Friday, February 11, 2005

The Distance 

Ever since graduating from UNC, I've lived at least 1,000 miles from Chapel Hill. As my undergraduate days have receeded in the rear-view mirror both literally and figuratively, my connection with the University, and its sports squads in particular, has faded somewhat. Part of that has to do with the passing of time and the development of other interests on my part, of course, but some of that has to do with removing myself from the frenzied hothouse that is the Atlantic Coast Conference. The intensity of interest on the part of regular students -- as if this were part of their blood -- almost scared me when I watched my first real Carolina game, a Carolina-Georgetown game my freshman year in a Pizza Hut on Franklin Avenue with about 150 other students ready to rip somebody's head off. (In relatively short order, I joined them.)

But of course it was part of their blood. Most of my compatriots were North Carolina natives whose parents may have had their own connection with the University and who, in any case, had been watching ACC basketball with devotional interest since elementary school. Unlike many sports fans, whose sports interests are catholic (lower-case "c") in nature, encompassing whatever happens to be in the forefront at the moment, my classmates were almost single-mindedly devoted to Carolina basketball. Interest in other Carolina sports was more social in nature, and interest in pro sports was non-existent. (This was before the arrival of the Panthers, Hornets, or Hurricanes, so it'd be interesting to see what happens in the next few years.)

Now that I live in Phoenix, the distance separating me from Carolina basketball is large. If I want Carolina basketball news, I need to actively seek it out, rather than being bombarded with it daily in several newspapers and the nightly television sportscasts. This distance has its benefits sometimes, as in the case of Wednesday's Duke-Carolina game. I watched the game with some alumni here, and while it was frustrating watching the Tar Heels give the ball away repeatedly like it was some sort of cheap midway trinket, the level of cursing was remarkably low. Unlike the fans gathered at "Top of the Hill" in Chapel Hill (and shown in alternating states of craziness and disappointment throughout ESPN's telecase), we moved on after the game. The distance helped us to see that even though the Heels played horribly in the always-intimidating environment of Cameron against a good (though not great) Duke squad, all was not lost. Carolina should've lost by 10, if not more -- the fact that they only lost by 1 was almost -- ALMOST -- heartening.

But in case you need to feel a little more intense East Coast perspective on Duke-Carolina, you can read Ryan's thoughts here.

Of course, the distance between me and the Diamondbacks is considerably less. With players beginning to show up in spring training camps and pitchers and catchers required to report in less than a week, that distance is about to narrow to virtually nil. Here we go again.

Test post. Commenting function in Blogger much improved -- you can read the original post while writing comments.
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