We can agree, those of us who have had the privilege of spending time in what we fondly call ‘the Southern part of Heaven,’ that there’s something special about Chapel Hill. It could just be the cheese smothering the loaded tots at Linda’s, or the solid old oak trees casting their shade on the brick walkways across the quads. Maybe it’s the interlocking NC on the water tower by the hospital, or that perfect shade of blue on the fire engine that just passed by. It could be whatever’s sloshing out of a blue cup at He’s Not Here. It may simply be the way the University United Methodist steeple glows in the night; a steadfast beacon calling any wayward Tar Heel back toward Franklin Street. Chapel Hill is a town that’s steeped in history, from the pictures that line the walls at Sutton’s to the faded Tar Heel footprints leading to the front door of Breadmen’s.
I have a theory. Whatever it is that makes Chapel Hill so special to Tar Heels is something that repels tigers. There must just be something in the atmosphere here that some tigers are particularly susceptible to. My theory continues that this, for lack of a better term, ‘anti-tiger aura’ is more concentrated in enclosed spaces. This would explain how despite being 38-19-1 all-time against the Tar Heels in football, the record is much closer in Chapel Hill. In fact, the Clemson Tigers have won only three more games in Chapel Hill than the Tar Heels have (the record, by my count, is 15-12-1 in the Tigers’ favor). I posit that the anti-tiger aura is less potent in the open air of Kenan Stadium, whereas the Dean Dome or Carmichael Arena are indoors and therefore make for a less hospitable climate for the big cats. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the Clemson men’s basketball team has never won in Chapel Hill. The Lady Tigers haven’t beaten the Tar Heels in Carmichael since January of 2012. The repellent is so strong that even the Carolina Tiger Rescue has to be located in Pittsboro, NC; far enough away from Chapel Hill that the atmosphere doesn’t affect the actual critters. Obviously, there’s something here that makes it tough on tigers.
If the Carolina men’s unbeaten record in Chapel Hill isn’t due to the anti-tiger aura that I proposed above, perhaps it’s on account of the history. The Tigers have a lot of bad history in this town, and so many years of defeat can be hard to overcome. Like I said above, Chapel Hill is a town chock-full of history, but nowhere in that storied history is there a home loss to the Clemson men’s basketball team.
This year, I’m afraid, the streak is in jeopardy. If there was a season that could disprove my anti-tiger theory, it would be this one. If there was a game in which the Tigers could make a new history, it would be Saturday, while the Tar Heels are searching high and low for an answer to stop this skid.
However, what we love so much about this town, the thing that seems to be so detrimental to tigers, may be just enough to buoy this beleaguered team to victory. Maybe the crushing weight of history will make sure that the status quo is upheld for yet another season. The town may remember, even in a season in which the team can’t.