"To those people, [arguing for UNC to turn down an NIT bid] honestly, to those people, I would say that they can't have their way all the time. Some people are just so spoiled, man. Especially Carolina fans, just because, you know, the whole tradition. It's not necessarily a bad thing, it's just the way it is. But to those fans: Yes, we haven't been performing up to the standards of the usual North Carolina basketball team, but we can't be perfect all the time, and we're human, too."
The comments, since retracted, didn't bother me. I'm actually intrigued by the argument that Carolina fans are spoiled –although I disagree with it – and plan to revisit it in the offseason. But as one of those people who wasn't looking forward to the NIT, I'd thought I'd explain why.
It's not because the NIT is beneath North Carolina, or that the team will be embarrassed in the NIT, or that these players don't deserve a postseason after this year's trip through the ACC. Those are all arguments I've seen made, and they're all complete bunk. I wrote what I wrote about the NIT for one simple reason. I'm tired of watching this team lose.
And that's this team, in particular. I've suffered through the 8-20 2003 team, and more than a few struggling football teams. I've seen my share of losses. But those teams were playing to their talent level, and improving as the season went on. This team proved early on that they had the talent to do well – not as well as the preseason expectations, but pretty well – and they just never improved. They'd show signs of it, for a game or so, and then regress back with a horrible. It was painful to watch, and I couldn't not watch. I'm a fan; even without this blog, this is what I do. And it's incredibly depressing to see. I desperately want this behind me.
A few days removed from the Georgia Tech game, I'm a little more sanguine about the postseason. Some of it's an eternal optimism I've never been able to shake. But mostly it's this:
That's Carmichael Auditorium, site of the first NIT game, and my own personal basketball church. UNC will be playing there as they've already begun maintenance work on the Smith Center. And this excites me more than anything else. I always loved stumbling from Woolen over to Carmichael, seeing it quiet as a cathedral with the lights off. I caught a couple of games there as a kid and the place rocked in a way I've seen few other places match. I would love to be back there for this game. If there's anything that has motivated this team this season, it's been the weight of history. The State game during the reunion weekend and the 2000th win in the last home game were two of the only ACC games where the Heels outperformed expectations. And now, there's a new home court and one last chance to redeem the season. I'm getting optimistic again, much to my dismay.
I don't think I'm the only either. I've had this conversation with multiple season ticket-holding friends:
"You going to the NIT game?"
"They're playing in Carmichael."
"Really? I have to make a couple of calls."
I think the fans will show. I think they'll make it the Carmichael of old. I just hope the team can respond to it.