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UNC Football: Bouncing Back

How do you move on after getting punched in the mouth?

Virginia Tech v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

In a little over a month, the former heavyweight champion of the world will step back into the ring. The fighter they called Iron, after an absence of a decade and a half, is back on the card. Now a grey-bearded 54-year-old, Tyson will fight fellow old man Roy Jones, Jr. after Thanksgiving, in a bid to carry out one of the wildest (and least asked-for) comebacks in sports in recent memory.

I was never a fan of Mike Tyson. I never really even paid attention; I wasn’t really tuning into boxing by the time he retired in the year I turned 12. Boxing is an incredibly brutal sport, and football has always been plenty brutal for me. For all of his many flaws, however, he is credited with a line that has always resonated with me; “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

The quote is beautiful in its simplicity, delivered in a way that only a lifetime pugilist could do it. It’s a sparkling distillation of a universal truth, made even more accessible by a fighter simply talking about fighting.

The Tar Heels got punched in the mouth by Florida State last weekend. A blocked punt, a quick touchdown, and the Tar Heels’ plans were seemingly out the window. The Seminoles had the Tar Heels seemingly out on their feet in the second quarter, landing blow after blow as the Heels seemed unable to defend themselves. If the game had been a boxing match, the referee would have been telling the team from the light blue corner to keep their hands up and protect themselves. A late-round comeback bid, as it so happens, fell short due to an inability on the part of various Heels to keep their hands up, although in a different way.

Getting punched in the mouth sucks. Losing you first game of the season and a top-5 ranking sucks more. The most important thing, though, is how you come back.

There’s a good opportunity for the Heels to bounce back on Saturday, with a return home for a ranked matchup against the Wolfpack of NC State. It’s always better to be the puncher than the punchee, and I’m anxious to see the Heels come out swinging.