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The Debate: Welcoming new fans to the family

Strategies for watching Tar Heel games with non-Carolina significant others.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 22 Pitt at North Carolina Photo by Michael Berg/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Some relationships grow out of a shared Carolina experience. These could be couples that met in class or on campus. They could be two life-long fans who grew up immersed in the Carolina Way and who can commiserate over years of victories and losses. This article is not about these people.

There are some couples who are part of a “house divided.” These are the subjects of special license plates and game day posters. An unlikely pairing of a Carolina fan and someone who cheers for a lesser school, perhaps from somewhere near Chapel Hill. This article is not about these people either.

This debate is for those who have a deep love for both Carolina Blue and a Tar Heel newbie. Having recently celebrated my 17th wedding anniversary with just such a person, this seems like a timely debate. These are relationships with disparate levels of knowledge regarding Carolina sports. My wife has certainly become a fan over the years (not sure there was a choice), but she would admit that her rooting interest is more about my happiness than a desire for team wins.

The Debate for the week of August 19: How to handle games with significant others that are new to the Carolina fan base.

Point: Relationships need space. Game time is a perfect opportunity to be alone.

This is not a one-size fits all solution. There are plenty of non-conference basketball games or less competitive football games where the pressure is largely off for fans at home. These are great times to watch with the less-Carolina-knowledgeable fan in your life. Take the time to explain the nuisances of the offensive sets. Talk about how the recruiting has picked up and what the future looks like. Reflect on past experiences and why they hold such a special place as a fan. This is the chance to provide context to the crazy devotion of rooting for the Heels.

Conference and tournament games, fourth quarters, and prime time affairs, however, are not time for education. This is where focus is required to channel the karma needed for victory. Random questions from a significant other that doesn’t remember the first time Mack Brown coached the Heels or the reign of terror that Tyler Hansbrough brought to Cameron are not welcome at this time.

The best strategy for these moments is to just retreat to the basement, game room, local sports bar, or any other enclave of concentration. Alternatively, perhaps suggesting that the special someone in your life spend time with their friends, head to the spa, or get a round of golf in is a preferable alternative. Everyone wins in these scenarios and the relationship remains strong instead of fracturing from frustration.

Post game is a perfect time to reconcile with a brief recap of the outcome and short analysis of the big picture.

Counterpoint: If you really love someone, you will help them love Carolina.

There is nothing better than sharing in the exhilaration of a huge Carolina victory. The experiences of yelling in unison at the television or screaming from stadium seats are memorable moments in relationships. Sometimes, getting to those points in time takes work, just like everything else in life worth experiencing.

When my wife and I started dating over 20 years ago, I could have just sulked off to watch Carolina games alone. Instead, I thought about how much fun it was to root with her. Mostly patient explanations of strategy and historical context help to develop an understanding of the deep emotional attachment that fans have for the Heels.

Of course, this strategy does not mean that one’s significant other will become an equally avid fan. There are many games that I still watch alone simply because she is not interested. That’s fine. When the thrill of the NCAA Tournament rolls around, or the road trip to Kenan with the whole family occurs, there is a genuine love for Carolina by all. That sure beats watching alone.

Time for you to decide! Is it better to have space from the non-fan spouse or significant other during Tar Heel games rather than investing in watching together? Does the long term independent growth as a fan make it worth the time, energy, and patience? Isn’t it generally better to have more Carolina fans in the world?

As always, readers are encouraged to join in through the comments and point out what we got right, what we got wrong, and what we never thought of. Also, please feel free to provide suggestions for future topics so we can cover what interests readers and what information is needed to ensure victory when debating slow-witted friends who don’t read the articles! As the sign in my parents’ yard reads, Keep Calm and Go Heels!