or “How I Learned To Stop Fretting and Embrace the End of the Season.”
I would say the sun came up this morning but it is behind some heavy clouds here in Raleigh so I will have to take someone else’s word on it. Yes it hurts and in case anyone was wondering what Daddy would have said following this loss, I remember what he emailed me after UNC lost to Florida in 2000.
“I’ve passed this way before.”
He is quoting the title line from a song by Jimmy Ruffin that seems to perfectly capture how we feel:
Life lends a crushing blow
And once again a heart is broken
And as history repeats itself
These few words are sadly spoken
I’ve passed this way before
And I’ve felt this pain before
A hurt that took so long to end
Has found my poor heart again
So it hurts and then it again it has hurt so many times before. On the radio broadcast Jones Angel said UNC’s record was 96-39(see note below) in the NCAA Tournament all time which includes four national titles. When Daddy said he’d “passed this way before” he was making quite an understatement. To be exact UNC fans have felt this feeling 36 times before not counting the non-tournament seasons. Only four times has UNC ended a season as the nation’s top team as determined by the NCAA which is to say this road is the one more frequently traveled in our allegiance to the Heels. Not that I would have it any other way. It is the 36 seasons of NCAA Tournament failure that make the four seasons of NCAA Tournament success all the sweeter. Save a stretch of years in the 1960s and 1970s where UCLA mopped up, UNC’s rate of success versus failure is better than most. In this way, coming up short like this is the expected result. That does not mean the pain is lessened nor does it ease that sadness of a season coming to an end a tad prematurely. It does offer some perspective however, which hopefully gives up comfort .
In actuality the main issue many of us will face is dealing with rival fan bases and the classless among them who wish to revel in our misery despite the reality that our team’s accomplisments so far outweigh their own. We will hear in coming days about how overrated UNC was or that the 36 wins were “soft.” Tyler Hansbrough’s performance in the Final Four will be derided and offered as proof that he is not as special as we say. They will find joy in the demise of this UNC season mainly because they could find little joy in their own team’s season. Granted this is the nature of the beast. We give as good as we get in most cases. When Duke loses UNC fans are the first to enjoy it despite what kind of season our Heels are having. This is how it works and unfortunately we have to live with it.
However it does not mean we have to take it sitting down. The fact of the matter is on this Sunday morning there are only two fan bases who can claim any manner of bragging rights versus the Heels and that is the two teams left standing. In one of those cases, some Kansas fans are probably just as happy they get to stop paying for therapy over Roy leaving than they are their own team winning. As for the rest, they can really shut up for all I care. Despite what incredibly ridiculous spin they might invent from the deep recresses of their own asinine thinking, the facts are incontovertible: UNC had a great basketball season. As Roy said, there was a bigger dream which they could not attain but in no way does it deprive us of what we experienced in cheering our team to 36 wins. It cannot diminish what we felt when Wayne Ellington silenced Littlejohn or when Danny Green hit clutch shot after clutch shot to keep the Heels alive game in and game out. They cannot mute the love we had for the things Marcus Ginyard did or the excitment in watching Ty Lawson toast a defender on the break. The words of fans whose team could not solve their own point guard problems will not detract from Quentin Thomas solving UNC’s during that six game stretch in February. Nor does the petty ramblngs of other fans dim the flashes of brilliance from Deon Thompson, Alex Stepheson and Will Graves. And the hatred of Tyler Hansbrough is well documented and frankly disturbing but looking back at the season he had, nothing anyone can say will take away from what has to be considered one of the great season long performances by one player in the storied history of the UNC program. Hansbrough is the player of the year and no manner of pedantic whining on their part can change their fact.
So hold you head high Tar Heel nation as you go out today. Do not let these fans from other schools attempt to distract from the ineptitude of their own teams by attempting to project it up on ours. UNC was #1 for most of the season and while they did not arrive at the final desitnation we all had hoped for, the journey that come up short was as fun a ride as I have been on in quite some time.
Note: I misheard Jones Angel on Saturday quoting UNC’s NCAA Tourney mark at 96-31. It is actually 96-39 now with four losses coming in the old 3rd place game the NCAA used to torture losing teams with. UNC had 40 NCAA Tournament appearances and has won the title in only four instances.