I did not think this would be the end. There is a pall that falls over the end of every season. We meet the players, sometimes three or four years ago. We learn their weak points. We learn their strengths. They become members of our language, of our thoughts, of our families.
And then, suddenly, we lose them.
As Tar Heel fans, we have become accustomed to not losing. Not like this. We are spoiled to have watched basketball with April interest for two seasons. I thought this would be a third.
The same problems that plagued us all season plagued us on Sunday. For an offensive team, scoring was once again the issue. Over five scoreless minutes in the first half proved to be the downfall.
I am sure there will be plenty of time for a full season recap. I recall, however, that at the previews to the season there were remarks about teams that depend on three-point shooting. It has doomed others. Sunday, it doomed North Carolina.
Honestly, I am emotional. All fans are. That’s what makes us real fans and that’s what makes our team such an inspiration during the season. I require time to digest what wonderful players Theo Pinson and Joel Berry II have been. Time to contemplate how much joy they have brought to all of our lives over the last four years. Time to wonder what their future will bring and how much we will miss them.
There is a bitter sweetness that accompanies this time of year. A relief of not having any more days scheduled around the game or any more meals ruined with the nervousness of the tip-off. A calmness that now accompanies the fact that spring can roll over the households of Tar Heel fans.
This is not a happy time but it is a reflective one. We are still champions, at least for the next couple of weeks. We are led by a coach who turned an undersized team into a national rebounding leader and a walk on into a player of the year candidate. We have great players coming back and promising recruits coming in. We do not have a brotherhood but we have a program, a lifestyle, a family. We have the Carolina Way. We have Roy Williams. We have Championships and we have losses. We have screams at victories, tears at defeat, and calls to home after both.
We will not, however, have the dead eye stare of our point guard or the bright smile of our point forward.
I miss them already.
I am not sure there is a better gift in life than to have enjoyed the ride. I certainly enjoyed this one.
Thank you for the highs and the lows. The hope and the despair. The big shots, the hard losses, and the two wins against Duke this year. Thank you for a National Championship, a Runner-Up, the effort on the floor, the dedication in the classroom, and the moral fortitude to withstand the trials and tribulations in between.
Thank you for being Tar Heels.