Thursday, April 6, 2017

A Tale of Tarheels

When you live on the outskirts of a college town, certain truths become self-evident. Such as the fact that, during the academic terms, the local restaurants are going to be packed on weekend nights—so don’t even bother trying, unless you like to stand around and waaiiiiit for a table. You get used to the main street teeming with foot traffic, as students and visitors stroll up and down, window shopping--or seeking that elusive establishment that will feed you without you first having to endure a long line. You also get used to seeing seasonal roadside signs that instruct you where to park for athletic events on campus.

And that leads me to mention one defining aspect of our particular little neighborhood: it is a basketball CRAZY place, y’all. Seriously, people go all-out bonkers for the Tarheels during the regular season—the mobs of exuberant fans on Franklin Street after they defeat “that rival from a nearby town whose name shan’t cross my lips” are legendary. So imagine, if you will, what might happen if, say, the hometown school was playing in the NCAA Championship game? Let me tell ya: our whole little corner of the world was in an all-fired uproar, that’s what.

The anticipation…and speculation…and consternation…ran at super-high levels on Monday, leading up to the actual, you know, GAME. When Derek arrived home from school that afternoon he informed me that his plan was to watch it at a buddy’s house—the home of one specific friend, mind you, where their viewing has led to successful outcomes in the past. It seems that no other residence results in a win on a regular basis, so they had to go with the superstitious pick (which, actually, I can totally respect. Everyone knows that in the world of sports, you don’t mess with what works…even if it’s ridiculous and/or illogical, right?).

Furthermore, Derek told me that when everyone got there and settled in, Max’s (not his real name—because who knows if that would be jinxing the situation or not? I’m just not willing to risk it…) mom walked into the room…and promptly rearranged where they were sitting. Apparently the boys needed to align themselves in the exact configuration they’d been in during the victories over Kentucky and Oregon…except of course when things weren’t going well, and she moved them around to shake things up and hopefully kick-start a hot streak for the hometown squad. (Hey, whatever it takes…and for an acceptable excuse to boss around the teenagers? All the better!)

Oh, and the contest itself? I, personally, couldn’t bear to watch—which is normal for me…I just check on the score periodically, but can’t take the second-by-second tension of actually paying attention to the action on the screen. It was getting late….and I was reeeaallly tired…so I almost gave up and went to bed. The score was so close that, not only could it have gone either way, but I expected the last couple of minutes to take FOREVER as both teams went into “foul all the time and hope for a miss” mode. But…I turned the TV on, anyway…just to get a quick update. And UNC was finally ahead…with only a short amount of time left. So it turned out that I did see the happy ending, which was fun…even though I was the only one awake, and had no one to bask in it with me.

I immediately began to hear the fireworks from downtown, as the joyful throngs of people poured out of the bars and eateries on Franklin Street, soon to be joined by  the multitudes who’d been watching from inside the Dean Dome. Then…my phone rang…at 11:45. “Yeessss, Derek?” In a breathless rush, he spit out the following, “Hi, Mom, a friend’s dad is taking people to Franklin Street, I’m not allowed to go, right, you don’t want me to go?” Gulp! I just stood there, stunned, trying to decide how to respond. Because of course my first instinct as a mother was to say, “Heck, no! It’s a school night, and it’s already late, and besides, my baby is not going anywhere near all that…madness!” Fortunately I had a few seconds of leeway, since his aforementioned pal suddenly became audible in the background, yelling, “Please, please, please let him come! It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity…PLEASE?”

Well…I can’t say he didn’t have a point. We do live 3 miles from the university. The team doesn’t win a championship every day. And the next time they do, Derek might very well be away at his own college, and therefore unable to experience the hoopla (Ha! That one was unintentional…) firsthand. Finally, his night of slumber was pretty much wrecked anyway, and he’s old enough by this point that one day of being sleepy during his classes—especially for an exceptional reason like this one—wouldn’t be likely to have any negative consequences. Heck, some of his teachers are UNC graduates, and so I expected the prevailing mood at school would be one of exhaustion, elation…and tolerance for the inevitable yawning.

So the upshot is: after a bit of negotiating about how long he could stay (everyone agreed that a half-hour seemed reasonable) I gave him the thumbs-up…and went to hide under the covers (to try and muffle the continuing booms of firecrackers). In the morning I asked the bleary-eyed-but-content boy how his adventure had been. He managed a grin and replied, “It was NUTS!” He went on to describe the mega-crowd that filled Franklin Street to overflowing…as well as some of the more…outrageous…behaviors. Such as the…daring?...folks who climbed the lightposts…or the telephone poles…including one who managed to get to the top and straddle the post, with one foot on the wire on either side. Derek shook his head remembering this as I laughed, and commented, “We admired his skill—but we wouldn’t want to try that!” (Um….GOOD!)

He also went into some detail about the bonfires that students (presumably) were setting….using random pieces of furniture. The part he found most amusing about this was when he would hear someone—probably inebriated, he admitted--suddenly yell, “Hey! That’s my couch!” Oh. Good Grief. Eh, consider that a fairly accurate preview of some aspects of post-high-school life, son (to be observed…but not repeated! Fingers crossed…). So overall, I’m glad he had the chance to—in a supervised and therefore relatively safe fashion—participate in the Big Win mayhem. Now we can all hopefully calm down, get back to normal…and maybe take a NAP?

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