reason, is always intertwined with how I view each of the Tar Heel titles which has transpired in my lifetime.
In 1982 when Worthy took the gift from Brown and raced up court I can remember my father yelling, “Run out the clock! Run out the clock!” His thought process was the same as Worthy: Kill the clock. We were all jumping up and down in the living room and while I was probably still too young to grasp what it all meant, it was a distinct moment that has stayed with me. Of course my father pontificated that Georgetown had been so accustomed to playing as the #1 seed that being in road uniforms for the first time during the tournament and UNC in white must have confused Brown in that split second Worthy flashed out of position on the play and he tossed it to the white jerseyed forward thinking it was a teammate. I am not sure how much that was true but that was what we did when we watched UNC play, analyzed and speculated as to what might have caused something to happen.
In 1993, my senior year of high school, we watched UNC win another title. Sitting the floor in front of a console TV we rode the wild roller coaster of that game from the point the Heels fell behind early to the rally to take a five point lead in the final minute. He was always the cautious optimist in watching a game. When Webber called the ill fated timeout for Michigan I immediately jumped up knowing on the spot that it meant the Wolverines would be assessed a technical foul. Daddy was having none of that and wanted confirmation that was the case. In fact he even turned Woody Durham down and turned up the CBS broadcast audio to make sure it was what we thought it was. It was the last season we watched in full since I left for college the following August and it was the last game we really enjoyed watching together.
By the time 2005 came, I was actually at my parent’s house with UNC-Michigan State on the TV but Daddy was not there. He had died a few hours earlier in a tragic accident and that Monday night I watched UNC clinch the title against Illinois with a heavy heart and a longing to have him on the phone in those final minutes as Raymond Felton missed one of two free throws followed by the Illinois miss and Felton salting the game away with 9 seconds left. He was gone and all that was left were memories, the previous UNC title games among them.
And I also remember Daddy having one of those dust collector items on his desk. It was a wood basketball goal with a rubber hoop and a interlocking NC on the back board. I remember he wrote on the back of the following words:
1982 NATIONAL CHAMPIONS
NORTH CAROLINA 63
MARCH 29TH, 1982
To this day I can remember his handwriting on the back of that little wooden goal and every time I looked at it during the intervening years it reminded me of that night when Worthy took the ball up court with the national title hopes of Tar Heel Nation in his hands and all of the other Tar Heel wins and losses we celebrated and suffered from that day forward. And with every game since he died I wonder what he would have thought and how he would have reacted to beating Duke two straight times in Cameron or losing to NC State in a huge upset.
I do know it would have been fun to talk to him about it.