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Maybe We Should All Relax

or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About the Defense and Enjoy the Season at Hand

Commenter TxTarheel raised a salient point in the Miami postgame write-up:

Had a random thought today that UNC fans can be an “in-grateful” lot (myself included)…largely based on another’s response to the win (”yeah but…”) All this team has done thus far in the season is go 19-1 and thus far remain undefeated on the road. I don’t care who they play non-conference, but wins at Clemson, GT and Miami all signal something that might be overlooked, in spite of their defensive shortfalls.

This comment got me thinking and I have concluded UNC fans do not seem to be having very much fun right now.  Despite the team being 19-1 and off to one of the best starts in recent memory, Tar Heel fans in general are exceptionally uneasy.  Speaking for myself, I know I came into this season expecting to be in contention for a national title and because of that expectation various bumps in the road get magnified beyond belief.  Some of that can be blamed on the instant media age were issues get discussed ad naseum 24/7.  I readily confess I have been wholly complicit in banging the drum of negativity about this team's glaring defensive weaknesses.  And because I have been so focused on what could happen in March I have spent almost every game pouring over each and every defensive possession like an archaealogist picking through broken pottery on a dig site trying to see if every little tidbit can somehow give me an insight into what might happen come March.

Take Wednesday night for example.  UNC wins the game on the road by 16 and my own postgame analysis included more hand wringing over the defense that it did exuberance over a big win or the fact that Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson played exceptional games.  I find myself getting frustrated and hung up on every made shot by an opponent as though the end is nigh because UNC gave up 82 points to Miami.  I can honestly say, I am not having very much fun right now.  And this is not to say that I should not blog about the issues or go into denial about the defense.  The sticking point lies in the fact that many of us are projecting the performance of this team now, especially on defense, into March and declaring the world will end.  The truth is we have no idea what this team will look like in March or who UNC will end up playing in the tournament.  None of us knows that the seeding will be, who the matchups will be against or if we will even run across a team that is capable of exploiting our weaknesses.  And for all we know, the defense might be up to snuff by that time.  It just seems we are not stopping to smell the roses because we have convinced ourselves(and listened to the Chicken Little pundits in the media who get paid to stir the pot) that UNC's season is doomed.

Look at it this way.  If I polled UNC fans right now and asked them what they thought about the 2005-06 Tar Heel team I am fairly certain I would get many people tell me that was one of their favorite teams of all time.  That team came in with a sparsely played senior in David Noel and a group of freshman with only one player, Tyler Hansbrough, that anyone knew anything about.  We all expected the worst but coming off the joy of the national title we were willing to live with it.  As it turns out that team was fun to watch.  Yes they were young and early on they had some tough losses but I recall Roy Williams saying multiple times that the 05-06 Heels were one of the best groups he has ever coached and he was having a lot of fun.  And he was right.  After a few losses that team reeled off a nice win streak with a beatdown of NC State in Raleigh at a time Wolfpack fans thought they had our number.  David Noel's senior night was a 45 point thrashing of UVa which was a joy to watch and then came the crowning moment, beating JJ Redick and Shelden Williams on their senior night in Cameron.  Yes, the magic ended with a loss to Boston College in the ACC Semifinals followed by a struggle against Murray State and the eventual loss to George Mason.  Obviously when the day was done we felt the Heels could have gone further but does anyone believe that takes away from the fun we had watching that team play, especially during the latter half of the season?

My great-great grandfather is quoted by Mama as saying, "What will be, will be."  There is nothing we can do to change future outcomes.  As fans we are going to speculate and as a blogger I am going to continue to talk about the deficiencies on this team and hope for improvements.  Being a Tar Heel fan is tough in that we always carry high expectations almost every season and when things do not seem to be breaking that way we feel shorted in a way.  That being said, this Tar Heel team has a talented bunch of players on the roster.  We are currently watching a great season by the current favorite for national POY in Tyler Hansbrough.  You have Ty Lawson is fast enough to almost strip paint of the floor and does some insane things on the court.  Wayne Ellington is a bona fide scorer, Danny Green is a jack of all trades and Marcus Ginyard plays solid defense while occasionally throwing down the athletic dunk.  Deon Thompson and Alex Stepheson are going through growing pains but showing some good signs and Quentin Thomas is making every effort to make his final season a good one.  And on top of that we have arguably one of the best coaches in the game right now calling the shots.

So in many respects TxTarheel is correct.  Our gratitude has been a little lacking.  It is fine to keep one eye on the big prize but for the most part I know I have done so at the expense of the present joys of winning.  I think we all need to strike a balance between addressing the negative issues and embracing the positive aspects of the season.  These things will work themselves out and if they don't, so be it. It will not be the first time UNC has come up short and it will not be the last.

The least we can do is enjoy the good stuff when it is happening.